In a World with No Evil, You Can Do No Wrong

 

“Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own — it’s easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it. Badness exists, sure, but even that’s quite rare. By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind. No greater revelation has come from our journey than this.” – Jay Austin

Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan were killed by ISIS militants in Tajikstan on July 28 or 29. They did nothing bad. They were tourists, and had been cycling throughout the world for about a year. They were also idealists, a pair of progressives who truly believed that evil does not exist.

I don’t entirely disagree with them. Most people are good. I used to tell my children if they were ever in danger, go to the very first adult or house they saw and ask for help. Don’t hesitate. The chances were very good that the person they approached would be safe. Most people are good, most people want to be heroic and helpful, most people feel good when they can take positive power over a bad situation.

However, I am also certain evil exists. I’ve seen it. I’ve suffered from it. Heck, from time to time I have committed acts of petty evil, as most people have. And there is a fixed evil that we can point at. I define evil as any time you treat a human being like a thing, tool, or object instead of a person with inherent worth. Others might have more concrete ideas of evil like murder, theft, malicious lying — basically the Ten Commandments roster.

Yet progressives argue that people can’t be evil. That there is no bad person, or that evil is relative to culture, or that one’s past makes one act badly. This idea has led to things like minimal prison sentences for even heinous murders, common in Britain and the more progressive US states.

Simultaneously, however, progressives have been arguing that conservatives are — evil. Punch a Nazi, with Nazi the code word for conservative. Don’t let conservatives speak in public forums — either in person or online — because that would be allowing people to hear the wicked poison of republicanism or libertarianism. Keep them from getting money and confiscate what they already have because they will only spend it to proselytize evil.

Progressives don’t equate good or evil with bad acts. They equate them with bad thoughts and the public expression of those bad thoughts. This reminds me very much of the New England Puritan’s belief in the Elect — the idea that God has chosen certain people to save, and that no number of good deeds can raise you to the Elect if you aren’t already counted. Your actions, provided they are coherent with what your community thinks is good, demonstrate that you are of the Elect. It is simply assumed that the Elect act morally. They do not have to obey objective law set down by God or man — instead, it is assumed that they are doing God’s will, no matter what.

Read that again. Your community is determining what actions are good and evil.

Normally, this is fine. Community belief in what’s good is generally consistent with the fixed reality of what is good. It is both objectively and subjectively good, for instance, to not murder your neighbor in order to steal his stuff.

Yet in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, an entire Puritan community engaged in murdering their neighbors and confiscating their properties. These neighbors had not engaged in significantly bad behavior, certainly not more than was the norm. But because it was believed (passive tense) that those neighbors had compacted with the Devil, the community were not just absolved of sin, but blessed for it when they arrested, tried, and hanged their family and friends. While at first the crime was “being accused of witchcraft,” it soon morphed into “speaking out against the witchcraft trials.” Criticizing the process or standing up for the innocence of the accused was enough to get you arrested and your property confiscated. Not confessing to your “misdeeds” got you hanged. (No one who confessed to witchcraft was hanged. Not one.) Even those recognized as being among the Elect who spoke out against the trials, like Martha Corey or Reverend George Burroughs, were hanged because it was assumed if you went against the trials, you were obviously lying about being among the Elect.

Today, more than 300 years later, Antifa will physically attack you for wrongthink — if they think you’re a Nazi (whatever the heck that means to them) they will attack you with fists and sticks and stones and bicycle chains. If you speak out against progressive ideals, you can get deplatformed by Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, an action that can cost you money or even your entire livelihood. Recently, Mastercard and certain banks have moved to block financial transactions involving wrongthinking groups and individuals. If you are an elected Republican official, you may endure an attempt on your life. And any outspoken conservative is putting families and friends at risk as well.

Progressives who speak out against this stupidity are cast out of the Elect. Special classes, like African-Americans or gays, who speak out in support of conservative ideals or President Trump, are cast out of the Elect. It is simply assumed that they were never really progressive. As with the Salem Witch Trials, everything they ever did or were accused of doing is dredged from the past, exposed, and used to condemn, even though those things had been forgiven.

