A few years ago, the creationist organization Answers in Genesis launched an ill-conceived ad campaign that featured kids with guns; the message was “If God doesn’t matter to him, do you?”. They were trying to hop onto the fear bandwagon, so popular among conservatives now, of trying to convince people that you must support their aims, or some Other will kill you.
That sign and the whole aborted ad campaign (it died away fairly quickly after AiG started it) has everything backwards. We start with the recognition of and respect for the right of every person to live, and then…it doesn’t matter whether you believe in gods or not. There are Christians and atheists who are sincerely appalled at the murder of anyone, whether they share the same political views or not, and there are hateful, callous enablers of death who cross all religious lines. And yes, I’ve noticed some presumed atheists ranting about “justifiable homicide” and murdering anti-abortionist families in the comments here, and I deplore it. The only reason I am not deleting those vile comments right and left is that I think they are useful warnings: do not become the monsters you despise.
There’s another place where you can find people arguing for “justifiable homicide”. It’s what Scott Roeder, the killer of George Tiller, believed in. He’s a so-called “Christian Patriot” — a double scoundrel, in other words — who has a history of fringe beliefs, a criminal record of association with violent anti-government groups, and a paper trail in which he wraps himself in religious sanctimony and advocates death for abortionists.
In many ways, though, his religiosity is going to be a distraction. It simply doesn’t matter, and the strongest conclusion we can draw from it is that religion fails to provide a reasonable framework for morality, since it is so easily and regularly subverted to rationalize evil. Focus instead on the root of the problem: Roeder was an amoral, obsessed nut who found support for his delusions among a particularly ugly American subculture. Gods don’t matter. And when you think gods do, you lose sight of the truth: other people matter.