Religious fundamentalists & capital punishment

Feb 24, 2013


Discussion by: kbala
Hi,
I was quite ambivalent about capital punishment before moving to England. But after listening to my colleague (gulping few pints at the pub) at the university where I was studying, I got convinced that capital punishment is wrong. She was very persuasive and very logical and rational in her view.

What puzzles me the most on this, is that there is a universal tendency amongst believers (mostly fundamentalists) to argue for capital punishment. The religious right in India were celebrating in the streets celebrating the hanging of Ajmal Kasab (convicted for Mumbai terrorist attacks) and Afzal Guru(convicted for 2001 attack on the India parliament)?

I have seen similar rejoicing of public executions across the globe. Stoning a person to death in Saudi Arabia or Iran is mostly welcomed by those who claim to believe in a merciful deity! The support for capital punishment is high amongst states in US that rank highly on the religiosity scale.

So here is my question, except for few religious groups, like Quakers or Jains or few sects of Buddhists, why do the faithful find so much pleasure in killing? Be it the hindus or the muslims or the christians, on one hand they claim that their deities are loving, merciful and all powerful source of morality, on the other, more than happy to dish out capital punishments.

30 comments on “Religious fundamentalists & capital punishment

  • 1
    Mister T says:

    I think it’s because when considering divine punishment, they leave human morality and empathy at the door. What their gods say about punishment is de facto the highest form of moralitly, it is universal and perfect. Therefore any human moral value that contradicts this is due to our human imperfection and cannot override what their gods command. Due to this mental block, taking pleasure in the dispensation of this punishment is seen as something to be celebrated and rejoice in, as the application of perfect, divine morality. The concept of capital punishment for crimes is very much in keeping with the sort of punishments meted out by deities. These punishments were themselves a reflection of human morality at the time the religious texts were authored, so they are stuck in time, without the benefit of social reform and ever-changing public opinion.



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  • The holy texts justify capital punishment. “An eye for an eye” for example. I’m sure the Koran has similar words. The god of the Old Testament is a violent and wrathful god. People believe that the death is god’s will.
    (Exodus 21:24, but I had to google that!)



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  • I think it is for the same reason they constantly seek to do nasty things to LGBT people. As if “eternal damnation” wasn’t sufficient, they delight in punishing people here and now. Perhaps it reflects their nagging doubts about their afterlife myths?



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  • 5
    whiteraven says:

    If characteristics that have served some useful purposes in our ancestors, human or in some related species, they will persist. It will definitely take biological evolution a long time to catch up to cultural evolution. Some of these characteristics serve the purposed of social power or authority so effectively, there is plenty of reason not to eliminate them. In a world like that, there is good reason for these kinds of characteristics to benefit the individual who retains theml, either for self-preservation or in the employ of others.

    I think we are dishonest with ourselves if we don’t acknowledge that any person contains the potential for the full spectrum of human behavior, from the best to the worst. I think that religions appropriate “the best” to themselves and assign it to “god” thereby defining it as something apart, inaccessible and unachievable. It is only natural that the keepers of these mysteries appoint themselves as intermediaries, interpreters and agents of the god. It is only natural that there is an alliance or merger of these powers with others that hold secular social power.

    All the rest, the realm of “sin”, is left for mortal humans to grub around in. I think that in separating us from ourselves, a dichotomy arises that separates us from others of our own kind and from the natural world in general. More than enough symptoms of this estrangement are imposed on us or brought to our attention every day. In another thread, I mentioned an essay entitled “Was the Buddha the first Humanist”. My impression is that this is the only system of thought among the ones that have held sway for several thousand years that rejects this dis-integration of the mind rather than encouraging it.



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  • That is a plausible theory. It does explain the Jewish Holocaust at the hands of Christian Germany or the Tasmanian genocide at the hands of Anglican Britain.

    But what about modern day US states or China or Saudi Arabia. Do they really see the convicted as members of out-groups?

    In reply to #3 by BigChris:

    Narcissism. Seeing non-group-members punished reinforces the in-group bonds and feelings of superiority.



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  • 7
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    Faith in authority. Even if one accepts the premises that execution is just or an effective deterrent, should the state have such a power? The state can error or become corrupt, and can not be trusted with such power. For atheists, there is no such thing as a faultless, perfect authority. The concept is entirely alien and absurd, but is fundamental to the idea of a God.

    “Punishment is what revenge calls it’s self. With a hypocritical lie it creates a good conscience for itself.”-Nietzsche, Beyond Good And Evil

    Abrahamic religions cultivate sadism as a virtue. The Hell doctrine is unhealthy and warps the moral compass.



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  • In reply to #6 by kbala:

    That is a plausible theory. It does explain the Jewish Holocaust at the hands of Christian Germany or the Tasmanian genocide at the hands of Anglican Britain.

    But what about modern day US states or China or Saudi Arabia. Do they really see the convicted as members of out-groups?

    yes they do! ironic that they forget that their religions state that everyone is a sinner not just an outgroup.
    >

    In reply to #3 by BigChris:

    Narcissism. Seeing non-group-members punished reinforces the in-group bonds and feelings of superiority.



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  • 9
    JHJEFFERY says:

    A very interesting question.

    Study after study shows that capital punishment has no deterent effect. (Do you really think murderers, on the whole a most unintelligent group, see their future date with the executioner’s needle as they commit the crime? Of course not.

    Vengence runs strong through the human consciousness. All of the above posters have recognized this and I agree with all. But the concept is not confined to the religious. It is true that they tend to be more judgmental, and harsher in their application of punishment for what Camus called “the other.” But I think that this is just license, not a quantitative difference between them and the non-religious.

