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Old 18th-November-2009, 10:13 PM   Adaire's time 18th-November-2009, 03:13 PM    #1
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Default Martyrdom

What are your views on martyrdom? Is it a positive thing that shows the devotion of an individual to an ideal or is it a subversion of what it means to be heroic?

[slightly stolen from the White Knight thread]


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My view of Martyrdom is very negative; in most cases it seems like misguided fanaticism or glorified suicide. So many cultures are enamored with the idea of dying for a cause. Yet half the time it doesn't even matter what the cause is. The media has a tendency to celebrate it.

It doesn't translate half so well into real life, especially when combined with religion or fanatical causes. The churches I attended glorified martyrdom and treated it as the ideal way to die. You'd get so many 'crowns' in heaven if you died for God. I read a series of books called 'Jesus Freaks' when I was ten; they described situations in which Christians were brutally tortured, imprisoned, and put to death. All while treating it as a positive, proactive thing.

Being the brainwashed child I was I had decided I wanted to die in the most gruesome way possible; to please God of course. I had it all extensively planned out too, become a missionary to an aggressively anti-christian country, and speak out loudly in opposition to the government and decry it's sins. I'd be imprisoned or dead before I turned 25. Ideally I had hoped to die just like Peter; crucified up-side-down. Incredibly fucked up, is it not? Druggies and alcoholics often claim that Christianity saved their lives; well Atheism saved mine. Ah the irony hurts.

My disgust for my thought patterns as child, greatly affects my view on martyrdom now. I find it, even for causes I support, absolutely horrifying. It's either fanaticism to an ideal that overrides rationality or a 'noble' excuse for suicide. It's the idea that your death will have more meaning than your potential life ever could, and I find it sick. It disturbs me how much it is glorified in Christian culture. Are not suicide bombers the very caricature of martyrs?


Sidenote: I'm using a distinct definition for Martyr and I find it vastly different than risking your life for something or someone.
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Old 19th-November-2009, 12:45 AM   Nicholas A. A. E.'s time 18th-November-2009, 04:45 PM    #2
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Default Re: Martyrdom

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1. b. In non-Christian contexts: the killing or sacrifice of a person in defence of a belief, cause, etc.; a person's death comparable in some manner to the death of a Christian martyr. rare before 20th cent.


You say, "vastly different than risking your life for something or someone." Risking your life for something? Isn't that essentially martyrdom, as far as the person's own decision is concerned?
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Old 19th-November-2009, 01:07 AM   Reverse Transcriptase's time 18th-November-2009, 05:07 PM    #3
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Default Re: Martyrdom

Martyr?
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Old 19th-November-2009, 01:20 AM   Inappropriate Behavior's time 18th-November-2009, 08:20 PM    #4
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Default Re: Martyrdom

I'll agree with you Adaire in the circumstance of making yourself a martyr by choice. To deliberately die for a cause is stupid. If it's a matter of risking one's life and ending up dead, I see no reason why the living can't consider that person a martyr. If the person had a fighting chance to succeed and live, that can perhaps even be looked upon as a noble act.

The only time I can see deliberately getting yourself killed is if it saves the life of others. Especially one's own spouse or child. Throwing yourself on a grenade to save your fellow soldiers often gets you the medal of honor (posthumously). I'd find that a medal deserved.
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Old 19th-November-2009, 01:38 AM   Adaire's time 18th-November-2009, 06:38 PM    #5
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Default Re: Martyrdom

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas A. A. E. View Post
You say, "vastly different than risking your life for something or someone." Risking your life for something? Isn't that essentially martyrdom, as far as the person's own decision is concerned?
The difference is the intent to die. When you risk your life you still intend to come back alive.


Quote:
The only time I can see deliberately getting yourself killed is if it saves the life of others. Especially one's own spouse or child. Throwing yourself on a grenade to save your fellow soldiers often gets you the medal of honor (posthumously). I'd find that a medal deserved.
Martyrdom is dying for a cause or a God, not for a person imo. You didn't use the word, but I figured I say so since it's the topic of discussion.
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Old 19th-November-2009, 02:11 AM   Darby's time 18th-November-2009, 06:12 PM    #6
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Default Re: Martyrdom

I go to a catholic highschool(not by choice), and we just finished up a quarter on christian ethics. within those nine weeks, we learned that suffering is supposed to be inherently "good" why this is baffles me, and I would consider this along the same lines as martyrdom. In both the idea is recieving pain/discomfort/death by choice, for something which may not mean anything(I lumped God in here, because he isn't a tangible being....ignoring Jesus)
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Old 19th-November-2009, 02:43 AM   Thoughtful's time 18th-November-2009, 08:43 PM    #7
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Default Re: Martyrdom

Interesting that the Catholics would be preaching that suffering is good. If suffering is good, why would Christ be willing to suffer for our sins? I thought it was so that we wouldn't have to. to clarify, I'm a christian, and this sunday was able to listen to a lesson teaching that man is on earth to seek happiness, not misery.

