The Eternal Cluelessness of the Avenging Mind

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

Perhaps the real original sin of humanity is the concept of sin itself. There is of course evil in the world and there is good. To me there is little equivocation about some evils and I am hardly a moral relativist. Although these terms become subjective when viewed from the perspective of an individual, there is a wide general acceptance among diverse cultures as to general definitions. We consider murder in all cultures evil, as is robbery, assault, rape, and a host of familiar others. For at least five thousand years, cultures established legal systems to deal with bad behavior and with those systems came the need for punishment. The history of punishment has always been rather draconian and bloody throughout history. While today punishment is perhaps more humane in many places, it still caries with it significant cruelty in its application throughout humanity.

“A woman and her three children had just gotten off the bus at a stop across from their apartment building (in Marietta, Georgia) in October 2010 when her 4-year-old son, A.J., broke away from her and ran into the street. A car struck the boy, causing fatal injuries. Nelson (the woman) and one of her two daughters also suffered minor injuries. Nelson was charged with three misdemeanors: second-degree vehicular homicide, failing to cross at a cross walk and reckless conduct, according to court records. A jury convicted her this month. Although prosecutors did not recommend jail time, each count carried a potential sentence of one year in jail”. What is behind this prosecution? Who among us who has raised young children wouldn’t be chilled with the vision of this happening to them? Why do we see such prosecutorial zeal in our society to find someone to punish when accidents occur?

The other salient aspect of this case is: “The man driving the car, Jerry Guy, fled the scene after the accident but later admitted being involved, according to CNN affiliate WXIA-TV. He was sentenced to five years in prison but served only six months. He is serving the remainder of the sentence on probation.” This is the full story from CNN:

My proposition is that the increase in fundamentalist religious thought in the world and the influence it has had on us as a society, has led to a rash of unneeded prosecutions, motivated by the need to find an answer to each tragedy that comes to the public’s attention. The disconnect is that while our legal system and Constitution do not talk of sin as an offense against society, those believers in the concept of sin have the belief that we are punishing people for their sins and not for breaking the law. So deep is their dedication to fighting sin, that they believe our legal system is the proper venue to deal with it. In Christianity and Islam especially sin is to be punished by God/Allah’s judgment at the point of an individual’s death. Nevertheless, there is the idea that society should also punish sin, pre-Deity so to speak and in effect revenge itself on those miscreants who violate God’s Law. Judaism doesn’t talk of sin per se, but the harsh judgments prescribed in the Torah for various acts of breaking the 613 Commandments, may as well be the same as terming them sin by popular understanding.

When a society begins to judge criminality based on the notion of punishing sin, the roster of things to be punished is an ever-expanding one. With this goes the notion that society must avenge itself on those who commit sins and that punishment should be harsh. In this mindset, the law is meant to avenge wrongs and provide punishment as revenge. Not only is this notion inimical to our American legal system and Constitution, it is a foolish one that perverts our system and undermines our laws.

The tremendous increase in our prison rosters are due to what are essentially victimless crimes dealing with addiction. Hundreds of million$ are spent to dissuade drug abuse and after you parse  the message past the personal harm to the individual, the message is clearly that “getting high” is sinful. If we took the sin out of judging and dealing with the effects of drug addiction, perhaps we might even reduce it, or at least cut the cost in money and human lives it now represents.

Drugs are just one aspect of the problem of viewing our legal system as existing to punish sin and enforce religious based morality. Sin bespeaks the need of society to avenge proscribed behavior.

A rational legal system is not about revenge as punishment, but should be about protecting the citizenry from predation and maintaining a safe environment. As such, our law should be dispassionate about meting out justice and compassionate in its application.

The human mind strives to make sense of the randomness of tragedy, seeking reasons for why they occur and trying to pin blame for the devastation on someone, or something. We know intellectually that “stuff happens” but we find it hard to accept that sometimes there is just no reason for bad things to occur. If one is a Religious Fundamentalist, believing an omniscient God controls everything, since God is good it must be Satan controlling the supposed perpetrator. Therefore, when bad accidents occur to innocent, little children, someone has to assume blame. In this case, an overburdened mother, coming off from a bus and a four-year old behaving as four-year olds do and pulling away. 

We can imagine the indignant feeling of a judgmental public wanting her called to account and the avenging feelings of LEO’s and Prosecutors disdainful of her carelessness. This is what I call the “Avenging Mind”. This mindset believes that people deserve harsh punishment for their transgression, not as reformation, but simply for the satisfaction of revenge. It is an angry, narrow-minded mindset, which internally treats itself with undue harshness and guilt. From a Fundamentalist perspective, we are all sinners, some restrained only by their certainty of punishment in the afterlife. God’s wrath though is not enough for them, because they will never see the punishment to occur. They need the

vicarious thrill of seeing it happen. Isn’t this the reason people were fighting to get into Casey Anthony’s trial and that the television ratings for the verdict were astronomical? It was a need to see her face as the verdict was delivered and the punishment pronounced. The hope for the almost sadistic satisfaction that tears or a pained expression on her face would give them. This isn’t about her guilt or innocence, it is about the fact that some world take satisfaction in revenge. There are millions of children, living and dying in this world in horrible circumstances, yet we avoid that macrocosm with its attendant crying out to our emotions and focus on the death of one in millions.

