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  1. Today
  2. Criticism of Christianity has a long history stretching back to the initial formation of the religion during the Roman Empire. Critics have challenged Christian beliefs and teachings as well as Christian actions, from the Crusades to modern terrorism. The intellectual arguments against Christianity include the suppositions that it is a faith of violence, corruption, superstition, polytheism, and bigotry. In the early years of Christianity, the Neoplatonic philosopher Porphyry emerged as one of the major critics with his book Against the Christians. Porphyry argued that Christianity was based on false prophecies that had not yet materialized. Following the adoption of Christianity under the Roman Empire, dissenting religious voices were gradually suppressed by both governments and ecclesiastical authorities. A millennium later, the Protestant Reformation led to a fundamental split in European Christianity and rekindled critical voices about the Christian faith, both internally and externally. With the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment, Christianity was criticized by major thinkers and philosophers, such as Voltaire, David Hume, Thomas Paine, and the Baron d'Holbach. The central theme of these critiques sought to negate the historical accuracy of the Christian Bible and focused on the perceived corruption of Christian religious authorities. Other thinkers, like Immanuel Kant, launched systematic and comprehensive critiques of Christian theology by attempting to refute arguments for theism. In modern times, Christianity has faced substantial criticism from a wide array of political movements and ideologies. In the late eighteenth century, the French Revolution saw a number of politicians and philosophers criticizing traditional Christian doctrines, precipitating a wave of secularism in which hundreds of churches were closed down and thousands of priests were deported. Following the French Revolution, prominent philosophers of liberalism and communism, such as John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx, criticized Christian doctrine on the grounds that it was conservative and anti-democratic. Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that Christianity fostered a kind of slave morality that suppressed the desires contained in the human will. The Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, and several other modern revolutionary movements have also led to the criticism of Christian ideas. The formal response of Christians to such criticisms is described as Christian apologetics. Philosophers like Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas have been some of the most prominent defenders of the Christian religion since its foundation. wikipedia.org
  3. Yesterday
  4. Intelligent design A number of notable proponents of theistic evolution, including Kenneth R. Miller, John Haught, George Coyne, Simon Conway Morris, Denis Alexander, Ard Louis, Darrel Falk, Alister McGrath, Francisco J. Ayala, and Francis Collins are critics of intelligent design. Young Earth creationism Young Earth creationists including Ken Ham criticise theistic evolution on theological grounds, finding it hard to reconcile the nature of a loving God with the process of evolution, in particular, the existence of death and suffering before the Fall of Man. They consider that it undermines central biblical teachings by regarding the creation account as a myth, a parable, or an allegory, instead of treating it as historical. They also fear that a capitulation to what they call "atheistic" naturalism will confine God to the gaps in scientific explanations, undermining biblical doctrines, such as God's incarnation through Christ. wikipedia.org
  5. 19th-century 'theistic evolution' The American botanist Asa Gray used the name "theistic evolution" in a now-obsolete sense for his point of view, presented in his 1876 book Essays and Reviews Pertaining to Darwinism. He argued that the deity supplies beneficial mutations to guide evolution. St George Jackson Mivart argued instead in his 1871 On the Genesis of Species that the deity, equipped with foreknowledge, sets the direction of evolution (orthogenesis) by specifying the laws that govern it, and leaves species to evolve according to the conditions they experience as time goes by. The Duke of Argyll set out similar views in his 1867 book The Reign of Law. The historian Edward J. Larson stated that the theory failed as an explanation in the minds of biologists from the late 19th century onwards as it broke the rules of methodological naturalism which they had grown to expect. Non-theistic evolution The major criticism of theistic evolution by non-theistic evolutionists focuses on its essential belief in a supernatural creator. These critics argue that by the application of Occam's razor, sufficient explanation of the phenomena of evolution is provided by natural processes (in particular, natural selection), and the intervention or direction of a supernatural entity is not required. The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins considers theistic evolution a superfluous attempt to "smuggle God in by the back door". wikipedia.org
  6. Hominization, in both science and religion, involves the process or the purpose of becoming human. The process and means by which hominization occurs is a key problem in theistic evolutionary thought, at least for the Abrahamic religions, which hold as a core belief that animals do not have immortal souls but that humans do. Many versions of theistic evolution insist on a special creation consisting of at least the addition of a soul just for the human species. Scientific accounts of the origin of the universe, the origin of life, and subsequent evolution of pre-human life forms may not cause any difficulty but the need to reconcile religious and scientific views of hominization and to account for the addition of a soul to humans remains a problem. Theistic evolution typically postulates a point at which a population of hominids who had (or may have) evolved by a process of natural evolution acquired souls and thus (with their descendants) became fully human in theological terms. This group might be restricted to Adam and Eve, or indeed to Mitochondrial Eve, although versions of the theory allow for larger populations. The point at which such an event occurred should essentially be the same as in paleoanthropology and archeology, but theological discussion of the matter tends to concentrate on the theoretical. The term "special transformism" is sometimes used to refer to theories that there was a divine intervention of some sort, achieving hominization. Several 19th-century theologians and evolutionists attempted specific solutions, including the Catholics John Augustine Zahm and St. George Jackson Mivart, but tended to come under attack from both the theological and biological camps. and 20th-century thinking tended to avoid proposing precise mechanisms. wikipedia.org
