On punishment

I have on different occasions shared opinions and quotes on this topic. It is known by regular readers that I am I lean towards abolition of prisons. I also believe with JJR that we should abolish capital punishment in the few places where it is still in the statutes. This doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with what to do with violent offenders. I listen to podcasts on crime and some of the offenses leave me wanting to throw up. The cruelty. The pain caused to families. The violence to the victims. It is all too sick. And the question is, what must society do to protect itself from such?

All that is not the subject of this post.

In this post, I want to ask a question. Different countries have term limits for different crimes ranging from a few weeks to several lifetimes or even capital punishment. The question is, was there a rational basis for say determining that for the crime of sexual assault, the minimum time for rape is 10 years (according to the Kenyan law)? I think the mandatory sentence was ruled unconstitutional. What is to be achieved in the ten years? Could the society achieve the same goal with a shorter sentence? Say 2 years?

What are your thoughts on this matter? Are there rational ways of determining what length of a sentence is required for say a murder? Keep in mind society doesn’t always punish murders. For example, during war, the guy whose side wins i.e kills the most, gets more stars on his shoulder and a presidential commendation for valour and other military honours. It is the killing by individuals not sanctioned by the state that we abhor completely.

Maybe I have this all wrong.

Freewill and divine will

[A]s little as a ball on a billiard table can move before receiving an impact, so little can a man get up from his chair before being drawn or driven by a motive. But then his getting up is as necessary and inevitable as the rolling of a ball after the impact. And to expect that anyone will do something to which absolutely no interest impels them is the same as to expect that a piece of wood shall move toward me without being pulled by a string.

Arthur Schopenhauer

For clarity purposes, the following terms when used on this blog in discussions on freewill have the following limited meanings

determined -our actions are caused

freewill -our actions are uncaused

choice -awareness of alternatives

You may have other definitions, they are not relevant in this discussion.

The author of freewill vs divine will wishes to answer

Why must we answer for our sins, if God has already predestined them?

The post is by a creationist, believes Adam was the first man. Let this not distract you from the discussion.

The believer tells us god created Adam in paradise and banished them to earth after eating the fruit. Where is paradise? I would love to know the coördinates.

Religion is for the crazies. It creates a dilemma and then seeks to solve it. Here, the Muslim has imagined a god, a first man, eternal damnation, freewill and now tries to solve it.

She tells us

The first time I read the Quran, I was also puzzled as to why some verses indicate that Allah is able to guide those who are astray, but He chooses not to. So if some have strayed, why do they have to answer for their sins, if Allah is the one who has willed them to be astray?

and it leaves me puzzled why anyone with any common sense would continue to worship a god whose whims are so arbitrary. At least with a despot you know those whom he hates and his favourites. He condemns or saves arbitrarily. A god who would save but chooses not to so it can punish. What strange people, believers are!

We are given a few verses that show how irrational Allah is

6:35: If their spurning is hard on your mind, yet if you were able to seek a tunnel in the ground or a ladder to the skies and bring them a Sign – (what good?) If it were Allah’s Will, He could gather them together unto true guidance: so be not you amongst those who are swayed by ignorance (and impatience)!

6:39: Those who reject Our Signs are deaf and dumb – in the midst of darkness profound: whom Allah wills, He leaves to wander; whom He wills, He places on the way that is straight.

Why punish anyone for straying when it is Allah’s will they stray? Why oppose Allah?

In his price winning essay on the will, Schopenhauer wrote

Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants

which I agree with. The theist however tells us that people can will what they want and tells us the Koran has a verse that supports this view

18:29 “Say: “The truth is from your Lord.” Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it).”

and it is unfathomable to me how a mere mortal would have designs against plans of an omni- being. I need help comprehending how

God lays out the paths for you but you take the path based on your intention.

one would know what path has been laid by the deity and then how with this information go ahead and defy it. It is like being told 2+2=4 and refusing to believe it.