    I have been opposed to capital punishment my entire life. But I freely admit that I rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a Navy Seal. So call me a hypocrit, I guess–or simply realize that, although I can think rationally about the subject and abhor capital punishment, there are circumstances when my impulses take control and I don’t seem to mind.



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  • 10
    Ornicar says:

    Correlation is not causation. Maybe capital punishment and religion simply share common ancestors. Ignorance, hatred and fear, to name a few.



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  • 11
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #9 by JHJEFFERY:
    >

    I have been opposed to capital punishment my entire life. But I freely admit that I rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a Navy Seal. So call me a hypocrit, I guess–or simply realize that, although I can think rationally about the subject and abhor capital punishment, there are circumstances when my impulses take control and I don’t seem to mind.

    Not a hypocrite, so much as a dupe.

    Personally I was disgusted at the whole OBL Hit episode of 21st Century History. Made the US administration seem just like the previous bunch of gangsters. One lot fingers OBL and thwarts any real attempt at investigation, the next lot whacks him when it gets the chance, didn’t even pretend to be trying to capture him. And JHJ rejoices. Didn’t it occur to you that the ones most keen to see OBL terminated would be those he might implicate, if he was taken alive? In a world where the rule of law meant something, wouldn’t his arrest and trial have been the biggest success of all?

    On another note, I always thought “an eye for an eye..” was actually an enlightened improvement for its time, and was meant to lay down limits to vengeance, instead of having blood-feuds run on forever or escalate into all-out warfare, and also to put a stop to executions for anything but murder.

    I think it needs reviving, it’s certainly a lot more “civilized” than current laws in many places, including the affluent west.



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  • 12
    JHJEFFERY says:

    In reply to #11 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #9 by JHJEFFERY:

    I have been opposed to capital punishment my entire life. But I freely admit that I rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a Navy Seal. So call me a hypocrit, I guess–or simply realize that, although I can think rationally about the subject and abhor capital punishment, there are circumstances when my impulses take control and I don’t seem to mind.

    Not a hypocrite, so much as a dupe.

    Personally I was disgusted at the whole OBL Hit episode of 21st Century History. Made the US administration seem just like the previous bunch of gangsters. One lot fingers OBL and thwarts any real attempt at investigation, the next lot whacks him when it gets the chance, didn’t even pretend to be trying to capture him. And JHJ rejoices. Didn’t it occur to you that the ones most keen to see OBL terminated would be those he might implicate, if he was taken alive? In a world where the rule of law meant something, wouldn’t his arrest and trial have been the biggest success of all?

    On another note, I always thought “an eye for an eye..” was actually an enlightened improvement for its time, and was meant to lay down limits to vengeance, instead of having blood-feuds run on forever or escalate into all-out warfare, and also to put a stop to executions for anything but murder.

    I think it needs reviving, it’s certainly a lot more “civilized” than current laws in many places, including the affluent west.

    Wow. I have no response to that whatsoever.



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  • 13
    DocWebster says:

    I had an argument with a friend a long time ago, about this subject, that changed my mind 100%. It was so simple to see the evil in state sponsored murder as punishment when he gave me his “Cards on the table” argument against it that I wondered why anyone could support the death penalty. The argument was, Who said it was OK to seek revenge? The answer at first seems simple, but if you quote the bible for support then nobody really did. After that it’s all just personal preference which means execution is just a highly organized and expensive form of serial murder. We have several states that have a ritual to determine who they will kill and how long they will hold the person to be killed in torturous conditions, then they have a specific method they use to end that life with it’s own attendant rituals. What that person did to make themselves a target of that set of rituals is immaterial, every serial killer has a preferential victim.



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  • 14
    Reckless Monkey says:

    In reply to #11 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #9 by JHJEFFERY:

    I have been opposed to capital punishment my entire life. But I freely admit that I rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a Navy Seal. So call me a hypocrit, I guess–or simply realize that, although I can think rationally about the subject and abhor capital punishment, there are circumstances when my impulses take control and I don’t seem to mind.

    Not a hypocrite, so much as a dupe.

    Personally I was disgusted at the whole OBL Hit episode of 21st Century History. Made the US administration seem just like the previous bunch of gangsters. One lot fingers OBL and thwarts any real attempt at investigation,

    I thought he claimed credit for it in a video he made and released. Of course I can’t speak Arabic but I’m sure that would have been pointed out by someone if he didn’t.

    the next lot whacks him when it gets the chance, didn’t even pretend to be trying to capture him.
    And JHJ rejoices. Didn’t it occur to you that the ones most keen to see OBL terminated would be those he might implicate, if he was taken alive? In a world where the rule of law meant something, wouldn’t his arrest and trial have been the biggest success of all?

    Of course, but if someone is pointing a weapon at you, do you shoot him or allow yourself to get shot? Perhaps the seals should have been armed with mace or nerf guns? How are you suggesting they capture an armed man? Perhaps they should shoot the gun out of his hand like some western? I don’t think it works that way. If you are politically prepared to send guys in to get someone like that the risk you have to take is the subject gets killed, not captured. The other alternatives are let him go, tell the Pakistanies (some of whom must have known he was there so they probably can’t be trusted) or bomb the place with a drone killing many innocent lives including his children.
    >

    On another note, I always thought “an eye for an eye..” was actually an enlightened improvement for its time, and was meant to lay down limits to vengeance, instead of having blood-feuds run on forever or escalate into all-out warfare, and also to put a stop to executions for anything but murder.

    And here was I thinking you were some sort of lefty. Lets see, Osama was responsible for planning an attack that killed thousands, how many eyes do you think he has?
    >

    I think it needs reviving, it’s certainly a lot more “civilized” than current laws in many places, including the affluent west.

    Oh? Really? So I’m curious do you live in the affluent West? I’d be the first to criticise many of the West’s narrow minded, short sighted governments and hypocrisies but compared to the countries still living under this barbarism I’d say its about 500 years ahead.



