If your core belief is, killing is wrong, then the answer for every situation would be no. My answer simply, is yes. It is OK to use lethal force if I have a reasonable fear for life or safety and it was the only option. Self defense is not always black and white and the possible situations are too numerous to address specifically. Most legal definitions of self defense require a reasonable fear for life or safety for use of lethal force. Determining the justified use of lethal force depends on the will and intent of an individual. For me, there is little I would not do to protect my family. But it is very situational. In the legal system the only difference between justified and unjustified use of lethal force is your ability to articulate your reasonable fear for life or safety. For example: I feel no need to use lethal force against an individual if they were wielding a large rock and I was alone. I feel sufficiently trained to eliminate that threat and after a check into my background an ordinary individual might come to the same conclusion. I would be hard pressed to justify lethal force. If however, I were with my three daughters, I could articulate my fear as reasonable because I am not confident in their ability to avoid that stone if it were thrown or used to try to bludgeon them. Note I did not address the fact that there are less than lethal uses of force that could eliminate the threat. The question specifically addressed lethal force so I go off the assumption that more reasonable uses of force have been attempted previously and lethal force is the only option left.
I don't think this statement is true. There are many people who have willingly allowed themselves to die instead of responding to others in violence. Although self-preservation may be a strong influence in one's decision it is not a overriding factor.
It has nothing to do with my life being more valuable than another's life. The quote hinges on the belief that either their life or my life must be worth more. Since I believe all human life is inherently valuable then killing myself to save another is not acceptable. I would still be acting violently.
So, you would let, say, Dennis Rader do horrible things to you and your loved ones rather than taint yourself with the use of violence, and then allow him to continue to do so to others? By your inaction, you'd be permitting more and worse violence than what you'd be inflicting in self-defense. You'll forgive me for finding that to be morally bankrupt. You cite Gandhi & MLK. I'll point out that Gandhi himself said that his techniques would never have worked against the Imperial Japanese. Violence may never be the best answer, but there's times when it's the only answer.
To question whether killing in self-defense is wrong is essentially the same as questioning whether striking another person in self-defense is wrong. If you are in a situation and it is justified, it cannot be wrong. It may be something that is difficult to live with, but were I in a kill-or-be-killed situation, I would not hesitate to kill. I definitely agree with Robert that killing in self-defense is not always justified, and there may be other steps that can be taken that are not fatal.
Your assertion that killing another person is not wrong so long as it is justified is circular reasoning. As in your comment, most people believe the term "justified" to be nearly synonymous to the term "right." If you believe that an action is justified then of course you would believe that the action is not wrong. However, you have not explained why such an action is justified.
I would say for myself the way the question is worded is the key. Morals are different to everyone and sometimes even flexible depending on the situations that someone gets into. It all comes down to peoples mental stress breaking points, where theory and belief(morals) meets real world action. Many people have an idea of what their morals are and even try to live by them but what happens when it becomes a matter of life or death, their own or their families since that is what self-defense questions and events usually revolve around?
For myself my 'morals' are such that I believe that if I felt in fear for my life and/or for the life of my family I would kill. But I might not be able to, my belief might be false and I would not be able to. Or maybe I would. Which leads into:
Another question is, how would you reconcile what ever the outcome with your old morals existing before the event and the new ones created afterward? Would you look on the question differently?
there's one thing that is often not considered whenever one of these conversations pop up: of all the participants in the discussion safe behind their keyboards, almost none of them [less than one percent?] have ever seen a dead person, let alone someone who's been killed in any kind of violent act.
Let me tell you, it's not like the movies.
People don't get shot and fall silently to the floor. I don't care if the guy is a hardened crook or the toughest biker on the block, I've seen them screaming and twitching on the ground with their guts spilling out.
And, I can only imagine being the person who is responsible for that in-your-face suffering. I don't know how the army desensitizes their soldiers, but if you're just Mr Joe Average who suddenly finds himself in a situation where you've just shot someone, well, that's going to change your life forever.
The Army doesn't desensitize their soldiers. It happens from experience. It starts with incoming rounds that scare the holy crap out of you. Coming to terms with it is not easy and most have trouble integrating back into society after they get out of the military. And by the way, some do just fall silently to the ground and die. I've been shot twice in my life. It's nothing like the movies and I didn't scream or twitch. I guess when you have someone trained in killing effectively it's a lot different from some criminal randomly pulling the trigger not caring where his rounds land.
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