How does this

If it was already predestined that Adam eats the fruit, then why is he reprimanded for it? Yes, he was predestined to eat the fruit. But it was his intention that first started it. He was reprimanded for that intention.

make any sense to any rational person? Had the fruit not been there, would Adam have wanted to eat it? Would he have imagined eating a non existent fruit? The theist’s attempt to free their god from culpability falls flat any time. This god would have stored this fruit in its pocket for all eternity but chose to plant it in the garden and then make Adam, Eve and the serpent aware of its presence.

To excuse Allah, she tells us

But from the start, just like how God had predestined Adam to sin, God had also predestined that Iblis would rebel, and would be an enemy to humanity. This is for several reasons – the main one being that God wants to test humanity (through Iblis) to see who is worthy to enter His paradise.

and one must ask to what end? Why would an omniscient god test man. It would have been far better not to create those it knew would stray unless we accept this god has sadistic tendencies.

The rest of the post continues to absurdities that I will not bother with here.

I will close with a quote from Schopenhauer

I can do what I will: I can, if I will, give everything I have to the poor and thus become poor myself—if I will! But I cannot will this, because the opposing motives have much too much power over me for me to be able to. On the other hand, if I had a different character, even to the extent that I were a saint, then I would be able to will it. But then I could not keep from willing it, and hence I would have to do so.

I know I will regret this

We have mentioned Cornell here before. He is my neighbour in the hood, I thought with knowing yours truly, his writing will become more sensible. It appears he is gone off the racks completely.

In this post he is writing about punishment and the part of god in the matrix. On this blog we have said we oppose to punishment and are in support of rehabilitation. Society has every right to protect itself. In this case, though the removal from society of offenders, we propose that they should not be stripped of their dignity. Revenge doesn’t make society better.

The question Cornell is asking

Then why do people have a problem with a God who punishes evil in the world? Why do people have a problem with a God who sends people to hell for their sins?

is one which misses the point entirely. It absolves god, whatever they are, from blame. Cornell must first demonstrate that a god exist and show how this god is not complacent in the commission of evil. And to ask  why we have a problem with a god who sends people to hell is inhuman, a parson devoid of feeling and capricious.What would god want to achieve when he has these people in hell?

We are not in agreement on this

One thing we can all agree on is that people do not have a problem with a God who punishes sin.

for no god has been shown to exist.

I don’t know who agrees with him on this

no one is saying that there shouldn’t be a hell.

Many humanists have written against the concept of hell. Maybe he should spend time out reading different authors. I don’t want hell to exist. Don’t misunderstand me, am not saying hell exists.

If the believer holds it that god created man, there is nothing man can do to beat the wishes of god. The believer will have to prove that the offender’s behaviour is not what god intended for him/her and then to show why they should be punished for mistakes that rightly belong at god’s doorstep.

In this other post, he has expressed sophistry as I have not seen in a while.

He argues

[…]Do these examples disqualify the Bible? Many people believe so. Yet what such arguments against the Bible reveal is the arguers’ ignorance of what the Bible is and what the Bible does. The Bible is not God’s Word because it contains novel (new and unique) ideas about God. In fact, the reverse is the case, all true ideas about God that exist outside the Bible only prove that God is the author and owner of all truth. It is the reason R.C. Sproul has popularized the phrase: “all truth is God’s truth.”

and with one stroke of Oogity Boogity he has secured the bible from any criticism. I wish this were the case for him but alas, no, reality is different from this. How do we know an idea is true about god? Is something true about god if it gets mentioned in the bible and by secular author? What about those writings that are in direct contradiction with the supposed word of god? Do they also express a truth about god? And what truth is this?

I don’t know what truth is. Jesus, if he existed had an opportunity to settle this matter before Pilate [John 18:38] but he didn’t. When Cornell writes

Truth is truth, wherever you find it

I can’t for the life of me say I know what he means.

He ends his post with the sophistry with which he begun

The availability of truth apart from the Bible is actually an argument for God, not against Him. It is proof of His sovereignty — that  God is God over all people and all things, not just the Jews and the Christians. It is proof that those who will never encounter Christianity will not be judged unfairly, because “what may be known about God is “plain” to them (Rom 1:19).

There is a lot more to say about this fallacious argument. I hope not one of his many thousands of followers believe these nonsense he is selling to them. Any reasonable person who has read the bible and read some science book will be able to notice the several contradictions between the bible and what we have found out about nature and at the same time this person shall have seen the internal contradictions in the bible itself. The question then that we must ask is which is truth when we have two contradictory stories in the bible about the same event?

Quotable quotes: Punishment

Those who will hold the balance between the benefits thus attributed to law and punishment and the degrading effect of the latter on humanity; those who will estimate the torrent of depravity poured abroad in human society by the informer, favored by the judge even, and paid for in clinking cash by governments, under the pretext of aiding to unmark crime; those who will go within prison walls and there see what human beings become when deprived of liberty, when subjected to the care of brutal keepers, to coarse, cruel words, to a thousand stinging piercing humiliations, will agree with us that the entire apparatus of prison and punishment is an abomination which ought to be brought to an end.

Peter Kropotkin

A travesty of justice: Was he railroaded?

Yours truly is not a lawyer, neither was he in court during the trial. It is the aim of this post to look at this particular case from what was reported in the media and offer a defense for the young man.

First the details of the case.

David was charged with violently robbing his father while armed with a revolver and a knife. He stole a wallet containing Sh1,000, an ATM card, Visa Card, Alien Identity Card, two medical cards, three supermarket smart cards and a mobile phone all valued at Sh157,000.

and the decision of the court

I have considered that he is a first offender but also the fact that the offence he is charged with carries only one mandatory sentence. I will be imposing an illegal sentence to deviate from what the law says and, therefore, order him to suffer death.

the testimony by the father

Mr Mulready Tett testified that on the fateful day, his son called him to the living room where he found him with two other men. He noticed that his son was troubled and requested that they go outside to have a private talk and when they went back in the house, he requested the two to leave.

and the son’s response

the young Tett said that he was a victim of circumstances, that he was hijacked by the robbers who asked him at gunpoint to take them to his parents’ home and had no alternative but to comply.

I don’t know about you, but this case smells bad from the word go especially listening to what the adopted mother had to say

He used to claim for his share of property. Who is he? He is not even my own son. I only took care of him and in any case, I could have given him some property.

I am not privy to how the adoption was arranged, how they are related but I think there is more than meets the eye in this case. For one the sentence of the court defies the laws of natural justice. What good does society gain by the death sentence? How does the attempted theft of 157K warrant a death sentence? Why did the court dismiss the plea by the son that he was a victim of circumstances?

I believe a person acts as he does and that environment, training and temperament all play apart in someone’s behaviour. It would be useful for us to know under what circumstances David was brought up. His story has not been told in the whole of this. We have on the contrary the story of a once powerful mother complaining to be aggrieved while she sheds crocodile tears.

Anyone who receives death threats can go to the police and file a complaint. She says

He has always kept threatening the family, I had to restructure my security detail, change my routes because of the consistent death threats I always get from people hired by him to come and kill me.

It would be interesting to know if she ever reported such incidences to the police? Were this people arrested and what became of their cases? How did she tell her son had hired them or did they report this to her? And if they could report to her, they could also tell the police, why didn’t they report to the police they had been hired to kill the lady? This, to me, simply makes no sense.

I think the magistrate erred in sentencing David to hang. I think justice was not served and I hope that he files an appeal and gets his sentence commuted or revoked altogether.  And am I opposed to death penalty.


Tett son sentenced to death

The adopted child who would turn against his parents

Free will: A religious idea

One of my blogging buddies, myatheistlife, made a case for free will which can be found here, here, here and here which I did disagree with. I ask you to read the articles he wrote, they are well argued though in the end I didn’t think he made a strong case for free will. For those of you, who have followed this blog for sometime know that I hold the belief that free will is a chimera. We live in a deterministic world. Our actions appear to us to be freely willed, and freely chosen but this is just an appearance, an illusion.

