Ben, Matt




Main Topic



Great theological study with comic book tie-in

Main Topic

The morality of superheroes killing or not killing.

Not all killing is murder, but you can't say all other killing is moral.

  • Deontological
    • Living by the rules
    • For example, Supermans core rule is that all life is sacred
  • Categorical imperative
    • Golden rule
    • End doesn't justify means
  • Utilitarianism
    • Maximize happiness and minimize suffering
    • Ends justify means
    • Democracy ends here because majority rules

The hosts place heroes on the Batman-Punisher killing spectrum.

Some Christians are absolute pacifists, but just war theory is more common.

Popularized by Augustine as a Christian doctrine.

Aquinas developed the theory with his three criteria:

  1. War must occur for a good and just purpose, not self gain or a display of power.
  2. War must be waged by a properly instituted authority such as the state.
  3. Peace must be a central motive.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church further develops the theory in CCC #2309:

  1. The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  2. All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  3. There must be serious prospects of success;
  4. The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

Catechism removed the authority condition, which gets the superheroes off the hook.

Is capital punishment moral? Should Batman kill Joker?

Some Christians are in favor; Catholics are against unless it's the only way to protect innocents. Ben thinks Gotham, and maybe Batman, are morally required to execute Joker since they can't keep him in prison.

Ben thinks even in combat you have a moral obligation to minimize death. Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 kills henchmen and it's played for laughs.

Matt thinks Superman is in a lose-lose situation: when he's omnipotent, he's boring; when he's not, he's lame because he's losing to weaker characters.

Ben wants stories with moral implications: what does it mean for humanity that a living super weapon is running around? What does that do psychologically to the character?

Do heroes owe it to society to not kill to preserve faith in authority?

Is not saving someone morally equivalent to killing someone?

What should the moral response be to the deaths of real life supervillains like Hitler and Osama Bin Laden? Matt thinks it's wrong to celebrate. Ben doesn't totally think it's wrong: they are both individuals and mythological personifications of evil and people aren't separating those. Death is not to be celebrated, but the defeat of evil should be.

Comic book characters represent mythological characters. When the villain dies, we're also seeing the mythological defeat of evil. So is it good that we cheer the heroes when they kill Villains?


Ben is defending his thesis tomorrow: "Is Christ Divided? A Study in Dissenting Ecclesiology from the Donatist Controversy to the Reformation". They will post the audio or video of his defense.

51:50 Sci-Fi Christian Story Time: Ben is Right: Annie Agreed the Parking Sign Was Confusing