Are People Naturally Good or Evil?

Let’s talk about a core life philosophy question. This question is really the starting point of all religions. Even the passionately non-religious have to answer this question if they are going to be honest about their beliefs.

Are people by nature good, or are they by nature evil?

By that I mean do people have the natural ability in themselves to successfully determine the morally right from the morally wrong and consistently choose to do the right things in their lives?

Humanism is one broad spectrum of philosophy that says people are generally good in that they are quite capable of making right moral choices.

The Fundamentalist preacher on the other hand will tell you that you are a sinner, Jesus wants to save you and you are doomed without his help.

Now my point here is not to start a debate about the finer points of Humanism or Christian Fundamentalism. I’m not an expert on either and may very well be inaccurate in my characterization of one or the other. I ask that you cut me some slack in that department today.

My point is to look at the question at hand, and examine one of the core qualities of people in general.

And I’m not going to pretend that I don’t have my own ideas on the issue. I look at the world around me and I see very little evidence that people are naturally good when left on their own. A quick scan through the news headlines reinforces that view. Or look at just about any toddler. Most of the time one of the first words we ever learn is Mine!

But what I’m really interested to see is the evidence on the other side. I looked at it once and came to my own conclusion. But maybe I missed some things. Can anyone show me how I’m mistaken? Are people really good at the core?

Believe it or not, I’m willing to be shown I’m wrong here. Just leave a comment and show me.

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Comments

  1. says

    you’re gonna like my “answer” :) – as near as i can figure out right now… “By that I mean do people have the natural ability in themselves to successfully determine the morally right from the morally wrong and consistently choose to do the right things in their lives?” – the answer is “maybe”.

    take a look at what original sin is in the bible. it’s eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. when adam and eve took the fruit – historically or metaphorically, i don’t think it matters – they took within themselves something that could choose right from wrong apart from God. ultimately, maybe that’s sin – not that we choose wrong, but that we might choose right apart from God, which is in itself wrong. so even without God, people can choose to be selfless, to be giving and caring, to stop violence and raise their kids. we are capable of these good things, but because we make these choices and actions apart from God, we’re also capable of selfishness, evil, etc.

    how’s that?

  2. says

    Rick, I think that’s a very viable answer from a Biblical perspective.

    Would you say that there is a significant segment of the population that consistently chooses to be selfless, giving, caring, and non-violent, etc. on their own naturally? Or do most people either make morally wrong choices on their own or rely on some outside influence to get that consistency in make right choices?

    I’m really curious how folks who don’t feel comfortable with or outright reject the notion of God might answer the question.

  3. says

    “consistently chooses to be selfless, giving, caring, and non-violent, etc. on their own naturally?” – no, and that goes for believers or non-, doesn’t it? i think the outside influence, whenever it comes about in a way that is right and good, is more likely grace and the move of the Holy Spirit, and that also goes for believers or non-, than we give credit maybe.

  4. says

    Yeah. And that is pretty much my point. I don’t see us as being good on our own naturally, either.

    But I am willing to be shown wrong if anyone would like to comment on it…

  5. says

    well, hold on – not to nitpick by picking nits. but what about occasionally being able to “get it right”? is that a possibility in your book? i think there’s an incredible level of goodness available to us as human beings, and occasionally we get it right in spite of ourselves. that “getting it right” might still be a working of the Spirit, but it can happen. maybe it’s just the consistency part we have a problem with?

  6. says

    So Rick, are you saying that the correct answer might be closer to “neither” or “a little of both”?

    That’s an interesting idea I hadn’t considered. I was thinking of a binary result set. But maybe people are more complicated than that, eh?

    Go figure.

  7. chris says

    The love between a parent and a child is central to the continuation of the human race and it can be based in selflessness. Parents usually do not benefit from taking care of and raising a child. Children are actually a drain on time and resources but many people chose to have children out of love. This element of choice is not true in some societies where children are economically important. However many of the same feelings for children can be found world wide. It is part of our nature as a species to love children.

    Without love and with food and a clean environment a baby will not thrive and many will die. That early nurturing is essential to the continuation of our species and it is the source of our “goodness.”

    I think Christ was right when he said that we must love our enemies as ourselves. Only when we think of others as having the same rights as we do will we be able to stop the cycles of violence that are now threatening the human race. if we do not learn to care about others we will annihilate our species.