My friend mentions Dennett, who for all intents and purposes I think holds the idea there is no free will but thinks people need not be told they have no free will that it is bad for society. I think this is analogous to not telling men that they share a common ancestry with other apes fearing that they will start to behave like apes[most behave worse than apes without holding this to be true].

In the Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche writes of four great errors;

  1. The error of confusing cause and effect,
  2. The error of false causality,
  3. The error of imaginary causes, and lastly
  4. The error of free will.

He says this of the error of free will, and I find it agreeable, that without the desire to punish, the need free will does just not arise.

Today we no longer have any tolerance for the idea of free will; we see it only too clearly for what it really is- the foulest of all theological fictions, intended to make mankind responsible in a religious sense- that is dependent upon priests. […]

He goes on to say,

Whenever responsibility is assigned , it is usually so that judgment and punishment can follow. Becoming has been deprived of its innocence when any acting the way you did is traced back to will, to motives, to responsible choices; the doctrine of the will has been invented essentially to justify punishment through the pretext of assigning guilt. 

The Hebrews priests, not being able to explain why their god allowed them to suffer, resolved that it must have been men’s failure to do as god willed/ commanded that they were punished. By telling men they had wronged god, the priests were for all intents assured of a steady income as long as they maintained they were spokesmen/ agents of the supposed god they had created. This folly has been passed down to us.

Alvin Platinga in his attempt to explain away evil in the world, advanced the free will defense that many theists, apologists and theologians use to justify and defend any attempts at showing that if the Abrahamic god does exist, then among other things he is capricious, a cruel bastard and a fiend. If this god were to exist, and is responsible for everything that exists, then there is no explaining away evil free will or not.

Nietzsche continues on this absurd psychology

All primitive psychology, the psychology of will, arises from the fact that its interpreters, the priests at the head of ancient communities, wanted to create for themselves the right to punish- or wanted to create this right for their god. Men were considered free only so that they maybe considered guilty – could be judged and punished; consequently every act had to be considered as willed and the origin of every act had to be considered as lying within the consciousness.

And finishes by saying what our duty is, that is, we must free the world of the idea of punishment and guilt, and by extension of morality objective or otherwise.

Today we immoralists have embarked on a counter movement and trying with all our strength to take the concepts of guilt and punishment out of the world- to cleanse psychology, history, nature and social institutions and sanctions of these ideas. And there is in our eyes no more radical opposition than that of the theologians, who continue to infect the innocence of becoming by means of the concepts of “a moral world order”, “guilt” and “punishment”. Christianity is a religion for the executioner.

Of Mercy and Justice

Those good friends who have been reading this blog must have Caroline a while back. We meet with her here again on a pet subject of mine. As part of the larger series of response to christian apologists, we will have fun doing this, one to show where they are wrong and also to see how we can move forward in eliminating superstition and myth from the minds of the people. It is the only way I think society can move forward as one.

As a small change in my response to the apologists, I would first want them to define god coherently and show that a god so defined can exist and also that the god so defined need our worship. Barring this, I am convinced that apologists and theologians have chosen to willfully delude themselves and the general public. I also contend that they have to show the god they defined is the christian god or whatever religion they ascribe to.

Now that we are done with the basics, let us deal with the question at heart here. Our friend is talking about justice and punishment. I don’t think there is any justice, there is only revenge. We call it justice because we are ashamed of the word revenge while most times that is what people are seeking, in that respect I can’t support any fight for justice. Unless here we refer to cases like where one has grabbed a piece of your land and all you want is that piece to be returned and nothing more, in such an instance I would give a little neck room but not beyond.

