This is something that has bugged me for years. I grew up christian and was taught that the Bible, which my entire family lived its life by, said that I was innately flawed and evil as a result of being human. I believed this for years. I grew up with the default mindset that I was a bad person and that I must work very hard on doing what was right, but as I got older, I began to realize that this wasn't exactly true. I understand why people believe it, I really do, but after realizing that no one in this world openly seeks to do evil (with minimal exceptions), I began questioning exactly how our instinctual humanity works, and this two part essay/article is the result.
The first part is me speaking only on morality, but I make it a point to present it in such a way where morality is seen as neither objective or subjective. I won't actually speak about the religious idea of sin or how it is flawed until Part 2.
Have fun, Curious Scholars.
Are Humans Good or Evil: The Fallacy of Sin
Let me start this off by making a very clear claim- at our most basic level, humans are naturally, instinctively good. I know a lot of religions make the complete opposite claim, such as Christianity's story of the Original Sin and Fall of Man, but I want everyone to be aware that there is a fine line between religion and delusion, and this is one of those cases where that line is not only crossed, but erased, set on fire, and then defecated on.
No one openly seeks to do evil. In fact, the complete opposite has been true all throughout human history. It's such a common and instinctive behavior for humanity, the inner drive for us to achieve the utmost good, that anyone in the entire world who deviates from this concept is considered genetically flawed. With every other human only trying to be good in their everyday lives, with thousands of years and millions of philosophers trying to unravel the mystery of what it means to be a good person as well as what actually makes a good person, people who do evil just for the sake of doing evil are considered mentally ill, or broken, by the majority of people across the earth. We have even given these people various terms like psychopath and sociopath to describe their rarity and innate isolation from the norm. Many people don't even consider these innately evil beings as human because they don't value goodness or are incapable of being good. If you haven't figured out my thoughts on the matter just yet, calling the entire human species naturally evil is a total load of crap, the biggest lie anyone has ever told at worst, or at best, the mass delusion of people who cannot make a distinction between fantasy and reality. The human species is naturally good, not evil. If it were the other way around, we wouldn't bother trying to be good people, but would go out of our way to do evil instead- that's just not human.
Don't get me wrong, humans commit evil actions all the time. We've all heard about Adolf Hitler and his Jewish Holocaust in school, how various communist nations such as China and the USSR have incredibly high body counts, and essentially how every single country in the world has done the darkest things imaginable just in the hopes of benefitting its people. Let's not make the mistake that just because humans desire to do good means that all they ever do is good. There's never been a single living human that has never done something morally reprehensible who wasn't partially divine like Jesus Christ or Dionysus. Everyone in this world has done something wrong at one point in their lives. If you asked them, however, what they did and if they felt it was wrong, I can guarantee you that most of the time, they would say no and try to justify their actions as morally righteous. This could either be because of situational ethics, "it's not wrong in my case," or most of the time, whatever they may have done may just not be inherently wrong in their eyes. Different religions do have different moral codes. Hell, people just have different ideas on what makes a good person regardless of their respective religions.
The main issue here, though, is what makes people morally good at their most base instinct. I've already explained that people commit evil all the time, something that is obvious to anyone with a pulse, but I still want to point that out just to be clear that I'm not trying to state otherwise. Let's be clear that humans do horrible things all the time. I am by no means stating that everything every single person has ever done has been good, and I'm not even stating that morality is subjective either, which I'll touch up on later. No, what I am trying to say, my reasoning for Man's instinctive morality, is the intent. Like I said, humans inherent desire to do good is so overpowering, such a common instinct within our collective species that anyone who deviates from that statistical perfection is considered a broken human being. The most powerful desire any man or woman has is to be good, do good, and achieve the utmost good. At our most basic level, humans have very few other desires than to be moral creatures, whether there be a spiritual consequence or not, a post-mortem reward, but with this basic fact comes a deadly problem that has caused every single conflict in human history. It's such an evident and important contradiction in my claim, that I'm sure you've already realized it. This problem is the idea of the subjectivity within moral reasoning.
