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.