To the best of my knowledge, My religion acknowledges martyrs, but does not wish to see more of them.

Also: If suffering is good, wouldn't your teachers rather go to hell than heaven? I strongly encourage bringing up this point with your teachers.

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You can still be a martyr without the intent to die can't you? I mean, you'd sooner die than do what Faction X asks of you, but living is still preferable than dying in most of the "grand" cases isn't it?

True, It's not really all that grand to be a martyr, you're dead after all (though anything that can get the sheeple of the world to use their heads for a moment deserves some credit). I think being a martyr is a perfectly acceptable way to die. However, encouraging other people to become martyrs is just wrong; you're essentially attempting to murder those on your own side. It's also grossly hypocritical and selfish. If you think someone must die for something, you should be the one to lead by example.

Thoughts for those considering martyrdom:
"No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country." -Gen. Patton
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Old 19th-November-2009, 02:51 AM   Darby's time 18th-November-2009, 06:51 PM    #8
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Default Re: Martyrdom

to clarify, I am pretty sure(although they never clarified anything) the idea of "suffering is good", is meant more as "good things will come from suffering" where Jesus suffered, died, and by doing so, saved us all(assuming that being saved is good).

this idea still doesn't hold water for me, because I believe you can suffer and nothing particularly special happens
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Old 19th-November-2009, 03:07 AM   Adaire's time 18th-November-2009, 08:07 PM    #9
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Default Re: Martyrdom

Quote:
You can still be a martyr without the intent to die can't you?
That is true, but their are many circumstances (like the one I had planned) that would inevitably lead to such an occurence without the specific intent. The desire to want to be a martyr; the type that motivates fanatics, that's what trule bothers me.

Quote:
True, It's not really all that grand to be a martyr, you're dead after all (though anything that can get the sheeple of the world to use their heads for a moment deserves some credit). I think being a martyr is a perfectly acceptable way to die. However, encouraging other people to become martyrs is just wrong; you're essentially attempting to murder those on your own side. It's also grossly hypocritical and selfish. If you think someone must die for something, you should be the one to lead by example.
I just hate the idea that some people are worth more horrifically murdered than alive, which is what unnecesary martrydom and it's glorification seems to imply.
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Old 19th-November-2009, 03:50 AM   Da Blob's time 18th-November-2009, 09:51 PM    #10
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Default Re: Martyrdom

I could post a great number of scriptures at this point- but I am afraid it would be a waste of time...

"A living Dog has more Honor than a dead Lion'
I think Jesus blew a whole lot of doctrine out from under the feet of the religious type folks like the Pharisees. He suffered so that we do not have to, yet the leaders of religious groups would be out of a livelihood if that fact became wide spread. They are dependent upon the congregations making sacrifices...

I think that every human life contains a dimension of suffering.... It comes with the territory. I think that the challenge is to make that suffering worth something, mean something... I watched my mother die of a brain tumor, as I grew up as a teenager. She suffered constantly for several years. I would hate to think that all that suffering did not 'purchase' something, that something was not gained through heroic struggle against an inevitable fate. She was a martyr, but for whose cause? I have been told that it was my cause...

A Martyr must first serve a Cause, before serving its Effect...

"Suffering occurs commonly in the lives of sentient beings, in diverse manners, and often dramatically. As a result, many fields of human activity are concerned, from their own points of view, with some aspects of suffering. These aspects may include the nature of suffering, its processes, its origin and causes, its meaning and significance, its related personal, social, and cultural behaviors, its remedies, management, and uses."

from here

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffering
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Old 19th-November-2009, 04:10 AM   Thoughtful's time 18th-November-2009, 10:10 PM    #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adaire View Post
I just hate the idea that some people are worth more horrifically murdered than alive, which is what unnecesary martrydom and it's glorification seems to imply.
How does one measure worth?

I agree that a lot of religions seem to hold that a martyr is somehow "worth" more to humanity somehow, and that they fail to adequately explain that dieing is not what makes a martyr a person of value. What makes these people great is what they stood for and what they did while they were alive. No one would care about the death of Martin Luther for instance, if he had not started a period of reform while he was alive. As Da Blob said: "A Martyr must first serve a Cause, before serving its Effect."