Some have you may have heard the idiom growing up that "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Some of the more religious folks have probably even been told that there are plenty of good, moral people out there who are still going to Hell only because they didn't follow the right religion when they were alive. Now that that's been said, we can get to the meat of the argument. Before I begin the real explanation of morality, however, I need to reiterate the two major points I made during my full page rant before I can continue. Those points were that humans are inherently good because of the desire to do good, yet still commit evil acts all the time.
I'm not saying that morality is purely objective. That's an entirely separate discussion for another time and another article, but before I can continue this riveting discussion on humanity's instinctive goodness, I need to point out how human intentions work, and I can already tell people are coming up with various examples of evil actions that they have either committed themselves, or seen others commit, or have just simply read about in histories books to try to disprove me. Like I said, I'm not outright saying that morality is objective, but even if it is subjective, there still remains a problem. Our intentions are always good, no matter what, and no matter how many evil actions we commit, we always do so in the name of achieving the utmost good with a justification for the evils we commit being listed as we go. What, did you think Hitler didn't think his Holocaust was moral? Did you think Mao Zedong killed millions of political dissidents just for the shits and giggles? No, every single evil action is always backed up with a moral justification for it, but even when we try to justify our evils, the actions themselves are still evil. Hitler and Mao Zedong were both still evil people even though they thought what they were doing was right, and the same goes for every single human in the world. Once again, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
While intentions may not equate to actions, while a good intention does not give you a moral free pass or a justification for doing something evil, people often end up committing very evil acts for the sake of good, all because they don't understand what is right or wrong. This is known, quite simply, as faulty reasoning. I may have a good intention when I rob my neighbor at gunpoint, but at the end of the day, even if I was only stealing enough money and food to feed myself and my family, I'm still robbing an innocent person of things that they rightfully deserve. I'm sure a lot of us have either used the argument or at least heard the argument that "the ends justify the means" but I want to be clear that this isn't true. Again, we fall under the idea that intentions do not equate to actions. Going back to my example, the neighbor I robbed was an innocent person who had rightfully earned everything he had owned, and I ended up violently stealing from him just so I could feed my family. Sure, the end result was perfectly justified, but I still robbed an innocent. The ends do not justify the means. Instead, the means have to be justifiable in and of themselves, and this goes back to the faulty reasoning I mentioned earlier and how people do not understand the difference between right and wrong.
Don't get me wrong, I said I'm not stating the morality is objective, and I'm holding to that. What I'm actually trying to do here is establish the differences between intentions and actions, and how one does equate to the other. Even though humans are naturally good at our most basic level, even though we all possess good intentions and only desire to do good, it is through this concept that we end up committing ourselves to evil actions, and thus become evil people. Hitler had good intentions when he killed 6 million jews, but if I have to explain why that was evil, please stop reading this article and reevaluate your life.
Honestly, when it comes to philosophy or psychology, or anything in the world that hardly ever has anything to do with politics, if it ever does, I hate getting political. I know this essay is about the dichotomy of good and evil and the part Man plays in it, but considering how there is a major divide in the first world between opposing political beliefs, I'm going to focus on one of the most prominent issues as an example to explain how interpretations and results differ. I'm not going to be trying to prove one side right and the other wrong, nor am I going to say that one side makes more sense. Instead, all I'm going to do with this very small tangent on gun rights is try to explain the difference between the opposing beliefs of the left and right wing. It's actually because there is such a divide between conservatives and progressives in this world, particularly in America, that I'm going to explain the different beliefs between the two in an effort to point out the difference between interpretations and actions.
