"burn your house down… brew you a cup of tea in the still-glowing embers" - good and evil in people

edited July 2020 in Limbo
This discussion was created from comments split from: Where is the Ship going?.

There may be mileage in this discussion about good and evil in human beings, but it's better conducted away from 'Where is the ship going?'

BroJames, Purgatory Host

Acknowledgements to Doc Tor for the title!
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Comments

  • Robert ArminRobert Armin Shipmate, Glory
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Rober tArmin: Every human being is made in the image of God.

    Yo! But some are monsters, aren't they? Eating that apple sure had an impact, didn't it?
  • jay_emmjay_emm Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    .

    I have never heard it (animal rights and Hitler) used that way. In my experience people use that as a comeback when somebody claims that some third person must be a nice person because they're kind to animals. It's saying that's not enough if you're also brutal to human beings.

    I've heard both (possibly even the third).

    Stating the obvious those who actively want to degenerate animal rights (and are prepared to accept Hitler as not the ideal model) tend to use the 'vegans' are like Hitler' approach and those who are friends with that circle (right of centre?) or targeted by that circle (vegans) would default to seeing that.

    While those who loosely support animal rights but have a stronger opposition to facism would defaultly use it the other way. (Libs and Left of centre?), You could possibly split those who say even in the darkest evil there is some good, and those who say some good doesn't mean not evil.

    Then.of course you have elements of the actual open facists (although many would want to suppress their idols wetness on this issue) or extreme animal rights extremists. (There's probably some good examples attributed to Peta, and more that are actually of the some good in evil variety but out of context). Who use the goodness of animal rights to promote Hitler from evil.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.

    No. The image of God in Hitler is (well, was) as real as the image of God in you or I, and no matter what he did we should not deny it.

    There is good and evil in us all. None of us are perfect saints or complete monsters. A single good deed doesn't wash away a million sins, but neither do those sins wash away that good deed.

    Good is never irrelevant.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.

    No. The image of God in Hitler is (well, was) as real as the image of God in you or I, and no matter what he did we should not deny it.

    There is good and evil in us all. None of us are perfect saints or complete monsters. A single good deed doesn't wash away a million sins, but neither do those sins wash away that good deed.

    Good is never irrelevant.
    Of course it can be. "I put down a sterile cloth over the pavement before I curbstomped the bugger so he wouldn't get an infection. The pavements are just nasty."
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.

    No. The image of God in Hitler is (well, was) as real as the image of God in you or I, and no matter what he did we should not deny it.

    There is good and evil in us all. None of us are perfect saints or complete monsters. A single good deed doesn't wash away a million sins, but neither do those sins wash away that good deed.

    Good is never irrelevant.

    Thanks, Marvin, that speaks to me.

  • No, good is never irrelevant. But if I deiberately burn your house down and brew you a cup of tea in the still-glowing embers, you'd be well within your rights to ask me that if I could manage this small gesture of humanity, might I not have stayed my hand from the greater evil?

    This is not about the faultline between good and evil running through our hearts. This is more the catastrophic corruption of the whole heart with somehow a tiny piece remaining untainted, and the realisation of this does not give us hope, simply despair over what might have been.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    This is more the catastrophic corruption of the whole heart with somehow a tiny piece remaining untainted, and the realisation of this does not give us hope, simply despair over what might have been.

    I feel like that about myself and most other people, most of the time - though in most cases 'catastrophic' might be a bit histrionic. It seems a kind of pre-requisite for humility, though I suppose it removes some of the possibility for outrage which might otherwise be energising.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    This is more the catastrophic corruption of the whole heart with somehow a tiny piece remaining untainted, and the realisation of this does not give us hope, simply despair over what might have been.

    I feel like that about myself and most other people, most of the time - though in most cases 'catastrophic' might be a bit histrionic. It seems a kind of pre-requisite for humility, though I suppose it removes some of the possibility for outrage which might otherwise be energising.

    Dude, we were talking about Hitler.
  • KarlLBKarlLB Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.

    No. The image of God in Hitler is (well, was) as real as the image of God in you or I, and no matter what he did we should not deny it.

    There is good and evil in us all. None of us are perfect saints or complete monsters. A single good deed doesn't wash away a million sins, but neither do those sins wash away that good deed.

    Good is never irrelevant.
    Of course it can be. "I put down a sterile cloth over the pavement before I curbstomped the bugger so he wouldn't get an infection. The pavements are just nasty."

