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Why Do People Do Evil? (Dennis Prager Offers Reasons For The Existence Of Evil Alert)
Townhall.com ^ | 09/04/2007 | Dennis Prager

Posted on 09/03/2007 9:09:43 PM PDT by goldstategop

Decent people have sought to identify the roots of evil since the first indecent person inflicted cruelty on an innocent person. And people have come up with one or more of nine explanations, most of which are indeed valid.

1. The Devil (or whatever name the devil goes by in any given culture). I do not believe in a devil, but when one observes the seemingly inexplicable cruelty engaged in by some people, it is understandable that people have attributed it to some evil being that has taken over that person.

2. Genes. The contemporary term for devil is "genes." Just as with the devil, when we observe a person engaging in evil behavior for which we have no rational explanation, we speak of it as coming from the person's genes.

3. Parents. After genes, parents have become another popular explanation for much evil. "How was he raised?" we wonder when we read about evildoers, especially those who deliberately hurt children. There is no question that parental upbringing has both good and ill effects on children. But there are too many bad people raised in homes that did not abuse them, and too many good people who were raised in awful homes to allow us to make parents the primary explanation for evil.

4. Religion. Religion is a popular culprit these days. And it is undeniable that religion can be a source of evil -- it certainly is in the case of the true believing Islamic terrorist. And it was in the wars over theology that racked Europe for centuries. But two facts mitigate against regarding religion as the primary explanation for evil. One is that religion itself was often developed precisely in order to reduce human evil. Whatever evil individual Christians may have ever engaged in, it is hard to find advocacy of evil within Christian Scriptures. The other is that secular ideologies and regimes -- Nazism and Communism, for example -- have murdered and tortured far more people than any religion has.

5. Money. Money and greed are so widely regarded as causes of evil that the phrase "Money is the root of all evil" has become a cliche. And there is no doubt that people seeking what money can buy -- luxury, status, women and excitement, to name but a few things -- have engaged in much evil. But flawed human nature and a lack of self-control, not money per se, are the causes of evil in these instances.

6. Power. Like money, many who seek power will do anything, no matter how evil, to attain power. However, it is a relatively small number of people that seeks such power and commits evil in its pursuit.

7. Pursuit of the good. The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. One should never underestimate the amount of evil caused by people thinking they were doing good. Far more evil has been perpetrated by idealistic people than by cynical criminals.

8. Sadism. There are people who simply enjoy seeing others in pain and inflicting it on them. But sadism accounts for few, if any, large-scale evils. It accounts for many individual acts of cruelty.

9. Boredom. Boredom is widely underrated as a source of evil. Yet, it most certainly is. Lack of purpose, not a lack of things to do, is the source of nearly all boredom. People need meaning in their lives. And if they don't, they will pursue visceral excitement instead of meaning or seek meaning in evil causes.

I believe there is a tenth explanation that is greater than all the others and is particularly widespread today.

10. Victimhood. A lifelong study of good and evil has led to me conclude that the greatest single cause of evil is people perceiving of themselves or their group as victims. Nazism arose from Germans' sense of victimhood -- as a result of the Versailles Treaty, of the "stab in the back" that led to Germany's loss in World War I and of a world Jewish conspiracy. Communism was predicated on workers regarding themselves as victims of the bourgeoisie. Much of Islamic evil today emanates from a belief that the Muslim world has been victimized by Christians and Jews. Many prisoners, including those imprisoned for horrible crimes, regard themselves as victims of society or of their upbringing. The list of those attributing their evil acts to their being victims is as long as the list of evildoers.

This is also true in the micro realm. Family members whose primary identity is that of victim usually feel entirely free to hurt others in the family. That is why psychotherapists who regularly reinforce the victim status of their patients do the patient and society great harm.

If my belief is even partially correct, the preoccupation of much of America with telling whole groups that they are victims -- of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and classism, among other American sins -- can only increase cruelty and evil in America.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: dennisprager; evil; hillary; humannature; liberalism; moralabsolutes; moralrelativism; philosophy; prager; townhall; victimhood
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There are numerous theories to explain the existence of evil. Dennis Prager offers a number of them. In the end, he believes the most powerful reason for evil rests on an appeal to victimhood. When people believe the world owes them something, they're more likely to disregard moral restraints and perpetrate evil acts to redress their perceived victimization. In particular, liberalism with its moral relativism is more apt to tolerate and justify evil than conservatism.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

1 posted on 09/03/2007 9:09:51 PM PDT by goldstategop
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To: goldstategop
I do not believe in a devil

So, he also must not believe in Genesis.

