Monday, September 04, 2006

What is Evil?

Are humans inherently evil? Are they born that way? Do they suffer from the sin nature?
Can we overcome that? If so, how? Is looking out for your own interest evil?
Does the enviroment determine whether you are good or evil? What determines evilness?
Are people evil or are actions evil? Food for thought? What do you think?

13 comments:

stacy h said...

To me, people have the inherent CAPACITY to be evil. However, having that capacity does not mean one will always use it. As a psychology major, psychologists are constantly struggling with the nature v. nurture debate. Some like to claim that human development depends on our nature (what is inherent), while others claim we develop exclusively through nurturing (our interaction with the environment). With psychology, it is best to look at the interaction between nature and nurture. We may have the inherent capacity to be good or evil, but maybe it’s nurture that awakens, strengthens, or even destroys those capacities.

Ozzie said...

Evil exists because religious people exist. Religion is really just evil in disguise. Religion is responsible for the majority of wars, conflict and murder of innocent life since humanity began. There is considerable evidence to classify religion as evil, and talk of religion (Gods etc) should be banned. Because the records prove over and over again throughout humanity that religion is clearly responsible for crimes against humanity, taking part in any religious activity should also be outlawed and made a criminal offence. The world would be a much happier and peaceful place if religion ceased to exist. Although there are some decent religious believers and preachers, they are unwittingly spreading evil around our world, and that they should simply keep their beliefs and thoughts to themselves in the best interests of humanity, or suffer the consequences for their actions.People should consider that the world would be like Heaven if religion ceased to exist, but all the believers and preachers have turned the planet into Hell.

Anonymous said...

I am a self-proclaimed idealist. I like to believe that people are good. However, I would like to qualify that by saying that just because I think people are inherently good, doesn't mean that I believe that they are incapable of doing harm. But I guess the question for me really is--how much harm does one have to cause to others before he/she qualifies as "evil?" More importantly, who decides these standards?

Vgirl said...

woah!! I would like to directly address what ozzie has said. This question was brought up in a government class about Human Rights. By denying people their right to practice their chosen religion, the human rights of these individuals are being violated. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights approved by the United Nations 1948, the right and freedom to practice religion is essential to humanity. I understand ozzie's view and concern over the "evil acts" which have been conducted in the name of religion (ex: the intuition), but I think the suggestion that religion be banned is an even more abhorrant proposition.
Indeed, "evil" has been carried out in the name of religion, but religion has also done alot of good in the world. Millions of dollars in charity and hours in community service have helped to alleviate the suffering of many. Religion also proivides hope to many people which helps them survive their poverty/illness or other malady.
In light of all this, I believe that ozzie is correct when he/she says that evil is a result of religion. The concept of an ultimate bad, or opposite of all-good was indeed born from religion. Without religion, the idea of Satan and hell would not exist. My question is: If there were no religions on planet Earth would humanity still have a concept of the ultimate bad, or "evil"?

morgan said...

Addressing Ozzie and Vgirl - as well as the initial question - I believe evil has been bred into all of us, through our environments, how we were raised and by whom - since teachings are passed down through generations - yet, it is our choice what we do with what we learn and what we are taught. I think a huge part of evil is the action, because to act requires thinking - most of the time. In the example used in class, if our parents were being injured/murdered right in front of our eyes, what would we do? We may want to injure, and kill, without intent to kill. Intent is a key part of evil. As far as religion goes... if there were no religion, you think there would be no evil? I totally disagree... whether religion initially started evil or not... what would we be without religion? just merely existing... there would still be problems to cause evil - the essential things humans need wouldn't always be shared - they would be fought over. I agree with vgirl - religion has helped many people find their calling, something to believe in, a higher power - and yes, has caused disputes, but if it wasn't religion I believe the disputes would have been caused by something else. I love to believe that all people are inherently good, and through society they learn of evil - but in the end, it is each persons choice how they live, whether through good or evil actions.

Ozzie said...

I think that the following quote says it best......

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil -- that takes religion. --

Steven Weinberg US physicist; Nobel Prize in Physics

stacy h said...

I completely understand the belief that each person chosses how to live, therefore he or she chooses to be good or evil; however, what if you are a young child in an African country, abducted by rebel forces. After your abduction, you are taught to fire a gun, rape a woman, and even kill. You then are forced to used those newly learned skills on innocent people. Initially it's hard to push yourself to harm others, but with the drugs you are given to take off the edge and the repetition of your behavior, you become an evil being. How is that a choice? Children don't ask to be abducted and they sure don't seek rebel armies to fight for in order to kill their families and other innocent people.

