Essay about A Non-Pacifist Argument Against Capital Punishment

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A Non-Pacifist Argument Against Capital Punishment ABSTRACT: In this paper I present a moral argument against capital punishment that does not depend upon the claim that all killing is immoral. The argument is directed primarily against non-philosophers in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Oddly, the moral argument against capital punishment has not been effective in the United States despite the biblical injunction against killing. Religious supporters of the death penalty often invoke a presumed distinction between ‘killing’ and ‘murdering’ and avow that God forbade the latter but not the former. Self-defense and just wars are cited as cases of morally justified killing. Accepting these premises, I point out that when cases of…show more content…
One is that Hume was right in his suggestion that one of the chief roots of morality is our sympathy for our fellows, and the murderer is about as unsympathetic a character as anyone in society. By his awful act he (and most murderers are male) causes our sympathy to shift from the inhuman killer to the pathetic victim. We no longer feel for the murderer the bonds of sympathetic concern that underlie much of moral protection. But the other reason is the one that I am most interested in – it is that the moral teaching of our dominant Judeo-Christian religious community has been that capital punishment is not murder. Those of us who were raised in the Judeo-Christian morally tradition that is significantly based on the Ten Commandments often were initially perplexed to see that our respected elders permitted or even engaged in various kinds of killing despite the clear Biblical injunction "Thou shalt not kill." If we ventured to ask about this, we generally were told something like "The Hebrew word translated as ‘kill’ in the King James Version of the Bible really meant something more like ‘murder’; hence God did not forbid all kinds of killing, only murderous killing. It is alright to kill in self-defense or in a just war, for example." I do not know if this is good theology, or even if it is
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