    You may laugh, but that's why the IRA made people drop their kecks before kneecapping them.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    Parents have a lot to answer for. I include myself in that statement.

    Children who grow up with good boundaries, who are loved and cared for, are rarely evil. They grow up with empathy and compassion.

    Of course children who are not can overcome these things and have even more empathy and compassion as a result.

    But it every parent worked at being a good parent many, many evil deeds would be prevented imo. There would still be a few who were neurologically sociopathic/psychopathic, but I suggest it would be a tiny number.

    No parent is perfect, but the striving to love and care and give boundaries are what matters.
  • BoogieBoogie Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.

    No. The image of God in Hitler is (well, was) as real as the image of God in you or I, and no matter what he did we should not deny it.

    There is good and evil in us all. None of us are perfect saints or complete monsters. A single good deed doesn't wash away a million sins, but neither do those sins wash away that good deed.

    Good is never irrelevant.

    These are wise words.

  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    This is more the catastrophic corruption of the whole heart with somehow a tiny piece remaining untainted, and the realisation of this does not give us hope, simply despair over what might have been.

    I feel like that about myself and most other people, most of the time - though in most cases 'catastrophic' might be a bit histrionic. It seems a kind of pre-requisite for humility, though I suppose it removes some of the possibility for outrage which might otherwise be energising.

    Dude, we were talking about Hitler.

    Hitler managed to get a large number of ordinary people to participate in his atrocities. In fact they were the ones who actually did most of the killing. Same with Stalin, Pol Pot and many others. So I think @mark_in_manchester's point stands.
  • AnteaterAnteater Shipmate
    lillbuddha:
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.
    I agree with that but think the issue is subtle, and as so often depends on proportionality. Mrs Anteater, having trained as a psychotherapist, talked a lot about "splitting". Which she believes I tend to do.

    Wikipedia has:
    The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual's actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

    So it would be unjustifiable to believe that Hitler's views on animal rights are bad just by association with his overall attitudes and actions, and more than you would view his skills as a painter based on the fact of the Holocaust.

    But it can be ethically unwise to bring these issues to the fore, as if to put Hitler as part of the normal continuum of human behaviour. A bit like talking about the upside of a nuclear war, as if it bears any proportionate relation to the downside. It also gives a stick to those who want to oppose animal rights by trying to associate that with fascist views.

    Plus I think we need to unpack the idea that man is made in the image of God before we use that to relativise the behaviour of individuals who really need to be stopped. Which also raises the issue of what the point of such evaluations is.

    You could ask a slightly different question: Are there people whose actions are so harmful, that it would be morally justifiable to assassinate them?
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    No, good is never irrelevant. But if I deiberately burn your house down and brew you a cup of tea in the still-glowing embers, you'd be well within your rights to ask me that if I could manage this small gesture of humanity, might I not have stayed my hand from the greater evil?

    Of course. As I said, the good doesn't erase the evil.
    This is not about the faultline between good and evil running through our hearts. This is more the catastrophic corruption of the whole heart with somehow a tiny piece remaining untainted, and the realisation of this does not give us hope, simply despair over what might have been.

    The faultline runs through every heart, but in some people it's far closer to one of the ends than the other. But in no case is it right at the end, and if a tiny piece is untainted then the whole heart is not corrupted.

    There has to be hope that anyone can be redeemed, or else how can we hope that we will be redeemed?

    I think this passage speaks to this issue:
    Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

    The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

    Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

    “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

    Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

    He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

    Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

    He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

    Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

    He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

    Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

    He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

    How much good must be in a person's heart before we decide they are utterly irredeemable? Fifty percent? Forty? Ten? Even the tiniest crack in the shell of evil can be enough for the light to get in, and that being so we should not be the ones to cover it over.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    Marvin the Martian: No. The image of God in Hitler is (well, was) as real as the image of God in you or I, and no matter what he did we should not deny it.

    There is good and evil in us all.

    There is a problem here, isn't there? If man is made in the image of God and "there is good and evil in us all," what does that tell us about the nature of God?

    I have a problem with those who quote Genesis 1:26 to suggest in some way human beings are fundamentally good in a moral sense, and ignore the implications of The Fall as understood in an existential rather than historical
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    [continued] or biological sense, underscored by the covenant with Noah in which God states: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though[a] every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood (Genesis 8:21).
  • BroJamesBroJames Purgatory Host, 8th Day Host
    Kwesi wrote: »
    There is a problem here, isn't there? If man is made in the image of God and "there is good and evil in us all," what does that tell us about the nature of God?

