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Commentary :: Human Rights
News Item: US Courts to Seek "Cruelty-Free" Execution Methods
17 Dec 2006
Good morning, students! Today in Philosophy 101 we're going to be studying the the morality of the death penalty in a "Culture of Life".

What is the death penalty? It's the ultimate punishment, the sentence of death that is given out to those people who have committed the most heinous crime of all: homicide, the murder of a fellow human being. Is it not a contradiction to outlaw murder as the worst of all crimes, and then to make society's penalty for murder, death? Although on the face of it, this seems to be contradictory, we shall soon see that this is not, in fact, the case.
News Item: US Courts to Seek "Cruelty-Free" Execution Methods

By Prof. Varlet

Good morning, students! Today in Philosophy 101 we're going to be studying the the morality of the death penalty in a "Culture of Life".

What is the death penalty? It's the ultimate punishment, the sentence of death that is given out to those people who have committed the most heinous crime of all: homicide, the murder of a fellow human being. Is it not a contradiction to outlaw murder as the worst of all crimes, and then to make society's penalty for murder, death? Although on the face of it, this seems to be contradictory, we shall soon see that this is not, in fact, the case.

Murder has been considered to be the worst of crimes from time immemorial. All ancient societies, no matter how backward and bloodthirsty, have had laws against homicide. To kill for no apparent or "rational" reason was seen as murder, then, while religious sacrifices and even wars were believed to be divinely inspired. These ancient societies, in their ignorance, overlooked or simply could not see the inherent philosophical contradictions of their position. One might say that those horrible execution methods like feeding people to wild animals, burning at the stake, crucifixion, burning alive inside metal containers shaped like various animals and the like were barbaric practices, so thouroughly cruel and heinous that it is difficult for us to imagine that our own ancestors could ever have been so devoid of basic human compassion that they could subject their fellow human beings to such brutality. It is hard for us to imagine what it would have been like to sit inside the Roman Coliseum and gleefully enjoy, with our wives, children and neighbor the spectacle of live human slaughter on such an unimaginable scale. We can only console ourselves with the simple, common-sense rationalization that those were different times, and people behaved differently then. We say: they simply "didn't know any better".

Thankfully, we no longer suffer from religious delusions or revel in the senseless wholesale shedding of blood like the Aztecs, Mayans, Romans, Greeks or so many others did in ancient times. In a modern society, killing people for sport or in order to placate a host of angry gods is seen for what it is: an uncivilized, disgusting, repellent and utterly abhorrent practice. The only comparison we have in the modern world to the brutal practices of those early civilizations is the practice of modern warfare, which, of course, is itself a descent into savagery which our civilized nation will never undertake unless it is absolutely, vitally necessary to protect our Great Republic from complete annihilation.

In our modern, industrialized, capitalist nation, we believe that life is a precious gift from God. The killing of any human being, no matter if that human being is not yet even born, is seen for what it is: a base and cowardly act of murder. There can be no excuse for the taking of a human life, no matter how low in status that person may be, even if he or she is nothing more than a mere zygote. We honor life above all things, as it is the precious gift of God the Creator of all mankind. Our modern, industrialized, capitalist society has risen so far above the philosophical basis of the political and religious practices of ancient societies it is absolutely impossible to even make a comparison between ourselves and our ignorant forebears. They just didn't know any better.

Murder is proscribed by God Himself; it is, in my opinion the first true Commandment that was handed down to us, one might say, personally, by our God: "Thou Shalt Not Kill".

Now I know that you will object that "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is not, in fact, the first Commandment. Jewish and some Protestant churches say it is the 6th. Catholics and some other Protestant groups say it is the 5th. It's rather amusing when you think about it: religious groups that seem to us to have had most of the fundamental details of their own religious dogmas worked out for centuries can't even agree at this late date on the actual number of Commandments handed down to Moses by God, or the order in which those Commandments were first promulgated! Alas, such is the case. The Lord does, indeed, work in mysterious ways!

I feel that the first 3 Commandments (if you are Jewish) or 2 (if you are Catholic) consist of what a modern lawyer might call an "exclusivity clause" and would be found, perhaps, in a modern legal document, in the "EULA"; if you are a monotheist, the first 3, 4 or 5 Ccommandments (depending on your belief) 'go without saying'; as does "honor thy father and mother". That makes "Thou shalt not kill" Commandment number 1 in my book.

Let's leave all the finer points of this particular argument to the professional theologians and continue.

