A Line of Demarcation….

Before I go any further with stories or thoughts on this site, there is a pressing matter that must be addressed.  This matter must be presented as a question, because the answer will ultimately determine the foundation of your personal philosophy or worldview.  It will also determine your opinion of my work.   Any conversations, debate, or misunderstanding that may be derived from my posts can be traced back the this one question.  What’s more, most people don’t even know that their worldview is shaped by this precept or principle and they are constantly flabbergasted that others can’t see their point of view.  It is because all philosophy is rooted and ground in the question that will follow this sentence.

Is man (mankind or humanity) innately good or innately evil/bad?

If you dissect your worldview right now on the basis of your answer, you will find that every ideal you subscribe to or have formulated in your own mind is firmly planted here.

If you said that man is inherently good then you subscribe to the fact that the ethical and moral flaws are anomalies and do not indicate the state of humanity.  This is where you have to fudge the numbers a little and skew the perspective… What is your standard for Good and Bad?

That question will spur some on to say, ‘there is no such thing as good or bad.  Those indicators are man-made and ever changing, so they do not exist outside of the perspective of man.  They were created by society and don’t have any merit except within society itself, as a whole.  The definition of good and bad are lost on the individual outside of the community.  Each person is free to believe whatever he or she likes.  The only time that an action can be deemed “bad” is in the constraints of societal interactions.’  I can surmise that this thinking suggests that “man” is inherently good, with the definition of good being, ‘nothing is wrong in itself.’  So, there is no such thing as evil.  It does not exist, deeming man innately good.

Also along that thinking is that moral standards vary from person to person;  what is wrong/bad for some is completely acceptable and expected by others.  It is a mere difference of opinion.

Both of these ideals would regard the Conscience as just a philosophical sounding board formed by societal constraints and placed on us since we were children, to ensure that we are well-versed and governed by the trivial, man-made goodness.

Also the simple commonality of certain moral laws constantly being broken creates the notion that the broken part is our good nature trying to get out, or that the law is flawed.  If it is our nature and we are repressing it then we are stifling our true selves.  This is where a lot of anti-Christian rhetoric comes from; the Religious influence shackled man with the fear of eternal punishment for violating preferred human behavior.  It has been suggested that Religion actually created evil and its definition.  Meaning that a long time ago, in prehistoric times, that the Neanderthals were free from the oppressive moral code.  Each caveman was free to assert his whimsical notion or capricious action on what ever or whomever he desired and it was accepted behavior.  Of course this would be ultimate speculation, considering there is no way to test or investigate such a claim, but it does sound plausible…if man is inherently good.

But I ask, if Religion and Morals evolved over time and we are creatures that are evolving toward perfection, wouldn’t it seem much more accurate to say that these societal constraints and philosophical sounding boards evolved over time because “bad” was not only innate in us but that the laws were needed to have sustain successful and thriving societies?

If each person were able to enact their every emotional whims upon whatever or whomever they like, then it would be utter chaos.  There would be murder, burglar, incest, rape, torture, theft, etc.  There would be no true freedom from tyranny, only anarchical fear.  It create an ambiance of division, distrust, and destruction.  Most of the known world would not exist; nuclear devastation would be inevitable.

Actually, let me retract a bit, there would be no world (as we know it); no philosophy, no family, no mothers, no fathers, no love, no peace, no community, no written history, no philosophical debates, etc..  The social evolution would have been impossible; Peace and Order have to have laws and precepts, there is no other way.  It was not out of power-hungry priests or Repressive Religion that  propagated a fear tactic to keep people unified and peaceful, but rather a fear of what took place in historically or the fear of utter mayhem if they didn’t create such a system.

Atheism and Agnosticism are also rooted in the notion that man is inherently good.  Atheist follow a lot of the logic discussed early in the post, where the Agnostic is a little more complex.  They Believe in a Supernatural being, or that they were created by the perfect Universe, therefore, they are perfect in their present state.  They may need some occasional tweaking but for the most part they are good people and they wouldn’t need to punished for the minor infractions they may have been guilty of over the course of their life.  There is not need for a Savior or salvation, they are fine just they way they are.  All they are searching for is Truth and Enlightenment, that is the only refining they need.  They are pure of heart and motive.

I will not continue to comment upon what other Religions or Philosophy’s believe in or project any unwarranted negative image upon them.  If you read my About page, The Rooster’s Cry, then you will know that I am speaking from first hand knowledge and not just flippancy of what I think that Atheist believe or the anti-Christian Rhetoric; I spewed plenty myself.

