Looking Back – Volume 39 No. 2

35 Years Ago in Free Inquiry

“... the question of the sacrifice of innocent life in war ... I find an extremely difficult problem. Temperamentally I am inclined to the simple view (to misquote one of the late Michael Flanders’s characters) that ‘killing people is wrong,’ but I have to recognize that, until mankind finds some reasonable way of settling differences other than by military force, the appalling damage that one Hitler can do to millions of innocent persons makes it difficult to maintain that other innocent lives must never be risked in order to stop the likes of him. But there I must leave the matter, cherishing the hope that the human race will soon find a better way of settling disputes than the idiotic process of multiplying the production of lethal instruments as the only way of preventing their use.”

—Barbara Wootton, “Reflections of a Lifelong Agnostic,”
Free Inquiry, Volume 3, No. 4 (Fall 1983)

Editor’s Note: Barbara Wootton, Baroness Wootton of Abinger (1897–1988) was a British criminologist and sociologist. In 1958, she was appointed to the House of Lords under the Life Peerage Act, becoming one of its first woman members. An ethical utilitarian and an early advocate for physician-assisted suicide, she nonetheless opposed abortion on other-than-religious grounds and was removed as a vice president of the then–British Humanist Association.

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