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What Makes People Evil?

Updated on October 4, 2014

The Meaning Of Evil

©2012 El Veasey Publishing


The meaning of Evil: Morally reprehensible: Sinful, wicked, arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct; inferior, offensive, disagreeable, causing harm: pernicious, unlucky. (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary)

Evil People

Evil people enjoy inflicting pain on others. They like hurting or killing others for their own Pleasure.

Some people are intentionally evil some are not.

Those who’ve been brainwashed to enjoy hurting others may not even be aware that they’re evil.

The more perversely evil people are those who get-off sexually (have an orgasm) when they hurt others.

It’s not just the act that makes a person evil, but the person’s intention or motives for doing the act and if the person is aware of that intention or not.

Can we say unequivocally that killing is evil?

Is the predator that kills its prey, evil?

Are our veterans who killed Nazis during World War 2 evil?

The acts that we call evil are determined solely by human concepts of morality.

That said!

The evil acts we do originate in our predatory animal instincts.

As in predatory animals who do all sorts of savage things to their prey without any awareness of guilt or wrongdoing. With animals might is right (and with some humans too).

What distinguishes humans from animals, is our ability to organize ourselves into societies based on the principles of fair play, justice and equality, rather than on brute force or might (Although many societies have been and are ruled by the most powerful and the most brutal among us).

Genetically, we’re all human, but wouldn’t you agree that to become fully-human we have to become socially human?

I thought so.

Satan, The Devil And Evil

The reason traditional images of Satan or the devil, depict him as being part human and part animal is, because he’s a personification of a person who’s physically human, but only partially, socially human.

He has the lower body of an animal and the upper body of a human, except for the horns growing out of his head.

Most images of demons, depict them as stylized images of some type of predatory animal with human characteristics.

When we’re controlled by our predatory animal instincts, we are the devil incarnate.

Our predatory animal instincts, have been personified and projected, as an evil force existing outside of ourselves.

Those of us with unconscious moral conflicts, especially, tend to project our more predatory thoughts or impulses, outside of ourselves on to others.

These are the sanctimonious, holier than thou, overly religious types, who project their hidden "bad sides" on to others, and may not know that this “bad side” originates within themselves. If others do possess some of those traits they project, the projection seems that more real, and valid to those doing the projecting.

They believe there is an “evil, bad” force opposing a “morally good” force battling each other, in the world; and they see themselves and their group, as aligned with the “good” force, and others and their groups, as aligned with the “bad” force.

They only see the "good" in themselves and only the “evil” in others, because, of course they’re “too good” for these “evil” impulses to be coming from within themselves.

This has been the root of some of the most evil acts, that have occurred between different religious groups, and people in general, in history of humankind.

The group who sees themselves as the children of the forces of good, feel a compulsive need to convert these “evil” others, to their religious views and if they can’t convert them, exterminate them.

They’re unsympathetic, towards those upon whom they project their hidden, bad sides. Converting or killing others, can be a way of relieving the guilt they secretly feel for having a hidden “bad side”.

They only feel sympathy for those they identify with. They depersonalize all others as, them, aliens, others, sub-humans, pests, etc.

They feel no more qualms about killing these alien others than they would about squashing a bug! Those who may feel qualms about the evil beliefs their group hold, keep it to themselves, because they know if they speak out against those beliefs, they’ll be branded as traitors, ostracized, hurt or maybe even killed themselves.

They may really want to speak out about the situation, but may see it as just way too risky, to speak-up or break away from the group, unless, they’re really strong-minded, emotionally mature individuals.

How Should "Good" People Deal With "Evil" People?

How should good people, those who don’t enjoy hurting or inflicting pain on others, treat those who do, like, mass murderers, serial killers, racist killers, religious terrorists and others?

They should attempt to morally educate or re-educate them, whenever possible, and stop them from committing these acts or crimes where necessary, not because they hate them, but because they hate what they do.

