Osama bin Laden is Dead and All I Can Think About are My (Still) Unresolved Convictions on Capital Punishment

It seems that this morning is an appropriate time to sort out my thoughts on concepts like “kill or be killed” and “deserving to die”.

Reading my Facebook friends’ comments the hour after Osama bin Laden was announced dead taught me two things: 1) They are glad someone finally caught him and killed him.  2) They are proud of our U.S. military for doing it.  As for myself, I feel the same way.  I also am somewhat comforted by the assumed concept that it’s morally okay to have wanted this man dead, and that we collectively as a nation do not feel any guilt for Osamba bin Laden’s death.

I would feel the same sense of relief knowing other antichrists were dead, had I lived in their era; the most obvious example being Adolph Hitler.  It’s my observation that while most American religious and political groups have no concrete collective agreements on capital punishment, it goes without saying that if a man is responsible for thousands of lives being lost in a war or political action which he led, then that man deserves to die.  And I agree.

What I am confused about isn’t whether or not we should want evil war tyrants dead.  The thing I have unresolved convictions about is the much smaller scale version of men like Osama bin Laden and Adolph Hitler.  What about serial killers who only kill 20 people, as opposed to 2 million?  How high does the body count have to get before the killer “deserves to die”?  Where is that conceptual line drawn that causes our American society to agree that a man needs to be killed?

I understand the inescapable concept of “kill or be killed”, as it applies to both war and self-defense.  What I find fascinating/confusing is knowing when it’s “okay” to kill a criminal, after he committed a horrible crime.  A month after a man killed and raped a dozen people, it is no longer self-defense or “kill or be killed”.   Once that murderer and rapist has been captured, can we kill him?  If not, would it be any different if he was a member of the enemy army in a war?

Probably, because it’s my observation that war justifies killing people who “deserve it”.  But when that same evil man who deserves to die is not fighting our nation as a whole, but instead is individually picking out individuals to kill and/or rape and he is not associated with al-Qaeda or Communism or a being a Nazi, we suddenly are reluctant to collectively agree to place them in the electric chair and remove them from our society to keep them from hurting anyone else.

Despite trying to understand my own beliefs and convictions on capital punishment and self-defense for over a year now, the death of Osama bin Laden doesn’t help much in removing the blurry haze clouding my mind on these issues. And maybe this is as clear as it will ever be in my head.  What do I believe?  I don’t know for sure.  What do you believe?

If this post was the least bit interesting or fascinating to you, I invite you to read its two prequels, by clicking on the titles below:

Capital Punishment, In Theory: Do You Support the Death Penalty Enough to Do It Yourself?

Self-Defense, In Theory

6 thoughts on “Osama bin Laden is Dead and All I Can Think About are My (Still) Unresolved Convictions on Capital Punishment

  1. People still live with the pain that was caused on sep. 11th ten years ago. Those painful emotions were stirred up big time with the death of the man who spearheaded the 9/11 attacks. Because of the pain, I’ve seen the general response to it is a feeling of “he got what he deserved.” Even though he was an evil man who murdered thousands, I have a difficult time saying that I am glad he is dead. I wish he didn’t have to die, because I wish it had NEVER HAPPENED. It breaks my heart that we are faced at all with the question of what to do with murderes, because God’s original plan was for us not to die. Bin Laden’s death cannot ever undo the terrible things he did, and we will always be left with the pain. He is left to God to determine his punishment, but I cannot say what he did or did not deserve.


  2. I am in no way condoning what Osama bin Laden did in anyway, I think war and killing on all levels is wrong, but what about people like President Bush who by invading 2 different countries caused upward of 100,000 deaths. This is a low figure. I guess my question is, When is war or murder justified and when is it not?


    • I’m 57, and I’ve been upset over “wars” all my life, call me a pacifist if you like. This middle east situation has left my soul raw all these years. Wars offer false justification for something humans have been mandated NOT to do: kill. In the past decade the W.W.J.D. bracelets became popular…I don’t own one. However, I don’t feel Jesus would start or condone war. War is not on the Creator’s plan. How many centuries will it take for mankind to “get it”?


      • I totally agree with you, Hjordis. We share the same views completely on this; it sounds like. I’m not much of a political person; but it does really bother me that politics can justify killing. I understand there’s not always a way around it, and I understand that I lot of times we get involved in wars to protect other nations and people, but we sure kill a lot of innocent people who aren’t on “our side” too, in the process.


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