CompareChristianity and Buddhism on the topic of capital punishment
CompareChristianity and Buddhism on the topic of capital punishment
Thecapital punishment issue has provoked endless questions and opinionsregarding its moral principle and pragmatism, among variousreligions. In antiquity, the death penalty was used as a method topunish individuals who had committed heinous crimes in the societysuch as treason and murder. The capital punishment sentence continuedin the 20th century where the United States federal governmentemployed death penalty on crimes such as terrorism, murder,espionage, and treason, among others. However, the advent of newtechnology, since 1973, has led to the release of hundreds of inmatesfacing the death penalty, after the recovery of new evidence thatproved their innocence. Many religious groups have questioned theeffectiveness of capital punishment as a deterrent to criminalactivities. Opponents of capital punishment suggest that it is biasedagainst races and minority groups and erodes the moral authority ofthe criminal and justice systems. On the other hand, proponents ofdeath penalty assert that it is all about justice and back theirclaims by citing the scriptures. This essay seeks to establish theperspectives of Christianity and Buddhism based on the capitalpunishment subject.
Christiansbelieve in the ways and teachings of Jesus Christ, as laid down inthe Holy Bible, Old and New Testament. Moreover, Jesus Christ isbelieved to be an incarnation of God, and thus He taught people howto live a moral life and as God wished. Jesus Christ did not lay downa rigid laws and guidelines about punishment nevertheless, theteachings on the right and wrong can be learned from the Holy Biblethrough His day to day encounters. The teachings of Jesus Christ arefounded on a spiritual conduct and enshrined in the laws of Jewishcrime and punishment. Christianity emphasizes on the ideology offorgiveness for those who offend others and our enemies. However,there are some instances, in the Holy Bible, when this notion iscontravened like when Jesus Christ intervenes the stoning of theadulterous woman by stipulating that, “ those who were not guiltyof any sin should administer the punishment” (Worden, 2013).
TheNew Testament emphasizes more on repentance and prohibition to killhas been mentioned in various chapters. Jesus Christ taught peoplethat they were God’s creation and made by His image. As ‘a childof God,` an individual cannot cease to be His creation and no sinhowever dreadful, can guarantee a person to take away the life of theother. According to (Worden, 2013), “only God gives life and onlyHe should have the power to take it away.” One of the Christians’Ten Commandments states that “though shall not kill.” Thisapplies to all individuals, societies, and governments.
Furthermore,the strongest Christian argument concerning the death penalty fallsunder the ideology of redemption. According to the Bible teachings,everyone has the right and freedom to choose to follow God’s way orstray from it. Nevertheless, who ignore and stray away from His pathare sinners. Jesus Christ emphasizes on the aspect of repentance,where sinners ought to beg for forgiveness, change their evilbehaviors and make amends with those sinned against and the societyin general. After individuals have made repentance, fresh beginningsin life are thus made. Therefore, the death penalty does not providethe offender or sinner a chance to repent and start a fresh life, aspromised by Jesus Christ. According to [ CITATION Hod16 l 1033 ],“JesusChrist came to earth and died for the sins of humans, thus givingredemption”. As a result, the Christians ardently believe in theideology of rehabilitation and redemption.
Onthe other hand, some Christians argue that the right to employcapital punishment lies in the hands of civil magistrates. Researchstudies indicate that mush of the history, Christian churchesadvocated for the death penalty punishment. The argument was that Godhas, thus, delegated His mandate to punish evil doers to the peopleon the earth, the magistrates. Christians had the power to act asprinces of judges, and thus administer judgment and declare sentencesupon evil doers. The issue of capital punishment is consistent withthe Old Testament teachings, asserting that God initiated the deathpenalty punishment[ CITATION Sim07 l 1033 ].The Holy Bible in the Old Testament, God’s word declares thirty-sixcapital offenses including idolatry, blasphemy, magic, and murderamong others.
