Death Penalty: Justice or Just Wrong?

by kaseyfagan on December 4, 2012 - 4:04pm

     The death penalty is a form of punishment that has caused immense, worldwide controversy. Do capital crimes require the death sentence? Moral values, religious views, and political ideals have caused a split of opinions regarding this question. Supporters of the death penalty believe that murderers deserve to die for their crimes, as well as for inflicting pain on the victims’ families. Is revenge the answer? If our society bases its laws on revenge, then we are more likely to live in a world of hate and destruction. Furthermore, there is the frightening possibility that a convicted criminal could in actuality be innocent. A life should clearly not be taken away if there remains any doubt of absolute guilt. The bible states, “'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,” but we can’t have everyone taking this phrase for face value or there will never be peace. In contrast, the bible also says to turn the other cheek. By which principle are we obliged to abide? Our government does have a duty to protect its citizens and show that justice will ultimately prevail. However, interpretation of justice and the extent to which it should be applied can differ significantly. Too often, debate occurs regarding the race or social status of the criminal sentenced to death. Law enforcement is often accused of being biased and disproportionately sentencing capital punishment to particular groups of people. Elimination of the death penalty would exclude the possibility of unfairly dispensing these sentences. All of these factors create extreme controversy over the death penalty. The decision over life and death is crucial. Everyone has the right to life. Does anyone have the power to take that right away?

     The religious perspective on capital punishment continues to be under analysis, largely because the apparently conflicting bible verses. Researchers have examined the opposing views about the death penalty in order to determine a consensus of what is true (Bartkowski, Cullen, and Unnever 2010). God Imagery and Opposition to Abortion and Capital Punishment: A Partial Test of Religious Support for the Consistent Life Ethic is a research article that examines how religious individuals are impacted by their beliefs when developing their opinions towards abortion and the death penalty. The researchers hypothesize that individuals with a strong, positive relationship with God will have social opinions that oppose capital punishment and abortion (Bartkowski, Cullen, and Unnever 2010). Surveys that questioned an individual’s relation with God were utilized, and data was compared to the individual’s stance regarding the death penalty. The conclusions drawn by compiling all of the surveys revealed that individuals with a loving respect for God, as a generalized whole, will develop a cognitive schema that defies intentionally ending another’s life. In the eyes of dedicated, religious people, abortion and the death penalty are not accepted practices. Studies also showed there are exceptions. For example, political conservatives and males, in contrast, are more likely to support the death penalty despite their dedication to religion (Bartkowski, Cullen, and Unnever 2010). This article offers a deep examination into the correlation between religion and social positions. It provides evidence that, from a religious perspective, capital punishment is ultimately immoral.

     There are alternative forms of punishment that have been considered for cases involving murder. Some believe that the death sentence is the “easy way out” for dealing with the crime. Criminals get to escape from dealing with the daily consequences of their actions. Those who argue this point feel that the best way to punish a criminal would be to force the individual to suffer from guilt and psychological pain. However, others argue that some criminals may feel no regret because of the heartless nature of their crimes. What or who determines the fate of an individual? The argument will continue as to whether the death penalty serves justice or perpetrates more evil.

     I believe capital punishment is a type of cruel and unusual punishment. Although I am not very politically involved, I argue to protect the right to life. I was raised in a religious family and was taught that every life is valuable in the eyes of God. Life should be respected, not destroyed. No earthly being has the right to take away an individual’s right to life. I strongly support outlawing the death penalty in the United States, as well as in other countries.

Works Cited

Bartkowski, John, Francis T. Cullen, and James. D. Unnever. 2010. “God Imagery and Opposition to Abortion and Capital Punishment: A Partial Test of Religious Support for the Consistent Life Ethic.” Sociology of Religion. 71:3 307-322.