Defining Good/Evil?

Comment stated in response to Deacon Blue on his blog ‘G vs. E’

The question of goodness? We need to define evil in this case then we can arrive at some sort of judgement.

What is good? Not breaking the law (by this I mean the laws of the land you live in)? In that sense, most of us are pretty good (on the side of the law that does not need jail time to rehabiltate us).

Just what is the standard we are using for ‘good’ exactly and to what end? If we are using to express we cannot be ‘good enough’ – I guess I’d have to agree (always more we can do better). However, if we are using this just to prove all people are ‘bad’ – I think that might be a tad much.

I see humans dependant on their own choices – to help define themselves. I think we do things that are good and bad – choices have made this possible. I think the bad we do sucks but does it outweigh the good we do…so much so that we are not to be labelled as ‘good’ at all? I beg to differ…so we must be defining good quite differently.

Are we as good as God? No. Will we ever be? No. But does that comparison make us ‘evil’? Maybe in comparison to God, but not in comparison to Ted Bundy or Hitler.

It similar to that idea where Jesus (in Luke) tells us to hate our family in comparison to our devotion to following him (or his teachings). Does this mean we actually hate people? Not really, it just shows, by comparison, that our committment to God is so great not even our family could tear us away from it. In essence, it does not make us hateful, just makes us realize the priorities are to be set by the teachings – which oddly enough safeguard us so we never hate our family one iota.

Point is, Jesus uses this same comparison when someone calls him ‘good teacher’. In comparison to God – no one would say they are good…Jesus does exactly this…gives his gratitude to God. But does this mean Jesus is ‘evil’? No.

In the beginning God created humanity – and it was good. It wasn’t God – add an ‘o’ – and it was good/okay/meaningful/worthwhile/average. Should we be reaching for ‘great’ or just ‘content’?

Advertisements

16 thoughts on “Defining Good/Evil?

  1. interesting. i think i’m with you on this one. what is good or bad for me is relative to the context. murder is bad always… unless you’re defending yourself. that’s what our courts of law state. turn the other cheek doesn’t mean “hit me again” and being a doormat, it means nonviolent resistance in which the other sees the common humanity. support for this would be the socio-historical fact that a superior hit the subordinates with the back of the hand and equals with an open hand. turning the other cheek (other being left) would mean that the only way to hit you (as most ppl back then were right handed) would be with an open-handed slap, thus making the subordinate equal with the master. tricky Jesus!

  2. “would mean that the only way to hit you (as most ppl back then were right handed) would be with an open-handed slap, thus making the subordinate equal with the master. tricky Jesus!” (Luke)

    I have heard this a few times, I like the idea…it’s supporting equality…that being said – maybe the highest ideal is total non-violence (which is being taught by Jesus) and if we have to use violence – it’s contrary to the best for humanity but sometimes neccesary (but very rarely if ever).

  3. What is good? – SVS

    I like that you didn’t just make evil as a contrast to good. For example when someone bombs an abortion clinic. I may feel it is evil act, whereas some religious person might feel it is good act.

    I think Jesus (and probably others) said “you will tell a fruit by its tree”. Meaning, only in time will we tell if an action was good or evil.

  4. “Are we as good as God?” SVS

    Well this question opens up a whole arena of debate. But you presuppose that god is inherently a “good” being/deity that only wants good for his creations? Then what is the purpose of death and our own destructive instincts that drive not only us but other creations toward death?

    You also must realize that every human has the ability to think and act upon both their positive and negative thoughts, at any given time. All humans can manifest “good” deeds and “bad” deeds – right now you can think of both murder and charity in your mind at the same time. I would not presuppose “evil” to even be existent in reality because then we would need an origin of evil and then we get Satan and the Garden and the Snake and Cain and all that mythology (or some other demonic origins); I understand the “evil” argument fully but I do not think “evil” is the right word for it. If “evil” exists then that means we can easily separate Hitler and all wrong-doers (law-breakers) into another type of humanity, a type that is other than the norm, but that would be preposterous. We all have the capacity in our minds and bodies to easily become Hitler-like if we so choose. We must remember that Hitler did not act alone and did not carry out his plans on his own because he managed to get millions of regular people on his side to carry out his “evil” plans – but those Germans were still everyday regular humans that were not distinctively “evil” in any way.

