Christian Relaunch

The Wickedness of Humanity

"Our society's ethical dilemma is that we can't decide whether we're powerlessly mad or culpably bad."

Will Self, A Point of View (BBC) 09-Oct-2015.

(Solipsism) "Evil is an illusion because the world itself is an illusion."

I dealt with this in the Creation section of this Creed.

"Many good deeds are done throughout the world and they outweight the bad."

Good deeds do not cancel bad ones, as if we were in a test where the pass mark is 50%. The pass mark is 100%. If I only murdered half your children would you think me a half-decent fellow? Then how does God feel when we violate half his standards?

(Harmonism) "What we call evil is all part of life's rich tapestry. It only seems bad because we fail to see the big picture."

Certainly the world often progresses dialectically, that is, through a conflict of contrasting forces, resolved in a synthesis that is better than both. But then the question arises, what if there is resistance to that progress? The theory would need to be adapted to include a meta-dialectic to resolve resistance to the dialectic, followed by a meta-meta-dialectic, and so on. Very silly.

More directly, if you really thought that the deeds of the world's worst evildoer were as good as those of anyone else, I might take this objection seriously, but I find that harmonists are never entirely consistent, and I think that is because it is not really a tenable position.

"Man is basically good. His problem is that he is weak, or ignorant, or trapped in a body that hinders him from expressing his true nature."

We all know intuitively that there are universal standards, that there is a difference between right and wrong. We all know intuitively that when people do wrong it is their own fault and that they deserve blame. The very fact that our language has words like should and evil shows the existence of universal standards and our willful violation of them.

"Only a few people are evil: murderers and suchlike scoundrels. The rest of us are ordinary decent folk, and if we sometimes feel guilty it is just fear of the consequences of our actions."

It is common to seek scapegoats, attributing all the evil in the world to a few super-villains. But such people are not basically different from the rest of us. It is well-established experimentally how "ordinary folk" will perform grossly evil deeds in certain circumstances, and I think if we are honest we all know intuitively that we have done inexcusable wrongs, and that their effects were small because we are not powerful, not because we are good.

"Some people are extremely virtuous. They at least cannot reasonably be called evil."

It is true that the degree to which wickedness corrupts the attitude is very variable, and that there are many examples of virtue in the world. There is no such thing as pure evil. Each of us acts virtuously in certain ways and at certain times, and some people do so more than others. But nobody is entirely consistent in virtue. The world may not notice, but there are evil thoughts and omissions in everyone.

Incidentally, reverence towards the one God is itself a natural standard. Some allegedly shining examples of virtue fail to give that reverence, and are thus condemned by their own words.

Back to What is Humanity's Defection?.