We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Editor posted that he had just visited the Nazi stadium, the Zeppelinfeld, in Nuremberg, and that he had felt creeped out by standing there. It isn't "history," - it's recent past.
Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama, etc. are just icons of evildoing. Scapegoats, in a way. The evil is not so importantly in them as it is in the effective unleashing of the evil in the hearts of their supporters. We eagerly forget that Hilter was elected. Some charisma helps, but does charisma come from popularity and power, or does it inspire popularity?
I will not reflect on my own potential for evil, or the dark side of my heart, on a website, but I know it exists and I know a bit about it. I am not making moral equivalences here, a la Pogo. There's a big difference between containing some darkness and acting on it. One thing I pray for is for God to always lighten my darkness.
Readers know that I accept the notion of evil, and refuse to medicalize or sociologize it. Readers also know my thoughts about utopianisms of all sorts, and especially what I term Psycho-utopianism. Anybody who has been analysed knows about the dark side of the Force, and does not need Hannah Arendt to inform us about it.
The "problem of evil" is a manufactured, trumped-up "problem" for and of the Enlightenment. Rousseau and all that noble savage stuff. Reason has its limits, and people are not "good." Most of us strive to be good, however, which is interesting and remarkable in itself, and evidence for many of the spark of the divine in humankind. Judaism and Christianity have no "problem of evil" because they accept the reality of man's fallen condition.
Our friend, the retired prison shrink Dr. Ted Dalrymple, who ought to know as much about the topic as anybody, takes on the subject.
Ed: I guess that is something of a Christian Rosh Hashanah post. Why not? Same roots. Reminds me of this (gotta love the fish fry):
Hitler was not elected. He ran for President against Hindenburg in 1932 and lost in a run off. Because of the byzantine machinations of the Weimar Republic, Hitler was eventually appointed Chancellor by Hindenburg in 1933 because the Nazi party had a plurality in the parliament. The second largest party was the communists. When Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler illegally abolished the office of President and appointed himself to the combined office of national leader and chancellor, making himself head of state and head of the armed forces.
Dr B's point remains valid: Hitler and the Nazis had a lot of popular support and some of their agenda was well-known at the time, not to mention their methods.
Among animals, taking all you can get and seeking what is hidden are both valuable survival traits. In human society, those traits can become greed and a love of the forbidden. Humans seem to actually do a lot better than other animals at sharing without compulsion. We live far below a level I'd like to see us achieve (and maybe we can't) and we live far above the level of brute animals, above the level of many societies in our history.
Hitler was elected. His party held the majority of parliament, which made him the logical choice to become chancellor. That's the way a parliamentary democracy (which the US is not) works.
He later used his powers as chancellor to declare a state of emergency and abolish all opposition, effectively making him head of state and totalitarian ruler, which was again within his powers (though he did fabricate the incident which allowed him to do so).
He did of course use coercion and voter intimidation to win those elections. Now where have we seen that recently, say in 2008...
But then pretty much every political party in Germany in the 1920s and '30s had private armies for precisely that purpose, they just weren't as effective as was the NSDAP.
The Nazi party had the largest number of legislators, but not a majority. The second largest party was the communists. Because no stable coalition could be formed, Germany was effectively ruled by a series of minority governments acting through presidential decrees from 1929 to 1933.
Coalition governments are the norm in Europe. The largest party typically gets first shot at forming one, and providing the government leader.
When no majority government can be formed, they usually try a minority government (or there are new elections) but both are pretty rare.
The chief difficulty with answering the Problem of Evil is that upon being presented with the answer, non-believers go on as if no answer had come forth. Every point and quibble of the Problem of Evil has been answered time and again, and yet every time one turns around, a God denier is asking the same questions again, and often in the same form.
"Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, Osama, etc. are just icons of evildoing."
A fatally incomplete list, in my view, without the primary culprit, Lenin, the one true evil genius of the 20th century. It was Lenin who took Marxism and turned it into an instrument of ruthless revolutionary action; and all the others mentioned in this essay simply followed in his footsteps. The horrors usually ascribed to Stalin - mass murder, the Gulag, the entire Soviet system of oppression, socialized medicine as a means to control people (yes!), and so forth - are really Lenin's notions. Stalin merely enlarged and systematized what Lenin had already set up or designed. (Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago makes this clear.)
I know that the above list of evildoers is not supposed to be exhaustive, but Lenin should always be mentioned first whenever evil is discussed.