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Paganism and the Death Penalty

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 1:47 pm
by Dark Waters
Currently I am involved in Jury Selection {go back for the next stage on 10/02} on a case that involves gang violence and murder with a possibility for the Death Penalty if convicted. But here is what I wanted to bring up. During initial screening we were all given questionaires to help the lawyers and judge select a jury and some of the questions gave me pause, especially as I am still relatively new to the Path.

The Questions were:
Does your religion have a stance on the Death Penalty?
What is it?
What are your feelings about this stance?
Will this stance or your feelings affect your ability to be impartial?
Well, the answer to the last question is "No." I've always viewed myself as a fair person regardless of outside influences or beliefs. But I really didn't know what to put for the first two.

What is the Pagan and/or Wiccan viewpoint on the Death Penalty? Do we as a "religion" even have one?

I know the rede says, "do as you will, but harm none" which would seem to argue against it. However, serving on a jury seems to put us in a position as a tool of Karmic returns, and thus if they have commited such crimes as to warrant the Death Penalty, is it not incumbent on us to mete out the punishment that fits the crime?

My personal viewpoint has always been that it should remain an option for the most serious of crimes, but I am kind of curious as to what feedback you guys will give.

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 5:17 pm
by Kystar
I think that it depends on your particular path, your structure and your divine. I don't think that there is an easy answer for this.

You have to remember that even the most tolerant and peaceful path of paganism has some roots in an ancient belief code that surely included the death penalty in some way or form. A lot of the old gods had things built into their following that would condemn a man to death...not matter how foolish or petty we would regard the reasons today. (Like Artemis turning a man into a stag and allowing his dogs to rip him apart b/c he saw her bathing).

Personally, I think in some cases of murder, extreme violence or serial rape, the death penalty should be an option, as some people will not be rehabilitated, and are a danger to all people. Also, there is the matter of appeasing the spirits of the victims, and giving the families involved a sense of closure.

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 6:47 pm
by Crazy Healer Lady
Kystar is right: This is a highly individual thing.

Funny, because I was just thinking of sort of this thing while I was walking tonight. My partner wants me to carry a knife when I walk at dusk. I think it's dumb because 9/10 times it is used against the one carrying it anyway. And I started to wonder if I would have the will to kill anyone if they were trying to hurt/rob me, or if they were trying to kill me. The hurt/rob one, you know, I don't think I could stab someone. If they were trying to kill me... I don't know. I think instinct would kind of overload everything.

I think, in all, two wrongs do not make a right. It is my personal belief that revenge is something best left for the gods, and although I'm not going to like the person who killed my family (if it ever happened), I'm not going to wish them dead.

But as I said, it's a personal thing. I kind of have to throw up my hands on this one, because although I do not believe in the death penalty, I'm not picketing to stop it, either. I'll vote against it, but It's not in my path at this time to try to change the world in this way.

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2007 8:32 pm
by daibanjo
Here'a the first point;
There is no dogma on the Pagan path.
Different traditions may have different views but the joy of the ancient ways is that we may follow them as our will directs and none of us need take dictates from another.
As for the death penalty itself. There are some crimes that are so heinious that it would seem that the only thing that can be done is to execute the perpetrators. That said, I personally oppose the geath penalty for two main reasons,
1) We can rarely be sure that we are executing the right person. History is full of those mistakes.
2) It will never be handed out fairly and equally. Never to Rich or Poor, Men or Women, Black or White.
Those are my opinions and I only offer them as opinions that's all a Pagan can do.

Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 6:09 am
by Willow
This debate causes me stress.
I think that the death penalty is always too risky. Never sure if it is the right person, even if they confess. It is never handed out fairly look at texas, how many rich people get the death penalty...very few.

I also wonder about the people who perfom it for a living, what does it do to their souls? I agree, the ancient people had very harsh rules, but I think that was a different time and a different place with a different understanding of life.

All I can do is say, for now I am against it, Id on't know how i would feel if someone close to me was murdered and I hope I never have to find out if I would change my mind.

Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 6:16 am
by FyreGarnet
CHL, I must tell you that my fiance works at the jail here, and he got an email that had some pretty gruesome pictures for those that are not like me; into all the death and gore. Anyway, this guy was trained in a bunch of different combat types and faced an opponent with a knife. He thought it would be a piece of cake to get the knife away from him. Needless to say, this guy ended up in the emergency room and was lucky to have lived. So I'm just saying, be careful with that knife. If you truly think someone can get it from you, don't carry it.

As for the death penalty, I'm not entirely sure how I feel. I'm not vengeful with the idea of it, but there are some people in prison that have a sentence of life in prison without the option of parole. I do think that cost wise it would be better to kill them if we changed our death penalty process. I certainly do not believe that we need seven appeals to win over the courts. I like the idea of three.

These are just my opinions though.


Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 7:16 am
by Kitsune
My thoughts are slightly more "tooth and claw" than I'm seeing on here... but I believe that it should be three strikes & you're out... especially for worse crimes like murder and rape.

I feel that if you've been caught three times for major crimes (or more, like those people who shoplift for a living and have drug charges and rap sheets longer than their arm) that they should be put away permanently, no chance of parole... If they're doing it that often, then they've proven that they cannot live peacefully (or at least intelligently) in our society.

Mind you, I feel that if we can simply utilize criminals like they do in the matrix, except with no dreams, we could solve a few problems... less crime (because of the heavy punishment), & a somewhat renewable power source, just to start. :-)

I don't feel that society's laws have any effect on my religion. They have two very seperate places in my life, and never the twain shall mix. [-X

Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 7:21 am
by Dark Waters
Thanks for all the responses, hopefully we'll get even more, it is very interesting to hear different viewpoints.

Willow - I'm sorry to cause you stress. Relaxing thoughts and energies en route to you.

Fyre, CHL - Unless you are trained with a weapon, any weapon, it is better not to carry it. Personally I would rather face a person with a gun than a knife. Even if they got the drop on you, there are ways and ways to make them miss. The thing to remember is that you don't have to be faster than the bullet - you just have to be faster than the trigger finger and aiming arm. But with a knife, you have to be close in and even someone flailing wildly has good chances of inflicting damage.

Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 7:25 am
by Dark Waters
Kitsune - I think we should use criminals to colonize the moon, kind of a Botany Bay scenario. Heinlein's "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" is full of sound plans. Yes, I know it's science fiction but a LOT of modern society is based of the dreams of writers becoming Science Fact.

Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 9:49 am
by Crazy Healer Lady
All that said about carrying a knife (Thanks, guys ^_^) I must say I am in little trouble if an assailant has no weapon. The body has amazing weak spots that you can even get if you are surprised and restricted.

Posted: Wed Sep 26, 2007 3:00 pm
by Lotus
I'm pro-death on a good deal of issues.
The 3 strikes thing sounds like a good idea for means you are not randomly killing people who just made a mistake.
Also, there are certain laws that bother me. For example, the abused wife who finally stands up and kills her husband should not go to jail. This IMO is not murder but, self-defense.

The rapist on the other hand should be put to death....child or not. Rape is not a sexual motivated act, it is a violent act.

As for religion, I do not follow a fertility religion. I follow a path in balance...I walk in Ma'at. Death is a natural part of life so, I have no qualms with someone being judged by the feather of Ma'at.


Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 1:39 pm
by morgana
I have to side with Kitsune and Lotus. Honestly, I have to be pro death penalty about the more serious crimes, and I've always kinda liked the idea of "get caught stealing, get your hand cut off." And if you implement the 3 strikes rule with that, it becomes a better, more useable law. If you're stupid enough to get caught breaking the law 3 times, you DESERVE what you get.

My alcoholic cousin previously discussed in a different post is now in jail for numerous DUI charges (among other charges I'm sure). The judge had ordered him to go to mandatory rehab for a certain amount of time, but all the government run rehabs were apparently full, so the judge ordered him to start serving his rehab time in jail. Apparently my cousin has done nothing but whine about how he doesn't like his cellmate, or the food, or other stupid trivial things, forgetting the fact that he's in JAIL, and therefore, not SUPPOSED to like it!

Anyway, to finally come back to the point, if he had to face more serious penalties than sitting in jail watching tv and (gasp) eating mediocre food, then maybe it would dawn on him that he should quit breaking the law, before the law breaks him. :roll:

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 6:57 pm
by daibanjo
Just an extra thought. This business about breaking the law and going to jail and other, more serious punishments. The question is, who makes these laws and by whose standards are we to live and die?
For example;
Should terrorists be executed?
If the answer is yes then George Washington and all those who broke the law and violently opposed those who were loyal to the government were criminals.
What about those countries that say a woman must be covered with only her eyes showing? Should those who break the law be punished?
Back in Wales during the reign of Maggie Thatcher they tried to implement a law that would tax everyone who was 18 years old just because they were old enough to vote. My son was among hundreds who went to prison rather than pay the "Poll Tax"
I myself was an active member of "Cymdeithas yr Iaith Cymraeg" The Welsh Language Society. I was involved in civil disobedience and breaking the law to obtain justice for my native tongue. I was, and in the eyes of many I still am, a criminal who deserves jail.
Who has the right to set the laws and the punishments?

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 8:21 pm
by Kystar
Personally, there are some things that have been around long enough that it's almost without question.

Stealing, raping, harming a child or someone who can't fight back for no reason other than to harm them or exert power over them, killing someone for petty, selfish reasons...these are all things that we know are wrong.

