Atheists: What's worse? Execution or life without parole?

I've been reading about the home invasion case that occurred in Cheshire, Connecticut on July 23, 2007. This deeply disturbing act of brutal violence is one of the worst criminal outrages in the history of that state.

Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky robbed, raped and murdered Jennifer Hawke-Petit, age 48, Hayley Petit, age 17, and Michaela Petit, age 11 in their home. The husband and father, Doctor William Petit, escaped with severe injuries and will live with the memory of these events for the rest of his life. Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky were caught, found guilty, and are awaiting execution.

Everyone wants these men sentenced to worst punishment imaginable. But is that really execution?

Most religious theists claim the soul survives the death of the body. The courts openly profess the same belief, having issued the death sentences with the words, "May God have mercy on your soul."

But I don't believe in God, souls, or supernatural punishment. I accept the medical science which shows consciousness ends with the destruction of the brain.

Steven Hayes once said, "Death for me will be a welcome relief..."
Joshua Komisarjevsky has said, "I will never find peace within."

The reality of the death penalty in this case seems rather stark. Each of these reprehensible criminals gets a quick, painless exit from a lifetime of punishment in a merciful fulfilment of his own wishes. 

Or do you see it differently? Is death by lethal injection the worst punishment you can imagine? How does execution compare with life without parole in solitary confinement? What is the atheistic perspective?

Tags: court, criminal, death, justice, penalty, prison

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Personally, if I had the choice of being caged for the rest of my life (or even a substantial amount of the rest of my life), I would choose death. But I guess it really depends on what the person thinks.  This has nothing to do with being an atheist. Some xians would much rather die than be tortured or tormented for the rest of their lives.  Some fight to live as long as possible.  There is no "atheist viewpoint" on anything like this.  It really depends on the individual.

As an outsider to the circumstances, my views are rather, I guess you would say "liberal", but realistic. I believe that out judicial system focuses far too much on punishment and not nearly enough on rehabilitation. The problem with focusing on punishment is that it costs far, far, far more than rehabilitation. Just look at all the repeat offenders and it becomes extremely obvious. It is a sad society that is so animalistic, short sighted, and narrow minded that prefers raw punishment over helping people get to the core of their problems and become useful, productive members of society.  On the other hand, when someone proves themselves to be unwilling to accept rehabilitation, what's the point in keeping them in a cell for the rest of their lives? If Hayes would prefer to not live with his decisions, who are we to force him to continue to live? Why are we spending millions of dollars keeping people alive when everyone involved would prefer they die?  I really don't understand the mentality. We all live and we all die.  Why should anyone be denied the right to choose the timing of their own death?

By the way, do you have any idea what "atheism" is? It is simply the disbelief in fairy tales.  There is no "atheistic perspective" when it comes to anything other than the belief in some supernatural nonsense.

I'm not into torture or barbaric practises like capital punishment I prefer to be humane , I'd like to  think we're evoloving from an eye for an eye and choosing whom lives and dies, (isn't that what many religions practise barbaric rituals and punishments for their moral code of what is wrong and right good or evil) , In my humble opinion I have no more right to take ANYONES life than they have to take mine regardless of the crime don't we then become the murderer or offender or as barbaric?

The bottom line for me is simple  we can and we DO and we HAVE got  it wrong when sentencing one to death regardless of how it is done innocent people many have later been proven innocent (after their death) and to me 1 single wrongful accusation and penalty of death will never be worth 1000 so called right ones. I hear the argument but we know for sure he saw it , she witnessed it etc... , that was common even before DNA testing and the like which is also not infallable btw... Eye witness accounts he said she said, witness  motive etc... these are all not infallable therefore capital punishment has no place in my opinion in an 'uncertain and variable and prodominently perceptive ' world...

I think the most humane position is lock em up if you're as sure as you can be  and the law has said you are guilty (after a trial of course) , Okay  they may lose some valuable years but if in fact they are innocent and some have been, like all of us if it were us we'd want the opportunity to prove that innocense .

I agree with Keith Pinster in that I would choose death over life without parole and that such a choice depends on the individual as opposed to one being atheist. Although death is "the end", it's a quicker punishment. I'd rather deal with that then being locked up in a population full of killers, rapists and other violent criminals who are gonna attempt to kick your ass, rape and/or kill you every day for the rest of your life. So I definitely believe life without parole is worse.

I think people who commit violent crimes should have to rot in prison for years and years in solitude.  They should not get to be on TV documentaries about prison either.  No one should even speak to them ever again. 

Without being too judgmental, I have to say that this kind of mentality is what creates a "punishment" system vs a "rehabilitation" system.  It is what creates offenders who actively repeat crimes once released, so they can get back into the "comfort" of their known environment because going into prison at 18 or 20 and spending 30 years there and then being kicked back into society is a shock that most of these people are incapable of dealing with.  Either than or it just reinforces the animalistic side of their nature. 

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the sentiment. Even though it is incredibly inhumane to just throw someone in a hole and forget about them, most people are completely comfortable with this.  They "justify" it by claiming that "they did such and such wrong, so they should be punished." And these people would be right.  But I think it's very telling that our society is more than happy to just throw people in holes and forget about them, all the while feeling self-assured that they are "nice people" because they give homeless people a dollar once a month.

Sorry, I guess I'm just less of a vengeful and self-righteous person than most people in the "civilized" world.

@ Keith Pinster

Me thinks you're starting to scratch the answer to the problem, I've come to think of it as the societal self-delusional condition.

We as a society view the result (the crime) and immediately launch into the punishment, revenge, rehabilitation debate without seriously considering society's role in the cause.

@Gregg   So we are comfortable issuing punishment, but abdicate the responsibility of cause.  Interesting point. 

Add to that, the purpose of punishment is to correct aberrant behaviour.  It seems odd, to "correct" someone until they die.  What is the point of correction in that instance.  If as a society, we are looking for "revenge", then we should be open about it and apply torture.  Cotton-wrapping the "revenge" into a mock correctional system seems to me to be an exercise in self-deceit.

@ Strega,

What is the reason behind violence against others?

Why have we designed and maintained a welfare system that continues propagate itself?

Why does our school system rank so low in the first world?

The cause of violent crime starts a long time before the crime itself.

If we as a society are not willing to be critical of our own systems, our systemic problems will continue to worsen,

c'est la vie

@ Gregg   I am with you all the way on this :)

@Blaine - "To have critical thinking using logic and reason, you must remove god from the system." - Can I get a hallelujah?  :)

People who commit these types of crimes IMO are not redeemable people.  I don't think that about everyone who goes to jail deserves this kind of punishment, even for murder,  this was a senseless brutal triple murder.  Sometimes, for example if someone is trying to kill you first and you end up killing them instead, that would be a redeemable person because they really would not have any intention of ever killing again. 

I hate to point this out to you but you are comparing Murder to Self-defense, two very different things. Not a good analogy at all, sorry.


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