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May 6, 2010

"People who commit crimes do so because of disorderly souls"

The title of this post is one line from this lengthy commentary by Eric Simpson, an associate editor of In Communion: The Journal of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, that appears at The Huffington Post.  The piece's is titled "I Changed My Mind on the Death Penalty," and the author explains why, when he became an "Orthodox Christian, [his] views began to change rather swiftly over a period of years [as he] began to meditate on the meaning of divine Love, ... [and] as a response to [his] understanding of who God is, what Christ accomplished, and what the Traditions of the Church teach." Here is how the piece concludes:

It may seem radical to say, therefore, that the murderer is to be pitied rather than hated because he has made his soul a hellish place, whether it is felt by him on an immediate level or not.  The cocksure smirks of the denizens of hell would be plastered across the psychopath's face whether we put him to death or not.  It is a demonic sign, and where there are demons -- even if the demons are merely psychological afflictions -- there is torment. I see criminal smirks and empty bravado, even totally lack of affectation or regret, as signs of torment, and they do not bother me.  For me to react in a similar fashion -- with violence and hatred -- by putting him to death does nothing more than carry me closer to his level of hell, whether it is sanctioned by the state or not.  It does not satisfy my own sense of grief and loss.

Where the murderer lacks decency and compassion, we should show him what true decency and compassion is, otherwise we become just like him.  Where the murderer has no value for life, responsible state policy should rather affirm life, rather than confirm the murderer's impulse to end it. Otherwise, we are doing nothing more than making a mockery of the principle of justice as exemplified by Christ himself.

In addition to making for an interesting read, this piece reinforces my own sense that many persons' with strong perspectives on the death penalty often have their views grounded in faith rather than in reason or science.

Some older posts on religion and the death penalty:

May 6, 2010 at 07:22 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Or perhaps such perspectives are grounded in faith AND reason!

I'm curious as to what you mean by reference to basing one's strong perspective on the death penalty on "science."

Thanks,
Patrick

Posted by: Patrick S. O'Donnell | May 6, 2010 7:29:37 PM

The deceased have a low recidivism rate. Science can prove that.

The criminal is tormented only by getting caught, and loves his predatory lifestyle until then. He is having a total blast from age 12, living the full time Roman Orgy lifestyle.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 6, 2010 10:38:55 PM

The divide between church and state is looking better all the time.

Posted by: Bill Otis | May 6, 2010 10:54:48 PM

I don't understand why the author thinks an ordered soul is better than a disordered soul. I thought that Bill's comment in another post was especially interesting in this regard. He says that a certain amount of "idiosyncrasy" is to be expected in a system where there is trial by jury. But isn't that just another word for disorder? What is the difference between "diversity" and "disorder" anyway.

I think there is a strong case to be made that what the world needs is more disorderly souls, not less.


Posted by: Daniel | May 6, 2010 11:10:37 PM

If I may be allowed to comment on my own piece: the concluding quasi-poetic flourish may be unfortunate, since I did not intend anything necessarily metaphysical by the term "disorderly souls" (and probably should have written "disordered souls"), the word "souls" referent to the self, and "disorder" along the lines, very generally speaking, of the way the term is used in psychiatric literature. I would agree that my conviction is rooted in faith, but I do not think that it would preclude either reason, or even in terms of the practice and discipline of modern psychology, science.

Thanks!

Eric Simpson

Posted by: Eric Simpson | May 7, 2010 3:13:57 AM

Eric: Don't feel bad. There is worse than your own immature, self-centered thinking. You get a new feeling, so everything must change, including the desires of 86% of the people, including 100% of murderers who believe in the death penalty for their victims. See the effed up, crazed utterances of Justice Stevens, a member of the hierarchy of the criminal cult enterprise that is the lawyer profession.


