human sacrifice and death penalty

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Sat Apr 25 16:13:29 UTC 1998

Erik Hoogcarspel wrote:

device), and I wonder if there's not a strong component of ritual sacrifice
in the death penalty (is the electric chair not a modern equivalent of an
altar for Yama?)

Not really. The electric chair was introduced as a more "humane" way of
executing a criminal. Apparently, being hanged or shot was perceived as
being less comfortable than being electrocuted. Electrocution was also a
part of emerging modernism. Now, the death syringe has been introduced, so
that we don't have to get the unsavoury drama of hanging, shooting or
electrocution. (An other triumf for modernism). People are done away with
pretty much in the same way a vet does away with an old dog. You may regard
the death penalty as such as a kind of sacrifice if you like, but it is
first and foremost based on the idea that it will scare other people from
doing the same kind of crime as the executed criminal (and then, of course,
there is the revenge part!). The "terror component" of the death penalty
should make us wary of facile comparisons between the death penalty and
sacrifice. They belong to two different spheres of concepts.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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