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“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.