It's easy to see how many pastors and preachers could fool themselves into valuing martyrdom over other actions, because a great many of the famous martyrs really were great people. This greatness and fame is not because of their martyrdom, but because of their works. The fact that they died for what they loved is the cherry on top of the ice cream, it looks good, but the cherry itself is quite flavorless.

It says in James that "Faith without works is dead." One possibility is that some people hope to get out of doing all the work to be "good" by going and getting themselves killed in the name of religion, figuring it's a free ticket to heaven. To make matters worse, some people even preach that tripe! I don't think the Lord would be proud of this "take the shortcut" attitude in his followers, and I think that if this is the motivation behind a would-be martyr, heaven is probably not their final destination.

Finally, To stand for something, or even to pretend as though you were doing so in the face of death is something rare in this world. Because of the fact that it is rare, many people place irrational value on it, not because it is of any more use, but simply because it is rare. Is this stupidity? Yes it is. Welcome to earth.

EDIT: Yes there are extremist factions out there, both christian, muslim, and others. I don't know if you read the recent news story about the boy taken to be a suicide bomber by the Taliban, but from the accounts, True tie-em up, drug him, and torture him brainwashing seems to be how they convince people to become suicide bombers. Hardly the cream of the crop for any religion.
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Old 19th-November-2009, 05:40 AM   Tyria's time 19th-November-2009, 06:40 AM    #12
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Default Re: Martyrdom

It seems like a personal choice on how one dies. It also assigns a meaning to how one dies, and glorifies the pursuit of a cause to one's death. Seems like a paradoxical motivation to do something, doesn't it?
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Old 19th-November-2009, 06:31 AM   Firehazard159's time 18th-November-2009, 11:31 PM    #13
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Default Re: Martyrdom

Quote:
Throwing yourself on a grenade to save your fellow soldiers often gets you the medal of honor (posthumously). I'd find that a medal deserved.
Actually, there's a story of a recruit who threw himself on a not-live grenade that was tossed in the middle of a bunch of soldiers as a joke, and all those soldiers ran (all in on the joke) while the recruit protected them from it - he got a medal for that :P

(So, not always posthumously)

Generally, though, I think we're confusing concepts here. Martyrdom is where you *die* for your cause, the odds of death aren't really a factor. Martyrdom is more properly defined as "A heroic death." Whereas, a "Martyr" who comes back alive from a high risk situation is labelled a "Hero." They don't become a martyr until death, they're simply a hero until then.
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Old 19th-November-2009, 06:55 AM   Nicholas A. A. E.'s time 18th-November-2009, 10:55 PM    #14
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Default Re: Martyrdom

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adaire View Post
The difference is the intent to die. When you risk your life you still intend to come back alive.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adaire View Post
That is true, but their are many circumstances (like the one I had planned) that would inevitably lead to such an occurence without the specific intent. The desire to want to be a martyr; the type that motivates fanatics, that's what trule bothers me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thoughtful View Post
Interesting that the Catholics would be preaching that suffering is good. If suffering is good, why would Christ be willing to suffer for our sins? I thought it was so that we wouldn't have to. to clarify, I'm a christian, and this sunday was able to listen to a lesson teaching that man is on earth to seek happiness, not misery.

To the best of my knowledge, My religion acknowledges martyrs, but does not wish to see more of them.
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You can still be a martyr without the intent to die can't you?
Ah. Well, martyrs don't have to have the intent to die. And Catholics don't teach that we should seek martyrdom. If any do, they're simply misinformed. St. Gregory of Nazianzus said, "It is mere rashness to seek death, but it is cowardly to refuse it." Seeking martyrdom is actually not permitted. What Thoughtful said is pretty much in line with my research.

But I understand this aversion to seeking death. I share it. It is a little frightening.

Quote:
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Martyrdom is dying for a cause or a God, not for a person imo. You didn't use the word, but I figured I say so since it's the topic of discussion.
Well, I think God is three persons, in fact. But I see what you are saying.
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Old 19th-November-2009, 09:54 AM   Cavallier's time 19th-November-2009, 01:54 AM    #15
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Default Re: Martyrdom

Intentionally becoming a martyr = Megalomania

Your death being used as a tool to stir up people's faith = really bad luck

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Old 19th-November-2009, 06:47 PM   Adaire's time 19th-November-2009, 11:47 AM    #16
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Default Re: Martyrdom

Alright I've been thinking about this and I've come to few tentative conclusions.

#1
The English language is retarded; it's definitions incredibly imprecise. In light of this I'd like to further define a 'martyr' as someone whose death is used to further the cause of an ideology.

#2
Martyrdom is neither positive or negative in and of itself. This why some martyrs can seem honorable and others evil. I guarantee you that whatever martyrs you hold positive or negative, there is someone else in this world who holds the opposite to be true. If morality is relative, then so is martyrdom.