  7. Creationism is the religious belief that nature, and aspects such as the universe, Earth, life, and humans, originated with supernatural acts of divine creation. In its broadest sense, creationism includes a continuum of religious views, which vary in their acceptance or rejection of scientific explanations such as evolution that describe the origin and development of natural phenomena. The term creationism most often refers to belief in special creation; the claim that the universe and lifeforms were created as they exist today by divine action, and that the only true explanations are those which are compatible with a Christian fundamentalist literal interpretation of the creation myths found in the Bible's Genesis creation narrative. Since the 1970s, the commonest form of this has been young Earth creationism which posits special creation of the universe and lifeforms within the last 10,000 years on the basis of Flood geology, and promotes pseudoscientific creation science. From the 18th century onwards, old Earth creationism accepted geological time harmonized with Genesis through gap or day-age theory, while supporting anti-evolution. Modern old-Earth creationists support progressive creationism and continue to reject evolutionary explanations. Following political controversy, creation science was reformulated as intelligent design and neo-creationism. Mainline Protestants and the Catholic Church reconcile modern science with their faith in Creation through forms of theistic evolution which hold that God purposefully created through the laws of nature, and accept evolution. Some groups call their belief evolutionary creationism. Less prominently, there are also members of the Islamic and Hindu faiths who are creationists. Use of the term "creationist" in this context dates back to Charles Darwin's unpublished 1842 sketch draft for what became On the Origin of Species, and he used the term later in letters to colleagues. Asa Gray published a 1873 article in The Nation saying a "special creationist" maintaining that species "were supernaturally originated just as they are, by the very terms of his doctrine places them out of the reach of scientific explanation." wikipedia.org
  8. According to Eugenie Scott: "In one form or another, Theistic Evolutionism is the view of creation taught at the majority of mainline Protestant seminaries, and it is the official position of the Catholic church." Studies show that acceptance of evolution is lower in the United States than in Europe or Japan; among 34 countries sampled, only Turkey had a lower rate of acceptance than the United States. Theistic evolutionism has been described as arguing for compatibility between science and religion, and as such it is viewed with disdain both by some atheists and many creationists. wikipedia.org
  9. Within a decade most scientists had started espousing evolution, but from the outset some expressed opposition to the concept of natural selection and searched for a more purposeful mechanism. In 1860 Richard Owen attacked Darwin's Origin of Species in an anonymous review while praising "Professor Owen" for "the establishment of the axiom of the continuous operation of the ordained becoming of living things". In December 1859 Darwin had been disappointed to hear that Sir John Herschel apparently dismissed the book as "the law of higgledy-pigglety", and in 1861 Herschel wrote of evolution that "[a]n intelligence, guided by a purpose, must be continually in action to bias the direction of the steps of change–to regulate their amount–to limit their divergence–and to continue them in a definite course". He added "On the other hand, we do not mean to deny that such intelligence may act according to law (that is to say, on a preconceived and definite plan)". The scientist Sir David Brewster (1781-1868), a member of the Free Church of Scotland, wrote an article called "The Facts and Fancies of Mr. Darwin" (1862) in which he rejected many Darwinian ideas, such as those concerning vestigial organs or questioning God's perfection in his work. Brewster concluded that Darwin's book contained both "much valuable knowledge and much wild speculation", although accepting that "every part of the human frame had been fashioned by the Divine hand and exhibited the most marvellous and beneficent adaptions for the use of men". In the 1860s theistic evolutionism became a popular compromise in science and gained widespread support from the general public. Between 1866 and 1868 Owen published a theory of derivation, proposing that species had an innate tendency to change in ways that resulted in variety and beauty showing creative purpose. Both Owen and Mivart (1827-1900) insisted that natural selection could not explain patterns and variation, which they saw as resulting from divine purpose. In 1867 the Duke of Argyll published The Reign of Law, which explained beauty in plumage without any adaptive benefit as design generated by the Creator's laws of nature for the delight of humans. Argyll attempted to reconcile evolution with design by suggesting that the laws of variation prepared rudimentary organs for a future need. Cardinal John Henry Newman wrote in 1868: "Mr Darwin's theory need not then to be atheistical, be it true or not; it may simply be suggesting a larger idea of Divine Prescience and Skill ... and I do not [see] that 'the accidental evolution of organic beings' is inconsistent with divine design — It is accidental to us, not to God." In 1871 Darwin published his own research on human ancestry in The Descent of Man, concluding that humans "descended from a hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears", which would be classified amongst the Quadrumana along with monkeys, and in turn descended "through a long line of diversified forms" going back to something like the larvae of sea squirts. Critics promptly complained that this "degrading" image "tears the crown from our heads",[citation needed] but there is little evidence that it led to loss of faith. Among the few who did record the impact of Darwin's writings, the naturalist Joseph LeConte struggled with "distress and doubt" following the death of his daughter in 1861, before enthusiastically saying in the late 1870s there was "not a single philosophical question connected with our highest and dearest religious and spiritual interests that is fundamentally affected, or even put in any new light, by the theory of evolution", and in the late 1880s embracing the view that "evolution is entirely consistent with a rational theism". Similarly, George Frederick Wright (1838-1921) responded to Darwin's Origin of Species and Charles Lyell's 1863 Geological Evidences of the Antiquity of Man by turning to Asa Gray's belief that God had set the rules at the start and only intervened on rare occasions, as a way to harmonise evolution with theology. The idea of evolution did not seriously shake Wright's faith, but he later suffered a crisis when confronted with historical criticism of the Bible. wikipedia.org