But progressives who act badly — rioting, stealing government secrets, violently attacking others, protecting criminals from federal prosecution — they are absolved. They are of the Elect. They are doing the will of the progressive movement. Any sin they commit is immediately forgiven, the perpetrator absolved, because Marx died for their sins or something.

Just as in the Salem Witch Trials, this is a rejection of the absolute truth that a fixed evil exists alongside a fixed good. Instead, in this postmodern world, we have cut the anchor line to the evil/good dichotomy. We live in a world that floats freely, nothing really good or evil, things judged only on relative terms. Problem is, humans need that dichotomy. We need to believe some things are just evil and others good. It’s our moral gravity. Just as God parted darkness from light and land from water to create the fundament, the human cultural foundation depends on a fixed morality.

When we cease having a fixed morality from which we, as individuals, can freely choose to do evil acts or good ones, we must depend on the people around us for a moral compass. When we depend on our society rather than governmental or religious laws to determine our morality, individuals become the Mob.

It feels good, really good, to believe all humans are essentially good underneath. Unfortunately, that leads us to believe that bad acts are good acts because lots of people engage in them – things like cyberbullying the children of conservative leaders, or whacking “Nazis” with bicycle chains. The idea that all humans are fundamentally good is simply stupid.

It is important to realize that everything we do is a choice between a fixed evil and good, and that we have the free will to make that choice. Not recognizing that, and exactly that, ensures we are ceding our will to the Mob. Being part of the Mob makes it easy to do evil while believing it is good. And when the Mob is powerful enough, a witch hunt ensues and innocent people are destroyed.

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  1. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Awesome post.  Simply awesome.

    • #1
  2. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Outstanding post.

    • #2
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Well done! I fear that even the Right is brushing off some aspects of evil because certain acts seem unimportant or irrelevant. Is there a time when we can ignore evil acts because it’s inconvenient or old fashioned? Is an evil act not quite evil enough to hold someone accountable?

    • #3
  4. Jamie K. Wilson Member
    Jamie K. Wilson
    @JamieWilson

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Well done! I fear that even the Right is brushing off some aspects of evil because certain acts seem unimportant or irrelevant. Is there a time when we can ignore evil acts because it’s inconvenient or old fashioned? Is an evil act not quite evil enough to hold someone accountable?

    Completely agreed. Like the objective evil of not addressing illegal immigration – which is creating a slave-like subclass in our society, notwithstanding all the other bad things it does. 

    • #4
  5. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Jamie K. Wilson: Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan were killed by ISIS militants in Tajikstan on July 28 or 29.

    Jamie,

    I did a post a long time ago called Thin Ice. When you are very young somehow you can disbelieve the warnings about thin ice. You go out on the frozen lake anyway. Everything is fine until the ice cracks and you go in. Then you are struggling for your life.

    Isn’t it strange that most of Western Civilization, at least the way Academia tells it, now agrees with Jay Austin’s assessment of Good & Evil? In short, an entire civilization is going out onto the thin ice of total amorality. Everything is fine until the ice cracks and you go in. Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan didn’t make it out. This really should be a lesson for everyone but you know they’ll just ignore it like they ignore everything else that doesn’t suit their narrative.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #5
  6. Jamie K. Wilson Member
    Jamie K. Wilson
    @JamieWilson

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    but you know they’ll just ignore it like they ignore everything else that doesn’t suit their narrative.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Oh, how I hope you are wrong! But the history of failed civilization tells me that hope is likely in vain.

    • #6
  7. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Jamie K. Wilson: Yet progressives argue that people can’t be evil. That there is no bad person, or that evil is relative to culture, or that one’s past makes one act badly.

    We’ve had this conversation on Ricochet before. It doesn’t apply only to leftists, and it’s not always conscious. If there is no final arbiter of right and wrong, then there is no “answer” to this question. If there is no answer then good and evil don’t even compute; we’re left with preference and self interest which are similar but without the finality of judgement attached. 