Now, protesting a law that you feel is unjust...well, okay...if the only way to get the government to listen to your protest is to be ugly about it...fine.

Attempting to make those in power understand that they are doing more harm than good, doable...if you can sleep at night knowing you've harmed someone "for the greater good".

In these days, most laws are created by elected officials based on a perceived need and either agreed to by another body of elected officials or by the masses themselves in a vote.
Yes, there are still countries out there that use their "official" religion to base their laws...or tradition. And from our POV, those laws may seem strange...but that's because we don't have the history in that culture.

As for the George Washington, Founding Fathers thing...yes, they could have been considered terrorists, but my history classes didn't say anything about them indiscriminately killing hundreds or thousands of non-combatants...and they DID attempt diplomacy and negotiations with the legal powers that be first, only to be basically told to kiss off. Yes, they went after the established government, but tried to be honorable about it, and not kill people who had nothing to do with the conflict. I'm fairly sure there were a few civilian casualties, not all caused by the Redcoats...but they didn't blast apart two iconic commercial centers because they felt that their god would reward them for killing a shozload of fairly innocent (not that I think anyone's REALLY COMPLETELY innocent anymore) civilians just trying to make a living in a completely different society on a completely different continent.

The terrorism thing is really why I think humans aren't ready for globalization yet. The divine put natural barriers up for a keep ppl apart.

But I think I've blithered on too I'll get off my soapbox now.

PS: After reading Windwalker's post, I want to add that the harming bit above does include animals in the "Who can't fight back"

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2007 9:16 pm
by Windwalker
These are my opinions. I tend to rant about this subject. At length. My opinions aren't linked to my religious views in any solid way. There's some relation between the two, sure, but it's not a causal relationship.

I am rabidly anti-death penalty. Because it is hypocritical. "You are not allowed to kill people. But we can kill you, and we don't get punished for it, because we are the good guys."

It just.... ugh.... no. It's self-righteous. I mean, if you murder someone, most of the time you're not saying "this is right and just". You might be saying "this person deserves it" or "it is a good thing that this person is dead", but in the majority of cases you're not actually saying "this is just". The idea that the "justice system" can kill people and say that it's the right and correct course of action makes me feel physically ill and very, very angry. I am very glad we don't have it here and I hold execution as a worse crime than murder.

Now me, I'm a fan of personal revenge. Okay, that guy killed your sister? Here's a knife. If you can catch him, then you can kill him. Have fun! Oh, you can't stomach that sort of thing? And yet you'll stand there quite happily and watch the guy be slowly killed by the state? EXCUSE ME?!

I also believe that if you're quick enough and clever enough to escape from jail, you should be allowed to stay free until (unless?) you commit another crime.

Now if I ruled the world, I'd release everyone and say "if you had a good enough motive, you can go free. Just don't do it again, kthx". If they did it again, back in jail they'd go.

I mean, why do we stick people in jail? We do it so they won't do it again. If someone kills ONE PERSON, for a really decent reason, he's not likely to do it again, is he? No. He might do, but you have no evidence to say he will. So why put him in jail? Okay, okay, for the appearance of the thing, we don't want people going around killing people because they're allowed a freebie or something. But to kill him? For killing ONE PERSON? Who DESERVED IT?! That's just insane.

Now, your average psychopath, they're very logical people. They really believe that the ends justify the means. But they won't go out and kill someone for no reason unless they have like another mental illness. But, they need money. Person on the street has money. So they mug person on the street, maybe seriously hurt them or even kill them. But they don't notice. They have the money, and that's what they went out to get. Do we put them in jail? But no, we can't do that. They have a personality disorder. They're mad. They have something wrong with their brains in that they can't see that what they've done is wrong in any way. What's more, you can't actually punish them, because they don't feel much in the way of sadness and they don't feel fear. If you're insane, then you should go to a nice comfy asylum. Otherwise, why have the criminally insane? Just because they're not frothing at the mouth doesn't mean they're not insane. And if they feel no fear, you're not punishing them for what they've done. Shut them away somewhere, okay, but why prison? Anywhere would do, really. As long as they had no reason to harm someone, they won't harm someone. Because that wouldn't make any sense.

And if you killed someone like this.... why would you do that? Basically what you are doing is looking at someone and saying "this person is not worthy of living on this earth". I mean, talk about arrogance. If we're going to do away with everyone we don't think is worthy of being alive... well first off, we all have different standards. I personally would kill everyone guilty of being terminally stupid. I wouldn't kill a psychopath. He was just behaving in a logical manner. The problem is that the logical manner was at odds with society. Um, what was my point again? Oh yeah... okay, would you kill a tiger for eating a human? No, because a) tigers are endangered, and b) tigers are doing what tigers do. Yes, it's unfortunate that the human died, but why kill the tiger for it?

