Distinguishing good from evil

Suppose there were people or organizations which worked to enable, encourage, and train ordinary people to defend themselves from predators. Can this work be categorized as anything but good? These are good people doing good work, right?

If the above characterization is true then it must follow that people or organizations which work to disable, discourage, and make difficult or expensive self-defense training are doing the opposite of good—even though they may claim they are advocates of good they are actually evil. Further evidence of this is their culture of lies and deception.

Apply these rules to the NRA, SAF, GOA, and the politicians which seek the support of these organizations.

Now apply these rules to Everytown for Gun Safety, The Brady Campaign, Violence Policy Center, and the politicians which seek the support of these organizations.

Vote accordingly.

5 thoughts on “Distinguishing good from evil

  1. I don’t disagree with your above statement, but I ask this because I wish to understand: why does an atheist use the terms good and evil? If there is no God, then how could anything be either?

    • I don’t see how good and evil require a god. There are many philosophical systems which distinguish good from evil without invoking a god.

      For me, the two soundbites (these sort of capture the essence but not the full depth) which influenced me the most were from Ayn Rand (“That which is good is that which is pro-life.”) and Robert Heinlein (“Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense. [Hurting yourself is not sinful–just stupid.]”)

      The “pro-life” of Ayn Rand is not the more definition commonly used today but is much more general to include things such as free trade economics.

      • Well, I don’t want to go too off topic on your blog, but I still don’t understand how good and evil can be defined without the existence of an ultimate, definitive moral authority. Even the natural law invoked by Heinlein is a subjective human construct. If we are the ultimate authority, then your evil can be equal to my good, and neither is right or wrong. The deciding factor between good and evil could not be which side is fundamentally right, but which ever party emerges victorious.

        • How is “Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily” subjective? Are you saying the pain of someone whacking you with a baseball bat may not be real? Surely not. I’m missing something here. Please explain. If you aren’t comfortable discussing it here in the comments we can take it to email (blog@joehuffman.org). Your choice.

    • There are a couple of ways to define good and evil. One is by reference to authority. “Good is what the authority says is good”. The authority may be a god, a ruler, some other individual thought to have opinions that matter.
      Another definition is by reference to principles. “Do unto others as you would others do to you” is one such. The zero-aggression principle is another. These do not use any reference to authority, and work perfectly well for atheists or agnostics.
      It is true that your decision to adopt one of these is a personal decision. If you don’t adopt a suitable definition of good and evil, or especially if your decision is that you don’t give a d*** about that, then you’ll probably end up a criminal.
      A problem with the reference to authority is that you may be using a bad authority. The use of god as an authority is particularly problematic because few, if any, have received that information directly from its source. So “god” as the authority in practice means that you’re using some priest or shaman as the authority, perhaps backed by an explanation based on some text selected from a suitable holy book. History is full of examples of evil caused by this approach. As a former Dutchman, I know one of these quite well, the Spanish Inquisition that was one of the main impetus to the Dutch war for independence (1568-1648).

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