    • #7
  8. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    As someone who believes in a transcendent arbiter, even I admit that our job as mortals discerning what is right and wrong is made no easier by the fact (or belief). Even where there is a rule book the number of interpretations and applications are almost infinite. So it’s natural and beneficial to draw law, ethics, and morality from the community you come from and live in.  In addition to your conscience. 

    • #8
  9. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan were killed by ISIS militants in Tajikstan on July 28 or 29. They did nothing bad. They were tourists, and had been cycling throughout the world for about a year. They were also idealists, a pair of progressives who truly believed that evil does not exist.

    Had they been queried prior to their death, my guess is their argument would have been less that evil does not exist, but that it was the evil of Western Civilization in general and U.S. policy over time in particular that has demonized others as evil, and that if there’s any true evil in the world, it comes from those in the West (and those currently in power in Washington) who see evil elsewhere in the world. That was the entire foundation of Obama’s foreign policy — that if we were only nicer to the world’s rogue regimes, they’d be nicer back to us.

    It’s a hubristic idea that America controls everything in terms of free will of others, and that if there is any evil in the world — such as militants running down innocent bicyclers and killing them — it’s due to the fact that America caused them to do it, because our policies are the snake in the Garden of Eden. The idea that people in other countries can choose to be good or evil without any prompting by the U.S. isn’t part of their world view, although Austin and Geoghegan do seem to have been more idealistic than most progressives in attempting to prove that it’s only our fear of evil that is evil (virtually none of the politicians or educators who put that idea into their heads would have been as committed to it as to bike into areas where ISIS operates freely, since they’re more about using those talking points as a tool to gain domestic political power than they are living up to those talking points).

    • #9
  10. Juliana Member
    Juliana
    @Juliana

    I wonder how their families and friends view evil now. I wonder if anyone warned the world travelers not to take the risk that they might be wrong.

    • #10
  11. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Perhaps this is why comic book heroes and villains are so popular in our culture. We know in our hearts that there is good and evil. 

    • #11
  12. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Perhaps this is why comic book heroes and villains are so popular in our culture. We know in our hearts that there is good and evil.

    In our hearts, we know there’s blight.

    • #12
  13. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Jamie K. Wilson: When we depend on our society rather than governmental or religious laws to determine our morality, individuals become the Mob.

    Austin and Geoghagen were murdered by men who totally depended on religious laws to determine their morality.

    • #13
  14. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    As someone who believes in a transcendent arbiter, even I admit that our job as mortals discerning what is right and wrong is made no easier by the fact (or belief). Even where there is a rule book the number of interpretations and applications are almost infinite. So it’s natural and beneficial to draw law, ethics, and morality from the community you come from and live in. In addition to your conscience.

    Yep.  ^This.  And I’ll go a step further.  It is by no means necessary to believe in a “transcendent” or “fixed” good and evil in order to recognize that the thugs of Antifa and the fascists of the left are the enemies of all that is right and decent in the world.  Quite the contrary, those very people are the perfect examples of what can go wrong when any group believes that they are the sole possessors of some absolute knowledge of good and evil.  For my part, I much prefer folks who have compassion for and tolerance of their fellow men, and a healthy skepticism of their own infallibility.  The left used to tout its “tolerance” as a source of virtue.  In 2018, tolerance has become intolerable among the lefties.  Only unmitigated hate can serve as their badge of virtue.  And they do wear it on their sleeves.

    • #14
  15. Jamie K. Wilson Member
    Jamie K. Wilson
    @JamieWilson

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    Jamie K. Wilson: When we depend on our society rather than governmental or religious laws to determine our morality, individuals become the Mob.

    Austin and Geoghagen were murdered by men who totally depended on religious laws to determine their morality.

    But they put themselves at risk by denying the reality of that evil. 