This cult is the biggest criminal syndicate in world history. It has infiltrated and taken over the US government, now making 99% of its policy decisions. Most of the decisions are wrongheaded, unless lawyer rent seeking is the sole aim of government.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 7, 2010 7:02:20 AM

Thanks for chiming in, Eric, and know that I do NOT think faith and reason/science are mutually exclusive. My point was only to suggest that the faith-based foundation for your DP views are likely reflected in many of those with strong fellings about the death penalty (both pro and con).

In response to Patrick, in light of the competing evidence about deterrence and other means of incapacitation, I am not sure it is easy or even possible to strong perspective on the death penalty based in "reason/science." (In contrast, I do think it is possible to have a strong view on, say, GPS tracking or stem-cell research based in "reason/science" showing that these technologies produc clear benefits or harms). Indeed, my own agnostic view on the death penalty --- and my eagerness to defer to democratic institutional choices in this arena --- is largely due to my own inability to reason to a clear/strong perspective on this punishment based on existing science.

Posted by: Doug B. | May 7, 2010 10:32:13 AM

1) The death penalty is not a punishment. A punishment is a consequence that reduces the likelihood of a behavior by making the animal uncomfortable, like a spanking. Death ends the animal. As such, it is incapacitation and expulsion from this world.

2) Deterrence is lawful only of the defendant, who will be gone. If you wish to deter others, punish them. You cannot condemn a person and take their life to have some speculative effect on another person. Deterrence is outrageously unfair and unlawful, as if the defendant were a whipping boy. The Prince has been bad, we will spank his whipping boy. [The concept of a whipping boy? Comes from the lawyer. Henry of Bratton, made up Divine Right of the King, a psychotic idea that the sovereign speaks with the voice of God. Henry wrote the Notebook that enumerated all the fundamental, core doctrines of today. He served Longshanks from the movie Braveheart. Today's lawyer practices the law of a psycho, anti-semite, anti-Irish, anti-Welsh, anti-Scot, anti-gay, genocidal maniac, and worst of all, a Frenchman. Edward invented the rule making Jews wear yellow Stars of David whenever walking outside. Edward I's portrait hangs in the House of Representative hall of great lawmakers. It is really offensive to anyone from the listed victim groups.] Deterrence is unconstitutional. It should be dropped as an argument.

3) Eric should spend 10 minutes with a murderer. The only disorder in any soul comes from being caught. Prior to that, their souls were quite orderly and happy. Many will do well in the structure of prison. However, we cannot have legally immune, immoral, heartless people mixing with every body. Life without parole immunizes all crimes after the first murder. These murderers kill far more innocent people while in prison, including other prisoners, than the death penalty of several years. Eric, save a murderer, kill 8 people in prison. Eric doesn't care, because he wants what he wants.

4) If Eric wants to, he can find pure evil. He should pray the wrath of God strikes these horrible people with painful afflictions for what they have done to us. They are the ones, blithely with totally ordered souls, signing the death warrants of millions of viable babies. Not a word from the left wing ideologue about that death penalty. The lawyer hierarchy must be made to suffer, and then executed as too dangerous to the nation to live.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | May 8, 2010 9:01:36 AM

This cult is the biggest criminal syndicate in world history. It has infiltrated and taken over the US government, now making 99% of its policy decisions. Most of the decisions are wrongheaded, unless lawyer rent seeking is the sole aim of government.
I think so.

Posted by: guild wars 2 gold | Aug 27, 2010 2:17:51 AM

This cult is the biggest criminal syndicate in world history. It has infiltrated and taken over the US government, now making 99% of its policy decisions. Most of the decisions are wrongheaded, unless lawyer rent seeking is the sole aim of government.
I think so.

Posted by: guild wars 2 gold | Aug 27, 2010 2:17:51 AM

This cult is the biggest criminal syndicate in world history. It has infiltrated and taken over the US government, now making 99% of its policy decisions. Most of the decisions are wrongheaded, unless lawyer rent seeking is the sole aim of government.
I think so.

Posted by: guild wars 2 gold | Aug 27, 2010 2:17:51 AM

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