Retribution needs  to be assessed to see if it is an Act of Love or a Necessary Evil?


Retributive and restorative justice
Retributive justice treats you as a free agent who knowingly violated justice and you have to be honoured by being made to pay a price for it.  It is what you earned whether you want it or not.  In this light, being treated as a criminal for refusing to shoot civilians at random may appear to be retributive justice but is actually revenge.


The line between retribution and revenge is very foggy.  Everybody takes advantage of that.


Anyway retributive justice asks four things:
Did the person freely break the law?


What law was broken?


Who freely broke the law?


How can we punish this person to show that we mean it when we say their act is forbidden?

Restorative justice asks three things.
Did this person do harm and to whom?


What further harm has resulted from this?


Who has the duty of fixing the damage as far as possible?


This helps you tell the difference.


There is nothing stopping you from applying both at the one time, assuming that both of them really make sense.

Retribution is Revenge

Revenge is supposed to be paying back a person for doing wrong but without valuing them. It is unloving.
Revenge is about indulging your pleasure in hurting a wrong-doer.
Justice is not about this pleasure but about righting a wrong - letting the person know they cannot hurt others without consequences.
Revenge is personal. Justice is about the letter of the law and is impartial towards the criminal.
Revenge is vindictive while just is about proving that if a law bans something then the criminal must be punished. A law with no punishment is not about vindication of what is right and so is not a law at all but in name.
Revenge leads to more revenge while justice will lead to closure and people being able to move on.

Retribution is revenge because:

1 The Church keeps the doctrine that they are not identical in dusty old tomes so that the doctrine does no good whatsoever and no barrister is able to gave a coherent account of how retribution differs from revenge.


2 The law is not about justice though it pretends that it is. Look how you can pay a fine for a friend who has committed criminal damage.

3 It is administered by people who are less than virtuous, and less than knowledgeable about justice, themselves.


4 Society is arbitrary in what it makes illegal. For example, if you abuse enough children, you will end up in court charged only for a few episodes of child abuse. What a law does not punish it allows. The law tends to leave infanticide virtually unpunished if carried out by the mother. When you invent crimes and sins to hate, you can't expect people to believe you when you claim to love the criminal/sinner and hate the crime/sin.


5 One reason people want to avoid being punished is that they sense that there is lying and pretence going on among the authorities.  No wonder prison makes criminals worse. It is a university of evil.


6 Mercy is upheld as a great thing but it partly rewards the crime.  Being punished by having three sweets removed from your bag instead of having the bag taken away is mercy.  But it is also a reward for you have the other sweets.  Mercy is given to total monsters while better people languish in prison.  Mercy is a good virtue-signalling tool.


Criminals break the law of society and have to pay the debt for it. Only they can pay it so fines paid by friends can no longer do unless the criminal will have to pay them back.

Hurting criminals to reform them is idiocy for all they have to do is change and you can’t make them do that. It is sheer sadism. Anybody could say they have changed for the better and why should we believe somebody that has broken the law? The more harm they have done the less we should trust them.

Retributionism teaches that suffering is the wages of crime. We do not believe in retribution for we don’t have free will as in the power to deserve to suffer and so you don’t deserve to pay a penalty for your crimes. Retribution says that if a crime is not punished then it is rewarded. This forbids mercy so retributionism commands that we all slice bad people up – alive.

We don’t believe that punishment is all about deterring others from crime for that advocates extreme brutality. We would have to crucify thieves to scare would-be thieves. Such a practice would really lead to criminals planning their crimes better to avoid capture.

Why care if somebody has earned suffering by crime? If the answer is to protect people then we are saying that it does not matter what suffering they have earned but we will use what they have deserved as an excuse for protecting people!   That is quite a nasty attitude as prevalent as it is.  Who would want protection from people like that?


We don’t believe that punishment is just for protecting society because we are all potential monsters. 

Making criminals pay is not about protecting us but about safeguarding the law for if there is no price for breaking the law then the law is a law in name only and is not a law at all. It is really offering a reward for wickedness. The amount of suffering that has been inflicted has to be inflicted in return. The killer should be behind bars for life but then we must still keep our minds open to any new light.  Perhaps new evidence could appear that justifies clearing the person or ameliorating the punishment.  When you take a life you have to pay for it for the rest of your life for you have taken the victim’s days.

You might reply that society needs laws so to safeguard the law is to safeguard the people. The law only safeguards what it perceives as best and has many laws that are just there for the sake of being there. Nobody agrees on what is best for people. Catholic countries used to think that the best thing to do was to keep the Catholics immune from non-Catholic influences. And the Church would still like them to think that.

When you steal or harm another wrongly you have to make amends or restitution as far as you are able. A person who steals and says they are sorry can’t be really sorry if they are keeping what they took instead of returning it. You have to make compensation not only for what you too but also for the sorrow you caused.