    This point of view about having respect for others is not only found in the Christian religion and it is the basis for human rights. Its often called, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Its really a very simple concept that is very hard for us to carry out.

    If we can not learn this simple lesson we will probably end up as an extinct species.

  8. says

    chris, you bring up a good point. It is through self sacrifice and prioritizing other people’s needs ahead of our own that we’ll make it.

    But does that self sacrifice and love come naturally or is it sourced from outside ourselves?

    I suspect that the primary reason most folks have kids may be the overwhelming power of the sexual impulse more than the selfless desire to serve another human being.

    And if we’re wholly dependent on the nurturing we get as a small child for our goodness then most folks are stuffed because it often was simply not there when they were growing up.

    My understanding is that Jesus upped the ante on the self-sacrifice front. (And I’m speaking somewhat from ignorance on this point because I am not an expert on all religions so someone correct me if I’m wrong.) You’re right that most religions do address that point but they express it in a negative form. “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.”

    By expressing it in the positive as you mentioned, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” it makes the instruction a whole order of magnitude stronger. It puts that selflessness right in the bullseye because he didn’t leave room for us to simply ignore others. We are instructed to be involved. And in a positive way.

    That one in particular can be a hard one for me to live up to. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that I am not capable of successfully doing it consistently on my own without outside help, which for me I found in the person of Jesus. Sure I may have incidental victories in that area on my own, but they are dangerous in that they blind me to the reality that selflessness is not my natural bent.

  9. chris says

    Hello Chris Cree

    “But does that self sacrifice and love come naturally or is it sourced from outside ourselves?”

    It is in our genetic makeup. Some people have it stronger than others and some have very little. But it is what holds us together as a group. People can learn it to a certain extent, but it is within us. We want to be with other people and we want to help one another. We naturally form tribes.

    “I suspect that the primary reason most folks have kids may be the overwhelming power of the sexual impulse more than the selfless desire to serve another human being.”

    Those who don’t want children have abortion and birth control. It isn’t about service, its a longing for children and someone to love. Its genetic. Men can learn it more easily after having a child. Some women feel it very strongly and want to have children. You can feel that genetic pull when you see a cute animal and want to nurture it.

    Men seem to feel a sense of comraderie under some circumstances like sports.

    “most folks are stuffed because it often was simply not there when they were growing up.”
    Your standards are too high. If parents don’t love a child they can give the child away. People feel a sense of committment to a child even when they are poor at parenting.

    “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

    Think of it this way. You as a personality are growing up in a place where you are learning bad things. Lets say you are learning to be a terrorist. How would you want you to be treated if you were captured?
    In other words how should you be treated assuming you have done something bad? Thats how you should treat others. Would you want to be tortured? I don’t think so. You’d want to be stopped from committing a terrorist act and to be changed.

    Most people make adjustments for themselves when they do something wrong, but many are not very forgiving when someone else does something wrong. Think of the person who has done something wrong as yourself. If you had done that wrong how would you want to be treated?

    The goal is to use as little violence as possible and to do as little harm as possible while stopping bad acts. There are also guidelines in our culture about how a human should be treated, even when that person does something seriously wrong.

    What I have trouble understanding is why people can be so cruel to one another. How does cruelty and war help the species of homo sapiens continue? Why is it that within our genetic makeup we have the capacity to kill one another in wars? Its difficult for me to understand people who are consumed with a need for power and they lose their humanity.

  10. says

    chris, you bring up several good points.

    Although I’m not sure I see your examples as evidence that we are naturally good.

    For example if a parent has an unwanted child and a). aborts it, b). gives it up for adoption, or c). raises it in an unloving environment, then the parent is being selfish not self-sacrificing. Those all seem to me to indicate we’re naturally unloving.

    I also don’t think there are many terrorists out there who want to be stopped from committing terrorist acts and be changed. Rather I think they want to be successful at committing terrorism and get away with killing as many people as possible.

    Perhaps your trouble understanding why people are so cruel is because you are trying to see them through the lens of “inherently good.”

    When looked at through the lens of “inherently evil” it makes more sense. And because I look around and see how much cruelty is out there I have to say that viewpoint seems to me to more accurately describe human nature.

    The exceptions seem to be where folks truly put other folk’s needs above their own, rather than where people are cruel.

