Is there such a thing as "Good" and "Evil" or is this yet another oversimplified religious concept?

It is my opinion that without these ludicrously outdated concepts, created manly by religion, we would have a much safer society. Why? Because we would address the real causes of crime, instead of using our current method of punishing criminals for their “evil”deeds.

Lets start with evil.

When something is described as evil there is a strong implication that it is being influenced by some dark supernatural force. Without that association the term evil becomes almost meaningless.

Why do I say this? Well, because it is a massive oversimplification that covers a great variety of behaviors and actions, personality traits and so on. The extremes are so generalized they cover areas from things as horrifying as mass murder to the completely ridiculous term “evil” smell

From what I can see, there is no such thing as evil, there is only motivation and circumstance.

Let me give you an example.

A man robs a pharmacy.

From my point of view there are only two possible motives (I'd love to hear if you can think of another.)

  1. Desperation.

  2. Greed.

Desperation as far as I am concerned is always a valid reason.

The man may need, money or drugs he can't afford for himself or his family. Even if he is a drug addict I still see it as a valid reason. I will go into this more later.

The second reason is commonly attributed to evil. I believe this is a big mistake.

I have come to realize that greed is a mental disorder. Human beings only need certain things to survive. Air, water, food, shelter and happiness/peace of mind.

Happiness/Peace of mind is the key. I would also describe it as sanity. If it is not sanity it is very closely tied to it. We all need certain things to help keep our peace of mind or maintain our happiness. For me I think those things are my family and my creative outlets. From experience I know I can do with out both of these for long periods of time, but eventually my thinking becomes distorted and I move into depression and mental illness. I feel isolated from everything around me and it appears to me that nothing has any point. Most people will eventually go into similar distorted thinking when deprived of the things that grant them happiness/peace of mind. Modern society actually creates the illusion that happiness and peace of mind can be obtained by owning things. We call this trend consumerism and it is now pretty much the cornerstone of the first world civilization.  Everybody has at one time or other felt these consumerist pressures. We need the right cloths to “fit in”, We need the traditional family and home to be happy. We need the right DVD player or the right cell phone. The more we have of these things, the more we want; and yet if we actually sat down and thought about it, do we really feel any happier because we are able to wear a particular brand of jeans or watch a wide screen TV? Does this really give us peace of mind? Of course not. And the promoters of consumerism know this and use it. They continue to promote that more is better and more means happiness and peace of mind. This creates the false belief that. okay I have all these things, but I still don't have enough, therefore I need more. The more I get the more I want. The cycle is endless because its a false solution. And for some of us, if we can not have these things we fall into depression, jealousy, anger, drug abuse, violence and so on. And there are also many other pressures on us that are closely linked with consumerism. Social pressures that bear down on us from the environment in which we live. Pressures driven by everything from our religious and political beliefs to our sexuality and peer groups.

So anyway, back to our greedy pharmacy robber. He robs the pharmacy because he want money to buy more things to be happy. Of course it does not work which is why he goes on to rob again and again. Now is this evil? No it is the result of distorted thinking. Distorted thinking is always a symptom of mental illness.

Back to our drug addict. The situation he is in is similar. He has an addiction. It has become so overwhelming that he will do anything to get his drugs, he is desperate and he is very obviously mentally ill, due to the complete disruption of his normal thinking patterns due to his drug addiction.

And now lets take a look a “good”.

This concept is something of a paradox. Why do people commit good acts? Well most psychologists now agree that the reasons are selfish (If you don't believe me then just google it. There are many studies that cover this subject). Basically the person commits a good act because it gives them pleasure. There is no such ting as an unselfish act. I heard the argument about the soldier who dives on the grenade to save his friends. What possible selfish reason could there be for such an act. Since its impossible to interview the dead soldier we can only speculate. His reasons may be that he can not face life in the jungle without his friends. He may want to die a hero and knows he faces certain death anyway so opts to do this. Though I cant be 100% certain of the mans reasons I think that there is a large enough body of evidence to show his reasons are most likely to be selfish.

Here is the paradox. Selfish behavior is supposed to be evil. If by committing an act of good we are acting on selfish reasons then we are doing it for evil motives so how can the act be good?

Take away the concept of good and evil and you are left with behavior, Nothing more and nothing less.

Here is the crux of my argument. Currently we punish criminals for their bad behavior. Why do we really punish them? Many will argue that it is to prevent them from committing crime again. However this obviously does not work, The numbers of repeat offenders are a testimony to this fact. As are the ever growing prison populations. This is evidently not the real reason. No the real reason we punish them is because we consider them to be under the influence of evil. As if by punishing them they will cast off their evil ways and become “good” God fearing people.

Its time we re-thought this strategy completely since it is basically bronze age thinking. We need to update our approach to dealing with what is described as evil. Because first of all there is no such thing as evil. There is only behavior. Behavior is a result of environment combined with mental health. Since we now know more about human behavior and animal behavior than any other time in known history, and we have the capacity to study it more comprehensively than ever before I think it is time we did so. With the knowledge we have and the knowledge we can gain we can solve the issue of crime. We may not be able to cure psychopaths right now but is the best way to deal with them to punish them for
their sickness?

