Would you sacrifice your life for a cause?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : like sands : One Thread

Is there any cause you'd be willing to give your life for? Do you think martyrdom can achieve anything in our present-day society?

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2000


Well, I am not sure what I would give up my life for, that would depend on the situation. (i.e. "Good of the many outways the good of the few or the one") But in our society, martyrdom seems to usually leads to people shaking their heads during the evening news and saying "That was bad" and then looking what is on the sitcom lineup. It is hard to get good responses out of people in our society that last too long and thus many martyrs give up their lives and only in the immediate area is their a great impact. There is just too much going on sometimes...at least in my eyes....

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2000

I'm passionate about a cause or two, but I can't come up with any that I'd be able to help more while dead than I can while I'm alive. I suppose I'd like to think I could have been with Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman in Mississippi in the Civil Rights movement. But they didn't give up their lives -willingly- like the example Jen uses from China, or the Buddhist monks who set themselves on fire in the early years of the Vietnam war.

So I don't think I'd give up my life -willingly- for anything as nebulous as a "cause." But if the time came and someone said "renounce this important principle or get shot," well, I hope I never have to find out, but I think I could give up my life to maintain a critical belief (which I guess I'd limit to our immediate freedoms and our rights to our faiths).


-- Anonymous, May 21, 2000

I've actually thought about this question quite a few times. If someone were to put my life on the line, and I was going to lose it and keep my beliefs, or deny my beliefs and live. Well, I think that if someone had a gun to my head and asked me to deny Jesus Christ and live, I couldn't do it. My whole life is encompassed by what this one man did...about 2,000 years ago he died by way of crucifixion with his guilty charge being none; and then 3 days later miraculously resurrected and thus conquering death. He was a perfect, sinless man, yet he was killed like a murderer. Jesus, God's son, died because he took place of my sins. Were it not for him, there would be no way for me to have everlasting life, and no way for me to have any sort of hope or purpose here on earth. So yes, I'd die for the sake of my source of life, Jesus Christ. To live is Christ and to die is gain...as the Bible puts it.

I don't think other martyers have a really huge impact on the world, but for me, Christian martyers are the most influencial people. Take for instance the girl at Columbine High School who, after saying yes to the question if she believed in God, was shot and killed. This girl had enough guts to live out her beliefs and face the consequences. Maybe not in the rest of the world, but in the Christian spectrum, this one girl has changed MANY people's lives. She had a song written just about her by Michael W. Smith. She's had a book published just about her life and the events just before her death. It was all quite inspiring, and I for one have been impacted by her actions.

-- Anonymous, May 21, 2000

I don't think I would die for a cause or an idea. I believe causes and ideas change they just don't last. That's not to say that there aren't some universal truths in this world, because I believe there are universal truths. But those truths will exist whether we die for them or not. They don't need or deaths. I think the more appropriate question is who would you die for? The individual is the only thing that really lasts forever. I just don't believe in dieing for your country or a political philosophy or even a religious one, because philosophies change, religions disappear, and nations vanish eventually. However, the individual lasts forever. My father is a Vietnam veteran and he once told me a story about a soldier who smothered a landmine with his body to save the troops under his command. I don't think that soldier(If we could have asked him after his death and that's very big if indeed.) would have said he died protecting democracy and capatilism, or even his country. He probably would have said he died to protect to his buddies. As for martyrdom I think it doesn't achieve much today except maybe if you die for somebody else. You can save their life in the short-term. You can't save their life forever though, because someone already did that. He was another person who didn't die for an idea or a cause. He died for a certain set of people it just happens that set was everybody. His name was Jesus Christ at least that's how I understand it.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

I don't remember the Chinese guy being crushed by the tank in Tienamen (sp?) Square. I remember the image of him standing before the tank and the driver trying to go around him. He kept moving into its path, but I do remember that he was not crushed. As a matter of fact, I seem to recall a news story about him a few years after being lauded as an example of courage. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe Jen is referring to someone else who actually did get crushed.

Well, enough of my nit-picking. I'll just get to contributing my two cents to the conversation. The only person in history whose death for anything (a cause, a people, a message) was TOTALLY justified was Jesus Christ. The rest of us are mere mortals. What would our deaths accomplish? Just as an example to convey my point, consider this: What if the person you most loved were condemned to die? Would you take their place? If you did and they were set free and you were the one who died, then an hour after their release they were run over and killed by a truck, did you really accomplish anything?

See, the problem with martyrdom (in most cases) is that the martyr is usually remembered above the cause. To sacrifice your life for something/someone is more likely than not less effective than sticking around and continuing to fight the injustices against which you rail. As a true case in point, rather than just a hypothetical situation, think about this. What causes have been championed in the past, for which people have died, that are now commonplace and accepted? At one time, the majority of humans may have felt a certain way about a subject, but now they feel the exact opposite.

