Are People Inherently Good?

The people who answer the question in the title affirmatively, tend to do so for a simple reason: If the answer is no and people aren’t inherently good, then that must mean that we’re inherently evil. That’s a difficult proposition for people to swallow, not only about themselves but perhaps more significantly, about their children. It’s hard to look at an angelic child’s face that says, “I love you, mommy” and think, “He’s inherently evil.” Truthfully, he’s not.

To explain that, in a bit of a roundabout way, it’s worth noting that the way we often depict evil in our society has very little basis in reality. Very, very few people take joy in the suffering of other human beings for its own sake and perhaps, more importantly, only a tiny percentage of humanity considers itself to be evil. Read about history’s greatest monsters — about names like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Lenin, and Saddam Hussein. Do you think these men looked at themselves the same way we do today? Do you think they inflicted untold death and cruelty on other human beings for its own sake? No. They had reasons for what they did. Sick reasons. Twisted reasons. Even evil reasons — but it wasn’t sick, twisted, or evil TO THEM.

Undoubtedly, if in the last moments of their lives, if you could have asked them, they would have told you they were fundamentally good people who did a lot of good for others that was unappreciated. Sure, they might have had to make some “tough” decisions, but that was the only way to get things done. People should have thanked them for all they did, but genius is often unappreciated in its own time — that’s probably about what they would have told you. Would that have been self-delusional horse sh*t? Sure. But, that’s how human beings think. Anything we do, we find a way to justify in our own minds. You think Hitler or Stalin were any different?

This gets back to a fundamental question: If even men like Hitler or Stalin didn’t do what they did just to be evil, why did they do it?