What the Bible Says About #Rape #Gender #Vaw


Christians of many stripes are scrambling to distance themselves and their religion from Republican comments about rape. But a literal interpretation of the Bible is quite disturbing.
November 1, 2012  |

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney (left) and U.S. Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock greet supporters at a campaign event at Stepto’s Bar B Q Shack on August 4 in Evansville, Indiana.

Christians of many stripes are scrambling to distance themselves, their religion, or their God from Republican comments about rape. The latest furor is about Washington State congressional candidate John Koster, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and added for good measure that “incest is so rare, I mean it’s so rare.”  Before that, it was Indiana candidate Richard Mourdock, who said, “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen” backed up by Texas senator John Cornyn insisting that “life is a gift from God.” These men share the January sentiment of Rick Santorum:  “the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.”

Those Christians who see the Bible as a human, historical document have the right to distance themselves. Those who see the Bible as the unique and perfect revelation of the Divine, essentially dictated by God to the writers, do not. The fact is, the perspective that God intends rape babies and that such pregnancies should be allowed to run their course is perfectly biblical.

I am not going to argue here that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. It doesn’t. The Bible writers had no concept of conception, and no Bible writer values the life of a fetus on par with the life of an infant or an older child. One does say that God knows us while we are developing in the womb, but another says he knows us even before. Levitical law prescribes a fine for a man who accidentally triggers a miscarriage. It is not the same as the penalty for manslaughter. Therapeutic abortion is never mentioned, nor is the status of the fetus that spontaneously aborts. Under Jewish law, a newborn isn’t circumcised and blessed until he is eight days old, having clearly survived the high mortality peri-natal period. For centuries the Catholic Church believed that “ensoulment” occurred and a fetus became a person at the time of quickening or first movement, sometime during the second trimester.

However, if we take the viewpoint of biblical literalists and treat the Good Book as if it were authored by a single perfect, unchanging Deity, then a man is on solid ground thinking that rape babies are part of God’s intentions. Consider the following Bible teachings:

The Bible never teaches that women should have a choice about sex. The Bible makes a clear distinction between forcible stranger rape and other forms of nonconsensual sex, condemning the former while sanctioning the latter in many, many circumstances. The fact that conservative Christians – or politicians who are pandering to a Conservative Christian base–keep fumbling with these distinctions is no accident. According to the commands of Yahweh, a man can give his daughters in marriage, keep concubines, have sex with his wife’s servants, or claim a desirable war captive as his own sexual property after a series of rituals to purify her. In no case, including in the New Testament, is the woman’s consent required for sexual contact.

Male female relationships in the Bible are determined by a property ethic. The punishments for rape have to do not with compassion or trauma to the woman herself but with honor, tribal purity, and a sense that a used woman is damaged goods. A woman herself may be killed for voluntarily giving up her purity. A rapist can be forced, essentially, to buy her. In the Ten Commandments, the prohibition against coveting a neighbor’s wife is part of a broader prohibition against coveting property that belongs to another man: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor” (Exodus 20:17NIV).

God’s purpose for women in the Bible is childbearing. Martin Luther, who brought us the concept of “sola scritura” meaning Christianity based solely on the authority of the Bible, had this to say: “Women should remain at home, sit still, keep house and bear and bring up children. If a woman grows weary and, at last, dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing; she is there to do it.”  He drew his scripturally informed opinion from the biblical record broadly but most specifically from the words of Paul’s letter to Timothy: “Women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety” (1 Tm. 2:15).

Virtually all Bible books, like almost all Hollywood movies fail to pass the Bechdel Test (Are there two named female characters who talk with each other about anything other than men?). In the Bible, as in Hollywood, women exist largely as props in plotlines about male protagonists. Biblical plotlines are even more homogenous than Hollywood, however, in that the vast preponderance of females exist simply for the purpose of producing male offspring. It all starts with Eve, who, after she defies Yahweh and eats from the Tree of Knowledge, is punished thus:“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen. 3:16). After Eve’s curse, we encounter Abraham’s wife Sarah and the slave girl Hagar who Sarah sends to “lie with” her husband when she herself cannot conceive. Then come the pathetic deflowered daughters of Lot who get him drunk and have sex with him so they can fulfill their purpose. Then come the archetypal bitch sisters Rachel and Leah who compete over Jacob’s bed and pump out the twelve tribes of Israel with the help of a few mandrake roots. The New Testament leads with the story of Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist who is barren in her old age until an angel promises her the best thing that can happen to a woman. Her unborn son leaps in her womb when the pregnant Mary comes into her house, prompting one of the most repeated songs of joy in the whole Bible, the Magnificat (Luke 1:40-55). And then, of course, there is the Virgin Mary herself. They are made to do it. It is as God intended.