  10. When Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, many liberal Christians accepted evolution provided they could reconcile it with divine design. The clergymen Charles Kingsley (1819–1875) and Frederick Temple (1821–1902), both conservative Christians in the Church of England, promoted a theology of creation as an indirect process controlled by divine laws. Some strict Calvinists welcomed the idea of natural selection, as it did not entail inevitable progress and humanity could be seen as a fallen race requiring salvation. The Anglo-Catholic Aubrey Moore (1848-1890) also accepted the theory of natural selection, incorporating it into his Christian beliefs as merely the way God worked. Darwin's friend Asa Gray (1810-1888) defended natural selection as compatible with design. Darwin himself, in his second edition of the Origin (January 1860), had written in the conclusion: I believe that animals have descended from at most only four or five progenitors, and plants from an equal or lesser number. Analogy would lead me one step further, namely, to the belief that all animals and plants have descended from some one prototype. But analogy may be a deceitful guide. Nevertheless all living things have much in common, in their chemical composition, their germinal vesicles, their cellular structure, and their laws of growth and reproduction. We see this even in so trifling a circumstance as that the same poison often similarly affects plants and animals; or that the poison secreted by the gall-fly produces monstrous growths on the wild rose or oak-tree. I should infer from analogy that probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed by the Creator. — Chapter XIV: "Conclusions", page 428. wikipedia.org
  11. Jens Christian Clausen (1967), refers to Linnaeus' theory as a "forgotten evolutionary theory [that] antedates Darwin's by nearly 100 years", and reports that he was a pioneer in doing experiments about hybridization. Later observations by Protestant botanists Carl Friedrich von Gärtner (1772-1850) and Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter (1733-1806) denied the immutability of species, which the Bible never teaches. Kölreuter used the term "transmutation of species" to refer to species which have experienced biological changes through hybridization, although they both were inclined to believe that hybrids would revert to the parental forms by a general law of reversion, and therefore, would not be responsible for the introduction of new species. Later, in a number of experiments carried out between 1856 and 1863, the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), aligning himself with the "new doctrine of special creation" proposed by Linnaeus, concluded that new species of plants could indeed arise, although limitedly and retaining their own stability. Georges Cuvier's analysis of fossils and discovery of extinction disrupted static views of nature in the early 19th century, confirming geology as showing a historical sequence of life. British natural theology, which sought examples of adaptation to show design by a benevolent Creator, adopted catastrophism to show earlier organisms being replaced in a series of creations by new organisms better adapted to a changed environment. Charles Lyell (1797-1875) also saw adaptation to changing environments as a sign of a benevolent Creator, but his uniformitarianism envisaged continuing extinctions and replacements. As seen in correspondence between Lyell and John Herschel, scientists were looking for creation by laws rather than by miraculous interventions. In continental Europe, the idealism of philosophers including Lorenz Oken (1779-1851) developed a Naturphilosophie in which patterns of development from archetypes were a purposeful divine plan aimed at forming humanity. These scientists rejected transmutation of species as materialist. radicalism threatening the established hierarchies of society. The idealist Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), a persistent opponent of transmutation, saw mankind as the goal of a sequence of creations, but his concepts were the first to be adapted[by whom?] into a scheme of theistic evolutionism. In Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation published in 1844, its anonymous author (Robert Chambers) set out goal-centred progressive development as the Creator's divine plan, programmed to unfold without direct intervention or miracles. The book became a best-seller and popularised the idea of transmutation in a designed "law of progression". The scientific establishment strongly attacked Vestiges at the time, but later more sophisticated theistic evolutionists followed the same approach of looking for patterns of development as evidence of design. The comparative anatomist Richard Owen (1804-1892), a prominent figure in the Victorian era scientific establishment, opposed transmutation throughout his life. When formulating homology he adapted idealist philosophy to reconcile natural theology with development, unifying nature as divergence from an underlying form in a process demonstrating design. His conclusion to his On the Nature of Limbs of 1849 suggested that divine laws could have controlled the development of life, but he did not expand this idea after objections from his conservative patrons. Others supported the idea of development by law, including the botanist Hewett Watson (1804-1881) and the Reverend Baden Powell (1796-1860), who wrote in 1855 that such laws better illustrated the powers of the Creator. In 1858 Owen in his speech as President of the British Association said that in "continuous operation of Creative power" through geological time, new species of animals appeared in a "successive and continuous fashion" through birth from their antecedents by a Creative law rather than through slow transmutation. wikipedia.org