2 posted on 09/03/2007 9:13:50 PM PDT by taxesareforever (Never forget Matt Maupin)
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To: goldstategop

Going way out on a limb here but I believe it is called original sin.


3 posted on 09/03/2007 9:14:27 PM PDT by Patrick1
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To: goldstategop

Hmm, original sin?


4 posted on 09/03/2007 9:14:45 PM PDT by khnyny (The best minds are not in government. If they were, business would hire them away. Ronald Reagan)
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To: goldstategop

If a shark or a bear can rip you limb from limb without compunction, why not another human? It is not evil that requires explanation, but good. It’s quite remarkable that we are so acclimated to the goodness of the human heart, that we are obliged to attribute extraordinary cause to explain its absence on occasion.


5 posted on 09/03/2007 9:15:29 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: goldstategop

When people believe the world owes them something, they’re more likely to disregard moral restraints and perpetrate evil acts to redress their perceived victimization.


You could argue that Cain killed Abel because he felt he was treated unfairly.


6 posted on 09/03/2007 9:16:51 PM PDT by Grizzled Bear ("Does not play well with others.")
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To: khnyny

The result of the fall. Original sin comes from man’s desire to be like God. That is the original sin. The result evil and death.


7 posted on 09/03/2007 9:18:09 PM PDT by Patrick1
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To: dr_lew
If a shark or a bear can rip you limb from limb without compunction, why not another human?

Because animals don't have a conscious and humans do?
8 posted on 09/03/2007 9:23:47 PM PDT by divine_moment_of_facts (So, I put on some tangerine lip gloss and answered the door.. I was one lucky woman.)
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To: divine_moment_of_facts

Explain Bill and Hillary then.


9 posted on 09/03/2007 9:26:10 PM PDT by misterrob (There's no difference between a knee jerk liberal and a knee jerk conservative.)
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To: Patrick1

LOL. Hey, you don’t have to explain it to me, although you did beat me to it by 18 seconds.

Some light reading for your perusal, lol.

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p7.htm


10 posted on 09/03/2007 9:27:31 PM PDT by khnyny (The best minds are not in government. If they were, business would hire them away. Ronald Reagan)
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To: Patrick1

Adam also made the mistake of telling God it was Eve’s fault.. Eve needed Adam to tell her to put down the damn apple! History repeats itself.. again and again and again...


11 posted on 09/03/2007 9:30:14 PM PDT by divine_moment_of_facts (So, I put on some tangerine lip gloss and answered the door.. I was one lucky woman.)
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To: misterrob

LOL


12 posted on 09/03/2007 9:31:02 PM PDT by divine_moment_of_facts (So, I put on some tangerine lip gloss and answered the door.. I was one lucky woman.)
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To: goldstategop

Original Sin is the damage done to our nature by the fact that our consciousness dawns in the womb in the absence of a felt presence of God. The mind forms with the perception and conviction that it is the center of the universe. (If grace were present, the mind would be structurally, innately oriented toward the truth—that God is all-important, and good, and that love is a gift.) Because the human person, in the absence of grace, is structurally warped, with a tendency to judge itself and everything and everybody falsely, everyone is born with the tendency to believe that others’ love must be earned, or attracted, or even coerced. This is the root of all personal sins. Baptism “removes” Original Sin in the sense that Baptism brings the grace that was absent at conception. But the maturing of the transformation accomplished by grace takes a lifetime of positive influences, instruction in the truth, and cooperation through repeated actions.


13 posted on 09/03/2007 9:31:20 PM PDT by Arthur McGowan
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To: divine_moment_of_facts

Well, this “conscience” is just what requires explanation, since it seems to be something implanted in us to enforce the good. Suppose it is lacking in a particular person, what of it? People suffer all sorts of deficiencies.


