Posts Tagged ‘Good and Evil’

Rod Dreher on evil as a spiritual force

January 22, 2017

Rod Dreher, a traditional Christian, summed up his beliefs about evil:

  1.  The world is not what we think it is. What is unseen is as real as what’s seen.
  2.  People are not who we think they are; they are not even who they think they are. People will go to extraordinary lengths — including telling themselves outlandish lies, accepting what ought to be unacceptable and making their own lives and the lives of others miserable — to avoid facing truths that would compromise the worldview upon which they’ve settled.
  3.  The battle lines between good and evil, and between order and chaos, are not drawn where we would like them to be. The front is everywhere, most particularly within our own hearts.
  4.  Be wary of the treachery of the good man who believes in his own goodness.
  5.  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Source: The American Conservative

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The enemies of the good

February 18, 2016

In politics, it is often true that—

The perfect is the enemy of the good.

If you’re not satisfied with anything less than perfection, you might forfeit the lesser good.

But we need to remember it also is true that—

The lesser evil is the enemy of the good.

If you’re always willing to accept the lesser evil, you will never get anything good.

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Good and evil, right and wrong

December 20, 2015

The trouble with thinking of the world in terms of a struggle between good and evil is that you forget the difference between right and wrong.

Or, to put it another way, the danger of total commitment to fighting evil in the world is that you lose sight of the potential for evil in yourself.

The battleline between good and evil

March 15, 2015

quote-the-battleline-between-good-and-evil-runs-through-the-heart-of-every-man-aleksandr-solzhenitsyn-174264

I believe there is such a thing as goodness, which is devotion to human flourishing in myself and others, and I believe there is such a thing as badness, which is the human weaknesses that prevent people from serving the good.

I also believe there is such a thing as evil, which is hatred of the good.

There are such things as good countries, which allow their people to flourish, and there are bad countries, where corruption, privilege and power without accountability prevent human flourishing.

And there are such things as evil regimes, such as those of Hitler and Stalin, which kill and torment people for no real reason except pure malice.

The ISIS regime and its allies such as Boko Haram in Nigeria seem to be pure evil, although they may attract followers who don’t realize what they’re getting into until it is too late.  If I could push a button and blow up all the ISIS leaders while sparing innocent human life, I certainly would do so.

At the same time, I recognize that the seeds of the ISIS atrocities and of almost every other bad and evil human action exist within myself.   I have never wanted to set anybody on fire or slowly saw anyone’s head off at the neck, and I have never fantasized about it, but I have thought and done things that, in their small way, were just as pointlessly malicious.

To recognize the evil in myself is not to deny or mitigate the evil of ISIS.   It is to recognize the truth of what Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great Russian writer, once said, which is that the battleline between good and evil does not run between nations nor between individuals, but through the heart of every human being.

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My thoughts on the nature of evil

April 6, 2012

My definition of a good person is someone who understands what is right, and usually does the right thing.

My definition of a bad person is someone whose understanding of what is right is overridden by some more powerful motive – pride, anger, fear, laziness, self-interest or appetites of different kinds.

My definition of an evil person is someone who is actively hostile to the good.   Such people exist, although they are unusual.  I know they exist because I have met some of them, and I recognize the evil in myself.

When I meet someone who is manifestly superior to me in any way, I feel judged.  I feel the lack in myself of whatever quality I admire–achievement, courage, compassion, professionalism in work, whatever it is.  One healthy way to respond to this is to try to emulate the good qualities I admire.  Another is to refrain from making comparisons.

But I feel the temptation to try to tear down the admired person, at least in my mind.   I think of all the reasons they might not deserve credit for being what they are, and all the excuses I might have for not meeting their standard myself.  I can imagine myself trying to tear them down in reality.  That would be evil.  The evil person is committed to the belief that there is no such thing as good, and that the good person needs to be taught a lesson–to be shown that their goodness does not coincide with the way the world is.

During my life, the people for whom I feel the most resentment are not people who are rich and powerful.   They are peers whose achievements are greater than my own.   I have learned to abort these feelings.  If I did not, I would be miserable, and I would make those around me miserable.   When I know someone whose achievements make me jealous, I make a point of going to that person and congratulating them on their accomplishment.   When I do that, I feel as if all the poisonous feelings are draining out of my mind, as if there was a boil that had been lanced with a red-hot needle.

I like egotists–that is, the kind of egotists who think well of themselves without having to think badly of other people.  It is a great mistake to based your self-respect on lookind down on other people.  This is especially true when you look down on other people because of their race, religion, nationality, social class, sexual orientation or political perspective, because your sense of superiority requires no effort on your part.   But it is a a mistake in any case.   No matter who you are, you can always find someone to look down on, just as you can always find someone who by whatever measure is better than you.  I have always found it a mistake to judge myself by comparing myself with others.   I have resolved to never let my sense of self-respect depend on things that are outside my control.

Imaginary evil is glamorous.  That’s why Nazism has such an enduring fascination.   Sauron, the Dark Lord in The Lord of the Rings epic, is a glamorous figure.   But in the story, giving yourself up to the Ring of Power will eventually turn you into a Gollum, someone whose personality has been reduced to a bundle of appetites.   That’s a good metaphor for how things are in reality.   Real evil is not glamorous.  It is petty and trivial.