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The Root of All Evil

Inner conflict leads to society conflict.

by James Leroy Wilson
March 12, 2008

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The Root of All Evil
The root of all evil is the mind divided against itself. Evil isn't part of nature, it is only an idea that informs our perceptions. Without the knowledge of good and evil, the body, mind, and spirit would be in harmony. We would be as innocent as animals. Indeed, we would be nothing but animals.

For instance, we may experience physical pain, but we wouldn't suffer, asking "why me?" or "Who's to blame?" Some may be be inclined to nurture children and care for the wounded, but they wouldn't be "compassionate." Some may share with others, but would neither be "giving" nor "sacrificing." Some may fight to the death to defend the pack, but they wouldn't be "courageous." And others may be lone wolves, but they wouldn't be "selfish." we would be programmed to survive, but we wouldn't conceptualize death so as to fear it. We would only be following our instincts.

Even if we hunted a species to extinction, or chopped down too many trees, we wouldn't be "harming the enivronment," because we would merely be part of it, not lords over it. We could remember things that didn't work out in the past and try something else, but we wouldn't feel stupid or guilty.

We may have foresight, but we wouldn't be "prudent." We may get sick from over-indulgence and therefore learn to control our behavior, but we wouldn't "practice moderation."

We could, in short, exhibit virtuous behavior without being virtuous, or behave viciously without being wicked.

This is because we would have no conscious will. We would have no basis for knowing we are at odds with nature - with the external environment, with each other, or and with our own bodies. Therefore, everything we do would be natural, and we could do no evil.

But because we do believe in the existence of evil, we go to war against the evil in ourselves and the evil we see in society. We believe that what is pleasurable for our bodies is sinful to God. We believe that behaving out of self-interest is damaging to society at large. Yet the longer we wage the battle against evil, the more we see undesirable results. Attempting to rid the world of evil only leads to more evil.

In our own bodies, attempts at self-control are not aided, but are rather thwarted, by feelings of shame and guilt. We believe that something we desire is evil because we were raised to believe it is wrong. We want to  maintain our honor and integrity, even though deep down we resent the fact that the object of our desire is sinful. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways - succumbing to temptation and never forgiving oneself, becoming obsessive about it, over-indulging in something less sinful to compensate, becoming neurotic. Yet if the object wasn't taboo to begin with, it may not have been attractive at all. The inner conflict - not the taboo behavior - is what sows unhappiness. It often expresses itself as a call to prohibition: because my religion and conscience won't allow me to have this, nobody else should be allowed, either. One projects his inner conflict onto society as a whole.

But not everyone agrees on what is evil. Or, they disagree with each other on what is the greater and lesser evil. Two people may agree that prostitution is immoral, but only one believes it should be illegal, while the other believes that infringing on people's liberties is even more immoral. Or, two people agree that greed and racism are evil. One believes this justifies regulating all aspects of a business, whereas the other believes that violating private property rights is even more evil.

The result of our disagreements is a hodge-podge of contradictory legislation. A casino may be allowed, but not poker at the kitchen table. Prostitution is a crime, but adultery and pornography are not, even though they break up more marriages. Alcohol is permitted, but marijuana - a much safer drug - is prohibited. The force of the law creates just another layer of inner conflict. Some believe they must obey even stupid and unfair laws, even though they know otherwise decent, peaceful people who sometimes use drugs or run illegal betting pools. Illegality can also be alluring; the danger associated with breaking the law can add to the thrill. And dealers in prohibited products and activities earn huge profits in the underground economy.

The just-resigned New York Governor Eliot Spitzer allegedly used the services of high-price prostitutes, even though when he was New York's Attorney General he himself prosecuted prostitution rings. While it is easy to point out the hypocrisy, it will be more productive to re-examine laws against prostitution in the first place. What damage did Spitzer cause, other than emotional distress in his own family? Why is it the business of the people of New York? When he was prosecuting prostitutes, why did Spitzer himself believe prosecution should be a crime?