14 posted on 09/03/2007 9:32:12 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: divine_moment_of_facts
Animals do not commit evil, per se. Their behavior is instinctual and mindless - genetically programmed. Only human beings are capable of making a moral choice. That gives us the ability to achieve acts of sublime beauty or acts of wicked depravity that exceeds even the cruelty of Nature. In that sense, we are closer to God than than the beasts which have only a limited framework in which to live out their existence. Our God-like ability to seek moral order in the cosmos has enabled us to surmount the very bounds of Nature itself and bring order to a chaotic world.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

15 posted on 09/03/2007 9:32:22 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: misterrob

You can’t have good without evil. Unless there is something to compare aomething like “good” with, you can’t recognize it.

I believe the basic reasons for evil in the world are two - inherent human weakness (original sin if you will) and Satan, the opposite of God.


16 posted on 09/03/2007 9:32:37 PM PDT by ZULU (Non nobis, non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. God, guts and guns made America great.)
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To: goldstategop
If you want to talk about evil, you need to define your terms. Otherwise you are sure to be confused by moral paradoxes and the claim of subjective evil — the notion that there is no such thing as absolute good or evil.

Evil is that which diminishes or destroys life. Good is that which enhances life. But in order to live, we must destroy living things. The moral calculus says that an evil thing can be done for a greater good. We call that a necessary evil.

The disturbing truth is that life would never have evolved if it weren’t for evil. The first microbe that learned it could exude toxins to destroy a neighbor microbe committed evil. The other microbes had to evolve a defense. In order to survive we must continually fight evil but without evil we would never advance.

17 posted on 09/03/2007 9:34:11 PM PDT by Dan Evans
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To: ZULU

I was making a joke about an example of 2 humans that had no conscience....

or soul for that matter.

G Vs E is a very interesting topic. But not at 12:30 AM on a school night.


18 posted on 09/03/2007 9:34:29 PM PDT by misterrob (There's no difference between a knee jerk liberal and a knee jerk conservative.)
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To: khnyny

Thanks, I will take a look.


19 posted on 09/03/2007 9:35:27 PM PDT by Patrick1
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To: goldstategop
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

"I'll take Number One SATAN!!!! for a thousand dollars, Dennis!"
20 posted on 09/03/2007 9:36:20 PM PDT by pillut48 (CJ in TX --Soccer Mom, Bible Thumper and Proud to be an American! RUN, FRED, RUN!!!)
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To: Dan Evans

“Evil is that which diminishes or destroys life.”

Was America’s Role in WW2 evil because it diminshed life?

I think there is a deeper meaning to define evil.

I think Evil is that which is contrary to the laws of God - the Judaeo-Christian view of God. Someother religions define evil in those terms but others do not.

The ultimate contrariness to the laws and will of God is Satan.


21 posted on 09/03/2007 9:39:07 PM PDT by ZULU (Non nobis, non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. God, guts and guns made America great.)
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To: Patrick1
I will not go so far as to say the womb. There is a point where a person must accept the grace of God (sorry my Calvinist brothers and sisters). That is not the womb.

Evil is the result of human beings believing that they are equal to God or their own God. Which brings us away from the original intent of creation which was to worship and live the will of God. Through Christ we are reconciled back to our original purpose which is to be humble and surrender to the will of God. This leads to a deeper life which brings total joy and contentment. The opposite of this is evil or sin which is doing anything outside the will of God.

Hell being the complete absence of God.

22 posted on 09/03/2007 9:41:40 PM PDT by Patrick1
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To: Dan Evans
There is natural evil which is a part of Nature. That has always existed since the beginnings of life upon our planet. Then there human evil, that existed since Man built civilization and as you observed when good and evil are in sync, that is when we are compelled to exceed our limitations and do things we didn't think was possible before. Its when evil is not checked by good, that it tends to remorselessly destroy everything in comes in contact with. Good and Evil are the opposites of our Nature. As Captain Kirk discovers in "The Enemy Within" he needs his evil half in order to function as a decisive human being. Being all the good half leaves him helpless and unable to ironically enough, summon up the resolve to do the right thing.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

23 posted on 09/03/2007 9:42:13 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop

True.. “Be Still and Know” comes to mind. ;)


24 posted on 09/03/2007 9:42:21 PM PDT by divine_moment_of_facts (So, I put on some tangerine lip gloss and answered the door.. I was one lucky woman.)
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To: Patrick1

Prager lists the results of evil, not the reason.