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  • 15
    SaganTheCat says:

    good old fahioned fear

    religions believe in indefinable concepts such as “good” and “evil” and the execution of a criminal feeds their belief that some evil has been destroyed. the accused becomes a scape goat for societies sins (a bit like jesus). my arguments against capital punishment are simply that 1. it doen’t act as a deterrant according to stats 2. it doesn’t repay society, a live prisoner can do some good, even if it is just sewing mailbags 3. I beleive criminals should put themselves forward as criminal case studies, corpses are no good and 4. i beleive in 1 life, the only chance to come to terms with your crime is to live with it.

    Captila punishment does serve a purpose however, and that is among those who fetishise death. equally the ones who’d start a fight in a pub if you suggested you didn’t agree with a particular military campaign on the grounds that “heroes have died”. religious people need gods and demons to walk the earth.

    To humanize a criminal is scary. It means they’re just like you, it’s a reminder that but for different circumstances, you could find yourself in a position where other humans call for your death, be it because of mass murder or mild blasphemy your death will serve exactly the same need in the minds of those demanding it, a need to know you are different, so the laws of their religion (e.g. not killing) don’t apply to you. It’s no good comforting yourself that a “baddy” has gone to hell without having had a go at being Satan himself and hurling some rocks or squealing in delight as a switch is pulled
    The more religious people are, the less humanist they are. E.g. they mistrust other apes and fear them. In the US they mistrust their own legal system with the right to bear arms which gives people the chance to become policeman, judge, jury and executioner in one swift finger twitch.

    One argument I often hear for capital punishment is the cost of keeping prisoners. It amazes me people use that argument as it reduces humans to property, to dispose of because they’re too expensive to run. In a perfect humanist society, criminals would be made safe from committing more harm, either through rehabilitation or continued incarceration but in either case they can still contribute to society.
    This is easy to believe if you accept you’re just the same. That you are capable of becoming what you fear and no number of human sacrifices will change that. More importantly that you are a product of your society one way or another. Religious people are by nature right-wing. Right-wing attitudes are entirely tribal, you’re either one of us or the enemy.

    Add to this the stubborn and arrogant refusal to accept the reality of death. The belief that everyone lives for ever either in heaven or hell, the value of a handful of decades on earth becomes negligible.
    The reason they have the commandment about not killing, is not because killing is bad, it’s because without it they’d be killing each other all the time. It may be a divine commandment but what it actually means is “thou shalt not kill without first checking the mob agrees”



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  • 16
    canadian_right says:

    There are evil people I think deserve death, BUT I am against capital punishment because the chance of the courts, even honest just courts, making a mistake is too high. You can’t undo the execution of an innocent. You can free and compensate someone who was wrongly incarcerated.



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  • I don’t think you’ve excluded enough people from your question. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me to point out that certain believers rejoice in capital punishment and then ask why, with few exceptions, believers take pleasure in killing.

    I think the obvious answer is that they don’t. With few exceptions, believers don’t take pleasure in killing. Why do those exceptions exist? I don’t know, I guess you’ll have to tackle each on its own.

    Why are religious people more likely than nones to support capital punishment? This is probably a better question, provided that it’s true. I don’t know.



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  • I think this is more about politics than religion. In political terms being tough on crime is always seen as a vote-winner. If you doubt it, then consider whether your party would do better if they were accused of being weak on crime! So you get a kind of being tough on crime arms race between parties. Mix in with this the self rightous religious claims to moral authority and you have a chunky section of any population behind you.

    But before we hear all about the religious right, I’ll play my normal card at this point and say that, in the UK, it is not (at the moment) the Conservatives who are obsessed with being tough on crime it is (or perhaps was) New Labour. So concerned were they about crime, they passed a new law a day for 9 years and created thousands of new criminal offenses. Interestingly, though it didn’t play out very well in the country, Tony Blair was the most religious PM we have had in modern times.



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  • 19
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #14 by Reckless Monkey:

    Thanks Reckless for taking the time to respond.

    In reply to #11 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #9 by JHJEFFERY:

    I have been opposed to capital punishment my entire life. But I freely admit that I rejoiced at the death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of a Navy Seal. So call me a hypocrit, I guess–or simply realize that, although I can think rationally about the subject and abhor capital punishment, there are circumstances when my impulses take control and I don’t seem to mind.

    Not a hypocrite, so much as a dupe.

    Personally I was disgusted at the whole OBL Hit episode of 21st Century History. Made the US administration seem just like the previous bunch of gangsters. One lot fingers OBL and thwarts any real attempt at investigation,

    I thought he claimed credit for it in a video he made and released. Of course I can’t speak Arabic but I’m sure that would have been pointed out by someone if he didn’t.

    I can’t speak Arabic either, so no point in me looking for the original source of the video you mention. But somebody in a pub once mentioned it was a fake. So who should I believe? Really, it should be put before an open court, even now. Evidence, you know, not rumor, opinion, hearsay.
    >

    the next lot whacks him when it gets the chance, didn’t even pretend to be trying to capture him.
    And JHJ rejoices. Didn’t it occur to you that the ones most keen to see OBL terminated would be those he might implicate, if he was taken alive? In a world where the rule of law meant something, wouldn’t his arrest and trial have been the biggest success of all?

    Of course, but if someone is pointing a weapon at you, do you shoot him or allow yourself to get shot? Perhaps the seals should have been armed with mace or nerf guns? How are you suggesting they capture an armed man? Perhaps they should shoot the gun out of his hand like some western? I don’t think it works that way. If you are politically prepared to send guys in to get someone like that the risk you have to take is the subject gets killed, not captured. The other alternatives are let him go, tell the Pakistanies (some of whom must have known he was there so they probably can’t be trusted) or bomb the place with a drone killing many innocent lives including his children.

    So it was a revenge attack, not justice, law enforcement, or anything decent and honorable. “Could have been worse – we could have hit the whole house with a drone”. Well, yes, bravo.

    With local law enforcement co-operation, the place could have been surrounded etc. But US can’t quite tell if Pakistan is an ally or an enemy. In any case, I’m sure the CIA or whoever is perfectly capable of kidnapping someone in a foreign country, if they were given that mission. They’ve done that sort of thing before.

    But they weren’t given that mission. Instead a hit squad was sent in, and it did what it was supposed to, and the political climate in the US meant this was something to brag about. Spare me the nonsense about nerf guns, next you’ll be claiming the shooting was an act of self-defense. Like if I burgle your house, I can shoot you in self defense if you try to stop me?

    >

    On another note, I always thought “an eye for an eye..” was actually an enlightened improvement for its time, and was meant to lay down limits to vengeance, instead of having blood-feuds run on forever or escalate into all-out warfare, and also to put a stop to executions for anything but murder.

    And here was I thinking you were some sort of lefty.

    Haha, I shall not be typecast. Do you have to be a Lefty to oppose summary execution? I have no objection to capital punishment on principle. Those whose actions or omissions contributed to the mass murder of 9/11 should indeed face a court and appropriate sentences, and if the death penalty is appropriate for a single murder, it’s clearly appropriate for this.

    Lets see, Osama was responsible for planning an attack that killed thousands,

    Change “responsible” to “allegedly responsible”. Take the case to trial. Get a verdict in an open court. Then you can drop the “allegedly”. Or not.

    how many eyes do you think he has?

    Whatever he did, he didn’t act alone.

    >

    I think it needs reviving, it’s certainly a lot more “civilized” than current laws in many places, including the affluent west.

    Oh? Really? So I’m curious do you live in the affluent West? I’d be the first to criticise many of the West’s narrow minded, short sighted governments and hypocrisies but compared to the countries still living under this barbarism I’d say its about 500 years ahead.

    I do live in the affluent west, but which barbarism do you mean? Eye-for-an-Eye is a damn sight better than Sharia, if that’s what you mean. In the west too, the punishment often is very poorly fitted to the crime, and eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth as an acknowledged principle would set much more appropriate guidelines for sentencing.



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  • 20
    OHooligan says:

    On capital punishment, and those who object to it on principle: Bear in mind that the state already has the power to use lethal force, in the form of its police and military, with life-or-death decisions made on the spot by front line personnel. So the state can kill you, quite lawfully, in certain circumstances, whether or not it has capital punishment.



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  • 21
    DocWebster says:

    In reply to #20 by OHooligan:

    On capital punishment, and those who object to it on principle: Bear in mind that the state already has the power to use lethal force, in the form of its police and military, with life-or-death decisions made on the spot by front line personnel. So the state can kill you, quite lawfully, in certain circumstances, whether or not it has capital punishment.

    Where did the state attain that right? It has been handed down through the centuries as the divine right of the king to hold sway over a subject’s life and death. That is the only reason any state can claim the right to put a citizen to death right now, a tradition handed down from the childhood of our species.



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  • 22
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    I have never been religious, and I feel that the Golden Rule applies when it comes to the deliberate taking of a human life. If I purposefully ended an innocent person’s life, I would hope that my secular society would pragmatically put me out of my misery, without any religious under- or over-tones cluttering up the situation.

    I don’t seek revenge or delight in supporting my society in the ending of a human life, but my considered, evolving morality and ethics help me to be strong enough to stop anyone who has knowingly removed their name from the list of sane adults worth supporting – whether it’s a deterrent to others or not.

    Executions should be done quietly, painlessly, and at an unpublished time to reduce the frenzy that media and various groups stir up, and the legal system should be cleaned up so that millions aren’t wasted on pampering and making excuses for premeditated murderers.

    There are many cases where there is some doubt about the guilt of those accused, and resources should be used to clarify their situations, but (for instance) Jared Loughner, who killed 6 and wounded 12 in the Gifford case, is clearly guilty of premeditated murder, and society should not be paying millions to keep him in solitary confinement for about 50 years (cruel and unusual punishment?) or allowing him to contaminate other prisoners we may be able to rehabilitate.

    Since I feel that our biggest planetary problem is overpopulation, diverting massive resources to support criminally unfit humans is an issue we will have to deal with sooner or later. I would rather those dwindling resources were used for education, health and other social structures for those who are demonstrating empathy for their fellow humans.

    As for what drives the religious towards seeking revenge or retribution, I think it’s part of their goddidit infection – which isn’t for their benefit but aids the survival of the virus – so their reasons may not be logical, consistent, or easily understood – by themselves or others…. Mac.



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  • 23
    QuestioningKat says:

    In reply to #3 by BigChris:

    Narcissism. Seeing non-group-members punished reinforces the in-group bonds and feelings of superiority.

    The first step is to see the “out group” or individual as separate from your group and then to demonize them in some way. This is classic criminal behavior – believe your victim as the “bully” or perpetrator and then “fight back” against them. By making them “wrong” you believe your actions are “right” and you feel that you are justified in thought and behavior. Consider a school bully. The shy kid is seen as odd, selfish, unfriendly, weird, different because the they do not acknowledge the other person- namely the bully – by being nice, complimentary, agreeable, etc. So the bully feels somehow offended and justified in attacking the shy kid. It’s an easy target with the intention of building one’s self up while knocking down another. The twisted thing is, the person is playing a mind game to protect their self perception believing that they are the victim while someone not involved in the situation can look in and quickly see who is really the bully. Self-examination is avoided because taking responsibility for one’s actions can lead to someone feeling bad about themselves. Knocking down one’s ego is very difficult for the arrogant and self righteous and could lead to others forming a bad opinion of the person. So to prevent people from viewing them as bad or wrong, the bully gets people on their side by slamming the other person or group’s reputation. If they can convince them that it is for their benefit, people will rally together in a common cause. By having the support and approval of others, they are protected physically and psychologically. Strength in numbers; they can easily crush the outsider.

