This is something I didn't give much thought to until recent years. When I was a Christian, I thought the death penalty was okay based on scriptures like "an eye for an eye" or based on the fact that it was permissible throughout the bible.
Recently, Texas switched to pentobarbital, which was pretty controversial because it was believed to cause pain before death. Some would argue that the person being executed should suffer the same way they caused their victim(s) to suffer. I personally think that if we're going to execute people, it should be done without causing them to suffer or to be tortured. I just feel that torturing another human being would rob the torturer of some of his/her humanity, as I feel torture is inhumane. Isn't that the reason for executing, the fact that the person guilty committed some heinous, inhumane act?
My biggest gripe with the death penalty is the fact that many innocent people have or could be put to death. Still, the issue remains nebulous. Is it just a matter of ensuring that those on death row are REALLY guilty of the crime or is the penalty of death wrong regardless of the crime? Should the death penalty only be applied if you kill one person or two? three? four? What makes the Hitlers and Bin Ladens of the world deserving of death, but the Bushes of the world get to live despite the deaths they contributed to (although indirectly...and no, I'm not comparing Bush to Hitler lol) I guess intentions should also be considered right? So would that mean that if a mentally ill person kills numerous people, they should NOT receive the death penalty? Where's John Steinbeck when you need him? lol
I don't know. I'm just curious to see what others have to say. I'm not sure how I feel about it.
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I oppose the death penalty on many grounds. In principle, because it is dangerous to allow a government to kill its citizens. It does not serve as a deterrent, it has been shown through many studies. It is unjust (therefore immoral) because it mainly targets the powerless; in the US, largely minorities. As Nika said, the Bushes of the world never get executed for crimes against humanity. Also, if we are dealing with a psychopath of course the person needs to be kept away from society as not to cause any further harm, and it may be for life. But other murderers may well be reform, and help others to avoid the circle of violence. Plus, the death penalty does not work as a deterrent; there have been many studies published on this.
The United States is basically the only "civilized" country to have death penalty. Look at this map, we are not in good company. I hope this situation will change one day but I know I'm in a minority here in the US: I have many left-wing liberal friends who support the death penalty wholeheartedly. I'm not a sociologist or cultural anthropologist but I would love to know the reason for this deep divide between seemingly similar cultures, such as the US and Europe. It could be the fact that America is more religious, and more violent that other industrialized nations.
I'm proud that my native country, Uruguay, abolished the death penalty in 1907! Uruguay is a secular democracy (with some unfortunate lapses into dictatorship, fortunately relatively short-lived in historical terms) with a bid tradition of irreverent atheism. I'm sure that has domething to do with its proud humanistic tradition.
... with a bid tradition of irreverent atheism.
Hmmm, a bid tradition? Sounds like Pascal's wager in reverse.
You are correct. I meant to say "democracy". China is not a democracy. India is, of course. Which is why I said "basically" and not "the only", and I put "civilized" in quotation marks for exactly this reason.
Interestingly, India has been moving away from capital punishment in a very string way.
The Supreme Court of India ruled in 1983 that the death penalty should be imposed only in "the rarest of rare cases." Capital crimes are murder, gang robbery with murder, abetting the suicide of a child or insane person, waging war against the nation, and abetting mutiny by a member of the armed forces. In recent years the death penalty has been imposed under new anti-terrorism legislation for people convicted of terrorist activities. Recently, the Indian Supreme Court in Swamy Sharaddananda v. State of Karnataka made imposing the death penalty even harder. The judgement holds that the “rarest of the rare” test prescribed in Bachchan Singh’s case was diluted in the Machchi Singh case. The judgement then goes on to say that the “rarest of the rare” must be measured not only in qualitative but also in quantitative terms.
India's top court has recommend the death penalty be extended to those found guilty of committing so-called "honour killings" with the Supreme Court stating that honour killings fall within the "rarest of the rare" category and deserves to be a capital crime.