We can help drug addicts. We have rehab, we have therapy we have support groups. With the right research and study these things could be vastly improved and become
much more effective perhaps even almost 100% effective.

We can help the person so brainwashed by consumerism that they feel the need to rob others to get the things that they mistakenly believe will make them happy.

We can also help the teenagers who think they don't fit in because their parents didn't buy them the right cell phone. We can help the boys and girls who's self esteem is so low they feel the need to boost it by bullying others. In fact we can help everybody to find the “thing” they need to make them happy and sane rather than letting other sick, but powerful, influential people tell them lies about what they need and we can even help those people as well.

I am sure I will be accused of making excuses for crime and criminal behavior, but I am not making excuses, I am providing a real reason, rather than attributing it to the catch all know as “Evil”.

The main cause of criminal activity and poor behavior generally is the brainwashing of society into thinking that certain things will make them happy when in fact they will not. Instead help should be given to all in order that they can find the things that truly do give them piece of mind.

As far as I am concerned saying something happened for “Good” or “Evil” reasons is as silly as saying “God did it!”

I think it is time society woke to the true consequences of maintaining these extreme religious attitudes within a supposedly none religious law and order regime.

Its time to stop believing in “Good” and “Evil” and start believing in ourselves.

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You make excellent points with great clarity here.
I agree with everything you say.
The punishment aspect has of prison sentencing has always bothered me since it is basically revenge.
I suppose if we were to use the terms punishment and reward in the context of behavior modification then that would make more sense. My only issue with that is that it must remain humane. The current system is loaded with a total lack of understanding which has basically led to inhumane treatment of sick people.
Finding a yardstick for what is humane and what is not also becomes a great challenge in this situation.
I agree that human rights (remaining humane) is a huge issue. Ethics can be so, so tricky.
This is a classic false choice. Good intentions and good outcomes and good guesses about what happens next ground our striving, our effort and our sweat. I know this from experience, from memory and from the absence of pain in myself and my children. Getting crushed by a large stone is not good. Having happy children is good.

Why do you set good and evil in opposition? Is mustard evil? Is a cat evil?

Evil is not the opposite of good. If you want to define evil you will need a metric. If you want good - do good.
To be honest I an more concerned about the use of the word Evil and should have pointed that out.
When ever the word evil is used it cam be interpreted as having supernatural connections.
The word good has valid uses. A good chef, Good design work, a good footballer and so on. these and your examples have no supernatural implications.

However I am irritated when the word good is used in a religious or supernatural context such as a "good" man, "good" works and so on since it changes the meaning of the word and does put it in opposition to evil.

So I should have been clearer on that point and I apologize form my inability to express myself clearly
b>Good points Keith and thoughtful responses.

Our outdated prison systems are predicated on punishment, as others have pointed out. This is done as a method of intimidation. 'Disobey our laws,' the elitists say, 'and we will put you in prison were you will be punished.' This attitude exists in societies that are corrupt. A just society would not be punitive but rehabilitative. Of course, some people are antisocial through abuses they suffered, or because of 'faulty wiring' in their genetic make up. And they need to be placed where they cannot harm others--but not punished, that concept stems from medieval religiosity.

But most 'criminals' [another outdated term] are misfits because of poverty and drug addiction caused by living in poverty. [In his book Dark Alliance, 1998, Gary Webb revealed that the American government was the major source behind the international drug trade that continues to this day in destroying millions of lives].

Poverty exist because a society is corrupt. There is no justification for anyone to be living without access to the 'good' things that only the rich think they are entitled to: education, jobs, medical care, respect, etc. It is pure greed on the part of the wealthy few--war profiteering, outsourcing jobs, monopolistic practices--that keeps so many living in squalor.

Good and evil? God would be the epitome of evil--if it existed. The 'good'? That god doesn't exist!
Thanks for the positive response. Excellent points you make.
I especially like the point you made regarding government corruption and the drug trade.
It becomes especially poignant when you look at the Afghanistan situation. When the Taliban were in control they virtually stopped all production of opium from the year 2000. A year later the US invasion happened and to quote wiki "Afghanistan is, as of March, 2008, the greatest illicit opium producer in the world"
Don't you wonder at the real motive for invading Afghanistan?
These are great points. Sheesh, look at the recent bill for national health care. There were so many people very, very opposed to that. Why?
It doesn't surprise me. After all many Christians think sickness is a punishment for some "sin". And if their leaders tell them to protest they do. Thinking or questioning is not something they do.
The leaders have an agenda to keep their sheep in oppression. Sickness helps that oppression. Sick people and their families don't have time to think about bigger issues, they are too focussed on the sickness. Keeping good medical treatment out of reach of the masses is just another way to keep them down.


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