Erin Martz

Why an Absolute God Would Not Encourage Suicide Bombing

Strapped with explosives, a man decides to kill himself and others in the name of an ideal. He may claim that his death is in the name of a social/political cause or a higher power, and thus, is morally or spiritually justifiable. By such a suicide/homicide, a man negates his own consciousness and the consciousness of those individuals whom he considers his enemies. Many of us intuitively know suicide bombings (“martyrdom operations” or “suicide operations”) are unjustifiable and inhumane. How can it be rationally argued that the intentional negation of oneself and others (i.e., the act of suicide bombing) is not expression or manifestation of a divine force, or an infinite, absolute God, in the world of humans? We can utilize G. W. F. Hegel’s “dialectic” as a philosophical concept to give us some insight to the illogical reasoning that underlies suicide bombing.

Many individuals and groups claim to represent God, as an “absolute divine force” in the human world and may not examine the difference between what is possibly divine consciousness and what is human volition. Thus, they may utilize force, destruction, and killing to achieve their goal of ruling in the name of their God. How can it be rationally argued that this kind of intentional negation of oneself and others (i.e., the act of suicide bombing) is not coming from the divine consciousness of God but only from human volition?

Hegel’s conceptualization of the manifestation of the Spirit (God or the Absolute) in humankind consists of the view that individual consciousness is an expression of “otherness” of the Absolute [1-3]. Hegel depicted that the self-awareness of the Absolute unfolds through human self-awareness, while including the concept of human free will. Hegel frames this manifestation of the Absolute (God) in the finite world in terms of his well-known dialectical process involving a thesis meeting its antithesis, producing a synthesis.

If we posit the Absolute (God) as the thesis, and the finite human is the antithesis or “otherness” of the Absolute of infinity, then what is the synthesis of this interaction? Depending on the translation and interpretation of Hegel’s dialectic process, the synthesis could either be viewed as a negation of the antithesis by the destruction of the finite human, or of merging, combining, or integration of the antithesis by a transcendence of finiteness by means of the infinite. Hence, by means of dialectical interaction of an individual with the Absolute (God), individual finiteness can either be eliminated or transcended, depending on how the dialectical process is understood.

Because Hegel proposed that the synthesis of the interaction between the Absolute (God) and finite humans is the unfolding of the consciousness of the Absolute in the human world through the individual’s consciousness, this synthesis of the infinite and the finite is not a destruction or elimination of human consciousness.

Turning to the issue of suicide bombing, if a finite human attempts to destroy or negate another finite human in the name of the Infinite, can this action lead to a synthesis with the Infinite (God)? Logic would indicate that the negation of a finite human by another finite human can only lead to finiteness, not infinity. Framing this in terms of Hegel’s dialectic, the thesis (an individual or group) eliminating or killing their antithesis (another human or group) cannot lead one to the Absolute. Finiteness destroying finiteness only can lead to a “synthesis” of finiteness.

Further, according to Hegel, the Absolute manifests self-consciousness through the self-consciousness of finite humans in the thesis, antithesis, and synthesis process. Therefore, it follows that the Absolute (God) would not want to not destroy finite humans, because this would decrease the “otherness” of the Absolute. This suggests that an individual or group cannot justify destroying another finite being in the name of the Absolute (God) because such an annihilation of one finite human by another is a destruction of an “other” of the Absolute.

This principle also would include the destruction of one’s own self. Suicide, like murder, would decrease the possibility of the Absolute’s manifestation in the finite world, due to the destruction of an “otherness” or antithesis of the Absolute. Because the Absolute Spirit (God) is manifested in finite consciousness, then the Absolute would not want a decrease in this “otherness,” which would decrease the possibility of manifestation of self-consciousness in the finite. Therefore, it follows that the killing of oneself or others that is justified in the name of the Absolute (God) would not be rational or logical from Hegel’s dialectical process of the manifestation of the Absolute (God) in the world.

In summary, two aspects of Hegelian philosophy can be utilized to argue against suicide bombings (martyrdom operations). Some individuals and groups assert that they have the authority to represent the Absolute (God) in the world; not being debated here is that the self-awareness of some individuals may indeed be more representative of divine consciousness than others. However, a serious problem arises when individuals believe that destruction of themselves and others by suicide bombings is an act wanted and encouraged by the Absolute (God). The fallacy of this justification can be found in the illogical reasoning that finiteness destroying finiteness can lead to the infinite, or a synthesis with the Absolute. And because the thesis of Absolute with finite consciousness is a process of unfolding of Absolute consciousness or manifestation in the finite, that process would not promote the destruction of “otherness” in the form of one’s own consciousness or conscious beings. Thus, it makes no sense to claim that the absolute (God) would encourage or promote suicide bombings.


  1. F. C. Beiser, The Cambridge Companion to Hegel. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  2. G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit. Trans. A. V. Miller. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
  3. S. Houlgate, The Hegel Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1998.

Note: This blog post is based on the author’s 2002 article entitled “Why Suicide Bombing Is Philosophically Unacceptable” in Contemporary Philosophy.

About the Author
Dr. Martz has a Ph.D. in Rehabilitation Education and Research. Dr. Martz was awarded a 2017 U.S. Department of State Fulbright research fellowship in Israel and worked with Israeli researchers on a coping with tinnitus study. She has published 3 edited books on the topic of coping with disabilities, self-management of chronic health conditions, and trauma rehabilitation.