  12. Historians of science (and authors of pre-evolutionary ideas) have pointed out that scientists had considered the concept of biological change well before Darwin. In the 17th century, the English nonconformist/Anglican priest and botanist John Ray, in his book The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation (1692), had wondered "why such different species should not only mingle together, but also generate an animal, and yet that that hybridous production should not again generate, and so a new race be carried on". 18th-century scientist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) published Systema Naturae (1735- ), a book in which he considered that new varieties of plants could arise through hybridization, but only under certain limits fixed by God. Linnaeus had initially embraced the Aristotelian idea of immutability of species (the idea that species never change), but later in his life he started to challenge it. Yet, as a Christian, he still defended "special creation", the belief that God created "every living creature" at the beginning, as read in Genesis, with the peculiarity a set of original species of which all the present species have descended. Linnaeus wrote: Let us suppose that the Divine Being in the beginning progressed from the simpler to the complex; from few to many; similarly that He in the beginning of the plant kingdom created as many plants as there were natural orders. These plant orders He Himself, there from producing, mixed among themselves until from them originated those plants which today exist as genera. Nature then mixed up these plant genera among themselves through generations -of double origin (hybrids) and multiplied them into existing species, as many as possible (whereby the flower structures were not changed) excluding from the number of species the almost sterile hybrids, which are produced by the same mode of origin. — Systema Vegetabilium (1774) Linnaeus attributed the active process of biological change to God himself, as he stated: We imagine that the Creator at the actual time of creation made only one single species for each natural order of plants, this species being different in habit and fructification from all the rest. That he made these mutually fertile, whence out of their progeny, fructification having been somewhat changed, Genera of natural classes have arisen as many in number as the different parents, and since this is not carried further, we regard this also as having been done by His Omnipotent hand directly in the beginning; thus all Genera were primeval and constituted a single Species. That as many Genera having arisen as there were individuals in the beginning, these plants in course of time became fertilised by others of different sort and thus arose Species until so many were produced as now exist ... these Species were sometimes fertilised out of congeners, that is other Species of the same Genus, whence have arisen Varieties. — From his Fundamenta fructificationis (1742)
  13. Theistic evolution, theistic evolutionism, evolutionary creationism, divine direction, or God-guided evolution are views that regard religious teachings about God as compatible with modern scientific understanding about biological evolution. Theistic evolution is not in itself a scientific theory, but a range of views about how the science of general evolution relates to religious beliefs in contrast to special creation views. Supporters of theistic evolution generally harmonize evolutionary thought with belief in God, rejecting the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science – they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not contradict each other. Francis Collins describes theistic evolution as the position that "evolution is real, but that it was set in motion by God", and characterizes it as accepting "that evolution occurred as biologists describe it, but under the direction of God". He lists out six general premises on which different versions of theistic evolution typically rest. They include: the prevailing cosmological model, with the universe coming into being about 13.8 billion years ago; the fine-tuned universe; evolution and natural selection; No special supernatural intervention is involved once evolution got under way; Humans are a result of these evolutionary processes; and Despite all these, humans are unique. The concern for the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the continuous search for God among all human cultures defy evolutionary explanations and point to our spiritual nature. The executive director of the National Center for Science Education in the United States of America, Eugenie Scott, has used the term to refer to the part of the overall spectrum of beliefs about creation and evolution holding the theological view that God creates through evolution. It covers a wide range of beliefs about the extent of any intervention by God, with some approaching deism in rejecting the concept of continued intervention. Just as different types of evolutionary explanations have evolved, so there are different types of theistic evolution. Creationists Henry M. Morris and John D. Morris have listed different terms which were used to describe different positions from the 1890s to the 1920s: "Orthogenesis" (goal-directed evolution), "nomogenesis" (evolution according to fixed law), "emergent evolution", "creative evolution", and others. Others argue that one should read the creation story in the book of Genesis only metaphorically. Others see "evolutionary creation" (EC, also referred to by some observers as "evolutionary creationism") as the belief that God, as Creator, uses evolution to bring about his plan. The Jesuit paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) was an influential proponent of God-directed evolution or "orthogenesis", in which man will eventually evolve to the "omega point" of union with the Creator. Eugenie Scott states in Evolution Vs. Creationism that it is a type of evolution rather than creationism, despite its name, and that it is "hardly distinguishable from Theistic Evolution". According to evolutionary creationist Denis Lamoureux, although referring to the same view, the word arrangement in the term "theistic evolution" places "the process of evolution as the primary term, and makes the Creator secondary as merely a qualifying adjective." Scott also uses the term "theistic evolutionism" interchangeably with "theistic evolution". Divine intervention is seen at critical intervals in history in a way consistent with scientific explanations of speciation, with similarities to the ideas of progressive creationism that God created "kinds" of animals sequentially. Regarding the embracing of Darwinian evolution, historian Ronald Numbers describes the position of the late 19th-century geologist George Frederick Wright as "Christian Darwinism". wikipedia.org
