Good Versus Evil; Society's Struggle

The understanding of basic reality is never something we achieve; it is only something that can be approached. The closer we approach it, the more we realize we do not understand it. But it is far better to have one glimmer of understanding than to flounder around in total darkness. M. Scott Peck (author and Psychiatrist)

The above quote is quite profound; read it a couple of times and it makes sense for almost everything we pursue as humans. Why learn anything? Why seek understanding? There is something innate that drives us forward, and also drives us to try and understand questions that have stumped great thinkers of centuries past.

When we begin to label things we don't understand as 'evil', we lose that constructive drive to study it, understand it, and possibly resolve it.

The problem with evil

I've always been a people watcher and I can guarantee I've made more than a few people who pass by me, uncomfortable. Yes, I'm curious, I look, I conduct my own observational studies, and I soak it all in. I'm just so fascinated by people that it overrides my concern about what others think of me when I stop, listen, and look at the world around me. Through all my formal and especially informal training in psychology, I've come across one question without an answer: What is evil? Much of what our society deems evil is actually mislabeled; mental illness, homosexuality, abuse, power hungry (Hitler), and heinous crimes.

The health, science, and psychology models only recognize health versus disease. Is disease evil? Because someone has cancer or diabetes, does not mean they are evil nor are their symptoms and we'd never consider it in that light. Yet someone who has schizophrenia may kill or talk with the voices in their head because of their psychosis, which is merely a symptom of their disease. Are they evil? I would have to say no!

There is inherent danger in labeling the mentally ill as evil because mental illness is far more treatable when diagnosed and acknowledged as such. I'm not talking about medicating someone every time they sneeze or have a bad week. What is the treatment plan for evil? You can't do it, impossible. If you went to the doctors and were diagnosed with 'something bad' (and that's all the doctor labeled it), that wouldn't give you a clue as to how to treat it. You can't treat bad or evil. Give mental illness a proper name, such as schizophrenia or bi-polar, and as much public awareness as obesity, then we can begin to treat it.

After the Tucson, Arizona shooting, Obama and others markedly referred to Jared Loughner (the shooter) as 'evil'. The man was mentally ill. Tragedies and massacres committed by human beings have long been labeled evil. Remember the other physical diseases I mentioned earlier; diabetes and cancer? If illness in the body is not considered evil, then why would illness of the mind be?

The label completely forfeits responsibility for the mental illness crisis in the U.S. From the religious point of view, evil exists- it states as much in the bible. But again, acts and sins considered evil, are often neurotic symptoms and simply praying for it or exploting the shock and awe of it, assists with continuing to ignore the real problem that plagues society.

Was Jared Loughner (Arizona shooter), and others like him, evil or mentally ill?

See results without voting

Evil is lurking

1 in 6 people have a severe mental illness- severe is defined as someone mentally deteriorated enough to commit truly 'evil' and astonishing acts like Jared Loughner. 40% of prison inmates have a mental illness. At least 25% that we know of homeless folks have a mental illness. You could state with confidence our society is plagued by evil OR we could acknowledge a real and tangible problem such as mental illness.

Presidential candidates, for years, have stated their concern for the mental health issues, but none do anything about it once they are elected. Mental illness is a major inconvenience, but imagine the living hell these people experience, then we dismiss their cries for help and sensationalize the tragic outcomes. Just about every social or poltical agenda near and dear to people's hearts, from crime and repeat offenders (overcrowded prisons) to animal cruelty to homelessness is all linked to the evil lurking among us, or more realistically, untreated mental illness.

The problem with good

The problem with good is it's as good as gone. Turn on the news; homicide, burglary, rape, and scandals. Picking up a common theme yet? Bad, bad, and worse. I've been in enough atheist versus religious discussions to pick up another common theme and that is 'why is there so much evil' or 'if God existed, why the evil'? What we fail to ask ourselves, 'how can so much good come from a society plagued by evil'? When an innocent child is severely abused as a child but later has their own children, treats them as good as they wish they'd been treated, and stops the legacy of abuse, this is a miracle- it's good prevailing and it goes unnoticed.

The reality is life itself, and most people, reside somewhere in the middle between good and evil. That means many of are one butcher knife away from psycho. Ok, not that drastic, but many psychologists note the bad become worse over time and the good become better further along their lives' path. When everyone noticed Jared Loughner, or any of these other people who've committed heinous crimes, doing and saying bad things, this usually will not improve itself and only gets worse. Don't let politicians or anyone simply label real and tangible psychosis as evil. There is treatment and no excuses.

Religiously speaking, the pure desire to practice free will that God grants us, tempts many to exercise that right and do bad. For example a child without parental supervision, experiences a sudden surge of freedom and will likely get in trouble. This is bad in its original form and we can see when things go horribly wrong in one's childhood, there is a chance for this pattern to continue. Many beliefs and religions will state bad (or evil) is necessary to take recognize good.