What does it mean if man is inherently evil?  First, it would give us a closure or a clarion understanding of why “evil” is more common than “good.”  It would also give us great insight in to the notion that everyone is capable of deviance and perversion.  That it is not just those who were abused or have low I.Q.’s or are morally challenged.  Every man, woman, and child is capable of gross and profane actions; everyone has a breaking point and once breached, anything is possible.

You can attribute it to whatever you would like but if you commit such an action it was/is and will be a part of your nature.  The ungodly perversion may have been dormant or latent in you but in order for such an action to take place by your hands, you have to have had the capacity the entire time.  This makes it apart of your nature, if you were innately good, then it would be impossible for you to commit such heinous actions.

The notion that man is innately bad, clarifies why that as much as we would like to be honest all the time, everyone is still guilty of lying.  It has come to the point that it is accepted and expected behavior in certain situations.  It is okay to be dishonest, as long as you don’t get caught.  Even when we try to tell the truth instead of a lie, it is overwhelmingly our response (in times when honesty would have been so much more applicable).  It would appear that Lying is a part of our nature, and that would only make sense if we were innately evil/bad.  It is much more logical to reconcile this, than to try and defend a theory of evil evolving from creatures whose very nature is Good.  Where would evil come from? Why would it evolve?  If we are evolving to perfection, how would evil evolve?

It would seem to me that we would have evolved in to a moral Juggernaut, if our nature from the beginning was good.  Who would have been the first to deviate from their nature?  What Neanderthal chose to reject his nature and commit a violation against himself and his community?  What would cause this deviation of goodness?

If we are innately bad and there is no good in us, as Paul says, then it means that we would need help to become good and that if there was any goodness in the world, it could not have come from us, but from Someone/Something that is innately Good.  Like love, joy, peace, intimacy, laughter, smiling, contentment, tenderness, mercy, grace, forgiveness, endurance, family, etc..

We have the capacity for Good but we can not harness it to allow it to conform us into having it as a nature, because our bad nature is taking up the need space.  Nature is different than character, you build character, but you are born with your nature.  If there is Someone Good and we are the opposite of Good, that would mean that we could not be in relationship with Good.  Good can have no fellowship with Bad, nor light with Dark.  When you turn on a light in a room, the darkness disappears, as though it were nothing…it just evaporates and is dismissed.  The only way that darkness can coexist with light is if there are other things in the room than just light and dark and those things block the lights path, “darkness has no substance of it own.” (My Epic, “Broken Voice”).  The darkness is only the absence of light, once light arrives it can no longer occupy the space, it MUST disperse.

We have the capacity for good and can commit some good actions but we can not sustain a “goodness”.  Goodness doesn’t ooze out of us.  The truth gets stuck in our teeth like hot caramel or a mouth of crackers but lies flow out like water.  The Apostle Paul says, “I wanted to do good, but I couldn’t do it…I didn’t want to do bad and that is exactly what I did.” (Romans 7:18-22)

I know that this is not a complete thought just yet, but it is getting there.  I would really appreciate you comments, both good and bad.  I look forward to hearing from you.  Enjoy the rest of your evening!

 

Romans 7:18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

8 thoughts on “A Line of Demarcation….

  1. I believe you are presenting a false dichotomy.

    Humans are innately neither good nor bad. They have the possibility for both in them. There’s probably a slight lean towards ‘good’ in that what we would call good lines up with the actions of social mammals. But we’re also quite selfish, because being selfish is how a lot of things are able to survive. Sometimes that selfishness is channeled into what we would call ‘good’ behavior, and sometimes ‘bad’.

    Of course, what I would call good doesn’t match what your religion says good is. So by your definition, I imagine I’d be bad.

    But I don’t base my actions on the definitions given by religions.

    • Thanks for the comment, I appreciate you taking the time to read my lengthy post. Ha. You paint a very rosy picture of human behavior, a simple misunderstood selfishness, that is accepted and expected in order for the survival of humanity. And you are right according to Christianity you are bad, we all are. The very act of the cross shatters the notion that selfishness is okay. The very nature of love is selflessness, it is preferring others needs over yourself. It is not about survival but about intimacy. And as I pointed out in the beginning of my post we are at an impasse. You lean towards man being mostly good, and kinda selfish, our theologies are polar opposites.

      If you would humor me a little more, what is your thinking on the evolution of “evil”? What part of harmless selfishness does rape, murder, suicide, anarchy, theft, hate, bitterness, genocide, abortion, etc. play into to further the evolutionary process? I am being entirely sincere, I am not trying to provoke or invite a reactio, I never had a good answer myself when I was an atheist.
      This blog is about questions I have been asking and answers I have found, it is not a soapbox to preach fire and brimstone from.