To put it simply, the divergence in the debate can be summarized in the names alone. The right believes in gun rights and the left believes in gun control, and while both sides will condemn their opponents under both consequential and moral grounds, to say that either side is full of bad people, or that the belief itself is evil, is just plain wrong. The thesis of this essay is that humans are naturally good and constantly desire to do good. This political debate is no exception. I'm not going to talk about the effectiveness of either side of the argument since this isn't a political paper, but instead, I'm going to point out the reason why this example helps to prove my thesis. Say what you want about the debate in another setting, but no matter how you look at it, both pro-gunners and anti-gunners are trying to do good. Don't believe me? Ask someone of the opposing side how they feel on the matter. If you actually did that, and asked someone while possessing the mindset of trying to understand their moral reasoning, kudos. I'm impressed. For the majority of you, however, who understandably didn't stop reading in the middle of the paragraph just for the sake of following a rhetorical suggestion that I was going to answer anyway, keep reading. To repeat myself once again, both sides of the debate are only trying to achieve the utmost good with very few exceptions. To actually prove this, let's look at their intentions.
Conservatives: The main idea behind gun rights is the freedom of the individual. The right wing believes that even though weapons technology has advanced, it does not deny the individual the right to defend themselves by any means necessary with any tools at their disposal. In more extreme cases, conservatives even decry the idea of firearm registration and background checks, and even the regulation of certain more powerful weapons, essentially allowing the individual the right to own any weapon that the government itself would have access to. In summary, the right wing believes in gun rights for the purpose of self defense and the freedom of the individual.
Progressives: The main idea behind gun control is public safety. The left wing believes that people will use guns to hurt others, that they are highly effective weapons made strictly for the purpose of killing people and extending periods of violence to greater lengths. Progressives want to keep these weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals who will only end up hurting people with them, thus they submit to the idea that stricter regulations on what firearms can be sold and owned, how they can be sold and owned, who can have them, where they can have them, and more extensive background checks on the individuals desiring to purchase them are required. Not to mention the idea of licensing gun owners and registering the weapons themselves are highly prevalent to the left wing. In more extreme cases, progressives desire to fully ban the sale and ownership of firearms. In summary, the left wing wants to regulate the sale and ownership of firearms for the sake of public safety.
Now, if you guys didn't understand the concept here, if for whatever reason you couldn't see past your blind hatred of the other person's beliefs, then I'm going to put it very plainly for you. Granted, I was going to do it anyway, so pay attention. Neither of these groups want to hurt anyone. The right wing doesn't want to arm criminals or make violent crime rise, and the left wing doesn't want to deny anyone their most basic rights or control the populace with an iron fist. Both groups are trying to do right by others. Both groups are trying to achieve what they believe to be the utmost moral goal, the highest good, and neither of them want to wrong anyone in the process. If you think otherwise, please give me what you're smoking because these kind of hallucinations do not sound pleasant. Seriously, you should probably lay off the smack before it kills you. I understand that when you have such a strong hatred for the group that holds the complete opposite belief that you do can be kind of blinding, but if you can't see that these people want nothing more than to do what's right, you need to, as I have said plenty of times before, get off of your unicorn and join us down here in reality.
The problem here is that, to repeat myself one more time, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. While progressives are trying to promote public safety, they are still inhibiting human freedoms, and quite often directly cause violent crime rates to rise as a result of their gun regulations. As for conservatives, they are still promoting violence, although probably not the act of initiating violence, and if gun regulations get too loose, it can and will put guns in the hands of dangerous individuals and make the body count rise, even though good people who also have guns can and will stop the shooter after they fire the first shot.
The point here is that humans are naturally good, and while both conservatives and progressives do have good intentions behind their political views, and not just on gun rights either, they often don't look at the results of their actions, and end up committing evil as a result. While either group is guaranteed to accuse the other of being evil, moral corruption isn't unique to either of them. Progressives can end up doing very evil and immoral actions just as much as conservatives, and while both groups are just as likely as the other to succumb to this fact, each and every single one of them have a justification for it. Humans are naturally good because that is all we desire to do, and yet, regardless of the actions that people take to put those intentions into practice, there is still one major issue I need to explain: sin.
Continued in part 2