I’ve been wrestling with atheists recently, philosophically, not physically. And as we’ve gone back and forth, the charge of God’s apparent capriciousness and/or callousness has been proposed as reason to question his goodness. A case in point is the biblical record of God “hardening “ Pharaoh’s heart. This is the Egyptian king who was ruthlessly oppressing the enslaved Israelites. And when God called Moses to be his instrument of redemption, he did say to him, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.” (Exodus 4:21)

Here before we discuss whether Pharaoh was ruthless, the first question that must be dealt with here is, were the Israelites spoils of war or were they led to Egypt by their supposed god? If it is the first, we need to examine the records to see whether there is any truth in it. And if as I believe, they were led to Egypt by their supposed god, he must be responsible fully for what happens to them while there. Blame can’t be transferred unless the theist also accepts that Pharaoh was god’s agent and is to that extent not guilty. In many posts, I have said what I think about miracles and I will repeat here that truth doesn’t require miracles. As long as a miracle is needed, I insist there is no truth involved.

Many ask, how then can God be just in bringing all the plagues on Pharaoh and the Egyptians if he so decreed that his heart would be set firmly against freeing the Israelites? It is a reasonable question, but I believe some investigating will disclose a satisfactory answer.

Let us look at the answer she proposes

Before I go on, I’d like to emphasize its reasonableness and say to my atheist friends [………..] that these difficult passages disquiet and trouble Christians as well. It is a sign of our sense of justice and concern for our fellow-man that you and we are disturbed by them. And that’s a good thing. The difference, as I see it, is that you stop there and write God off as either nonexistent or not worthy of worship, but we give him the benefit of the doubt, if you will, and pursue a greater understanding. Not because we don’t want to face the facts, but because we must, and the facts of his justice, mercy, love, and grace don’t jive with evil and cruelty.

Why for instance give god a benefit of doubt you are not ready to grant your fellow-man who you can see, who has feelings, he pleads for mercy? Is it a case where one wants to truly believe that the god she believes in is good despite evidence to the contrary? No we don’t stop there, we continue to examine whether the stories so told are credible and whether the god described can be called merciful and we find he falls short. We lack a belief in gods because we find no evidence to suppose one or many could exist. By saying your god is not what it is described to be, we are not saying it exists, no, we are showing that as described he can only be a fiend, capricious and an enemy of men.

In the same way, because I am convinced of God’s goodness, based on how he reveals himself in both the Old and New Testaments, the witness of Jesus Christ who is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), the fact that we his creatures are capable of great love, compassion, sacrifice, kindness, etc…I, at the very least, trust that there is a good explanation for the apparent dichotomy. And my faith can be strong without knowledge of that explanation. But because I believe God provides a greater understanding when we pursue it…I pursue it.

Friends, please help me here. Well maybe I read a wrong bible translation but how can someone defend that the god of the OT is good. He punishes his first mistake, sends them out of their residence, curses the earth they are supposed to plow, curses child-birth, drowns almost everything, shows favoritism, allows or commands the killing of several number of peeps for no reason other than that they worship a bigger god than him. This god tolerates slavery, promises to punish great-grandchildren for the sins of their fathers, punishes everyone except the persons responsible[take case of David, kills the baby instead of David]. Please someone help me here. In the NT we are sent this god sent himself to die for our sins, he tells us he was innocent. Which good god sets such an example? While on the story of this Jeebus, how long was his mission here?

Why do you need faith? Why must one continue to suspend reason. If something is true, we don’t need faith. Faith is only required to believe the impossible and credulous and as for me, I don’t want faith. I want to live, as Camus says, with what I know and only with that.

Let us listen to the dichotomy

So I’ve sought understanding of God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and though God’s ways are so much higher than ours and men have written long treatises on this issue because it is deep and complex, still I think I can confidently speak on one reality that addresses it and that should be helpful. And it is demonstrated in the convicted murderer scenario I opened with: A just punishment is still just even if there is a potential for mercy that is denied.

I have talked about punishment already. To say god’s ways are higher than ours, what does she mean? And then how is this important to us? If it is higher than ours it only follows that there is no point it becomes relevant to us. It can always remain high up there and as such can’t be used as a standard to measure things here, it will always be higher. There is nothing like just punishment, that statement qualifies to be called an oxymoron!