This woman faced with the devastating loss of her child and the overwhelming guilty feelings accompanying it, was made to stand trial for vehicular homicide. She was convicted, but in a seeming show of mercy sentenced to no jail time. She never should have been tried on that charge in the first place, or put through the torture of a trial, to make sure that revenge was provided for the human mistake of an instant. The only crime we have here is the Driver’s, for his fleeing the scene. He was treated more humanely for his crime, while a grieving mother who will never forgive herself, was forced to undergo public humiliation and trial.

How do we educate the part of the public so inundated with the notion of sin and retribution, that revenge is not the purpose of the law? In theory, our legal system exists as an extension of our Constitution to safeguard us all and to protect our society from those who would willingly do harm to others. Somehow, it has gotten all confused with God’s wrath and that is to our detriment.

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

49 thoughts on “The Eternal Cluelessness of the Avenging Mind”

  1. Mr. Spindell,

    People that share my beliefs can’t get past original sin. Because of the man that hung on the cross.

    It can never be a myth for us.

  2. Mike,

    You do notice that the only ones attacking you are trolls … okay, well, except for anon but he has attacked you, Elaine, and rafflaw and his attacks are so cranky and so full of name-calling that I have stopped reading them.

    If the attacks were solely regarding the opinions you present then perhaps a response is necessary but come on, these attacks are nothing more than spam.

    Notice that kderosa calls upon AY to be more evenhanded shortly after he, himself wrote: “A perfect storm of smug, arrogant, illogical, snarky partisanship and one-upmanship. The essence of the modern liberal lefty.”

    One can’t possibly take the opinions of such twisted, lightweight thinking seriously.

  3. Eniobob,

    Thank you for those links, they rounded out the story and presented on the video part an impassioned plea for sanity.

    It has been pointed out that I might have used racism/classicism as the basis for this prosecution and also that I might have used the reelection needs of prosecutors needing to seem to be proactive. All of these are valid explanations for what occurred in this case, but even so do not diminish my point.

    The zeal to prosecute “legal sins” has through the years fallen heavily on people of the underclasses, whether through their ethnicity and/or social status. This is evident to thinking people of all religious sentiments and/or political beliefs. They are also issues that I’ve not only commented on extensively over the years, but indeed my first time out as a guest blogger, I addressed the issue of prosecutors overcharging obliquely, since it was blatantly obvious in the case I wrote of:

    I returned also obliquely to the issues that racism and classicism play in our legal system in a later guest blog. Any thinking individual can see that the depredations of our prison system stem from harsh beliefs of treatment of sins. This treatment was typified in the Inquisition and in the treatment of Infidels by the violent initial expansion of Islam.

    Both charges leveled against this piece devolve into it being anti-religious and/or political. Since I know my purpose in writing it, I reject both charges as being the projection of the writers own axes to grind. There is a great piece of current Christian phraseology which I think represents the best of its modern thought, within the limits of its own preaching of course. “Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner”. This is the practice of many devout Christians and it does credit to their depth of understanding of their belief system. Yet many Christians forget this key element of their teaching. We see murders of Homosexuals, well-funded Preachers picketing the funerals of Veterans to punish America for its tolerance and people purporting to be pro-Life murdering physicians.

    This intolerance of others perceived sins has always influenced America and other societies. It has been politicized and polemicized today to the point it has influence over the efforts of our legal system. Is it the only factor of influence? Definitely it is not. Nevertheless it can’t be disregarded as an important negative effect of substance. As for judging my essay as political that really is projection.

    The influence of Fundamentalist Christianity on the Republican Party today has to be admitted by all sides as being crucial to the party’s fortunes. It has turned the Party away from those things that made being a Republican a responsible position to hold. I’ve written many times about my admiration for Eisenhower, Bob Taft, Everett Dirkson and even Barry Goldwater. Indeed, Richard Nixon would be far preferable today than any of the current leaders of the party.

    However, we have prominent conservative participants on this blog, like FFLEO, who is both an atheist and a Republican, who might well agree with my proposition. Perhaps also many Libertarians and Objectivists may also see some merit in my proposition, for it was not meant as partisan. The partisan aspect I think is a projection onto my article that is unwarranted.

    Finally though a thought on what I was trying to accomplish, other than just furnishing my own beliefs. On this blog we see both spirited debate and thoughtful discussion. The obvious feature of debate is to overcome the beliefs of one’s purported adversary. It has become common coin today throughout the media and is problematic in that its climax usually
    occurs with both sides exhausted by anger talking at, rather than with each other. It therefore rarely provides an opportunity for learning.

