Man innately evil?

I’m writing an essay and I need some help. Would it be safe to say that the belief that man is at his heart evil, and can only be made good through laws and morality thrust upon him from the top down, is a belief encouraged by Christianity? Or is it only Catholicism that says that?

We are born innocent, and then develop ego and self-awareness. That gives us the ability to choose between feeding that ego, and realizing/being taught that if everybody did that there would be chaos. Thus is born the pragmatic concept of enlightened self-interest where it is in our own best interest to promote equal rights for all while at the same time being responsible for yourself. Of course there are those who go for being king of the hill or having their group be the elite–which is the definition of evil.

There are Christian sects that believe or don’t in the concept of original sin, but it’s just a smoke screen in any case. I mean look at what they call original sin, sex and knowledge–neither of which qualifies. They (they being all “revealed” religions) then proceed to heap all kinds of non-evil behavior under the label of evil, obscuring the issue so they appear to have the insight to who goes to heaven, and to laden their followers with guilt thus filling the collection plates.

To answer your question, man has the innate ability to choose between good and evil.

It’s certainly not just Catholicism. The fire and brimstone crowd is mostly Protestant.

I know Orphism, a Greek cult, held that man was innately bad, due to titanic guilt. The story goes that Dionysus get’s wacked and eaten by the Titans (oldest Gods). Zeus finds out about this, and throws a thunderbolt at the titans and turns them all to ash. From that ash humans are created, and because the ash was made from titans and dionysus, man is now both evil and slightly good. This sets the stage for the prescriptions offered by those in the know. It involves heavy asceticism, and giving one’s whole self over to these cult doctors.

That’s control theory for ya, and I don’t think it’s limited to just Christianity. Control theory exists as a way of understanding and fixing deviant behavior. But I think the flaw in this thinking is the premise that man, if left to his own devices free of any external factors to influence his internal sense of right or wrong, will go ape-shit and do a bunch of immoral things. The thing is, once you make “the moral” a strict ascetic course of action which can only be followed if one has access to church teaching, then off course man will act in an immoral way. But this isn’t to say that man is innately evil, or predisposed to commit evil things, or that doing evil is the course of least resistance. There’s alot of things to take into account before we can jump from the above, to man is innately disposed to do evil. One would have to see a child raised free from any rearing, or any value-inspiring agents, to see what type of stuff man is born with, and what type of stuff man just learns.

Actually the belief that man is evil and requires law to contain his evil is more of archaic Chinese philosophy.

The flaw in this philosophy is that the law is made by, and enforced by men. So therefore if men are evil, then the law is too.

We then have to think interms of “lesser evil”. Who should be calling the shots? This is where politics comes in. You have people who believe in dynasties. Passed down power from generations of powerful families…

You have those who believe in democracy. Believing that the majority will ultimately come to a decision that is best for the greatest group of people. Despite how apparently men are evil, and therefore will seek to pass laws to undermine one another…

And then you have anarchists. Which really are just deluding themselves and are either democratic-liberals, or aristocrats under the pretense of “anarcho-capitalism”. The only true anarchy is primitivism, which is “survival of the fittest”. Ofcourse the rejection of technology and society can only last so long. Man will eventualy formulate a tribe. And those primitivsts will be as any other animal. Merely something to be hunted, fought against, or ignored, while the tribe progresses…

We’ve seen what happens when we claim man is inheritly evil. Therefore, what if man isn’t? What if man is inheritly good? And only becomes evil when he self-doubts his goodness? Is not bad things merely a corruption of something good? Chocolate is good. Each too much of it, and you’ll get sick. Owning pets is good. Own too many, and your life becomes chaotic.

Good is linked to rationality. Human beings have the most rationality of any creature, therefore human beings are good, or atleast more good then your typical animal. Animals don’t seem to posess the malice or contradictions that we do. But then, they also lack the complex thoughts to doubt their own morality. They act on impulse, not forethought…

Hi zeus,

The Catholic view of "innate evil’ is tied up with the idea of original sin and a concept called concupiscence (which I believe is pretty much shared by the Orthodox church also, Uccisore could probably correct me on this if I am wrong). Essentially, after the fall, even though we are not directly responsible for it, man has lost his original holiness and thus has a reduced will to resist sin (a proclivity or inclination to sin, which is referred to as concupiscence). Through help (Grace) from God however, which is freely given, man can choose to do good and attain holiness even in this fallen world.

So I suppose in short in the traditional Christian understanding, yes, man does have somewhat of an inclination to evil, but is by no means bound to commit evil and is therefore morally responsible for evil/sin which he commits knowingly.

