Historical Development of Capital Punishment and Religion Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1863 Words
Date:  2022-06-27

Capital punishment is one of the legal punishments presently applied in most countries, including the United States. Although not all states in the U.S. have codified the punishment, a total of 33 states have domesticated the punishment for the high-end felonies. Also, the military is the other group that uses capital punishment to punish those who go against the provides codes and ethics. The adoption of capital punishment is traced back to the time when American colonies were being formed.

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The beginning of the American colonies. In the year 1967, the supreme court removed capital punishment following the decision in Furman v. Georgia (Cohen, 2017). The respective death sentences were, hence, reduced to life imprisonment. The legitimacy of the death penalty was later upheld in 1976 as ruled in the case of Gregg v. Georgia. About 8,000 death penalty writs have been issued, and most states have quickly enforced them.

To bring an end to most injustices met on innocent people, the ancient inhabitants of America and explorers to the new land coined death penalty to be met on persons who would be found guilty of crimes against humanity, rape, and aggravated assault, and robbery with violence. The explorers observed the likelihood of the United States society's readiness to administer capital punishment (Cohen, 2017). The United States had a knack for cleanliness, social justice, and cultural democracy. Their political decisions stemmed, not out of religious underpinning, but from empirical reasoning. The Europeans also found surprising that their hosts were welcoming and open during a time when most societies were rebelling against visitors.

English sources observe that the political landscape of The United States during the classical period was aristocratic. This meant that people did not have a voice in deciding who their leaders would be (Cohen, 2017). Despite their leadership not being hereditary, the class structure in the society locked out specific communities in the United States from holding the top leadership. In their observations, the United States had four clusters of people who ranged from the nobles, the priests, then trades, and the peasants, who were the lowest in their caste system. Although they did not treat peasants with disgrace, being in the smaller cast had its side effects, such as attracting more severe punishments in case of committing a crime. Therefore, the political organization of The United States during the classical period was different from that of the British who had started building upon the notion of democracy. In most cases, offenses that prompted capital penalties were committed by the poor and those without much authority. The ruling class, hence, was not reluctant to inculcate a punishment that would deter destitutes from committing crimes. Therefore, the applicability of the punishment was pegged on societal beliefs and positioning.

Literature also observes that ancient people of the United States Island were perfectionists who had a culture of cleanliness (Ward, 2015). They framed their laws in a way that punishment by death became commonplace. The cultural foundation of The United States was founded upon retributive and deterrent justice. That is why they could efficiently deliver harsh judgments against offenders to serve as a lesson to potential criminals. Their autocratic nature also gave their top leadership more powers that were almost arbitrary. They, The United States, meted harsh punishments on criminals to maintain their cultural aspects of being perfectionists. As it stands, capital punishment was seen as the most effective punishment for felonies and crimes that were dangerous to people's lives.

The United States' justice system and political decisions were based on sound reasoning and empirical evidence. In this aspect, the British lauded the ancient occupants of The United States for their thirst for the truth through research and prosecution of offenses. The solution for killing a person or group of individuals was highly supported. Therefore, although the United States had brutal punishments for their offenders, such cases would have proven beyond reasonable doubt as to the guilt mind of the criminal. They ensured that unlike other societies at that time who made laws from supernatural guidance, the United States had their statutes drafted out of rational minds and the social contract (Ward, 2015). Consequently, with the society that has a robust framework of law and order, Americans could construct beautiful cities and equip their great army in ways that other classical societies could not. Moreover, their openness to strangers enabled them to learn new arts faster, which helped them to improve their economy and military.

Suffice it to say, dating back to the prehistoric times, the United States justice system was based on empirical reasoning. Their punishments ranged from small retribution to capital punishments, which the emperor readily issued. The United States espoused cultural democracy. Their people were open and welcomed to strangers. The caste system placed the nobles and priests on the top echelons of the social class, while trades and peasants remained in the lower ones. They formed their laws not from a supernatural power but cogent human reasoning in their prevailing circumstances. Although the law on capital punishment received mixed reactions from religious adherents, its application was not affected

Developments in capital punishment are also informed by definition of crimes. As time went by, that is, at the wake of the eighteenth century, the investigators shifted to a more involving process of detecting how and when the crime was committed. In the process, this made it possible for those who had not taken part in the crime to be left out. In this regard, the prosecution was now expected to confirm that the accused persons engaged in a manner properly suggesting that they had interest in committing a crime. Should this new legal principle had been applied in 1741, it is justifiable to note that the black slaves would not have been killed without the full prove of their conspiracy(Ward, 2015). This is the one notation proving that the eighteenth century was characterized by notable changes in the law of conspiracy as opposed to the rather vague legal framework as felt in the preceding years. Developments in the law of conspiracy, especially when related to a felonious crime characterized a major growth and advancement in the death penalty.

