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I am doing research for a critical thinking paper.
Posted: 20 April 2011 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello, I am a student doing research for a paper for a critical thinking class on the views of Atheists/secularist on Capital Punishment. I need your help if you could spare 5 minutes to answer the following questions.

1 Do you support Capital punishment or not?

2 Why or why not?

Does your atheism help guide your thinking on capital punishment? If so, how?

Also, I am looking for papers written about secularist/ atheist view on capital punishment. I have searched on the internet but I am not finding any thing of substance. I cannot use blogs for my research. I am looking for journal articles or web sites; .org .edu.

Thank you very much for your help!

Best,

Alpheia

[ Edited: 20 May 2011 11:59 AM by Alpheia ]
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Posted: 20 April 2011 10:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I doubt that atheistic beliefs have much relationship to beliefs about capital punishment.  I’ve known some atheists who were strongly against and some who were strongly in favor of capital punishment.  For myself, I’m strongly against capital PUNISHMENT but I’m for population control by removing severe societal offendors from the population, including preventing them from using any resources society produces and possibly contributing as fertilizer.  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 20 April 2011 10:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I think you will get a variety of answers for a variety of reasons with those questions, but like Occam, I am strongly against capital punishment, but for different reasons.  I do not believe in killing period.  My atheism has nothing to do it.  They are two separate things.  Now, that I said that, though, I am not opposed to euthanasia or abortion, within reason of course, because I do not consider that murder. I am uncertain how atheism guides a person in anything.  Reason/thinking things through is what guides people.

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Posted: 20 April 2011 11:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I agree with Mriana and Occam. Atheism has nothing to do with my position on the death penalty.

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Posted: 20 April 2011 11:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Alpheia - 20 April 2011 05:37 PM

1 Do you support Capital punishment or not?

2 Why or why not?

3 Does your atheism help guide your thinking on capital punishment? If so, how?

1. No

2. Because CP is an absolute punishment. There are no absolutes in morality. And CP cannot be undone if one discovers one made an error.

3. Yes. The only meaning of life is life itself, nothing beyond. Every claiming of a ‘beyond’ bears the risk that this is taken more important than human- or non-human lives.

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Posted: 20 April 2011 11:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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1 Do you support Capital punishment or not?

2 Why or why not?

Does your atheism help guide your thinking on capital punishment? If so, how?

In some really extreme cases where there is absolutely zero room for doubt, I don’t have any real problem with it.

What I do have a problem with is that there are so many incidences of wrongful convictions, some leading to an execution. Since saying “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut the mustard in such cases and considering how expensive it is to prosocute such cases, I think in the grand scheme of things that we would be better off without it.

My religious sentiments or lack thereof play no part in this.

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Posted: 21 April 2011 04:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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asanta - 20 April 2011 11:00 PM

I agree with Mriana and Occam. Atheism has nothing to do with my position on the death penalty.

Ditto.

I am in favor of the death penalty as a theortetical concept, because sometimes a person is so unreformable and useless to society that there isn’t really another viable option. However, as said above, CP is a final solution, and it’s too easy to wrongfully convict someone. Note that I refer to CP use not in terms of “punishment”, but the demonstration of the utter uselessness of any rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the difficulty of that demonstration, combined with the possibility of wrongful conviction in the first place, means that I am against CP for the foreseeable future. Not to even mention the low proprity that rehabilitation seems to have in our justice system.

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Posted: 21 April 2011 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Hi Everyone!

Thank you for your replies!

Keep them coming this is very helpful for me!

This is my first time doing research so bear with me…

Maybe I need to rephrase my questions to make them more clear.

What “ethical frame work” do you use to consider your views on capital punishment?

For example, the religious use there scripture and “good book” as a frame work/ frame of reference for their ethical reasoning.

What are the ethical standards you use to decide on difficult issues such as this?


Best,

Alpheia

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Posted: 21 April 2011 06:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I don’t agree with capital punishment because a) it feels wrong to me and b) it ends a person’s chance to exonerate himself.

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Posted: 21 April 2011 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Alpheia - 21 April 2011 05:44 AM

For example, the religious use there scripture and “good book” as a frame work/ frame of reference for their ethical reasoning

A quibble: this is a supposed ‘truism’ but is in fact false.

To take a single example, very few Christians take seriously the Biblical claim about camels and needles’ eyes.

Very few followers of the Bible take seriously the Biblical claim that one shouldn’t do work on a Saturday (that it is, in fact, a mortal sin to do so), or that one shouldn’t tattoo oneself, or that one shouldn’t cut one’s hair, or that one shouldn’t wear clothes made out of two different kinds of fabric, etc., etc.