    To get back to your question except for few religious groups, like Quakers or Jains or few sects of Buddhists, why do the faithful find so much pleasure in killing? ” I think they found a way to justify their views as I have stated above. Also, I think they really think that they are right and do not know any differently.



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  • 24
    QuestioningKat says:

    To humanize a criminal is scary. It means they’re just like you,…

    Yes, it’s all about seeing the other person as lesser than you while keeping up appearance that you are somehow above it all.



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  • 25
    Reckless Monkey says:

    I can’t speak Arabic either, so no point in me looking for the original source of the video you mention. But somebody in a pub once mentioned it was a fake. So who should I believe? Really, it should be put before an open court, even now. Evidence, you know, not rumor, opinion, hearsay.

    I never denied the guy should have been put on trial, if you read my post again I said clearly that this would have been ideal. My point being that he did admit it no-one of any creditability is denying it, Fundamentalist Muslims all over the world where celebrating OBL’s brilliant attack on the West, the only person who it seems is not convinced is you.

    So it was a revenge attack, not justice, law enforcement, or anything decent and honorable. “Could have been worse – we could have hit the whole house with a drone”. Well, yes, bravo.

    Are you reading my post? I’m making no assumptions about the killing of OBL I don’t know if it was a revenge attack, a political opportunity for President Osama or what, I don’t know, and short of the current President of the US making public all the details I don’t think you do either. I am willing to suspend judgement until such time as I do know.

    What I am saying is that these things are not as easy as you seem to be implying. This would have been a complex, difficult operation full of risk for those who carried it out. I have a certain amount of sympathy for the team that was ordered to carry out the mission (what ever it was). How do you suggest they kidnap someone in another country (who it would be reasonable to suspect may have known all along – or had corrupt individuals in government who did know and who might have tipped him off). These actions carry risk of death because OBL would not have wanted to be taken captive. Given the likely-hood of armed resistance and a short time-line for the mission I imagine he would have had 1 chance to surrender and any armed resistance would have been met with deadly force.

    With local law enforcement co-operation, the place could have been surrounded etc. But US can’t quite tell if Pakistan is an ally or an enemy.

    Yes, agree completely here.

    In any case, I’m sure the CIA or whoever is perfectly capable of kidnapping someone in a foreign country, if they were given that mission. They’ve done that sort of thing before.

    Yes they have, and they’ve stuffed it up quite a few times before also, because it isn’t easy, situations change, are unpredictable and human or mechanical failure is always possible. Which is why I don’t think you can assume you can guarantee the safety of the seals in this case.

    Are you suggesting that given the murder of thousands of innocent civilians that the US should not go after OBL when they had the chance? Or is it you are prepared to just assume that this was a simple assassination? If so where is your evidence?

    The fact that he ended up dead was going to be the likely consequence of trying to get him at all. Bombing would have been easier but would have been difficult without significant loss of innocent lives in this case it seems to me that they did the hardest thing they could have to get him. A drone would have killed him just as easily without the risk of the navy seals, several helicopters, and much less expense.
    >

    But they weren’t given that mission. Instead a hit squad was sent in,

    Evidence, you know for a fact that their orders were to kill him?

    and it did what it was supposed to, and the political climate in the US meant this was something to brag about.

    Quite likely had something to do with it, but you’re suggesting what exactly that doesn’t involve the risk of violence and death?

    Spare me the nonsense about nerf guns, next you’ll be claiming the shooting was an act of self-defense. Like if I burgle your house, I can shoot you in self defense if you try to stop me?

    If the police suspect you have a drug lab in you house and they break in to raid it and you raise a weapon at them do you think they should not shoot you? Given that this self confessed terrorist was locked up in a guarded house that helicopters landed armed troops in who had to break their way into the house probably shooting armed guards along the way. OBL would likely have had 1 chance to surrender. The story as reported claims he raised a weapon what exactly do you think would be the likely outcome if this is true? Explain to me how the seals could have guaranteed to have taken him without the possibility of him being shot if he decided to shoot instead of surrender. I’d be very interested to see if you have some magical solution to ensuring people disarm and surrender.

    Haha, I shall not be typecast. Do you have to be a Lefty to oppose summary execution?

    Nope, I am a lefty myself but it has been my experience that many on the extreme left attribute mythical powers to the CIA and American military while at the same time assuming everything done in and by the West is completely evil, often also more likely to embrace at the same time any eastern philosophy without a single ounce of skeptism. You seemed to be fitting that bill perfectly until the bit about eye for an eye. So I concede you’re not a typical extreme lefty.

    I have no objection to capital punishment on principle. Those whose actions or omissions contributed to the mass murder of 9/11 should indeed face a court and appropriate sentences, and if the death penalty is appropriate for a single murder, it’s clearly appropriate for this.

    Interesting, I don’t agree with capital punishment at all in principle but I accept for example that countries need military and secret service etc. My preference would have been to see him captured tried and imprisoned for life. I just think in reality that’s rarely going to happen, 9 times out of 10 nutters like this will get themselves killed avoiding being taken alive. Frankly better him than some navy seal leaving a widow and children behind.

    Lets see, Osama was responsible for planning an attack that killed thousands,

    Change “responsible” to “allegedly responsible”. Take the case to trial. Get a verdict in an open court. Then you can drop the “allegedly”. Or not.