We, who fervently believe in one God, the Creator of all the universe, seek to uphold that supreme commandment with all our strength. We might even say that we would rather be murdered ourselves than kill in our own self-defense, so utterly opposed are we to the horrible crime of murder, an act which we consider to be the greatest of all sins. It is not just a crime against humanity, but a crime against God Himself, and is therefore completely unpardonable. "Thou Shalt Not Kill" does not come with an asterisk superscribed; it is as clear and unequivocal as a hangman's knot. None but a fool would try to find a way around that Commandment! And our modern society enshrines the first Commandment in Law, and upholds it as the most sacred of all human laws, because it is derived from God's Law.

Now, I ask you: how is it that a modern, civilized God-fearing nation can propose a situation in which a government of men can promote a law that calls for the murder of a human being for his having committed the act of murder, in seemingly direct contradiction to the Law of God our Creator? Is this not an absolutely clear case of hypocrisy, for the government of our Great Republic to, on the one hand, assert that even the act of preventing the development of a fertilized egg in the uterus of a woman is tantamount to murder, an unpardonable sin and punisihable as such, while, on the other hand, we make it legal to execute the person who kills a fetus?

Well, this is precisely why we have schools and universities that teach philosophy and religious studies in the first place: to help us see our way through such difficult and seemingly intractable contradictions. We could spend (and have spent) centuries debating such chicken-and-egg issues; but our society has found and verified unequivocally that there are indeed situations in which the act of murder is not only right, and just under the laws of Man, but permitted by God Himself.

The taking of another human life is a very serious act that must never be undertaken without first going through the process of the most profound and prolonged meditation and prayer. We must be absolutely certain before we endeavor to so much as harm a single fertilized egg that we have pursued all possible alternative courses of action and prayed fervently to God for his Holy Guidance before we contemplate the commission of such a serious breach of God's most Holy Commandment. In the old days, in their ignorance, people killed their fellow human beings in order to ensure a bountiful harvest, or to seek the answers to questions like this from the entrails of a sacrificial victim. They also killed for fun, to keep the public distracted from their short and miserable lives of heavy labor and poverty. In ancient society, it was common for human sacrifices to be made willy-nilly whenever any strange or unusual event befell mankind: drought, flood, solar eclipses, comets; all were believed then to be portents of God's wrath and so serious that He could only be placated through the sacrifice of 1, 2 even many hundreds of human beings. Human sacrifice, for them was the first recourse, not, as it is with us today, the last. We have come a long way from the days of wanton human slaughter and we will never allow ourselves to act like our barbarian ancestors did. We have risen so far from their ignorance that we can be certain that no army will ever be ordered into the field, no policeman will ever fire a gun, no surgeon will ever end the life of a fetus and no trapdoor will drop beneath the feet of a condemned man or woman unless it has been conclusively determined that there is absolutely no alternative to the course of action about to be engaged upon.

Our society is arguably the most modern, the most advanced human society that has ever existed on the planet. Our system of laws is looked up to by all the nations of the world as the foundation upon which rests a government that stands above all others as the closest mankind has ever come to a perfectly balanced and just society. More than 200 years of legal precedent stands behind each and every one of our laws; our legal system is not perfect, but it is definitely a state-of-the-art legal system in which everyone who comes under its' purview is given as fair a shake as you would be able to get in any country under the dome of heaven. We may have some few bad policemen, bad lawyers, bad judges, and even some bad laws, but every defendant who enters our legal system has many, many chances to prove his or her innocence at multiple levels all the way to the highest courts in the land. Just as we know that any citizen, no matter what race, creed, sex or color can, through hard work, rise up to become the President of the United States, we can be equally certain that should any one of our citizens be arrested for a crime, he or she will stand trial in the fairest court system to be found anywhere on Earth. And if that person has committed a serious crime, the more serious that crime is, his or her case will receive, in proportion, just that much more thorough a peer and judicial review - unparalleled anywhere in the world, through our jury system and the many courts of appeals available to each and every one of our citizens, without exception.

The death penalty is the ultimate punishment, given to those who have committed the most serious crimes: murder and treason. Treason can be said to be the conspiracy to murder your own nation, by endeavoring to promote its physical destruction. Therefore, the death penalty is permitted for treason: when the state executes a traitor, it is killing in self-defense.

Our nation, which stands above all others in terms of fairness and decency, and is a God-fearing nation, would not be in the position it is in today if God Himself did not favor us above all other nations. If we undertook to permit, willy-nilly, the murder and execution of any human being, either through the weapons of war or the legal remedy of the death penalty, then surely God would strike down our nation in a moment and we would be forced to suffer like the people of Iraq have suffered in this last, unfortunate war. Clearly, the fact that God has seen fit to place our great nation in the position of the sole Superpower of the world is an indication that we are on the right track, generally, and what we do, in his eyes is, for the time being at least, done in the best interests of all mankind, in the long run. Whether we can or can not see that clearly now is of no consequence!