    I have a problem with those who quote Genesis 1:26 to suggest in some way human beings are fundamentally good in a moral sense, and ignore the implications of The Fall as understood in an existential rather than historical
    But surely your second paragraph resolves the problem your first one poses. Human beings are created fundamentally good, but that fundamental goodness is marred by the fall.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Anteater wrote: »
    But it can be ethically unwise to bring these issues to the fore, as if to put Hitler as part of the normal continuum of human behaviour.

    Was Hitler not human then? He may have been right at the far end (or at the far right end, if you prefer :tongue: ) of the continuum of human behaviour, but to suggest that he wasn't on the human behavioural continuum at all is just wrong.

    For that matter, I'm not even sure he was particularly unique. There have been plenty of vicious murderous dictators in history.
    Plus I think we need to unpack the idea that man is made in the image of God before we use that to relativise the behaviour of individuals who really need to be stopped. Which also raises the issue of what the point of such evaluations is.

    You could ask a slightly different question: Are there people whose actions are so harmful, that it would be morally justifiable to assassinate them?

    None of what I've said in any way justifies the evils that were done, nor does it argue that those evils shouldn't have been stopped. And yes, sometimes those evils may need to be stopped by assassination. What I'm arguing against is the dehumanisation of those who do great evil by denying that there is anything good or worthy about them.

    They may have been people who regarded other people as less than human and worthy of nothing more than death, but we need to remember that Hitler et al were themselves human. Normal, bog standard humans who happened to have had some very harmful beliefs and the ability and power to put them into practice. They weren't monsters. To claim that they were is to implicitly claim that we could never be capable of such evil, and that is a dangerous road down which to travel. Because if we believe that we're the good guys fighting against monsters then it's all too easy to believe that everything we do to win that fight is also good. And because those we're fighting against are monsters we don't have to feel bad about wiping them out. And before you know it, we've turned into people who regard other people as less than human and worthy of nothing more than death.

    That's how it happens. Denying or ignoring the good - the humanity - of other people is a key step. Don't take it.
  • KwesiKwesi Shipmate
    MarvintheMartian How much good must be in a person's heart before we decide they are utterly irredeemable? Fifty percent? Forty? Ten? Even the tiniest crack in the shell of evil can be enough for the light to get in, and that being so we should not be the ones to cover it over.

    I think it important not to confuse questions of eternal destiny with the practicalities of ethical living in the confines of mortal existence.

    Although I lean towards the universalist end of the spectrum, reminding myself that it is the righteousness of Christ that justifies even the most virtuous, for the purposes of living in this vale of tears there has to be a recognition that some ethical behaviour is more acceptable than another, and that steps have to be taken to promote virtue and restrain vice. I have little difficulty within that context of regarding Hitler as an evil bastard. Whether that should damn him to an eternity in hell, I leave to God.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Kwesi wrote: »
    [for the purposes of living in this vale of tears there has to be a recognition that some ethical behaviour is more acceptable than another, and that steps have to be taken to promote virtue and restrain vice.

    A great deal of brutal oppression has been justified in the name of promoting virtue and restraining vice. Even Hitler believed that his actions were in the service of a good cause. Truly understanding that fact can go a long way towards ensuring that our own conviction that our cause is just doesn't lead us to emulate him.
  • Hitler managed to get a large number of ordinary people to participate in his atrocities.

    And you know what we call those people? Nazis. That's what we call those people.
  • There has to be hope that anyone can be redeemed, or else how can we hope that we will be redeemed?

    I think this passage speaks to this issue:
    Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

    The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

    Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

    “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

    Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

    He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

    Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

    He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

    Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

    He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

    Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

    He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

    How much good must be in a person's heart before we decide they are utterly irredeemable? Fifty percent? Forty? Ten? Even the tiniest crack in the shell of evil can be enough for the light to get in, and that being so we should not be the ones to cover it over.

    This is not what this passage is about. It's about finding good people in a corrupt society, not about finding out whether Stalin liked cats, or Pol Pot made cakes for the bake sale. Category error.