In some ways, the guilt and shame associated with sex creates a market for prostitution. After all, if something is a temptation, there will always be tempters (or temptresses) who will see an opportunity to make a buck. And if it is also illegal, it will attract more violent and ruthless elements to take over the industry.

When the government concentrates police resources to go after prostitutes and other non-violent "criminals," it has fewer resources to target real criminals like burglars, rapists, and murderers. State prohibition is aggression, in that the State uses force and the threat of force to instill fear in the people, in the hope this will control their behavior. But the problems of temptation and self-control are bad enough for those obsessed with sin. Turning vices into crimes just adds another layer of conflict - both within the individual and throughout society - which is just another layer of evil.

Comments (7)

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Joe blow from USA writes:
March 12, 2008
If prostitution went unchecked it would run rampet through our streets and our culture. To "legalize" prostitution would be one more step in the downfall of our society that began with the legalization of omosexuality.

Kristen Lewis writes:
March 25, 2008
Mr. Wilson's article contains a very basic and essential flaw. He argues that good and evil exist only as mental constructs we impose upon ourselves and that society would be better without them. However, he cannot make this argument without assuming their actual existence. If there is no good, how can freedom be good? If happiness is not better than unhappiness, how can he urge abolishing all standards in order to secure greater happiness? His only way out is to claim that freedom and happiness are not in fact goods, but only his personal preferences, much as one might prefer the flavor of mustard over that of ketchup. There is no rational basis for such a choice, and therefore there are no grounds from which to argue.

reader from usa writes:
March 26, 2008
The point Mr Wilson made has been entirely missed by those who do not underatnd the workings of the human brain and the matter called the mind. The brain can be likened to a computor that has been programmed, the program is set in place by those who program it. In the case of humans, generally it's one's parents that program the child and why it has been said that "apples don't fall far from the tree." Brain begins to take on a program of rights and wrongs selected and dictated by the programming parent's idea of right and wrong which must be obeyed or we get spanked. Called conditioned response. On top of that program we have social order built in, laws of the land to obey which also involves punishment and more conditioned responses. Then, throw in religion where God will punish you if you disobey whatever the religious code be you were programed for and you heap on more conditioned responses. Toss in two sets of grandparent's and their differing programs, add a smidgen of children's playmates programming and spice it up with a heap of other asundry programming and you have a Mulligan Stew to sift out when you become an adult with a mind of your own. That is if you can get rid of all the brain-washing and find any real you worth keeping. Called garbage in, garbage out. Logically and realistically programing the brain is what creates separate realities and Holy Wars were fought and are still being fight. There has been more war fought in the name of religion than anything else. Religion is a program, an indoctrination process. Every religion is a cult, regardless whether that word is unappealing to some, that is what Websteer says. Religions have a foolish notion; their particular religion is right and the other religions are wrong! This can't be so. Why? It's all in the MIND. There can be no actual stationary right and wrong, right and wrong are always in flex, subject to change; by order, nothing stands still in our
orderly Universe, everything is moving and subject to the law of change! Minds change over time also. The idea of Right and Wrong is a LEARNED BEHAVIOR, merely based entirely on a programmed state of mind. In the field of physics, every Yin has a Yan; opposite pole, opposite attraction. In the unprogrammed mind, Right or Wrong does not exist. With that I rest my case. Right and Wrong only exists in the program. Mr. Wilson is an advanced thinker. Great article.

James Leroy Wilso from Independent Country writes:
March 26, 2008
I'm just saying that the more rules we pile on top of each other, the more miserable we become. Or, using Ms. Lewis's terms, the "standards" we think will secure greater happiness actually create greater unhappiness.This doesn't assume that "freedom" or "happiness" are "good." It's just to say that coercion and aggression can not produce either freedom or happiness.