    But I’m still open to other viewpoints on that.

  11. chris says

    Hi Chris Cree,

    “For example if a parent has an unwanted child and a). aborts it, b). gives it up for adoption, or c). raises it in an unloving environment, then the parent is being selfish not self-sacrificing. Those all seem to me to indicate we’re naturally unloving.”

    I think we agree that those are failures. The world is not a perfect place. Adults who are like that are not successful at parenting or don’t have children. That would limit their genetic impact on our species. There is always a distribution of a chatracteristic across a population. The characteristic of not being nurturing towards offspring would be self limiting because those people would not have offspring or would create children with problems who would have less success probably in creating children themselves.

    You might be interested in this book: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner. There is a chapter about the relationship between abortion and crime. When aborion was legalized several years later the crime rate went down. Children were not being born who would experience the family stresses that might lead to crime

    “I think they want to be successful at committing terrorism and get away with killing as many people as possible.”

    Yes thats right but you are in the position of deciding what will happen to the terrorist. Place yourself in the terrorist’s position. If you had been so misguided to committ that kind of act what would you want done to you? ( Stop yourself from committing those acts but remember it is you who will be treated the way you think you should be treated.)

    “I look around and see how much cruelty is out there I have to say that viewpoint seems to me to more accurately describe human nature.”

    I suspect you have high standards for what is good. Human beings have been very successful at populating the earth. Although an argument could be made that we are evil because our success at creating such a large population is threatening the earth. We have a great capacity to work together. We transfer information between ourselves with written and oral information very well. We have a great capacity to take care of one another. But we also can be very destructive and very selfish. I guess we will see how it goes in the next few decades. Will we end our species’ own existence or not. Time will tell. : /

    I agree with your sentiment that there is a great deal of cruelty in the world.

  12. says

    chris, I’ve heard several people say that Freakonomics is a good read. I’ll definitely have to add it to my reading list.

    I’m not so sure I have high standards of what is good, though it’s possible I suppose. It could be that something has to be “really good” for me to see it as good while someone else may see something that “less good” as still being pretty good. I know there are shades of gray, but to simplify the discussion I am trying to think in terms of “preponderance of” good or evil.

    Would you say, then, that you have high standards as to what is evil? How bad does something have to be for you to see it as evil?

    Again I think your example of the terrorist is not the best to demonstrate your point. Historically they have been remarkably unrepentant when they have been caught. The vast majority vow openly that they will continue their terrorism when they are released. And several who have been freed have done exactly that.

    Sure they want leniency. What criminal or evil person doesn’t? But how does the fact that they desire leniency demonstrate that they are basically good at the core?

  13. says

    Let’s add another Chris to the reply list. :) What caught my attention was the following:
    ========
    Or look at just about any toddler. Most of the time one of the first words we ever learn is “Mine!“
    ========

    I think that this example is heavily misleading, and most likely due to your own personal experience which is quite the opposite of mine in this regard.

    The majority of people I know had varying first words, and looking at them appears to be primarily based on conditioning rather than something “innate.”

    One of my brother’s first words was “candy,” because my oldest brother was trying to teach him that if he asked nicely, he could get candy. He didn’t know what “candy” meant, no association, but he was conditioned to the word because he heard it the most.

    My first word was “bah-bah” (short for “bottle”), and not long after another word was “oof” (meaning “off”). Whenever my parents turned on and off lights they said “on” and “off,” and the bottle was simply because I was conditioned to that word as well.

    My son is now 9 months old and should be uttering his first word any day now. I’ll be interested to see what it is, but I can guarantee it won’t be “mine,” because that’s not a word we use around the house.

    A child has to learn the word *somewhere* for it to be used. So to say that their first word is usually “mine” is primarily a reflection of the parents, not their children.

    My point here is not to prove nor disprove whether children are innately good, but rather, to illustrate that a lot of what we perceive as “good” or “bad” is our conditioning.

    What is “good” to one culture can be “bad” to another. Similarly, what we expose our children to at the earliest stages of life reflects what they will grow up to become. If they are around self-oriented parents, the children will likely adopt those traits. The same is true of compassion and “goodness.”

    So in my experience, I have observed that children are not innately good nor bad, but rather a blank slate with which we paint our own canvas of conditioning onto them.