Pharaoh was an evil ruler who denied mercy to the Israelites and abused them as his slaves. He and all of Egypt worshiped false gods and the Pharaoh willingly received adulation from the Egyptians as having godlike status. They were deserving of God’s wrath. What’s more, God foreknew that Pharaoh would stubbornly refuse to release the Israelites “unless compelled by a mighty hand” (Exodus 3:19). His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was part of God’s method of compulsion. It was retribution for his evil deeds borne of an evil heart, and the means of redemption for God’s people.

Please tell me, dear reader, where is it said Pharaoh was evil? Two where in the bible is the god of Abe described as the god for everyone? I want someone to show me where god revealed himself to Pharaoh saying he is his god and pharaoh dismissed him. The charge that pharaoh worshiped false god can’t be sustained and must be withdrawn. And you have no right to call someone’s god false. It is only false according to you and since no one has shown the one true god, all gods can equally be false, that is even if you could prove that yours exists. How can anyone say pharaoh and the whole of Egypt was deserving of this god’s wrath, a god they had no knowledge of? Is this not the height of cruelty and capriciousness!  It’s like a king asking for the arrest of a fellow he met and who didn’t know him then asking this guy be hanged! Tell me where the difference is between Caroline’s god and this king, and remember am patient 😀

Please tell me, is it remotely possible that, allowing this god to be both omnipotent and omniscient, he would resort to hardening pharaoh’s heart, perform some mundane tricks to get his people to go? But even before we get there, is it possible that he didn’t know by taking them to Egypt they would become slaves and thus send them elsewhere? People let us get serious! I know some of you want this god story to be true, but please just for a few moments everyday, apply reason!

So, God did not compel Pharaoh to resist him in opposition to what Pharaoh was inclined to do. In multiple passages in Exodus Pharaoh is said to have hardened his own heart. He simply executed righteous judgment on him and the Egyptians by ensuring his continued resistance resulting in the ten plagues.

So if pharaoh acted according to his own nature as Caroline implies here, why has god to punish him. It is like saying a blind man should be punished for using a white stick to find his way! My next question was everyone in Egypt a pharaoh? If the problem was between god and pharaoh, why involve everyone else? Could god not seek an address with pharaoh, why even send Moses? This sounds like the queen of England has a problem with Mr. Hollande, then she sends some ignorant farmer to go meet with the president, please friends, is this sensible?

One might object that obviously God knew Pharaoh would have relented a lot sooner or he wouldn’t have needed to harden his heart, and that would have spared Egypt a number of plagues…and that’s not fair. But I refer you again to our convicted Murderer B. Would we think it just, particularly if his victim was a loved one of ours, if upon his expressed remorse and resolve never to murder again as he stood ready to be sentenced, the judge let him go scot-free?

I have said enough about punishment already. The rest of this statement is ridiculous. Here we have a god behaving like Caroline would, why then call him god? He has the same attitudes just like we do?

But whence goeth justice in the case of Murderer A? He received mercy, which is the antithesis of justice, and every judge has the authority to dispense it. But though we are all entitled to justice, no one is entitled to mercy.

Do I need to say here I again that there is no justice and that we are all entitled to mercy. We can’t act against our nature, so all of us must be treated with mercy whether a god exists or not. Anyone who objects to this position please show me why!

But if God is so wonderful and loving, why doesn’t he have mercy on everyone? I think there are a lot of good answers to that, but there’s one that becomes obvious if we ask ourselves this: Why doesn’t any judge sentence every convicted criminal that stands before him to probation?

I think the obvious answer to this question is at the beginning of the post. There are no gods and in as much as we would want things to be different, they are just as they are.

what happened to the US of A

I have finished reading a book by Robert Green Ingersoll, The Complete works of R.G Ingersoll Vol 8, a very interesting collection of different interviews on different subjects that he gave spanning quite a long period of time. Some of his thoughts have already been  mentioned in different posts on this blog, especially thoughts on religion, superstition, rights of man and ghosts.