Buddhismexists in numerous forms, and thus no specific policy that has beenset for capital punishment. According to Buddhism doctrine, a deathpenalty is an obvious unpredictable with the Buddhists teachings.According to (Worden, 2013), Buddhists have a great respect for lifeand reiterate on the importance of peace and compassion for lifethrough their religious practices. For instance, “the first preceptprovides that individuals abstain from killing or injuring any livingcreature”[ CITATION Sim07 l 1033 ].The Buddha teachings do not clearlyelucidate on capital punishment however, they show no mercy forphysical punishment irrespective of the intensity of the crime.According to Buddha, “an action, even if it brings benefit tooneself, cannot be considered a good action if it causes physical andmental pain to another being” (Hodgkinson, 2016). According to thebeliefs of Buddhism, “the cycle of birth and re-birth is ofsignificance and Buddha teachings stipulate that capital punishmentalways has an adverse impact on the souls of both the punisher andthe offender”[ CITATION Sim07 l 1033 ].Therefore, by living a holy and morally upright human life one canavoid being reborn into a life of suffering and enter “Nirvana”state where all suffering is terminated.
Buddhismhas very strong beliefs and ideologies pertaining punishment ofoffenders in the society. For instance, the best punishment measuresthat the society can employ on an offender are reformatory ratherthan retributive. In this regards, the community solves the criminalacts in a humane manner. Additionally, punishment is made to theextent that the offender makes amends and learns a lesson beforebeing released back to the community[ CITATION Hod16 l 1033 ].As such, rehabilitation takes precedence before other aspects ofpunishment. Punishment of offenders through death penalty or anyother cruel physical discipline has a psychological impact not onlyto the offender, but also the punisher. It is also far-fetched toadminister strict punishment to an offender with compassion andcomposure. Finally, an individual who has committed a heinous crimecan be banished from the community without having being subjected tothe death penalty.
Accordingto the Buddha teachings, the connection between one life and thesubsequent is “karma” which is described as the consequence of anindividual’s deeds on the earth[ CITATION Sim07 l 1033 ].Karma is the only determinant of whether an individual’s next lifewill be nearer or further to achieving the “Nirvana” state ofenlightenment[ CITATION Sim07 l 1033 ].As a result, good deeds have positive rewards as they bringindividuals close to enlightenment. On the other hand, bad deeds andthoughts have their respective punishment thus karma is unavoidable.On the contrary, countries with a substantial population of Buddhist,such as Thailand,have retained the capital punishment. Research studies indicate thatthe above apparent paradox emanates from the fact that there is thepopular and monastic Buddhism. Most Buddhist followers do notcompletely commit to the Buddha teachings. Other reasons why Buddhistnations still employ death penalty are because of the belief thatkeeping peace and calm in the society is far much more crucial as toBuddha teachings. Additionally, most politicians consider capitalpunishment deterrence to crime and a tradition to the community.
Thetopic about death penalty has faced numerous controversies amongindividuals, religious groups, and governments. Numerous researchstudies have supported the proponents and opponents side of viewthrough the teachings of Jesus Christ and Buddha. Christians have aknown history of practicing capital punishment upon offenders andsinners who committed heinous crimes such as murder, idolatry, andblasphemy. However, the New Testament has gone contrary to the OldTestament by advocating for repentance and forgiveness. On the otherhand, Buddha teachings emphasize the value of life asserting thatpeople ought to live holy lives to ensure enlightenment in the nextlife. Buddhism believes that karma, bad or good, is the way to punishoffenders in the society. Despite some controversies in the capitalpunishment method between Christianity and Buddhism, both religionsprohibit taking away the life of a human being.
Hodgkinson, P. (2016). Capital Punishment: New Perspectives. New York: Routledge.
Simon, R. J., & Blaskovich, D. A. (2007). A comparative analysis of capital punishment: statutes, policies, frequencies, and public attitudes the world over. London: Lexington Books.
Worden, D. (2013). Truth, Spirituality and Contemporary Issues. Oxford: Heinemann.