Retribution and religion- 1 of the interesting purposes of punishment!

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Retribution. One of the purposes of punishment, and religious responses to them.

What is Retribution? (KU)

– theory of justice that holds that the best response to a crime is a punishment proportional to the offense, inflicted because the offender deserves the punishment.
– Means revenge but can be looked at as getting back at someone related to the victim.
– Making the criminal pay for the crime that have committed.

– Victim is getting justice/ revenge.
– Meant to restore balance or justice to society.
– Making the criminal right their wrong by taking responsibility/accountability
– Retribution focuses on the proportional aspects of Punishment which serves as a deterrent to potential offenders. Death penalty could be used as an example.

Moral Issues Raised by Retribution (KU)
– should we allow the victims/ their families to have this?  If it can’t bring back their loved ones then it is just increasing the suffering of the family of the offender, how is that fair
on them? 

– However less than retribution can feel like you are valuing the offender more than the victim. 
– By taking revenge are we not just becoming as bad?  Two wrongs don’t make a right(duty to tackle crime not mimic it)

– Continuing the cycle of crime in society (human rights – safe environment)
– Makes you just as bad as them. (duty to tackle crime not mimic it)
-duty to promote a more just and fair society and in promoting revenge we’re not doing this as we’re more concerned about punishing the criminal that perhaps tackling the route of the problem E.g. perhaps poverty has led them to crime.

Generic Christian Responses to crime (KU)
New Testament.
– Jesus taught forgiveness and compassion so everyone deserves a chance to change
– We are all God’s children so we are all equal in the eyes of God.
– Everyone is the same
– “Only God can judge” criminals will receive punishment in hell
– Jesus taught his followers to forgive and “turn the other cheek”.
– There are examples of this in the Bible when Jesus forgave the criminals on the cross beside him

– Jesus taught in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25: 36) that people who help those in need will go to Heaven. This is because Jesus identifies himself with the outcasts, including prisoners. Those who treat the outcasts well will have eternal life, which means they will go to Heaven.

-Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do
not notice the log that is in your own eye?’ Matthew 7:3
-“Give to the one who begs from you and don’t refuse the one who borrows from you” (Matthew 5:42)

Old testament:

– “An eye for an eye” whatever is done to you should be able to be done back.
– Examples of God seeking revenge in the story of Moses (carrying out CP to the first-born Egyptian son)

Generic Buddhist Responses to Crime (KU)

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– Buddhists are also taught to show compassion and forgiveness to others, and they will aim to demonstrate loving-kindness to all human beings, including those who have committed a crime.
– Buddhists believe we should not have actions fuelled by the 3RPs
– Buddhists follow the five precepts which are a set of ethics that Buddhists should follow for example ‘I abstain from harming any living thing’ and ‘I abstain from taking what is not freely given’

– Buddhists also believe that any actions they have should be Skilful ones and they should avoid any unskilful actions as the Kamma that any actions generate will affect their rebirth and
their ability to reach Nibbana.

Generic Non-Religious Responses to crime (KU)
– consequentialist ethical system which means they are concerned with the consequences of an action
– Their aim is to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number (majority)
– Something is morally correct if it satisfies majority
– aim to minimise the pain or suffering and maximise happiness

– J.S Mill revenge is bad as it causes a revengeful society so rehabilitation is better as he argued if you take someone’s life it was acceptable to “blot him out of the fellowship of mankind” he
felt prison more inhumane than CP
– Bentham also better to aim for reformation as revenge is one
evil adding to another

Impact of Retribution on Society (A)

When offenders are punished in a manner that is perceived as fair and proportional, it can enhance public trust and confidence in the justice system. This, in turn, fosters a sense of security and stability within society.

Offenders may experience feelings of shame, guilt, and resentment, while victims may struggle with trauma and unresolved anger. These emotional burdens can have long-lasting repercussions on individuals’ mental health and well-being.

In some cases, the pursuit of retribution may result in
miscarriages of justice, where innocent individuals are wrongfully accused, convicted, and punished for crimes they did not commit. This can erode public trust in the legal system and undermine the principles of fairness and due process.

Impact of Retribution on Christians (A)
Maybe it needed to be harsh because society was not as civilised as it is now, and the idea was that if you knew the same would happen to you, then you wouldn’t do anything wrong in the first place.

some Christian communities advocate for restorative justice principles, which prioritize healing and reconciliation over punishment and retribution. Restorative justice seeks to address the needs of both victims and offenders, promote accountability, and restore broken relationships within the community.

While retribution may be seen as a form of justice for some Christians, others may prioritize
forgiveness and reconciliation as central tenets of their faith. The balance between justice
and forgiveness can vary among different Christian denominations and theological

Some Christians critique its emphasis on punishment and retaliation. They argue that
retribution can perpetuate cycles of violence, overlook systemic injustices, and hinder
opportunities for reconciliation and restoration.

Acknowledging one’s sins, seeking forgiveness, and making amends are integral aspects of
Christian faith and practice. This personal dimension of retribution focuses on inner
transformation and reconciliation with God and others.

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