Before I go ahead to give a brief overview of this collection, I need help in understanding what happened to the Americans? Is it possible that they couldn’t produce more Ingersolls, Beecham, Lincolns, Jeffersons, Paines and all other great men whose lives and work were towards the betterment of our race? America now produces Pat Robertson and Hovind and other crazy nutheads. Before you lynch me, am not saying there are no longer great men and women, I read works of and watch videos of Lawrence Strauss a marvelous physicist, Jerry Coyne a brilliant biologist, the good guys at NASA and other great men and women but I don’t think they have filled the giant shoes worn by Lincoln, Luther King, JFK, Jefferson, Paine, Ingersoll and other giants and it is time this country that claims to be the world super power shone bright again. They can’t have as many jails as they have schools, they can’t have people in jail for smoking weed [I mean they should arrest the earth for letting it grow], they should no longer have death penalty in their statute books [it debases the society], they should divest their defense budget to humanitarian purposes. Time must come when right is might and not the other way. They can’t continue to spread democracy or whatever policy through the use of drones and call the death of civilians or anyone for that matter collateral. It is time the generals learnt, if they haven’t as yet, that these acts just like punishing a criminal does not make the world better. The first killing justifies the second one and we end up with a world where the strong rule by might. Lastly can all sensible Americans support the democratic government’s legislation aimed at controlling gun ownership among the general populace.

It is ridiculous that a people who think themselves most advanced and exceptional in the world would behave like savage man exception being that for his weapon and plaything he has a deadly killing machine. What madness is this? Are they so rich that they are insecure or are they so poor that they are insecure or the society so dysfunctional that the majority think to be safe they must own a gun or are they just stupid? My friends from the big continent please help me here!

In the time of Robert Ingersoll it is interesting to note that it is the Republican Party that stood with the people. Most liberal thinkers were republican, they supported the working men, they wanted better pay for the women and Ingersoll himself in many speeches and interviews campaigned for the women to be granted the same rights[right to vote, to equal pay & so on] as men were granted. In the last election it appeared to me, I could be wrong, that the Republican Party represented everything but progress. To an observer, like me , it appeared elitist, didn’t care for the working men, for the least in the society and some of their senators said very derogatory statements about women whether this is party policy or not I can’t comment on.

Robert G Ingersoll, as far as someone can deduce from the works, didn’t want any public office. He says he was contented with his law practice and the public speeches he gave and couldn’t understand why people want such burden of public office, but he was a Republican at heart. He delivered 3 speeches at different conventions. His political convictions are clear and consistent throughout as far as one can tell given the duration covered by the interviews.

He believed in American exceptionalism. He talks very highly of American actors, workingmen, companies and in most times says there is no greater country like America. I can’t begrudge him. It is also interesting the things one learns from these essays about the economies of France, Britain and Germany at the time he was writing. The French were prosperous, Germany wasn’t doing as well as it is doing now, Britain wasn’t that exceptional though he believed that Britain and America were great countries. It is, however, important to say here he thought Shakespeare the greatest poet and dramatist to have graced the earth, Wagner the greatest musician and Dickens the greatest novelist[ he mentions A Tale of two Cities, a great book by any standard though I think The Brothers Karamazov is a greater novel ever written or translated to the English language]

He believed in expanding American territory not through brute force but through negotiation.He wanted the Philipine Islands, Cuba, Canada and I can’t remember what else to be part of the United States of A.

He believed, as I do, that punishment debases man. That to punish a man for a criminal offence is like punishing a man for having the consumption. A man acts as he will and can’t be punished for his nature. It is the duty of society to protect itself but not by punishing offenders but by endeavoring to rehabilitate them and if this fails to isolate them from society so that they do not do harm. He proposed a situation where these people could be kept in prison till the end of their lives or to be kept away from society with no possibility of having offspring. He is right in saying that society reaps what it sows and to redeem the criminal, society which is the soil should be such that it favors the growth of good men. He was opposed, as all rational people are, to the death penalty. He proposed that those who work at the penitentiaries must be the best men in society, that the prisoner should be helped to be better. Punishment debases the person who punishes. And I can’t agree more with him. Anyone who objects to this should show me cause why they should be believed. He also proposed that the state guest should at the end of serving time should be shown accounts of what it cost to take care of him and what his labour amounted and to be given the difference to start a new life. He was opposed to state guests working for free, he argued correctly that this did not make them better men but brewed resentment in their hearts. They felt ostracized by society, abused by the system and robbed of their honest labour and would when released get their revenge. I want to know anyone who objects to this?