I would have thought that unnecessary aggressive wars, inflationary deficit spending, and handing over control of the currency to a private banking cartel (the Federal Reserve) would lead to the downfall of society. Thanks to Joe Blow for setting me straight: it's all about sex.

henry from 98801 writes:
March 30, 2008
Mr Wilson has a sound base for his article. So as not to belabor the issue, I will give the short and long of it. Shame, fear and guilt are the greatest of motivators. They produce either submission or the reverse which is rebellion; one either succumbs and falls in line with the thinking imposed or resents the thinking imposed. Without the imposing of some sort of standards guilt and shame have no power. The boogie-man created by religion is called the Devil, the standards created by religion if broken are called sins, the punishment created by religion is called Hell and reward creating by religion for being good is called never dying, wearing a crown and being with God in a paradise named heaven. So, here we have all the ingredients rolled into one that are control elements and that produce shame, fear and guilt that either results in conflict, subordination or rebellion. ALL a result of a programmed mind. Indoctrination is a form of brain-washing whether implanted by religion or one's home life or both. Take away standards of so-called sin from religion and it produces a vacumn for without a Boogie-Man and punishment, fear, guilt and shame can not exist. Same with standards laid down at home. Reward and Punishment are motivators also. In religion, you get everlasting life and at home you get a cookie. Both are for "good" behavior. On the opposite spectrums you get restricted; either sent to hell or to your room.

The interesting factor is that few are willing to recognize the are a product of their envirement that unstilled them. Amazes me that Charles Heston's puppet master theory has hung around so long. I expect it is because some think they have no control over their own life and religion offers life after death in paradise. Humans for eons have thought the Volcanoes were Angry Gods. Seems being FEAR of extinction is a natural survival mechanism, I presume the primative uneducated would assume that anything so eruptive must be a Higher Power. I think Heaven offers the comfort of not ever dying. Frankly, I would rather meet the Devil anyday on my path than a Big Black Grizzle Bear. But, then I am a realist. I am not the kind to take a trip without a road map or a compass and noone
has ever been able locate Heaven or Hell. Could it be a figment of the imagination of someone wandering in the heat of the desert without water? Or ancient tools to control the ignorant masses into subjection? I think both! Conditioning doesn't stick when mind becomes logical.

Kristen Lewis writes:
March 31, 2008
I don't agree that all our knowledge of good and evil come from conditioning, but let's say for a moment I do. If I had been given a cookie for each math fact I learned as a child and told that I couldn't play outside if I didn't do my homework, would that render the multiplication table false?

reader from U. S. writes:
April 16, 2008
Re replying to: "rendering the muliplication table false."
A mutiplication table is a formula that you are taught and conditioned to believe in as so; an inanimate object. If that table were to be re-arranged in any fashion, becoming subject to change pending some unforeseen error in it's adoption as a true multiplication table, one would have to re-learn the change considered to be correct. A belief is created first by introduction into the mind. Beliefs do not always have to be correct. At one time in history, the world was thought to be flat not round. Airplanes were thought to not be capable of flying and thus the Wright Brothers were scoffed at. We humans take on a form of inner conditioning in the womb, out of the womb and long after afterwards; till death do us part.

The simple philosophy of conditioned response is a proven fact that can be seen with the naked eye. Those who have been conditioned to cling to the unseen and purported workings of the unseen prefer it over the seen. Once again, neither bad nor good but the truth is that they are bound by their conditioning. Once again, does not mean that the conditioning is true or false, just means it is believed. It could be true to some, false to others. Conditioning over time creates a bed-rock and those so conditioned consider anything other than what their ideas or their faith dicates to be false. What is where FALSE comes in!

As for a muliplication table being false cause you got a cookie for doing homework and could play outside is -- frivilous. If you hate cookies as much as math, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If you love cookies and hate math, much is ventured, much is gained. In fact, could could start drooling when you see a math problem. :-) Called conditioned response.

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