Why Human Beings Are Not Basically Good
There is a movement within society today to view human beings as basically good. Humanism more or less preaches this, but I would argue that it's not logical or even possible, as follows.
First, a quote:
"While there remains to man, even in his present
condition, a natural power of will by which he may put forth
transient volitions externally conformed to the divine law and
so may to a limited extent modify his character, it still
remains true that the sinful bent of his affections is not
directly under his control; and this bent constitutes a motive
to evil so constant, inveterate, and powerful, that it
actually influences every member of the race to reaffirm his
evil choice, and renders necessary a special working of God's
Spirit upon his heart to ensure his salvation."
Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology, 1985, p. 1371.
Child Day Care
I don't have to teach 1-5 year olds how to steal toys or cut in line or harm each other. I have to be on guard that they don't. Even the most sheltered child in an environment where they never saw someone strike another will punch or push another child to get "their" toy back. Or will "steal" a toy another child is playing with.
Every Day Life
Here's the basics of my life from yesterday. I accidentally messed up my times clocking in and out, though it was not intentional. (In some senses, evil and imperfection overlap.) Some truck driver left a large piece of a tire on the interstate that I had to dodge. My thoughts drift towards entitlement by default, so I have to exert control to keep them from this trap. I get to Walmart and someone left a shopping cart in the parking lot rather than walking it TWO parking spaces away to the cart corrall (sp?). People are driving their cars without headlights in the dark (whether poverty or laziness or failure to turn them on, or failure to reach out to a local nonprofit that helps with such things). I know this sounds sort of silly, but the point here is that we human beings continuously cause our own problems. If people are basically good, can we really say that society makes us this way? In the mind of the person who should have pushed their cart into the holding area, did their thoughts tell them, "no one else is doing it"? Or was it more likely that their thoughts went along the lines of "I don't care" or "I don't have time for this"?
If anything is the biggest indicator of how
messed up all of us are, it's addiction. From the person
who isn't in treatment for their addiction who can't stop eating
fast food (and it is now affecting their health) to the person
who can't stop saying ugly things about coworkers to people I
help who are still using heroin, people who can't stop doing
things that harm them are basically "addicted." People I
help are a mixture of their own bad mistakes, but also a mixture
of the various harms that have been done to them. From
struggles with mental illness (which are not their fault) to the
abuse and neglect they've been subjected to, it's quite clear
that we human beings cause our own problems. I mean this
in the sense that all roads point back to a human being.
From the drug dealer that laces people's stuff with fentanyl to
the family member that abused the person I'm trying to help,
human beings have been causing their own problems for centuries.
And recognizing my own imperfection and
sinfulness helps me be compassionate with them. Someone
cared enough to help me, so I help them. I've heard
horrible stories of the abuse, trauma and neglect that other
human beings have caused my patients. And my patients have
also done horrible things to themselves and others. How
are we basically good?
Stories of Human Beings Who Might Have Excuse
If we can accept the basics of "do not
steal, do not murder," etc. of morality, ferral human beings are
an example of how those who are not taught these basics can end
up being immoral.
As well, I know a very popular missionary
(can't say his name because I'd dox myself) who was a missionary
with his family to an indigenous tribe in Indonesia. To
fast forward, he spent years in the tribe learning their
language and culture before he began to witness to them.
He had even become a fellow tribesman with them. Ten years
down the road he asked them about their practice of
cannibalism. He had noted they had stopped with their
annual hunts and asked why they stopped. They told him
they thought it was wrong. He asked them how they came to
this conclusion. They said they always knew it was wrong,
they just did it because their ancestors did and they were
taught to do it.
There is still a factor in everyone
(conscience, Holy Spirit, etc.) that convicts people of wrong.
Good Proves Evil
This might sound weird, but the fact that some people do what is right and know what is right actually proves that we are all imperfect. The fact that we know that we "should" be polite and respectful to others, we "should not" steal, etc., to me speaks of a higher etiology. There is no light without absence of light, no heat without cold, etc. (though, yes, I am aware of what heat and cold are in the scientific sense). The shadow proves the sunshine, as Switchfoot said. When we make our choice, we can make it for evil. I could have just rammed the shopping cart in the parking lot in anger and let it strike another car. I chose not to. I could've left the cart in the way of the next person who would park in the spot next to me. I instead put it in the corrall. But in that I can prove I knew what to do, or "should", I prove that all my actions that are not in line with what I know intrinsically is right are in fact wrong actions. In that I know not to murder, and don't murder, I prove that I know there is some sort of higher law.
Society's laws are not a moral treatise,
they only punish what society thinks are unacceptable.
I've never met a patient in my work that didn't know what was
legal or illegal. I've never met a patient that didn't
know, underneath their denial, that what they were doing was
harming themselves and (in varying degrees) others. And
I'm no better than anyone else. So I must point out that
to know to do good judges me because even when I am at my best,
I always have a choice, and the fact that my inside thought life
wants to justify laziness and sins of ommission / commission
only proves that I am what is wrong with the world. I
can't blame Trump, though I like to, because I must make my own
So in conclusion, philosophically, I cannot
assent to the belief that human beings are basically good.
I can say that I try to view others positively and I don't walk
around thinking everyone is a dirty rotten sinner.
(Basically I have not succombed to the extremes of hyper
Calvinism lol.) I try to take a neutral stance.
So the totality of my human experience
disproves that human beings are basically good. I think it
better to consider everyone morally neutral and then watch and
wait to see what kind of people they are.
But to try to use humanism to preach that
people are basically good is, to me, unfathomable. If
anything, it's a horribly dark joke to say that people are
basically good. We have always caused our own problems,
from the Garden of Eden to present times. We are
broken. And the solution, ultimately, to what ails us is
not us. It's an outside force. Call it God if you