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Why Good People Do Bad Things


MOW
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The inspiration for this topic is an article in today's Chicago Tribune on a book called "Satan: A Biography". The book is by a former Jesuit exorcist named Henry Kelly.

 

In his book "The Good Book" , Peter Gomes states that in addition to considering "why bad things happen to good people", religion also has to consider "why do good people do bad things".I want to say here that I'm using the word "Satan" symbolically and mythologically. According to both Gomes and Kelly , Satan is not so much interested in bad people (pedophiles,terroists,serial killers etc.) as he is in good people. I'll give a couple of examples I've read about in the past. In addtion to Mel Gibson's recent troubles there was the case of the preacher's wife who shot her husband in the back . I read in a magazine about a pacifist ,nonviolent ,vegan woman who got in a ongoing feud with her more conservative neighbor. To her amazement she began having fantasies about how she could murder him, without getting caught.(she didn't act on them). We've all read about myriad "nice guys" who go to work and spray the place with bullets.

 

Evil tends to destroy "good " people not by going after their weaknesses , but by going after the areas in their life where they think they are strong. If they're beautiful it will destroy them with their beauty. If they're rich ,it will detroy them with their riches. If they're intelligent it will destroy them wiht their intelligence If they're "nice" it may well destroy them with their "niceness". In the book Mere Christianity C S Lewis has a whole chapter on the spiritual dangers that can lay in wait for nice people. Many people think that The United States' downfall will be because of "sex drugs and rock and roll" ,when it may come about because of our wealth and military power.

 

That's enough for now. I just wanted to start a discussion on "why good people do bad things"

 

MOW

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To foster debate I see the Holy Ghost, which is constantly moving and spreading as a part of God. It is sometimes looked on as a symbol for further development and is also seen at times in a negative way or as the wings of the devil. It has a dual aspect and the possibility of being seen either as good or bad. The dual aspect cannot be separated because it is like a paper with two sides that are one and the same. Good cannot exist without evil because they complement each other.

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Guest Michaeljc4
Good cannot exist without evil because they complement each other.

 

Isn't that some kind of heresy? Not that I think it's a heresy personally, but wasn't there some group or philosophy in the early Christian church that believed good and bad were equal, but opposite, forces? Was it Zoroastrianism?

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Isn't that some kind of heresy? Not that I think it's a heresy personally, but wasn't there some group or philosophy in the early Christian church that believed good and bad were equal, but opposite, forces? Was it Zoroastrianism?

 

Zoroastrianism was the belief system of ancient Persia, now Iran. Light and darkness were believed to be balanced in a dynamic system with the character Ariman representing the darkness (evil) and Ahuramazda representing light (good). The three wise men are believed by some biblical scholars to have been Zoroastrians.

 

flow.... :)

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Does anyone remember an episode in the old Star Trek series where Captain Kirk was split into parts, one good ,one evil? Without his evil side ,Kirk was unable to function.

 

Also Jesus didn't seem to like to being called "good" . When people would call him"good teacher" he would say "why do you call me good?"

 

 

MOW

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Zoroastrianism was the belief system of ancient Persia, now Iran. Light and darkness were believed to be balanced in a dynamic system with the character Ariman representing the darkness (evil) and Ahuramazda representing light (good). The three wise men are believed by some biblical scholars to have been Zoroastrians.

 

flow.... :)

 

Flow, is the dark/light image like Yin/Yang?

Is there 'balance' between the two or IS one greater than the other? OR, do those 'forces' (for want of a better word) fluctuate like a pendulum, ebbing and flowing?

 

PS - I did used to think I knew 'the' answer to this, but now I'm not so sure.

Edited by Flatliner
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Flow, is the dark/light image like Yin/Yang?

Is there 'balance' between the two or IS one greater than the other? OR, do those 'forces' (for want of a better word) fluctuate like a pendulum, ebbing and flowing?

 

PS - I did used to think I knew 'the' answer to this, but now I'm not so sure.

 

There is, of course, no certainty when it comes to esoteric beliefs, but ebbing and flowing I think might be the best description. The mind and attitude of the beholder/experiencer would also have much to do with the perception. The Star Wars stories would be a good mythological model.

 

flow.... ;)

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There is, of course, no certainty when it comes to esoteric beliefs, but ebbing and flowing I think might be the best description. The mind and attitude of the beholder/experiencer would also have much to do with the perception. The Star Wars stories would be a good mythological model.

 

flow.... ;)

 

Do you mean that if you look for something a certain way, then you see it or interpret it that way too? So if we interpret or experience things as good or evil, is that just our label for the experience? Is it REALLY good OR evil, or neither?