In the Bible, children are counted as assets belonging to men. Children, like women, in the Bible are treated primarily according to a property ethic. In the Old Testament stories of Jepthah’s daughter and the sacrifice of Isaac, scholars glimpse a residual of child sacrifice in the early Hebrew religion. This in turn leads to the New Testament notion of God giving his only begotten son as a sacrifice—all of which make sense only when we think of children as property which a father can dispose of as he pleases.  When Yahweh is pleased with men he multiplies their flocks and their offspring. When he is displeased, he may kill their firstborn sons, as he does to the Egyptians in the Moses story. When Yahweh and Satan agree to play out their cosmic competition in the life of Job, Satan tests Job’s loyalty to Yahweh by taking away is riches including his livestock, children and wives, and Yahweh later replaces them with new ones.

There is no sense, ever, in the Bible, that a woman might prefer a choice about having a child; that wise parents might think about when is best to bring another child into their family or how many children they can nurture; or even less that bringing a child into the world should be an matter of thoughtful and mutual decision making. The only Bible story in which someone declines to produce a child is the one about Onan refusing to father a son for his deceased brother. He spills his seed on the ground instead, and God kills him for it. Whether the widow wanted the seed inside her plays no part in the account whatsoever.

The Bible is loaded with divinely sanctioned rape babies. The Bible both depicts and scriptsa world in which women have no choice about who they are given to. Daughters can be given in marriage or sold outright, slaves can be sent by their mistresses to bear proxy babies, virgin war captives can be claimed as wives, widows can be forced to submit to humping by their brothers-in-law until they produce sons. Presumably any of these women can be laid at any time, at a man’s discretion, much as is the case in parts of Afghanistan or analogous Iron Age tribal cultures today. In such a world, a significant portion of babies conceived will be the product of non-consensual sex. In other words, rape.

Christians who like to retroactively sanitize the Biblical record because they insist that it is the literally perfect word of God often sanitize it quite literally. They want to think of these women as willing participants in sexual unions with benevolent, high status patriarchs. What slave girl wouldn’t want one? In reality we are talking about forced sex with primitive desert tribesmen whose cleansing rituals mostly focused on their hands and feet rather than their genitals, armpits or teeth. Airbrushing the Bible to the point that it doesn’t condone rape requires that we deny much of what we know about human history and biology.

If we are ever going to move on from Iron Age conflicts, it is imperative that people understand the Bible in its own context, not as a literally perfect prescription for how we should live today but as a record of our very imperfect ancestors struggling to live in community with each other, instinctively seeking patterns that worked within a given ecological and technological context to create a stable, functional society in which men, women, and children could thrive.

As we now know, many traditional gender scripts and sexual rules once served to ensure that men could invest their energy in their own genetic offspring. The saying, “mama’s baby, papa’s maybe” reflects the reality that humans are only partially monogamous, that both men and women have reason to cheat, and that at the level of evolutionary biology males gain advantage if they can control the sexual behavior of females in whose offspring they will then invest their time and energy. The Abrahamic virginity code, which evolved before the time of contraception and paternity tests, ensured a greater degree of confidence that men were in fact raising their own children. A woman who bled on her wedding night was unlikely to be carrying another man’s sperm or fetus or to have formed an emotional bond that would result in an ongoing extramarital liaison. By increasing male confidence that the offspring of their wives were their own, the virginity code may have increased the investment of men in pregnant women and dependent children, helping both to survive in a harsh desert environment where producing food was hard work.

