Is murder wrong?

I could just say of course it is and it’s a ridiculous question to ask, and I fully agree, but most non-religious people have encountered a wannabe theistic philosopher who challenged you to explain how without god in your life, how can you explain that murder is wrong. First off, let’s assert what murder means. Oxford dictionary describes murder as:-

“the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.”

The important word there is premeditated which means that you’ve considered the action and decided to act on it, often involving some kind of planning. Let’s say that you’re attacked in the street from out of nowhere and you have to defend yourself and unfortunately your reaction causes the death of your assailant. Is this justified to take the life of another human being? If it means that you could potentially be a homicide victim then what choice do you have?

In Exodus 20:13 KJV it clearly states that ‘thou shall not kill’, and it clearly doesn’t define what you shouldn’t kill. The Geneva Convention of 1949 suggests that it’s unlawful to wilfully kill, especially someone who is unarmed. The U.S.A is predominantly religious nation, yet 30 out of the 50 states still have the death penalty for the most heinous crimes. How is this justifiable in the eyes of their god? Leviticus 24:20 says:-

“Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.”

This suggests that whatever someone does to another should be done to them. Doesn’t this directly contradict the thou shall not kill law? What gives a human the right to take the life of another human, even if that human took the life of another? Killing that person as a result of their crime doesn’t cancel the crime and bring the deceased back to life. Take Islam as a prime example of using execution as a punishment for disobeying the religion. In countries that have adopted Sharia Law, there are a multitude of alleged sins that can result in execution to this day in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iran and Mauritania that include; apostasy, homosexuality, rape, drug smuggling, treason, blasphemy, adultery, murder and witchcraft. I’d love a Muslim to justify how being a homosexual as an example is worthy of execution. The punishment is extremely severe and inhuman for the alleged crime.

So back to the initial question. Is murder wrong, and how can it be justified without god in your life? To take a life without justification is robbing someone of their future experiences and affects those around them who have to grieve the loss of a loved one. Religious people claim that they have the moral high ground because their god is an unequalled law-giver, and because atheists don’t have this guidance they have no justification as to why murder is wrong. Murder is inherently wrong whatever way you look at it because it causes suffering, and to cause another person suffering is amoral.

From my perspective being an atheist, murder is wrong for many reasons that include observing the golden rule which is essentially don’t do to others that you don’t want done to you. Many societies through history have loosely adopted this philosophy. If you take a life it’s irreversible. That person isn’t ever going to return and the murdered is denied any future happiness. Most societies deem murder to be wrong as it goes against the rules of a society, and if a society constantly has rules disobeyed then it breaks down and becomes a lawless state where anything goes, and no one wants that.

Would you want to be murdered? No, of course you wouldn’t, so surely the distaste of imagining being a murder victim is enough to prevent you from committing an act of murder against another, especially if you understand the emotion of empathy. Murder is perhaps the most harmful and destructive action that one can do against another human being. We all have just one life, and it’s irreplaceable. We value our own lives and the lives of our loved ones, so this logic should be applied to the rest of humanity. We have rights as a human, not only lawful rights but ethical rights and life is precious. I could argue that all life is precious but that’s an article for another day.