    I don’t disagree, but the tricky part is getting him to trial alive.

    I think it needs reviving, it’s certainly a lot more “civilized” than current laws in many places, including the affluent west.

    No it isn’t.

    I do live in the affluent west, but which barbarism do you mean? Eye-for-an-Eye is a damn sight better than Sharia, if that’s what you mean.

    In what universe do you think I’d be contributing the this site and be in favour of Sharia law?

    In the west too, the punishment often is very poorly fitted to the crime, and eye-for-eye, tooth-for-tooth as an acknowledged principle would set much more appropriate guidelines for sentencing.

    Let’s see I kill your child you’re allowed to kill mine? Or I burn you’re house down you’re allowed to burn mine down? Hang on – I’m not the only one living in my house, how do we work that out? So the time of the old testament was an era of peace and justice was it? I must be reading the wrong book, it is nothing but feuds and revenge and barbarity much of which mandated by the God that told them that had to follow this piece of uncivilized barbarism. We are civilized exactly to the degree to which we have shed ourselves of the baggage that kind of way of dealing with each other.



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  • 26
    Pauly01 says:

    “why do the faithful find so much pleasure in killing?”
    because evil should be defeated and this is divinely dictated. And in many cases the religious books describe a vengeful murderous divine entity. Stands to reason.



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  • 27
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #21 by DocWebster:

    In reply to #20 by OHooligan:

    On capital punishment, and those who object to it on principle: Bear in mind that the state already has the power to use lethal force, in the form of its police and military, with life-or-death decisions made on the spot by front line personnel. So the state can kill you, quite lawfully, in certain circumstances, whether or not it has capital punishment.

    Where did the state attain that right? It has been handed down through the centuries as the divine right of the king to hold sway over a subject’s life and death. That is the only reason any state can claim the right to put a citizen to death right now, a tradition handed down from the childhood of our species.

    Essentially, every state claims a monopoly on violence. Anyone else doing violence, it’s a crime (except for the limited circumstances of acting in defence against criminal violence by another. The state is, at its core, the biggest armed force in the area, and it’s leader is The Boss. In democracies, there are elections to decide who gets to be Boss, in other places, the role is taken by force by whoever can get away with it. In monarchies, it’s inherited. Until one of the other methods takes over.

    That’s a working hypothesis anyhow. I don’t mean it’s moral, or right, I just mean that’s how it is. Refute if you can.

    As for how it “claims the right”? Usually its claiming to defend the populace from enemies domestic and foreign, and to keep the peace. Which it can only do if it is big and tough enough to act.



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  • 28
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #25 by Reckless Monkey:

    It’s getting too long to echo your post as I reply, so please excuse the edited highlights. Actually, I think we’re closer to agreement on many things than first it seemed.

    I never denied the guy should have been put on trial, if you read my post again I said clearly that this would have been ideal.

    Agreed, it would have been “ideal” from the viewpoint of truth, justice, and the rule of law.

    My point being that he did admit it no-one of any creditability is denying it,

    Whoa, back up there: no true scotsman would deny it eh? Or, if you even doubt it, you lack credibility. Been watching too much Fox?

    Fundamentalist Muslims all over the world where celebrating OBL’s brilliant attack on the West,

    And what the F*** do they know? They’re your source of information now? Of course they celebrated, a poke-in-the-eye for the Great Satan, and of course they’d boast and brag that it was one of their own that dunnit. Lots of times, when there’s a terrorist atrocity, more than one group tries to claim responsibility, to show how powerful tough capable and ruthless they are. Doesn’t mean it’s the truth. So, yes, it’s more complicated.

    the only person who it seems is not convinced is you.

    Only person posting on this forum perhaps. Ask around, try a wider circle. I maintain what I feel is a healthy level of scepticism, especially of things said by “government spokespersons”.

    What I am saying is that these things are not as easy as you seem to be implying.

    Agreed. It could have been a mission with primary objective to bring him in alive, but didn’t turn out that way, and so the administration made the best of it by pandering to the revenge lust of their populace.

    I imagine he would have had 1 chance to surrender and any armed resistance would have been met with deadly force.

    Yes, that seems plausible. Certainly not more than 1 chance. Possibly less than 1.

    … guarantee the safety of the seals …

    That’s not what the military – US or any other – is about. They never guarantee the safety of their own forces, otherwise they wouldn’t do anything. It’s all risk/benefit analysis, a balance between maximising the reward and minimising the risk. No guarantees. I’m sure the Seals in particular were aware of that before they even enlisted.
    >

    Are you suggesting that given the murder of thousands of innocent civilians that the US should not go after OBL when they had the chance? Or is it you are prepared to just assume that this was a simple assassination? If so where is your evidence?

    Oh don’t pull that one, please. Where is MY evidence? Where is the evidence that OBL was tried in absentia, found guilty, and sentenced to be executed, as and when the opportunity could be found?
    >

    The fact that he ended up dead was going to be the likely consequence of trying to get him at all.

    True.

    Evidence, you know for a fact that their orders were to kill him?

    No I don’t. But it was announced that way. Not as, oh we came this close to capturing him, but he wouldn’t be taken alive so….

    But that would have played out a lot worse politically in the US than yelling for joy: We Got The Bastard!!!

    So, I don’t suppose the truth of this will ever emerge.

    I concede you’re not a typical extreme lefty.

    Damned by faint praise? Thanks anyway.

    My preference would have been to see him captured tried and imprisoned for life.

    Funny. Mine would have been to see him captured, interrogated, tried and sentenced – along with whoever he implicated – on the evidence. Life or death, don’t care. But I’d like to have had him alive for the interrogation, who knows what secrets he took to his watery grave?