In principle

What if retribution is not revenge in principle?  It is but let us forget that for the sake of argument.  Then if retribution is not revenge in principle, it could be revenge in practice.  In practice, what is called retribution is really revenge. Practically speaking, the two have to have the same results so the only difference can be the motive. In other words, the first is motivated by love and the second by hate. Both are the same except for the motive.


The only imaginable difference between revenge and retribution must be in the motive which makes it so silly to ban revenge and make it illegal for you can’t make bad motives illegal for you can’t see them! Where hitting a child is legal, then there is no way to show that this is different from revenge for it depends on the person’s motive. So the law does allow revenge after all! What is the point of forbidding revenge and letting it in the back door? If it is all about motives, you cannot look at a judge sending somebody to jail and say it was retribution and not revenge. In practice, where it counts no difference exists.


Motive makes the difference between revenge and retribution to be practically useless . People lie about their motives easily for nobody can see them or see how long a motive is present.


Suppose retribution as opposed to revenge is possible.  Then you never really know if retribution is really just revenge for it all depends on the motives of those who administer punitive justice. For example, if the reason a person punishes is to gratify their own anger and not because the punishment is right even if it is right then that is revenge. The cynicism of the Bible and the world religions towards human nature would make it more probable that when a person says they are giving retribution that it is really revenge they mean to dish out under the respectable guise of retribution. We all know that the predominate fault in us is liking it very much if anybody we dislike – and we dislike anybody who corrects us for we prefer having our own way to being right – has a fall.


Nobody says that a person taking revenge should be seen as having made a mistake and as intending justice and retribution.


Retribution if it is soft revenge is still revenge.


The very act of condemning revenge is revenge when revenge is dressed up as retribution. This is how religion often satisfies its vengeful urges.


Retribution is one of the two reasons why the free will belief is so popular. The other being rewarding. But when retribution is so likely to proceed from badness is it worth believing in free will? No. We can give rewards just for the sake of it even if we disbelieve in free will so the desire to justify and have retribution and vengeful feelings is the big attraction about free will. To punish just to satisfy feelings is revenge for it is done for the wrong reason.


Retribution that does not attempt to reform the criminal is really revenge. If you respect the criminal you will attempt to change them. It is hypocrisy to punish a person for a crime when you do not care if they will be changed by it for the better.


That is the theory.  But the reality is we know we cannot really change anybody.  It depends on their response.  Some cannot change themselves.  All agree that a dying old man who does something evil should get away with it.  If we are talking about giving the bad person a context that allows them to decide to reform then why are we putting them in jail along where it is dog eat dog?  What if the person wants to be in jail?  You have no way of predicting how the consequences of sending somebody to jail will work out.  Consequences can be too slight or too severe.  And something happening when the person is in jail is not necessary a consequence.  Something happening after x does not mean that x caused it.  It gets worse.  John abuses a child sexually and goes to jail.  In there he feels intense shame.  You assume as does he that it is because of what he has done.   You feel smug.  But feelings can be complicated and not be caused by what you want them to be caused by.  It does not mean that if he went back in a time machine he would not do it again.  Justice is not justice but based on lies and deliberate misperceptions about consequences.


Retribution then is not about reform at all. It is about revenge.
If I make a jail and put somebody in it for insulting me that is revenge. If the state makes a jail and puts somebody in it for insulting it that is retribution. Nobody can give us a coherent reason for saying revenge and retribution differ.  Any success at reforming is going to be debatable.  People ceasing to commit crimes does not mean they cease to be full of crime in their hearts.


Punishment must be administered in such a way that rehabilitation can happen and that the person at least will not get any worse. Thus it is wrong to decree that each class of criminal should be punished the same way. Burglar x may need a different programme from Burglar y though both are equally bad.


Debt to your victims or God?


Retribution is about paying your debt to your victims. If God alone matters then it is about paying your debt to him. If you fail to do so for God then you are abusing a principle and thus are abusing the criminals and sinners and cannot claim to be intending good to them.


Retribution is revenge for a believer in free will.
Often restitution is revenge as well. When you smash a rich person’s window and you pay to get it replaced though the person says they have forgiven you, and the person accepts, how could that really be forgiveness?
It is really revenge for it says the crime is pardoned and should still be paid for which is spiteful. The Roman Church is responsible for this form of revenge because it says that its God wants compensation for the sins we have committed even though he does not need it and his grace can heal our evil inclinations.

We have seen through the hypocrisy of the legal system and seen that retribution is just a tyrannical legalised form of revenge. The solution is to deny free will and put hate out of the question and replace punishment with compassionate therapy that keeps crime under control. Religion is the main instigator of the hypocrisy.

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