      Again thanks for the comment, I really do appreciate it!

      • “You paint a very rosy picture of human behavior, a simple misunderstood selfishness”

        Not misunderstood. And I don’t think it was all that rosy, but just not as dark as your picture. Selfishness doesn’t always lead to negative actions or outcomes.

        “If you would humor me a little more, what is your thinking on the evolution of “evil”? ”

        Not sure what you mean.

        ‘Evil’ is the word that humans assign, in general, to actions or events that cause harm. I tend to prefer to use the term ‘harmful’, as ‘evil’ implies a certain nefarious intent that often doesn’t exist outside of fiction. Not always, but often.

        “What part of harmless selfishness does rape, murder, suicide, anarchy, theft, hate, bitterness, genocide, abortion, etc. play into to further the evolutionary process?”

        Well, I don’t believe I ever called selfishness harmless. I believe I pointed out that selfishness can inspire both things we would call ‘good’ and things we could call ‘evil’, so I don’t see any reason to really justify it.

        And evolution has no goal in mind (and it doesn’t have a mind, either), which is why species go extinct all the time. It’s completely possible that some of our actions may inevitably lead to the extinction of humanity, but I hope not.

        That being said, my opinion has been that in general people act good to and help others who they believe are ‘people’. For a sociopath, he’s the only one in the world who is a ‘person’. For our ancestors, only those members of our village or tribe were ‘people’. For Hitler, only his twisted idea of perfect humans were ‘people’.

        In general, I think the human race is growing better, and more and more of us are looking at the entire species as ‘people’.

      • “In general, I think the human race is growing better, and more and more of us are looking at the entire species as ‘people’.”

        Serious question. What does it matter? Our very existential existence is trivial at best. What good does it do for the human race to “Grow” better? Explain please, I have never understood this perspective.

        One more question, What selfish actions are “good”? I would like for you, if you would, to qualify that statement, because everyday we, and I assume you, make judgments by labeling things good and bad. What are those things and what is your measuring unit?

        Again, I am not being flippant or antagonistic, if you have the time, I would very much like to hear your explanations for those two questions. Thank you for you comments and time, it is very much appreciated.

  2. Wes,
    A few corrections:
    I’ve noticed you repeat the phrase a few times that “evolution is leading to perfection.” This is false, nothing within evolutionary theory states anything like this. Organisms (through successive generations of selection pressures) evolve and adapt in response to their environments. Evolution is reactive, not proscriptive.

    Also note: homo neanderthalis was not an ancestor to homo sapien, but a cousin. We aren’t descended from them, we share a common ancestor.

    I agree with NotAScientist’s comment that you are presenting a false dichotomy here. I reject the premise of the question.
    Your thoughts are clearly based on the presupposition of human depravity, based on Christian philosophy. It does not logically follow that society will crumble into all manner of horrors without God (that conclusion only follows once you accept the given premise.)
    If anything, it is religion which lays a foundation of moral relativism. Things which are not demonstrably immoral become labeled as such though Divine Command, and then cannot be questioned. Currently millions of Americans are being denied their right to marry based on such a thing as this.

    In addition, your representation of “atheist/agnostic beliefs” are false. Neither of these is “rooted” in anything other than lack of belief in gods.
    Atheism is simply the lack of belief in the existence of deities, and implies nothing else as to what an individual does believe.
    Agnosticism is simply lacking knowledge as to whether deities exist, and also implies nothing else as to what an individual does believe.
    Speaking from “personal experience as an atheist” is meaningless, as everyone is different.

    • Affable,
      Thank you for your corrections, I wasn’t necessarily trying to be scientifically accurate, rather Neanderthal was a reference to prehistoric people groups, but given the fact that I brought it up at all I should have been more specific. Thank you for keeping me honest.

      I am not sure I agree with Evolution being reactive. Why didn’t the organisms stay at a simpler form? What environment would cause them to have need to evolve in to 1000’s of species, especially as complex as the species we have today. The human form itself is so fragile and complex, while simple organisms would have had more than enough resources to keep its species alive in that form , well close to eternity. If evolution is true, then it appears that it was evolving with a purpose. What about DNA? I know this is a beating a dead horse but I think it makes much more sense that the Animals were created in for their environments, rather than being shaped by it. As for man, it seems truly unfair that the only Species on the planet has the sole power to utterly destroy or save to save another species from extinction. How did we evolve so much further than any other creature. There is not a single species on this earth within light years of being as evolved as we are. It makes more sense that we were created as superior beings than the thought that our environment (the same environment that shaped the other species) shaped us in to what we are today.