The struggle between good and evil

In general, the public is misinformed about many psychological diseases and terms. We even use them jokingly and that's fine, but it does encourage the misuse of science and to be able to discern between who is mentally ill or just a little troubled. Some judgment is necessary and if it is judgement for helping and healing rather than casting stones or satisfying the selfish ego, then we must employ it to assist with overcoming many of society's struggles.The world as we know it, and its entire inhabitants may forever me engaged in the struggle between good and evil. But let's call evil what it is, and not label issues in society that have treatable options.

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Comments 44 comments

tammybarnette profile image

tammybarnette 5 years ago

izzeti, very powerful and useful information. My mother worked for the Dawn Of Hope when I was a teen and those poor people were so pitiful and lost. Their basic needs were met but their lives were not rich or full by any means. It's such a hard line to draw. Way to many people are labeled as something or another these days and way to many people are medicated. But, then there are those who don't receive the help they need, slip through the cracks of a society that can't understand them, and become a danger to themselves and others. Very thought provoking.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Thanks so much Tammy. I used to be a waitress by a mental health clinic and on some days the patients were "let out" and they'd stop by in the restaurant- this was before I went to school for my psych degree. it was surprising to me that all they wanted was to be treated like human beings and not 'evil' or misunderstood. If I talked to them, not condenscendingly, but a little like I would a child, they did just fine. I had such a relationship going with some of them that when they came in with bad or strange behavior, I was able to ask them if they took their meds that day and if they didn't I reminded them to and come back in when they did. These were my first experiences with mental illness- it is all around us. Like you said we medicate the small things and overlook the ones that really need help. THanks so much for your comment.

TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.


I have a good book you should read. It's called "God AT War." It's a good read but doesn't have a whole lot to do with this.

Here's my spin. Good and evil are words. They are defined by man based on his culture. As his culture changes, so does his definition. I'm speaking in general of course. There are certain inherent evils like stealing, and there have been certain cultures who thought even this was a mark of being cool. In the west, we call burying women up to their elboes and bouncing stones off their melon until they die .. evil. In the east, they call it bowling. It's a screwy world sis, and The Man With No Pants has more questions than answers.

When it comes to something awful being a result of a disorder, or just plain evil, the water is very muddy. A case can be made that no one would commit an evil act if their wires were hooked up right. This is wrong though. There ARE cases where someone is so sick that the evil deed they did was not out of choice; Like the lady who heard voices from Jesus or satan or somebody telling her to drown her small children, then seat belting them in and running the car off a pier. Her sickness was just as real as any cancer, but most people make a choice. Many times the right choice is the one that brings the most difficulty, and people make the evil choice out of greed or fear.

Dead babies are dead babies, whether it be at the hands of the first woman I described, or the lady in Florida who chose partying over the well being of her daughter. These people have to be removed from society, whether it be being put behind bars or put to death. For someone as sick as the first woman, death would seem to be the humane thing to give her as the party in her head must be an unimaginably bad one.

Good hub Sis. Nice and deep with no real answers only educated opinions, and your opinions are usually more solid than most people's facts.


Jeanine 5 years ago

Very nice read...and yes most of us are mentally disturbed in one way or another... religious fanatics... hard right hard left beliefs about politics, people who think they know what others are thinking... trans genders thinking they are the opposite sex... I actually think those who say we are mental have a disorder themselves... fear of the mentally ill... or call it what you may...but there is evil and its alive and well in the world today...most of the evil perpetrated upon the world has been running in tandem with religious beliefs... so if one does not belief in evil itself... one must take an honest look at how the belief system of logic and basic humanity is by passed by dogma... the brain being convinced that the mind has another agenda to dwell upon... years and years of subtle suggestion leads one to a new belief system...moderation is the key... but who practices that... Preachers who deny themselves for years become sex addicts... or worst pedifiles... woman who deny normal sexual relations with men often entertain Lesbian affairs as normalcy.... men are the same... Transsexual men are convinced with out any doubt that they are woman... mostly from a suppressed desire for freedom of expression... the dogma of our parents often invades our young lives before we even know it... so not only are we caring around our own challenges, but often caring someone elses also...I would say evil is anything that we do to hurt others knowingly... 911 was evil... but so is our Gov't if we kill innocent civilians... rednecks can be evil for their hatred... of gays... but gays can be just as evil in their non acceptance of a different type of gay group... such as transsexuals... Transsexuals can be evil in that if you have a different idea of what the life style is... I'm sure it's why our creator send the word... so hose who don't believe can be evil in hating Christians... but Christians can be evil in that they can be condescending of those who don't follow their way... Muslims the same and every religion under the sun...I think evil surfaced about the time man began judging one another... o what was good and what was bad... myself I believe there is a finite evil... Satan... darkness what ever you call you... there seems to be powers here on earth... some good some bad... but some would consider me evil for saying so...

