How We Can Know If Man Is By Nature “Good”
I once had a friend who liked to play an interesting game of “what super power would you prefer?” He would ask, for instance, whether it would be better to have the ability to fly or the ability to, say, read people’s minds. Whichever one you picked, he would quickly point out the negatives that might come with that choice, and often the two possibilities he selected were, to say the least, bizarre.
I thought about that game a while ago while watching an episode of the TV show “Fringe.” Unfolding a story of parallel universes in conflict, the show plays out a variety of unusual events. The episode I was watching involved a person who had been experimented upon as a child, and as a result had developed the capacity to read people’s minds. What may have started off as a super power, however, quickly turned into a liability. Since other people’s thoughts would flood into his mind from a distance of 50 or so feet, he had been forced to become essentially a hermit, living in isolation as far away from society as he possibly could. The power had become a curse.
Most people would agree that the ability to read minds would be terrifying. Of course, there are legitimate reasons for this: the white lie we tell when we really don’t think someone looks nice would be unnecessarily hurtful. Things like bargaining for the best deal or playing poker would be impossible. But the real reason is that each of us knows the inner turmoil that lies within us – the conflicting, and often quite base, emotions warring within our minds for dominance, and worse yet, for expression. Jealousy, hatred, greed, envy, the desire for power and dominance – this ugly aspect of our basic nature must be daily suppressed, or channeled into some more appropriate expression. Drugs, alcohol and fatigue become the enemy, as each alone, and worse in combination, can lower the walls of self-restraint that, for most of us most of the time, imprison these demons in the recesses of our minds.
In my last post, I asked the question if man is basically “good,” as secular humanism holds, or basically fallen and broken, as Christianity teaches. This is an important question, because a worldview out of sync with the true nature of things is likely to lead its adherents very far astray…
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