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Old 05-20-2006, 05:20 AM   #1
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Are people inherently good?

I’m feeling a bit philosophical today and started thinking more about the topic of whether or not people are inherently good. I’m starting this thread for anyone who would like to share their experiences on this topic. Imagine yourself sitting around a campfire right now and discussing this topic with your friends.

I personally think people are inherently good. During my lifetime, I have seen people acting in an unselfish manner which has further reinforced my belief that people are inherently good. Some obvious examples are people giving blood or donating body organs (i.e., experiencing pain for others with no reward for themselves other than knowing they did a good thing). Most recently, I witnessed a man not even think twice about jumping off a bridge to help a child who had fallen into a river. Every day in the news, you read about someone unselfishly helping someone else out. The collection of all these positive experiences further reinforces my belief in mankind’s inherent goodness.


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Old 05-20-2006, 06:00 AM   #2
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Last night I watched my 5 year old son pick a flower and give it to a little girl he likes. Fingers crossed he never forgets how important the little things are!
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Old 05-20-2006, 06:08 AM   #3
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I used to think so...but sometimes I wonder. Then someone, somewhere, will do something that restores my faith in human kindness. Years ago I read an article that put forth the theory that there was a certain percentage of the population was criminal, and over the centuries is never varied more than a point or two. I think in a large part the news media is to blame for a gloomy out look. All they report is the sensational, gross, mean stuff. With a 15 second spot reserved at the end for something nice or generous. I really wonder if we quit reporting bad and ugly or at least gave equal time to the good if it would make a change in the world. There are so many variables involved.

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Old 05-20-2006, 06:50 AM   #4
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Ah, a deep thinker poses quite a question for us all. It may be unfair here on this forum. After all if this group isn't on the far side of optimisum who would be? We take vintage AS's and see the good in sometimes what is considered by others to be old and worthless.
The downside to the equation is the youth of today. Take a ride close to home. Watch folks drive, park, interact with others. We have a growing violent, in your face attitude, in todays youth. Too much of todays media is based on the negative, so much of the new music listened to by todays youth is way over the top in attitude. (I'm really getting old aren't I?)
All of that said we are still blessed with folks who make a difference. Random acts of kindness, a smile as you pass, a wave from the drivers seat, can make a difference.
For the drivers with attitude I encounter on my travels I give them the "Priest Wave".... When I bless them rather than give them the one finger salute they seem to be completely disarmed. Try it the next time someone thinks you're in the way of their rapid progress.
I want a bumper sticker that says, "When you buy my gas you can push my throttle."
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Old 05-20-2006, 07:18 AM   #5
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This is a thread I could not pass up.
I have always found myself working with the "marginalized" in our society. Certainly there are those of you in law enforcement who can come up with more horror stories than I could ever conceive but still I have seen my share. In my business the people come after they have hit the bottom or are about to fall and do not know it. At the children's hospital there had been many nights spent with mothers who have beat their children, dropped them from windows, burned, mutilated, or forgot to fasten the seat belt. Then there were the father's who only showed up when the child was almost dead, he would have a huge teddy bear in his arms and stay only a minute or two. Then there was Sunday mornings standing in the pulpit preaching to a congregation and knowing the some of them used their last dollar for drugs or drink and did not feed the children. Or even worse they sent their kids off to earn money so they could buy those drugs or drink. Then there were the kids I taught who were still in prison and only wanted out to start over their illicit lives. Finally there was the young man who beat me up in the classroom and ended my career.
Friends would ask why? My answer was always: we must never stop looking for the good which is inside of us all. God has created us and God does not make junk.
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Old 05-20-2006, 07:20 AM   #6
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Before I retired, I did a lot of investigations involving white color crime, and similar issues, in many places and different countries and cultures around the world.

Somewhere along the line, I became convinced that people were inherently good, and I often tried to instill that belief in others, particularly those that worked for me and those that were involved with these investigations.

When confronted with some of the worst acts done by these individuals, we had to try to separate the person from the bad deed they'd committed. Love the person; hate the crime.

Many times over it was easy to see where a person's environment or their personal issues had contributed to the problem. We've all heard of the problems labeled as the "3-B's" - Babes, Booze and Bookies. And, more often than not when a person did a wrong deed, we'd see they also had one of the 3-B problems, or something similar. Get rid of that problem, and the person would be otherwise good.

There is not much difference in people all around the world, once you get to know them. I don't care whether it's the so-called terrorists, Jews, Palestinians, White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, Black African Americans, or Catholic priests. In my opinion, they're all inherently good.

If we can understand the environmental issues that cause certain people to commit bad acts we may be able to work toward solving the problems. These may not be easy to identify, and habits once learned are even harder to change.

But, we've got to believe that people are inherently good so that we can work toward making improvements; so that we can maintain our faith in mankind.
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Old 05-20-2006, 07:35 AM   #7
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In a nutshell...

I'd rather expect the best from someone and be wrong than expect the worst and be right. --dave
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Old 05-20-2006, 08:07 AM   #8
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Man is inherently bad. This can be most easily seen in infants who will learn that certain things are "bad", and then deliberately do them. A nursing infant will look its mother directly in the eye and then bite down hard on her nipple. A toddler will look furtively about and then grab a toy from another child. Anyone who has worked around small children will recognize this.

