The Origin of Human Evil: Why Belief is the Problem

The Origin of Human Evil

Leaving aside natural evil, the evil of interest is that produced by the Self as part of its self-determination.  Having looked at the history of the ontology of evil, the common theme has to do with self-will.  However precisely how self-will can and does do evil, sometimes even unintentionally, is not itself understood.

My posit is that human evil originates in the will-to-determine.  In all beings there is always more to be understood, nothing is ever fully determined.  Insofar as our knowledge, as absolute identity of knower and known, it is only ever partial.  It is the totalizing nature of the will-to-determine, to determine everything totally, that is the self-will behind human evil.

Whether we overdetermine, misdetermine or believe we have determined something we in fact haven’t, there is an inherent pretense, an inherent lie in all totalizing determinations.  This lie is itself inherently based on belief, which reaches the apogee of evil in ideology as beliefs that have been made systemic and intentionally totalizing.  This leads to the conclusion that belief, far from being the answer, is in fact the problem.


Why Belief is the Problem

It is precisely through belief that we come to the idea that we can determine things to a fuller extent than we actually can.  Whether this determination regards the nature of reality-as-a-whole, the nature of god, or a determination of who someone is based on race, gender, class, or any other partial determination, it remains either an overdetermination or a misdetermination and in misrepresenting the matter traps it as something it isn’t.

The proper use of belief is in learning.  Prior to knowing something one has to suspend disbelief for long enough to determine if the teacher is merely spouting opinions he/she has heard, or actually knows the matter at hand sufficiently well that after a sufficient period of study, you also understand and therefore know the matter.  Once you know something, belief is irrelevant.

Where belief goes the most wrong is where belief turns into faith as ideology, as belief-systems.  The difference is that, while I may believe that Australia exists without having been there, I have plenty of evidence that it does and none that I can think of that it doesn’t, but more importantly its existence or inexistence doesn’t structure my world view.  I don’t need it to exist for my understanding of reality to remain pretty much the same.  When your understanding of reality, though, becomes dependent on specific beliefs or belief-systems, those beliefs become faith, become non-optional in terms of maintaining a grip on the way you experience the world.  Systematizing presumptuous and unfounded beliefs leads to ideology as a belief-system.  It is through this framework of ideology, itself rarely questioned, that the I-Subject interprets what the Self represents to it, and thereby how it comes to a rapid judgment.  The ladder between part and whole in any subjective hermeneutic is precisely the ideology at work.

Many atheists are unfortunately as guilty of this as many theists, precisely because neither know the things they believe in.  If you claim to believe in science, but can’t explicate quantum mechanics, don’t understand the results of the human genome project, and can’t explain different Hilbert spaces, you’re no better off than a theist who believes in various religious metaphors without recognizing their metaphorical nature, or claims to have indubitable knowledge of God and God’s wishes when we have no evidence of specific wishes of a divine origin.

The problem is not whether this or that belief is true, but our dependence on beliefs that we cannot judge as true or false.  We make a pretense of having determined things we cannot determine to any real degree, and we act on an understanding we only pretend to have.  Scientists who make confident claims as to the safety of GMO crops, for instance, since that safety has not been established in any meaningful way, are equivalent to fundamentalists who make confident claims that God abhors homosexuality.  In neither case has anything been established other than a conclusion that is already determined prior to any evidence,  a prejudice that leads to an inevitable judgment.  In neither case can the claims ever be confirmed or denied, since in the first case no norm can be established as an absolute comparison, and in the second there is no way for any potential infinite being to simply ‘say’ anything whatsoever.  Both are claiming ‘special knowledge’ that they do not have, which has been the mark of every false prophet and false priest humanity has ever known. That the most influential false prophets and priests today are researchers and CEOs makes no difference.  They operate out of a belief in a knowledge they do not in fact possess, and do so without thinking, questioning, or examining the beliefs that overdetermine and misdetermine not only their judgments, but the perceptions and interpretations of reality on which those judgments are based.  When one’s entire experience of reality is a priori tainted by ideology, neither observations, nor hypotheses, nor theories, nor the interpretation of tests of those theories have any validity.

We can now see where the extremes of evil experienced under totalitarian regimes are inevitable, since it is precisely the totalizing belief-systems of such regimes that in and of themselves, no matter what the content, are inherently evil.  A totalizing liberalism or capitalism is as inherently evil as a totalizing fascism or nazism.

Given the invalid metaphysical assumptions that are demonstrably foundational to both western religion and western science, the case to be made is not simply that one or the other is not true, but that neither can make any truth-claims, and therefore any knowledge-claims.  To the extent that technology, as a mode of revealing, does reveal something correct about things, there is a valid knowledge-claim, however that knowledge-claim is restricted to knowing how something behaves when understood as a resource and subjected to technological manipulation.  Anything can be determined as a resource, but by that determination is limited, enframed within the determination that doesn’t approach the reality of the thing it is attempting to determine.  Anything can be manipulated technically and its behavior determined in a statistically predictable manner, however this does not imply than an appropriate ontology has thereby been demonstrated.


6 thoughts on “The Origin of Human Evil: Why Belief is the Problem

  1. Surely evil is not so much about *having* beliefs and treating them as if they were knowledge, but rather it is about *imposing* our beliefs onto other people by force and/ or fraud until they are accepted as knowledge?

    If I adopt a belief system and treat it as if it were based on objective truth (when it is merely subjective belief, and most likely an irrational one) then that is unfortunate for me. But if I raise my child to accept that irrational belief as if it were an objective truth then that is both immoral and harmful to the child’s development (which is also immoral).

    The way we get children to accept our own irrational belief systems is to threaten them (openly or in a implicitly) with rejection, ostracism or even violence and death if they refuse to accept our irrational beliefs as objective facts.

    At a very deep level every child is aware that s/he is utterly dependent his/her parents for survival for at least the next 12 or so years. And as adults we are aware that we depend on the tribe/ community for survival, or at least we are going to have a much harder life if we are rejected by our tribe/ community. We will struggle to find employment, a husband/ wife, we will be lonely etc.

    And so this puts IMMENSE pressure on us to conform to whatever our parents/ tribe/ community are trying to impose upon us. And this is why as children, crucially BEFORE we have fully developed our capacity for reason and critical analysis, we so often end up accepting the irrational belief systems of our parents/ tribe as if they were objective truths. It never even occurs to us to question or challenge these belief systems – at least not consciously. To question or challenge them would mean to go against your own parents, who are your only source of food, shelter, security and life.

    We will do whatever we have to do to please the family/ tribe/ community and avoid being ostracised or victimised. And that includes breaking and twisting our own rational minds in order to accommodate the most outlandish and blatantly irrational belief systems as if they were objective truths. We make ourselves ‘schizophrenic’ …… on the one hand functioning as rational human being who require reason and evidence before accepting a proposition as reality….. and yet in a warped compartment of our mind we fully accept ghosts, ghouls, gods, superstitious myths and participate in bizarre (and often barbaric) rituals involving blood drinking or even genital mutilation.

    If no pressure (ie no threat of ostracism, disapproval or persecution) is put on us when we are young to accept these irrational beliefs as objective truths then, naturally, we do not accept them. And we generally feel sorry for those who’s minds were broken and who did end up accepting them.

    Often when people from two different cultures meet they will both recognise the absurdity and invalidity of each other’s respective belief systems. They will understand that the other person was forced to accept this belief system at an early age, and that huge social pressure was put onto them to do so, and that they didn’t really stand a chance.

    But they will be unable to view their own belief system with the same degree of rationality. Perhaps deep down they still fear social ostracism….. they are still fear being rejected by their own parents for daring to use their critical minds. And this fear will drive them to subject their own children to the same fate.

    The evil done to children is beyond words.


    1. Rather than ‘imposing’ beliefs being the issue, it is rather the holding onto beliefs in the face of evidence that is the problem, and it is only such holding onto that makes them beliefs in the first place, as opposed to tentative notions. If I have a tentative notion about a given type of person that presents themselves to me, to the degree that I use it to see where they in fact contradict it, and therefore to learn about their unique aspects as quickly as possible, it’s not a holding onto that turns the tentative notion into belief, to the degree that I hold onto that notion in all its aspects, I overdetermine and/or mis-determine the person. It’s in the determination of something that cannot be fully determined, the over or mis-determination of another being, that evil originates in. Certainly imposing that belief is an expression of evil, however the evil already exists in the boundless urge to determine.


      1. “..Rather than ‘imposing’ beliefs being the issue, it is rather the holding onto beliefs in the face of evidence that is the problem..”

        But isn’t ‘holding onto beliefs in the face of evidence’ an example of ‘imposing your beliefs’? (I don’t mean to come across as pedantic!).

        “..Certainly imposing that belief is an expression of evil, however the evil already exists in the boundless urge to determine.

        I disagree. I think there’s nothing necessarily wrong with holding any belief or belief system. I can believe all humans who like jazz deserve to die. I haven’t really done any evil unless I start acting on that belief.

        I could equally believe it’s right to help people and be nice to them. And again, I haven’t actually done any good in the world until I start acting on that belief.

        It’s not our beliefs, it’s our actions that count.


      2. We may be differing only in a semantic fashion, I.e. You see evil as occurring – which means in its expression as action, while I see it as a priori to its expression, as potentia that given the right conditions would inherently act. Neither is demonstrably more true than the other: its a question of how one takes the ontological status of potentia as opposed to actualitas. Thus we agree that until one acts, evil (or good) remains only potential. However for me reality includes potentia (since nothing can move or change while actual, as demonstrated by the quantum zeno experiment). Since there is only indirect evidence supporting an ontology that includes potentia as part of realitas though I can see where your notion has as much evidential validity as mine.



    2. This is not only true of religious beliefs btw, it is as true of political, social and scientific beliefs, none of which have any more valid foundation than religious beliefs (in the case of scientific beliefs, they have precisely the same foundation metaphysically, which is metaphysics itself, and simultaneously is the expression of the boundless urge to determine). This urge expresses itself through the overdetermination of everything technologically, as a resource, and all science manages is to hop along afterwards and attempt to account for what technology has revealed and the manner in which it has revealed it.


      1. Oh yes, I totally agree. Politics (statism) is a religious belief system, a superstition, a cult – and one which is based on and wholly dependent on coercion, violence and theft. As a religion statism has murdered (and caused the untimely deaths of) far more people over the last century than any other religion, or all of them combined.

        ‘Government’ is a god that does not exist. The fact that statists claim their god (‘government’) exists here on earth, rather than in some otherworldly realm, means we can prove it does not exist. The only thing which exists here on earth is people, fancy buildings, and bits of paper. None for these things can possibly have (or be granted) the right to rule over the general population by force. At least two of these things are inanimate objects.


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