  14. Modification to the Catholic catechism On 2 August 2018, it was announced that the Catechism of the Catholic Church would be revised to state that the Church teaches that "the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person". A full letter to the Bishops regarding the change stated that it was consistent with the previous teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the dignity of human life, and that it reflected how modern society had better prison systems with a goal of criminal rehabilitation that made the death penalty unnecessary for the protection of innocent people. The new text reads: Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good. Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes. In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state. Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption. Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide. Within two weeks, 45 Catholic scholars and clergy signed an appeal to the cardinals of the Catholic Church, calling on them to advise Pope Francis to retract the recent revision made to the Catechism, on the grounds that its appearance of contradicting scripture and traditional teaching is causing scandal. (See Pope Francis#Appeal against the changes on the death penalty.) wikipedia.org
  15. Pope Francis Pope Francis has stated that he is against the death penalty. In 2015, Pope Francis addressed the International Commission against the Death Penalty, stating that: "Today the death penalty is inadmissible, no matter how serious the crime committed." Francis argued that the death penalty is no longer justifiable by society's need to defend itself, and the death penalty has lost all legitimacy due to the possibility of judicial error. He stated that capital punishment is an offence "against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God's plan for man and society" and "does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance." Vatican support for UN campaign against the death penalty The Vatican had also officially given support to a 2015 United Nations campaign against the death penalty. During a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting concerning the abolishment of capital punishment, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi declared that "The Holy See Delegation fully supports the efforts to abolish the use of the death penalty." The Archbishop stated: Considering the practical circumstances found in most States ... it appears evident nowadays that means other than the death penalty 'are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons [...] We should take into account that no clear positive effect of deterrence results from the application of the death penalty and that the irreversibility of this punishment does not allow for eventual corrections in the case of wrongful convictions. Church teaching The Church teaches that the commandment "Thou shalt not murder" permits the death penalty by the civil authority as the administrator of justice in a human society in accordance with the Natural Law. The Church teaches that punishments, including the death penalty, may be levied for four reasons: Rehabilitation - The sentence of death can and sometimes does move the condemned person to repentance and conversion. The death penalty may be a way of achieving the criminal’s reconciliation with God. Defense against the criminal - Capital punishment is an effective way of preventing the wrongdoer from committing future crimes and protecting society from him. Deterrence - Executions may create a sense of horror that would prevent others from being tempted to commit similar crimes. Retribution - Guilt calls for punishment. The graver the offense, the more severe the punishment ought to be. In Holy Scripture death is regarded as the appropriate punishment for serious transgressions. Thomas Aquinas held that sin calls for the deprivation of some good, such as, in serious cases, the good of temporal or even eternal life. The wrongdoer is placed in a position to expiate his evil deeds and escape punishment in the next life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church stated that the death penalty is permissible in certain cases if the "guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined". As to defense against the criminal, the Church teaches that if there are other means available to defend people from the "unjust aggressor", these means are preferred to the death penalty because they are considered to be more respectful of the dignity of the person and in keeping with the common good. Because today's society makes possible effective means for preventing crime without execution, the Catechism - quoting Pope John Paul II wrote that "the cases in which execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'" On 25 March 1995, Pope John Paul II affirmed the church's stance towards capital punishment in his 1995 encyclical titled Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life). In January 1999, Pope John Paul II, without changing Catholic teaching, appealed for a consensus to end the death penalty on the ground that it was "both cruel and unnecessary." He said that criminal offenders should be offered "an incentive and help to change his or her behaviour and be rehabilitated" Pope Francis advocated that "capital sentences be commuted to a lesser punishment that allows for time and incentives for the reform of the offender." The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops states that "Our fundamental respect for every human life and for God, who created each person in his image, requires that we choose not to end a human life in response to violent crimes if non-lethal options are available." wikipedia.org
  16. Those who believe that Scripture mandates or permits capital punishment must move on to another question: What conditions does Scripture give before the state may exercise capital punishment? The Old Testament Law did not simply address the "whether" of capital punishment; it also spoke of the "how." These provisions need not be literally carried out today for our death-penalty statutes to meet biblical standards. For example, Deuteronomy 17 required the condemning witnesses to throw the first stones. This is impossible today, because stoning is not a current method of execution. However, the principle is that witnesses were held responsible for the consequences of their testimony, encouraging truthfulness. Here are some other principles drawn from the Mosaic Law's procedures: PROPORTIONALITY Exodus 21:23-25 establishes that punishment must be proportional to the offense. The extreme sanction of death should be considered only in the most serious offenses. CERTAINTY OF GUILT Before a murderer could be executed, two witnesses had to confirm his guilt (Deut. 17:6; Num. 35:30). This was a very high standard of proof. The Bible says nothing of circumstantial evidence. INTENT Numbers 35:22-24 established that capital punishment could not be imposed when the offender did not act intentionally. DUE PROCESS Several provisions of the Law ensured that executions took place only after appropriate judicial procedures (see Num. 35; Deut. 17). The issue was not simply whether the accused was guilty, but whether he also had a fair chance to prove his innocence. RELUCTANCE TO EXECUTE Although the Law may sound bloodthirsty, it was applied with great restraint. In Ezekiel 33:11 God laments, "As sure as I live . . . I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live." The Lawgiver Himself was reluctant to impose the death penalty, preferring that the wrongdoers repent.Reluctance is not refusal. But it does imply that execution should be a last resort, and, as Ezekiel 33 suggests, repentance or contrition could commute the death sentence. prisonfellowship.org