As with our military forces - which have never been allowed to leave our shores unless we were threatened with imminent destruction by a powerful nation hell-bent on launching all their military forces, land, sea and air against us - (as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea and Vietnam have tried unsuccessfully to do), we have never so much as asked that the death penalty be considered in any case that did not merit the consideration of that ultimate penalty.

Not only is the death penalty asked for solely in the most extreme cases of brutal and senseless murder; it is only after the most thorough and fair trial by a jury of one's peers and the unequivocal finding of guilt that it is even possible to have a death sentence imposed. Some might assert that there have been innocent people executed in spite of all the checks and balances we have in place in our best-of-all-possible-systems, and that may indeed be so. But we can rest assured that if any innocent people have ever been put to death in our system, it was only because all the evidence available at the time showed conclusively that the defendant was, indeed, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is utterly unthinkable that our great system of justice would intentionally send an innocent person to death for a crime he or she did not commit. Only those who carry treason in their hearts could say such a thing about our great nation, and they deserve themselves to pay dearly for harboring such thoughts in their cringing, cowardly breasts!

Not only is our death penalty only imposed on people who have committed none but the most heinous and barbaric acts; not only is it only imposed after a thourough trial, and only after consequent numerous appeals through ever higher and higher courts, in which the level of legal expertise increases the further up the court system the case proceeds; we take great pains to ensure that if and when a perpetrator is found guilty, and the death sentence is imposed, the death sentence is today and has always been carried out in the most humane way possible.

Imagine a nation so civilized that even after a person is found guilty of having committed the most depraved acts of cruelty against a fellow-human being, and who then proceeded to take the life of that person without even the slightest pang of conscience, that nation, in a tribute to both God and all mankind, would endeavor not to subject the red-handed murderer to tortures as vicious as that which he put his victims through. We thank God that we are blessed to be able to live in such a nation! Our great nation goes far, far out of its way to put that homicidal beast to death in the most quick and painless, the most humane way possible! We should all be proud to live in such a country such as ours, where human life is so highly valued that when we sentence a vicious animal to be put out of its misery, we do it in the most civilized way modern science allows!

Why do we go to such great lengths to ensure a merciful death for one who had never in his or her miserable and depraved life shown even so much as the slightest trace of human decency toward another of God's creatures, who snuffed the light of life out of one of our brothers or sisters? Because we are civilized; because we cherish all life, even the life of a base and heartless killer, far more than that atrocious monster ever did! We who feel, down to the very marrow of our bones how very wrong it is to even contemplate taking the life of another of God's children honor God's precious gift even in the case of a person who has completely turned his face away from God, and from all mankind as well!

You may have read in the papers this week about how the death penalty has been brought to a complete halt by the governments of several states, as it has been recently discovered that the most humane method of execution that modern science can provide this most modern of civilizations may actually be putting people through excruciating pain in their final moments. Think of this! How proud we all should be that we live in a nation that cherishes life so much that even the comfort of condemned criminals in their last moments is held in such heavenly esteem that we would stop executing brutal killers in order to find a more humane way to put them out of our misery! Is there any wonder why the one true God holds the United States in such high regard, and places us above all other nations as the world's one true Superpower?

Surprisingly, it turns out that it is difficult, even with modern, scientific methods, to humanely put people to death. However, there can be no doubt that our top doctors and scientists have done the best they possibly can to ensure the humane execution of guilty murderers - we should not for one moment consider that they would have done anything less than that. We can rest assured that when the executions are allowed to resume (and they shall, of course, be allowed to resume) it will be only after the methods of execution are refined to the point where we can be certain that the condemned murderer will feel not the least bit of pain - which is certainly more than he ensured for his victims. We who cherish life and love God, and swear to Him that we will never take the life of anyone who hasn't hurt us first, will go far beyond that. We will show our love for God and all His creatures, and life itself, by making executions as painless as possible for many reasons, including the most important one of all...

We have to be absolutely certain that, when all the checks and balances fail in our great system of Justice - and it is possible that, despite our Herculean efforts to prevent such an outcome, someday this may happen, and that for the first time an innocent man or woman may be sentenced to death, and the sentence carried out - we must be positively confident that when we do someday execute an innocent man or woman, that he or she has been put to death in the most humane way possible. Otherwise God will be greatly displeased with us, and He might just turn His back on us like He's obviously turned His back on so many nations of this world who refuse to obey His Law. God forbid that we should ever live to see that day arrive, for if it does, our reign as the One, True World Superpower will be over for ever.

I'm sorry, but it will not be possible for me to take any questions today, as my presentation has exhausted all the time available to us. Class dismissed!
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