|Religion 21st Century|
Bad and Evil
The idealist might argue that man is innately good; the cynic that man is innately evil. The arguments are not well-founded because humans are a mix of attributes, tendencies and skills that belong in both camps. God and the Devil turn out to be two competing aspects of the human mind. Most humans will display features that qualify them for the good status and will be bad some of the time. A small number of humans, the kind hearts, are exceptionally smart and nice. Another small number of humans are evil and create much suffering and destruction.
While children are not “little adults” with well-practiced vices, they do arrive with a mix bag of good and bad tendencies. Children are often guilty of bad behavior. They disobey parental rules, and they lie to protect themselves from punishment. Children and adolescents commit minor felonies at home and in the community. Some commit major felonies.
Intolerance and hate are innate tendencies but you learn as a child who you should hate and how you should express this hate. The ideals of love and tolerance professed by some religious groups are difficult to achieve. The dismal historical record of Christian societies in achieving brotherly love and abstaining from killing is an example of failure of moral authority. This failure is multidimensional and involves a deep misunderstanding of human nature. An ethical injunction such as “Thou Shall Not Kill” attempts to inhibit an innate tendency and fails.
Moral authority is claimed by biological parents and surrogates such as schools, churches and even political organizations. Moral authority may promote altruistic behavior, but the real emphasis is on proscribing tendencies and behaviors which are innate but undesirable. An essential task is to encourage members not to harm other members of the group. There are different levels of harmful consequence from attacking a person's reputation to killing them.
To control individual behavior, the human tendency is to rely on external rules, punishment, strict hierarchies (mostly patriarchal), militarism, and intimidating religious beliefs. Propaganda and rote training is often deployed by strict schools and religious organizations that create compliant children who will act in the interests of the group rather than pursue self-interest or creative, intellectual work. These highly programmed humans will have a narrow range of interests and strong beliefs. They will be intolerant other groups and display aggressive behavior toward members of other groups.
The threat of punishment for undesirable behavior is only a relative deterrent some of the time. The death penalty is not a definitive deterrent to murder just as locks are not definitive deterrents to theft. Humans lie, cheat, steal, injure and kill despite the threat of punishment. Some have argued that punishment is only a deterrent for good people and bad people simply ignore the threat and apply their ingenuity to avoiding punishment.
Codes of conduct, rules and laws expand on the innate tendencies to cooperate and set limits for harmful tendencies but do not change the destructive aspects of human behavior. The courts are overbooked and jails are full because laws and religious prohibitions fail as guides and deterrents.