    Discussion on the other hand entails an exchange of ideas, perhaps originally antithetical, where people actually listen to others and perhaps build upon their ideas to come to a synergy that represents something more than that originally proposed. My purpose as a guest blogger is to act as a gadfly engendering discussions that will go far beyond anything I’ve originally proposed and perhaps bring the readers to a greater understanding of a significant topic. I imagine that at times I succeed and at others I fail. Perfection of ones purposes is always illusive. I try my best and hope I’ve contribute.

  4. How about just being a little more even-handed with admonishments to stay on topic, rather than selectively criticizing only the people whose opinions you disagree with.

    Condescension trolling is no more elevated than any other form of it.

  5. How about just speaking to the topic subject matter, rather than pointlessly carping and irrelevantly critiquing oblique literary points?

    Intellectual trolling is no more elevated than any other form of it.

  6. Kdponzi,

    If I am correct you are an attorney as well…So when someone needs to hire an asshole, I’ll be sure and give them your name…. albeit they will have to contact you here…With that said…I never want to be at your level again….

  7. ay, let me know when ireach your level, you coud probably use the company.

  8. My future bride and I were at a restaurant in 1987 when the fellow in the booth behind her started discussing the 1970 shootings at Kent State, telling his date about how the National Guard had opened fire on a crowd and killed four students. She was young, mind you, and clearly this was the first time she’d heard of it, but she cut him off in mid-sentence with the words, “They black?”

    Her phrasing has stuck with me all these years, and it was, frankly, the first thing I thought when I heard about this case.

    To be fair, I haven’t seen a photo of Jerry Guy, the driver in the case, but really, am I the only one here who noticed Raquel Nelson’s skin tone?

  9. Reciting from a scrip again, Kdpanzee? Makes you seem more and more irrelevant each and every post….

  10. It’s not just that your idea is garbage, it’s that posting this brings down this entire blog as yet another piece of internet garbage that avoids logic and hewes to hack partisan smug snark.

    Your intolerance, your easily refuted and laughed at arguments do not help anyone, except I gather it helps you and the other dimwits here feel a bit superior to how you imagine religious people are.

    With the exception of Prof Turley’s posts and a small percentage of the guest blogger’s posts, this quote perfectly encapsulates the problem with many of the guest blogger’s posts. Then the comments of said guest bloggers and a few other assorted apples bring the discourse down yet another notch. A perfect storm of smug, arrogant, illogical, snarky partisanship and one-upmanship. The essence of the modern liberal lefty.

  11. Mike S.


    Funny you should mention a dick wagging….that exactly what I thought of your demands that an essay be put to the Occam’s Razor test since that’s as dim witted as it gets. There’s nothing more logical about your premise than Mike’s. You must be religious or something to make such a stretch.

  12. Opinion pieces do not excuse you from logic regardless of how much you insist they do.

    Your “opinion piece” fails basic logic. It fails Occam’s Razor.

    If you are going to print an argument that fails logic or Occam’s Razor it is quite legitimate to point that out.

    The only counter to that is for you to discuss why Occam’s Razor does not apply, and that would be by citing proof for the fundamental assumptions and propositions you make in your argument.

    Again, you start with a picture of a cross, and then claim that prosecutorial overreach is due to original sin, and religion,

    The logical, simple, parsimonious explanation is that there is something about the systems prosecutors work within that reward prosecutorial overreach.

    We are left believing you have no real explanation for it, you are just wagging your dick about how bad religions are.

    It’s not just that your idea is garbage, it’s that posting this brings down this entire blog as yet another piece of internet garbage that avoids logic and hewes to hack partisan smug snark.

    Your intolerance, your easily refuted and laughed at arguments do not help anyone, except I gather it helps you and the other dimwits here feel a bit superior to how you imagine religious people are.


  13. “Between you and rafflaw, there’s not enough common sense to fill a thimble, but enough smug and hotair to refloat Titanic.”


    Thank you for your kind description since I am most pleased to be linked to someone as estimable as Rafflaw.

    A brief lesson in reading comprehension might prove profitable for you.

    “Perhaps the real original sin of humanity is the concept of sin itself.”

    “My proposition is that the increase in fundamentalist religious thought in the world and the influence it has had on us as a society, has led to a rash of unneeded prosecutions”

    Both of these indicate that I’m expressing my own opinion, centered on a news story. I never claimed to have proof of this opinion, nor was there anything to suggest that my opinion came as the result of scientific research. It is what is called an opinion piece designed specifically to engender discussion. When one is doing such, it is to be expected that some will think there is some merit to the idea and others might think it is balderdash.

    That’s fine with me, either way. my task was fulfilled. You may disagree and attempt to defame me to your hearts content. nevertheless I hold my opinion to be valid

  14. OS:

    “… really smart people often have trouble with spelling.”


    The more you know; the more there is to screw up!

    Night to all.

  15. rafflaw,

    god plays for the Packers and coaches the Browns … all else is commentary, my son … go and study.

  16. mespo,

    He was quippy (I do think that is my own word) however he had me for awhile with “Philosophy has so long been sought in vain because it was sought by way of the sciences instead of by way of the arts.” for understandable reasons. (I want to say it was book 3 but don’t yell at me if I’m wrong.)

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