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Jim~ Yes, an evil deed is a choice to some extent, but like I was saying in the hub, the suffering they experience within themselves is also torture to them and to relieve it ever so slightly, they feel that listening to the voices or comitting these heinous crimes relieves it temporarily. Many of us go to great leangths to relieve ourselves of pain. Basic human nature: avoid pain ,seek pleasure. Some mental people take pleasure upon killing people or torturing animals. To avoid pain, people will do almost anything. So how much choice do they really have?

When you say mentally ill people should be removed from society, I have something in mind we all could do. That is work on getting the worst of the worst treated and lay off on handing out drugs and treating the barely blue or sometimes sad people. We are so quick to fix the barely sick and so slow to treat the really ill.

This topic also falls into your court politically. Every candidate has strong promises and concerns for the mentally ill, but when they get elected, nothing is done term after term no matter Dem or Repub.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Jeanine~ What I think of after reading your comment is what I was getting at in the hub- you just hit it home for me. It seems that everything we don't want to deal with as a society and government, we label evil. Many measures could be taken so that we don't end up killing innocent people, etc. Islam is rewarded for killing people/infidels so our views of evil are skewed.

I do agree with you about all the grups of people, such as Christians who can be evil.

i think if there is God, then there must be evil. The bible even says as much. However, I think society has abused the word and labeled far too much with it to enable dealing with things. Thanks for stopping by.

TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.


With me there's always a war between how I feel about things, and how I think I should feel. I feel that anything, or anyone with terminal extreme suffering should be put down. You and I are only children. When my mother who I loved so much was dying, I watched her suffer. I said many times that if there were an off and on switch hooked up to her, I wouldn't hesitate one second in turning off the switch. So I guess you know where I'm going with this. If a disease of any kind is treatable and the prognosis is good, let's get it done, mental or physical. If it's not, do the humane thing. My stand is a political bowl of poison, and I'm not even sure if I'm spiritually correct. So goes the war.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Jim~ I see where you've coming from, but you and I also both believe in miracles and since having this chronic illness that I have, I've read many books on the topic and spontaneous healing is something we don't understand but happens, and often too.

I'm the type that never gives up hope and will hang in there way past the expiration date. We, medical community, etc may not be able to help someone, but that isn't the last resort. i've seen some amazing things, both godo and bad, and I never pretend I can predict a prognosis.

i like this side of you and discussing this stuff sometimes; philosophy and religion, etc. You're much deeper than just politics- let that be a warning to all who don't know you already- lol.

TheManWithNoPants profile image

TheManWithNoPants 5 years ago from Tucson, Az.


The point you just made is an example of that war I was talking about. I've witnessed miracles .. one out right, and there's that side of me that's like you. It's screaming at the other, saying "Bad Jim!"

Suffering realy, really bothers me. I don't mean a broken leg suffering. I mean suffering. Like seeing someone get their heart broken. It kills me, so maybe that hard side of me is there because I'm too wimpy to hang in there. I dunno.


carolapple profile image

carolapple 5 years ago from Suffolk Virginia

Izetti - Your hub got me thinking, which means it is a gret hub. When I look around the mess this world is in, if I am sure of one thing, it is that evil does exist. All of us have the capacity for good and the capacity for evil, and our choices build a character that either makes us more likely to choice well or more likely to choose badly.

One way to think of evil is as a systematic force. For example, few deny the Holocaust was a great evil, as was the 911 terrorist attack. The victims of these attacks suffered evil against them. Events like these are the result of a long series of choices made by many individuals; some of these individuals made conscious choices to participate in an evil system, perhaps sincerely believing it was the right thing to do. Others were simply swept in it, their minds trained from an early age. The fact that individuals are not fully aware of what they are choosing or are mentally ill, does not mean murder and cruelty are not evil. When we make choices based on love and concern for the welfare of others rather than on fear or concern for our own satisfaction, we are more likely to avoid acting in ways that result in evil.

FIS profile image

FIS 5 years ago

If you look at ancient languages and writings, so much of what becomes labeled "evil" starts out as being things that are considered "bad" or "evil" towards an individual so, if someone steals from you, an "evil" has occurred to you, if an earthquake destroys your home and family an "evil" has occurred to you.

These days the earthquake is no longer considered to have the moral force of evil formerly associated with it (except in the minds of a fanatical few). Scientists can point to the causes of an earthquake although they can't really answer "why me?". If we thought about it we could come up with a lot of answers as to why someone stole from us too... and.. many of them are forgivable. The whole idea of evil seems to stem from how we are personally hurt.

Even the Ancient Greek word for sin used throughout the New Testament could just as accurately be translated as "error"... which in my mind makes sins... not willful acts of evil.. but... mistakes that people make. Plato and Shakespeare both seem to suggest that nobody really thinks of themselves as being purposefully evil. Everyone thinks that they have "good" reasons to do what they do.

Part of what made Christianity unique at it's founding was it's emphasis on forgiveness. Justice is said to have been achieved at the crucifixion by Christ. Our task is forgiveness and compassion.