"Good" and "bad" are almost entirely social constructs - one can scarcely be "bad" in isolation. Socialization, call it good behavior, good manners, morality, or whatever, is a learned behavior, and one that is not easily learned. And the rules change with the society: murder was not only acceptable, but demanded in the Thugee society, just not of your fellow Thugs. In our own time the suicide terrorist bomber is evil to us, but celebrated around the Muslim world for his/her noble sacrifice. Self immolation is "bad", unless you are a Hindu widow.

Meanwhile, bad behavior requires no instruction whatsoever. Lying, stealing, cheating, violence, and anti-social behavior in general requires no self help books. "You've Got To Be Taught", the song from South Pacific is a nice tune, but it is absolutely wrong. We are born fearful of anyone different from us. Prejudice is as natural as running away from a lion. It is tolerance that must be taught.

But beyond this is what Christianity calls the "sinful nature". Other religions and people have other names for this same phenomenon. It is the urge within us all to do things which are hurtful, destructive, shameful, selfish, venal, or absolutely evil, even when it would gain us nothing. St. Paul famously observed that he did not do the things he knew he should do, but invariably did those things he knew he should not. Buddha made a similar observation, and in fact Buddhism is largely built around the idea of overcoming this tendency.

It is in overcoming this nature, this ingrained behavior that goodness flows. It is not our natural bent, but rather our conscious decisions that lead to goodness. And this is where it has all come apart in our own society. We have decided that right and wrong are entirely subjective, which is true to a certain extent (see above), and have decided that society cannot therefore impose notions of right and wrong, which is self destructive. Some sort of social order will be established ultimately, if not from within then imposed from without.

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Old 05-20-2006, 09:44 AM   #9
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Mark .. so sorry that you think that way..I chose to believe that man is good .... I would find it hard to live each day with that belief... BUT better to believe in the good and less in the bad.. Annie
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Old 05-20-2006, 10:52 AM   #10
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Mark nailed it.

Good people don't just happen. They are they product of values based parenting, training, education and mentoring. Created with free will to choose between good and evil, we humans are endowed by our Creator with the capacity to accomplish wondrous good, or monstrous evil.

Upbringing matters. Culture matters. Societal expectations matter.

Having said all this, I will agree that Airstreamers are basically good people.
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Old 05-20-2006, 12:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GlenCoombe
The downside to the equation is the youth of today. Take a ride close to home. Watch folks drive, park, interact with others. We have a growing violent, in your face attitude, in todays youth. Too much of todays media is based on the negative, so much of the new music listened to by todays youth is way over the top in attitude. (I'm really getting old aren't I?)
I beg to differ on this point. I'm involved with a lot of kids, in our theater company, in 4-H, the Junior Symphony, and just friends and family, and there's not a bad one in the bunch. Todays kids are smart, compassionate, well behaved, and for the most part respectful. They work hard and play hard. They skateboard and listen to rap music, and dress different than we did, but I'm sure my parent's were just as disturbed by our dress and music. Don't let a few bad kids give them all a bad rep.
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Old 05-20-2006, 12:53 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Stefrobrts
I'm involved with a lot of kids, in our theater company, in 4-H, the Junior Symphony, and just friends and family, and there's not a bad one in the bunch.
My point exactly, Stef. You are involved with kids who are being parented (friends and family), trained, educated, and mentored ( theater company, 4-H, Junior Symphony). It's not surprising that you think today's kids are smart, compassionate, and well behaved. Spend a day with a juvenile probation officer, and see if he or she feels the same way about the kids who are not being parented, trained, educated, and mentored.
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Old 05-20-2006, 01:30 PM   #13
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I guess it's the optimist in me that feels that these kids constitute the majority, although they are a self-selected sampling, just as a JD officer would see a totally different slected sampling.

For what it's worth I do believe that people are inherently good, despite the few bad apples. I think most people would tell you if your house was on fire, or help a lost child, or try to give you your wallet back if you lost it on the street. And I don't think God is required for people to be good (or bad for that matter). Being good is it's own reward, and most people know in their hearts what is right and wrong.
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Old 05-20-2006, 01:57 PM   #14
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4 judges...

Many years ago, My Mum, Bless Her, had Her purse snatched from Her hand, whilst waitin in the queue 2 pay 4 Her goods She lost abt £65... it was in a respectable shop... She stills reminds us all abt it from time 2 time... Now Her 3 Boys, & her 1 Daughter... & I'm NOT proud 2 say this, but it jus goes 2 show how a close Family r divided but such acts of ugliness...
1) Eldest Brother, a born agn Christian, semi retired, He says, God will 4give those...
2), Middle Brother, self employed, He says leave it 2 the police...
3) Sister, housewife, says, What do U expect with 2days society...
4), Me, Full time worker, Jus give Me 5 mins in My back yard with Him...
... So U C, all the 4 of us have a different point of view, & what is meant is, Yes He should pay 4 His crime, 2day sadly many of these petty crimes go unreported, it's abt time more people stood up 4 their rights..., My son, My Disabled Son was attacked by Junkies & they stole His Fone, trainers, wallet, & watch, & all 2 buy a few stupid drugs with... They all got 15 months...Had I bn the Judge, 15 YEARS springs 2 mind...Chris.....
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