Musings on Good and Evil

Adolf Hitler. Ted Bundy. Joseph Stalin.

Mother Theresa. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ghandi.

Can we agree that there is both good and evil in the world?

If we can agree that there is both good and evil in the world, a question comes up. Where does our sense of good and evil come from? Why is that we know with absolute certainty that the Holocaust was wrong, and the actions of Mother Theresa are good?

Some people would say that this sense of right and wrong comes from society – we have laws that tell us not to do certain things, and we grow up being told not to do certain things. Naturally we must conform to those same patterns of thinking. But I don’t think this is the whole story. Can you remember hitting someone as a child or hurting a friend? I can. I remember an instance where I bit my brother when I was younger. I had never been told that biting was wrong, but somehow I knew it was. My brother was in pain, and I felt guilty before I got into trouble and my parents told me it was wrong to bite others.

Some people would say that this sense of right and wrong is just instinct, but I’m not convinced this is right either. If you are walking across a busy street and you hear the sound of honking horn, instinct says that something is wrong and you need to move quickly out of the way. But if you hear that horn and see a child in the way of a car, something else inside of you tells you to fight against your instinct and run towards the danger to save that child.

Whether we realize it or not, we all have this certain something inside of us that communicates a standard – a line drawn in the sand of what is acceptable and what is not. Granted, as we learn more about the world we find out that some things are not as clear as others. Violence is not always wrong – what if someone is attacking your family and you need to defend them?

Even with these “grey areas” as they are often called, there are still many things that we can know for certain and that every society can agree upon:

Murdering innocent people is wrong.

Is this just an opinion? No. An opinion is much simpler. You might have the opinion that ice cream is the best dessert, but you won’t go to jail for eating a pint of rocky road. When has a serial killer ever been set free from jail for having a different opinion on murder? Certainly they can hold that opinion, but they are horribly wrong. No – this is not just an opinion, it is a belief. In the same way, if I believe our sun is freezing cold, or that water is made up of nitrogen and sodium atoms instead of hydrogen and oxygen, I am wrong. No matter how strongly I believe or how much I try to prove my point, I will always be wrong. I am not right simply because I want to be.

There are certain things that are true, and always will be no matter what we believe. For a long time the earth was believed to be flat, but that belief doesn’t make it true.

Perhaps you are confused because I am using the word “beliefs” in places where you feel like I should use the word “facts.” Fair enough. Facts are not exactly the same as beliefs. Facts can be proven with hard evidence. We know that water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen because we can now see it under a microscope. We know that the earth is round because we have traveled around it and have seen it from above, among many other things. A fact is not a belief. But, sometimes a belief can be a fact… if it is the right belief.

            A true belief is a fact.

This seems like an ambiguous statement because it is hard to find facts to prove our beliefs. Often times our beliefs are intangible – love, hope, and faith can’t be seen with the naked eye. If I believe in love, how do I know that my belief is true?

Truth exists. No matter how hard you have to search to find it – it is not lost. We can know for certain that some things are true, and others are false. And no matter what you believe – the truth will not change. By its very nature it cannot.

Do you really know that what you believe is the truth?

I challenge you to dig into your beliefs. Yes, those that you have held true since you were a child, and those beliefs that you have just recently started following. Find out the truth. Don’t just search for the answers that line up with what you believe – that’s not looking for truth. Truth is there whether you believe it or not… and it might look a lot different than you think.


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