    (If you actually want a passage that speaks to this, try Romans 7. There. Never say I don't help you.)
  • edited July 2020
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
    Hitler wasn't evil the way a psychopath is; we are seeing Donald Trump and some other leaders debated in the same way currently. Hitler was an organized and calculating person, with a specific plan. He had relationships of mutuality with others, apparently loved and was loved. As nasty as this may be to imagine, and the 2 dimensional way he is pictured as " as the very definition of evil doesn't capture the actual breadth of the man's character. "Hitler's" Table Talk is one window into this, I have the edition by Trevor-Roper.

    Winston Churchill's evil is being debated currently to the point I understand that police have had to protect statues in England. The British Empire is being discussed as basically evil in Canada, with the first prime minister's statue under threat in my province of Saskatchewan because of his deliberate genocidal policies towards the indigenous peoples. I imagine many countries which were invaded by Europeans could do the same. There believed (often continue to do so) that their culture and Christian religion are superior to that of others, and they are justified in their treatment of the people. Evangelism is evil in this understanding.

    The Christian people of the American south before their civil war (and after when they erected their white commemorative supremacy statues) whose daily activity involved torture and slavery could be pictured as pure evil also, as could the British Empire before some date in the 19th century who did exactly the same things. Which includes the Church of England. Fact is that we choose to picture evil in easy, summary terms, and I think forget that it lurks within everyone, and is clearly part of all of our heritage. This is not in the simple individualistic way we think of within Christianity where one person prays for forgiveness and tries to follow Jesus. It's more like the sinfulness that took 40 years in the desert to breed out of the people. Christianity appears to struggle with it's institutionalization of evil. Back to Hitler: he was a Roman Catholic. Remained one.

    Moving on, I have met 2 people in my life, one in a prison and one not, where I felt the presence of evil with them. This was so markedly different from the experience of other people that it remains with me, poignantly. Something I cannot ever forget. I'd mostly agree with @Robert Armin re there being good in people, but not completely. I think it is naive to assume that the born-with spark of good within people cannot be extinguished completely through their free will, if they work at it. I believe I have met 2 people where it could no longer be detected. Perhaps God has a better "goodness detector" than I do and would still find it where I cannot.
  • Simon ToadSimon Toad Shipmate
    edited July 2020
    loving the good, loving the evil, meh. Just love, the beginning and the end.

    Its unrealistic to talk of examples at the edges. An approach to life which calls upon people to love unconditionally, or as near as dammit, does not need consistent behavior towards extreme examples of human evil to nevertheless be valid. As for Hitler, if you can show him love in the face of his manifest evil, then show him love. Whether he deserves it or not is just not the question. In any event, discussion of whether anyone apart from God can love Hitler is an empty intellectual exercise, given that he committed suicide in 1945.

    If we are to attempt to love unconditionally, it is just not necessary to love each and every person you come across. There are a myriad of reasons why that might not be possible. Are the relatives of a victim to love the perpetrator? Of course not. But if they do rise above their anguish, then surely they have attained a laudable state.

    We are all broken, we all have a capacity for evil. I think this attribute is existential, but I'm quite happy to say that it is a result of living in societies and the way nature operates, rather than essential to us in a philosophical or theological way. It really doesn't matter. I suppose things don't have to be the way they are, but basing an approach to life on the way things might be in the future seems fraught with difficulty.

    Just love, which is to say, seek to know and be in relationship with people around you.
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    Hitler managed to get a large number of ordinary people to participate in his atrocities.

    And you know what we call those people? Nazis. That's what we call those people.

    Yes. But they are not such extreme cases as you seemed to be implying, people so much unlike @mark_in_manchester and @TurquoiseTastic that we can say "Lord thank you that our hearts are not catastrophically corrupted, unlike those evil Nazi monsters over there". (Of course, we can and do say this which is why we end up firebombing Dresden etcetera).

    Anyway I think I agree that although our good actions are never exactly irrelevant, they don't in any sense make up for or weigh against the evil in our hearts and that we do. Surely that is why forgiveness is always unearned and desperately necessary for the recipient, and incredibly difficult and painful for the one forgiving.
  • Winston Churchill's evil is being debated currently to the point I understand that police have had to protect statues in England.

    Yes and no. There is a single statue in London that is often protected during protests as it has occasionally suffered minor graffiti and, in one instance, being given a turf mohawk. When it happened recently (both the graffiti and the temporary boarding up of the statue) the right wing press went into full mouth-foaming mode and declared that BLM were trying to tear down the statue and destroy war memorials and, presumably, break wind in the palaces of the mighty. Churchill remains controversial but the extent to which his statue needed police protection is more than a little debatable.
  • But was Churchill evil?
  • Doc Tor wrote: »
    Hitler managed to get a large number of ordinary people to participate in his atrocities.