25 posted on 09/03/2007 9:42:55 PM PDT by Patrick1
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To: ZULU
Was America’s Role in WW2 evil because it diminshed life?

Yes. It was a necessary evil.

26 posted on 09/03/2007 9:43:06 PM PDT by Dan Evans
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To: Dan Evans

I think it is good to destroy evil.


27 posted on 09/03/2007 9:44:26 PM PDT by ZULU (Non nobis, non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. God, guts and guns made America great.)
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To: ZULU
Agreed. We want to destroy evil that threatens our existence. But as I explained, eliminating our bad side would create more problems than it would solve. We need to learn to integrate the human duality within us so the bad traits of human nature can become a powerful force for achieving greater good.

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached." - Manuel II Palelologus

28 posted on 09/03/2007 9:47:44 PM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop
There are people who simply enjoy seeing others in pain and inflicting it on them.

Ahhhhh. I see he's met my ex-wife.

29 posted on 09/03/2007 9:48:31 PM PDT by neodad (USS Vincennes (CG-49) Freedom's Fortress)
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To: goldstategop

I might be interested in hearing what his ex wives have to say about his ideas of moral restraints.


30 posted on 09/03/2007 9:49:27 PM PDT by Forgotten Amendments
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To: ZULU

This is moral quicksand. Isn’t this exactly the logic of Al Qaida? I think it has to be admitted that it is.


31 posted on 09/03/2007 9:56:58 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: goldstategop
There is natural evil which is a part of Nature. That has always existed since the beginnings of life upon our planet.

In human society we see that good and evil tends to cluster in separate regions, some in places where life is cheap, governments are corrupt and crime is rampant. And we see other places that are much very serene. This is because good and evil both have positive feedback effects. In other words, evil begets evil and good inspires good.

In nature we often see the same thing. There are places where it is very dangerous to be. In these places the plants are toxic and the animals are either aggressive and vicious or suspicious and fearful. On the other hand you see places where animals are quite friendly. I don't believe this is coincidence. I thing the dynamics of good and evil apply to animals as well as humans. Animals in packs or herds have their instincts suppressed by the herd the same as humans have their own evil nature suppressed by religion and society. And these animal herds or human societies are subject to change and actually have a will seperate from that of their components.

32 posted on 09/03/2007 9:58:56 PM PDT by Dan Evans
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To: Grizzled Bear
" You could argue that Cain killed Abel because he felt he was treated unfairly. "
Well, on the surface that looks to be true.
However, GOD refused Cain's sacrifice because he didn't offer it in faith, and his attitude towards GOD in giving it ( Ok GOD ? since I give this to you, do I get any brownie points ? )....
GOD did give Cain a 2nd chance to change, but, either out of jealously or for some other reason, Cain didn't want to change.
For the most part, Cain killed Abel out of jealously.
That leads us to a great debate were the Bible says that even from the beginning, that God loved Jacob, but, hated Esau before they were even born.
So like wise, that hatred and jealousy between Jacob ( Israel ) and Esau ( Arabs, Canaan nations ) is still happening today.
33 posted on 09/03/2007 9:59:54 PM PDT by Prophet in the wilderness (PSALM hath said in his heart , There is no GOD .53 : 1 The FOOL)
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To: dr_lew
I don’t think so. Al Quaida is out to destroy innocent life, erase freedom, wipe our centuries of human progress, relegate women to second class status, etc.

I think we have become too civilized for our own good.

It IS good to destroy evil and wipe out those who wish to destroy you. I don’t think that is moral quicksand.

34 posted on 09/03/2007 10:00:56 PM PDT by ZULU (Non nobis, non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. God, guts and guns made America great.)
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To: ZULU
I think it is good to destroy evil.

Yes, I agree, but you have to be careful because it can be habit-forming and it can affect the moral judgment.

35 posted on 09/03/2007 10:01:13 PM PDT by Dan Evans
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To: ZULU

You should read more.


36 posted on 09/03/2007 10:02:58 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: Patrick1

Exellent posts Patrick, the link and your summary.


