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The 10 Commandments as a Basis for Morality?

6. Thou shalt not kill.

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Finally, we reach the part of the document we can take seriously. This is the very element that is at the focus of the current move to place the 10 Commandments in schools. For schoolchildren in the United States are killing one another. But we have to wonder if posting even this simple commandment would prevent a single killing. Would it not be more successful to deny children access to the means of killing?

Because children know without posting this commandment that killing is wrong. But they also know that killing is not a moral absolute. They know that killing in self-defense is allowed. They know that killing as retribution after a guilty verdict is allowed. They know that killing in defense of your country is allowed. They know that killing to prevent a crime is allowed. They may not have the experience and ethical knowledge to make all the fine distinctions, yet they know there are exceptions, and that "Thou shalt not kill" is not a moral absolute. And because they know there are exceptions, posting this commandment would have no impact. Children who kill in school do so because they feel their case fits into the exceptions.

Admittedly there are some people that do treat the prohibition on killing as a moral absolute. They will not act in self-defense. They will not join the army or the police. They claim they would stand by and watch their sisters get raped rather than kill someone. There is a whiff of hypocrisy to this position. The very ability to continue with this moral position depends on the willingness of others to kill and to die in defense of this freedom.

And yet, this prohibition as written stands alone. There are none of the additional words and verses adding to and explaining the commandment. It is written as a moral absolute in spite of all the killing the bible attributes to God's orders.

I do not condone killing other human beings. It is nearly always wrong, but there are times when it is necessary and may even be the right thing to do. If "Thou shalt not kill" is to be moral guidance, then some guidance on the exceptions is required.

Moral value of the sixth commandment: 7 / 10


7th Commandment


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