Bad arguments are won and good arguments are lost everyday. Instead of giving up our lives, let's be brave enough to stick around and fight the good fight. Oh, God! I'm lapsing into Winston Churchill mode. I'd better end this transmission now before I start quoting FDR.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

Actually, Meg, I've heard that the Columbine story you cite didn't really happen. Apparently some eyewitnesses got the girl who was killed mixed up with some other girl who was asked that question after she'd ALREADY been shot.

In addition, even if it had happened, I don't think there was any indication in that situation that there would have been any answer that would have prevented her from being shot.

But even if THAT were true--that renouncing her faith in God would have saved her life, it seems to me foolish not to do so. After all, she still would have actually believed in God, she just would have been saying that she didn't to a couple of deranged teenagers under duress.

It seems to me that we all have the ability to make positive contributions to society. I don't think anyone ought to give up that opportunity over a few words.

But then again, I'm not a Christian.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

Jesus wasn't killed like a murderer; he was executed by the state in the manner commonly used for enemies of the state. Recent research suggests that he was either the legitimate king of the Jews or an Egyptian sex magician engaged in re-enacting the Osiris myth.

Dying for a cause is an indication of failure.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

I didn't mean for this question to turn into a discussion of Jesus, Christianity, etc. (Actually, to give you an idea of how oblivious I am to religion, it didn't even occur to me that Jesus would come up as part of this discussion.)

The question is about whether there's any cause YOU would be willing to give your life for. Presumably none of you have the opportunity to rid the world's population of all its sins.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

I was thinking about your entry, Jen, last night while watching the movie "the Sorrow and the Pity", about the occupation of France by Germany during WW2. It was an occupation and in many ways a collaboration with germany, and there was a large resistance that worked for many years to sabotage the occupation. Its a long story that I don't want to get into here.

But many of the older folks who were part of the resistance spoke about how people in France protected them or helped them out even if they weren't actually part of the resistance. The folks involved were either shot without a trial or sent off to concentration camps when they were found out. Of course in hindsight, as americans you can think "why didn't more people resist" and the movie was good at describing how complicated the occupation was but how the French were part of it. The folks who were part of the resistance were definitely willing to give up their lives.

I believe that people who die for their causes do have an impact in today's society. That guy who died in Tianamen Square (sp?) may not be remembered often in the West, but I am sure he is well remembered in China. I also think its rather short sighted to expect China to have totally changed in 10 years when there is still a repressive government and a long history of a non-democratic governance there, from what I understand. These things take time.

I think that charlton heston is an idiot, but I have plenty of respect people who are willing to put their lives on the line for their causes. The governments of the world are counting on you not to care, if you ask me.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

I think Charlton Heston is a great actor but people don't know when he's acting in real life. I tihnk when people say they're willing to "die for a cause" they really mean maybe sit in jail for a few months until the publicity dies off. Why would anyone want to die for a cause anyway? Unless you're in the process of killing people, getting killed won't make a lot of difference. I have trouble imagining Charlton shooting at anything but animals and people wearing ape masks so how does he plan to die for his guns? Does he hope the government will come around and shoot him instead of just arresting him just like they already arrest owners of illegal firearms? I guess Charlton will have to present a more complete plan before I sign up to get shot with him.

-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

Jen--I disagree with you to an extent about the power of words. Words ARE actions. Think of the wedding vow...it's a word and an action all at once. "I do." That's an utterance that makes something happen. I think that to say "yes I believe" or "no I don't" is a similar word-as-action. I certainly agree with you-- nobody would (or should) criticize somebody who renounces rather than affirms a belief if the doing saves her own life. But I certainly have admiration for someone who, faced with death, says/does what they feel to be right. Because in the saying, the person is -doing- something.

And, yes, you're right, Cassie Bernall did not profess belief in God before dying. In the chaos of the room, kids incorrectly remembered the words coming from Cassie. Valeen Schnurr, who had been asking God to help her after she'd been shot, responded "yes" when a gunman asked her if she believed in God. She was not shot again and survived. (I'm a Columbine alum, so I've followed the story quite closely.) Ultimately, though, the truth about Cassie Bernall hardly matters...the story is powerful enough to catch people's attention regardless of whether it happened.


-- Anonymous, May 22, 2000

Paul, I agree that words do have power, but I think under the hypothetical circumstances, that young woman would have been doing a greater good by claiming to renounce her faith and going on to live a productive life. I don't really see any good coming from such a death.

