On Celebrating the Death of Evil People

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Osama Bin Laden — a man whose purpose in life was to inflict death and suffering on as many innocent people as possible — was finally killed, and much of the Western world’s religious and secular elite have expressed moral objections to those who celebrated this death.

Pastor Brian McLaren, named one of Time magazine’s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” in 2005, expressed this objection. Reacting to television images of young Americans chanting “USA! USA!” the night bin Laden’s death was announced, the pastor wrote, “I can only say that this image does not reflect well on my country. … Joyfully celebrating the killing of a killer who joyfully celebrated killing carries an irony that I hope will not be lost on us. Are we learning anything, or simply spinning harder in the cycle of violence?”

And CNN reported the objection of an Episcopal priest, Danielle Tumminio, whose Long Island neighborhood lost scores of people in the 9/11 attacks.

When she saw images of Americans celebrating, “My first reaction was, ‘I wish I was with them.’ … My second reaction was, ‘This is disgusting. We shouldn’t be celebrating the death of anybody.’ It felt gross.”

Likewise, many Jews, including rabbis, have cited traditional — though seemingly conflicting — Jewish attitudes regarding how to react to the death of evildoers.

One frequently cited source is a famous one from the Talmud: “When the Egyptians were drowning in the Sea of Reeds, the angels wanted to sing. But God said to them, ‘The work of my hands is drowning in the sea, and you want to sing?'”

Also cited is the biblical Book of Proverbs: “When your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles, let your heart not exult.”

On the other hand, the Talmud also states, “When the wicked perish from the world, good comes to the world.” And the Book of Proverbs also states, “When the wicked perish, there is joyful song.”

So what is one to make of this mixture of sentiments?

I do not see them as contradictory. God may chastise angels for singing at the drowning of the Egyptian army.

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  • Ghostwriter

    I'll be honest. The world is a better place without Usama Bin Laden.

  • USMCSniper

    A really bad man is now dead, Let's just move on to the next target, as his Death does not change the War on Islamic Terrorists. I also hate that Kantian term "moral imperative" as it dimishes the responsibility of a moral choice. Life is about choices not imperatives.

  • Paul

    The only thing that evil needs to prevail is good men standing around doing nothing….nuf said.

  • KathleenP

    "Only the elimination of all conservative Christians"…newsflash from a sort-of-conservative, non-Christian, non-American: the majority of Americans are and have always been "conservative Christians". Perhaps their genocide would make people like you happier, but calling for it so openly still is in rather bad form.

  • StephenD

    "Only the elimination of all conservative Christians will allow all Americans to be free and the world to no longer have to live in fear of the U.S.A.'s imperialist, terrorist holy war. The conservative ideology has never helped mankind in any way…."Removing the one group that actually has contributed to the welfare of mankind is your idea of helping? The fact is America, made up predominantly of "Conservative Christians," has been the most charitable of all peoples, of all ages. Present your facts before accusing. The world lives in fear of America's imperialism??? What a dolt!

    • The_Lord_Regent

      Not a dolt. Just evil.

  • sedoanman

    There will always be religion and religious people, and religious people are motivated by their faith just as you are motivated by your non-belief. So what do you propose, death camps for them?

  • Jim_C

    OK, Mr. Prager–join me in celebrating Obama's victory over public enemy no. 1!

  • http://www.ae911truth.org/ Jack

    Celebrate the death of this death cult leader, and learn the truth of 911.
    A million tons of steel and concrete does not turn to dust because of an airplane crash. http://www.ae911truth.org/

  • Rafael Mention

    Just have the option for ALAC downloads. Then have a set of speakers that meet your standards, for the way much of an audiophile you’re, and there we’ve it.Not everyone needs a $100,000 list of speakers, but also for the few who is able to hear the real difference (and the even fewer who is able to reasonably afford it), have at it. Not everyone can hear the difference between 320 kbps and ALAC, don’t assume all speakers can reproduce a difference, and not everyone cares; that’s just fine.Music is definitely an art, the same as artwork itself. If you’re able to be content to determine a 4 megapixel picture of the Hireling shepherd on your computer, that’s fine. Others couldn’t survive content until they see it in person.And so i sort of agree with him that digital music is shuffled around in a degraded state, nonetheless it doesn’t have to be, and for those who care enough, it isn’t really. As for piracy, Baby, Buy your Head Screwed On