Sorry, I think I've got way off track here, still interested in your thoughts though...

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Guest Michaeljc4

While I am very well aware of the slippery slope that moral absolutes puts us on, I do think that there are some things that are objectively wrong, or bad, or evil, regardless of intention, perception, or opinion. There are actions that are (for lack of a better way of saying it) crimes against humanity, and regardless of culture or era, they are acts of evil. Genocide is one of them, for example. Sexually exploiting children. Cruelty and murder for pleasure. Things like that. So I think the point I'm trying to make is that, yes, there are evil people in the world who happily engage in acts that are objectively evil. They seem to be rare individuals, but they have existed.

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So I think the point I'm trying to make is that, yes, there are evil people in the world who happily engage in acts that are objectively evil. They seem to be rare individuals, but they have existed.

I think this is an important point. We all have choices to make everyday of our lives...some better, some worse. We are individuals filled with social content and our choices reflect that. People make bad decisons motivated by good intentions. But just as we have a Higher Power, we also have a Lower Power that steps in to take advantage of situations and decisions that go wrong. It begins slowly and takes on a life of its own...a creeping madness that can take an ordinary problem and turn it into a personal nightmare and horror. While doing volunteer work in a men's maximum security prison, I often tried looking deeper into the lives and personalities of some of the inmates that I came to know. The ones that I worked with were sentenced to 10 years and more for murder, attempted murder, assault, etc. and also involved drugs and alcohol. There is an intersection where obsessions and compulsions, addictions and behaviors, meet with substances like drugs and alcohol. The result is something that I have experienced in my own life...the presence of a monster within trying to come out and the rage of that monster, I believe, does not have its origins anywhere that we are familiar with. It is an intensive, consuming Evil that results in actions like murder, assault, etc. Such Evil is way beyond simply making a bad mistake or not living a certain way. Such an Evil comes into our lives through a certain door. That door is as individual as we are...and we seem to find that door and open it as part of some other behavior, some other problem that has taken a more sinister turn. In our normal, fairly happy lives we don't look for that door or even think of it. But it's there. This gives a new meaning to the words when we ask God to 'Deliver us from Evil'...it's that possessing.

 

Russ

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Do you mean that if you look for something a certain way, then you see it or interpret it that way too? So if we interpret or experience things as good or evil, is that just our label for the experience? Is it REALLY good OR evil, or neither?

Sorry, I think I've got way off track here, still interested in your thoughts though...

 

Not really off track. If one continually exists in situations that could be considered abusive... emotionally, spiritually, physically,... then that person's brain tends to process more and more of what it perceives as abusive, sometimes even when it isn't. This is because of the extreme plasticity and adaptability of human capabilities. This has been shown to be true in many, many research studies over the years. It's how hope for a better future is systematically destroyed.

 

Immune systems are also affected by existing in environments where such prolonged abusive practices take place. So for example, one may see just how horrific are the possible long term consequences to individuals and others that they may associate with of say the patterns of abuse at Abu Graib, Guantanomo, the secret prisons in E. Europe, and not to mention the burgeoning prison populations in the USA, most of whom have no hope of rehabilitative services to help them cope with reality once they are fee to carry on their lives. It all becomes familial and transmissible down through the future generations, IMO.

 

But then you Aussies have turned out OK in most ways and you all started out as convicts.

 

flow.... B)

Edited by flowperson
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While I am very well aware of the slippery slope that moral absolutes puts us on, I do think that there are some things that are objectively wrong, or bad, or evil, regardless of intention, perception, or opinion.

 

Agreed.

 

My opinion of late has become that - while it's philosophically impossible to prove moral absolutes - saying that all actions are relative is a load of horse-hockey. <_<

 

This issue, as I see it, is that aspects of objective morals are argued as absolutes, rather than the objective truth itself.

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  • 2 weeks later...
The dual aspect cannot be separated because it is like a paper with two sides that are one and the same. Good cannot exist without evil because they complement each other.

 

 

Soma, I could not disagree more. Good without evil is the very essence of Divine Love. Good without evil is the reason the universe exists.

 

Many acts carried out by human beings can be described as evil. History book are filled with examples of human leaders who’ve encouraged and promoted genocidal acts – acts a Progressive Christian would describe as evil. These leaders were not acting from the parts of their biological brains that permit us to express our angelic ability to love, forgive, and learn from our mistakes. These leaders were psychopaths.

 

Psychopathy is not a religious issue. Psychopathy is a scientific issue, a mental health issue, a medical issue, a social issue, and a cultural issue. The one thing I trust is that psychopathy is not a product of the soul. Souls aren’t evil. But souls-in-human-form are capable of committing barbaric acts when their brains are improperly wired.

