Have They Got It Coming?

Question from Shanoon:
Do you really believe the people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Poy, Mao and all those terrorists, Rapists, killers, and suicide bombers are considered to be criminals and as such should be judged and punished one day?

1- If the answer is NO, then they are innocent. ( and they are not only supporters but promoters of these kinds of innocent (!) evils.)
2- If the answer is YES then how?

Answer by SmartLX:
Some of those you list have been punished, some haven’t, and some won’t be punished ever in their lives for certain things (for instance, way too many rapists get away with it). Without going into horrible detail regarding their crimes, I’ll simply agree with you that there are people in the world who deserve to be punished. Religious and secular ethics frequently agree on cases like these, because the same conclusion is reached multiple ways.

Therefore, if there is no God or Hell then some people who deserve to be punished will never be punished at all, no matter how hard we try to enact justice. This isn’t a happy thought, but if it’s true then there’s nothing we can do about it, except to work to ensure justice is served whenever it IS possible. But the fact that the implications of a state of affairs are unfortunate does not support the argument that it’s not the case, and the alternative isn’t true just because it would be better (objectively or otherwise). An argument from consequences is essentially an unsupported argument, and the only reason to accept it is that it makes you feel better.

Punishment: As Above, So Below?

Question from Emily:
What gives you the right to punish your children when you don’t have a higher power punishing you?

Answer by SmartLX:
Other people do, by forming a society with laws that allow parents to discipline their children using reasonable methods.

Rights, human or otherwise, are an abstract concept. They have no physical form; you can only take them away by stopping or seriously discouraging someone from doing something. Since God cannot be shown to prevent or allow any actions at all, acting as He does exactly as if he did not exist, He does not apparently confer or restrict any of our rights.

It is indeed good practice for any authority to itself answer to a greater authority, to prevent the abuse of power. This is true all the way up the chain. The nice thing about a democracy/republic is that those at the top answer to each other; presidents can be impeached, judges can be dismissed and so on. If all authority ultimately rests with one individual, the word for the one in that position is dictator. Benevolent dictator, perhaps (as all dictators like to be portrayed), but a dictator nonetheless.

If on the other hand you just mean that punishment should cause more punishment further down the line, that’s called a cycle of violence. How I Met Your Mother calls this kind of thing the Chain of Screaming. Neither of these are positive behavioural models to follow.