  17. Those who argue that the Bible permits capital punishment see strengths in both the pro and the con arguments, but disagree with the conclusions of both. ARGUMENT 1 As noted previously, Scripture includes many provisions for capital punishment. The Mosaic Law significantly limited the scope of Genesis 9:6. For example, individuals guilty of manslaughter or accidentally causing another's death were exempted from the death penalty. ARGUMENT 2 Perhaps the most compelling arguments against capital punishment are the examples of capital criminals who were not executed, such as Cain, Moses, and David. And not only did Jesus refuse to condemn the woman caught in adultery, but He also suggested that only those without sin were qualified to perform the execution. Jewish interpretation of Old Testament Law reflected a great reluctance to impose the death penalty. For example, circumstantial evidence wasn't admitted. The two eyewitnesses (Num. 35) had to have warned the accused he was about to commit a capital crime. If the two witnesses' testimonies differed, the accused was acquitted. Men presumed to lack compassion could not rule on a capital case. ARGUMENT 3 New Testament passages assume the existence of the death penalty but don't take a position one way or the other. Romans 13 comes closest to speaking of the state's authority to execute, but significantly it refers to the state's authority, not obligation, to execute. This is consistent with the position that states are permitted, not mandated or prohibited, the use of this sanction. prisonfellowship.org
  18. Old Testament Law clearly calls for capital punishment. So those who believe Scripture prohibits capital punishment argue that the developments of the New Testament era supersede the Old Testament Law. ARGUMENT 1 Israel was a theocracy, a nation ruled directly by God. Therefore, its Law was unique. Executing false teachers and those who sacrificed to false gods are examples of provisions that sprang from Israel's unique position as a nation of God called to be holy. When Israel ceased to exist as a nation, its Law was nullified.Even the execution of murderers stemmed, in part, from God's special relationship to Israel. Numbers 35:33 says that the blood of a murder victim "pollutes the land," a pollution that must be cleansed by the death of the murderer. If the murderer could not be found, an animal was to be sacrificed to God to purge the community of guilt (Deut. 21). ARGUMENT 2 Christ's death on the cross ended the requirement for blood recompense and blood sacrifice. The sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, replaced the sacrifice of animals. His death also made it unnecessary to execute murderers to maintain human dignity and value because the crucifixion forever established human value. Hebrews 9:14 says, "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" ARGUMENT 3 Christ's teaching emphasizes forgiveness and willingness to suffer evil rather than resist it by force. This may not be definitive on the issue of the state's authority to execute, but it does demonstrate a different approach to responding to evil than that established on Mt. Sinai. Christ's example in not demanding death for the adulteress supports this argument (John 8). prisonfellowship.org
  19. The principal argument is that because life is sacred, those who wrongfully take another human life must lose their own lives. This is a form of restitution; a matter of justice— the state purging itself of those who shed innocent blood. Proponents of this position cite three scriptural arguments: ARGUMENT 1 Genesis 9:6 says, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man." This is part of the larger covenant that God made with Noah after the flood. It not only reflects the great value of human life, but also gives the reason for that value: Man is made in God's image.The absolute language of Genesis 9:6 suggests that all those who kill another human being must be killed. And since this mandate was given long before the Mosaic Law to all who survived the flood, it apparently has universal application. ARGUMENT 2 The Law, as given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, ordained execution for several offenses: murder (but not accidental killings), striking or cursing a parent, kidnapping, adultery, incest, bestiality, sodomy, rape of a betrothed virgin, witchcraft, incorrigible delinquency, breaking the Sabbath, blasphemy, sacrificing to false gods, oppressing the weak, and other transgressions. (See Exod. 21, 22, 35; Lev. 20 & 24; Deut. 21-24.) ARGUMENT 3 While no New Testament passage expressly mandates capital punishment, several imply its appropriateness. For example, in Romans 13:1-7 Paul calls his readers to submit to the authority of civil government, reminding them that "if you do wrong, be afraid, for he [the authority] does not bear the sword for nothing." In its ultimate use, the word sword implies execution. prisonfellowship.org
  20. Among Christian leaders, Pope Francis has been at the forefront of arguing against the death penalty. The letter accompanying the Pope’s declaration makes several points. First, it acknowledges that the Catholic Church has previously taught that the death penalty is appropriate in certain instances. Second, the letter argues that modern methods of imprisonment effectively protect society from criminals. Third, the letter states that this development of Catholic doctrine is consistent with the thought of the two previous popes: St. Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. St. John Paul II maintained that capital punishment should be reserved only for “absolute necessity.” Benedict XVI also supported efforts to eliminate the death penalty. Most important, however, is that Pope Francis is emphasizing an ethic of forgiveness. The Pope has argued that social justice applies to all citizens. He also believes that those who harm society should make amends through acts that affirm life, not death. For Pope Francis, the dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life are the core values of Christianity, regardless of the circumstances. theconversation.com