The harshness of this environment and human frailty within it probably contributed to another aspect of the Mourdock mentality that so plagues many Abrahamic adherents. From the time we humans have first been able to understand our plight as suffering, mortal creatures we have struggled to transcend it. But much of life’s hardship cannot be transcended; it must simply be endured. In the time before modern science this was even more true than it is today. Consequently all of the world’s great religions cultivate acceptance or resignation as a virtue. Islam literally means submission. Buddhism centers itself on the absence of desire, on “living into” what is. Christianity teaches that God’s actions are not for us to question. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding.” “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” Submit, accept, don’t question. In all cases, submission has a hierarchy: men are to submit themselves to the will of God or to the divine flow; women are to submit both to the will of God and to the will of men.

In a world where what’s done is done, accepting a rape pregnancy and falling in love with the resulting child is an unmitigated good. Seeing all pregnancy as God-intended and all childbirth as a blessing from a loving heavenly father helps to make this possible. But we live in a world where we have far more knowledge and choices than did our Iron Age ancestors. And with knowledge and choices comes responsibility. We now have the ability to stop a rape from developing into a pregnancy or an early pregnancy from developing into a person. Consequently, we also have a responsibility in this situation to activate such moral virtues ascompassionforethought, discernment, and, where appropriate, action—just as our ancestors had a moral responsibility to employ these same virtues in situations where they were equally empowered. As the popular Serenity Prayer reminds us, what we should do depends in part on what we can do: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  As conditions change, our responsibilities change. The kind of resignation or submission that once enabled women and children to flourish may now be a barrier to flourishing; a virtue applied wrongly, out of time, can become a vice.

This is where John Koster, Richard Mourdock, Rick Santorum, anti-contraception Bishops, and so many other devout conservatives have gone wrong. They have elevated a virtue, devotion, in this case devotion to a sacred text and tradition, to the point that it appears a vice to everyone but those who are caught in their retrogressive thought spiral. The consequences are there for all to see:  Instead of pointing the way toward wisdom—humility, prudence, discernment, kindness, insight, knowledge, and effectiveness—their devotion to the traditional subjugation of woman under man under Church under God (as embodied in a Golden Calf known as the Bible), simply makes them cruel.

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington and the founder ofWisdom Commons. She is the author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light” and “Deas and Other Imaginings.” Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

 

Seeing Red over Pink


Public outcry foils Komen plan to ditch Planned Parenthood 
Sukey Wolf
April 2012

Graphic by Lian Amaris

When Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the country’s leading breast cancer advocacy group, announced in early February that it would no longer contribute money to Planned Parenthood, it ignited a firestorm of controversy. Komen’s grants have helped Planned Parenthood provide breast cancer screenings for 170,000 women a year — many of them poor and women of color who otherwise would have no access to diagnosis and treatment of their cancers.

Komen claimed the decision was due to a new policy not to give money to organizations under investigation by local, state or federal authorities. A politically charged probe of Planned Parenthood was begun late last year by U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, a pro-life Florida Republican. Women around the country were stunned and angered by Komen’s decision. Within hours, mostly small donors had raised over a million dollars for Planned Parenthood to replace Komen’s yearly grant of about $700,000. So intense was the backlash that Komen was forced to reverse course and apologize after just two days.

Women’s rights under sharp attack. Komen’s public relations disaster comes at a critical time. Rightwingers in Congress are determined to pull the plug on Planned Parenthood, also the nation’s largest abortion provider. On the state level, 92 measures designed to restrict a woman’s access to abortion were passed last year in 24 states — the most ever. In 2012, another twelve states will consider so-called personhood laws, which declare that fertilized eggs are legal persons. These measures typically include prohibitions against some contraceptives, the morning-after pill and even in vitro fertilization. The aim of all this anti-woman legislation is to make abortion, if not illegal, then unobtainable in this country.

In the meantime, the extreme pro-lifers have moved the whole discussion about women’s reproductive health far to the right. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says he wants to outlaw contraception in addition to abortion. He has even railed against amniocentesis, a procedure done during pregnancy to assess the heath of the fetus, as a plot to weed out the disabled! And every Republican hopeful but one has signed something called the “Personhood Pledge.”

Broadcasting bigotry. In this over-heated atmosphere, right wing gas bag Rush Limbaugh could not contain himself. He called Sandra Fluke, a young law student who was denied the opportunity to testify on an all-male panel discussing contraception before a House committee in February, a “prostitute” and a “slut.” He suggested that if she wanted taxpayers to pay for her birth control, she should make a pornographic video of herself having all that sex. What had she done to earn these vicious remarks? She had dared to argue that contraceptives be covered by the student health plan at her Catholic-run university.