On matters divorce he defended the right of everyone to get a divorce if they no longer could live together. He also said gods and supernatural should be done away with in weddings and marriage matters unless the gods themselves would from time to time come to resolve the marital problems. Barring that, no one should claim that marriage was instituted in the Garden of Eden[who knows where it is?], that there is no word in the bible in favour of marriage, that Jesus if he existed did not believe in marriage, the apostles as far as we can tell if they existed were not married. So the priests/ministers/immams/pastors and whatever religious title, I hope you are listening. Unless your god is going to come to resolve marital issues, keep as far away as possible your superstitions from people’s lives.

On the question of labour, in as much he supported the rights of the workingmen to demand better working conditions, he disagreed with any means that resorted to brute force. Here is a man who believed fully in reason and lived by this ideal. I find his statement that every man should be his priest, his king to be very agreeable. Every man should think for himself, use his reason to weigh the beliefs or positions he hold and to believe according to his reason.

He defended separation of church and state.

He asked for churches to not be exempted from tax.

He wanted better schools, more libraries and theatres.

He said, and I agree with him, that no day can be sacred to the extent that man can’t be happy. He said farther that Sunday as a day of rest shouldn’t be spent in church listening to priests telling you how 99% of humanity is going to be damned. That is no rest.

He believed in protecting American companies and better pay for her workers.

He threw the matter of inspiration of the bible through the window. He said nobody ever met a man who met a man who had a met man who claimed to have met any writer of any passages in the bible. He already had come to the conclusion that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses, that no one knows who wrote the gospels, that Paul[or whoever wrote his epistles] did not read the gospels, that John was written much later, that Isaiah was written by at least two or more people, that Ecclesiastes was not written by a believer, that Job is not a Jewish book.

As I conclude, he said he wanted it written down in gods’ books[if any existed] that he defended them against cruelty. That no loving god could have created man just to damn him eternally.

Lastly that the universe is an efficient cause. There can never have been a time when matter was not. It is not possible to have anything existing before the universe came into existence[ a logical absurdity]. The universe is natural and there is no room for the unnatural, superstitious and miracles if by miracles anyone means anything that requires the suspension of Natural Laws.

I have not covered everything in the book here, but I do hope I have presented as precisely as I could his views on many subjects that are of interest to us today and for those who have 27 hours in their days, they could read the book and in case this is not possible, I hope I have done some justice to his views and made known to you the thoughts of a great statesman, a true friend of man and a citizen of the world.

Why I am against punishment

Punishment assumes responsibility, this thought or conviction arises from the illusion that we have free will. The proponents of punishment argue that we have been created by a god who has endowed us with free will and when we act contrary to what society commands, then we have chosen to act that way.

Current research in neuroscience, though still at earlier stages of development, shows that decisions are made in the subconscious mind before seconds before we perform an action. Neuro-scientist Sam Harris has a book by the title Free will which yours truly is yet to read but where he shows that Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it. Any person who thinks we have free will argues that a person could have acted otherwise.

Our desire to revenge informs the desire for punishment and only till the society changes its understanding of human nature will we be able to move away from this desire. In this regard, we can’t take credit for doing what we call ‘good’ nor can we blame anyone for doing ‘bad’. We knowers need to understand the genesis of the words good and bad to be able then to guide our fellow men to a higher living.

And Nietzsche had this to say on capital punishment

How is it that every execution offends us more than a murder? It is the coldness of the judges, the painful preparations, the understanding that a man is here being used as a means to deter others. For guilt is not being punished, even if there were guilt; guilt lies in the educators, the parents, the environment, in us, not in the murderer- that is the motivating circumstances.