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Poll: Do You Support The Death Penalty?

In this week's JOURNAL, author Thomas Cahill says:

"The crime is secondary. Crime is secondary. There are no millionaires on death row nor will there ever be. Almost everyone on death row is poor. And do you really think that no millionaire ever committed a capital crime? I'm saying that there are certain people that we are willing to offer up, and not others, and they're the people who have no power. We're not killing Dominique Green because he committed murder. We're killing Dominique Green because we want to kill somebody."

But others -- in line with 69% of Americans, according to a Gallup Poll last month -- argue that the death penalty is necessary for the health of society. In an op/ed in the LOS ANGELES TIMES, Ventura County's former District Attorney, Michael D. Bradbury, wrote:

"In our understandable desire to be fair and to protect the rights of offenders in our criminal justice system, let us never ignore or minimize the rights of their victims. The death penalty is a necessary tool that reaffirms the sanctity of human life while assuring that convicted killers will never again prey upon others."

Photo: Robin Holland


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The death penalty serves one purpose- sanctioned revenge. I hear so many who say "If your child was murdered, wouldn't you want that murderer to die"? I imagine that I would feel that way, and maybe even want to kill that person myself. In a situation where I witness a murder, I may even act out of rage myself against the perpetrator- I don’t know. But we live in a supposedly civilized society. To me, this means that as members of that civil society, it is part of our duty to keep each other from committing atrocities out of vengeance, or in the heat of emotion- because when we are at a more rational state, we realize we would regret such acts. The motive of revenge for murder is no more pure than rage, mental sickness, or passion.
I have read many death penalty cases. I have seen some where the family of the victim even questions whether they got the right guy. I have seen others, where, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, the family, in their grief, sticks to the fact that someone has to pay for the death of their loved one. Also, it baffles me in some of those cases that the victim’s families, faced with evidence that they maybe did not get the “right guy” aren’t hitting the streets and raising their voices in outrage trying to get the real killer!
The fact that taking a life is wrong PERIOD should be enough, but the fact that that there are too many cases where guilt is in doubt or even proven wrong should be cause enough to end this practice.
It is proven NOT to be a deterrent, and in some cases, especially where gangs are concerned, it is actually viewed as a type of martyrdom, inspiring others that murder can be righteous, if done by certain people (and why not others?)
Killing is NEVER the RIGHT thing to do. It may be the easiest, feel the best, or be the cheapest, but that does not make it right.

I was very surprised to see how many people are against the death penalty. I am against it, but for some reason thought I was in the minority.

It's interesting to see the poll of how many people oppose the death penalty or agree with it. most people oppose to the penalty and thats something i wouldn't have thought. its good though1

I reserve the death penalty for them that purposly kill. BUT as of the presentI cannot support the death penalty with the massive amount of bias in our court systems.

Along with war that has been essentially endless during my life, the death penalty, a practice we share with only a few countries ( many of which we consider barbaric,) hangs over my awareness of each and every moment of my awareness due to my citizenship in this country.

Remember the book "Advise and Consent"? That information was the first crack in my unquestioning view of the U.S. as a "Super
Big Brother" to the world, capable of righting all wrongs because democracy gave us superior knowledge of what is right.

The assassination of JFK, as well as sad and immobilizing grief, shocked me at a fundamental level; how vulnerable even presidents are, how ineffective all the powers were to protect his life. Our gov't was not omnipotent, as taught.
Then MLK and RFK and I pulled over to the curb and internally gave up; gave up understanding, fighting, changing this miasma of interlocking killers, from the death penalty to warring, invading, occupying other countries for reasons never honestly stated, planned in secret and pelting the public with propoganda.

Is this history as it is continuously re- written just built in to the nature of humanity? To men whose world it undeniably is? This repetitive cycle of misery and death always due to the machinations of the wealthy and their force, manipulation of religion etc, racial intolerance foisted on the masses, convincing them to fight and die for ____? Over thousands of years, unchanging?

Horrific in its ignorant repetition.
At this point, all I feel I can do is to show generosity to those around me; with my time, attention, funds, possessions etc. I stand with and profoundly resonate to Michelle Obama's spontaneous and innocent remark that offended all who deny our country's perspective and behavior on the planet: moments in which I take pride in my country are few and fleeting indeed.

Controlled by greedy, bloodthirsty hypocrites, one can feel pride only by maintaining a state of profound denial.

There cannot be a system to put just one person to death; it must be designed to operate in an ongoing manner. There will have to be continual purchases of expensive equipment, maintenance, testing and repair of all that. Personnel will have to be hired and trained, budgets will require additional funds, and that funding will need to increase from year to year. Performance standards and program measures will be developed and implemented; position descriptions will be build around that, resumes will be solicited and received and evaluated. People will apply for jobs to kill. There will grow a “need” to kill prisoners, and justifications for death will assume an importance that will bureaucratically compete at some level with the “need” for justice.

When I voted on the issue at hand, I was rewarded with a graph depicting an opposite trend in the audience of this site, from the trend described just above in the article: as polled by Gallup, 69% of the sample of U.S. respondents favored the death penalty. On this poll at this site, 69% of poll respondandents oppose the death penalty, not "as is", and not with a moratorium, but completely. I find this result to be inspirational enough to leave this comment, a practice i rarely engage in.

RE: Obama, the Republicans best choice in 2008.

With the many problems facing this nation, and the world; i.e, the war in Iraq, the housing problem, the ever-rising price of gasoline; we need a person with experience, and an understanding of the politics of other nations in order to have a chance at making any positive change.

If Mr. Obama happens to become the 2008 Democratic candidate for President, and if he wins the election, his presidential term will be tantamount to the 1976 Carter Administration. An administration that was elected, more from a people's frustration at the Nixon presidency; the same as the present Bush administration.

By the time, Mr. Obama beings to learn the job of President of the United States; at least 2 years will have passed. He will then spend the majority of the last two years, concerend with re-election. The problems facing this nation, and the world will either continue to deteriorate or, at best stagnate. Mr. Obama has no prior working relationship with the leaders of thw world, and therefore, things will take much longer to be accomplished; if at all.

This country needs someone with experience; someone who can work with Congress, the leaders of the worlds nations; someone who won't need a two year indoctrination period; that person is Hillary Clinton. An Obama victory will be rgeat for Republicans; they can take a four year rest, planning their stradegies and machinations of retaining the presidencxy in 2012; just as Reagan did to Clinton; which led to 12 years of Republican rule.

Let now a victory in Iowa sway those to Mr. Obama. While I have great respect and adminiration for the man, this nation need a president who can take off running, knowing the rules, the people and the games well in advance. An On-The-Job-Training President will not benefit this nation. Besides, most citizens do not want a radical change from right to left, but more a combination of the two. Hillary Clinton is the best person for the job.

Boston, MA

"Ventura County's former District Attorney, Michael D. Bradbury, wrote:'The death penalty is a necessary tool that reaffirms the sanctity of human life while assuring that convicted killers will never again prey upon others.'"

How is killing someone (even a criminal) 'protecting the sanctity of human life'? And...what if the executed person is innocent? It's happened before.

What bunch of crap. We are human beings. Liberty is our birthright. Freedom is the road to prosperity. For Forty years the middle class has been systematically destroyed.Who did that

If we truly care about life and death justice we need the information presented by Alan Nairn on Democracy Now of January 3rd about the advisors our presidential candidates have taken on, many of whom advocate and perpetrate mass murder of foreign civilians. Thank you
Clara Palmer Nistler for your attempt to raise our sensitivity and awareness. This is not only for feminists, but for all truly human beings. I apologize for the cruel humor I have often resorted
to out of bitterness and cynicism. I am proud to share this Moyers blog with

Mr. Moyers,

As a feminist and a democrat, I found Mr. Cahill's comments bombastically male in his view of history which on the other hand, has to be.

I found Mr. Cahill and even your laughter about how people used to be killed at the vatican, "more head's on the bridge than melons at the market" sadistic.

Obviously, Mr. Cahill is a male Catholic. A church who has so much history of torture and killing, the only reason it exists today is because male dominance in society. If I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Cahill a question, I'd ask him if he is pro-choice.

Both you and Mr. Cahill never mentioned once, history is the result of male dominance.

I haven't done the research, but I imagine the majority of murders today are done by males to females
and children.

Until the above changes, I will not ever support the idea of doing away with the death penalty. I don't care how many Tutus', Cathills' and Moyers there are to tell me I'm not understanding the total picture or that we are one of the few remaining countries to use the death penalty.


Clara Palmer Nistler

great program, thank you.

Even when murderers are not executed there is a need for truth and closure. A Truth Commission would not preclude punishment for guilty parties, just rule out execution. I cannot go so far as Desmond Tutu in allowing monsters to run free. The fact that they retain status and power only makes things worse.
Now comes the outing of the agreement between the Bush and Clinton dynasties to forgive and make peace after she is elected. (Bill and Poppy would do a world goodwill tour.) That is not what we need,
A vast majority of us see Iraq as a series of punishable treason and war crimes. One third of Americans are convinced that 9/11 itself was an inside job. Their financial chichanery has wired our country for demolition just like building # 7.
Here are some predictions for the New Year:
1.Michael Vick will volunteer for Afganistan to avoid the big house. He can practice his sadism there unhampered.
2.Hugo Chavez will be quoted: :"The USA is like a mangy dog backing away on three legs. The 3 legs are financial fraud, military violence and free-floating anxiety, while the fourth is disastrous energy policy, so sore it will no longer bear weight. The dog is led by it's quivering tail, infested with the fleas and ticks comprising the wealthy class. They believe that when the dog dies they can graft themselves onto others, but we will grind the tail like an evil snake into the dirt." He will be correct.
3. The Bush administration will perpetrate another false flag attack, probably nuclear and originating in Pakistan. Then there will be no need to rig further elections. A triumverate of fascist consuls will rule.
4. There will be hyperstagflation and economic collapse.
5.Millions of Americans will be disappeared and executed.
6. Bush and Cheney will retire to a safe, undisclosed location.

Sounds bad, but we can prevent all this now just by demanding the truth. People have the power!

maybe making the offender pay the victim or victims family like an endentured servant is a better idea

Dear Mr. Moyer's,

RE: Guest, Thomas Cahill Friday 28 December 2007

This program had to have been pre-taped, even before 25 December 2007.

Even so, Mr. Cahill seems to have avoided answering many of
your more direct questions. That seems odd, unless he didn't want to
actually discuss the present reality. But I do agree with him about the death penalty.

He was a good speaker, quite knowledgeable about history but reluctant
to admit that todays problems actually do resemble and copy past events.
A sad example would be the Tigar bating/killing in San Francisco on
Christmas Day... and the followup television interview with the dead boys
father who stated that even if his son had thrown rocks at the tigar, he
should not have died for it. What sane person thinks that way?

If those 'men' had done the same thing in the wild, would he have still expected
them to be immune to retaliation from the animals so crually treated? I am afraid
the answer is yes. He would probably have gone on an animal hunt, and killed many
animals just in hopes he would get the one he wanted most.

That tigar was a wild, untamed-captive beast. It was the property of the zoo, and
as such required the respect for the zoo of not, NOT abusing it. Apparently
no one has taken stock of the fact that that cat could have jumped the fence/
wall any time, but was never provoked into doing so before.

We are only now beginning to act to prevent child bullying, which was a disease
that grew with the number of children bullied. Are we now to tolerate
beast bullying. Mr. Cahill pointed out so eloquently that the coloseum in Rome was
the site of a vile sport throwing humans to beasts in our history, should we not
learn from that, and the recent child suicides caused by bullying that that is a problem
not to be tolerated, but educated out of existence?

Archbishop Desmond Tutu was much more realistic, and approached that reality clearly, humanly and wiht
Christ as his role-model. Can we do less? Should we do more? And better?

Thank you for bringing those men before us at the end of a long and scarry
year. We need good role models and Tutu is certainly in that category.

Peace be with you,
stella watkins

I feel very strongly that most of our so-called leaders need to be executed. They call it revolution, and the time is at hand. The truth is that the U.S. government is murderous and has been for a very long time. What the Bush/Clinton regimes have done to me personally warrants their deaths. What they have done globally is really unimaginable. I cannot grasp the number of murders they have committed. In my own life, the horror of what they have done is exacerbated by the fact that it is all top secret. The destruction of my life is top secret. These killer psychopaths won't even admit to what they are doing. They make the entire managerial class their co-conspirators in secret persecutions of totally innocent human beings. They create a schizophrenic reality for millions by forcing these middle-class zombies into executioners. No criminal charges could ever be brought against me because I have never done anything wrong. I am a saint, yet the zombies are so dumbed-down, insane, and afraid that they are wholly unaware of the justice system. It is as if there never were any laws--no Constitution, no Bill of Rights, no habeas corpus, NOTHING. Let me tell you something. I have written to every organization, newspaper, politician, lawyer, academic, etc. NOT ONE PERSON IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY HAS OFFERED ME ANY HELP. Cahill is just another lunatic. Let him take my case. HE WOULD NOT IN A MILLION YEARS. He is as phoney as the ACLU and every other Zionist-run organization.

"The Roman Coliseum was the site of the worst killing in the history of Mankind."

Really? I don't THINK so. Mr. Cahill made a Giant mistake --or he doesn't know ALL history?

THE Worst that ever walked the planet: germans.

germans --made WAR on UN-armed civilians. --Threw infants in the air --shot
--burned --stabbed --raped --starved --worked --gassed --experimented on mothers, cousins, children, twins, grandparents --entire families who were Jewish.

They injected major disease into healthy people: then watched, and noted, the effects. NOTHING was beneath germans. When rare 'subjects' didn't die: they killed them anyway.

germans: CAUSED the murder of homosexuals, Gypsies, poets, artists, writers, scientists, actors, teachers, clergy, disabled, non-blond, mentally ill and death of MILLIONS more, collateral 'damage' as they fought, killed American, British, Austrailian, French --Allied soldiers.

ELEVEN Million people were slaughtered, their families torn apart --along with the entire world, to satisfy insatiable german lust for power, money, blood, land, art, gold, estates, countries.

Some of their tactics: used today, by terrorist thugs. --Did he forget: it was germans who used mustard gas on American soldiers in WW I --for the first time in history.

german greed: made the Romans look like whimps.

Your guest: embarrassed himself.

There is no way a Catholic, like author Tom Cahill, could favor the death penalty. To do
so would undermine the Catholic Church's anti-abortion position based on the position that "all life
is sacred". Of course, the comparison of an embryo with
a criminal on death row is
specious at best.

I can understand how the death penalty might be used effectively toward someone like a serial killer who repeatedly commits the worst of all capital crimes and for whom there is no hope for reintegration into society. On some level, that person's life is forfeit after taking so many others and repeated failed attempts at rehabilitation.

Otherwise, even for someone who has murdered, having two dead people does not bring justice for one dead person. What we're looking for here is repentance &/or rehabilitation, regardless of how empty those ideas might seem anymore. Even a repeat offender where the murders are circumstantial [gangs, armed robbery, etc.] should not be considered a lost case. In the end, if real rehabilitation can take place, these people are effective at speaking to others in similar circumstances who might be tempted to turn down a similar path. We forget that, yes, these are PEOPLE and generally it's circumstances that create the situations where these people kill other people, and it's the circumstances that we should be looking at for real justice, not society's victims of those circumstances.

Murder is considered wrong because we believe no human has the right to take another human's life. Capital punishment is just government sanctioned murder. For that matter, so is war. I don't necessarily think it's always wrong to kill someone, but usually it is. I can't help noticing it's usually the people most adamantly against abortion who are so adamantly for capital punishment: "Say you love the baby, then you crucify the man."

In your comments on cruelty in the world, I was extremely disappointed that there was no mention of the isreali treatment of the Palestinians.
Although 'status quo' for PBS, it is still despicable.
A tiny example:

Dying of occupation - a case of cancer and the Israeli right

Opinion polls consistently demonstrate that most Israelis would like the occupation to end. These words are directed to the substantial minority which disagrees.

This past weekend, a Gaza cancer patient named Nail al-Kurdi, 20, waiting since July for permission to cross into Israel for treatment, died of his illness. For five months, officials of the Shin Bet security service received request after request from Physicians for Human Rights, asking that they grant al-Kurdi a permit to be treated in Israel.

Request after request was denied. The stated reason? Security. In July, he was referred to Ichilov hospital for urgent diagnostic procedures. As the refusals mounted, his cancer spread. In a case involving al-Kurdi and a number of other seriously ailing Palestinians denied travel requests for treatment, the physicians group appealed the Shin Bet refusals to the High Court. The court allowed prosecutors an extension in the case to allow them to study it further. Al-Kurdi did not survive the extension.

The case bears special significance for Israelis who want the occupation to continue. Right-wing Israelis should be spearheading the fight for the rights of people like Nail al-Kurdi There is no evil quite like the evil of denying crucial medical treatment. Except one, perhaps.

Consider the case of Y.H., a 37-year-old Gazan in need of open-heart surgery. By contrast to al-Kurdi, the Shin Bet granted Y.H. an exit permit, so that he could travel to the West Bank city of Nablus for the operation. According to the physicians group, when he came to Erez Crossing to leave Gaza, Shin Bet agents called him aside for interrogation.

"If you help us we will help you," Y.H. quoted the agent as telling him, adding that the Shin Bet man asked him to provide information about his acquaintances.

The physicians group said that when Y.H. replied that he had no such information, "the interrogator said 'If you don't help up we won't help you. Go and die in Gaza.' He sent him back home, promising that he would never leave Gaza."

You may be among those who want to see the occupation continue because they believe that Arabs, and the greater Muslim world, will never truly abide the existence of a Jewish state, and that Palestinian independence in the West Bank and Gaza will serve as a base for unending attacks against Israel.

You need to fight for the humanitarian rights of Palestinians.

You may believe, with the Bible and/or Revisionist Zionism as your guide, that the borders of Israel should encompass all of the Holy Land from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan.

You, of all people, should work to see that Palestinians in need receive the aid they require.

You may ardently, wholeheartedly, unabashedly side with the settlers, and want to see their enterprise grow, prosper, and become permanent. You may be among those who dismiss entirely the rights of the Palestinians to a homeland and even to peoplehood.

You, more than anyone, should be zealous in seeing that the Palestinians in your midst are treated with the respect and concern that you accord any fellow human being. The same respect you would accord a fellow Jew.

For the rest of us in Israel, the struggle to support the rights of needy Palestinians encompasses all of this, plus the broader effort to undo and dismantle the occupation, before it undoes and dismantles the state of Israel.

Many on the right have suggested that it is now too late by far to end the occupation. Many on the left have become fearful that they are right.

In the meanwhile, however, the occupation continues to kill innocent people, and not only because they were unlucky enough to be in harm's way, caught in a crossfire. All too often, the occupation kills because we - right and left both - do much too little to keep it from killing. We have become too used to allowing cancer to go untreated, especially when it is eating away at our own conscience.

Concerning the comment "What I'm really interested in is what makes for civilization and what does not", the following article says:

- When a society can acknowledge and accept limits, then it can call itself civilized.

It curious that as time goes by society seems to forget that a crime was committed and there’s a victim/s to the offence.
Who weeps, cares for, or thinks about the victim’s family later on well after the “system” has run its course.
You tell the mother or father of an infant child who was raped, beaten, or murdered you want to free and forgive the murderer. Everyone’s liberal until it hits home. Are you going to be so all forgiving then?
Capital Punishment deals with more than just one individual.
People say, only God is perfect, the system isn’t, far from it. Capital Punishment is wrong and it won’t bring back the victim. It may not bring back the victim but it will make sure the criminal doesn’t commit another murder or serious crime.

if one is to oppose abortion, one must also oppose killing - any killing. as a seventh-day adventist (a christian denomination), i can say that my denomination is one of the few that is opposed to abortion, war, AND capital punishment.

arguing philosophically and rationally (and not emotionally) on why killing is evil will lead one to oppose war, abortion, murder, and punishment for crimes by death.

If you all remember "Bowling for Columbine", we live in a violent society, more violent than most. Our violence is institutionalized and run by the state in both the justice/penal industry as well as the governmental/military industrial complex. These industries are interrelated. I am aware that there is also a reconciliation/forgiveness movement at work to help victims and perpetrators come to resolution, forgiveness and peace. Having worked in a hospice for 9 years, I know how hard it is for people and their loved ones to come to a peaceful death -- and how essential it is.

I am not a supporter of institutionalized cruelty or execution. I don't find them effective as deterrants, quite the contrary. When Mr. Cahill mentioned that we all have cruelty within us and acknowledged his own rage, I can relate. We cannot end all these madnesses if we do not find the Peace within ourselves, and we cannot discover that without first recognizing the violence within us -- and we all have it no matter how pious we may appear.

I am reading Thich Nhat Hanh's "Being Peace" -- he's the Vietnamese Buddhist monk nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize. I think Mr. Cahill may find one of the oases of peace in his Plum Village in France. The only way to achieve peace between opposing forces, victim/perpetrator, or warring peoples, is for everyone to make an effort to understand one another -- so says Mr. Hanh and Bishop Tutu. So we listen to Dominique Green who at the age of 14 would've been relieved if his mother had suceeded in killing him, suddenly his appearance at the store at the robbery and murder becomes understandable. So we become responsible not only for allowing the institutions we have empowered to kill him, we are also responsible for a society in which people suffer such poverty and degredation. His story is not uncommon. How many Dominique Greens will it take before we decide to change it? How many Columbines before we recognize we have a serious problem in our society and we need to change it? How many more victims and perpetrators do there have to be before we realize it's an epidemic?

It's not easy to declare Peace within oneself and endeavor to do what it takes to make it happen. We are not knowledgable about how to be present with our own internal wars and cruelty to ourselves, let alone be present to understand someone else, but it is what is needed. How many battles rage within our own families and communities? How much relief do we feel when we can agree upon a common enemy -- THEY are the bad guys, not US.

We have been told that "The truth shall set you free" but it's not an easy process, to tell ourselves the truth let alone tell each other and not have the truth be another weapon. When Mr. Cahill said that he had seen in Mr. Green's demeanor that he had found peace, and you put up his picture, it was clear. I am glad that his mother didn't kill him even as I sorrow for the death of the person he was convicted of killing. I am glad he went to jail and gave Biship Tutu's book out and could die in peace. I am sorry he is not still in prison converting his fellow inmates.

Whether you look at it spiritually or scientifically, we are all one and everything that happens effects all of us, and we are therefore all responsible. Whatever calls to us is ours to do and the place to begin is within our own hearts. If we declare Peace within and attend to that, we can watch it unfold all around us. Instead of escaping, distracting, repressing or acting out how we feel, we can tell the truth and find a way to forgive ourselves and each other. The sincere seeker is shown the way. The ultimate Truth is we are all One, and harming another is harming ourselves, healing anyone is healing all of us.

It was a brilliant piece of programming to combine Desmond Tutu and Thomas Cahill. Cahill's description of racism as America's nightmare and Tutu's description of the impact of such racism--"you are treated as if you are a non-person and you come to believe you are a non-person"--adds an important lens to the conversation about the death penalty. Given that so many of those executed are not only poor, but also black, it is easy for me to see the death penalty as part of the conversation about racism in America that doesn't take place. The ONLY way I can make sense of District Attorney Michael D. Bradbury's statement that killing someone through the death penalty reaffirms the sanctity of human life is to assume that Bradbury does not believe the person being executed is a human life. Of course that's one result of the dehumanization of racism.

In a perfect society, killing exists and must exist - civilization demands it. Killing must continue to exist because it's historically based on the evidence that while all men are created equal, their actions after creation are not. When an individual, group of individuals or nation is subject to death(s), it is demanded of a civilized society to take the sword out of the victims hands and judiciously apply the response that death(s) demand. Civilized society readily acknowedges the right to take a life as a last resort in self-defense. With that option on the table, the definition of self-defense becomes paramount. Unfortunately, that definition can range from imminent "the bullet is on it's way" to "12 reasonable men can conclude that some type of pre-emptive action must be taken. The sentencing of a human being to death, however cruel and barbaric, is a pre-emtive option that must be left up to 12 reasonable men solely because of the fact that the horrific nature of the crimes committed constitute such devistation and abomination upon the victims survivors that their lives cannot go on while such evil exists - the hatred of the living far exceeds the hatred of the dead - the psyche knows the dead forever remain dead and the psyche knows that an integral part of life is having hope and having dreams. Victims fear the dreams of those who do evil and are given the oppurtunity to live and dream. The extent, devistation and abomination of the crime committed is directly proportunal to the victims ability to hope and dream. It is not an easy choice, but civilized society must decide if the crime is so heinous that death is necessary to affect the self-defense mechanisms of the survivors. I commend those who oppose the death penalty - on it's surface, it purveys righteousness. But true righteousness, lies in the correct application of justice rather than sympathy for the victims. Being the father of a murdered son, I want to be able to tell my children, and for them to tell their children and grandchildren about what happened to my son by pointing to a book or articles saved from a newspaper as opposed to viewing or reading about an unremorseful convict whose smiling, happy and joking about what he did and how he "got away with it" When you read it as history, you still "feel" but it's tempered by the past. When you see it in person, the feelings can much easier become untempered.

Over Christmas an 84 year old dear one told me how she longed for public executions on TV, "Well, maybe not for all murderers, but the evil perverts who rape and torture little children, they should be tortured in the cruelest way, maybe by the parents, and by trained specialists who could inflict the maximum drawn out pain and suffering before they were finally put down with fire or crushing."
I'm a pretty good actor and was able to conceal my shock and horror. I realized this old lady is fixated on these types of rare lurid cases in the media, John Walsh lynchings, police shows and so forth. She is isolated and fearful in her own home. (I need to get her out more.)
So I responded: "What time should these shows be on? and what channels? Shouldn't children see this stuff as a deterrant?"
You know the most eager ones to see it would be sadistic perpetrators themselves. What perverse pleasure it would give them! I'll bet there is enough audience to put it on pay per view at $50 a hit! Wow, we could majke video games based on this! No,oops, it's already happening."
I guess I need to take her out to a gory slasher flick and see how that affects her appetite.
You know, she probably missed her career opportunity as one of those "specialists." It's never too late: Maybe she would be useful in counterinsurgency operations in Latin America, or humiliating men in black site prisons, or disappearing dissidents off our streets.
Now I understand why some people get fixated on Abu Graib details, or Argentine junta coercion techniques, or the methods of Jeffery Dahlmer, or criminal executions in Texas. Their minds have been colonized by media, addicted like sex addicts, they become stark raving mad sadists similar to the gentry Sade described. We reap what we sow.

How can the citizens of an aggressively militaristic nation whose hands, figuratively speaking, are dripping with blood support its wars of ideology while pussy-footing around capital punishment within its borders? How many millions of people are imprisoned in cold cages to "live" lives of caged animals and for what? To allow somnambulant citizens to think better of themselves!

We now know that some innocent people have been executed after being convicted. It is better to imprison for life because of these inexcusable errors, and it is no more expensive in dollars. Our Bush-president sure made an ass of himself in the Carla-Fay Tucker case: How mortifying! His immaturity and lack of compassion reveals the kind of nation we are.
When casualties are reported from our occupations we only care about "our troops" though we are killing millions of innocent civilians along with accused terrorists. If that isn't meta-racism, I don't know what is! Corporate capitalism as practiced under Imperialism
could not survive without genocide. Are you ready for your murder trial? If you are not resisting and complaining you may be an accomplice in serial mass murder. Your taxes pay for it.
Somehow I believe a hot blooded crime of passion is more admirable than strapping a person to a table for terminal torture.

Until cops and prosecuters are unable to lie to fit thier own agenda, NO DEATH PENALTY.

I do not believe in the death penalty for a very simple reason. Executing a person is another word for killing. I do not beleive I should kill, and therefore, the state should not kill in my behalf. This decision is about my humanity, not the person's to be executed. I do believe that if most people who believe in the death penality were to actually get to know people on death row, many would change their minds. I agree that those who are executed are those we are willing to throw away. Our hearts are dark with bias against certain others. We allow prosecuters to mock the justice system in many trials, we minimize the frequency of innocent people being killed by the state. For all these reasons the death penality is inconsistent with a civilized society.


This post quoted Ventura County's former District Attorney, Michael D. Bradbury who wrote: "The death penalty is a necessary tool that reaffirms the sanctity of human life..." How can anybody think that killing reaffirms of the sanctity of human life?

We don't execute criminals because of what they are. We execute criminals because of what WE are. Uncivilized.

I believe we overloook that it is not the body that matters,--but the invisible person. Personal consciousness remains an enigma. Holds no physical traits. Is the life of the body,--the life of our world.
Within each invisible person,--which seems nothing more than a pure conscious energy; exist common needs of social exchange. Described in words as equality, truth, freedom, peace, love, talent and everlasting life. Satisfaction of these needs secures a feeling of justice. These words,--in likeness to personal consciousness itself;--defy academic definition; are not thoughts acquired from the physical environment; have no physical roots.
These words are the key to compatible behavior. But can't be communicated in the usual manner of physical instruction. Have been effected by a likewise intangible Golden Rule; and social guidance toward personal character maturation through prayer to a God of love.
This was the means we tediously moved away from oppressive behavior.
Not the death penalty; not punishment; not academic education alone;---but to recognize the human predator and the prey are both victims of a social arrangement failing to recognize character strength as our most prized possession; and as these traits do not reflect 'the way of the world'; we well may be in 'a world gone wrong'; and these inherent needs may reflect our likeness to the WILL of God.

Many contradictions struck me in my Catholic upbringing, ultimately resulting in my moving away from that faith some time ago. The recent years of world emphasis on one religion's being the "correct" one and the willingness to kill to defend those correct religions started me moving away from religious faith (i.e., faith in a god) altogether.

The one thing that I still appreciate about some faiths is a belief that killing another person is wrong. I sum it up for myself pretty simply: I don't believe that I have the right to take another person's life. Therefore, putting someone to death for a crime isn't my right. It's merely an application of the Golden Rule, Categorical Imperative, or whatever you want to call it: I strive to behave in a way in which I would like others to behave toward me.

That's why I've never understood Christians who latch onto the Old Testament "an eye for an eye" even though, supposedly, it was superseded by the New Testament "turn the other cheek." It seems like a pretty selective reading.

When I still embraced a religious faith, I thought its greatest value was in providing an ethical framework for living. That it had the added perk of an happy afterlife for following the rules was just gravy. But I began to feel that the promise of an afterlife made for worse behavior in our world. Catholics could, on their deathbeds, make a good act of contrition for a lifetime of horrible behavior and be assured of getting to heaven eventually (they still might need to do some time in Purgatory). Those believing in the Protestant idea of predestination (which I think is the source of the Rapture theories) knew that they were either going to get to heaven or not (there was a list, apparently), and what happened on earth didn't affect that. They were still "supposed" to behave as if they had to earn their ways into heaven, but please, human nature will lean toward the easy way if at all possible. Throw the dice: If you're intended to go to heaven, then you can do what you like here on earth.

I'm not really clear on all the ways that other religions get their faithful to a happy afterlife, but a focus on the future isn't really the best way to moderate behavior in the here and now, in my opinion.

Combine an over-concern with what happens after this world with a rejection of any faith but one's own, and the result is pretty much in what we have here on earth now--killing other people because we think we have the right to do so, either out of vengeance (saving God the trouble) or to vindicate a religious faith or both.

It's really no accident that those who led the movement of the Enlightenment backed off on the strictures of religious faith. They saw the incompatibility between valuing life in its many forms and a preoccupation with a world beyond this one. I've come to see that, too.

The damage the death penalty causes affects us all. It is the executioners who suffer, and we are the executioners when our state allows this terrible deed to be performed in our name.

We have two prime examples of how this affects our history: the perpetrators of 9/11 came from a state which condones the practice and even makes it a public spectacle.

Secondly, our own George Bush is a 'leader' who himself actively participated in the hundreds of executions which took place in Texas during his governorship. His decisions have been influenced by these experiences. We see the results.

We can only begin to heal the planet when we heal ourselves of this inner complicity in bestial behavior. We do not have to do this. It is far easier to change this law than it is to reverse the damaging practises which pollute the planet; we have to do both.

I thank Bishop Tutu for his work on this subject. He would be a great person for an uptodate interview, and I think would present the case in the positive manner it deserves.

What's with the "sanctity" of human life concept (DA Bradbury's remarks and F Theberge's comments)? Why is human life "sanctified" and other lives, such as those of animals, are not? Is it from the "God created man in his own image" idea?

This is not to say that human and other life should not be treated with kindness and respect. However, if a homo sapien decides to purposely act like a monster and maliciously take the life of another, why should they be permitted to continue to exist, to take up space in a prison, eat food, breathe good air and create waste products? Swift and certain execution would provide a deterrent along with justice and some closure for the victim's loved ones.

Still, there should probably be a moratorium on the death penalty for now. I don't have enough faith in the U.S. justice system to be confident that innocent people will not be wrongly executed.

"Amy S" (and all those that agree with her) ... You state that "the death penalty is necessary". Though you give no rational or meaningful explanation to support the basis for such a claim.

Perhaps you might benefit from reading Olivia's response below (11/16/07).

We all hold beliefs we are passionate about. The question to ask one's self is what information have we been given that has lead us to hold any particular belief?

In this instance, what perspectives have influenced you to make the claim that killing a human being is "necessary" for any reason?

How is rational discourse possible in a situation when most of us (myself included) base our beliefs of such things on mostly inaccurate and incomplete data?


The law has come a long way from 30 years ago. I believe in the death penality because it is necessary. On the other hand i do understand that someone with money will not likely ever be on death row. We sould be sticking to a code of ethics not the code of money!

anyone who deliberately betrays the trust and innocence of children should not be suffered to live.

I don't support the death penalty as it presently, because is grossly inefficient. OpPosers don't realize that many of these people live in solitary confinement waiting for the next opportunity to kill a prison guard or a fellow inmate. They are rarely victims, but rather repeat offenders. It is merciful to prevent the family and victim from being harmed.

If there is overwhelming evidence, DNA, video tape, etc., convict, sentence and carry it out!

Maybe there sentences should be carried out in the manner the victim was murdered. Because bludgeoning, shooting, raping, stabbing are not all that cruel or least for the perpetrator????

I believe there are some people in the world who are not capable of living in the world with others'.
Top on my list are those that hurt animals or children.

But I do not believe in the death penalty.

The old adage is that two wrongs do not make a right and I think that fits here.

It is patently illogical to state that killing is wrong, and then to make a law that says if you kill, we will kill you.

That's the philosophically opposed argument. The second argument, equally as forceful, is that there is not one institutional activity society engages in that is ever performed/effected correctly.

As soon as we "legislate" an activity-it goes awry. There's just something about bureaucracy that destroys the original intent and functionality of purpose.

Gambling with lives is too critical a question to leave to a system that is flawed from the start.

I wonder, why in these interviews and why in this dialogue is there not a clear voice of reason?

At its essence, we are disingenuous if we first do not discuss the philosophical underpinnings of the world views of a person who either supports capital punishment or denounces it.

When I speak of "world view" I refer to the belief system that a person has come to appropriate in their understanding of the universe, our planet, and their complex position and relationship to that which is exterior to their own mind and being.

It is a person's beliefs that ultimately dictate their action or inaction in this world. Logically, it is a person's beliefs that then shape their world view.

At it's essence, a person's 'world view' seems to stem from two primary camps: that of a 'faith/religious' based interpretation of the world and that of a 'reality' based interpretation of the world.

In the former, a person relies on the irrationality of faith based information (that which cannot be readily observed, proved, or disproved here in this world) derived mostly from ancient scriptures written by Humans in a time of great intellectual ignorance. At the times these texts were written - humans, by and large, believed the Earth was flat and the center of the universe, that disease and sickness were caused by heretics, and that droughts were the result of un-pious activities (to name a few).

In the latter world view (reality), a person relies on rational thought and observation to determine their belief system for how the world works and the complex interrelations between living beings and the functioning systems on our planet and in the universe.

Through this rational means for understanding the world, we now know, beyond any doubt, that the Earth actually revolves around the Sun, is not the center of the universe and is indeed round, diseases are really caused by germs/pathogens (germ theory was not established until the mid 1800s), and that droughts and climatic shifts are the result of a very complex inter-relationship between atmospheric concentrations of certain gases, the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, cosmic activity, ecosystem bio-diversity, etc ...

The world around, we experience everyday grotesque acts of violence, killing, hatred, destruction - so much of which is the result of human action.

An overwhelming majority of these actions have their roots in a belief system that is both irrational and faith based. Whether it is called Islamic, Christian, Judaic, Pagan, Hindu, etc ... They are all irrational means for formulating the beliefs that dictate a person's action in the world.

The point here then, is indeed a question:

How much longer can the human species endure when a majority of our violence, killing, war, capital punishment etc ... are, at their essence, actions in the world derived from world views and beliefs based in irrational, faith based understandings of the world?

Is irrational faith itself not the root of most human violence?

I find the OP-ED blurb from the former DA very dishonest and insulting to the intelligence. Since when one has the right to invoke the " sanctity of human life" and in the same sentence support the killing of a human being?

Pray inform me, since when sanctity has been reduced to a cafeteria-style menu of choices about what or who has more intrinsic sanctity than others?

A cursory look at the definition of sanctity: "The quality or condition of being considered sacred; inviolability."

If one invoke sanctity of human life, there is NO choice: No human life cannot can be taken out. The ONLY acceptable exception (IMO) would be clear, objective, immediate and present danger to self or others.

I don't understand how a sane person can support a murder of another human being.

I find it very interesting that Texas leads the other states, by far, in numbers of executions. It is also interesting that during the years when Pres. George W. Bush was Governor of Texas, the number of executions increased to a record high. The quality of our involvement in Iraq is a natural product of this 'Texas Ranger mentality' of good guys vs. bad guys. Thomas Cahill eloquently described the tides of civilization as moving, by trial & error, beyond taking a life for a life. By that definition, the U.S. is swimming against the tide of civilization.

"I will say that having the correct understanding of God's word the Bible, explains not only "what" is going on in the world, but more importantly, why and what the future holds for mankind. With just a secular understanding of the world, in my opinion, ones understanding of what is going on in the world and why, are limited."
The words of men who didn't have the education of a 3rd grader of today cannot tell us anything about our future, our past or our understanding of the world. Your understanding is limited when you apply 2,000 year old superstition to any question.

A few key points.
1) No one who opposes the death penalty is without sympathy for victims or their families so when people say "remember the victims" as if they are being forgotten, they are using a misguided argument. The debate is with regard to the punishment that people convicted of capital crimes face.
2) A common argument put forward to defend the death penalty (particularly in bloodthirsty Texas) is that it is a deterrent to violent crime. Well, after all of these executions, shouldn't we be seeing a decrease in murders? We're not and that's because the argument is flawed.
3) Execution fulfills a backward desire for "justice" in the form of revenge. I don't know how I would feel if someone close to me was murdered but I do know that having their murderer executed would not bring them back.

I have worked in various prisons over the past 9 years. I facilitate a program called Alternatives to Violence Project.
The AVP workshops I do are about communication, empathy, collaboration and reaching within for the power that is with us all to stand up for what we want in our lives and to stand against what we don't want in our lives.
We talk about transforming power which is that strength within us, you may call it God or you may call it the truth, that can sometimes supercede the abuse, the anger, the pain and suffering and years of misguided lessons and find a new path that returns love when someone comes to you with hate. That returns understanding when someone comes to you with anger.
I am told often by the men and women I have shared the program with... If we had only had this in grade school or high school, we just might not be here.

And I wonder myself, if all of a sudden we saw the complicated human relationships we all take for granted as the most important thing our children would learn and placed their teaching as more important to learn beyond all else... well I just wonder at the world that might be possible.

The golden rule requires empathy. Imagine if you were falsely convicted of murder: What kind of legal and penal system would you prefer in that case? We can't make the theology we want but only believeany number of improbable and childish things. I hope if there is a Creator and an afterlife I am given a chance for meaningful work in a just society: That which I have been denied here.

Thanks for another thought provoking programme. I am surely thankful for grace and mercy...perhaps this is worth alot in light of our human condition.

To Lisa Shapiro

Unfortunately Lisa the Isrealites did sacrafice their sons and daughters to Ba'al. Psalms 106: 35-41

To Paul Andersen

First, please forgive the misspelling of your name, my error.

Second, your right, you never identified yourself as a secularist. I made the same mistake you made of me, when you assumed that I was "of the mistaken belief that you have to be a Christian to be opposed to the death penalty".

Thirdly, my claim toward Mr. Cahill and Mr. Tutu, again, who claim to be knowledgeable on biblical and other theological matters, was based on and supported by the bible. ( And yes, I'm well aware that people have different interpretations of the bible and it's one truth. And that's a whole other discussion.)

Having said that, I will say that having the correct understanding of God's word the Bible, explains not only "what" is going on in the world, but more importantly, why and what the future holds for mankind. With just a secular understanding of the world, in my opinion, ones understanding of what is going on in the world and why, are limited.

And to Muhammed Halim

The Catholic/Protestant conflict is not a theological struggle as you say, but also, a political one. Its a fight for control as well.

This is because, the Catholic/Protestant conflict does not reflect Christian theology or Christian unity, but rather religious apostasy.

God's Son, who was and is the "Christ" and "Messiah" said "his" disciples or followers would be recognized by the love they had between them, as well as, all of mankind. (John 13:34,35 and Matthew 5:34)

The Catholic/Protestant conflict reflects the same struggles as that of the rest this world and it's false religions which are alienated from God and His Sovereignty, but rather are "under the power if the wicked one" and reflect that one's personility by their deeds. (1John 5:19)

With all due respect to Mr. Cahill, I was offended by his well-meaning remark about the Jews on the recent show. He stated that "the Jews had been sacrificing their children as illustrated in Genesis, and Abraham 'finally' put a stop to it as portrayed in the Isaac story." No. There were no Jews before Abraham. According to the Old Testament, Abraham was the father of the Jewish people, the first person to conceive of the One God, and to hear the voice of God. Those people who sacrified their children were not Jews, for Jews only began as a people with Abraham. This idea, spouted by Cahill on TV, condoned by Bill Moyers, and disseminated on DVD, that Abraham "finally put a stop to the Jewish practice of slaughtering children" can have the devastating effect of strengthening the old libel against the Jews that the Jews condone the murder of children. In fact, there has never been a time in Jewish history where the Jews practiced child sacrifice. Never. Not before Abraham, not after him. Thank you!!!

Mr. Cahill is a great historian but he should not pretend to be an expert in Islamic history or theology. He claims there are striking parallells between the Catholic/Protestant conflict and Sunni/Shiite conflict. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sunni and Shia conflict is not a theological one but a political one. No historian would claim there was ever a war/genocide/ethnic cleansing/ happended anywhere in the world due to Sunni/Shia division. What is happening in Iraq right now is a fight to gain control of power and natural resource. The killings by Al Queda and other militant group is denounced and rejected by all authentic Islamic scholars and Muslim Heads of States. Please keep in mind, Osama (regardless of his claim) has a backgrould in Civil Engineering not Islamic Theology, or Zawahiri; was a doctor, before pretending to be a Zihadist. They do not reperesent Islam or Muslims as much as the KKK does not represent Christianity. Also Saddam Hussein was an equal opportunity killer, he made no disticntion between Shiaa's or Kurds or his own Sunnis when they became a threat to his power. Saddam was a communist (Baath Party) who rejected Al Qaeda. So, it is wrong to compare the genocides in history that was committed in the name of Christ to what is happening now in Iraq. I remember a famous quote by a leader of an Eastern Church during the Crusades as the Catholic Church was implementing genocide toward not only Muslims but also Jews and other Christhians; "Better the Turban of the Sultan than the Tiara of the Pope," Mr. Cahill is better off staying in his area of expertise and not misinform people on such an important venue as this.

Thomas Cahill is a pop-famous cultural cliff-noter who – yes – may have something important to say about the death penalty – but is sadly almost entirely without any recognizable merit on any other subject. In fact, all that Mr. Cahill said about anything on the 11/9/2007 program could fit nicely into a small arrogantly-designed pamphlet.

In the future, Mr. Moyers should take care to discuss subjects as important as the death penalty with the more eloquent, scholarly and wise people out there – perhaps Desmond Mpilo Tutu himself.

To John Petrichella

First, please stop misspelling my name. Second, I never identified myself as a secularist. Third, you claimed that Mr. Cahill did not seem to understand US history or what was going on in the world. And your evidence for this was from matters of theology. My point is that one does not need to have an understanding of matters of theology to understand what is going on in the world, or specifically the matter of the death penalty. Also, as to whether Cahill or Tutu are knowledgeable or qualified in areas of theology, they obviously are of a different belief than you. I would assume they are from a different background, and interpret matters of Scripture and theology differently. I never claimed that "secularism" had reached any sort of plateau. But of course there are many achievements I could point to that are the result on "secularism" or "humanism." But, I do believe that fundamentalism with regard to religious belief often does more harm than good. As an example, James Dobson, believes in the death penalty, but also is opposed to abortion, and claims that his views are based on the Bible. Even more exteme examples can be found in the religious wars of the 17th century, Inquisition, Crusades, and others.
As to the matter of the Coliseum:

and To Janice Pound

Of course the original crime of murder is cruel. But that does not justify a cruel punishment, as it is illegal according to the Constitution. Also, you have not dealt with the issue of false punishment.

Arguments about applying the death penalty to people who have actually done the crimes for which they were found guilty are beside the point. The core question is our willingness to apply the death penalty to truly innocent people who happen to have been found guilty in a court of law.

Our system of justice in the United States of America is excellent, but not perfect. Truly innocent people have in fact been convicted of capital crimes, and sentenced to death. In my opinion the argument about executing people who have truly done the things for which they were convicted distracts us from a deeper moral question.

How many innocent people are we willing to execute in order to maintain the death penalty for people who have actually done capital crimes? For death penalty supporters the question is not whether you accept the execution of innocent people, you do, the question is one of proportion. Are you willing to tolerate the execution of one innocent person in ten to which the death penalty is applied, one in a hundred, one in a thousand, or one in a million?

Unless and until there is no chance whatsoever that an innocent person will be subject to the death penalty in this country, the inescapable moral cost of retaining the death penalty is to accept the execution of some innocent people.

I believe in the death penalty especially in horrendous crimes where the victim was tortured,and killed. But I think the death penalty should be carried out within 1-2 yrs. Saying a death penalty is cruel punishment as apposed to the violent crime committed is absurd. Perhaps life in prison is a worse penalty than death, but I don't believe that is true any more.

To Paul Anderson

I'm glad your glad Mr. Anderson.

And yes, I went to great lengths explaining from the bible how Mr. Cahill's view on theology was incorrect. He's the one with the credentials, claim's the expertise on theology, and the many books., remember ???

So why should my comment not be directed from a theological stand point ? Are you secularists so quick to take offense or is it that you, Mr. Anderson, just like to argue ???

And with regards to confusing people's views, you secularists have not reached a plateau of human perfection in "opinions" (opinions are like noses, everyone has one), and the world isn't a better place as a result of secularism, so get a life and lose the ego pal. Quick being such a dogmatist.

Lastly with regards to whether or not Christians were killed in the Colosseum, the suggested reading for you still stands.

To John Petrichella:

I am glad that you understand that many non-Christians are opposed to the death penalty. In your post, you go to great lengths explaining how Mr. Cahill has an incorrect understanding of theology. My point is that one does not have to have any understanding of theology to know that capital punishment is wrong. Indeed, theology often confuses people's view on the subject.
I repeat, there is no evidence that Christians were ever killed at the Coliseum. As I said, Christians were martyred at other Roman arenas. It was only in the early modern period that the myth of Christians being killed at the Coliseum began. I suggest you do some additional research.

I work in the prisons and am a local church pastor and get to see this issue from both sides. We can, if we care to, approach this with both the victim and the perpetrator in mind. Both need justice, and one is not more important in the eys of God than the other. Life without parole for the most violent offenders is much more of a detrrent than the death penalty. However, when it comes to murder, most perpetrators are in the heat of anger or passion and are not in a rational mind that considers the consequences. Mr. Cahill does a good job of showing the humanity of a convicted criminal. That story is VERY common. If you want to see a recent movie on this, watch "The Exonerated", which is about five wrongly convicted men and women who were all on death row. They were all INNOCENT, and the husband of the woman was executed befopre he could be exonerated. Shame on us for continuing a tradition of hatred and violence that singles out the poor and marginalized for death. I am astounded that people defend this barbaric system. Then again, we used to justify slavery, segregation, the genocide of Native Americans and keeping the vote from women. We are slow to realize our own moral blindness.

Only a person who has been untouched by violent crime could write that "crime is secondary." My 17 year old step-sister was murdered. The impact on my family has been unmeasurable. Cahill needs to think a bit more about the innocent, blameless victims of crime and less about the perpetrators. Our society spends far too much time wringing our collective hands about the problems of the convicted, and too little time thinking about the those who have been victimized by criminals. I am--truly--sorry for what happened to this young man, but there is no way that his story is typical.

To Paul Anderson,

First, I am well aware that many "seculars" are against the death penalty. I never said that opposition to it was only a Christian "thing" only, or that Christians have a lock on opposition of the death penalty, so please don't assume that I did.

Second, to say that there is no evidence that Christians were not torn apart in the Colosseum is not correct.

A quick note, the subterranean area under the wooden floor of the fighting area of the Colosseum stored not only the slave Gladiators, their weapons, but also the wild animals. The Christians were never "Guest".

Suggested reading would be:

"Arena: Story of the Colosseum", by J. Pearson
"De Spectaculis" by Tertullian
"The Lives of the Caesars" By Suctonius
"The Annals" by Tacitus
(also bone up on Roman Emperors "Nero" and "Domitian" they had a real passion for Christians.

Thank you for this interview with Thomas Cahill. He made very good points regarding the death penalty in the US and in other nations.
He also made some glaringly erroneous statements. He stated that "Shias and Sunnis hate each other more ferociously than they hate us." This statement is not true. Shias and Sunnis have lived together as neighbors, friends and even families for centuries. Muslim nations have a very long history of tolerance and respect. The last remaining Aramaic speaking Christian society is in Syria. Some of the oldest Jewish communities in the world reside in Morocco and Iran. During World War II Muslim countries offered safe haven for European Jews.
Is is indeed disappointing that Cahill, a theologian and historian, would use the terms "us" and "them".

Eliminate the death penalty in our country.

Thank you Bill Moyers and Thomas Cahill for an enlightening program.

Thank you Bill Moyers and thank you, Thomas Cahill for an extremely thought provoking hour.

May God forgive us and teach us the compassion that we need. End the Death Penalty is not our decision to make.

Initially, I supported the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I once, although reluctantly, supported the death penalty; however, when I saw the ugliness in the "shock & awe" combined with many personal trials such as the loss of my "career" after 15 years service followed by the death of my dad, I began earnestly seeking understanding and was led to REPENTANCE! I now see that Yehoshua the Messiah is indeed the Savior of ALL MANKIND which includes our most dreaded enemies. Our refusal to follow the teachings and example of Yehoshua leads to death & destruction. Through REPENTANCE as individuals, and as nations will Yahweh set us on a path of discovery leading to the understanding of the ONE TRUTH: Yehoshua is the ONLY WAY into the Kingdom of Yahweh, and He will draw ALL MANKIND into His Kingdom, and be ONE with His creation, the very works of His hands!

I was made to see what a BEAST I was in my CARNAL heart which led me to REPENTANCE!

(Ps 73:22) Then I was senseless and ignorant; I was { like} a beast before You. - E-NASB

Wars, capital punishment, economic oppression, etc are not the way of Yehoshua who was faithful to His own teachings of forgiveness, non-retaliation, & non-violence even to the point of death!

I thought it was written in stone: "Thou Shall Not Kill."
Was God wrong about that commandment?
And if so, should we give him life or death, or just crucify him again?


I do not support the Death Penalty as it is being used because their is too much killing of innocence people. Having said that I don't believe our society maybe even our world will not allow people to be safe because we have moved away from a moral society. Look back at Germany and remember what a godless society is capable.
When I listen to people already in prison and when asked the question what will you do when you get out and they say, "have a good meal then find someone to murder." Society will never be safe if the crimmals aren't more afraid of the punishment than they are of the crimes they're willing to commit.
Lot's of people want to go to Heaven not just because it's beautiful But Most People Really Don't Want To Go To Hell! So the threat of Hell keeps people from showing their really ugly side.

I watched the excellent interview with Thomas Cahill this morning. God, I wish people like Bill & Thomas were running the country instead of the posturing nitwits that money has chosen to install.

I, too, believe that there are many parallels to be drawn--and understood--between the fall of Rome and (what can only be considered) the fall of America. Not the least of which is a stark similarity that one can deduce from the increase in publicized and sensationalized violence and militarism--everything from the subjugation of Iraq and the Middle East, the death penalty, and "Christian" fundamentalism, to Ultimate Fight Club, Hummer SUVs, the NFL, YouTube videos, computer games, male machoism, and homophobia.

It is a global military, theological and economic unilateralism that I have no doubt will beguile us from reason and sense toward our doom.

There are two issues that must also be addressed;
One is that for many, the death penalty is not about punishment but to protect society from a failed justice system where predators are released to violate us again. Our top priority should be to address this failed system.

The second is the death penalty routinely imposed without trial by government. Our own government and Israel are two prominent offenders that assasinate at will and continuously, and I am astonished that we as society accept this without so much as wimper.

I have always been against the death sentence. I had a brother murdered and am still not one for the death sentence. It is so wrong in so many ways. It has been used to 'murder' people hated because of the color or their skin. Used because of their faith. Used as a excuse to soothe a crowd of angry whites agains an imaginary hurt by others of the minority. Also the hangings in Iran reminded me of the bitter fruits here in USA. Public executions were always used in a 'party' scenerio, picnics, games, laughter all with whites grinning and flushed with happiness that some poor black or non-minority was going to die and entertain them.

thank you so much for such an excellent show and one that comes at a perfect time in our country. As a people we need to follow the example of Archbishop Tutu and learn to forgive. I open to that teaching, daily.

John Petrichella is mistaken when he says Christians were torn to pieces at the Coliseum. There is no evidence Christians were ever killed there, although they were at other arenas. He also seems to be of the mistaken beleif that you have to be a Christian to be opposed to the death penalty. Most of Europe is secular, yet most view the death penalty as abhorrent.

I appreciate that Bill Moyers covers these difficult issues. The death penalty is not only immoral, it is ineffective, unConstitutional in that it is a cruel and unusual punishment, and simply unacceptable in that one can never be 100% certain someone is actually guilty. If someone in unjustly imprisoned he can at least be released at a later date. But what if he is dead?

Thank you for the interview with Thomas Cahill. He made many good points particularly about the death penalty. However he also made many glaringly erroneous ones:
for example, "The Shias and Sunnis, they hate each other more ferociously than they hate us." This is a completely baseless allegation and it is surprising and unnerving that a historian and writer would use the terms 'us' and them': has he not learned from the history he writes and speaks of?
Shias and Sunnis Muslims have lived side by side as neighbors and families for centuries. They could not have coexisted had this level of animosity existed before. Rather, it is since the US invasion that suspicion and attacks have been planted to cause a this rift and destabilize these areas for the benefit of a few corporations. This is nothing new. It was done by various nations in countries such as Lebanon and Pakistan before.
Muslim lands have a very long history of tolerance. Does Cahill not wonder how it is that the some of the oldest Jewish societies still exist in Syria and Morocco? How Maimonides, the great Jewish scholar flourished in Islamic Spain as a scholar appointed by the rulers? Or how the last Aramaic speaking Christian society still flourishes in Syria? Or how Muslim nations offered safe haven to tens of thousands of European Jews during WWII?
It is indeed very sad when a leading historian rewrites history, makes extremely ignorant statements and ignores extremely important facts. I now have second thoughts about bothering to read Cahill's books.

Thank you, Bill Moyers, for this moving edition of your show. As a life long Quaker but also a rape victim, I am aware of the difficulty of forgiveness. It has been possible, though abstract,to forgive in my case as the person was never caught and because my life was spared. However when I watched "Dead Man Walking" I found it nearly impossible, on a gut level, not to wish for him to feel a portion of what his victim felt. My wish for "revenge" was abhorrent to me, but real nontheless.
I am against the death penalty, and yet painfully aware of how hard it is when you see innocent people being killed. Can we forgive our own country for the horrors it has committed in our name?

It never ceases to amaze how these so called theological experts know so little about the bible and/or theology including Mr. Thomas Cahill.

For instance, Mr. Cahill said that the Jews rejected sacrificing children when Abraham didn't sacrifice his son Isaac.

First, there were no Jews during the time of Abraham and Isaac. A Jew (ess) is one whom
is a person belonging to the tribe of Judah.

The first one to use the name Jews was the writer of the books of Kings, Jeremiah, whose in 647 B.C.. Abraham was born 2018 B.C. and Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old. Genesis 17:17

They Abraham and Isaac were not even Israelites though the nation came through their blood line through prophecy and promise. Genesis 17:19

The near sacrifice of Isaac was not the final rejection of the Israelites or Jews of sacrificing their children. Under the 14th King of Judah (one of the 12 tribes of Israel) King Manasseh, true worship of God was replaced with the worship of the false god Baal to which the Jews sacrificed their children. 2 Kings Chapter 21.

As an expert on theology and a Christian Mr. Cahill fails to grasp and therefore explain why there is evil in the world. 1 John 5:19b says the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one. (Satan) And he became the evil one back in the Garden of Eden, and since then the rebellion has continued.

The more I watched this show the more I became convinced that Mr. Cahill demonstrated how little he really know what is going on in heaven and earth including US history.

Not once did Mr. Cahill ever mention the Christ or any of Christs' teachings, particularly on forgiveness.

When Mr. Moyer asked Desmond Tutu "what do you actually do when you forgive someone"? As Christians Mr Moyer we do not have those "rights" that Mr. Tutu's speaks of in his response, " I'm abandoning my right to revenge, to pay back".

Christ taught to "turn the other cheek" Matt. 5:39 and to "love and pray for your enemies" Matt 5:43

And the Apostle Paul said "do not avenge yourself' Romans 12:19, and "return evil for evil to no one" Romans 12:17.

Sounds like the blind leading the blind to me!

Oh and Mr. Moyer, it was the "Christians" who were torn to pieces by the lions in the Coliseum. The Gladiators fought them and if they were killed, they shouldn't have been there, but then Gladiators were not true Christians either.


There is nothing libel about ANCIENT Jewish human sacrifice. It was a common practice in ancient times, which survived even into 20th century in some "primitive tribe cultures".

I used to support death penalty. However, after learning that so many are poor blacks, I have lost my trust on the fairness of our legal system. Similarly, so many in the prisons for using drugs are blacks and latinos. Fairness of the legal system has been raised by a small number of politicians who looks honest to me, such as the former mayor of Baltimore and former governor of New Mexico. So I do not support death penalty now, although I am not a black or latino. In addition, it is suspicious that many jails now are run by private companies. Don't they have an interest in increasing prison population to increase their profit? Without our notice, the war in Iraq has also become a partial private war with company like Blackwater. Are our governments from federal to local level still public institutions or corporate money-making machines?

Thomas Cahill calls himself a "historian," but he propagates the Jewish blood libel by stating that Jews practiced ritual sacrifice, citing the biblical story of God testing Abraham by getting him to sacrifice his son, but stopping him from doing so. He knows (or ought to) better.

Then, he calls the Roman coliseum the biggest example of human cruelty in history. At most, several hundred thousand people died in the "games" that occurred there; it doesn't hold a candle to the concentration camps created by the Nazis that efficiently killed millions. How telling that someone who would propagate the blood libel would also conveniently forget the one true largest monument to human cruelty.

If you want to really understand human violence, I strongly recommend you reading anything (and everything) by Rene Girard.

Only the most backward nations still use the death penality. Only the poorest, least privileged people end up on death row and are subject to this governments right to murder. Many of those too poor to afford good legal support have been innocent but have been put to death. Perhaps Bush and Chaney who have led us into an illigeal war that has resulted in the deaths of ten's of thousands of people should be subject to the death penality? Perhaps those corporations and drug companies that cause the deaths of thousands be subject to the death penality? Perhaps our representatives who are paid off by insurance companies that have caused the deaths of ten's of thousands be subject to the death penality? The death penality is a cruel, abusive unjust law that is totally bias to poor people of color. It is an immoral primative act that in no way betters society. It instead reveals us as a people who lack compassion and wisdom and who resort to murder to solve our problems.
We have more people in prison in our nation then in any other country
including China, we support torture and we are systmeactically improisoning thousands of young people of color. We have become an immoral, cruel nation that has lost the meaning of compassion and a sense of national support of our citizens. A law that takes the life of a citizen of a nation and is not applied to all citizens equally is not a civil or just law. A law that permits insufficient or provides inacurate evidence that results in the taking of a persons life is not a just law but an abuse of the rule of law itself. Let us join all of Europe and the many other nations to be a nation oursleves of compassion and wisdom. As Bush and Chaney lead us down a dark path, let us take a stand and tell our representatives that we want to help people not destroy them.

Bill, I was disappointed in your selective choice to show graphic pictures of the uncondoneable hangings in Iran, and to avoid showing equally uncondoneable lynchings in recent US history. In the current sad and charged atmosphere when a case is being constructred to enter another pointless conflict, you are inadvertently helping build the case. Perhaps it is easier to see evil in the other but harder to see it ourselves. Otherwise, thank you for putting together another thought provoking program.

It is simply not Christian to kill another person, ever.

Only the most backeard nations still use the death penality. Only the poorest, least privileged people end up on death row and are subject to this governments right to murder. Many of those too poor to afford good legal support have been innocent but have been put to death. Perhaps Bush and Chaney who have led us into an illigeal war that has resulted in the deaths of ten's of thousands of people should be subject to the death penality? Perhaps those corporations and drug companies that cause the deaths of thousands be subject to the death penality? Perhaps our representatives who are paid off by insurance companies that have caused the deaths of ten's of thousands be subject to the death penality? The death penality is a cruel, abusive unjust law that is totally bias to poor people of color. It is an immoral primative act that in no way betters society. It instead reveals us as a people who lack compassion and wisdom and who resort to murder to solve our problems.
We have more people in prison in our nation then in any other country
including China, we support torture and we are systmeactically improisoning thousands of young people of color. We have become an immoral, cruel nation that has lost the meaning of compassion and a sense of national support of our citizens

Dear Mr. Cahill, I do understand your feelings of sympathy for Mr. Green, he did have a horrible childhood, but is that an excuse for murder? Do you feel anything for the victim or the victim's family?
My niece was murdered May 19, 2007. Her killer was also the victim of neglectful and abusive parents.
All we have heard is sympathy and empathy for the young woman who stabbed my niece to death.
My niece received a death sentence, without a trial and all who loved her, including her nine year old son, must serve a life sentence of being deprived of our precious loved one.
We need to remember the victims.

if it is based only on the change we see people on death row able to achieve, how much progress in forgiveness and in possibility for some kind of contribution to society, that alone should give us pause and say no, death is not the answer. Learning, healing, compassion, growth and change, those are the answers. The death penalty should not be a part of a truly civilized society.

The major contradiction (not too harsh a condemnation, I hope) I see in continuing to practice capital punishment is: if the state defines and forbids premeditated taking of a life how can it at the same time give itself permission to do so - use of lethal force for protection and safety is a different matter.

As a person in the 21st century, I do not believe in the death penalty. As a taxpayer, I totally object to the amount of money that is spent to do this. It costs so many times more to put someone to death than to incarcerate for life. You accomplish the same thing without playing God to with another's life and without spending the hundreds of thousands in trials to make sure they are guilty. It is not to say many trials trying to prove someone innocent will not happen, but they will be based on new info.

I also agree with the person that said what is wrong for an individual should not be sanctioned for a group, even if the group is the state.

As with all too many facets of American society, our system of justice does not begin to approach the enlightened ideals it claims to espouse.
Because our justice system is so terribly flawed, there is no way that any sentient being can condone the sanctioning of murder by the State.
So sad that, as a society, we seem complacent in accepting the murders committed by our State, often even loudly cheering our approval of the murderous State...can we conclude anything other than that we are not sentient beings? Hmmmmm, the American animals...seems somehow to be more fitting a title than the American people.
When will we rise above our animal selves and become, at last, human beings??

Never would have dropped the a-bomb on Europe? What about the fire bombing of Dresden? Wasn't it true that the war in Europe was over before the atomic bomb was ready?

Interesting how he laughs when he mentions how the martyrs were killed and the heads hung at the vatican.....

death penalty is murder by proxy

Robert A. Heinlein had one of his characters say that (paraphrased) your spot on the political spectrum could be determined by your answer to this question: Is it ever ok for a group of people to do what would be wrong for one person to do?
Really that is what our civilization boils down to, an affirmation of that question doesn't it?

For me the litmus test is simply this: Do the people of a given civilization enjoy the benefits of that civilization? If the answer is 'no' then your civilization is a failure. By that standard our civilization is a miserable failure.

As far as the death penalty goes I definitely do not agree that it is ok for a group of people to do something that is wrong for an individual to do. That being said, even if I did agree with the concept of the death penalty, our application of it is so far beyond any sane notion of equity that still it can not be supported.

In principle, I don't have a problem with permanently removing people from the world for sufficiently heinous crimes. In practice, the error rate in determining that people are actually guilty of said crimes is too high, the cost of litigating capital cases too high, and there will be disagreement on what constitutes "sufficiently heinous". Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is (a) easier to revoke than an execution and (b) cheaper than all the litigation that eventually gets a person to death row.

It is a barbaric practice unworthy of an "enlightened society".

Whatever claim we once held aspiring to that goal has been lost these last forty years on an array of fronts.

It is sanctioned murder, plain and simple, to our everlasting shame.

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