Today, the Jewish Atheist noted in response to the my proposal that “death has no sting” in the context of the death penalty:

Regarding your last paragraph, I’m aghast that you are so dismissive of the possibility of error.

Errors in long term imprisonment discovered decades after the crime can’t “undo” the incarceration and loss of freedom, relationships damaged, and youth incurred.

Of course not. But it’s a thousand times better than death, right? This isn’t some hypothetical, btw. This stuff happens.

Secondly, I’m Christian, and as such have ontological freedom granted by Baptism and my Faith. Death has no sting … really.

Maybe you should think about whether Christ would be as cavalier about other people’s lives. ;-) If death has no sting, I think you’re doing something really, really wrong.

There are a few that issues that come up here. It is, it seems to me, and odd enough stance, for a person who considers “false imprisonment” a “thousand times worth than death” …  to be adamantly pro-choice. If a two-thirds of a life-time of dehumanizing enslavement and imprisonment on false pretenses is “a thousand times worse” than death … then it seems to me a life of possible poverty is also better than death. The same notion that a innocent prisoner released from a long internment was a “better outcome” than death is shared by those few for whom abortion was attempted, didn’t work, but survived. Few if any in either category offer that having been killed (or never born) would have been better.

There is the foxhole maxim: “Kill them all, let God sort them out,” which in some sense contains a grain of truth as well as a barrel-full of error.  The error is obvious, there is no reason to be callous and kill (or cause harm in any way) intentionally. However, Christians believe that we are not the final judges and that the final Judge is not going to make any errors, that is God is just and will sort them out. There are two points here. Death (for the Christian at least) has no sting and we are to love our neighbour … including those who commit heinous crimes. The position that there are things “worse than death” is not a new one or one which is necessarily “really really wrong.”

The point is, I’m not being cavalier about other people’s … I’m (attempting) to be somewhat more cavalier with my life. On paper this country is some 80% Christian, if true than most of us should have an attitude about their own mortality similar to the one one I’m putting forth.

There is of course the consequentialist argument. The point there on the death penalty is that evidence apparently shows it is a deterrent. So at that point one has to weigh, which method ends with fewer innocents dying? No death penalty and perhaps more innocents dying because murder was not deterred as compared with the number of executions of prisoners who are falsely accused. It seems likely there that the number of those falsely accused is smaller than the number saved by greater deterrence. Genesis with the discussion between God’s angel and Abraham over the innocents of Sodom which ends at a non-zero number of innocents teaches a similar lesson. On a political level, saving every innocent is possible or necessarily the best thing.

Filed under: Ethics & MoralityGovernmentMark O.

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