    Change “responsible” to “allegedly responsible”…

    I don’t disagree, but the tricky part is getting him to trial alive.

    Agreed. Except, somehow, I don’t think there was any real desire to get him to trial alive. Dead men tell no tales.

    We agreed also that Sharia is bad. To put it mildly. So I suppose we agree Eye4Eye is less bad.

    So, lets consider E4E (getting shorter) as the starting point for any sentence, then mitigate as judges do, adding or subtracting according to the circumstances, such as an early “guilty” plea. Or plea bargaining.

    >

    Let’s see I kill your child you’re allowed to kill mine?

    No, it would be a life for a life. Yours.

    Or I burn you’re house down you’re allowed to burn mine down?

    Yes, as a starting point.

    Hang on – I’m not the only one living in my house, how do we work that out?

    Mitigating circumstances. Some equivalent penalty then. Rehouse you in a state facility, and when you’re released your house and its contents are gone, no proceeds to you. The others who lived there have been compensated appropriately and rehoused, and you’re not allowed to move in with them.

    Similarly, you defraud people out of their savings – after a short spell in custody, you’re on the street in recycled clothes with (almost) no money and no credit, and maybe a job as a street sweeper. Work your own way back up from there.

    Steal a car, lose your own. Or the equivalent, if you don’t have one. The ultimate down-and-outs, those convicted but with nothing to lose, well, I suppose that’s where prison comes in, as a place to keep them safe from further offending in public, but with some opportunity for rehabilitation, some way to work to save some money or learn new skills.

    Get busted with some illegal drugs for personal use? Get them confiscated.

    Get busted making money out of dealing illegal drugs? Like any other money-making unlawful enterprise, it’s a financial crime. Lose your money, yachts, cars etc…..

    It could work, really.

    We are civilized exactly to the degree to which we have shed ourselves of the baggage that kind of way of dealing with each other.

    I think you overrate our civilization. What’s happened is huge inconsistency in sentences. Murderers get paroled to murder again, kids with a spec of some banned plant material get locked away until they’re old. Violent bullies go in and out of jail until they finally kill someone, when they go to jail for a bit longer.

    E4E as a starting point would be a lot better than the muddle of inconsistent laws on most nations statute books.

    I’m all for the swift execution of the undeniably guilty – such as the shooter mentioned in an earlier post. It would need a higher burden of proof, that’s all. And shouldn’t depend on mental state, really – kill and be killed, that should be the end of it.

    I’m also in favour of rigorous procedures to guard against corrupt manipulation of the justice system, whether for political purposes or personal gain, which strikes me as the main danger of allowing any court to impose an irreversible sentence.

    And in the absence of these, regretfully, I must oppose the death penalty, as I don’t trust the state enough to use that power wisely.



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  • 29
    Reckless Monkey says:

    Hi, enjoying our debate by the way.

    I’ll keep it quite brief too but a couple of things I’m interested in getting your response to if you’re still checking the thread.
    >

    Whoa, back up there: no true scotsman would deny it eh? Or, if you even doubt it, you lack credibility. Been watching too much Fox?

    Don’t get Fox but saw same footage with translations from multiple news sources, have not heard any Arabic speakers denying that the tapes released by OBL claiming credit, where fakes, short of every journalistic organisation being involved in the same conspiracy, or learning Arabic will have to take his word for it. Don’t think that makes me guilty of the ‘No true Scotsman fallacy’. If you have a link to a credible site claiming the tapes were fakes, changed or incorrectly translated please link and I’ll check them out.
    >

    And what the F*** do they know?

    They speak the language, they are likely to be able to pick a fake. They are not all fundamentalist nut-bags or idiots, a scholarly Arabic speaking critic of the West would do just fine. That no-one seems to be denying it seems to make it clear people believed he did admit to it. He clearly had years to deny it if he so choose.

    I think we’re both agreed on the likely scenario of the raid itself.

    That’s not what the military – US or any other – is about. They never guarantee the safety of their own forces, otherwise they wouldn’t do anything. It’s all risk/benefit analysis, a balance between maximising the reward and minimising the risk. No guarantees. I’m sure the Seals in particular were aware of that before they even enlisted.

    I do realise that no military guarantees the safety of their soldiers, and that it calculates the potential risk of life vs reward of in this case capturing OBL. My point is that given they were likely to be shot at in that event the soldiers would have at best, said “Get Down” and lifting a gun would have been instant death. I don’t believe the Military would order soldiers to allow themselves to get shot for the sake of capturing him alive. I feel given the circumstances, fair enough. If you consider that an assassination that is where our point of difference is. Guys I know in police and military are not taught to shoot to wound, they are trained to put them down. Given Pakistani government couldn’t be trusted not to tip him off what else could have been done. That leaves either act or don’t act, I don’t think that mounts to same thing as an assassination.
    >

    Where is the evidence that OBL was tried in absentia, found guilty, and sentenced to be executed, as and when the opportunity could be found?

    If that was the only way that the American military operate why didn’t they kill Sadam when they caught him? By the way I disagree with him being executed.
    >

    So, I don’t suppose the truth of this will ever emerge.

    Agreed not for some time anyway.
    >

    Damned by faint praise? Thanks anyway.

    Your welcome 😉
    >

    Funny. Mine would have been to see him captured, interrogated, tried and sentenced – along with whoever he implicated – on the evidence. Life or death, don’t care. But I’d like to have had him alive for the interrogation, who knows what secrets he took to his watery grave?

    Partly agree, don’t like the death penalty (and yes I am aware of the hypocrisy of excusing military killing while objecting to death penalties – just can’t see a way around it). Where I would disagree is I find the US methods of interrogation barbaric and dehumanising (to us).
    >

    We agreed also that Sharia is bad. To put it mildly. So I suppose we agree Eye4Eye is less bad.