Isn't killing (or executing, or however you wish to name it) someone for killing someone else basically the same thing with the action you are punishing that same person for? This is just an example, because people can be executed for other crimes. This is hypocrisy at its best. You did something wrong, and I am going to punish you in the same way, but legally, and in some occasions with an audience. It's just stupid, and I think we are better than that. At least some of us.
Nika, you say that torture is inhumane. Is taking someone's life humane? I really don't understand your position on this. It's alright to take a bloke's life, but not to have some fun while doing it? You did say that you are not sure how you feel about it, but I don't think it matters whether you torture and then kill or just the latter.
I think it matters a lot whether you torture someone or kill someone painlessly. Torture is the purposeful infliction of extreme cruelty. Torture intends to cause extreme pain and harm, physically or psychologically. Torture makes the tortured wish he/she was dead. Torturers must be sick people with a delight in causing pain to others.
If you think it makes no difference to torture and then kill, rather than execute humanely (and I oppose executions, per my comment above), what would you choose for yourself r a loved one: a painless injection, or a bullet in the head, or first some waterboarding, or electric shocks to the testicles, or the pulling of your nails with pliers, etc.
Killing is not always wrong (for example euthanasia, or self-defense) but torture always is, in my opinion. We had a couple of threads on torture, one on the main forum another in the atheist Morality group, if you're interested.
I completely, 100% oppose the death penalty, and if it's legal, I'm going to work to abolish it (as a matter, I do that by belonging or donating money to certain organizations) but while it remains legal, the best situation would be a painless execution.
I was talking about killing or torturing and then killing just when it comes to legal executions. Life does not come just in black and white; I would choose for everyone imprisonment instead of either of those choises, regardless of the crime commited.
I know killing is not always wrong, but I thought we are talking about the capital punishment and executions here, not taking every scenario which may involve torture and painless death as options and analyze it. I agree that killing is not always wrong, but, again, we are not talking about every situation possible.
For me, a person that is consciously willing to take another life without consent from that particular person, or not as self-defense, is neither better nor worse than a person that is willing to torture someone, regardless what the law in that particular area says.
I am pretty sure we agree in most of the situations, but I think I didn't make quite clear in the first post what was in my mind. Sorry about that, and I hope this second post makes more sense.
Yes, it makes more sense, thanks. But even if I think both the death penalty and torture should be absolutely illegal, I still think there is a difference between deliberately inflicting excruciating pain and pulling the trigger or setting a noose or giving an injection and torturing someone. Torturing someone implies totally over-riding any empathy; it's something only a psychopath or someone who has completely "otherize" or "dehumanize" the other person can do. Torturing is about debasing a person, executing someone, as wrong as I think it is, may be considered by some to be simply punishment.
BTW, a movie that deals very well I think with the death penalty and "humane" executions is "Pierrepoint: the Last Hangman", a very well done 2005 English movie.
The last paragraphs contains a few spoilers from the film Unthinkable from 2010. So, if you do not like spoilers, do not read it.
I can see the difference between the two acts, but I can't see it in the people that actually do it. If you are given the freedom to do any of the two to another person, and you do it, you are not worth anything to me anymore. It does not matter whether you choose torture or a simple execution. That was the whole point of my rant. I wasn't really focusing on the two acts, but on the person that is willing to do either of them. How can you be better than the person that you do it on? It just doesn't make sense to me, and it is another reason why I am opposing both.
I haven't seen that film. I have seen a more recent take on the torture subject. I actually started a discussion with the question "A man has information that could prevent an imminent terrorist attack. Under normal interrogation he refuses to talk. Is torture an option?" in December on another atheist social network after seing Unthinkable. I didn't really like it, perhaps because I was not really familiar with the subject and it hit me kind of hard and I had no idea how to deal with it. I suppose I'll have to watch it again in the future to form a better opinion. The only thing I did like was Michael Sheen (the terrorist)'s performance. At one point they brought his children and threatened him that they will torture them if he does not divulge the location of the three nuclear weapons. This happened after they (not they but Samuel L. Jackson portraying the guy willing to do everything it takes to obtain results) killed his wife. It was kind of intense. Anyway, it does not have a happy ending.