  21. In the Hebrew Bible, Exodus 21:12 states that “whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.” In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus, however, rejects the notion of retribution when he says “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” While it is true that the Hebrew Bible prescribes capital punishment for a variety of offenses, it is also true that later Jewish jurists set out rigorous standards for the death penalty so that it could be used only in rare circumstances. At issue in Christian considerations of the death penalty is whether the state has the obligation to punish criminals and defend its citizens. St. Paul, an early Christian evangelist, wrote in his letter to the Romans that a ruler acts as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” The Middle Ages in Europe saw thousands of murderers, witches and heretics put to death. While church courts of this period generally did not carry out capital punishment, they did turn criminals over to secular authorities for execution. Thirteenth-century Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas argued that the death penalty could be justified for the greater welfare of society. Later Protestant reformers also supported the right of the state to impose capital punishment. John Calvin, a Protestant theologian and reformer, argued that Christian forgiveness did not mean overturning established laws. theconversation.com
  22. In its early centuries, Christianity was seen with suspicion by authorities. Writing in defense of Christians who were unfairly charged with crimes in second-century Rome, philosopher Anthenagoras of Athens condemned the death penalty and wrote that Christians “cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly.” But as Christianity became more connected with state power, European Christian monarchs and governments regularly carried out the death penalty until its abolition in the 1950s through the European Convention on Human Rights. In the Western world, today, only the United States and Belarus retain capital punishment for crimes not committed during wartime. But China, and many nations in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa still apply the death penalty. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Survey, support for the death penalty is falling worldwide. However, in the United States a majority of white Protestants and Catholics continue to be in favor of it. Critics of the American justice system argue that the deterrence value of capital punishment is debatable. There are also studies showing that, in the United States, capital punishment is unfairly applied, especially to African-Americans. theconversation.com
  23. Pope Francis has declared the death penalty “inadmissible.” This means that the death penalty should not be used in any circumstance. It also alters the Catholic Catechism, a compendium of Catholic doctrine, and is now binding on Roman Catholics throughout the world. But in spite of his definitive statement, Pope Francis’ act will probably only deepen the debate about whether Christians can support capital punishment. As a Catholic scholar who writes about religion, politics and policy, I understand how Christians struggle with the death penalty – some cannot endure the idea and others support it as a way to deter and punish terrible crimes. Some Christian theologians have also observed that capital punishment could actually lead to a change of heart among criminals who might repent when faced with the finality of death. Is the death penalty un-Christian? theconversation.com
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  25. North Korea North Korea is an atheist state where the public practice of religion is discouraged. The Oxford Handbook of Atheism states that "North Korea maintains a state-sanctioned and enforced atheism". North Korea leads the list of the 50 countries in which Christians are persecuted the most at the current time according to a watchlist by Open Doors. It is currently estimated that more than 50,000 Christians are locked inside concentration camps because of their faith, where they are systematically subjected to mistreatment such as unrestrained torture, mass-starvation and even imprisonment and death by asphyxiation in gas chambers. This means that 20% of North Korea's Christian community lives in concentration camps. The number of Christians who are being murdered for their faith seems to be increasing as time goes on because in 2013 the death toll was 1,200 and in 2014, this figure doubled, rendering it close to 2,400 martyred Christians. North Korea has earned the top spot 12 years in a row. Indochina region The establishment of French Indochina once led to a high Christian population. Regime changes throughout the 19th and 20th centuries led to increased persecutions of minority religious groups. The Center for Public Policy Analysis has claimed that killings, torture or imprisonment and forced starvation of local groups are common in parts of Vietnam and Laos. In more recent years they have said there is growing persecution of Christians. wikipedia.org
  26. India Muslims in India who convert to Christianity have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, and attacks by Muslims. In Jammu and Kashmir, a Christian convert and missionary, Bashir Tantray, was killed, allegedly by Islamic militants in 2006. A Christian priest, K.K. Alavi, a 1970 convert from Islam, thereby raised the ire of his former Muslim community and received many death threats. An Islamic terrorist group named "The National Development Front" actively campaigned against him. In the southern state of India, Kerala which has an ancient pre-Islamic community of Eastern Rite Christians, Islamic Terrorists chopped off the hand of Professor T.J. Joseph due to allegation of blasphemy of Muhammad. The organisations involved in persecution of Christians have stated that the violence is an expression of "spontaneous anger" of "vanvasis" against "forcible conversion" activities undertaken by missionaries. These claims have been disputed by Christians a belief described as mythical and propaganda by Sangh Parivar; the opposing organisations objects in any case to all conversions as a "threat to national unity". Religious scholar Cyril Veliath of Sophia University stated that the attacks by Hindus on Christians were the work of individuals motivated by "disgruntled politicians or phony religious leaders" and where religion is concerned the typical Hindu is an "exceptionally amicable and tolerant person (...) Hinduism as a religion could well be one of the most accommodating in the world. Rather than confront and destroy, it has a tendency to welcome and assimilate." According to Rudolf C Heredia, religious conversion was a critical issue even before the creation of the modern state. Mohandas K. Gandhi opposed the Christian missionaries calling them as the remnants of colonial Western culture. He claimed that by converting into Christianity, Hindus have changed their nationality. In its controversial annual human rights reports for 1999, the United States Department of State criticised India for "increasing societal violence against Christians." The report listed over 90 incidents of anti-Christian violence, ranging from damage of religious property to violence against Christians pilgrims. In 1997, twenty-four such incidents were reported. Recent waves of anti-conversion laws passed by some Indian states like Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh is claimed to be a gradual and continuous institutionalization of Hindutva by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour of the US State Department. wikipedia.org