Meg says she was inspired by the girl's actions, but does this inspiration justify ridding the world of someone who most likely would have gone on to be a conscientious citizen and a loving wife and mother? I suppose that some people might be motivated to deepen their faith in God through this girl's actions, but I also think that this would really only affect people who are already Christians. Heathens like me just see it as a tragic wasted life.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Tough call, Jen. I think that martyrdom, by its very definition, is a "tragic wasted life," to use your words. But I'm not sure it only affects those who are already in agreement.

To return to some non-Columbine examples, what about Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman? To be sure, they didn't -intentionally- give themselves up as martyrs, but they certainly knew they were putting themselves in harm's way. Their martyrdom (along with King, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and countless others) inarguably helped to sway the public view of the Civil Rights movement...not just those who were already on their side. And the monks who lit themselves on fire to protest Diem's regime in Vietnam. No chance in hell I'd do that, but their public suicide played a role in getting America to stop and think about if we were truly aiding the will of the Vietnamese people.

Also, check out this 3-minute NPR story to hear my old heathen debate coach swayed a little bit by the death of one of her students. I'm not a glassy-eyed born-again type, and I don't think anybody else's faith is my business, but this does show that Rachel Scott's desire for martyrdom didn't just play to the already converted. Click on "Columbine Anniversary" from http://search.npr.org/cf/cmn/cmnpd01fm.cfm?PrgDate=4%2F19% 2F2000&PrgID=2 and I'm sorry I haven't mastered how to put in a hot link. I mostly just read.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

There's plenty to gain by dying for Jesus.

Matthew 16:25 - For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I suppose there have been many religious martyrs that have influenced some skeptics, but without too much reflection it should be obvious there is a conundrum -- as these martyrs come from all faiths. Not exactly a convincing argument when you have someone dying in the name of Christ, or Allah, or Koresh.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

I don't think that martyrdom does much for anyone nowadays. At least not here in America. There are so many people out there dying anyway, and we see it on the news everyday. That one person happened to profess some strong belief before dying doesn't mean that their death will be treated any better than as a soundbite to grab more ratings.

As for Mr Heston, I shoot, and I like guns. And as such, I follow rec.guns on usenet. Oddly enough, a lot of the people who post there really don't like Heston or the NRA very much. I think that the majority of gun owners out there aren't the "pry it out of my cold dead hands" mindset. At the same time, I think that those who are of that mindset aren't willing to die just to protect the right to bear arms. I think that they are honestly convinced that soon after the guns are all confiscated, the govenment will suddenly turn into an oppresive dictatorship, and that the populace will have no means of resisting. That or the whole "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" scenario in which a Mad Max type band of bandits will come sweeping out of the desert, raping and pillaging the unarmed suburbs.

These may not be valid concerns, but one has to know that these are the things gun nuts are willing to die for. They aren't just standing up for the right to shoot at tin cans and beer bottles.

-- Anonymous, May 23, 2000

Maybe I can add a little light to why gun owners are willing to die for their right to own guns. I grew up in a family, and am friends with many people, that have rifles and handguns they use for target shooting and hunting. Most of us live in rural areas. We don't think that that as soon as guns are banned the US will turn into a tyranny. However, many of us are willing to die for the right to own guns, mostly because we see gun control and gun bans as one aspect of a gov't assault on our rural lifestyle. We have used guns for generations in a safe manner, but because a miniscule percentage of gun owners, mostly in urban areas, have misused guns to kill people, the gov't wants to regulate our gun use, and many people in gov't want to ban guns altogether. One of the most evil things a gov't can do is to tell someone who is using a freedom responsibly that because a few people are misusing that freedom, that everyone's freedom will be regulated or taken away altogether.

Most rural people I know are really beginning to hate gov't, as it is increasingly run by urban liberals who don't know and don't care about rural america, and many of whom ridicule and even hate rural america. The gun issue is just one instance of this. My father and grandfather say that since they were young, their freedoms have been diminished greatly, due to gov't regulation and the increasing hatred in gov't circles of rural values. The NRA and similar organizations are expressions of this rural anger. We value our freedom to own guns, but our support of the NRA is not just about guns, but about protecting our whole way of life. We aren't militia-nuts, we're just farmers and blue collar workers with families, who value a lifestyle with extremely limited gov't involvement and strong moral values. The past 20 years or so have been an assault upon our entire lifestyle and the freedoms that we value, and if these aren't things worth dieing for, then I don't know what is. Wow, sorry, this kind of turned into a rant. But I think it is a good summary of what a lot of rural americans feel right now.

-- Anonymous, May 27, 2000

Of course, we are all sacrificing our lives for a cause as we speak.

What that cause is, well...

-- Anonymous, May 28, 2000

I've always thought the tactically-correct procedure was to get the Other Guy to sacrifice *his* life for *his* cause-- leaving your own cause victorious on the Last Man Standing principle.

