Practically everyone believes that they are good people. But, we often give ourselves more credit than we deserve. We can enter a class and think we know everything about that subject and think, “I don’t need to attend the lectures. I don’t need to study. I know it all.” But, what determines what you know is not what you think you know, but how well you do on the tests. Likewise, what demonstrates how good we really are is through the tests of life. And pushed to the limit, we will fail. We can fail in different areas depending on our own weaknesses. We might fail through sexual temptation, greed temptation, financial temptation, abuse temptation, etc.
Without some sort of external control (God, religion, law), there is no power within ourselves to do what is right. This is evident in the Milgram experiment. We might know what is the right thing to do, but we are easily swayed to not do the right thing. When there is nothing to hold us back, then we easily descend into our lower nature as evidenced by Rhythm 0. If we believe we are good and haven’t done anything bad, I submit it’s because you haven’t been truly tested. Would you have passed the Milgram experiment or the Rhythm 0 experiment? These experiments also show evil is not just committed by deranged psychopaths, but by ordinary people.
otseng wrote: Concerning people who worked in the Nazi concentration camps, Professor Jim Waller (the Cohen Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College), remarked, “Who are these people and how are they enlisted to perpetrate such extraordinary evil? These perpetrators are ordinary people in the majority of cases.”
Tina Rosenberg (author of “Children of Cain”) said about violence and corruption of Latin America, I would have preferred them to be monsters. Coming to understand that this is not the case was disturbing for what it taught me about these people, and ultimately, about myself. I did not want to think that many of the violent are “people like us”, so civilized, so educated, so cultured, and because of that, so terrifying.
In the Nazi concentration camps, a lot of the people who did the dirty work were not Germans, but Jews. They were ordinary people who were severely tested.
Even though we intuitively know we should do right, we cannot rely on our own internal compass to do right. In the Nuremberg trials, the prosecution did not argue they should’ve followed their own internal compass. They had to bring in a higher authority (international criminal law) to argue their case.
One common characteristic of people is how easily we dehumanize others. This is the root of much of the atrocities people commit against another. This ranges from Chinese drivers running over a child multiple times to make sure they are dead to killing the unborn since they are not considered to be a person to men sexually abusing women to sex trafficking to child sex abuse to much more.
In the coming months and years, we all will be severely tested. I believe the entire world will undergo one of the most massive testing in the history of mankind. And without an external hand to guide us, the face of evil will be very evident to all.
I close with words from George Washington’s farewell address.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion, and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.