  14. Erickitto says

    Great discussion!

    Hey im 17 years old, studying philosophy since its so vast and deep there’s no right or wrong answer only persuasion to turn over other peoples thoughts and views.

    I don’t believe in humans being evil nor good i see it as a bit of both… if humans “were” good then people wouldn’t be struggling for power or slaughtering one another we would be living life as robots and no freedom to do as one desired without thinking about the consequences therefore how can you live a happy life when you worry to much about something and snap because we’re not made to do and act in a certain way thats why boredom exists

    and if we are “evil” then non of us here would be typing a reply either because you wouldn’t exist and therefore men wouldn’t either .

    I believe in a balance og both good and evil i believe that we are “chosen” whether we are going to be good or bad but whom hmm something unlike us we could say not necessarily a god but something else perhaps.

    If you think about the nature vs nurture debate i would side more to nurture because what about homosexuals they are completely opposite of what they are mentally they live thinking they are doing nothing wrong when really they endanger the human species along with lesbians.

    People only learn to be humble after another sort of evil has clashed with their life and either hurt them mentally or physically i.e. losing somebody close etc (doesn’t have to be this type of evil)

    Our nature i guess you could say is like integers if a evil(negative) and a evil clash you can get higher chance of happiness for either side for example war .. two sides fighting for the “right” cause when one has lost the other is happy because they truly have beaten the “evil” so in that cause there happiness you could say is more false even though they are unaware of it.

    Or when you get a evil and a good the evil has greater chances of surpassing whatever the challange may be because the evil would take advantage of whatever weaknesses the good side has

    To sum things up its perspective our clocks ticking one things for sure although humans cant control their future you can shape another persons in whatever way you please thats why lying and manipulation exists until all 8 billion minds of the earth choose a side our human existence will be unknown.

    Erick :)

  15. says

    How can people do some of the things they do?

    In our world, people are constantly fighting, arguing, and even killing. My question is how could someone kill another person, torture them, put them through excruciating pain, for no reason at all.
    -An example is the hollocaust – nazis constantly tortured jews. If i were a nazi at that time, i would have a real problem lining up Jews to shoot them. I honestly think i could not do it. I would rather kill myself than another human being.
    -Another example is the Nanking Massacre- which most people haven’t even heard of. 200,000+ women were brutally raped and killed. There bodies were used to fill trenches to create roads. How could someone do something like this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanking_Massacre
    Massacres. Cereal Killers. the Death Penalty. War. All examples. How can a human cause so much pain to another human.

    In a study by Stanley Milgram following WWII, people were forced to give an electric shock to another person, to experiment to see how much a person could cause another person suffering before quitting. “In Milgram’s first set of experiments, 65 percent (26 of 40) of experiment participants administered the experiment’s final 450-volt shock to another human” A 450-Volt shock is enough to kill a human.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment
    How could 65% of people be able to administer a shock killing another human? how is something like this possible?

    I honestly believe that any human does not have the right to take away life of another human. No question about it. (yes, i am 100% against the death penalty.)

    -They believe it is right. I guess, some people honestly believe that what they are doing is the right thing. Similarly, like the Catholics believe Jesus was the son of god and was here to save us. If someone honestly in their heart believes something, it could push them to act rash.
    Still though, Hitler believed that Jews were a lesser species. STILL, i could not give that much harm to a dog, which I believe is a lesser species.
    I guess if you honestly believe that the world, or your nation, or just yourself would benefit from the death of others, than maybe you could go to the extreme of killing them. But TORTURING? wtf, its horrible. why must you put them through unnessessary pain if your goal is to kill them. Killing is bad enough, but i cannot even begin to comprehend how someone could torture a human and put them through that much pain, even if you believe they are a lesser species.

    They Want to prove a point. People will go to extremes to be heard. By killing someone you draw attention, and people may start to listen to you. But still, i find it infeasible to painfully torture someone just for my personal benefit of having people hear me.