 

Flow has aptly described some of the causes of this just above.

 

It’s a cop-out to say that we, as human beings, are stuck with a universe that allows evil to co-exist with good. IMO it’s our job as angels on Planet Earth to prove that exactly the opposite is true – that evil will cease to exist as part of the human experience when we learn how to help and heal each other instead of fear and judge each other.

 

Jen

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Since we are discussing good and evil, I thought it only fitting that I would put my 2 cents in from one of my short writings:

 

Understanding Good and Evil

By JM

 

What is good and what is evil? This is a question asked throughout the ages. No finite definition has ever come to unanimous agreement and if it had it lasted only for some fleeting moments and then passed away with the society that created it for expediency purposes.

 

Even with our modern nation, what was once considered good to many such as slavery was later thought of as evil. The taking of land from the Indians was once justified by many as good for America but was not deemed as such if you were in the moccasins of an Indian. Time changes circumstances and circumstances changes our definitions. Why is this?

 

It is because the terms good and evil are deemed opposites. The demarcation line of one versus the other is a line subjectively defined as whatever the controlling caste of a society at that time defines. Opinions and positions on such matters change. Killing in the United States now is considered evil but even that has exceptions. When we are involved in War, we make heroes of those who have killed many and dare not call them evildoers.

 

Good and evil, they are abstract terms that only have reality to the individual or society whose mind makes the distinction. Granted, every action or thought has a consequence regardless of where one draws the line between good and evil but nevertheless they are abstract terms of ever changing perceptions. They are terms that have even reversed meanings in history depending upon whose perspective we are looking from.

 

Is good created by God and evil by some other sub-god such as Satan as some religions would have us believe? It would seem that that would not be the case. If God is God and creating good then he must also be the creator of that which is its opposite or evil. One can not hold the title of creator of all things and create an abstract term as good and then blame the creation of the opposite on that which is created. Yet, there is another way to look at it with a deeper understanding. Maybe God is neither creating good nor evil? Perhaps God only created creatures with a mind that had that potential of choice and the ability to make such distinctions if desired.

 

Opposites then are a product of duality of the mind. Perhaps God is the potential yet partakes of neither? Other creatures of creation do not seem to have such distinctions. In the animal kingdom we witness life and death and killing endlessly and yet we neither call it good nor bad. It is accepted as a natural part of life and evolution. Man having evolved as part of creation with a thinking mind is able to create thoughts that are not necessary for survival alone yet are chosen to take command of earth and become a god himself. To do this he needed to make his own rules of operation that could change with his whims and desires. He needed to make himself as independent as possible from the creator himself. He needed to control food supplies and resources so as to no longer seem to be accountable to the rest of creation but only to himself.

 

Evil was thus born in the mind of men. Evil born of opposite scales of right and wrong, good and evil, desirable and undesirable, ugly and beautiful, love and hate and a myriad of other judgments. All perceptions, opening up a Pandora’s Box of demarcation lines changing with his every whim, custom and transient thought. So then, perhaps man did through choice choose good and evil as a subjective reality in which to live and have pleasure of his own seeming creation. If God created neither, those terms are merely illusions created in the melodrama of man’s mind making a reality out of nothing.

 

What need has God for such folly? What need does he have for such absurdities of mind? What need does he whose source of power is unlimited and enemies are none have for a mind that is subject to doubt, hate, anger, jealousy, fear and guilt? What need would he have for revenge and war? What need does he who is complete and knows all things have for thinking or even language of such terms? What need does God, whose completeness is peace and existence is love, have for desires and the affairs of men who through choice choose folly for transient and fleeting moments of happiness and pleasure rather than his eternal essence present within them? What is good and what is evil? A conundrum, a riddle I say. They are but illusions of man’s mind that have no basis in the presence of reality in God.

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I fear we're getting a little too ivory tower here. Of course there is good and evil. We all know it, we all work with that as an assumption, even when we don't admit it during intellectual discussions. Consider: child rape, genocide, torture for fun. What do we do with those things?

 

They are evil. We know it and we act upon that knowledge in our day-to-day lives. Without the categories of good and evil, we are silenced. How can we criticize racists, fascists, dictators, Bush, without acknowledging such categories?

 

 

Can we absorb them under some sort of "just the flip side of good" cliche or go "Posh, the all embracing God doesn't worry about such things" or (worst of all) you can't have good without evil (who says? Of course you can!).

 

Of course not. All too often we mistake the common sloppy use of the terms ("My side is good, yours is evil") for a reson to retire the terms completely. Yeah, so Sister Nancy Ignatius told you dancing was "evil". Her being wrong doesn't make that term any less meaningful or useful.

