I'm pretty religious and also pretty liberal (in the American sense of the word) I became liberal (I used to be a Libertarian when I was younger) gradually as I've gotten older and generally been impressed with how well liberal institutions work. I regard politics as more practical than moral and don't think I have any right to have my own religious notions of morality enforced on others. Like many liberals, I object to the death penalty because if its long history of racist, classist and anti-male** application and its inherent imperfections (a single innocent being executed invalidates the whole institution.)
But, unlike other political positions I have, my disdain for the death penalty coincides
with my religious beliefs on the matter. Mainly, that God's justice is perfect, God will send the sinners to hell and the righteous to heaven and it's not really possible for us, as mere mortals, to tell which is which. As such, justice as in retribution
is a matter for God. We would do best to respect life and ensure our safety by locking up people who hurt others.
Yet I find that many people who are religious have no problem with the death penalty-- since religion tends to intersect of conservative politics more often. Or is there a religious connection there as well?
- Roman Catholic Church says that the death penalty is "lawful slaying" and basis this on it being a necessary deterrent and prevention method, but not as a means of vengeance. So, if it is ineffective as a deterrent (there is some evidence that this is true) --would they reject it? Recently they have though not very vocally.
- Anglican and Episcopalian bishops condemned the death penalty.
- Southern Baptist Convention updated Baptist Faith and Message. In it the convention officially sanctioned the use of capital punishment by the State. It said that it is the duty of the state to execute those guilty of murder and that God established capital punishment in the Noahic Covenant. This is different from the Roman Catholic take on it-- no mention of it excluding vengeance.
- Other Baptists reject the death penalty, my church does!
- Like Christians, Islam and Buddhists and Jews do not have a united stance on the matter.
- Atheists also have many views on the matter.
So, based on all of that, do we find no
guidance in religion? I wonder how I would feel about the matter if the religious teachings I have encountered didn't match with my philosophical notions-- Is it always the case that one must shape the other? Is there anyone who thinks the death penalty should be allowed, though they suppose it is sinful or against their religion? Is there anyone who wants to stop the death penalty though they think it might not be a sin?
**We could talk about how believing it is wrong to kill a woman still further dehumanizes her-- the global effect of this furthesr sexism against women, the local effect is unfair to poor, mostly minority, men.