    • #15
  16. Mrs. Ink Member
    Mrs. Ink
    @MrsInk
    1. Austin and Geohagen did do something bad, they assumed that they had the right to behave in any way they wanted, wherever it suited them. That was arrogant, and they paid for it with their lives.
    2. The progs have convinced themselves that “Nazis” (conservatives and any one else who disagrees with them) are not people, and they have made disagreeing with that opinion dangerous. Therefore, they have a right and a duty to destroy conservatives when and wherever they can get away with it. First it was Antifa, punching people for carrying an American flag, next it was Mastercard and Visa refusing to process donations to conservatives through Patreon, soon it will be you and me, in camps, while our property is distributed to whoever is deemed more deserving.
    • #16
  17. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Great post! I hadnt quite nailed it down in such absolute terms before – if there is no evil you can do no wrong. Very succinct.

    To take your political religion a step further, its like those who publicly profess the correct positions are granted indulgences for their actions. So a liberal democrat can sexually abuse young women. Antifa rioters can assault and vandalize protesting a conservative speaker. A late night comedian can tell jokes about the rape of a candidate’s daughter, and its all good in the Church of Socialist Justice. 

    This is why the first impulse of Harvey Weinstein after he was outed as a lecherous old man, was to promise to finance an attack campaign on the NRA. He was trying to buy an indulgence from Church of Socialist Justice – but his brazen crimes had become too public and could not be excused. So he was thrown overboard.

     

    • #17
  18. YouCantMeanThat Coolidge
    YouCantMeanThat
    @michaeleschmidt

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):
    Ontheleftcoast  

    Jamie K. Wilson: When we depend on our society rather than governmental or religious laws to determine our morality, individuals become the Mob.

    Austin and Geoghagen were murdered by men who totally depended on religious laws to determine their morality.

    You’ve discovered that not all religious laws are equal!!!!!

    • #18
  19. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    Dennis Prager just did an interesting hour with a similar view.  Without agreement on an external (transcendent) Decider of good and evil, people become “as gods” and start making up crazy shtuff like we’re seeing now. 

    • #19
  20. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Great post! I hadnt quite nailed it down in such absolute terms before – if there is no evil you can do no wrong. Very succinct.

    To take your political religion a step further, its like those who publicly profess the correct positions are granted indulgences for their actions. So a liberal democrat can sexually abuse young women. Antifa rioters can assault and vandalize protesting a conservative speaker. A late night comedian can tell jokes about the rape of a candidate’s daughter, and its all good in the Church of Socialist Justice.

    This is why the first impulse of Harvey Weinstein after he was outed as a lecherous old man, was to promise to finance an attack campaign on the NRA. He was trying to buy an indulgence from Church of Socialist Justice – but his brazen crimes had become too public and could not be excused. So he was thrown overboard.

     

    Weinstein’s problem was he was called out by Ronan Farrow, who as a six-figure hire in the Hillary Clinton State Department followed by time as a MSNBC host, had all his progressive credentials in a row. Harvey would have gotten away with it if a conservative publication or reporter had done the expose, because others on the left would have been happy to demonize them, but they wouldn’t do that to Ronan Farrow and The New Yorker (after NBC did attempt to spike Farrow’s report to kill the story).

    • #20
  21. Jamie K. Wilson Member
    Jamie K. Wilson
    @JamieWilson

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Great post! I hadnt quite nailed it down in such absolute terms before – if there is no evil you can do no wrong. Very succinct.

    To take your political religion a step further, its like those who publicly profess the correct positions are granted indulgences for their actions. So a liberal democrat can sexually abuse young women. Antifa rioters can assault and vandalize protesting a conservative speaker. A late night comedian can tell jokes about the rape of a candidate’s daughter, and its all good in the Church of Socialist Justice.

    This is why the first impulse of Harvey Weinstein after he was outed as a lecherous old man, was to promise to finance an attack campaign on the NRA. He was trying to buy an indulgence from Church of Socialist Justice – but his brazen crimes had become too public and could not be excused. So he was thrown overboard.