  27. China During the Cultural Revolution, Christian churches, monasteries, and cemeteries were closed down and sometimes converted to other uses, looted, and destroyed. The communist government of the People's Republic of China tries to maintain tight control over all religions, so the only legal Christian Churches (Three-Self Patriotic Movement and Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association) are those under the Communist Party of China control. Churches which are not controlled by the government are shut down, and their members are imprisoned. Gong Shengliang, head of the South China Church, was sentenced to death in 2001. Although his sentence was commuted to a jail sentence, Amnesty International reports that he has been tortured. A Christian lobby group says that about 300 Christians caught attending unregistered house churches were in jail in 2004. In January 2016, a prominent Christian church leader Rev Gu Yuese who criticised the mass removal of church crucifixes by the government was arrested for "embezzling funds". Chinese authorities have taken down hundreds of crosses in Zhejiang Province known as "China's bible belt". Gu led China's largest authorised church with capacity of 5,000 in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang. The Associated Press reported in 2018 that China's President Xi Jinping "is waging the most severe systematic suppression of Christianity in the country since religious freedom was written into the Chinese constitution in 1982.", which has involved "destroying crosses, burning bibles, shutting churches and ordering followers to sign papers renouncing their faith". wikipedia.org
  28. Yemen The Christian presence in Yemen dates back to the fourth century AD when a number of Himyarites embrace Christianity due to the efforts of Theophilos the Indian. Currently, there are no official statistics on their numbers, but they are estimated to be between 3,000 and 25,000 people, and most of them are either refugees or temporary residents. Freedom of worship, conversion from Islam and establishing facilities dedicated for worship are not recognized as rights in the country's Constitution and laws. At the same time, Wahabbi activities linked to Al-Islah was being facilitated, financed and encouraged from multiple fronts including the Ministry of Endowments and Guidance, which says that its tasks "to contribute to the development of Islamic awareness and circulation of the publication Education and Islamic morals and consolidation in the life of public and private citizens." The Missionaries of Charity founded by Mother Teresa has worked in Aden since 1992, and it has three other centers in Sana'a, Taiz and Hodeidah. Three Catholic nuns were killed in Hodeidah in 1998, two of them were from India and the third was from the Philippines at the hands of a member of Al-Islah named Abdullah al-Nashiri, who argued that they were calling Muslims to convert to Christianity. In 2002, three Americans were killed in Baptists Hospital at the hands of another Al-Islah member named Abed Abdul Razak Kamel. Survivors say that the suspect (Al-Islah) was "a political football" who had been raised by Islamists, who talked about it often in mosques and who described hospital workers as "spies." But they emphasized that these views are only held by a minority of Yemenis. In December 2015, an old Catholic church in Aden was destroyed. Since the escalation of the Yemeni crisis in March 2015, six priests from John Bosco remained, and twenty workers for charitable missions in the country, described by Pope Francis by the courage to fortitude amid war and conflict. He called the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia to pray for all the oppressed and tortured, expelled from their homes, and killed unjustly. In all cases, regardless of the values and ethics of the warring forces in Yemen on religious freedom, it is proved that the Missionaries of Charity were not active in the field of evangelization according to the testimonies of beneficiaries of its services. On 4 March 2016, an incident named Mother Teresa's Massacre in Aden occurred, 16 were killed including 4 Indian Catholic nuns, 2 from Rwanda, and the rest were from India and Kenya, along with a YemenI, 2 Guards, a cook, 5 Ethiopian women, and all of them were volunteers. One Indian priest named Tom Ozhonaniel was kidnapped. The identities of the attackers are unknown, and media outlets published a statement attributed to Ansar al-Sharia, one of the many jihadist organizations currently active in the country, but the group denies its involvement in the incident. Bhutan Bhutan is a conservative Buddhist country. Article 7 of the 2008 constitution guarantees religious freedom, but also forbids conversion "by means of coercion or inducement". According to Open Doors, to many Bhutanese this hinders the ability of Christians to proselytize. In 2002: According to a 2002 report cited by the Bhutanese Christians Services Centre NGO, "the 65,000 Christians [in the country] have only one church at their disposal." In 2006: According to Mission Network News, "it's illegal for a Buddhist to become a Christian and church buildings are forbidden. (...) Christians in Bhutan are only allowed to practice their faith at home. Those who openly choose to follow Christ can be expelled from Bhutan and stripped of their citizenship." In 2007: According to Gospel for Asia, "the government has recently begun clamping down on Christians by barring some congregations from meeting for worship. This has caused at least two Gospel for Asia-affiliated churches to temporarily close their doors. (...) Under Bhutan law, it is illegal to attempt to convert people from the country's two predominant religions [Buddhism and Hinduism]." Since 2008: According to the "Open Doors" ONG, "Persecution in Buddhist Bhutan mainly comes from the family, the community, and the monks who yield a strong influence in the society. Cases of atrocities (i.e. beatings) have been decreasing in number; this may continue as a result of major changes in the country, including the implementation of a new constitution guaranteeing greater religious liberty." wikipedia.org
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