Within a few days of his sexist diatribe, Limbaugh’s radio show had lost over two dozen sponsors, thanks to the irate women who called Clear Channel to complain. As the FS goes to press, the pressure is building to get Limbaugh kicked off the airwaves permanently.

Komen’s right-wing backers. In this context, it is clear that Komen did not merely cave in to pressure from the right. Karen Handel, Komen’s VP for Public Policy, is widely viewed as the woman behind the action against Planned Parenthood. She is an anti-abortion zealot who was defeated in her bid for governor of Georgia in 2010. Less well known is her campaign as Secretary of State to purge 200,000 names from voting records, which the Department of Justice said amounted to race discrimination.

In fact, the Komen board is full of anti-abortion activists, corporate lobbyists and right wing political types. Nancy Brinker, Komen’s founder, served as ambassador to Hungary under the last Bush administration. Real estate developer Linda Law, another board member, is an influential fundraising bundler for the Republican National Committee. Former Bush press secretary Ari Fleisher, it turns out, was instrumental in getting Karen Handel hired by the board in the first place.

Female self-defense. Many have criticized Komen’s corporate approach to the fight against breast cancer. The hugely profitable 5K “Race for the Cure” events held annually around the U.S. feature inspirational stories of individual women beating a devastating disease, but they lack substance. What’s missing is information on environmental pollutants, industrial carcinogens, and dietary causes of cancer. Nor are the needs of uninsured women addressed, who are screened for breast cancer but can’t afford treatment.

In the case of Komen vs. Planned Parenthood, not to mention Limbaugh vs. all women, it’s clear that swift public reaction has made them back down. But it will take far more than phone calls to stop the attacks. It will require a militant, in-your-face movement to challenge the woman-haters and right wing ideologues who want to kick women out of the public sphere and back to the Middle Ages.

Send feedback to Sukey Wolf at swolf@igc.org.

An Anonymous humorous letter to Bible candidate – Rick Santorum



Dear Friends,

 I have been greatly moved by Rick Santorum‘s wise pronouncements, guided by Biblical principles, especially those concerning marriage. Of course he believes that sexual intercourse should be used only for purposes of procreation (he says he has never worn a condom), but there are some gray areas I was hoping he could clear up, so I wrote him the following letter:

Dear Sen. Santorum:

 Thank you for doing so much to educate us regarding God‘s Eternal Law. I have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose and support a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage, which of course is an abomination.

 As you said, “In the eyes of God, marriage is based between a man and a woman.” I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination.End of debate.

 I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how I might obey them:

 1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female,provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies only to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Can I own Canadians?

 2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her? (She works hard, but does eat a lot.)

 3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanness (Lev. 14: 19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking when meeting young women at church socials, but most of them seem to take offense.

 4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is with my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them, or would Lysol work?

 5. I have a neighbor, Aaron Rogers, who insists on working on the Sabbath.Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it? And how good is the Packers backup QB?

 6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev.11:10) it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I  don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination? What about a homosexual at an oyster bar?

 7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I do wear glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here? What about contacts? Can God tell?

 8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die? I know they must be put to death, but I do not know the recommended method. .

 9. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field (I think corn and alfalfa). And his wife wears garments made from two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev. 24:10-16). Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14).

 10. And last, I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean. May I still play football if I wear gloves?

 I know that you are very busy with your presidential campaign, but, if you get a chance, I would really like your guidance on these critical and disturbing issues.

 Thank you again for reminding us of the eternal and unchanging truth of the Holy Bible.Thank you again for reminding us of the eternal and unchanging truth of the Holy Bible. God bless you. And may He guide you in your quest to lead this great nation of ours. “

 Sincerely Unknown Author

P.S- The mail came as a forward,, in my mail inbox  :-)

Cameroon Rape Victims Confront Legal Gauntlet


By Irene Zih Fon, January 25, 2012

Rape victims in Cameroon can get medical treatment at hospitals and file a police report to set a case in motion, but providing evidence to prove that rape occurred can be difficult. Others don’t report incidents at all because of poverty or shame.

DOUALA, Cameroon (WOMENSENEWS)–Sophie Mixte, who is in her 30s, says she was raped three times growing up. But it wasn’t until the third incident that her parents found out and reported it to the police.