     

    Weinstein’s problem was he was called out by Ronan Farrow, who as a six-figure hire in the Hillary Clinton State Department followed by time as a MSNBC host, had all his progressive credentials in a row. Harvey would have gotten away with it if a conservative publication or reporter had done the expose, because others on the left would have been happy to demonize them, but they wouldn’t do that to Ronan Farrow and The New Yorker (after NBC did attempt to spike Farrow’s report to kill the story).

    I would agree, except it didn’t work with James Gunn. But then, with Gunn there were pictures (from that repulsive child-molestation-themed party.)

    • #21
  22. Jon1979 Lincoln
    Jon1979
    @Jon1979

    Jamie K. Wilson (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Great post! I hadnt quite nailed it down in such absolute terms before – if there is no evil you can do no wrong. Very succinct.

    To take your political religion a step further, its like those who publicly profess the correct positions are granted indulgences for their actions. So a liberal democrat can sexually abuse young women. Antifa rioters can assault and vandalize protesting a conservative speaker. A late night comedian can tell jokes about the rape of a candidate’s daughter, and its all good in the Church of Socialist Justice.

    This is why the first impulse of Harvey Weinstein after he was outed as a lecherous old man, was to promise to finance an attack campaign on the NRA. He was trying to buy an indulgence from Church of Socialist Justice – but his brazen crimes had become too public and could not be excused. So he was thrown overboard.

     

    Weinstein’s problem was he was called out by Ronan Farrow, who as a six-figure hire in the Hillary Clinton State Department followed by time as a MSNBC host, had all his progressive credentials in a row. Harvey would have gotten away with it if a conservative publication or reporter had done the expose, because others on the left would have been happy to demonize them, but they wouldn’t do that to Ronan Farrow and The New Yorker (after NBC did attempt to spike Farrow’s report to kill the story).

    I would agree, except it didn’t work with James Gunn. But then, with Gunn there were pictures (from that repulsive child-molestation-themed party.)

    Nine months into the current situation, Gunn was kind of hoisted by his own ‘edgy’ pedophilia  tweets in part because oif the company he was working for. Disney had already canned Rosanne for her Valerie Jarrett tweet, James Gunn had supported Disney’s actions, and Disney at its various outlets (particularly ESPN) was being accused of having one set of standards for the left and one for the right.

    • #22
  23. OccupantCDN Coolidge
    OccupantCDN
    @OccupantCDN

    Jamie K. Wilson (View Comment):

    Jon1979 (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Great post! I hadnt quite nailed it down in such absolute terms before – if there is no evil you can do no wrong. Very succinct.

    To take your political religion a step further, its like those who publicly profess the correct positions are granted indulgences for their actions. So a liberal democrat can sexually abuse young women. Antifa rioters can assault and vandalize protesting a conservative speaker. A late night comedian can tell jokes about the rape of a candidate’s daughter, and its all good in the Church of Socialist Justice.

    This is why the first impulse of Harvey Weinstein after he was outed as a lecherous old man, was to promise to finance an attack campaign on the NRA. He was trying to buy an indulgence from Church of Socialist Justice – but his brazen crimes had become too public and could not be excused. So he was thrown overboard.

     

    Weinstein’s problem was he was called out by Ronan Farrow, who as a six-figure hire in the Hillary Clinton State Department followed by time as a MSNBC host, had all his progressive credentials in a row. Harvey would have gotten away with it if a conservative publication or reporter had done the expose, because others on the left would have been happy to demonize them, but they wouldn’t do that to Ronan Farrow and The New Yorker (after NBC did attempt to spike Farrow’s report to kill the story).

    I would agree, except it didn’t work with James Gunn. But then, with Gunn there were pictures (from that repulsive child-molestation-themed party.)

    I would disagree, it did work for James Gunn. His public comments where “well known” for years and nobody cared. (I have to put “well known” in quotes, because until he’d been fired, I never heard of James Gunn.) The #metoo movement has become a runaway freight train, the democrats started it in order to purge their own flock so they could more convincingly attack Donald Trump on the issue in 2020. (it wont matter, but they’ll keep trying)

    • #23

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