It seems to me the the constant condemnation of evil that we hear all the time is nothing more than people looking for simple answers to complex questions. It is laziness. We work so hard to survive and to satisfy desire (desire being more thoroughly treated by Buddhism) that we are no longer (or perhaps) never were willing to do the hard work of understanding the complexities of life and thereby become able to forgive and have compassion. We also have a problem with not getting a real education about this sort of thing anymore. Plato, Shakespeare and the ancient languages mentioned above as well as the philosophers mentioned below are being forgotten.

As to mental Illness. Well... the philosophers (most especially the ones that influenced the founding fathers of the U.S. during what was called "the enlightenment") talk about something called "the social contract". Simplified "the social contract" goes something like this: You don't steal from me or kill me and I don't steal from you or kill you and we hire this guy here with a gun to make sure that we honer the agreement and if we don't honer the agreement, he removes us from society in some manner... prison, exile, execution. Being compassionate has meant that usually the social contract has clauses that try to protect us from the mentally ill while working towards helping them rather than punishing them. In practice, that hasn't worked out well because, again, of our search for simple answers to complex problems or even a desire for vengeance.

I think there can be no doubt that if someone's mental illness makes him/her incompetent to live within the framework of the social contract, then society needs to protect itself from that individual... but... it should be possible to do so with compassion and understanding. I think the two biggest problems to achieving this are the fact that human beings are vengeful... and.. greedy.. how much money would it take to actually take care of the mentally ill and who is willing to pay more taxes to do it.

Castlepaloma profile image

Castlepaloma 5 years ago from Saskatchewan, Canada

Most Interesting view, izettl

Being not against anything person, is one form of handling the problem of misunderstanding the word evil, which in turn can be considered a mental illness. Sure, I am not for killing, dishonesty, or any kind of harm, as far as everything else is concerned, I always ask, why not?

Our local Government in Vancouver BC claims 75% of our Homeless people are mentally ill, and then they claim they have the way to end homelessness. Man, if they can totally cure homelessness, maybe they can cure 1/3 of the homeless problem in the world. Seems like people will say anything to get elected, and play on our big bag of nerves in our bodies and our nerves system of our society.

Whenever an over ego groups claims the title of being the be all to GOD. The greater the elution and evasion it becomes. Being an artist, I found self reliance, and love of servicing our fellow mankind, works. I hope it will make me a better family member on earth anyways.

The mentally ill bible has tripled since I was a child. Perhaps the words like evil or mentally ill are over abuse in our over ego selves and over ego world. So, I agree with you izettl, a healthy middle grounds is another form of solution within ourselves and the world that surround us.

Like to read more of your hubs, enjoy.

A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

Fascinating hub. Phillip Zimbardo, the psychologist who conducted the famous prison guard study wrote a book abou the subject. It was called "The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil." A good read.

The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

Very well done izetti. I try to fill my life and those around me with as much goodness as possible. I can't say that goodness is a lost art. One must endeavor to be a person of honor. Goodness is being honorable IMHO.

I have experienced pure evil and met people I immediately

knew not to trust as they emanated evil in their character. Sometimes you know what you know when you know it so to speak.

Very well done and insightful writing.

The Frog

independentwriter profile image

independentwriter 5 years ago from the Snowy Northeast

Very interesting hub. You nailed another one home. Homelessness isn't a disease, so the fact that Canada thinks they can cure homelessness is fascinating. The United States has been battling the war on poverty since the sixties. I am pretty positive that we are no closer to winning that war any time soon.

People I don't believe are either good or evil. I believe that it became our nature when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. That particular error as some would call it was life changing for everyone after Adam. For example, a child doesn't need to be trained on how to lie to mom and dad. They already know. If they know how to lie, it had to come from somewhere.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

I had comments written out and just accidentally deleted them- UGH!

Jim~ yes, I understand your struggle, but that's not yours to deal with really- it's God's. You're such a big goy (in personality- maybe physically too)that you feel you must take that on too. When I learned about Buddhism, there is a way to be compassionate but not take on the world's sufferings as well. God granted us free will and if there were no free will, there would be no evil so it is what it is, but not our burden to carry. If you believe in God, this suffering is only temporary.

carolapple~ you got me thinking too. Perhaps we can look at it as the individuals themselves are not evil, but rather their acts. I'm comfortable with that explanation. Also what you are saying is evil comes from a selfish place in human beings. That makes sense. Thank for stopping by.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

FIS~ can i just say, I love your comment. You really have an intelligent, compassionate, yet realistic view of all this. You hit home when you commented about laziness and unwillingness to do the hard work and understand the complexities of life- so true.

Clearly with crowded prisons and streets, the mentally ill are being ignored, untreated, and forgotten- also not dealt with by those in congress either. Swept under the rug would be the best term. I like the idea of the social contract and I vaguely remember that from Political Science class. Great stuff and thanks for adding to the discussion.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Castlepaloma~ The word "evil" has been overused partly due to religions. It's such a general term and that's where we get into trouble as a society- being quick to label anything we don't understand or don't want to deal with. Evil mystifies what is not mystical.

I can't believe that statistic about the mentally ill and homeless in Canada. U.S stats aren't that high, but I would guess they are underestimated.

A.A Zavala~ I remember hearing about that book- I've got to read it. It's really freaky to think people are always on the verge of doing bad things and how it's ingrained in our human nature. Thanks for stopping by.

donna suthard 5 years ago

I agree with you totally.. all who wish to kill, are temporarily insane and that includes even the leaders of countries who justify killing..What is not love is fear and fear is a call for understanding. We cannot change the world, but only our thoughts about the world...loving and understanding that are our so called enemies are really calling out for help, falls on deaf ears..only love and compassion works. Thank you for a great hub!! Namaste

Castlepaloma profile image

Castlepaloma 5 years ago from Saskatchewan, Canada


I found it very hard to believe myself, I read it and question it over and over about the statistic for the mentally illness homeless in Vancouver BC, at the rate of 75%. I am not sure what it is for the rest of Canada.

Do consider that Vancouver BC is listed as the third worst affordable housing in the world and the drug addictions are the worst I have ever seen, anywhere in the world. The vast majority of first time home buyer cannot afford a house and about 50% of us are single head of household. I propose a solution for the Vancouver homeless problem by making tiny Houses made out of mostly paper/15% Concrete. Where paper takes up half of our landfill mass. Canada is the most wasteful per capita country in the world.

My plan was a rent to own and have their homes paid for within 10 years. The Council laughed, So much for the ad Best Place on Earth, Nazsi like BS; the greenies love it anyways, it's being sold to them.

In the USA you have tent cities by every major city. In Canada homeless people live in one of the most coldest/wettest country in the World and it’s against the law to have a piece of plastic over your body. That kind of damage to the body would drive me to mental illness too.

I wrote a hub called Save Satan, as if Satan is concept of realization in life abuses. When people abuse things, they change it soon enough. Of course much of politics will try to protect every conceivable evil known to mankind.

What is evil?, maybe it’s the absence of reason, for everything has a reason after you realizes spiritual world and universe is 99% unknown to each and every one of us.

Good thing the people are the true leaders of mankind throughout history with good intentions.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Frog Prince~ thanks for stopping by.I like to think I also surround myself with good and I believe if someone is good it is easier for them to recognize good people around them. But I'd be lying if I said I haven't been fooled a few times.

Independ writer~ great points...about children lying and the "war" on homelessness. It still amazes me how so many issues troubling our society stem from mental illness and yet every president disregards it. How discouraging, and especially for Canada too.

caslepaloma~ wow, interesting info on Canada's homeless- I did not know they don't have ways to protect themselves from the weather. It sounds like Canada is trying to make it hard on people to be homeless but even harder on them to not be helped out of being homeless. It impacts prisons, crime, drug abuse, etc.

Mandrake_1975 profile image

Mandrake_1975 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

I see no good or evil in a person, I only see good or evil in their actions. I also think societies as a whole can perform good and evil acts.

The judging of others is how the terms good and evil become labels to describe nouns rather than verbs.

Castlepaloma profile image

Castlepaloma 5 years ago from Saskatchewan, Canada


The US has 4% of the World's population and 25% of the world’s prison.

Between freezing homeless in the great white North or prison father rappers, I don't which hell on earth would be worst.

I build snow and ice playgrounds in the winter in tempertures as low as 65 below zero. I hope I never get caught with others smoking pot at a party and find out what's worst.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

donna suthard~ I agree with you about temporary insanity and killings- crimes of passion also fit into this. I don't agree however, on love and compassion being the answer because that helps us to smooth over the insecure feelings within us about the world, but does not solve anything. I am also compassionate person, but over the years have become action oriented because things need to get done, solved, etc. Thank you so much for adding to the conversation.

CastleP~ I hear a news story on overcrowded prisons about once a year and other than that, you never hear anything from congress or the president addressing it.Snow and icce playgrounds sound cool (get it, lol). Anyway, I've seen TV shows about that and it's absolutely gorgeous.

I hope you don't get caught- yikes!

FIS profile image

FIS 5 years ago

There is an old mystical axiom that says that too much mercy and compassion allows evil to flourish, too much punishment and you have a tyranny. I guess that's why the statue of Justice has a balance in her hand. I think that balance is a really hard thing to achieve. This is the job of the courts, wherein every individual is supposed to get a hearing. You can pass a law that says "thou shalt not kill" and treat everyone who kills the same without considering circumstances, but we can all imagine circumstances in which killing may be justified, or, as a result of factors beyond someone's control. I assume that no one believes that a cold blooded killer and someone who kills in self defense deserve the same punishment and this is why there are laws about both. The Judge and Jury are there to discover those circumstances. Ideally this is the perfect solution. Justice for individuals rather than masses. The fact that it doesn't work out so well in real life is a very complex thing and given the flaws in human beings, I suspect will always need to be revised.

shogan profile image

shogan 5 years ago from New England

Cool hub, izettl. I used to teach a unit that covered some of the issues surrounding how we label others as evil. Part of what the students seem to conclude is that we often label others as "evil" rather than "mentally handicapped" because deeming someone as evil puts a safe distance between the offender and the rest of us. We are human, while he/she is evil and not part of us. Especially with some particularly horrendous acts, we don't like the idea that the accused could even be associated with humanity, because that raises a lot of questions about our own potential. Using evil as a label for others is a good way to ensure that we stay safe in our own minds.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

FIS~ good points about the balance of compassion and punishment. The justice system isn't balanced either because it depends on people who have preference to either compassion or punishment. Although I do agree with laws and a system distinguishing between cold blooded killers, self defense and everything in between. For as much range and types of criminals, it almost balances itself out with a variety of people to 'judge' as jurors. Only humans can relate to complexities in life. Kind of ironic.

shogan~ I competely agree about the distance and by referring to them as something 'evil' and mystified, it makes people feel better that it couldn't happen to them. But you already said all that and it makes perfect sense. In a way, we are afraid to face our own demons. Thanks for the comment.

Brinafr3sh profile image

Brinafr3sh 5 years ago from West Coast, United States

Thanks Izetti, neat hub. The people with mental and evil behavior, could be struggling in there spirit. Reading their Holy Bible would definetely help. Voted up and useful.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Brinafr3sh~ THanks for the comment. There are a lot of mentally ill folks that misinterpret religion and the Bible. It sometimes gives religion a bad name.

thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

Good and evil are just words created by man and what is labelled as evil has changed over time. And as you say; we label things we don’t understand as evil! It is a way to categorize our surroundings and make it understandable. It is a way to feel secure, to have control. Once we have put a label “evil” on something frightening we can move on with a feeling that we do understand! We even put the label “evil” on animals that only acts from pure instinct. I hear people say that animals who act on instinct to survive, to protect themselves, to eat, to play, to hunt and to fight are evil. But there is nothing evil in an animal because they do not know what it is! It is just human’s way to label actions that we don’t like or don’t find acceptable. One of the things that differs humans from animals is that we don’t act only from instinct and that we have a conscious mind and the ability to plan ahead and to think in a constructive way. But in a way we do the same thing as animals; we protect ourselves and our family and we fight to stay alive if we have to. That sort of actions is not seen as evil because we can understand those actions. A human that do evil things seemingly without any reason are hurt in some way, and they can be mentally ill. The human mind is so complicated that I sometimes wonder how there can be so many healthy human beings! Imagine how much that has to click and be right during a human life! From the development of the fetus to the upbringing and the way we live. We need to be treated in a good way to know the right way to behave and we need love to know how to love ourselves and others and so on. As always a very interesting hub from you! I love the way you present facts about issues that matter with balance and insight!


FIS profile image

FIS 5 years ago

Very good ideas Tina, I like them a lot and think about much of what you say above a lot. I have a little code that I use with myself. I sometimes refer to things that I do that aren't quite "good" as "errors of the monkey". Not because I want to put down monkeys but, because the word "sin" can be synonymous with error and I use it when I need to examine whether or not I'm just acting on instinct... like an animal.. or.. have I actually thought through what I'm doing aka using my human capacity to decide what to do. Have you read or heard any lectures by Jane Goodall? If not I recommend her, I think you'd really find her worthwhile.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

thougtforce/Tina~ I think the label bugs me the most. We label because we don't understand and yet we could do more to understand and help if it weren't for the improper label. It gives it an "us" and "them". "Them" being "evil" makes it supernatural with no known cause or cure, but there is. Thanks for stopping by- nice to see you.

FIS~ I like your referral to errors of the monkey- very appropriate.

W. B. Isley profile image

W. B. Isley 5 years ago from Monett, MO

Howdy friend, I've been out of the loop for awhile. I saw the response to your Obama hub and temporarily threw my hands up at trying to read all those responses before I made a response. I'm short circuiting that response now.

Question: Is it possible that some of those labeled as mentally ill are not actually ill, just weak mentally and capable of picking up messages from the mass consciousness and acting on them? Say what you like about the mass consciousness, I believe that it does exist and has a basic level of awereness. I believe that it is capable of communicating with us. It does this through the aforementioned highly suggestable individules. Yes, I am saying that there is an undercurrent in the american psyche that says, 'I'm not going to hurt you physically, that is against the law. Man, I sure would if I could.' Then, after enough people think this way, the message fillters into the mass consciousness. These highly suggestable folks then become the pawn of this thought force and are forced into action because of it.

You make the statement, "Many beliefs and religions will state that bad (or evil) is necessary to recognize the good." I no longer believe this to be the case. God is love (unconditional love.) We are all connected and connected to this God. In the grand scheme of things there is only love. It takes a human or many of them to believe that there must be bad to balance out that good. This is lunacy. Why must we believe that there must be bad when in fact, there is only love. The love of the creator is all that truly exists. The rest is only temporary illusion cloaked the belief that it has always been around.

Nice hub. Great to get people thinking. I'll read the comments as I have time.

PK2010 profile image

PK2010 5 years ago from United Kingdom

Hi izzetl, I too have been missing in action. Another intellectually challenging hub from you.

Good and Evil are discerned differently across the different boundaries of society. We decide through our varying religious and social backgrounds what is good and evil in our eyes. We are all guilty of casting the first stone even though none of us are perfect in the eyes of God. Our fears and inability to control and probably failure to understand things such as diseases that plague the mind make it easier to label people affected thus as evil. This is probably because of unusual behavioural patterns that are depicted as a result and unacceptable actions that can ensue. Diseases that cripple the physical body may not readily be deemed evil because it eats away at the flesh which does not control the thought process of a person. It is easier to treat diseases that cripple the body than those which eat away at the mental faculty rendering it incapable of rationalisation and differentiating between what is and is not real. However out of evil can come good and vice versa. We just need to approach these two not from a perspective that will sweep reality under the carpet, but from the point of view that human nature is capable of both, and that diseases of the mind do not make people evil but victims of social circumstances. I always say every individual is capable of both good and evil, this is however guided by the strength of the individual's mental capacity to deal with the challenges and circumstances they are faced with. As W.B Isley commented and my husband surprisingly always goes on about - its all about love. Its also about our acceptance of the short comings of others and recognising that the weaknesses we see in others is nothing but a reflection of the imperfections that we fail to see in ourselves. Totally enjoyed reading your hub.

Larry Fields profile image

Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

Hi izettl,

If I've understood correctly, your main points are that we are too quick to label others as being evil; and that the dark part of the human psyche, which we call evil, would be more accurately described as a lack of light.

I agree with the first point. Under the criminal justice system in the US, schizophrenics who inadvertently commit crimes while hallucinating, are incarcerated with real criminals, and because they can't even function behind bars, they are beaten and tazed by their jailers. To that extent, 21st Century prisons have replaced the 'snake pits'--aka insane asylums--of the 1930s. In this case, the treatment model for mentally ill offenders would make more sense than the punishment model.

However I'm not so sure about your second point. Most people are born with a rudimentary sense of right, wrong, and fairness. And this moral sense can be either nurtured or blunted by one's upbringing. On the other hand, sociopaths have zero moral sense to build upon. The defining characteristics of a sociopath are a total lack of conscience, and total inability to empathize with the suffering of others.

Robert Hare, at the University of British Columbia, has studied sociopaths in prison settings extensively, and has written accessible books on the subject. Depending on the definitions used, sociopaths comprise anywhere from 1% of the population (Hare's estimate) to around 5%.

In the future, we may discover a mechanism for sociopathy--defective Mirror Neurons, for example. And if we do stumble across a treatment in the future, I hope that it's more humane than the Clockwork Orange modality.

At the moment, there's no known effective treatment for sociopathy. (If I'm mistaken about this one specific point, please steer me towards a peer-reviewed study in the scientific literature.) Once in prison, sociopaths will attempt to manipulate their jailers, in order to get favorable treatment. They may even appear to 'get religion'. But it's all play-acting. Sociopaths are not capable of internalizing moral values. And they can change their 'core beliefs' as casually as ordinary people change their clothes.

After sociopaths commit horrific crimes, the best that we can do is to warehouse them for as long as the law allows.

Yes, non-sociopaths can also commit violent crimes. Example: You catch your spouse in flagrante, and shoot him, in a crime of passion. In this case, cooling your heels behind bars for a few years should be sufficient to prevent you from making a similar mistake in the future. However this would not deter a true sociopath.

If you are the parent of a sociopath, the only ersatz moral value that you can reasonably hope to instill in your child is the concept of enlightened self-interest. The idea that actions have consequences is difficult for sociopaths to fathom.

Given our present state of knowledge, sociopaths are the moral equivalent of rattlesnakes, but they do far more damage than their reptilian counterparts. Sociopaths who commit despicable crimes are evil, in the sense of being utterly unredeemable. The treatment model does not apply.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

I am late to the party, but I'll put out some replies anyway- sorry guys!

W.B Isley~ is it possible you think things through better than me? Often time I think so and of all my wonderful commenters you always make me think, I like your point about weak-mindedness and it's very valid. I think even weak mindedness can come from substance abuse or something about ones environment. Even serial killers have too much (too little, can't remember which)copper measured in their systems. Perhaps weakmindednes leads to actual mental illness. One's decisions shape who they are, even biologically.

You also make a point I'll have to think about some more and that is about good and evil. Interesting as usual and thank you.

PK2010~ a lot of distress in our society about mental illness is related to fear. Thanks for your comment and yes, the love is a better focus.

Larry~ there is no doubt we are treating mental illness incorrectly and possibly as you say there is a lack of better ways to. Sociopathy and major mental ilnesses like schozophrenia and bi-polar are hard to treat becaue there either isn't anythign effective or they are more likely to not take their meds. I agree with what you state about sociopaths and thanks for contributing to the conversation.

