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Why am I against the death penalty? I'm an atheist, so it's not a matter of faith. I don't look to outside authority to determine my morality.
So here is what I know: it is possible to become a sociopath, not only to be born one. Each act of cruelty, each rejection of empathy, makes the next one easier. So everyone involved in the ordering and carrying out of an execution becomes an unintended secondary victim of it. Each time we order someone to kill another human being and then get on with his life like it's just a job, we erode his humanity. The process of sentencing someone to die lessens the empathy of each person doing the sentencing. It is not okay to be okay with killing someone else. Reinforcing that acceptance makes it easier and easier to accept less formal killing.
Yes, there are times when wars must be waged and soldiers must kill - and look what it does to them. PTSD is not always flashing back at the sound of a backfiring exhaust system. Sometimes it's wanting a hug but feeling too unclean to even ask. Once someone has been ordered to kill by his own country, he can never feel protected again.
Eventually, the formalized acceptance of killing a killer becomes something else. Less formal. With fewer rules. Execution is what makes executioners. No one wants to be an executioner at first. But eventually, like all other acts of cruelty, the executioner becomes desensitized, and then develops a taste for it. The same is true of everyone else who said, "Yes, let's kill this person." The death penalty damages the conscience and capacity for empathy of each person who accepts it. It eats away at the humanity of the nations that house it.
My morality is based in empathy, not in faith. Despite its ubiquity, empathy is precious. And while the capacity for empathy across the whole of humanity is infinite, and renewed with each birth, that of individual people is both finite and fragile.
Execution does punish killers. It also punishes everyone else along with them.


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