    Perhaps but not by much. Essentially eye for an eye is just about revenge, having this as a basis for civilisation is no way to go. I teach in a high school, quite low socio-economic and I can tell you the cycle of you hit me so I’ll hit you is no solution kids do this all the time and it just escalates. Your solutions won’t work because for eye for an eye to work the person who took out the eye in the first place has to believe they were not justified in taking out an eye. People make a calculation in their head that for example that guy over there was looking at my girlfriend – that deserves a king hit. He feels justified in his anger – that guy had it coming. The friends and family feel then perfectly justified in replying in kind…Now what you are suggesting is a state run version of the same thing. The reason this won’t work is its too hard to quantify and anyone unreasonable enough to deck someone for looking at his girlfriend isn’t going to agree with some judge ordering someone to King hit him. By the time you’ve organised all the compromises you will have a system even messier and unfair than what we have now.

    It seems to me what you want is a system that offers you revenge, that isn’t what justice should be about no matter how much we want it. Civilisation is about trying to protect the society as a whole and trying to get people to make better choices.

    What Mandela did with the truth and reconciliation trials in South Africa was not just noble, it was the only way to ensure that some semblance of civil society was maintained. They need the affluent white, educated class that meant giving up your right to take action in kind against those that have hurt you.

    Look at WW2. Germany started a war with most of the rest of the world, millions died at the hands of Germans. The only way to end hostilities was a) for the West to kill every last German in a uniform or working in a factory, or a farm feeding the soldiers, until life for life they’d killed a few million Germans or b) to accept surrender and forgive (at least for the majority) the deaths caused. I know older people who lost loved ones in WW2 how for the rest of their lives hated and wanted dead all Germans, all Japanese. From E4E as a starting point they would be completely justified, and again how do you work it out? You can only kill a guy once, does a bomb maker take responsibility for how many deaths? The state needs to take a stance of trying to make society safe while still maintaining the possibility of parole for those safe enough to be let out again. Agreed it often goes wrong, but I can’t see E4E working any better, which is I suggest, why it never lasted.

    As for overrating our civilization, I have twice the lifespan of my forefathers only a few generations ago, I’ve never had to go to war, any citizen gets the vote, an education and free health care (in Australia-don’t know where you live). I have never been attacked on the street, my child is as safe as I could reasonably expect, and is befitting from a free education funded by the generosity of our citizens myself included, we have a pension for the elderly and disabled…I could go on. There is much to complain about and I often do but its a pretty great time to live and I’m fortunate to have been born in the West. I think we do pretty well for a bunch of jumped up apes.

    Anyway I’ll have to leave it there getting tired and have to work tomorrow. Love a good argument.



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  • 30
    OHooligan says:

    In reply to #29 by Reckless Monkey:

    Hi, enjoying our debate by the way.

    Good. I think we’re at risk of straying off topic, so please accept this summary as an attempt at a conclusion:

    • It’s not just the religious who endorse capital punishment, there’s a range of opinion even here.

    • You are anti capital punishment on principle but happy enough about the demise of OBL, as a particular example of justifiable use of lethal force in military operations.

    • I’m pro capital punishment in theory, but against it in practice, and especially concerned about summary execution, drones, and the “War on [whatever]” as an excuse for unconscionable actions.

    • I distrust those in power perhaps more than you do, and that’s enough about the big events of this century, lest we stray too far off topic.

    • This is a good forum for Robust Debate, where most of us, most of the time, manage to keep it clean. I like that.

    I noted in another post that the State holds a monopoly on violence, and needs its well-trained specialists to maintain that monopoly.

    I know that special forces in (say) hostage scenarios are not trained to wound or disarm opposition, rather to incapacitate swiftly and surely, with deadly force an option to be weighed only against the mission objectives. And that’s pretty much to be expected, I don’t see how it could be any other way.

    War, as you correctly observed, is a whole other thing, and beyond the scope of any discussion on crime and civilization, except to note Nuremberg: “To initiate a war of aggression ….. is the supreme international crime, only different from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of all the others.”

    On civilization, I agree with all your responses. I meant my criticism only in a narrow sense, on the system of courts and laws that result in continuing failures in the role of The System as protector of the people.

    I mean the ineffective response to the violent on one hand, and cruelly harsh penalties for some “victimless” crimes, on the other. Examples I’ll skip in the interests of brevity.

    Part of the difficulty is, I think, that the only sanctions available are to take away time or money. Perhaps this is why there are so many conflicting and confusing statutes, so that it is not a simple matter to try to make the punishment fit the crime.

    E4E came from an earlier age, before lawyers (I’d guess), when keeping the peace in society was a lot more rough-and-ready, and I see it as a major breakthrough for its time.

    I don’t see it as revenge, but as way to prevent revenge, and limit the amount of punishment, to prevent a spiral of escalation, and as a simple and cost-effective way for a poorly educated populace to see justice being done.

    Reviving E4E as a starting point would help to calibrate a nation’s justice system. For example, it would seem reasonable to suggest that the harm (to society) of a penalty should not exceed the harm of the original crime, and the harm (to the criminal) should aim to equal, but not exceed, the harm he has caused. E4E plays out pretty well against those boundaries.

    In your hypothetical example of an obviously unjustified violent assault: in an E4E state, everyone knows the attacker is going to get a similar hiding, and that should be the end of it. Currently it may happen in an ad-hoc manner on the way to the cells. The servants of the state guard their monopoly jealously, if inconsistently.

    I can find more examples: Blasphemy would be punishable by Insult: a committee from the offended faith would get a short while to make derogatory remarks in public to or about the culprit. Adultery, well, that’s often punished in the west by divorce anyway.

    Join in with more examples, anyone, if you find this at all interesting.



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