    Everyone has dual personality traits but we do not always act upon our negative thoughts. If we did then we would not last too long as a species, thus we create morality to ensure our survival against even ourselves. The role of environment is a strong one and it also cannot be negated – I just pointed out Nazi Germany and that is the ultimate example of groupthink and internal environmental influences upon members of a society that drive people to do extremely heinous deeds.

    Lastly, our dual personality actually gives a strong argument to god being both good and evil as well, that is if you dare to honestly think about it and clear your mind of all theological propaganda. But of course this presupposes that god is omniscient and omnipotent and actually exists with all those theological underpinnings.

  5. Johnny,

    what you have just articulated is both Kant’s categorical imperative as well as the Augustinian stance on human nature and the nature of sin as found in his “City of God” work. He goes further in Confessions and his later work to state that humans are leaning, if not totally, bad to begin with.

    as for God being both good and evil, that’s a jewish thought as well found in Job specifically as well as other prophets. Satan is either nonexistent or part of the heavenly court and never “fell from grace” as many other traditions state (medieval christianity and islam specifically).

  6. “Lastly, our dual personality actually gives a strong argument to god being both good and evil as well, that is if you dare to honestly think about it and clear your mind of all theological propaganda” (Johnny)

    True…it’s the quandry of quandries about how we perceive God. I just read 2 chapter’s from Rabbi Neil Gilman’s book on this about God being nice and not so nice (book is called ‘The Jewish Approach to God’ (chapters 5 and 6 respectively.).

    I’ll use one passage from the book to kind of show some of my own sentiments on this same issue:

    “This ends the easy dichtomy of atheist/theist, the confuson of faith with doctrine or demonstration. It makes clear that faith is a life response of the whole person to the Presence in life and history. Like life, the response ebbs and flows. The difference between the skeptic and believer is frequency of faith, and not certitude of position. The rejection of the unbeliever is literally the denial or attempted suppression of what is within oneself” (Irving Greenberg, ‘Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire: Judaism, Christianity, and Modernity After the Holocaust’, quoted on pg 81 in ‘The Jewish Approach to God’).

    I have come to realize my personal version of God changes – and will continue to do so with the more I learn about God, real life, my life, etc. God is not always going to be seen as Great – because sometimes, like in a holocaust, the question is ‘where was God’? This can only leave one with various doubts and lots of questions for God.

    Questioning God, in Judaism, is part and parcel for the course – Luke pointed out Job (the book in the bible) – but there is also many Pslams, Abraham, and Moses that share many of the same sentiments.

    In the end, God changes (next chapter in this book unbelievanly) or at least what we know does. We bounce from a good God to an ambivalent one, from atheism to faith, from hope to despair…showing a conflict in our ‘dual entity’ (as you also point out).

    We are left to make an image of God that can only relate to what we know…

    • Yes, let us examine the Jewish Holocaust and the role of god; For me this piece of history (which I have little to no physical connection with at all) is the ultimate question, or even proof, about the existence of a loving god, or more appropriately the non-existence at all of any god/creator in the cosmos.

      I often read, watch, and think about the Holocaust and I can only come up with a sad reassurance that there is no actual god in the process of anything on this planet.

      The entire Second World War is baffling and challenges all moral ties to any creator and or faith-based morality system, that is if you actually read the testimonials and facts of those involved in the battles. In this context, I can only think that life is temporal and our flawed mental evolution is slow moving and often leads to destructive outputs. Our moral-evolution (if you want to call it that) is perhaps even slower moving and is so weak that it never impinges upon our desire to destroy life. Global capitalism would be a great case-study for this previous point.

  7. “The entire Second World War is baffling and challenges all moral ties to any creator and or faith-based morality system, that is if you actually read the testimonials and facts of those involved in the battles” (Johnny)

    And yet, we still manage to have faith in people around us after such a horrific episode that cost 60 million people their lives. In fact, we still accept and respect the German and Japanese people on this continent (the 2 main perps of the global war).

    Faith is not something we humans can live without…and I would even contend faith systems have allowed for much of the damage and trauma from that war to be dealt with.

