Death Penalty = Archaic, creepy ritualized killing to serve symbolic rather than practical purposes

Many people assume that the death penalty serves some useful purpose, such as protecting public safety.  Actually, as other items I’ve posted on this blog explain, the death penalty does NOT deliver what it promises, and it causes other problems instead.  See

Beyond the death penalty’s ineffectiveness, we should also recognize it for what it is:  an archaic, creepy example of conducting ritualized killings that serve only symbolic rather than practical purposes.

In some primitive societies, people were aware of “evil” and created ritualized exercises to periodically purge the “evil” from their societies.  They did this in different ways.

One method was to symbolically transfer the society’s evil onto an actual goat (a “scapegoat”) and ritually kill the goat as a symbolic way to purge evil from the society.

Other societies ritually performed human sacrifices — sometimes members of the same society (perhaps virgins) and sometimes members of other tribes who had been captured in war.

It was common to perform these ritualized killings as public spectacles.  Public hangings were common.  People would gather to watch lynchings in the American South.  Nowadays in the U.S., even though executions do not occur in public, journalists are invited to be among the few spectators.

In the U.S. the laws are written so narrowly that really very few murders could qualify as meeting the narrow criteria for the trials to allow for death sentences.  But many Americans hang on to this archaic, creepy institution of ritualized killing, even though it does not serve practical purposes.  People somehow feel that the symbolic purposes are sufficient to continue the barbarism.

Let’s become more wise as a society and abolish such barbarism.



About GlenAnderson 1514 Articles
Since the late 1960s Glen Anderson has devoted his life to working as a volunteer for peace, nonviolence, social justice, and progressive political issues. He has worked through many existing organizations and started several. Over the years he has worked especially for such wide-ranging goals as making peace with Vietnam, eliminating nuclear weapons, converting from a military economy to a peacetime economy, abolishing the death penalty, promoting nonviolence at all levels throughout society, and helping people organize and strategize for grassroots movements to solve many kinds of problems. He writes, speaks, and conducts training workshops on a wide variety of topics. Since 1987 he has produced and hosted a one-hour cable TV interview program on many kinds of issues. Since 2017 he has blogged at He lives in Lacey near Olympia WA. You can reach him at (360) 491-9093