Sometimes a lot of wrongs can be stored in a single slogan. Look at the following example.
“He must be crazy or evil to set out to murder innocent people.”
Let’s look at assumptions that would disagree with this sentence.
There is no Perfect Morality
What could this mean, and may one convince fundamentalist of this?
– It means that there are mistakes in every set of moral laws.
Two arguments for fundamentalists (if one doesn’t convince the fundamentalist, at least some of the bystanders will appreciate your position):
– No one knows G-d’s will; at best we only may have a human interpretation of G-d’s will.
– Creation is not perfect, but the work of a perfect G-d. G-d wanted to give humans a chance to play a role in cooperation with their Creator to perfect and complete the World. So the Universe had to be presented unfinished and imperfect.
Now, if G-d’s work is not perfect yet (it is perfect for it’s purpose, that we can help perfecting it – a work in progress), could we claim that our understanding of what we should do with our lives could be perfect? Are we doing better than G-d?
One cannot prove the inferiority of any method of belief by pointing out imperfections as there are no perfect systems. Even science can go / has gone wrong (scientific racism, the unwise professor).
There is no Evil Morality
What could this mean?
– Every system of ethics values truth over falsehood, honesty over theft, love over indifference, generosity over selfishness, protecting the weak over abusing and exploiting them, etc.
The only apparent exceptions come about when two moral principle clash. What seems to be murder over recue, can actually be understood as cleansing evil over not cleaning up.
An example: Anti-Semites teach that Jews should be killed, not because killing is holy but because Jews are supposedly unholy. Embracing the idea not to murder might be helpful to stop this but must be accompanied by the notion that there are no wicked or inferior people who don’t deserve what everyone deserves.
There are no Evil People
Contrary to Classical Christianity and Islam, people are inclined both to evil and goodness, and may create a good life and moral record by choosing good. People who choose bad consistently ruin their life, name and the world around them but they must be inherently benign – or they should feel free to hurt others and stay fundamentally innocent.
There are no Crazy People
There are only impatient listeners. I learned this when I was a young adult. I got to know a person twice my age who seemed to completely have ‘lost it.’ He would talk a constant stream of nonsense and he never made any sense.
One day I decided to give him a chance. He always seemed so eager to have someone listen to him. I sat down with hem and said: What do you want to tell me? He started his usual steam of words and I just listened. I didn’t comment and I didn’t ask anything. After 75 minutes I got it.
He was very tense and wanted to tell me seven different stories at the same time. He had been trying to do so for decades with no success. So he said one sentence of story A, followed by one of story B, etc. He wasn’t confused – everyone else felt confused listening to him.
He was born under the most cruel circumstances, in a Japanese concentration camp in the Dutch Indies. He grew up as orphan. He never received any counseling. He visited a psychiatrist once a month who would give him ‘medication.’ No one ever listened to him, his whole life, but he had never given up hope to one day be able to find a listener. He did not complain, but he needed a listening ear. It was impossible not to like him and respect him once one listened to him enough.
It was there and then that I concluded: If he’s not crazy, no one is. Crazy is just a term used by people who do not have the empathy or do not spend the time to listen to someone until they would understand him. Don’t call people you don’t understand insane. Rather, say: I never took the interest or time to connect to him and get him.
There is no Desperation that Causes Evil, no Hope that Prevents it
Classical Marxism theorizes that when the situation of the powerless gets desperate enough, they will rise up. Hardened capitalists even believe this, as you may hear them proclaim that giving people hope (or a morsel) will keep them calm. Wicked acts would then be the outcome of despair. Well, they are not. There were perfectly successful people who went on a killing spree.
Acting wickedly is rather a failure to invest enough energy to choose goodness.
So please, never again say (or buy into) the idea that wickedness comes from faulty morality, evil morality, or bad or desperate people. Rather, it is the result of not using Free Will, not choosing life.