I would like to say that my child soldier example is an exception to the belief that we choose how to act and that our intentions always matter, but there are numerous times when we have no choice. I'm not saying that we are excused for our evil behavior because we were forced to act a certain way, but we need to recognize that there are several people in the world forced to do evil. We should not blame them for being evil, but seek to help them through means such as empowerment or by providing havens. It is obviously easier said than done, but understanding that evil is not always a choice can bring us one step closer.

Anonymous said...

Oh please spare me with that bleeding heart dribble Stacy H! How can you excuse malicious violent behavior as something that is out of our hands. If your argument is that people are forced into brutality then we would need to excuse all gang members of their misdeeds and chalk it up to them being forced to join the gang because if you don’t join the gang you’ll become a target of the gang. Oh, and by the way many who belong to these groups are not much more than children.
Evil is a choice and those who engage in wicked deeds should be responsible for those choices. If they cross the laws of humanity then they should be punished.

Dr. D said...

Anonymous:
You are forgetting that some child-soldiers don't "chose" to become child soldiers -- they are abducted and forced to kill -- look for example at the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) in Uganda -- they deliberately kidnap young boys and girls -- the girls they make into sex slaves -- the boys they make into child soldiers. They do have a choice, I guess: kill or be killed...

Anonymous said...

Dr. D. what world are you from?

Forced recruitment is an age old technique, used most often by large gangs. This technique is used most often during times of gang conflict, or when there is a need to generate dues money. Coercion is usually accomplished by threats, but physical beatings are used as well. There have been many deaths as a result of individuals refusing to join the gang. Coercion can mean that a family member is threatened as well. Yes, this happens right here in the USA. So...........lets just forgive and forget any crimes that these people have committed right? Wrong, they have made choices and need to be held accountable for them!

Dr. D said...

Anonymous:
You can't be serious.
Are you suggesting that what is going on in northern uganda, for example, is the same as gang warfare in L.A.? Because if we apply the logic that you suggest relating child soldiers with gang members, that would be the same thing.
Are gang members kidnapped? Are they tortured? If they are, and continue to be on a daily basis and then commit murder, are they really responsible for the action? It you are forced to kill someone by gunpoint, is that the same as murder? Are you suggesting that we treat these child soldiers the same way that we treat cold blooded murderers?

Anonymous said...

Boo Freaking Whoo!

It’s my understanding that these children who have been kidnapped as child soldiers willingly kill, rape and torture others. Many of who are 16 to 18 years old. How different is this to gang members or even child suicide bombers. The point is you live by the sword you die by the sword!

hewhowould said...

Are humans inherently evil? It’s a question that men have pondered for ages yet I believe it can be summed up and simplified in two sentences.
-….And so who are you after all?
- I am part of the power which forever wills evil and forever works good.
- Goethe’s Faust
I feel that each and every human being is born with no notion of what is good and what is evil and it is through their life experiences and teachings that construct the definition of what is good and evil. If you sit and watch babies move about the world, examining every detail in their surroundings, you will find they have no fear. They have no fear. Just think about that statement for a moment. Fear is what causes one to stop and ponder the consequences of each and every action. As each person grows, they begin to understand that certain things create pain, sorrow, love, happiness, and every other emotion that can be thought about. But what each of us forgets about is that the people, places, and ideas that cause pain or grief we, as people, begin to fear them and thus consider them evil. Now if you compare the actions of a 4 year old child to that of a baby, you will find that the 4 year child has slowed in his exploration of the world and starts to create his own happiness by using his imagination. Now the interesting part of this little story is that when the 4 year old and the small baby are placed in a room together the 4 year old child will cause the little baby to cry. The 4 year old child will not intentionally cause harm to the little baby but begins to understand what evil is because the child for the first time understand that he can control and change his environment and thus learns the first stages of good and evil. Now you may be wondering why did the child know that he did something evil when the small baby cried? Because most of the time my friend, the 4 year old child will do his or her best to stop baby from crying and to hear the baby laugh again. This is not an actual case study, it’s merely an observation that I have witnessed time and time again in my family. Each of us has both the power of good and the power of evil at our disposal, but what makes each of us evil is the moment we stop exploring and questioning what taking place around us. It is at that moment that the idea of good, the preservation of life and happiness, vanishes and the idea of evil, the destruction and torment of life, takes over. Its at that moment we forget about fear, consequences, and the feelings of other.