    And you know what we call those people? Nazis. That's what we call those people.

    Yes. But they are not such extreme cases as you seemed to be implying, people so much unlike @mark_in_manchester and @TurquoiseTastic that we can say "Lord thank you that our hearts are not catastrophically corrupted, unlike those evil Nazi monsters over there". (Of course, we can and do say this which is why we end up firebombing Dresden etcetera).

    This is not part of my argument, and I've not talked about extremes or degrees. Simply that when there is a great evil, there's no point in saying "oh but he was kind to animals" or "he loved his mum". Concentration camp guards may have been both of those things. We remember them as Nazis.

    I've not talked about a way back, either. There may be a path of redemption, but that doesn't excuse or erase the previous evil any more than making a cup of tea with the embers from an arson.

    This is uncomfortable for many of us, I understand that. My own behaviour is as much under the spotlight as anyone else's. But those little internal justifications we make of our own actions aren't indicative of a fault line through our heart. It's an indication that we've mentally already stepped over that line.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Boogie wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Every human being is made in the image of God, and I don't believe that can extinguished. So Hitler was kind to animals. Maybe Hussein was good to his granny. Stalin liked cats and hated children, so can't have been all bad (teacher joke). All of that can be true without dismissing the terrible things they did.
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.

    No. The image of God in Hitler is (well, was) as real as the image of God in you or I, and no matter what he did we should not deny it.

    There is good and evil in us all. None of us are perfect saints or complete monsters. A single good deed doesn't wash away a million sins, but neither do those sins wash away that good deed.

    Good is never irrelevant.

    These are wise words.
    Not wise at all. This insistence on looking at the good in horrible people is predicated on the contradictory notion of man made in God's image.


  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    BroJames wrote: »
    Kwesi wrote: »
    There is a problem here, isn't there? If man is made in the image of God and "there is good and evil in us all," what does that tell us about the nature of God?

    I have a problem with those who quote Genesis 1:26 to suggest in some way human beings are fundamentally good in a moral sense, and ignore the implications of The Fall as understood in an existential rather than historical
    But surely your second paragraph resolves the problem your first one poses. Human beings are created fundamentally good, but that fundamental goodness is marred by the fall.
    The second para does not resolve the first. It is a continuation of the flaws in the logic of the first.

  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    But was Churchill evil?
    He certainly did evil.

  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Anteater wrote: »
    lillbuddha:
    But it is irrelevant. There is a point at which any good is insensitive and harmful to mention.
    I agree with that but think the issue is subtle, and as so often depends on proportionality. Mrs Anteater, having trained as a psychotherapist, talked a lot about "splitting". Which she believes I tend to do.

    Wikipedia has:
    The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual's actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

    So it would be unjustifiable to believe that Hitler's views on animal rights are bad just by association with his overall attitudes and actions, and more than you would view his skills as a painter based on the fact of the Holocaust.

    But it can be ethically unwise to bring these issues to the fore,
    Or at all.


  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    No, good is never irrelevant. But if I deiberately burn your house down and brew you a cup of tea in the still-glowing embers, you'd be well within your rights to ask me that if I could manage this small gesture of humanity, might I not have stayed my hand from the greater evil?
    If Hitler had regretted the Holocaust and offered the survivors a cup of tea, would you see this the same?
    Hitler liking puppies is not a tiny piece of his heart remaining untainted. It is a cartoon view of evil that presents this not evil thing as a sign of good remaining.
  • For that matter, I'm not even sure he was particularly unique. There have been plenty of vicious murderous dictators in history.

    True. He just had better methods at his disposal, and evil masterminds to invent them for him.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Hitler was human, the evil he did was human, the evil that the German people participated in was human. The idea that he, or any other person doing evil, might also have had some good in them is not necessary to connect them to humanity and the fact that we are also subject to doing harm ourselves.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    As to to the title of the thread, if someone brewed me a tea from the embers of my house they just burnt down, I'd not think there was good in them, but that they were a true psychopath.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    No, good is never irrelevant. But if I deiberately burn your house down and brew you a cup of tea in the still-glowing embers, you'd be well within your rights to ask me that if I could manage this small gesture of humanity, might I not have stayed my hand from the greater evil?
    If Hitler had regretted the Holocaust and offered the survivors a cup of tea, would you see this the same?
    Hitler liking puppies is not a tiny piece of his heart remaining untainted. It is a cartoon view of evil that presents this not evil thing as a sign of good remaining.