  8. “we still manage to have faith in people around us after such a horrific episode that cost 60 million people their lives” svs

    I am not sure what this means. They built a wall to divide Germany’s power. They bombed Japan to seriously weaken it. Those are not acts of faith. And maybe even today there is trade with both countries but I would argue that is political.

    “faith systems have allowed for much of the damage and trauma from that war to be dealt with.” svs

    Which I find sad. There is only one doctrine that gives people hope. The hope that in the afterlife, people will be rewarded or dealt with appropriately. But since god is both good and evil. He may decide to even further humiliate the dead. Who knows? Since we do not know the mind of god, he may decide that people who suffered through horrible traumas (rape, child abuse, being gassed, etc…) deserve even more horror in the afterlife. Well someone can argue then that god is a just god or they have faith god is a just god and wouldn’t do that. But then why doesn’t he dispense justice on earth? Why didn’t he stop the holocaust or these other tragedies? Why wait until were are dead, when no one can prove if he is just or not? If god allows these tragedies here on earth, he must allow them in the afterlife. He is the god of the living and not the dead after all.

  9. “Those are not acts of faith. And maybe even today there is trade with both countries but I would argue that is political” (Wolf)

    Easy explanation – are you friends with Japanese and German people (many have immigrated here)? if the answer is yes, I am guessing you do not let the ‘past’ color the ‘future’ nor hold everyone responsible for the dealings of their regimes (many centuries old). In some ways, this does show a certain ‘trust’ in the change in these people’s cultural mind-sets from the 1930’s and 40’s to the 2000’s.

    If this is so with our dealings with humans, why cannot it be so in our dealings with God?

    “Which I find sad. There is only one doctrine that gives people hope. The hope that in the afterlife, people will be rewarded or dealt with appropriately” (Wolf)

    Not really, Many rich elites find hope in their financial successes. Many sports and other famous persona’s find their hope in their achievements. The problem with this planet is sometimes our hopes need to be about the next person and their well-being (not seen much in the West).

    How would you suggest we deal with this issue of hope for a holocaust survivor? What more could they want than what was taken away?

    “But since god is both good and evil. He may decide to even further humiliate the dead. Who knows?” (Wolf)

    That’s not my personal belief about God – I think God is good. I also think God is ‘just’. The scale your using in this discussion assigns God no quality whatsoever – could be good, could be bad. How can a just God destroy someone innocent?

    “But then why doesn’t he dispense justice on earth? Why didn’t he stop the holocaust or these other tragedies? Why wait until were are dead, when no one can prove if he is just or not? If god allows these tragedies here on earth, he must allow them in the afterlife. He is the god of the living and not the dead after all.” (Wolf)

    Why not allow humans to live with their choices?

    I brought this up to someone else about God, at what point should God stop or start intervening? When someone is about to bomb a country it would be nice for God to setp in (agreed). But let’s say that does happen – just once. At what point after that would humans be happy with or without the intervention – knowing God is there? Would we not stunt our own growth and become reliant on any and everything we think God could do for us?

    We may not like many aspects of this planet – including many of the tragedies of the 20th century. The problem is, as humans, we have to learn to live with what we create and the systems we use to manipulate humanity around us…or seek to change them with our lives.

    I know, God should swoop in whenever any sign of distress is present (like a superhero)…but then again maybe we should also forfeit our rights of choice, taste, freedom, expression, etc…in the need for a God who intervenes whenever and wherever we feel violated (almost like a theological minority report).

  10. “I know, God should swoop in whenever any sign of distress is present (like a superhero)…but then again maybe we should also forfeit our rights of choice, taste, freedom, expression, etc…in the need for a God who intervenes whenever and wherever we feel violated.” (Jay)

    Sorry to say that your previous argument follows no line of reason or logic. If the first cause truly is an intelligent designer/creator/god then he has already intervened in the most meaningful way of all time, i.e., the creation of all life in the cosmos. If that is the first cause then is that not direct intervention at its utmost? So then, this god is willing to intervene in our creation then why should it (god) not also intervene when we choose to destroy the very creation that he purposefully placed upon this planet?

    Secondly, if god really is only a “good” deity, as you believe, then where do get our destructive and hate-filled thoughts and abilities from? Certainly a “good” creator would not let his creations kill each other in droves for centuries. And if there is only one true god, which you also believe to be true, and this god is total good and not destructive in any way then it would make no sense for its creation to know how to destroy and kill in all manners.