FIS profile image

FIS 5 years ago

Hey Iz,

Stumbled across this article today and thought that you would really like it.


izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Bob~ interesting article- I am a firm believer in the power of the subconsious. Many people don't remember what happened to them before age 4, but it is known in psychology that a person has formed who they are going to be, personality, etc by the age of 6 so 3/4 of the time we don't remember is who we are- that's significant.

W. B. Isley profile image

W. B. Isley 5 years ago from Monett, MO

Laura, I too enjoyed the article. I also found it a little disconcerting.

As I retrace the steps I've taken down the path of life from oneness to separateness and back to oneness again, I have realized that, the unconscious and subconscious minds are only hiding what we don't want to see about our selves. When I am ready to see something that is hidden in my subconsciousness it comes to the surface for me to deal with and let go of. My ultimate goal for this life is that I can work through all the stuff that is hidden down there, and in the process, totally loose the need to have these structures in my mind. I want to be a whole person again. I am ready to leave behind the need to hide things even from my self.

In therapy I learned that, the main reason I can't remember certain things in my childhood is that they are too painful to look at. When I am ready to work through the pain, I get more memories back. I used sugar to mask much of the pain from growing up. As I become more comfortable with who I am, I get more memories back, and I can work through more of the things that happened while I was growing up.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

W.B.I~ wonderful points. You are brave for recalling and dealing with certain aspects of your past. I believe it takes a lot to recall those painful memories- one also has to be brave enough, not just comfortable with you are. As we get older, we gain more tools to deal with these things to. Some people close themselves off more and gain more defense mechanisms that withhold their growth and others like you, bravely go forward. The subconscious is something else isn't it. Something so powerful and yet so elusive.

Sanxuary 3 years ago

Good and evil are decided by the results. A negative decision generally creates a bad result. We however often argue what decisions are considered bad. Self impact, the impact on your home and family life, finally the impact on others. Sin or evil generally leads to more bad decisions and results. The Bible states that the recognition of sin is required in order to over come it. A psychiatrist would explain that you must recognize the problem in order to change. God or no God its the same consequence most often. Regardless of mental illness, a recognition of the problem is required and self determination is needed to improve ones self in all things. Its incredibly rare for a murderer to not know that taking someone's life was not right. Only in children do we need to ask this question. Being born with out a conscience or any desire to be a part of social norms is more likely the case. For all the living there are limitations on how much crazy we can accept before we must protect ourselves. Treatment is always an option, even if only getting right with God before you die is your only goal. Telling all people you are in control of everything you do will usually go a long ways in helping anyone. Making good decisions is the challenge in life. Living in an evil World is what usually limits are ability to improve are lives.

izettl profile image

izettl 3 years ago from The Great Northwest Author

Wise words Sanxuary. I kind of disagree on wanting to follow social norms. Many outstanding characters in our history did not follow norms and it has helped our society to grow in a positive way. I think there are charismatic people and they are a force to be reckon with- I think they are born this way and can either use their "power" for good or evil. Then I think the rest is mental illness. And yes, it has a lot to do with decisions.

Sanctuary 3 years ago

Just attempting to be good is a huge struggle in this World. There are few honorable jobs and almost no honorable place to even work in. The more you succeed, the more likely you must become someone unwilling to care about others. The system we live in today does not support the ides of building a better life for people. We live in servitude for money and the cost to live is engineered in order to take more always. Money is the number one reason why most people do anything for anyone. The Doctor may tell you he cares, but its most likely he cares more about getting paid. We have so much charity and we also have some wonderful tax write offs. People condemn Socialism but when Capitalism is a failure you are creating the thing you condemned. People hate Obama Care, who by the way never created it, yet you pay for all the people who can not afford it any way. If you do not recognize a problem, then you will never solve it. It is no surprise that everyone has problems, I wonder if a survey can determine how many people are evil in this country. I wonder how many people realize that supporting evil makes you evil at a certain point. Now try to live a life that does not support evil and now you know how hard it really is. The one thing people hate the most is the truth. I love the argument that regulations are detrimental to making money in a Capitalist society. Yet civilization could not exist with out regulations that govern it. To many arguments based on emotions and not the truth simply allows us to remain in apathy. Agendas are blind to better ideas and solving problems. Even worst they are impervious to right or wrong. One should always support free will in a World where most of us will never grow up in time before they perish. With that said they should always seek the truth and support the best answer even when they disagree. We no longer seek the truth and we no longer solve problems. In fact problems have now become an industry and supporting the problem makes a lot of people quite wealthy.

Raine Law Yuen profile image

Raine Law Yuen 2 years ago from Cape Town

Interesting perspective. This hub cought my eye as I have just written a hub on what is good and evil. You are right - Definition is in the eye of the beholder. Is there an explanation that can be universally applied irrespective of perspective? I believe so - To me good is when we listen to our own inner voice no matter what and evil is anything that leads us to act in our not self. The reason is that we are beings that naturally need love - but we are all wired differently. When you follow your inner voice (intuition) you will always be guided to what is in your best interest.

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