    9/11 — Terrorists — They are haters. They Kill people, to follow their Arab rule “Jihad” — or in attempt to spread their religion. I do not think killing all Arabs is an effective or efficient way to spread the Muslim religion, never mind the fact that it is anything but holy.
    What were their motives?
    According to Osama BinLaden, and the FBI, Al-Qeada had specific goals. “One of the primary goals of Sunni extremists is the removal of U.S. military forces from the Persian gulf area, most notably Saudi Arabia.” —– in other words, they wanted the US out of their grill, they wanted us to stop protecting isreal.
    Killing thousands of Americans is not a good way to make us leave them alone. In fact it did the opposite. Osama must have known that this would not make us leave them alone, but yet he still pushed for it, knowing that thousands of innocent lives would be ruined, and families would be forever crushed.
    How could he push for these attacks knowing the effects on the families and people.

    Maybe they’re just not human — maybe the people who are able to push for these attacks are not human. Well, thats a ridiculous statement, but seriously think about it. Empathy and Sympathy are two NATURAL human emotions. One would have to be overcome with GUILT (another NATURAL human emotion) as well as Empathy and Sympathy for theses people. With these horrid emotions leading to strenuous anxiety, how could one kill this many INNOCENT people, knowing that the result they want most likely will not even happen (refers to Osama getting US out).
    I think the only explanation is that they are non human.
    A human would not be able to do something like this to another human, nevermind thousands of humans in Osama’s case, or millions of humans in Hitlers case. It is UNNATURAL to be able to cause someone this much pain.

    Yet; refering back to the Millgram Study that 65% of people would be able to knowingly administer a deadly shock, leads one to come to the simple conclusion that these horrible people are indeed people.

    The only logical explanation that fits all the data is that, PEOPLE SUCK. Humans are poor natured people, whether we are born poor natured (Thomas Hobbs’ theory), or its society that corupts us to be poor natured (Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory) i dont know. But humans are the worst thing to happen to this planet ever.

    Look at global warming, deforestation and extinction of species. we ALL know these are going on, yet do little to stop it. We dont care about anything but ourselves. We are nasty, mean, horrible, and insensitive creatures.

    If you believe in God and that he has a plan for everyone, then whats his deal? why is his plan for half the world to live suffering and dying? Where is god? I don’t see him in Darfur! do you?
    Although so many horrible things are going on as result of human, it is not necessary to blame god. Perhaps he is just our creator, and will realize how much we suck, and destroy us. like the Dinosaurs.

    Maybe, its just all a balancing act. Good and Bad, always balancing each other out. Millions die in 9/11, but hundreds come to help rescue.
    So people do these horrible things, because they are meant to. To aid in the balance, adding the bad, torture, and harm.
    I personally am a Taoist, and we are taught to believe that the Yin (bad) and the Yang (good) will always balance each other out, and thats the way the world is meant to be.

    Or maybe there is nothing. We are here, we own the earth, and we will one day destroy it. If nothing is done, this will happen, and thats unarguable.

    The fact that people like Osama, Hitler, and 65% of people can kill and torture so many people, whether they have a good reason or not, is simply not good. 65% is more than half. More than half the world is bad. We WILL kill ourselves. The fate of the world is in our hands, and we are choosing to destroy it.

    Humanism is philosophy that states that humans are naturally good, and have the power to make right choices. If this is so, what is it that makes us make these poor choices? Self interest is not enough to cause someone to act to horridly.

    So, back to the fact that people suck. only 65% of them do. maybe the other 45% are amazingly smart, wonderful, kind and caring people. I sure hope so. I dont know about you, but i do not want to live in a world run by people who dont care and people who suck.

    The Bottom Line – whether you like it or not, people are horrible. We are the only creature on earth that can hate, and the only creature on earth that kills unconditionally for no reason. WE SUCK. Whether we all suck, or only 65% of us suck, the majority of humans BLOW.

    its sad, but it appears to be the truth. please, correct me if i am wrong or if you disagree, but make sure to back yourself up.

  16. says

    Tim, You left out one interesting tidbit from the experiment you mentioned.

    No participant steadfastly refused to administer shocks before the 300-volt level.

    So every single person tested inflicted significant pain on a stranger just because “some told them to.” Seems like a pretty strong piece of evidence on the side of people being fundamentally evil to me.

  17. Chase says

    If people are naturally evil, why does anyone do good? Evil always looks tempting and is easy. Thats how good people are tempted to it. If you are evil, why would you want to do good? It doesnt necessarily benifit you to do anything nice for anyone elese.