  11. “If that is the first cause then is that not direct intervention at its utmost? So then, this god is willing to intervene in our creation then why should it (god) not also intervene when we choose to destroy the very creation that he purposefully placed upon this planet?” (Johnny)

    I don’t think it is illogical. Maybe God has removed His hand from the earth to allow us all to ‘grow up’? Kind of like how a parent raises a child to become independent – without the relying on the parent(s). When they were young children this was absolutely neccesary for survival and healthy growth…as one gets older this is not the case anymore. I am only leaning on one of the biblical titles for God…father…with this theological position.

    The truth is, if we follow the creation story, the planet was created for humans to ‘enjoy’ (not for God’s purpose of enjoying it). So if we choose to destroy that which also was created to help sustain us…that’s really a matter for humans to decide upon the severity of such an idea.

    “Secondly, if god really is only a “good” deity, as you believe, then where do get our destructive and hate-filled thoughts and abilities from?” (Johnny)

    That’s a good point. It’s one of 2 things to me:

    (a) we were created with choice – and whether good or bad – we have the ability to ‘reason’ what we want each and every thing/situation around us to mean.

    (b) God has aspects of this in Him as well

    I hold out that God is ‘good’…however I am aware of the Jewish understanding about God – and this gives some leeway to God being ‘nice’ and then ‘not so nice’. Does it mean God is volatile in these states of emotion? Are we?

    “Certainly a “good” creator would not let his creations kill each other in droves for centuries” (Johnny)

    Why not exactly? God is not endorsing the behavior, not putting down financial support for one of the teams, nor a sponsor. I do find a Jesus who supports a ‘good’ God and yet he dies at the hands of Rome…should we blame God for not acting?

    “And if there is only one true god, which you also believe to be true, and this god is total good and not destructive in any way then it would make no sense for its creation to know how to destroy and kill in all manners.” (Johnny)

    I believe God is totally good, but that does also mean this God supports what we do with ‘choice’ and ‘reason’.

    For example, I have been watching the world news for the past couple of nights and have seen many earthquakes around the world since Haiti…and they are all kind of devestating.

    However, I am starting to realize what is killing humans in these earthquakes…our need for more comfort/convenience.

    Once upon a time, for example, many of these regions probably lived in simpler dwellings than concrete, stone, bricks, and mortar. These things will fall in these serious earth shattering moments and possibly crush whoever are in their path. Simpler housing might not. Maybe many generations before us weren’t so ‘dumb’ after all. Our people used to live in tipi’s and survived fairly well on the open plains…how many other cultures had adapted dwellings for their climate?

    We can blame God for all this bad stuff happening…but are we not also mini-creators making the world around us? Are we not to be held accountable for our own decisions as well?

    • Here is the fault in your logic and reason: you opened your entire argument on a simple premise that began with the word “maybe.” Case closed.

  12. “However, I am starting to realize what is killing humans in these earthquakes…our need for more comfort/convenience.” (jay)

    This is another huge error in your logic and it does not follow the main argument in any way. First of all no one can be blamed for natural disasters and their ability to destroy. Natural disasters are beyond the realm of good versus evil, agreed? Second we were actually talking about a man-made disaster which is the Holocaust and WWII, which has severe implications for morality and humanity. A natural disaster is not an evil but a genocide is, can you see the difference?

  13. “Here is the fault in your logic and reason: you opened your entire argument on a simple premise that began with the word “maybe.” Case closed” (Johnny)

    Certainty is no guarantee of anything as well. Few things in life, especially around philosophy (which theology is) and social sciences, are really a certitude. For example, What is the best way to treat someone who has been sexually abused? Is there a one size fits all approach?

    Case re-opened.

  14. “This is another huge error in your logic and it does not follow the main argument in any way. First of all no one can be blamed for natural disasters and their ability to destroy” (Johnny)

    But the disasters are not what I am getting at here. The human solutions (choice and reasoning) are what I am getting at here. Choice and reasoning of the human mind have everything to do with what is being discussed.

    When we try blame God we also need to take a look at ourselves for many of the things happening around us…a quite atheistic leaning point of view in all honesty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s