To be clear, I wasn't referring to the 'itch' of criminals to commit evil acts. I was referring to our 'itch' to see vengeance. My point is that when we want to see someone get hurt (or executed, or violated with a hot cattle prod, or whatever), that feeling is typically a result of a deeper pain within us, and seeing that vengeance done will rarely do anything to address our actual pain. Sometimes, when you scratch the itch at the surface, the deeper wound just gets infected.
But how do you get to say that? I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but rather how you got there. How do you know that "vengeance" rarely addresses the pain?
I suppose I don't, really. Not with any authority or certainty, at any rate. My perspective of this based largely on what makes sense in my own brain. And, while it does line up with my own experience and my observations of the people in my life, I definitely shouldn't pretend it's a universal truth. I'm sure there are plenty of people who do feel a sense of genuine comfort or satisfaction at the idea of a horrific criminal being punished in a way they find appropriate. Though, even then, I'm not convinced that the sense of comfort or satisfaction they experience is actually healthy.
Look at the five stages of grief. In the process of dealing with loss, almost everyone experiences anger. That's perfectly natural, and it can be an important part of the healing process. But it's important to keep in mind that the eventual goal is acceptance. And I think that when people get caught up in that anger stage - no matter how justified the anger may be - it has a way of keeping them away from acceptance and delaying their healing process.
Not a hypothetical, and not a sarcastic question, but who says we want to be "truly good"? Meaning, who's to say what is truly good? The entire body of psychology and sociology is LITTERED with examples that show the same decision is in some cases optimal and in some cases to be avoided. You control a train; you can either send the train to the left track, killing ten people, nine innocent adults and one serial killer, or you can send the train to the right track and kill two small children. I have thought a lot about this, and while I am not for the death penalty (for some of the reasons you state) I am deeply torn with the extremes of that point of view. I don't feel it is appropriate for a human to knowingly and with intent take another's life - death penalty, abortion (though I am pro-choice, strongly) - but what about self-defense? Wat about the US invading Normandy to stop Hitler? Hiroshima? bin Laden?
Well, for my part, I've pretty much made peace with the idea of killing in order to actively prevent harm. If there is a shooter on the loose, a police officer might have to choose between three fairly bad options: letting the shooter continue hurting people, approaching the shooter to attempt to disarm him at great personal risk, or putting a bullet in the shooter's brain. In this case, I can live with the cop pulling the trigger. He is hurting someone for the simple reason that if he doesn't, other people will get hurt.
That's not the equation on death row. It's not like there are two people strapped into separate electric chairs, one of them innocent and one of them guilty, and we have to choose which one to fry. We're simply choosing whether or not to kill a person.
I personally cannot make peace with the idea of being presented with that decision and choosing to end a life.
My question is this: Do you feel that seeing people get punished is ultimately helpful to you? Does it heal your pain? Does it bring you peace?
Hmmm...I can honestly say that hearing/reading about a pedophile or someone who has molested a kid being punished has never given me any sense of peace personally, but rather gives me satisfaction that the victim of that person received a sense of justice. I think when abuse/rape comes into the picture there really is no punishment that you can inflict on the abuser that comes close to matching the mental and psychological damage their victims will feel the rest of their lives. Ending their time on earth seems trivial to what those victims have to deal with the rest of their days and also seems like the least thing we could do for them. In my case, I feel like I'm at a pretty good place concerning my healing yet I don't feel that I'll ever truly be at a place that'd I'd have been at had it not happened.
When I talk to the point of these criminals who inflict horrific crimes like rape, murder torture of kids/women etc. that are just brutal in nature....I think the sense of "peace" that accompanies knowing those people were put to death comes less from knowing they'll never do it again and more from knowing that if that were to ever happen to my kids/wife/parents/siblings that the criminal would face the ultimate punishment....and honestly, if I sat and thought about it right now and say one of my sons was abused/raped etc by someone.....my mind immediately forfeits everything I'm taught by my Faith and jumps right to wanting 5 minutes alone with the person who did that to my kid so I can rip them limb from limb. Is that right to think like that? When put in context of my Faith I know that is completely contradictory to how I'm urged to carry myself and treat others.....but in any instance where I see something happen to a kid or wife or parent that's horrific in nature I can't help but think of my own family and if that had happened to them and then jump to that line of thinking rather than the forgiveness and compassion that I 'know' I should be demonstrating.
I don't know if that really answered your question though?
You did answer my question, more or less.
I suppose it all comes down to the bolded question. Is it right to think like that?
It seems you yourself are torn on this question, your faith in one hand and your emotions on the other. Itís not too often that I take the side of faith, but it seems to me that in this case, your faith is something you have taken great care to cultivate through personal and intellectual pursuit. On the other hand, your emotions on the subject are knee jerk reactions that, in your own words, you canít help.
To put it in perspective, you mentioned that if anyone abused your children, you would want five minutes alone with them. Which is totally understandable. But if you got those five minutes, and did what you wanted to do, you would be acting against beliefs that are crucially important to you and who you are.
It seems to me that if something can make you do that, it has too much power over you. And thatís why I believe that the thirst for extreme justice can be unhealthy and dangerous. The pursuit of that kind of justice often involves disregarding the ideals and beliefs that make us who we are.