-- Anonymous, June 05, 2000

Re: jen popbomb - Your WW2 story reminds me of Graham Greene's novella: "The 10'th Man", in which a random innocent man is scheduled to be executed by the Nazi's as retribution. Another man takes his place and dies for the benefit of his family. To die for a loved one... someone you feel is better or as worthy as yourself is conceivable, even virtuous... although I think Ayn Rand would have a problem with it... if you don't think enough of yourself to fight to live, are you worthy of living? In this case you had both aspects of those opposite views.

The Tiennemann Square image is a great representation of the "sanctity" of freedom (sorry Christians), and the fact that it (at least in theory & our hearts), is worth dying for. If your death meant freedom vs. gulag-like totalitarian hell for the rest of humanity, would you sacrifice yourself? It's probably the only cause I can envision myself sacrificing my life for. In reality it would never happen... only in a Star-Trek-like fiction scenario where a doomsday-like situation ensues. The troubling thing is that fewer and fewer people today seem to have the character to do things like that. The movies, and the heroic stories of past civilizations try to teach us that such sacrifices are noble. It's one reason I think religion can be important for the imbedding of values in our culture (although religion holds no quarter for me).

C Heston, by way of his dramatic flourish, is getting at the same kernal: He's willing to die for FREEDOM. You may not see it, but from my study of history and politics his sentiments are correct. There are over 100 million dead in the last century alone as a witness to the evils of government without freedom! Most in this country no longer appreciate it, and few are taught the history to understand it (history being the least-liked school subject despite being the most interesting - I'll refrain from battering our lousy government- education system here). Today's slow erosion of simple freedoms by the making of laws in every aspect of one's life are symptomatic of the industrialization of government. It smells of the thought-police of great writers like Orwell and Huxley. So... yeah... freedom's worth dying for, if only in principle.

-- Anonymous, June 29, 2000

I think there are things that i would die for.What about our kids? Most parents who truly love their kids would be willing to die for them. I love mine and i would die for them. Jesus Christ is worth dieing for also. But the important thing is who or what are you living for? Is dieing the easy way out? What about this? Would you be paraylized from the neck down for your cause? Live the rest of your life as a quadrapalegic? Would you give youe eyesight for your beliefs? Would you spend the rest of your life in prison for your cause? To me death would be better than a life lived in such states. Many people are in prison for what they belive in. Tortured,yet still stand by their convictions. I am a Christian and i know that i have suffered no where near what some of my fellow believers have.I have not been called upon to die for my faith but i willing live for it every day. Why? Because i found a better reason to live.Its not living for a belief,its living for a person,Jesus.Questions and comments are welcome :=)

-- Anonymous, April 14, 2001

I would die for Jesus because he has all ready died for me, and everyone else that God created. In the bible it says that the best friend is a friend who would die for you. I have a best friend and we have been best friends ever since we meet, six years ago. I would most deffinitly die for her.

-- Anonymous, October 20, 2001

for those of you who say that you would die for jesus, know that you have no idea of what true pain is. to say that you would readily die for another who is dead and gone shows that you have been tactfully brainwashed into believing something that in no way can, or does exist. And frankly if the opportunity for you to lay down your life for a man, who was the leader of the world's most destructive and damaging cult, you wouldn't.

-- Anonymous, January 24, 2002

We lay our lives on the line every minute of our Shift. Law-Enforcement is a 24/7 job. And Yes I would step in front of the treat so the Innocent and my partners would not get hurt. But thats me. The Barb-wire that keeps the wolfs at bay is getting tighter every day it seems. Yes we know there is danger in the job right from the start. But someone has to do it! http://www.lcsheriff.org

-- Anonymous, February 09, 2002

Of course, what else is there to life other than your born to die unless you do something of relevence in between. Causes are what makes life worth living, and if that means that i have to die in order for what i feel to be a good or great cause,, i will,

one persons idea of a good or great cause WILL differ from one to anothers but thats a given. Different people feel different on subjects, lets not argue over each others idea of whats good or not and just answer the question given,,,,,,,,,,,,,yes i would die for a cause that i see fit worth of my death. John/18/TX/no family

-- Anonymous, February 18, 2002

Yes, if I've made that commitment. I would do it more out of respect for myself rather than respect for the cause.

-- Anonymous, March 07, 2002

l would without a shadow of a doubt,give my life to save others.That's what l feel everyday,l feel like l was put on this planet to look - out for others.

-- Anonymous, June 11, 2002

I would die for Jesus, no i have never physically seen him. But i know he exists, i live by faith, i know by faith, he is my God and savior. If you asked me to deny Jesus, i would say no! i would die for him. All my faith rests in my Lord Jesus Christ, and i know I will one day be with him in Heaven, whether i die a martyer or an old man in my bed. Lee

-- Anonymous, October 13, 2002

Moderation questions? read the FAQ