      I have to say that both your comment and NotAScientist’s comments, I feel further prove my point. I know that you don’t agree with the premise of my question but the rest of your argument suggests that you do in fact believe man to be innately good. That the natural emotions and actions that we possess and act upon are pure in the right environment. This is why dialogue between Christians and non-Christians is very difficult; we don’t have the same base from which our philosophy is based. Not only are they parallel but there can never be an intersection, or a plot on a Venn diagram.

      I did say in my post that I didn’t want to falsely represent Atheist or Agnostics, even though I know several and was one myself, I am not entirely verse to speak for such a diverse group of people. That is why I digressed and just spoke from my Christian perspective. I am a little confused though, if my perspective from my atheistic era has no weight in my own dialogue, then I would have to conclude that neither does yours. Can I dismiss everything that you have said because, another Atheist may disqualify your philosophical notions? Or me having been an Atheist, can I disqualify your statements from a non-Christian Perspective?(not said with malicious intent, just curiosity).

      I don’t have all the answers, and you are probably saying “no joke!”ha. But I know that Atheism and Evolution never definitively answered any questions, it only caused me to ask more and more circular questions and I was exhausted, because there is no end; it is as infinite as space. And you are right that you cannot see my perspective without using Christian Philosophy. It is not until we see ourselves in the Light of God’s “Goodness” that we see our true sinful nature. When you are standing there in front of a Holy God, it is hard to justify your actions. How can I justify being a liar, next to a God who is Truth and doesn’t lie, or justify my hate to a God that forgave the very men that killed His Son, or give excuse my insatiable, selfish lust when my God is Love and Intimacy True Relationship, not infatuation. And you won’t see it until you have an experience with God. Until you can admit that you are a liar, we all are (in fact we have the ability to lie to ourselves so we can fulfill an overwhelming desire), then you will never concur with Christianity.

      Let me finish with, I didn’t write this to incite Atheist, I wrote this because these are things that encouraged me in my journey. I didn’t create this site as a gun pointed at other religions. I am simply bearing my soul, tearing the cover off of my heart and pouring it out in hopes that some my be encouraged, changed, and find their way. I am a Christian Writing for Christians, but all are welcome to read and comment. Just know that if it hit you, I wasn’t aiming at you.

      Affable I do ask one thing of you, do not be upset when Christians don’t compromise their beliefs, that would make us hypocrites and liars. As you can see our philosophies are polar opposites. Don’t asks Christians to modify their beliefs, ask them or convince them to convert to Atheism. Christianity is based on salvation through the death of Jesus on the Cross to pay the price for your sin and mine, and only through confession of those sins and acceptance that Jesus Christ is Lord of your Life can salvation be attained. To ask a Christian to modify this to where only certain sins needed to be confessed and other sins could slide by is asking the we try to save people in their sins not from their sins. And to say that all Religions are the same and that Christians should cool it on Jesus is the only way, is taking the sacrificial death of Jesus and declaring it to be void, even Jesus said He was the only way. So what you are really asking is for Christians to not be Christians. I have never asked an Atheist to just believe in God a little or say that maybe evolution didn’t happen. That would make you Agnostic or philosophically undecided, you would no longer be an Atheist.

      Thank you so much for you comments. I truly mean that, I hope that you will continue to read and comment. I have never shied away from challenging my beliefs, so if you have questions or comments, please send them my way. I look forward to hearing from you again.

      • Wes,
        Whether or not you agree to the fact that evolution is reactive is irrelevant; this is how the mechanisms work, this is what the theory states. Through many successive generations of subtle, cumulative changes, organisms adapt to their environments to survive. Why have millions (if not billions, keep in mind 99% of all life that has ever lived on this planet is now extinct) of various species evolved? They’ve evolved to exploit a niche in their environment. There are countless “unchanged” – so to speak, variations on life which exist to this day. For example, consider the coelacanth, an ancient species dating back 400 million years, it looks more or less the same as it did at that time, yet it is as equally “evolved” as you or I. Its environment, its niche, hasn’t changed all that much, so there haven’t been many selection pressures driving significant alteration. Sharks are another great example. Their ancient “body plan” is very well adapted, and thus little change has taken place throughout countless millions of years.

        Asserting that life was created for its environment is counterintuitive at best. If that were true, then why has 99% of all life gone extinct?

