Dennis Prager

One should not confuse Jews or Christians with Judeo-Christian values. Many Jews and many Christians, including many sincerely religious ones, take certain positions that are contrary to Judeo-Christian values (which I have defined at length: In a nutshell, they are Old Testament values as mediated by Christians, especially American Christians).

 One clear example is the death penalty for murderers. Many Jews and Christians believe that all murderers should be kept alive, that it is not only wrong to take the life of any murderer; it is actually un-Jewish or un-Christian.

 Jews opposed to capital punishment cite the Talmud (the second most important religious text to Jews), which is largely opposed to capital punishment; Christians opponents cite Jesus on loving one's enemies, for example; and Catholic abolitionists cite the late Pope John Paul II and the many cardinals and bishops who, though not denying all of the Church's teachings on the permissibility of the state to take the life a murderer, largely oppose capital punishment.

 Yet, the notion that a murderer must give up his life is one of the central values in the Old Testament. Indeed, taking the life of a murderer is the only law that is found in all Five Books of Moses (the Torah). That is particularly remarkable considering how few laws there are at all in the first Book, Genesis.

 When God creates the world, He declares a fundamental value and law to maintain civilization: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God He created him." And the law is repeated in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

 When all murderers are allowed to keep their lives, murder is rendered less serious and human life is therefore cheapened. That is not only the Judeo-Christian biblical view. It is common sense. The punishment for a crime is what informs society how bad that crime is. A society that allows all murderers to live deems murder less awful than one that takes away the life of a murderer.

 There are those who argue that precisely because they so value human life, they oppose the taking of a murderer's life. They argue that you cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. But that is the same as arguing that you can't teach that stealing is wrong by taking away a thief's money or that you can't teach that kidnapping is wrong by kidnapping (i.e., imprisoning) kidnappers.

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”

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