I’m not religious; at best I could be described “agnostic.” Just putting that out there so it can’t be construed I thump the bible out of any personal deference. However, even as a “non-believer,” one has to recognize that there are many quotes from the bible which are profound and even relevant. Since it is a book that many ascribe to, and features prominently in the American judicial system, I think it’s entirely appropriate to provide this quote before I ask my question.
Matthew 7:1-3 (KJV)
7 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
These words are ascribed to Jesus. The message is clear: do not delude yourself into believing you possess the authority to judge another. Humans aren’t perfect, and you are as human as the person next to you. The implication is that only one authority has that power, and that is god.
“If you’re an agnostic, why bring this up?” you might ask.
I’m glad you asked that question, Billy. If you take god out of the quote’s context, the message is simply, “do not delude yourself into believing you possess the authority to judge another.” If you and I don’t have the authority, and there is no god to hold such an authority (or maybe there is, I have no idea, but it’s certainly not something which can be proven), then who does that authority belong to?
According to the law, that authority lies with the state.
The state is tasked, by the people, with maintaining the public welfare. We all likely understand (and if you do not, I will not be explaining here) why, in the public interest, people who have committed acts of harm to innocent people should be isolated from innocent people, to the extent that doing so will ensure safety for everyone.
Prison does this pretty effectively. Without getting into any issue of abuse or treatment in prison, putting someone in prison effectively isolates that person from innocent people outside the prison for the duration of their stay. To ensure the safety of the public from individuals who, as the state can best determine, threaten the public, the state need only put them in prison. Any other punitive measures taken against the individual who has caused harm would be superfluous.
Ready for another quote?
Mark 12:17,27 (KJV)
17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
27 He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living…
And now I pose my question, which is simply this: Who put us here?
Maybe you believe a god of some kind is responsible. Maybe you give full credit to your parents. Or maybe in evolution, reincarnation, or Xenu. Maybe you believe in The Matrix.
It’s likely you believe at least one of those. Now do you also believe that the state or federal government created you? That it designed your genetic code or played a part in its determination in any deliberate way?
Do you belong to the state? Because the state, on a local or federal level, in certain cases, has the power to end your life.
Education, roads, firefighters, libraries, a postal service… these are things provided by the state. When you drive on a public road, go to a public library, or call on the fire department, you are freely submitting yourself to the authority of an organization. If they decide to stop paving the roads, to stop responding to emergency calls, to close the post office on sundays… well, it’s a bit dickish, but the state provides those things; it can take them away. You choose to enter that bargain, and in so choosing accept the responsibility, and the consequences, for accepting the services you then enjoy.
Included among those things we enjoy is state-enforced safety.
For the most part, the consequence is taxes. That’s a matter for another day. Another consequence is that we must follow the law. If you choose to break the law, you mark yourself as an individual who threatens public safety. It is then in the state’s purview to isolate you for as long as necessary in the interest of protecting others’ safety. That’s also part of the bargain.
However, in no way can you enter into a bargain with the state to provide you with life. At the very least it would require time travel, a power which not very many possess. It would also require a level of technology we don’t yet possess. That may or may not include time travel.
Last quote, I promise.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
All (wo)men are created equal; that is, no man is inherently born with any inherent superiority, moral or otherwise, to any other.
All (wo)men are endowed by their creator, whatever you believe that to be, with the unalienable rights, that is, rights which cannot be denied, which include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
According to the men who would go on later to create and ratify the laws we now observe (for the most part), your life, your freedom, and your pursuit of happiness belong not to the state, but to you, and only to you.
If you agree with that, then you disagree with the Death Penalty.