Among the most contentious of such issues in understanding society’s evolution towards spiritual maturity has been that of crime and punishment. While different in detail and degree, the penalties prescribed by most sacred texts for acts of violence against either the commonweal or the rights of other individuals tended to be harsh. Moreover, they frequently extended to permitting retaliation against the offenders by the injured parties or by members of their families. In the perspective of history, however, one may reasonably ask what practical alternatives existed. In the absence not merely of present-day programmes of behavioural modification, but even of recourse to such coercive options as prisons and policing agencies, religion’s concern was to impress indelibly on general consciousness the moral unacceptability—and practical costs—of conduct whose effect would otherwise have been to demoralize efforts at social progress. The whole of civilization has since been the beneficiary, and it would be less than honest not to acknowledge the fact.