    That's simply repeating what I said, in your own words.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    No, good is never irrelevant. But if I deiberately burn your house down and brew you a cup of tea in the still-glowing embers, you'd be well within your rights to ask me that if I could manage this small gesture of humanity, might I not have stayed my hand from the greater evil?
    If Hitler had regretted the Holocaust and offered the survivors a cup of tea, would you see this the same?
    Hitler liking puppies is not a tiny piece of his heart remaining untainted. It is a cartoon view of evil that presents this not evil thing as a sign of good remaining.

    That's simply repeating what I said, in your own words.
    Apologies, I read it incorrectly.
  • edited July 2020
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    Hitler managed to get a large number of ordinary people to participate in his atrocities.

    And you know what we call those people? Nazis. That's what we call those people.

    Yes. But they are not such extreme cases as you seemed to be implying, people so much unlike @mark_in_manchester and @TurquoiseTastic that we can say "Lord thank you that our hearts are not catastrophically corrupted, unlike those evil Nazi monsters over there". (Of course, we can and do say this which is why we end up firebombing Dresden etcetera).

    Anyway I think I agree that although our good actions are never exactly irrelevant, they don't in any sense make up for or weigh against the evil in our hearts and that we do. Surely that is why forgiveness is always unearned and desperately necessary for the recipient, and incredibly difficult and painful for the one forgiving.

    Nothing to argue with there (maybe a small addition - the giving of forgiveness being in my experience vital for the one who has to give it) . It's funny when a thread re-iterates some Christian fundamentals, in a context which is not an evangelistic address, and funnier still (to backslidden me) to find myself firmly in the camp of the evangelist :smile: Now, if you've felt the Lord moving in your heart, and would like to do something about the stain you know is there and which you, and I, are powerless to address, there's someone at the front who would be very glad to pray with you. Another chorus of 'Just as I am' please, band.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Hitler was human, the evil he did was human, the evil that the German people participated in was human. The idea that he, or any other person doing evil, might also have had some good in them is not necessary to connect them to humanity and the fact that we are also subject to doing harm ourselves.

    No. But it is necessary to understanding how their humanity led them down such a dark path, which is in turn necessary to ensuring our own humanity doesn't lead us down the same path.

    If we treat them as comic book villains whose only desire is to do evil for its own sake then we lose that understanding, and take a step down the path to darkness.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    As to to the title of the thread, if someone brewed me a tea from the embers of my house they just burnt down, I'd not think there was good in them, but that they were a true psychopath.

    The thread title is a failure to understand the nature of good and evil coexisting in individuals, not least because it presupposes that both the good and the evil will be applied to the same person/people.
  • lilbuddhalilbuddha Shipmate
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Hitler was human, the evil he did was human, the evil that the German people participated in was human. The idea that he, or any other person doing evil, might also have had some good in them is not necessary to connect them to humanity and the fact that we are also subject to doing harm ourselves.

    No. But it is necessary to understanding how their humanity led them down such a dark path, which is in turn necessary to ensuring our own humanity doesn't lead us down the same path.

    If we treat them as comic book villains whose only desire is to do evil for its own sake then we lose that understanding, and take a step down the path to darkness.
    That is not the same as looking for the good in evil like Hitler. Hitler was evil if anyone ever has been. Fuck that he liked puppies of that people found him nice. Most of us would not become Hitler or Stalin or Jack the Ripper. That we have a good chance at becoming complicit is not a massive revelation. Pretending that we would not be good little Nazis is both denial and a way of coping with the horror of Nazi Germany, not some hidden mystery.
  • If we treat them as comic book villains whose only desire is to do evil for its own sake then we lose that understanding, and take a step down the path to darkness.

    [citation needed]
    The thread title is a failure to understand the nature of good and evil coexisting in individuals, not least because it presupposes that both the good and the evil will be applied to the same person/people.

    You'll freak out when I tell you about abusive relationships.
  • AnteaterAnteater Shipmate
    Isn't this whole discussion to be set in the context of why you are forming an opinion about a person. If you are taking a theological approach and looking to the typical Christian scheme of salvation, then it is a basic tenet that nobody is irredeemable.