#3
Martyrdom is a tool. People will place value on such a death. The thought process goes like this: 'if someone is willing to die for something then that cause must have some sort of merit.' This is why martyrdom for your opposing ideology seems so disturbing, as it directly contradicts what you value.

Martyrdom can be compared with currency; it's value comes only from what other people place on it. However what product is this currency of life exchanged for; change perhaps? It introduces chaos into stable system that causes people to reevaluate their ideas, since an idea someone dies for must be important and therefor cannot be ignored. This property can be manipulated by activists or religions to further their causes.

#4
Martyrdom is part of the chaos vs. order dichotomy. Too much and you have suicides bombers, creepy children and talented generals committing Sepukku when they'd be more valuable to their cause alive. On the flip side it can be argued, that 'if there is nothing you're willing to die for then why are you living?' A martyr with a good publicist can shock a stagnant system back into motion as well.

Digression: Why is it that nearly everything can be simplified into a dichotomy of forces that must be kept in balance? Is this some universal truth, or is it just a type of familiar pattern that humans have evolved to recognize and seek out?

#5
There is appeal in becoming a martyr, especially for any kind of idealistic person. To throw your whole weight behind your cause and making the 'ultimate sacrifice;' it seems like you're truly living up to your ideals and making a difference then. This disturbs me, as the there is hardly a way of truly knowing whether or not your cause is misguided or whether or not your sacrifice is futile.

It also has a similar appeal to suicide, albeit more agreeable to the average person. You will be recognized, and remembered. People will wonder about you, and why you did what you did. You'll receive attention even though you dead, no it's because you are dead.

Of course there is also the ideological appeal of the 72 virgins and the extra crowns in Heaven (though you lose those anyway ).

#6
I cannot be sure, but based on my experience and analysis I suspect martyrdom appeals quite a bit more to men then it does to women. I cannot help, but wonder if this is another product of our biological imperatives. Where the men engage in far more risky behavior than the women, since in the evolutionary sense the men are more expendable.

Was my distaste for martyrdom simply a reflection of my biological makeup?
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Old 20th-November-2009, 03:15 AM   Cavallier's time 19th-November-2009, 07:15 PM    #17
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Default Re: Martyrdom

Quote:
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#6 I cannot be sure, but based on my experience and analysis I suspect martyrdom appeals quite a bit more to men then it does to women. I cannot help, but wonder if this is another product of our biological imperatives. Where the men engage in far more risky behavior than the women, since in the evolutionary sense the men are more expendable.
While I think you're logic is sound I don't agree with your outcome on this last point you've made. I think that martyrdom appeals to women more than men. I know that men will say things like, "I would die for you!". However, I deeply suspect that mostly they mean they would "fight like hell for you" and if it involves death then so be it. Women on the other hand are often (not always as is the case with you and myself) drawn to martyrdom out of romance. I've known many women who spouted all kinds of crap about how they would willingly give up their lives if through their death they could help others. I don't hear many men saying this. Instead they say they would "fight to the death". They don't see their death as the conduit through which to bring about change so much as they see death as a potential outcome they are willing to risk.

Also, I think that martyrdom appeals to people because it means that a person's life isn't pointless. I think most of the people out there who have desire to become martyrs do it out of a desire to leave their mark on the world.
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Old 20th-November-2009, 11:24 PM   Puffy's time 20th-November-2009, 11:24 PM    #18
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I think the act of dieing to help another or a cause is perhaps the only selfless act. No one can ever be certain they will benefit from it in the afterlife (if there is one) despite how strong they believe their faith to be.
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Old 21st-November-2009, 01:41 AM   Da Blob's time 20th-November-2009, 07:41 PM    #19
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The secret that all women know that men try to hide... All men are expendable. It is the nature of a Man to sacrifice his own life to save "The Family" and perhaps become a martyr in that process. This biological imperative, of course, has been perverted by the "ruling" class to send men to War for their own economic gains for centuries. They sell the idea by appealing to the concept that by going to war, one is somehow defending one's own Home and family. Occasionally this is the truth in the case of repelling invading armies... but not the rule. Very few men have died in war at their own doorsteps...

I have seen women become "Living" martyrs. They basically sacrifice all of their personal goals in order to provide for their children and the occasional husband. The problem with this is that such often fall into learned helplessness or the victims' stance.

On the other hand, being a victim, is quite the politically-correct thing to be here in America. Victims are given entitlements that those smart enough to not be victimized are not granted. It is quite the enviable social role to be both a victim And a martyr to some liberal cause...

Actually, one wonders if it is possible to be granted martyrdom by others without being a victim of some kind...?
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