Religion: Crime and Punishment

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The need for law and justice

Laws are needed because:

  • Humans live in groups so we need rules to guide behaviour.
  • Without them modern society and business wouldn't be able to function.
  • They protect the weak from the strong.
  • Advanced civilisations like the UK need laws to remain organised.

There needs to be a connection between laws and justice because:

  • Unjust laws may make people feel that it's right to break the law.
  • Unjust laws are not fulfilling their purpose to protect the weak etc.
  • People will not obey unjust laws and campaign against them causing trouble in society.
  • Disagreement over the justice of laws may lead to civil war.
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Theories of punishment - retribution

Retribution: when society punishes someone for wrongdoing it makes the victims feel a sense of justice and revenge.

Positives:

  • The victim feels that the criminal got what they deserve and are suffering for what they have done.

Negatives:

  • Retribution doesn't work - victims often feel that the criminal hasn't been punished enough.
  • Victims do not feel justice has been done so cannot move on.
  • In cases of murder, some people would argue that retribution can never be achieved.
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Theories of punishment - deterrence

Deterrence: to prevent or discourage people from breaking the law.

Positives:

  • Punishment may put someone off doing something again.
  • Punishment may put someone off doing something in the first place if they have seen someone punished for doing it.

Negatives:

  • Prison figures increasing - shows that it doesn't really work.
  • Prisons filling up.
  • Almost half of all prisoners commit crime again once released.
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Theories of punishment - reformation

Reformation: the attempt to change criminals' ways so that they won't commit crimes again

Positives:

  • Allows criminals to gain education and job training so that once released they can become a law abiding citizen.

Negatives:

  • It simply doesn't work – people are who they are and are unable to change.
  • Some argue reformation isn't punishment – teaching and education goes against what punishment is meant to be.
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Theories of punishment - protection

Protection: People are frightened by violent criminals and punishment protects members of the public from offenders.

Positives: 

  • By keeping criminals locked up in prison they can cause no harm to the public.

Negatives:

  • It only works while criminals are locked away.
  • Many are released back into society and commit crime again.
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Attitudes towards justice

Justice is important to Christians because:

  • The Bible says that God is just and will reward the good and punish those who sin.
  • The Bible and Jesus say that Christians should treat people equally and fairly (act in a just way).
  • The Church encourages Christians to work for justice, for example Jubilee 2000 was put in place to cancel world debt charged to poor countries.

Justice is important to Muslims because:

  • The Qur'an says that Allah is just and will reward the good and punish the bad on the Last Day.
  • Islam teaches that it is unjust to charge interest on money as it takes money away from the poor.
  • The Shari'ah Law says that Muslims should act justly.
  • The pillar of Zakah means that all Muslims must give to charity every year.
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Secular attitudes to capital punishment

Some people are for the use of capital punishment because:

  • It is the ultimate deterrent - if people know that they will lose their lives if they murder someone, they will be less likely to do it.
  • The only retribution for taking a life is for the criminal's to be taken also.
  • It is a form of protection - murderers and terrorists are a threat to society. The best way to ensure that they don't reoffend is to kill them.
  • Human life is the most important thing and the only way the value of life can be shown is by giving those who take it away the worst possible punishment.

Some people are against the use of capital punishment because:

  • It has been shown that countries without capital punishment have a lower murder rate.
  • There is no way for somebody to be brought back to life if it is later discovered that they did not commit the crime that they were put to death for.
  • Most murderers don't think that they will get caught, so the threat of death doesn't deter them.
  • If human life is the most important thing then nobody has the right to take it, not even prison officers or the government.
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Christian attitudes to capital punishment

Many Christians are against the use of capital punishment because:

  • The 6th Commandment states "Thou shalt not kill", therefore they believe that killing in any circumstance and for any reason is wrong.
  • They believe in the sanctity of life which states that only God can take life - therefore capital punishment goes against this.
  • Jesus banned revenge and retribution, "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also".