    But you may be looking at it from the point of view of how justified is it to prevent that person operating within society, and here, what matters is the preponderance of good over evil. It is normally considered irrelevant if, for example dealing with a serial violent killer to mention what good actions they may have done. In the case of Hitler it is still normal for him to be held in such abhorrence that in many countries it is illegal to form political movements which openly take him as a role model. And in this case too, I would say that in deciding whether this policy is justified, it is irrelevant whether he liked animals or opposed smoking.

    In general, I think factors which bear no direct relationship to the way they would impact people's life, are not relevant. The fact that Louis Farrakhan is a good violinist is irrelevant to your view of him as a political force.

    But of course there is a continuum, and many deeply flawed people who we hesitate to call evil. I have an ambivalent attitude towards Churchill, a man who himself said that he really didn't quite understand why the idea of war filled him with such excitement and pleasure. But most people are so glad that he stood up to Hitler that he gets an overall good press.

    I am not moved by the many appeals to man being "the image of God" and have little idea what this meant to those who original wrote Genesis. Mainly that he has total dominion over animals. That didn't work out too well.
  • lilbuddha wrote: »
    Hitler was human, the evil he did was human, the evil that the German people participated in was human. The idea that he, or any other person doing evil, might also have had some good in them is not necessary to connect them to humanity and the fact that we are also subject to doing harm ourselves.

    No. But it is necessary to understanding how their humanity led them down such a dark path, which is in turn necessary to ensuring our own humanity doesn't lead us down the same path.

    If we treat them as comic book villains whose only desire is to do evil for its own sake then we lose that understanding, and take a step down the path to darkness.

    That works for me - I don't think a citation is needed. We're awful in this country for reaching for Nazis when we need some eeeevil to point at, and often ISTM the point of pointing is to distract us from what we're up to ourselves, or to reassure us that in these days of rule by focus group, we can still orient ourselves by directing our rusty moral sextant at something truly baaaad.

    Some of Marvin's points here are dealt with in the same kind of way by Spufford in his (IMV) rather good 'Unapologetic'. If I can find my copy I'll try to add some citations.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    lilbuddha wrote: »
    Most of us would not become Hitler or Stalin or Jack the Ripper.

    And that’s exactly the attitude that helps the next Hitler rise to power.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Doc Tor wrote: »
    If we treat them as comic book villains whose only desire is to do evil for its own sake then we lose that understanding, and take a step down the path to darkness.

    [citation needed]

    Really? What else does saying there’s nothing good in someone mean to you?
    The thread title is a failure to understand the nature of good and evil coexisting in individuals, not least because it presupposes that both the good and the evil will be applied to the same person/people.

    You'll freak out when I tell you about abusive relationships.

    Criticising a preconception does not mean I think that preconception is never true, just that it’s not always true.
  • Marvin the MartianMarvin the Martian Admin Emeritus
    Anteater wrote: »
    Isn't this whole discussion to be set in the context of why you are forming an opinion about a person.

    The problem is that it’s often done as a way of “othering” the person, of denying they are anything like us, and even of denying their basic humanity. Saying that Hitler-level evil isn’t even possible for humans, that such evil isn’t even on the continuum of human behaviour, is massively problematic because it allows us to justify anything we do or support as not that bad. Those cages on the Mexican border can’t be as bad as concentration camps because we’re just ordinary people, not monsters, and ordinary people don’t do that much evil.

    Even on this thread we’ve had the claim that most of us would never become Hitler. But we would, if we were given the right motivation, power and opportunity. Oh, we wouldn’t persecute the Jews like Hitler did - we’re far too PC for that - but maybe we’d fill our eventual concentration camps with racists, or homophobes, or Tories, or Southern Baptists. You know, people we know are Wrong. People who need to be Opposed in every possible way. People who have to be Stopped. People for whom it would be easy to convince ourselves they deserved it, especially in a slow, incremental process throughout which the crowds are roaring their support and egging us on. And all in the name of promoting virtue and restraining vice, of course. And obviously anyone speaking out against us is on the side of vice, so into the camps they go as well.

    It would be so fucking easy, precisely because we’d be utterly convinced that we weren’t evil, that we weren’t monsters, that our cause was just. The reason most people don’t do it is most people never get the power and opportunity - preventing one or the other of those is pretty much what democracy is for.
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