If someone murdered me and they had a good reason, I'd be cool with it. I might want them to, you know, feel guilty about it or something. If they were a serial killer I wouldn't mind if they didn't feel guilty, because that's not what they do. I was unlucky. If a cannibal ate me, I'd probably be amused. I mean, Peter Blake was killed by pirates. How cool is that?! They weren't proper pirates but even so. I'd have that on my tombstone. Made of awesome. Cannibal is cool too, although not quite as cool. "Windwalker, 1986-2007, eaten by a cannibal. She gave him indigestion." Eh, whatever, I wouldn't be happy about it but there's no call to go killing the guy. Stick him somewhere nice where he can't do that sort of thing. (Now, if the world was full of sensible people, you could say something like "Hey man, that's not cool, don't do that" and they would actually listen. Alas, that is not so.)

Now, we come to something unfortunate known as animal cruelty. You can be cruel to people and I won't really care, because people have opposable thumbs and tend to be rather unpleasant. If you are cruel to an animal - something that relies on you for food, care, etc and probably loves you anyway - then I will become EXTREMELY angry, as most people tend to. There's a guy in Christchurch who drowns cats and thinks he's doing the world a favour. People throw bricks through his windows. If something really unfortunate happened to this guy, no one would mind, least of all me. I reckon if you abuse an animal, you should get a taste of what you've done. I wouldn't particularly mind if you killed an animal abuser. Think of that animal testing facility in the UK that used to torture their beagles. That guy should have had something really unpleasant done to him.

BUT it shouldn't be done in a homogenised, false way, like with a needle or gas, with everyone sitting around thinking of how humane they are. Really? Would you not be afraid if they came up to you with a needle and you knew you'd feel death closing in on you? Okay, you can have faith in a good afterlife, but that doesn't stop death being SCARY. If you're going to punish someone physically for something, it should be preferably done by the victim or the relatives of the victim. (They want the punishment, so they can exact it. That's sensible.) You want to scrape off his skin and then dunk him in lemon juice? That's fine, go ahead and do that. But afterwards, let him go. And don't let some sadisitic bastard do the deed, because I really get the idea that people who work as executioners enjoy their work too much, and probably are no different from the people they are killing. Get someone sensitive to do the job. An empath or something. Because revenge can be sweet, but you should know every second exactly what it is that you're doing. No hot-blooded revenge. It's best served cold, remember.

Basically, I tend to care more about your average criminal than your average victim, unless it's an animal. I don't much care for children, but child abuse is rather pathetic and cowardly and it makes perfect sense that they get the short end of it in jail. And if you kill your own kid, something rather nasty should probably happen to you. In an evolutionary sense, it's very silly. I mean, that's your genes being carried forward. Killing it is really going against nature.

We had this great idea for a TV show. Death Row Survivor. Stick all your death row convicts on an island with no food, a few hidden traps, and some hidden weapons, one of each type. The last one alive wins his freedom! You could have a sniper rifle hidden up somewhere high, and the person who finds it gets to pick off everyone else one by one. Tiger traps that claim the odd person. A flame thrower, a machete, a pistol etc etc etc. It'd be good times. And whoever won his freedom would really deserve it, ne? And if you're going to die, which would you choose? In a sterile room with a group of people who hate you watching through a window? Or fighting for your life? I'd rather be stabbed by someone on an island than gassed by someone who really believes they are doing a good thing. P

I'm not against death in general, because in my opinion there are any number of people that I'd prefer weren't alive. However, if I had them killed, I wouldn't pretend that I was doing the world a favour.

There was an episode of boston legal where they tried to get this guy off the death penalty. It didn't work. So Alan says to the guy, "fight it. Everyone else just goes in and lies down and lets it happen. Sure, they're doing it to prove that they're strong and go out a man. But if you really want to be strong, fight it." So he fought it. He struggled and cried. And suddenly the people watching it realised "hey, this guy is actually going to die and funnily enough, he isn't to happy about it". It was heartbreaking. (I always cry at executions anyway, but this one had me bawling.) I was so thoroughly traumatised by the Green Mile that I had to turn it off after that guy got fried. You know it takes you five minutes to die in the chair? Your eyeballs boil. True story. At least if you get the guillotine, you're only alive for ten seconds after your head is severed.

Okay, I got so wrapped up in this that I burnt my pizza. Don't worry, it's still edible. Kinda.

I'm the person who cheers for the bad guy. I'm the one in the slasher movie who vocalises my joy every time the slasher brutally massacres someone in an entertaining and hopefully ironic manner. I'm the one who gets upset every time a villain leaves Bond to escape from a trap. I'm the one who thinks the Rogues Gallery is the main reason for watching Batman and mopes every time they end up back at Arkham Asylum. Hey, someone's gotta stick up for the bad guys. Eh, call me naive. I'm under no impression that they'd thank me for it. :roll: