One of my very best friends in the Atheosphere is a guy who prides himself on always being logical. I can picture him constructing syllogisms while at the butcher's, deciding which cut of meat to buy for barbecuing.
Recently, in light of yesterday's decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana, my pal made a claim that he could use his razor-sharp logic to defend the death penalty, a punishment which, apparently, he finds just peachy. I don't think it's possible for a reasonable atheist to do that.
The following proof of my statement is not elegant. It relies on far too many definitions, premises, and conclusions, but it is, I believe, logically sound.
Definition 1: Murder is the willful killing of another human being.
Definition 2: Self-defense is the use of physical force to stave of violence against oneself only (1) while such violence is being perpetrated or (2) at the moment when the threat of violence is imminent.
Definition 3: An execution is the willful killing of another human being, performed by an official body, such as the government.
Definition 4: Revenge is the infliction of harm on a person who has, or is perceived to have, done a harm.
Definition 5: A primal urge is an unthinking, instinctual action, most likely the result of evolutionary development.
Definition 6: An atheist is a person who does not believe in the existence of any gods.
Definition 7: A reasonable person is an individual who does not rely on conclusions that can’t be drawn logically.
Premise 1: Murder is morally wrong.
Premise 2: Murder is justifiable when done in self-defense.
Premise 3: Murder is “worst” when done with pre-meditation and malice aforethought.
Premise 4: Executions are pre-meditated and performed with malice aforethought.
Premise 5: An incarcerated person is not actually perpetrating violence, nor does he or she pose an imminent threat.
Premise 6: Revenge is a passionate act, driven by a primal urge, not reason.
Premise 7: Humans, both individually and within groups, have the ability to resist primal urges.
Premise 8: Executions in the United States are performed “dispassionately,” after much consideration; they are cold and calculating.
Premise 9: It is impossible to put a specific monetary valuation on a human life.
Premise 10: There is no way to bring a dead person back to life or to unrape a person.
Premise 11: There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent on others from perpetrating crimes.
Premise 12: Reasonable people should not use bullshit as an authority to justify their opinions.
Premise 13: Atheists think the bible is bullshit.
Premise 14: Judaeo-Christian religious societies have used the biblical verse “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” as the accepted standard for punishment, including the death penalty.
Premise 15: Society ought not itself perpetrate acts that it finds morally wrong unless it can find some rationale for such acts.
Premise 16: There are no rational arguments for the death penalty that do not rely in some way on one or more of the following concepts: (1) it's a deterrent; (2) it's a societally acceptable form of revenge; (3) it's a societal method of self-defense; (4) it's an accepted standard of punishment and/or (5) it's the "price" a criminal must "pay" for his or her crimes.
Conclusion 1: It follows from Premises 1 and 2 that murder may be justifiable in self-defense, but it is still morally wrong.So, all you ultra-rational, death-penalty-loving atheists out there (religionists are welcome to take part as well, but you must respond to my argument using only the tools of logic) make your case for "disproving" my final conclusion. Remember, in a logical argument you may not simply challenge my premises by asserting that they’re incorrect. You must show that they’re incorrect, either by presenting facts to refute them, or by demonstrating that they lead to logical fallacies within the argument itself. Also, you may not ask questions that are irrelevant (e.g., What else should society do with its murderers and rapists?) to the argument I made.
Conclusion 2: It follows from Premise 1 and Definition 3 that executions are murder.
Conclusion 3: It follows from Conclusion 2 and Premises 3-4 that executions are among the “worst” form of murder.
Conclusion 4: It follows from Definition 2 and Premise 5 that executions performed by the government are not self-defense.
Conclusion 5: It follows from Definitions 4-5 and Premises 6-8 that in executions the government has resisted the primal urge for revenge.
Conclusion 6: It follows from Premises 9 and 10 that the murder or rape of a person cannot be compensated financially. There is no specific “price” that can be paid to make the victim “whole,” since he or she stays dead or raped.
Conclusion 7: It follows from Conclusion 6 that executions cannot be rationally justified by saying that the criminal must “pay” for his or her crime.
Conclusion 8: It follows from Definitions 6-7 and Premises 12-13 that a reasonable atheist should not quote the bible as an authority to justify his or her opinions.
Conclusion 9: It follows from Definition 7 and Premise 11 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale other than deterrence.
Conclusion 10: It follows from Definition 7 and Conclusion 5 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale different from “the primal urge for revenge.”
Conclusion 11: It follows from Definition 7 and Conclusion 4 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale different from self-defense.
Conclusion 12: It follows from Conclusion 8 and Premise 14 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale different from the standard set in the bible.
Conclusion 13: It follows from Definition 7 and Conclusion 7 that if a reasonable atheist wishes to defend the death penalty, he or she must find a rationale different from the wish to make a perpetrator “pay” for a crime.
Conclusion 14: It follows from Premises 1 and 15 that society should not commit murder unless it can find some way to defend such acts.
Conclusion 15: It follows from Conclusion 2 and Conclusion 14 that society should not perform executions unless it can find some way to defend such acts.
Conclusion 16: It follows from Conclusions 9-13 and Conclusion 15 that a reasonable atheist, speaking for society, cannot defend executions on the grounds that they (1) act as a deterrent on others, (2) create an acceptable outlet for revenge, (3) are a method of self-defense, (4) conform to the accepted standard for punishment, or (5) ensure that a criminal "pays" for his or her crime.
THEREFOREIt follows from Premise 16 and Conclusion 16 that a reasonable atheist cannot argue for the death penalty.
Let the debate begin.