One of the cultural dividing lines between the U.S. and Canada (and, indeed, the western world) is the use of the death penalty. Canada abolished it some 30 years ago; we've been feeling morally superior ever since.
Recently the Canadian P.M. said he would not appeal a death-sentence conviction of a Canadian who murdered on U.S. soil. (The lesson is, if you are going to murder someone, do it on Canadian soil.)
This failure to appeal has brought out some religious language from Europe -- a welcome relief from the uber-secularism of the God-is-dead state. Seems they have some faint echos of religious memory after all.
The "Council of Europe" (no less!) has likened the Harper government to a great biblical figure -- Pontius Pilate -- whom the National Post helpfully describes for its readers as "the Roman governor who 'washed his hands' of the decision to crucify Jesus Christ because a mob demanded Christ’s execution."
In the intemperate language that typifies the left, Mr. Davies of the Council of Europe went on to accuse Canada of effectively “subcontracting” the death penalty to the U.S. If this is true, it means that Canada is also "subcontracting" murder, since the murder occurred on American soil.
He went on to articulate a common argument against the death penalty, “But to execute him is degrading. It’s reducing authorities to the same level as people who kill people. Killing people is wrong. And the European view is we won’t get down in the gutter with the people who commit murders."
The equivalence argument is an interesting one. It fails to differentiate the proper role of government vs. the lawless acts of individual citizens. If a citizen confiscates your money, it's theft. If the government does it, it's taxation. If a citizen holds you against your will, it's kidnapping; if the government does it, it's incarceration.
Substitute incarceration for capital punishment and re-roll the tape:
“But to incarcerate him is degrading. It’s reducing authorities to the same level as people who kidnap people. Kidnapping people is wrong. And the European view is we won’t get down in the gutter with the people who commit kidnapping."
The other part of his argument that is problematic is the absolute moral assertion "Killing people is wrong". Of course, Christians agree with this, in the sense of committing murder, but on what moral grounds does an atheistic society say it is wrong to kill people? After all, our status is no more elevated, ultimately, than that of a cow or a pig -- we just came out a little better on the amoral evolutionary scale. Is it wrong to kill an animal? No? Then what essential difference does it make to kill a human "animal"? Is it morally "wrong" for a bear or a shark to kill a human? No? Then why would it be wrong for one human to kill another?
A moral code, unless it's admitted to be purely pragmatic and therefore a purely fictitious human construct (or, even worse, an invention of "mindless" evolution) -- makes no sense without God.
And yet this moral sense, along with this sense that man is somehow special, somehow unique, are both deeply ingrained in human beings -- you might even say it's imprinted within us. Even among those who claim that God does not exist or is irrelevant to the conduct of human affairs.
Atheists owe God a lot.
And that's the way the Ball bounces.