From the ancient American society, life was sacred, and it was immoral for it to be taken away, apart from the natural causes. As such, the death penalty was never applied. Initially, the principles of natural law influenced the decisions made by the traditional forms of authority. The making of law derives its power from the people through the application of the social contract theory. Consequently, the law and religion govern the duality of reality and morality. Due to the geographical and cultural differences, people subscribe to different beliefs and legal methods. Despite the disparity, both concepts aim to control all the facets of human life. As a result, law and religion are in constant competition for jurisdiction and authority. However, the role of either is denied by a section of the community based on personal or theoretical foundations. With time, religious beliefs of persevering life have been dimed by legal sanctions and provisions providing for the invocation of the death penalty.

The relationship between the law and religion is influenced by the different views on morality. In early times, there was little distinction between morality and the law. However, with the development of human civilization, the legal expectations outweighed religious teachings. For instance, people are compelled to follow the law. Some notable circumstances exist where judges and magistrate sentence criminals to death yet such moves are not a reflection of the personal convictions of the legal experts. On the other hand, the legislated statutes fail to respect religion but happen to be binding. In most instances, criminal acts are considered to be legally and morally wrong. Religious books and practices outline the conduct to be adhered to by their members. However, they lack the legal means to enforce a variety of punitive actions. On the other hand, the law through police officers and courts can effectively regulate human conduct that is prescribed by the statutes and the Constitution (McCartney, 2017). In such a case, the application of death as a penalty is suitable. People fear death, and they would do anything possible to ensure that they are not killed.

The interplay amid law and religion is elemental in the invocation of the death penalty. The conception of what constitutes a crime is important in the development of the law and religion. In all civilizations, the law developed from the deity and religious beliefs of the people. For instance, the natural-law theory indicates that nature endows the rights enjoyed by human beings (Ward, 2015). Consequently, most of the outlawed criminal activities are based on religious teachings including murder and theft. However, with time, the positive law developed; and it failed to consider the impact of morality on the law. Despite these differences, both the law and religion seek to protect the primary values of life. The conduct of most people was against the religious beliefs of the law of the land. Murder is prohibited in Christianity as well as the country's criminal codes. Nevertheless, the church or its leadership lacks the mechanism to demand neither compliance nor the means to punish the wrongdoers.

In addition, the enforcement of laws is a significant aspect discussed in crime and punishment topology. The people believed due to the inherent virtue of being evil, the formation of a political government will protect them. The surrender of some rights to the ruler enabled them to enjoy the protection and performance of the remaining freedoms. This serves as a grounding reason for apprehending criminals and charging them for murder. Moreover, due to the increase in competition, people were more likely to turn violent and deprive others of the properties and life (Brugger, 2014). Consequently, the adoption of political power led to the establishment of early civilizations. In the present case, the exercise of the power is limited to the government.

While the components of religion and laws are to a great extent similar, the conceptualization of punishment is significantly different. The operational method of the law requires the law enforcement officers to collect enough evidence to convict a person, especially in a case that is likely to culminate in the death penalty. The availability of evidence determines whether a crime can be prosecuted. Further, due to the mental anguish that engulfed Raskolnikov, he offered to confess for his actions. Consequently, the judges convicted him to jail to serve time. Should they have stuck to the laws that guide the crimes, he would have been set to a death penalty.


Religion is opposed to the death penalty in the wake of protecting the right to life. However, religion lacks punitive criminal punishments. In many religious, followers are absolved of all their indiscretions if they appeal to the deity. For example, Christians believe in confessions and prayers to deal with the liability arising from their actions (Brugger, 2014). Hence, the novel applies the law to enforce acceptable behavior. Despite the differences in the application of the law and religion, the fundamental underlying principle is justice. However, the concept is abstract like the foundations it is based on. Many communities have different measures of...

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Historical Development of Capital Punishment and Religion Essay. (2022, Jun 27). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/historical-development-of-capital-punishment-and-religion-essay

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