When her mother turned to authorities for help though, it didn’t do her any good, she says.

“The police started to play around the case with my mother, persuading her to drop the case,” she says.

Instead of going to court, the case was settled privately. The family of her rapist paid her mother $200, the equivalent of Mixte’s hospital bill after the rape.

In Cameroon, rape victims can obtain medical treatment in hospitals. Doctors test for pregnancy, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and make HIV-prevention drugs and emergency contraceptives available. They also administer a physical examination that can provide evidence in court that the rape occurred, as well as be used to obtain an abortion, which is otherwise illegal.

But the combination of an intrusive medical exam and an intrusive legal system–as well as strong cultural beliefs about rape victims–seem to discourage many rape victims from seeking justice.

The National Network of Associations of Aunties, a coalition of groups working to combat rape in Cameroon, estimates that 500,000 rapes occur every year in the country. But many are never documented because of underreporting.

Dr. Jean Pierre Koubitim of the St. Padre Pio Hospital in Douala agrees. He says rape incidents are a daily occurrence, with victims ranging from children to adults, attacks occurring inside and outside the home, and perpetrators being strangers or relatives. Yet because of underreporting, the hospital receives just 15 to 20 reports of sexual violence per year, mostly of attempted rape, he says.

“The youngest victim is about 4 years old and was raped by a cousin in their home,” he says.

One Rape Report

Epossi Adeline is the director of the Association for the Fight Against Violence Toward Women, a nongovernmental group that operates a center for victims of gender violence. She says the center has received 70 cases of violence against women since it began operations in 2010. Fifty of these were reports of domestic violence; just one was a rape report.

She also attributes this to underreporting, not to low prevalence.

According to the Cameroon Penal Code, the penalty for rape is five to 10 years in prison when victims are 16 and older and 15 to 25 years in prison when victims are under 16. Prison time may be doubled or for life when offenders have authority over or custody of the victims, are public servants or religious ministers, or are assisted by one or more people.

Convicted rapists rarely receive long prison terms though, says Esther Ngale, president of the Cameroon Association of Female Jurists. She says that, in general, those proven guilty of rape may receive sentences ranging from six months to five years.

Jacob Angoh Angoh, a member of Legal Power Law Firm, made up of barristers and solicitors in Cameroon and Nigeria, says a rape victim must file a formal complaint at a police unit in order to start a case.

The Cameroon Penal Code defines rape as any female compelled to have sexual intercourse with a man “by force or moral ascendancy.”

Angoh Angoh says that the victim should be able to prove that the sexual relationship was not consensual.

“Hence, she must prove that she shouted or she complained to the first person she met at the given opportunity,” he says.

Police’s Decision

Once a complaint is made, the police usually arrest the suspect immediately, he says. It is up to the police to decide whether to pursue the case. If police decide the case has sufficient evidence, they forward it to the state counsel.

Ngale says the victim can choose to use the state prosecutor or hire a private lawyer.

Angoh Angoh encourages rape victims not to be afraid to report incidents because rape cases are not tried in an open court in Cameroon. He says the state maintains victims’ reputation by hearing cases in the chamber of the magistrate in the presence of the two parties, the lawyers, the magistrate and any witnesses.

“Because if the public knows that a girl is a victim of rape, how many men would dare approach her?” he asks.

During the trial, Angoh Angoh says the victim must establish evidence that she resisted or was subdued by the person who allegedly raped her.

“This can be proven by circumstantial evidence, such as wounds on her body,” he says. “If she shouted and people heard her, those people would support her evidence.”

Otherwise, he says, the court may assume “that some girls just make up such stories to make money.”

Angoh Angoh says the law also provides for a defense of provocation, in which case the court presumes that the woman contributed to the act. For instance, taking into consideration whether the woman dressed a certain way, invited the perpetrator into her room or worked as a prostitute.

He says the law also takes into account whether they’d been in a relationship before or if the woman had been giving the impression that they were in a relationship by accepting gifts from him.

Iran’s nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered


Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the Iranian nuclear scientist killed in Tehran on January 11, with his son, Alireza. Photograph: -/AFP/Getty Images

Killing our enemies abroad is just state-sponsored terror – whatever euphemism western leaders like to use.

Mehdi Hasan, Jan 18,2012

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?