(or to the other one if the man deserves it). Thus it is not revenge, but rather the moral judgement of society: we send the criminal to the One who can Save him, for he has exhausted our efforts.
Or to put it better I'll leave to the wonderful Mr. Scalia, where he demonstrates that only atheists should be against the death penalty, and that because they have no true morality:
"It is a matter of great consequence to me, therefore, whether the death penalty is morally acceptable, and I want to say a few words about why I believe it is. Being a Roman Catholic and being unable to jump out of my skin, I cannot discuss that issue without reference to Christian tradition and the church's magisterium discussed earlier in this conference by Cardinal Dulles. Those of you to whom this makes no difference must bear with those portions of my remarks.
The death penalty is undoubtedly wrong unless one accords to the state a scope of moral action that goes beyond what is permitted to the individual.
In my view, the major impetus behind modern aversion to the death penalty is the equation of private morality with governmental morality. That is a predictable, though I believe erroneous and regrettable, reaction to modern democratic self-government.
Few doubted the morality of the death penalty in the age that believed in the divine right of kings, or even in earlier times, St. Paul had this to say : ... "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers, for there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation, for rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good and thou shalt have praise of the same. For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid, for he beareth not the sword in vain, for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil. Wherefore, ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." Rom 13:1-5.
This is not the Old Testament, I emphasize, but St. Paul. One can understand his words as referring only to lawfully constituted authority or even only to lawfully constituted authority that rules justly, but the core of his message is that government, however you want to limit that concept, derives its moral authority from God. It is the minister of God with powers to revenge, to execute wrath, including even wrath by the sword, which is unmistakably a reference to the death penalty.
Paul, of course, did not believe that the individual possessed any such powers. Indeed, only a few lines before the passage I just read, he said, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath, for it is written vengeance is mine, saith the Lord." And in this world, in Paul's world, the Lord repaid, did justice through his minister, the state.
These passages from Romans represent, I think, the consensus of Western thought until quite recent times - not just of Christian or religious thought, but of secular thought regarding the powers of the state. That consensus has been upset, as I suggested, by the emergence of democracy ...
... For the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal, a grave sin which causes one to lose his soul, but losing this physical life in exchange for the next - the Christian attitude is reflected in the words Robert Bolt's play has Thomas More saying to the headsman: "Friend, be not afraid of your office. You send me to God." And when Cramner asks whether he is sure of that, More replies, "He will not refuse one who is so blithe to go to him."
For the non-believer, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence - what a horrible act. And besides being less likely to regard death as an utterly cataclysmic punishment, the Christian is also more likely to regard punishment in general as deserved. The doctrine of free will, the ability of man to resist temptations to evil is central to the Christian doctrine of salvation and damnation, heaven and hell. The post-Freudian secularist, on the other hand, is more inclined to think that people are what their history and circumstances have made them, and there is little sense in assigning blame ...
... It seems to me that the reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should be not resignation to it but resolution to combat it as effectively as possible, and a principal way of combating it, in my view, is constant public reminder that - in the words of one of the Supreme Court's religion cases in the days when we understood the religion clauses better than I think we now do - "we are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a supreme being."
"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush