Holy cow, it's been too long! Been getting caught up on school, and it's all paid off! Tomorrow is my last day as a junior in high school!
Due to some interesting convo's on facebook that this topic struck up, I decided I would do a post about it. Rather than guide you through my thinking pattern, however, I'll let the thesis paper I wrote/slaved over as an English final do the talking for me!
You'll have to excuse some of my fundamental assumptions: the existence of evil, good, and God for starters. Realize I'm speaking from my background as a conservative, Christian, homeschool, high-schooler. Also realize it is a thesis paper. That being said, I think you'll find it an entertaining read at the least.
Throughout history man has proven that, when left to his own devices, he is intrinsically malevolent. On examination of people, historical events, and written texts, men default to the immoral, debauched, dishonest, and corrupt. Completing an assessment not only proves these results, but leads to one conclusion. Firstly defining ‘good’ and ‘evil’, then digging deeper into examinations of each of the mentioned topics, and finally discussing the one caveat in the logic expressed will aid in proving this one conclusion. Man is inherently evil.
Although language can often be deceiving in its implications, change due to context, and have multiple meanings within meanings, it can also be used to clarify. Abstract concepts are possibly the hardest to define within the constraints and boundaries of language. Unfortunately, both ‘good’ and ‘evil’ fall into this category; nonetheless, their meanings should be tackled to avoid confusion as they are used repeatedly. The Random House Unabridged Dictionary (via Dictionary.com) defines evil as “1. Morally wrong or bad; immoral, 2. Harmful; injurious, 5. Marked by anger, irritability, irascibility, etc.” Conversely, good is defined as “1. Morally excellent; virtuous; righteous, 4. Right; proper, 6. Kind, beneficent, or friendly, 10. Genuine; not counterfeit, 12. Reliable; dependable; responsible.” Keeping these definitions in mind will help to keep meaning clear as they are discussed in future topics.
Just as a molecule is made of atoms, and an atoms made of electrons, neutrons, and protons, so life is made up of past and present, and each of these is made up of people. Halfhazardly guiding the course of life, people also depict where and how it moves. Exploring the beginning of people (right after birth,) as well as a specific instance in one person’s life can give much insight into the existence of people, who they are, and how they relate to the topic at hand. People form history.
After a child is born it is often given much leeway in its actions. A mother does not love her child any less simply because it cries, throws up, and won’t sleep at night. However, what happens when that child begins growing older? That so-called “leeway” tends to wear off. The child is given more responsibility for its actions, and is even given consequences when it does naughty things. This “leeway” is not physical, or even speak-able, yet it is there. It’s a natural part of the child “growing up.” If we removed this leeway, this social norm, what would happen? What if we were to take a newborn child and just view it as it is, not as we think it should be? Many would argue that adults are simply children with jobs, a house and car payment, and who have to change their own pants. I would support this reasoning; children show every emotion and thought process of adults, simply concentrated into a 15 pound, 24 inch ball of curiosity. Reasonably, children cry when they get something they like taken from them, they turn their heads at things they don’t like, and they are openly glad about things they want or agree with. Using this same reasoning of the correlation between small children and adults, we can see that if humans are indeed inherently evil, they are so from birth.
People live their lives moment-by-moment, choice-by-choice. Each decision they make takes them to the consequence, whether it be good or bad, of that decision. Quickly exploring the life of one man, Adolf Hitler, shows how one decision can, indeed, lead to the next. Adolf was born in 1889 in Braunau-am-Inn, Austria. Until the age of 24, Hitler lived virtually as a homeless man, selling art to stay alive. When the First World War broke out, however, Hitler volunteered for the military. Moving through the ranks, it wasn’t until 1920 that Hitler gained control over the Nazi party, and by 1934 he had re-organized it, seized control of Germany, and broken the treaty of Versailles, starting the infamous WWII and his heinous actions therein. This man, once a poor Austrian, turned into the leader of one of the strongest nations in the entire world, all in a matter of 45 years. Think about what he could have done had his talents not been used towards actions such as one of the hugest killings of any one group of people the world has ever seen: the Holocaust. However, as his life shows, Hitler made his own decisions. He chose to believe in the temptations Socialism has to offer. He chose to create what many consider to be the most evil regime the world has ever seen. He chose. So, this man, who had all the brains and thinking patterns to positively change the world, instead chose to turn hostile and hating. He was left to his own decisions, and he naturally chose the evil and malicious.
Over the centuries history has shown itself to be a valuable resource to everyone willing to pay attention. In many cases, events will unfold so similarly to happenings in the past that it appears as though the present is simply a duplication of the past. Many would summarize this belief by saying “history repeats itself.” Although this belief is up for dispute, it is clear that much can be learned by looking to the past. Observing two completely different, yet very similar, historical events can provide a glimpse into the reasoning of men, and why people do what they do. Fascinatingly, these two events, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the scandal of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, however dissimilar, can indeed provide that glimpse.
In today’s world, Abraham Lincoln has been turned into a virtual saint. His Presidency is famous for winning the Civil War, giving the United States some of the most famous quotes and speeches, and overall giving America the optimistic personality it loves to talk, sing, and write about. That is why the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, the man behind it all, is so distasteful in the pages of history. John Wilkes Booth, the man who pulled the trigger to the gun that ended Lincoln’s life, is a man many Americans have learned to hate. Yet, when looking at his reasoning, his intent and fore-thought makes it rather clear as to why he hated Lincoln so much. John Wilkes Booth was a southerner, a racist, and overall, the antitheses of Lincoln. Hating Lincoln, Booth saw him as the man who was responsible for everything the south was losing- and justifiably so. These reasons and variables, however wrong they may appear, can provide some sense of empathy for this hurting man who wanted to avenge the loss of his home country. They also show how a human will naturally take out such pent-up emotion. John Wilkes Booth needed an outlet, a place to put his anger and frustration. After his first kidnapping attempt of Lincoln failed, he was desperate. Because of this, all the humanness came out of this man’s body at one pull of a trigger on that fateful day of April 14th, 1865. This very thing goes to show the natural outlet of a man caught in his own emotions and conflicts; the natural outlet of evil. John Wilkes Booth defaulted to murder.
“During the administration of William Jefferson Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic well being than at any time in its history.” This quote, from WhiteHouse.gov, shows how President Bill Clinton has been received by the world. This man helped America reach one of her “peaks” with little warfare, and much prosperity. His being the second democrat to be elected a second term as president shows how much America appreciated this “modern renaissance man.” Closely looking at this marble building’s foundation, however, allows cracks to reveal themselves. The largest of these, and most assuredly the least disputable, is that of the Lewinsky Scandal of 1998-’99. When this huge pot of information gets boiled down, however, it is seen that Clinton was accused of having inappropriate sexual relationship with a White House intern. He denied these accusations, and later, they were proven to be true. Clinton made a public apology, and became the second president to become impeached. This sad story of a man who was given the highest pedestal America has to offer, then ruined his entire reputation and that of American politics as a whole, shows just how corrupt man is at heart. A happily married man, Bill Clinton had no reason to become inappropriately sexually involved with anyone. Despite this, he defaulted to the debauched and depraved behavior of some kind of nymphomaniac. He defaulted to evil.
Orderly, the last topic to be discussed is that of historical texts. Here, two categories will be explored: one of ancient philosophers, and one of ancient religious text. Within the works of Socrates and Plato information can be found worth dwelling upon; such is the case with the Christian Bible as well. As a point, assuming any of these works are fact or fiction is irrelevant. They are accepted by many different people groups, and as such will be explored entirely in their beliefs. Proving their ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ is not the point; rather, the point is to see how they relate to the topic at hand.
Socrates and Plato are perhaps some of the most famous philosophers of all time. Although Socrates never wrote anything of his own, Plato, his faithful student, recorded the beliefs and even history of his famous teacher. Through Plato’s works such as The Apology, The Crito, and The Statesman we are able to more closely grasp some of the greatest minds history has to offer. Socrates, famous for his “Socratic Method,” or method of self discovery through asking questions, was an expert logician; so much so that it eventually led to his death. The people of Athens, his place of residence, believed he was tainting the minds of their youth. Because of this, charges were brought against Socrates. As a biography states “After taking up the charges and showing how they were false, he proposed that the city should honor him as it did Olympic victors. He was convicted and sentenced to death.” This man, although logic driven, and incredibly intelligent, did indeed have a streak of pride through him. And, although the colloquial expression “splitting hairs” may come to mind, pride is considered a step into the outskirts of evil. This is especially true when you take into account that pride, when taken to the extreme becomes arrogance, which often is marked by anger and irritability, which, by our earlier definition, is indeed evil. And, although Socrates may not be considered “evil” by normal standards, his life and death do not discount that all men are inherently evil, if only because of this streak of pride at the end of his life. Realistically, the same can be said of Plato. This student of Socrates continued on with his teachers works, and even started a school, the Academy, to teach philosophy. After Socrates’ death by virtual forced suicide, Plato left the politics of Athens behind him in disgust. This disgust, although a valid emotion, betrays Plato’s inevitable feelings of hatred and odium directed at the Athenian officials and government. These same feelings of “anger, irritability, irascibility” go to show how even the greatest minds history has to offer default to being mean when all is stripped away. Plato defaulted, just as so many before him had done.
The Holy Bible is the very book that has governed the Christian and Catholic religions for centuries. Containing 66 ‘books’ or sections within, each has its own purpose. It is also divided in two halves; the “Old Testament” and “New Testament.” The Old Testament is mainly books of history, where the New Testament contains the gospels (books about Jesus Christ) and epistles (letters by Jesus’ disciples.) The interesting thing about the Bible, however, is not how it is divided up; rather it is the content within. As the Bible teaches love, peace, and thanksgiving, it is different from many other manuscripts of its time. It teaches man should submit to God because of God’s tremendous love for man. It teaches God sent his own son to earth to redeem all of mankind. Finally, it teaches man was created inherently good, but through his decisions decided to become evil at heart. This, I believe, is the fundamental difference between it and so many other religious and philosophical beliefs and customs. Where The Bible teaches man is dependent on God, other writings teach man is dependent on himself. Finally, the Bible gives hope. It defies every definition of “evil” and thus, through the process of elimination, is wholly and fully good.
Logic caveats are the bane of writers, philosophers, and mathematicians. Forcefully, they make a thought “loophole” to open, and sometimes even an assumption to be made. Nonetheless, the logic caveat that has been approached must be dealt with. This loophole deals with how men can do good things. As discussed previously, The Bible defies all that is evil, and therefore must be good. As a result, everything in the Bible must also be viewed through this “good” filter. Something the Bible teaches is that man cannot be good without God. Even with God, it is God being good through man that allows man to do good things. As Paul puts it in Romans 6:4 “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” As can be seen, it is only through Jesus, through God, that man is able to “live a new life.” This new life refers to the opposite of the old life, the opposite of the immoral, harmful, injurious, angry life; the opposite of the evil life. Trusting in the “Good” Book shows that man is indeed not good on his own, and is only able to live this new “good life” because of Jesus. This is the fundamental caveat in all the logic being presented. Man can appear to do good, only so long as it is God working through him allowing him to do that good.
In summary, through looking at the definitions of “good” and “evil”, through discussing People, history, and texts, and through acknowledging the one caveat, one conclusion can be reached. Informationally speaking, this conclusion, although stemming from substantial research as well as experience, has been proven to be true time and time again, day-in, day-out. This conclusion shows how man is maliciously malcontent, intrinsically immoral, and deliberately debauched. Humans are inherently evil.