If the only way to stop evil people from committing evil acts is to kill them, good people, may kill them, to help protect themselves and others from becoming victimized by the evil behavior of these people (the way a rabid dog has to be destroyed if it’s attacking or killing people.) They wouldn’t enjoy doing this, but may do it, if it has to be done, and they would prefer to do this legally when possible and would make every effort, to do this through the legal system.

The Source Of Evil

Is there a “prince of darkness” called Satan the devil out there influencing people to do evil? I see no evidence to support the idea that a “prince of darkness” (independent of humans) is out there influencing people to do evil, but those who do, attribute this influence to Satan or the devil.

For those of you who are Christians, here’s what Jesus said about where the source of evil originates,

"And he said, that which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man" Mark 7:20-23.

I agree. This confirms what I said about our animal instincts.

I’ve already commented on the symbolic and psycho-historical meaning of evil, Satan and the devil (Devil is just evil with a d in front of it).

But here’s a little more,

Satan means adversary. [Middle English, from Old English, from Late Latin Satn, from Greek Satanas, Satn, from Hebrew n, devil, adversary, from an, to accuse, act as adversary] The Free

So anything that opposes your intentions, whether they’re good or bad is your adversary, your Satan.

As I said some people attribute this adversary to others, but a little reflection will show, that more often than not, this Satan is coming solely from the hidden mind and motives of those doing the finger pointing.

Those of us who have developed, psychosocially, into more complete human beings, have grown beyond the hidden dichotomy of good and evil in ourselves, beyond the delusion that we are the “chosen” few and all others are morally inferior to us.

We’ve learned to harmonize and balance the opposing elements in ourselves, and have no dark evil side, to project onto others or to blame for the evil that may actually reside within ourselves.

The more people who can learn to do this, the better it will be for all of us, especially, if the younger generations can be taught this, as they go through their own socialization.

That could be the spark that eventually, leads to more harmonious relationships, between people of all cultures and groups.

So what makes people evil?

If you cut off all the fat and boil it down to the bone…faulty, unhealthy socialization of our children, including all of the adults who were once children themselves, is the source of evil behavior.

Healthy socialization produces people who like people, who don’t enjoy hurting people, who like interacting with people, who want their children to be socially well-rounded and enjoy getting along with people of all cultures, religions, ethnicities and political affiliations, who see all people as their extended family, sisters and brothers.

All of our predatory animal-instincts have to be socialized or tamed, before we can be fully human. We’re only human to the degree that we’ve progressed along that path.

Then where would war, social conflict, racism, religious bigotry, gender bias, classicism and social upheaval exist?

May we all work toward making that goal an every present reality!

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Philip Zimbardo: The psychology of evil


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    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wonderful lay out of your position. I agree to the extent that I also believe that some genetics are involved in anti-social, especially psychotic behavior that sure looks evil to me. I know they are sick but still, they are evil and not just their behavior.

    • vveasey profile image

      The Medicine Man 3 years ago from Detroit,MI

      Dr Kidd

      I like you, write about topics that many may find antagonizing, or challenging, that they need to address, in open honest way.

      If you click my icon you'll be able to see some of those topics.

      I read your hub on getting published.

      Any suggestions on where I could get this " best short essay I've read on why some people have a dark side and why others do not." published?

    • vveasey profile image

      The Medicine Man 3 years ago from Detroit,MI

      Hello Dr Billy Kidd!

      Cool name. Obviously when I see your name. I think of the old west outlaw "Billy The Kid".

      You said "This is the best short essay I've read on why some people have a dark side and why others do not. "

      Thanks for your props. I appreciate it more coming from a Dr of psychology.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Weasy, you said, "We’ve learned to harmonize and balance the opposing elements in ourselves, and have no dark evil side, to project onto others or to blame for the evil that may actually reside within ourselves."

      Great explanation of enlightenment. I call this finding a higher love.Thanks for bringing Jesus into this. Notice that many of his sermons were aimed at better socialization about the projection thing. "He who is without evil, cast the first stone," for instance.

      This is the best short essay I've read on why some people have a dark side and why others do not. I've always seen it as a socialization problem, too. Thank you for you clear, enlightened writing!