And other ‘commandments’ are typically reasoned away (e.g. in times of war) when they become inconvenient.

What followers of the Bible do is the same as what atheists do: they come at ethical problems from a general sociocultural reference frame about what’s right and wrong. Some of that right vs. wrong may be culturally universal (all cultures have stipulations against lying, stealing, murdering). Some may even be biologically based (non-human animals have proto-ethical dislike of members who are not reciprocally altruistic).

What they don’t do is to come at the Bible with an ethical ‘blank slate’ and accept all of what the Bible says. Nobody does that. (In fact, nobody even could do that, since the Bible itself is inconsistent about what is ethically right and wrong).

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Posted: 21 April 2011 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Doug raises a good point.  In one place the Bible implies that it’s all right to kill someone if “the Lord delivers him into your hands” (whatever that is supposed to mean), but NOT okay, if you lie in wait for him!  What’s the difference?

But to answer the question, my general humanistic ethics tells me that capital punishment is wrong because there is no reprieve from it if the state made an error.  I also think that most people can be rehabilitated.  Of course there ARE situtations in which there is no doubt about the crime, and cases in which the perpetrator has no remorse whatsoever (often for ideological reasons).  In those cases theoretically the death penalty would be appropriate, but I’d STILL rather simply keep them locked away from society.

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Posted: 21 April 2011 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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The ethical framework I use is comprised of those connections in my brain that have evolved over the millennia (many more than 6, BTW wink) to analyze my emotions and temper them with compassion and reason. At this point in the evolution process, my brain is against capital punishment. Legal systems are not moral mechanisms. On the other hand, if I saw someone attempting to take a chain saw to an infant, I would likely try to kill that person as quickly as possible in order to save the infant.

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Posted: 21 April 2011 08:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Alpheia - 21 April 2011 05:44 AM

What “ethical frame work” do you use to consider your views on capital punishment?
What are the ethical standards you use to decide on difficult issues such as this?


Best,

Alpheia

Ethical framework?  There is no framework with atheism.  Atheism is a lack of belief in god.  That’s it.  Now, an atheist can chose to adopt a philosophy, such as humanism, which many of us here do, but humanism in itself is not a framework for atheism.  One can be Jewish or Xian and adopt humanistic values.

Now, in my own thinking, if the person suspected of murder is sentence to death, IMO, we are no better than that person accused of murder if we kill him/her.  Murder for murder seems, to borrow from Spock, “Most illogical”.  Does this mean I would prefer someone who did commit murder to live among us?  Depends.  Was it self-defence?  If so, then that is a different story than one who has committed murder for social-pathological reasons.  If they have socialpathical tendencies, then they should be locked up for life, IMO, but not killed.  However, one cannot assume that all atheists accept my views on the matter.

What standards do I use for such difficult issues such as this?  I have no clue.  I don’t think there is one.  It is all situational ethics, with things like abortion and euthanasia, as well as which is the better outcome, physically and psychologically, in the long run for the individual.  I cannot put a simple label on my resource, like Xians do.  This would take a book to explain, but I cannot give you a simple answer.

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Posted: 21 April 2011 08:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Alpheia - 21 April 2011 05:44 AM

What “ethical frame work” do you use to consider your views on capital punishment?

For example, the religious use there scripture and “good book” as a frame work/ frame of reference for their ethical reasoning.

What are the ethical standards you use to decide on difficult issues such as this?

As far as I am concerned, I outlined my ethical reasons in my above post. If you want something more specific or different, please elaborate on what you mean by “ethical standard.”

Of course, I realize that you comment isn’t necessarily directed at me. I’m just trying to be clear.

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Posted: 21 April 2011 09:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Hi Everyone,

This is excellent!

You are all thoughtful, independent, inquisitive thinkers! I really appreciate that people are taking the time to answer my research questions. This is exactly what I looking for.

Please let other people know about my study. The more responses the better.

Also, I am looking for more research articles on secular/ atheist views on capital punishment. I need articles from journals and/or from .org and edu sites. Unfortunately I can’t use information from blogs.

Thank you again!

Best,

Alpheia

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Posted: 21 April 2011 09:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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What “ethical frame work” do you use to consider your views on capital punishment?

My ethical framework is that the death penalty is a one way street with no return ticket in the event of a horrible mistake.

I’ll grant that there are people out there where there is zero room for doubt as to their guilt who really need to be dead. Charles Manson and his followers stand as a gruesome example of that.

The problem is in those instances…and there are a lot of them…where emotion displaces reason, lawyering around displaces evidence, and some poor sod ends up doing the hot squat for something s/he didn’t do.

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