Some Christians are for the use of capital punishment because:

  • The Bible says the punishment should be fitting to the crime ,"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth".
  • The Bible also says "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed", which shows that capital punishment should be used on those that take a life.
  • If capital punishment is legal, such as in some states in America, then the Bible states that Christians should agree to it, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established".
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Muslim attitudes to capital punishment

Many Muslims are against the use of capital punishment because:

  • Capital punishment is recommended but not compulsory.
  • The Shari'ah states that the victim's family can claim blood money instead of the death penalty.
  • The Qur'an gives strict guidelines under which the death penalty can be given, but these are rarely met so it should not be used.

Some Muslims are for the use of capital punishment because:

  • Allah sets down this punishment in the Qur'an for murder, adultery and apostasy, so therefore it is acceptable.
  • Muhammad sentenced people to death and he is the exemplar of a good Muslim.
  • The Shari'ah sets down this punishment for some crimes.
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Laws on drugs and alcohol

The UK laws on alcohol and drugs are:

  • It is illegal to give alcohol to a child under 5 except in a medical emergency and under supervision.
  • Children under 16 can enter a pub so long as they are supervised by an adult.
  • Young people aged 16 & 17 may drink beer, cider or wine so long as it bought by an adult to be consumed with a meal. They are not allowed spirits.
  • It is against the law for anyone under 18 to buy alcohol in a pub, supermarket, off-licence or other premises.
  • It is illegal to buy alcohol for someone who is under 18 to be consumed in a pub without a meal or in a public place.
  • It is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18.

In the UK drugs which are illegal to possess or deal without prescription are classified into three categories (A, B and C). Each category carries different penalties for possession and/or dealing:

  • Possessing Class A = up to 7 years. Dealing Class A = up to life in prison.
  • Possessing Class B = up to 5 years. Dealing Class B = up to 14 years.
  • Possessing Class C = up to 2 years. Dealing Class C = up to 14 years.
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Problems caused by alcohol and drugs

Tobacco: Smoking can various forms of cause cancer, it can lead to coronary heart disease, strokes, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It can also cause digestive problems, dependency (addiction) and impotence. It affects both the smoker and others who inhale their smoke and it can cause severe abnormalities and illnesses in unborn children.

Alcohol: Excessive drinking of alcohol can cause serious liver disease (cirrhosis of the liver), stomach disorders, mental health problems such as depression, psychosis and hallucinations, infertility or impotence, anaemia (blood disease), heart disease, some cancers, obesity and dependency (addiction). Alcohol is also linked with many accidents.

Drugs: Taking drugs can lead to many physical and mental health issues including toxicity, dependency (addiction), liver disease, cardiovascular illnesses, bacterial and viral infections such as HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis B. It is associated with paranoia, mood swings and aggression. Taken in wrong amounts or mixed can lead to an overdose and even death.

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Christian attitudes to drugs and alcohol

All Christians are against the use of illegal drugs as it is against the law.

Some Christians are against the use of alcohol because:

  • In Biblical times there wasn’t as much to drink, now we have a variety of non-alcoholic choices.
  • The Bible warns against drunkenness.
  • Christians should set a good example – alcohol can impair your judgment and reduce your ability to act in a Christian way.
  • Christians should avoid drinking as it can offend others.

Some Christians accept the use of alcohol because:

  • The Bible does not forbid it.
  • Jesus drank wine at the Last Supper, and he also turned water into wine.
  • St Paul said Christians could drink in moderation.
  • It is used in many churches for holy communion.
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Muslim attitudes to drugs and alcohol

Islam teaches that all alcohol and drugs are banned for Muslims because:

  • The Qur'an bans drugs and alcohol saying they are a means for Satan to keep Muslims from Allah. 
  • Muhammad said Muslims should not drink or sell alcohol.
  • The Qur'an says intoxicants are Haram.
  • Alcohol leads to other sins.
  • Our bodies were created by Allah and we have a responsibility not to abuse them and look after them until Judgement Day.
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