Morality, a Personal View and the Death Penalty

Morality, in a large sense is being able to distinguish between what is the right, or correct, thing to do and what is the wrong, or incorrect, thing to do and then actually acting on the situation.

A moral person chooses the good thing.

An immoral person chooses the bad thing.

And the amoral person does what he, or she, desires without knowing or caring about how the outcome affects others.

Where does Morality come from?

Some morality comes from a person’s (society’s) beliefs as taught by his God or gods. Some comes from our parents. Some from our peers, teachers, political leaders, and the writings and works of those we come in contact with during the course of our lives.

You don’t have to have a belief in God, a god or gods, to have a sense of morality. There are moral agnostics and atheists, as well as immoral people who profess a belief in a deity.

Judaism, Islam, Christianity — Morality?

Followers of all three major monotheistic (belief in one god) religions have engaged in wars, persecutions and massacres which they believe (or believed) were sanctioned by their god. The followers of Moses and Joshua attacked, killed and enslaved those who lived in Canaan because they believed it was their “promised land,” promised them by their god. (No matter someone else was already there.)

Islam sanctions jihad, holy war, against those who are not believers, including other Muslims who are not the “right” kind of Muslims.

Christians engaged in crusades, holy wars, in what we call the Middle East for two centuries (1095 – 1291) in an effort to take control from its Muslim rulers. Deus Vult, God wills it, was the battle cry of the Crusaders and resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews, Muslims and Christians. And there have, of course, been crusades against Christians who have been the wrong kinds of Christians over the centuries.

Today

Some people today may pooh-pooh the idea that we are like those people, but we are. Europeans of the 18th and 19th centuries believed it was their duty to civilize and help their “brown brothers” in Africa and Asia, even though some of their civilizations pre-dated those of Europe by millennia. And us? How about Manifest Destiny? America from the Atlantic to the Pacific — ignoring the peoples who had lived here since the last Ice Age. Of course, we also wanted to help civilize those “brown” peoples in areas we could wrest from them and the Europeans.

Vietnam — More than a million people died during that 30-year war and its aftermath.

Afghanistan, et al (the Forever War) — the total isn’t finished.

One of the major problems with morality is, I believe, that no matter the basic teaching, we twist it to benefit ourselves. For example, assuming I remember correctly, Jesus said: “turn the other cheek.” When someone wrongs us, do we turn the other cheek? Or do we fight back? If it’s a slap, do we ignore it? Or if it’s a plane flying into a building, do we unleash a decades long war?

Is God Moral?

I was raised in the Catholic Church and attended Catholic elementary and high schools. I learned doctrine, catechism, prayers and rituals in two languages — and I can still pull them from my memory — but lost any real faith sometime in the eighth grade. We were learning about Noah and the Flood. I thought: because people don’t bow and pray to him God kills everyone? Parents? Children? Babies?

This is moral? To my mind this is only moral from the standpoint of might makes right. God can do what He wants and, by definition, it is moral.

A plane crashes and three people survive. It’s a miracle! Thank God! And God purposely killed 173 other people? Run this by any disaster, accident, or “Act of God” you desire.

God works in mysterious ways. Bull—t! Rationalization. Use your brain (God-given though it may be).

Heaven — Hell

You live a decent life. You don’t kill or steal. You love your spouse and children and raise them to the best of your ability. Your life does no harm to anyone, but by the same token you’ve never gone out of your way to help anyone. Should you go to Heaven — forever?

Should a murderer go to Hell — forever? How about BTK, Genghis Khan, Hitler, Mao?

When the concepts of Heaven, Hell and forever originated, people counted on their finger and toes. Some of them knew of numbers in the hundreds and thousands and, some, understood the concept of much larger numbers. Forever was a limited concept.

Today, however, that has changed. The human concept of numbers has changed — radically.

I live in a city of some 200,000, a country of 330,000,000+, a world 7,000,000,000+. We have a national debt of $22,000,000,000,000.

A Googol is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

A googolplex is the number 10googol, or equivalently, 10(10100). Written out in ordinary decimal notation, it is 1 followed by 10100 zeroes, that is, a 1 followed by a googol zeroes.

These numbers represent only an infinitesimal fraction of an infinite forever.

Should a person, no matter the crime, be punished with infinite pain for this amount of time, again, and again, and again — ad infinitum? Is this what your church/religion teaches? What kind of being (God) would do this? What is the nature of this being?

I cannot answer that, but it is not the God/god I believe in.

The Death Penalty

Which brings me to the death penalty. For millennia, and maybe longer, people have executed those who have transgressed against their laws, civil, religious and otherwise. Steal a loaf of bread — hang him. Treason — shoot him. Decapitation, drowning, burning, crucifixion, draw-and-quarter. The list goes on and on. What does this say about us?

I used to believe that a person who murdered another deserved the death penalty; he or she had forfeited their right to life by unjustly taking the life of another. Why waste money keeping that person alive in a cell when the money could be better spent on housing, schooling and medical care?

I no longer believe this, but it has nothing to do with the murderer’s right to life. It is both the moral and practical thing to do.

If “God” does torture and punish a person for an infinite time, I want to keep that person out of God’s hands for as along as I can.

If otherwise? Well, I’d like to see us change. Let us distance ourselves from the beliefs of our ancestors. Let us not practice state-sanctioned murder of other human beings — even if we can justify it. Let us not seek justice or vengeance by engaging in a never-ending series of wars which kills tens of thousands as collateral damage.

Let us write a new moral code of which we can point to and say, “This is us; this is me.”

Perhaps, then, if we really appear before St. Peter and God, we can proudly say: “Sir, I’ve done my best.”


I wrote this after a week of considering California Governor Newsom’s, at least temporarily, ending of the death penalty in the state.


Trump must be impeached! — Carthago delanda est!

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