        Again you’re blending science with myth when you ask why we are “more evolved” than other animals. Everything alive today, from single celled organisms, to human beings has all evolved an equal amount of time. There is no such thing are more or less evolved. Evolution does not posit a “great chain of being.”

        Homo sapien was not the only intelligent species to evolve. Going back once again to H. neanderthalis, our closest non-human cousin went extinct around 35,000 years ago. Also H. floresiensis died out about 12,000 years ago. These are just 2 examples, but there are more. We’re “alone” now, but we weren’t always.

        I believe humans to be capable of both good and bad. I do not believe in the “innate” in the way you suggest. Your conclusions are flawed because your premise is flawed.
        It is true that Christian and nons cannot reconcile differences in philosophy. Nons are capable, however, in learning from aspects of Christian, as well as any other ancient or modern philosophy in order to incorporate a rational perspective in one’s life, and how one should behave. A Christian, however, would be much less flexible in their ability to grow, as they must follow guidelines laid out through unquestionable Divine Command.

        In reading your posts regarding your own atheism, I am skeptical that you really were an atheist. Don’t misunderstand me, being an atheist isn’t a special club you need to join.
        Your posts are vague on your reasons, but from what I can derive it seems as though you simply decided to say, “screw God.”
        Your story you mentions you told your friend that, “…God screwed me.”
        How can a person believe that they were screwed by something they don’t believe to exist?
        Were you simply “rebelling” from something you still believed to be true but denied, or did you arrive at a point where you realized there wasn’t any evidence to support what you believed and you understood logically that gods very probably do not exist? The wording of your Roosters Cry stories seems very much to imply the former. Perhaps in future installments you’ll expound upon your former skepticism and reasons for reconversion?

        The trouble with “representing” atheists is that you cannot do it to begin with. No one can, because there is no one creed by which an atheist lives. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in gods, and of itself provides no clues as to what a person DOES believe. If I told you I do not believe in leprechauns, it wouldn’t infer anything about what I do believe.

        Your own perspective does have weight in your own dialog, clearly, but your perspective on “being an atheist” does not represent any other atheist. If you put two atheists in a room together, they’d likely agree on nothing except the fact that they don’t believe in gods.

        This is your quote:
        “Atheism and Agnosticism are also rooted in the notion that man is inherently good. Atheist follow a lot of the logic discussed early in the post, where the Agnostic is a little more complex. They Believe in a Supernatural being, or that they were created by the perfect Universe, therefore, they are perfect in their present state.”

        Nothing about what you said here is true. Atheism and agnosticism are based on nothing more than the lack of belief, or lack of knowledge, of the existence of gods, nothing more, and the rest of your statement about supernatural beings and a perfect universe… I have no idea where you get that from.

        Evolution (and science, generally) and atheism have never claimed to have “all the answers.” How can science lead you to ask circular questions?
        Just the opposite, the belief in God leads to nothing but circular questions:
        Who created God?
        I’m certain you’ll probably dodge this question with the usual “God wasn’t created.” But if we’re going to allow special pleadings such as this into the discussion, then anything goes, and I might as well tell you that Underdog is real.
        If a panacea is what you seek, then religion will provide, however ask yourself this: Do you care about what’s true, or simply what is emotionally satisfying?

        Life, the universe, its origins and so on – these are all difficult to understand ideas – but you cannot answer a difficult question by positing an impossible one. Claiming that God created life is only filler in a gap in our understanding. It explains nothing and raises more questions than it answers.
        From a scientific perspective, if you don’t know something, you just don’t know. It doesn’t mean you won’t know, or that you can’t… that’s the whole purpose of science: to learn, to gain knowledge. Asserting that an infinite god did it is equivalent to giving up. It is intellectual sloth.

        In response to your final paragraph, I do not ask you to change as I will be the first to support your right to freedom of religion. My initial response was to clarify misunderstandings you have scientifically, as you seem to deduce philosophical conclusions from flawed evolutionary premises.

        Thank you Wes, I look forward to your response.

  3. “Serious question. What does it matter?”

    What does it matter to who?

    It matters to me, while I live here. It matters to me because I have friends and family and may one day have children that I want to live good lives. And so on and so on.

    “What selfish actions are “good”?”

    When I give money or canned food to the homeless, for example, I’m being selfish. Because on a small level I like the positive recognition for doing something like that. And in a larger level, I want to encourage the action within society of helping others in the event I end up needing help.

    It’s selfish, but it’s not bad.

    “What are those things and what is your measuring unit?”

    Harm and benefit. As best I can determine, I strive to cause the least harm and the most benefit in my actions. Benefit to myself and to others when it doesn’t harm me. Just that simple.

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