Saturday, November 26, 2005

Torture and higher law

I am of course disgusted at the God-fearing Torquemadas out there who feel the need to offer up extreme situations as justifications for torture. To wit (from the Christian WorldViews via Sully):

Re. the recent Senate debate on banning torture, Thomas Sowell writes, "If a captured terrorist knows where a nuclear bomb has been planted in some American city, and when it is timed to go off, are millions of Americans to be allowed to be incinerated because we have become too squeamish to get that information out of him by whatever means are necessary? What a price to pay for moral exhibitionism or political grandstanding!" What is a biblical worldview concerning the use of torture in extreme life-saving circumstances?

I want to ask a different question, since we are off in the wilds of extreme hypotheticals:

Assume we are in exactly your hypothetical situation, and that torture has indeed been banned. Are you saying that you as a God-fearing Christian would feel bound by the law of man, and that your God would not forgive a little torture or even killing to save millions of innocents? Would you be unwilling to risk jail to do this great good for a greater number? Then I assume you are opposed to this. And this.

If you really believe in some higher law, then you should be willing to pay a temporal price for your willingnes to torture in its service. Then when the time comes, perhaps you can explain to your higher authority how making it safe for heathens like me to torture with impunity makes ours a better world.

I feel there is a strong categorical imperative against torture. I am also in at least some contexts a utilitarian. I honestly don't know what I would do if faced with this situation. But I do know that if I honestly believed that by doing something I considered wrong I would certainly prevent the suffering of millions, the illegality of my actions would not be a major factor in my decision. I would much prefer that my government declare torture illegal and risk jail in your hypothetical situation than sleep in my own bed in a country that condones such barbarity.


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