Why I Don’t Believe in the Concept of “Good and Evil”

I ended my last blog post with a quote from Christopher Hitchens, and I’d like to begin this post with another:

“ Seek and ye shall find.” I remember being told that in church many a time as a young lad. I thought it was a sinister injunction because it’s all too likely to be true. We are pattern-seeking mammals and primates. If we can’t get good evidence we’ll go for junk evidence. If we can’t get a real theory, we’ll go with a conspiracy theory. You see it all the time. Religion’s great strength is that it was the first of our attempts to explain reality. To make those patterns take some kind of form. It deserves credit. It was our first attempt at astronomy. Our first attempt at cosmology. In some ways our first attempt at medicine. Our first attempt at literature. Our first attempt at philosophy. Good – while there was nothing else, it had many functional uses of that kind. Never mind that they didn’t know that germs caused disease. Maybe evil spirits caused disease? Maybe disease is a punishment? Never mind that they’ve believed in astrology rather than astronomy. (Even Thomas Aquinas believed in astrology.) Never mind that they believed in devils. Never mind that things like volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tidal waves were thought of as punishments, not as natural occurrences on the cooling crust of a planet.”

What Christopher was essentially talking about here is a concept that’s also been called the “God of the Gaps” approach. The “God of the Gaps” argument refers to a perception of the universe in which “God” is often used to explain anything we don’t understand. Essentially, “God” gets used to fill in any blanks in our current scientific knowledge. (Therefore, as science progresses, “God” recedes.)

During my personal deconstruction/deconversion journey, I became acutely aware of this concept, and it resonated with me deeply. It began to dawn on me how superstitious our culture still is, even in the year 2024! “Good” and “evil” are referenced constantly in our society. For instance, I’m a sucker for true crime shows and am amazed at the amount of human beings that are referred to as being “pure evil” on them. Now that I no longer believe in anything supernatural, referring to people in these superstitious terms sounds so silly to me!

I admit that it’s hard to understand the horrendous behavior of some people in our society. But as science progresses, we learn more and more about the human brain. Serious crimes are often committed by people with mental disorders. The cause of mental disorders is quite complex and often arises from a combination of things such as biology, genetics, and environmental influence. Recent studies have actually shown that the brains scans of psychopaths are different from the rest of ours!

The bottom line is, I view human beings so differently now that I’m no longer a Christian fundamentalist. I truly used to see people as either “good” or “evil”, depending on whether they had “Jesus in their heart” or chose to “give into temptation” and “allow Satan to get a foothold” and take over their mind. These days I simply view humans as evolved mammals who are just doing their best to get their needs met using the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired up to this point. In my opinion, we’re not born inherently “good” or inherently “bad”. We’re just out here doing our best to get through life the best way we know how.