Monday, September 10, 2012

Christians and the Death Penalty - The New Testament reaffirms the Old.

   I recently wrote how Christian scriptures support the death penalty, but my reasoning came from the Old Testament. While that really should not matter, many Christians claim it does...something about how God was wrathful then, but things are better now. Why? 'Cause Jesus, that's why! So are things really better now? No. Why? 'Cause Jesus, that's why!

   I've seen this idea discussed many times before (so here I am, being slow in the head again), but most recently I saw it in a discussion about how Christianity actually glorifies torture.
[Stephen] Pinker discusses graphically what the Christian idea of the crucifixion really means and invites us to consider how sincere belief in this idea would inform a person's worldview:

"In allowing the crucifixion to take place, God did the world an incalculable favor. Though infinitely powerful, compassionate, and wise, he could think of no other way to reprieve humanity from punishment for its sins (in particular, for the sin of being descended from a couple who had disobeyed him) then to allow an innocent man (his son no less) to be impaled through the limbs and slowly suffocate in agony. By acknowledging that this sadistic murder was a gift of divine mercy, people could earn eternal life. And if they failed to see the logic in all this, their flesh would be seared by fire for all eternity." [p.14]

In the early medieval eras, Christians wrote martyrologies that described the torture and execution of saints with "pornographic relish" [p.14]. For example, Pinker quotes a Christian poet named Prudentius who wrote of a believer watching her son be roasted alive: "[She] showed no signs of grief, rejoicing rather each time the pan hissing hot above the olive wood roasted and scorched her child." [p.15] Other martyrologies praised saints who were variously crucified, impaled, sawn in half, crushed, stoned, beheaded, disemboweled, or broken on the wheel (in which a person was tied to a wagon wheel, their arms and legs smashed with hammers, and then left to slowly die of internal hemorrhage).
   The part in bold font is the most important. Here we have the idea that the best way (it must be the best, because the idea came from on high) to deal with crime (sin) is to execute a person, and someone who is said to not even be guilty of a crime, no less! Now, does this mean that it is then OK to kill someone who is guilty of a crime? I must admit that the logic does not clearly follow, but there isn't anything here to counter the logic of the Old Testament. Fortunately, we have grown somewhat out of that horrible moral state. But, as I said before (in the update), "The problem that religion causes is that it shuts down the debate." Or at least it tries and it certainly stagnates progress.

   I also cannot help but notice that the excuses for why abortion is wrong is because that is "innocent" life. Hmmmm... innocent like Jesus? But it was OK for Jesus to die! The response to that is bound to be that the crime Jesus died for is paid in full, so innocent life after Jesus does not need be put to death.

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