  18. Jackson says

    People are born with good and evil within themselves. As they grow their parents views are pushed upon them and then the worlds views are. The child has a choice to make. Be good and follow their parents lead(if they had good parents) or follow the world. Any child who has good morals and is selfless can at any moment snap and become an evil person. When they are evil they will still do good because they still have love in their hearts and want the best for certain people but still could throw a stranger in front of a bus for no reason.

  19. Nat says

    Doesn’t Taoism state that people are naturally good when left the their own devices – I read an articles comparing Taoism with Anarchist thought which put foward the idea that they were ideologically very similar. I know where you are coming from and with all the bad news around it does seem that people do often appear to suck – but maybe there’s a good reason for this. I’m willing to explore the possibility that a minority of people are more “evil” or selfish and take advantage of the malleability of the majority. There’s also a minority who are more good “selfless”. So maybe excessive co-ercion and repressive power structures are something to do with it.

    Another thing to consider is the flip side of the evil of war is found in the camadarie between people enduring it. In the face of oppression people can find solidarity and qualities in themselves that they hadn’t realised.

    Anyway…this is a very complex and much debated philosophical question and for the past 10 years I’ve leaned towards the “evil” vedict on account of it seeming to be realistic. The problem is that 1) It doesn’t make you very happy to believe this; 2) being fatalistic can discourage you from making a difference; 3) maybe people do tend towards evil but there’s a good reason (see Anarchist arguement).

    Maybe people tends towards evil because fundamentally they are afraid – they seek power because they are afraid of the the consequences of being powerless. The quest for power and domination is a hard cycle to break – you always fear to lower your guard towards a former enemy for fear of them seeking revenge. And thus you are never free.

    The other point I’d like to make regards Terrorism. With regards to Noam Chomsky who points out that Terror can be a tool of both the terrorist (the small guy) or the State. The morality of terroism is the same as innocent people are hurt and killed in each situation. Look at World War II – the French Resistance (The Good Guys) were technically terrorists from the Nazi Perspective. In reality both sides committed attrocities. However as the victors always write the history, the Resistance Are now describe as freedom fighters. Are not states which pursue “Total Warefare” with it’s resulting civilian casualties not Terrorists? My point is a good definition for Terrorists is the literal on – those who use terror and this can include the “Good Guys” too. The use of terror is always morally reprehensible (the ends don’t justify the means). I believe that the public needs to be aware of State Sanction Terror (and this include “democratic” countries) and pressure the government not to pursue these policies abroad.

    Ok….I’m done – who’s next?

  20. James says

    Good and evil are human conditions, not Gods. Who is to say what is good and what is evil? Nobody would admit that they are evil.

    Instead look at it this way, people can do good things or bad things. It is the choices we make that will decide the course of our lives. The people who do “selfish” or Evil things, are usually doing out of fear.

    fear truly is the root of all evil in the world. When you can step outside of fear and face the world with peace and love, you will naturally give rather than take.

  21. Nicole says

    This is a great thread, by the way. I love this discussion!

    James- I agree. Fear is the root of all evil. And fear is our most natural reaction to things that we don’t understand. It takes a lot of will power to overcome that fear and try to look at something with love. Also, things that you fear, or people that you fear, are easy to hate, which makes it all the harder to love them. People generally take the easy way out, so they fear things rather than loving them or trying to understand them. It’s much easier, also, to fear something and avoid the work and effort it takes to understand something enough to not fear it.

    Also, i believe that good and evil are relative to every individual. Everyone believes that they’re doing good – like the old saying goes, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions”. People have the ability to commit atrocious acts of violence and ill will because they believe that in the end good will come of it. Hitler truly believed that the Jewish people were a far inferior race and would bring the human race on the whole down from what its true potential could be. He was crazy, but he believed that the end would justify the means. I believe that that is how all wars are justified – in the end, the cost of all the lives will even out to the supposed peace and prosperity that will come after the war (there is also the economic prosperity to take into account).

    However, that’s moving away from the main point I’m trying to make here. One person can think that an act is ‘good’ while another can think it’s ‘evil’.

    Also, ‘good’ for people is generally self-serving, which is why the term is relative. What makes one person happy will make another sad. Also, the self-servingness of the word can be in a mental sense- for instance a terrorist on a suicide mission. They believe (again) that their lives will be sacrificed for a ‘good’ cause, and therefore, even though their bodies are being destroyed, they find their spirit to be in peace, which to them is more important than mortal needs of the body. So again it is self-serving.