37 posted on 09/03/2007 10:04:30 PM PDT by HerrBlucher (Tack it up and shut em down Fred!)
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To: dr_lew

I read a lot. What am I missing?


38 posted on 09/03/2007 10:04:51 PM PDT by ZULU (Non nobis, non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. God, guts and guns made America great.)
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To: taxesareforever
So, he also must not believe in Genesis.

No, he believes in Genesis, but as a Jew he does not interpret it with the help of-— perhaps he would say “through the lens of”-— the New Testament.

As I understand it, in Jewish belief, the idea of a rebellious angel is an impossibility-— the angels are all perfectly subservient to God; thus, in the Book of Job, when Satan tests Job, he does not do so out of any rebellious motive.

39 posted on 09/03/2007 10:05:00 PM PDT by mjolnir (rs)
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To: Dan Evans

That is true.


40 posted on 09/03/2007 10:05:46 PM PDT by ZULU (Non nobis, non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. God, guts and guns made America great.)
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To: goldstategop

I think victimhood can create evil but it is also used as a tool for evil. Many people fake victimhood to get what they want or hurt others.


41 posted on 09/03/2007 10:07:55 PM PDT by TheThinker (You want to eliminate poverty, injustice, hunger worlwide? Then work to destroy tyrants.)
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To: ZULU

Have you read the Phaedo ?


42 posted on 09/03/2007 10:12:15 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: dr_lew
This is moral quicksand. Isn’t this exactly the logic of Al Qaida? I think it has to be admitted that it is.

Yes it is. In fact almost all cultures subscribe in one form or another the moral calculus of a necessary evil. The difference between Al Qaida and the Christian is that the Christian has a more refined moral calculus. Militant Islam simply sees all outsiders as evil and therefore they must be converted or killed. It is the same simple logic of anthrax.

But a Christian sees that destroying evil does not always result a greater good. The Christian knows that adultery is a sin but it does not serve the greater good to kill all adulterers. It does not serve the greater good to kill Jews just because they are not Christian.

43 posted on 09/03/2007 10:12:56 PM PDT by Dan Evans
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To: goldstategop
"Only human beings are capable of making a moral choice."

That has not been my observation.
44 posted on 09/03/2007 10:15:07 PM PDT by RightOnTheLeftCoast ([Thompson 2008!])
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To: dr_lew

It was written by Socrates. I don’t read much in the way of philosophy - mainly history and science.

Is it about the nature of good and evil?


45 posted on 09/03/2007 10:15:47 PM PDT by ZULU (Non nobis, non nobis Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam. God, guts and guns made America great.)
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To: goldstategop
The Bible says that the sins of the parents are visited upon their children for three to four generations. When you see truly evil people look at their genealogy and you'll find another evil person, whose sins have been visited upon their children, grandchildren, and possibly even their great grandchildren. People who reject God are asking for trouble for them and their children.

Exodus 20:
4: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
6: And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

Exodus 34:
5: And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD.
6: And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
7: Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
8: And Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.

46 posted on 09/03/2007 10:20:40 PM PDT by NRA2BFree ("The time is near at hand which must determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves!")
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To: ZULU

“Socrates made no reply to this question, but after a little while he stirred, and when the man uncovered him, his eyes were fixed.”


47 posted on 09/03/2007 10:21:17 PM PDT by dr_lew
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To: Grizzled Bear

It could also be argued that Satan tempted Adam with lies that made Adam appear to be the victim of God’s withholding a specific fruit from him, thus denying him knowledge, power and status.


48 posted on 09/03/2007 10:24:34 PM PDT by Valpal1 ("I know the fittest have not survived when I watch Congress on CSPAN.")
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To: goldstategop
Why Do People Do Evil?

Luxuria, Gula, Avaritia, Acedia, Ira, Invidia, and Superbia.

49 posted on 09/03/2007 10:26:04 PM PDT by Between the Lines (I am very cognizant of my fallibility, sinfulness, and other limitations.)
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To: ZULU
"I believe the basic reasons for evil in the world are two - inherent human weakness (original sin if you will) and Satan, the opposite of God."

I believe you are right on the money except I would substitute the word "pride" for "weakness".

50 posted on 09/03/2007 10:31:13 PM PDT by joebuck
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