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Question of the Week 10 - But aren't people really inherently good or at least morally neutral?

Breakpoint Parents Guide 1

The BreakPoint answer is: We are by nature evil and inclined to do evil. This offends the modern mind because it directly challenges the dominant secular, utopian view that men and women are innately good and that their bad actions result from corrupt social influences.

I am deeply offended by such a conclusion. I have been raised by two loving parents. I have brothers and sisters that come together whenever someone needs help. I have seen individuals share with others and perform acts of kindness and sacrifice. I have seen teams work together to achieve goals that were not possible as individuals. I feel that I see people being good much more often than I see people being bad.

Maybe this is one of those half-full, half-empty questions to check for optimism or pessimism.

Certainly I have seen much evil. Violent crimes occur far too often. Even the United States government attacks other countries, including Iraq with the conscious decisions that kill thousands of innocents while torturing many others all in the pursuit of more power and influence in the Middle East. Nations attack other nations only for more power for the leaders, with the inevitable accompanying deaths of many innocent civilians. The massacre in the Colorado high school was in the same town as a big military contractor.

The answer above included the list of the seven deadly sins: lust, pride, anger, envy, sloth, greed, and gluttony. Is there a common theme?

Lust is a self-indulgent sexual desire.

Pride is an unreasonable and inordinate self-esteem.

Anger is belligerence aroused by a real or supposed wrong.

Envy is spite and resentment at seeing the success of another.

Sloth is apathy and inactivity in the practice of virtue.

Greed is reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth.

Gluttony is eating to excess.

I find it interesting that most involve interpersonal relations. The first six are attitudes. The antidote to these requires the recognition that each person is an integral part of the community and the attitudes being projected will consequently get an appropriate negative response from those around him/her. Anyone seeking a comfortable relationship with others must recognize that such relationships begin with one’s own attitudes. Probably because obesity is so common in America, personally I do not take offense at gluttony very often. The offense will occur when one or more of the other errant attitudes is also detected.

Any decision for good or evil is based on a person’s basic moral values as well as the circumstances and context. In the Biblical world view, the context might include something mentioned in Biblical teachings, but if none come to mind then other aspects are considered. The Ten Commandments present a framework for behavior consisting of mostly things not to do rather than a framework for good behavior. In an alternate humanistic world view, the context of considering the rights and feelings of others is always present simply because rarely is a decision to be made that does not affect another human being. A person whose moral values are based on this humanistic perspective should tend to behave with manners more good than evil, the opposite conclusion than that presented above. Our moral values must be based on our human nature, not on interpretations of ancient writings.
The original link in case the article ever returns to Breakpoint:
(http://www.pfm.org/Content/ContentGroups/BreakPoint/Columns/ Worldview_for_Parents/200311/Question_of_the_Week10.htm)



created - Dec. 2004
last change - 12/31/2004
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