    And i find it to be ironic that “God” is one letter away from “good”. Yeah. Just putting that out there.

  22. Tanner says

    Hey, i’m a freshman in highschool and this is a paper that i wrote for one of my classes. Hope you like it and leave comments on what yout think. :)

    Good vs. Evil
    Are people born as being good or evil? I believe that in all cases bar one, Jesus Christ, everyone is born evil and in sin. I believe this for several reasons that will be explained in the following paragraphs.
    First, in the Bible it says, “The imagination of the man’s heart is evil from his youth.” This basically means that every man or woman, from the time of birth, and possibly even from conception, is evil. An example of this is how a child learns so quickly exactly how to disobey and say no.
    In the book of Romans it says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Notice in this verse that the Bible uses the word all meaning that every single person has sinned and cannot enter Heaven except through Jesus. An example of this is quite simple: Have you ever lied? Most people have in their lifetime. Have you ever killed anyone? Now you think “killed anyone?” no I’ve never killed anyone but the Bible says that if you have ever hated anyone it is the same, in His eyes, as killing them.
    Some people would question how believers can say that people are tempted with obstacles that that is just a test. They would question what would happen when an infant dies. Well, the Bible says that until a person is of a certain age they cannot be held responsible for their own sins – that the child’s parents would take the sin that that child had committed. Then, I’m sure, some people would wonder how this system is fair to the parents of kids that are old enough to have committed more sins but are still not of age. What I have to say about this is that if the parents were Christians and knew about this then they would be sure to raise their children accordingly.
    In conclusion, I hope that I have changed your opinion or strengthened what you already believed.

  23. Rudy says

    I was raised as a Presbyterian (basically, a Calvinist), and so I believe that all men are born inherently evil. I have been to very evangelical churches where people will say Christ came for “everyone,” but if Christ came for everyone, does that mean we can do whatever we want and Christ will still save us? No. Christ came for the people who were predestined to be saved. Adam sinned. Men are born with that original sin. Children are baptized to remove that original sin. Christianity, not just people like Calvin, is a religion that holds that men are born evil. Christ is the only human (and God, of course) who was born inherently good.

    • says

      Heya Rudy!

      The Bible is very clear that Jesus didn’t just pay the price for those who will eventually believe. He paid the price for everyone, regardless of whether they believe or not.

      He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. — 1 John 2:2

      Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world. Even the vilest unrepentant degenerate has had his sin’s paid for. His salvation has been provided for.

      The things that we do that get labeled as sin aren’t what keep us out of heaven. That verse is very clear. Not only are believer’s sins paid for. Everyone’s sins, “the sins of all the world” were paid for when Jesus was killed on the cross.

      What keeps people out of heaven is refusing to believe that.

      If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. — Romans 10:9

      Salvation is a gift and a transaction is required for someone to see the benefits of a gift. No one will benefit from a gift that is only given. It also must be received by someone before they can enjoy the gift.

      Salvation has already been given to everyone. Now it is up to us to receive it, plain and simple. Only then will we see the benefits of salvation.

      I used to see things the way you do, Rudy. But now I am leaving Calvinism behind.

  24. Rudy says

    That was a very thoughtful response! I have to admit, the whole predestination idea is often misunderstood by most people today or just not even known. It’s also a tough idea to swallow if one isn’t familiar with it, and I have to also admit that most churches in the South today would reject that idea. How do you feel about the nature of men as far as naturally good or evil? I’m not a super historian or anything, but I know that Jean-Jacques Rousseau said that he believed humans were basically good and that society makes people turn to evil. Of course, we’re talking about someone who wasn’t the model Christian. Even some churches that believe everyone receives salvation have shied away from saying words like “hell” and “sin” in sermons. Maybe I just read too much about Jonathan Edwards!

    • says

      How do you feel about the nature of men as far as naturally good or evil?

      The Bible is pretty clear on that one, Rudy. Mankind is inherently sinful in Adam (Romans 5:12).

      It is not until we receive the gift of salvation that Jesus offers, and are reborn that we get a new nature. Sure we still sin after that transformation. But now that sinful behavior is contrary to our new nature. Before our sinful behavior was in line with our old nature (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

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