The Orthodox view does sound about the same as what NoelyG is saying- ‘original sin’ refers to an event, not a state of man. We have no ‘original guilt’- we’re only guilty for the actual things we as individuals actually did. However, it’s still true that man is in a fallen state, such that his will constantly leads him towards sin if he isn’t vigilant. This state is so bad that behaving in a truly sinless way is miraculous (requires the intercession of the Holy Spirit), as well as our own discipline and good will. Orthodoxy is opposed to ‘total depravity’ though, which is another thing.

I think it’s also important to point out that man is innately good, and that the current sinful state is a deviance, an unnatural state.

Emphasis on ‘archaic Chinese philosophy’ Jim. Xunzi’s (Hsun Tzu’s) strand of Confucianism died out quite some time ago, and while Legalism always held a certain pragmatic involvement in Chinese politics (Mao’s favorite philosopher, after Marx, was Han Feizi) as an actual political theory, including the notion of people being ‘bad’ (inasmuch as it is present in Legalism), hasn’t really been in play for around 2000 years.

Though the concept of human goodness is actually surprisingly close to what Ucci said. Man is innately good in any of the three major strands of Chinese thought, but there is some unnatural state that occasionally keeps him from realizing this good. In Chinese Buddhism, we are all Buddha but attachment keeps us from realizing that fundamental aspect of our nature. In Daoism, we as people/individuals are perfectly good but society corrupts us, causes us to deviate from our original nature. In Confucianism, humans are good, but ‘human’ means ‘fully realized human’, so we have to cultivate ourselves to realize what we truly are.

It is only in Legalism where man is seen as purely devoted towards serving their own selfish ends, guided by desire for profit and fear of punishment. But even that isn’t really positing an ‘evil’ nature, since Legalism doesn’t make normative statements like that.

Ok, from what NoelyG and Uccisore have said, I’m getting the idea that I am correct in supposing that most sects of Christianity say that man has a tendency towards evil.

Anytime man struggles with his inherent connection with nature he will assuredly say those who are of nature are evil.

Examine the acts of evil without a societal shaded pair of glasses. As humans we believe ourselves to be higher beings and when one acts out of line with society what is their purpose? I believe it to be an advancement through nature. So, anyone who believes man a “superior” being will often struggle with man being innately evil. If they believe man’s role to be another organism then they would probably say man just acts.

Christianity tends to treat evil as genetic. Stemming from Adam and Eve’s first defiance of God’s will in The Garden of Eden.

Yet interestingly enough, The Bible also states “sons do not die for fathers, nor fathers die for sons”…

So if the sins of our kin do not reflect our own, why then are the descendents of Adam and Eve to be punished? Evil sounds genetic in the way it is implied with “original sin”. But it also gives hint to individual choices that beget sin.

So what I’m thinking is The Bible hintend to the prospect of genetics. Some people are naturaly prone to lying, cheating, stealing, etc. This doesn’t garantee they will. But it could be interpeted as “original sin”, and from there, one had to make the choice to develop that sinful nature or not…

So all human beings have the potential for good and evil. Some more then others…

I dunno.

“Most sects” is probably true, since Protestantism is necessarily more divided than RCC and Orthodox (not sure how things like Coptic and Maronite figure into this scheme), though I’d be curious about “most Christians”.

Perhaps man is merely innately indifferent. Is that the same thing?

Don’t even bother writing the essay. Pick a different topic.

Besides, man isn;t innately evil, man is innately purple monkey dishwasher.

I agree with man being born evil, because man is born with human flesh response. and they only go with what there body tells them.

and we retain that until death. flesh response is a characteristic of life.

you only go with what your brain tells you, deoes that mean you are evil?

Correction; it is mostly Calvinist approach to Christianity.
Several sects take this approach. And even in a Sect of Christianity that does not take a Calvinist approach, there are congregations that do.

That said, the largest two advocates of natural sin are Catholicism and Puritanism.

I make reference to Calvinism above, but it should be noted that Natural Sin (properly, Original Sin, by the way) was first outlined by Bishop Irenaeus / Saint Irenaeus as part of an attack front to reduce the threat of Gnosticism to Christianity in the 2nd century. I refer to Calvinism instead, however, as it was John Calvin that ordered the concept into a proper theological structure that used the Original Sin to logic order, disorder, and conditional handling of both by man and by God.

If you are thinking of man sucking wind and needing to work hard to prove his worth to God and that God is holding man over a pit of fire waiting to drop man into it when man fails to show good nature, holiness, or redemption, then you are thinking of Puritan Calvinism.

If you are thinking that man is a depressing reminder of just how much we suck and are not worth the amazing awesomeness in it’s true shinning humility that is our salvation, given to us by our holy father God, then you are thinking of Catholic Irenaeus-ism.

Outside of those two…pretty much everyone else is copy, paste, insert dogma alteration for need and purpose of congregation structure. … iginal_sin