 

 

If you want a good approach to this, try M. Scott Peck's People of the Lie. Peck, started out as a fairly average psychotherapist who discovered in his work that there were people whose approach to life, whose attitudes, whose actions could only be understood by using the category: Evil.

 

Is there a Satan, a personalized source of evil? I think it's possible, but that isn't a deal breaker. He might be a symbol, a metaphor for our own worst instincts. And blaming him for all our troubles doesn't get us off the hook. Remember the Garden of Eden and Jesus' temptation in the desert? What did Satan do? He talked. That's all, just talked. If we fall for it, then we are the one's who give him power and influence. Even if Satan exists, that doesn't reduce our own responsibility for the choices we make.

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I fear we're getting a little too ivory tower here. Of course there is good and evil. We all know it, we all work with that as an assumption, even when we don't admit it during intellectual discussions. Consider: child rape, genocide, torture for fun. What do we do with those things?

 

They are evil. We know it and we act upon that knowledge in our day-to-day lives. Without the categories of good and evil, we are silenced. How can we criticize racists, fascists, dictators, Bush, without acknowledging such categories?

Can we absorb them under some sort of "just the flip side of good" cliche or go "Posh, the all embracing God doesn't worry about such things" or (worst of all) you can't have good without evil (who says? Of course you can!).

 

Greeting AslansTraveller,

 

If I may be allowed a few comments on your paragraphs above I would say you, as I, do not speak for all. You say or assume 'We all know it". That obviously is in error because I do not know it for one. You say, "of course there is good and evil" like it is a fact or like they are objective terms. It seems to me that history speaks differently and that they are subjective terms. So you ask what do we do with child rape, genocide, etc. etc. They are what they are ... child rape, genocide, etc. etc. You may call them evil but that is your subjective tag. To him that esteems something as evil, to him it is evil.

 

I act upon not the knowlege that they are evil in my day to day life but rather that society deemed them as unlawful acts. Society is not silenced without the terms 'good' and 'evil'. They are meaningless. You may say Bush is 'evil' and another may say Bush is 'good'. It is meaningless and purely subjective. You can criticize dictators, Bush or the like without such meaningless terms and instead express with your words exactly what you don't like about that person and why you believe his/her actions are not for the benefit of society. Where then are you silenced?

 

Yes, God doesn't worry about such things. I am confident God is not losing any sleep over his creation. Perhaps God is above the limitations of ego and duality and does not partake of any such terms. Perhaps God isn't even worried about whether one believes in him or not much less about what one means when one uses the subjective terms of 'good' and 'evil'. Perhaps man's knowledge of 'good and evil' is what got him in this predicament in the first place....

 

Feel free to discard my post if it offends you. Perhaps I am in error.

 

Love in Christ,

JM

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What does it mean to you? That is what is important.

 

Love in Christ

JM

 

It looks like church speak to me. Meaningless jibber that some people think makes them sound more spiritual.

 

Not saying that is what YOU are doing but that is how it comes across when I read it. I just wondered what you meant when you sign things that way.

 

Interesting story. I sent for transcripts back in February for my MA from the seminary I went to. They sent it, incorrectly, missed classes, didn't post the MA which was over 10 years old by that time. So, I contact them, ask them to resend it, correctly, this time. I don't hear anything from my empoyer so I assume they've received it. THen I hear. So I contact the school AGAIN. I get a reply, we sent it but this is the third time (like it is my fault they didn't do it right the first time -- and I don't know if it was lost in the mail, never sent, or lost at my current employers) The guy signs his little rant about this being the third time "in Christ" I think not!

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Philippians 2 is what I think of when I hear "in Christ":

 

So if there is any encouragement
in Christ
, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours
in Christ
Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 

B)

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It looks like church speak to me. Meaningless jibber that some people think makes them sound more spiritual.

 

Not saying that is what YOU are doing but that is how it comes across when I read it. I just wondered what you meant when you sign things that way.

 

If that is how it speaks to you I have no quarrel. We all perceive words according to our experience in their past usage. Your little story speaks volumes for this. To Kay it seems to have a deeper meaning. To me it is words to acknowledge recognition of our oneness in Christ in spite of our perceived differences. How it is received by the reader is up to them.

 

Love in Christ,

JM

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Yes, God doesn't worry about such things.

 

Huh, that's not what God told me. ;)

 

Okay. If God told you God worries about such things then who am I to expect you to believe differently. One must trust God and walk the walk they believe God has set for them until God shows them differently. My experience is different and all my statements are my present understandings based on subjective experiences.

 

Wishing you the best in your walk,

Love in Christ,

JM

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