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Do Theists and Atheists Fight Fair?


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I was watching a thread in the Religion forum which touched on this and thought I'd start a new thread on the topic. Do theists and atheists fight fair with each other? (I use the terms theist and atheist loosely.)

 

When I first started visiting the Science forums it seemed as if the theists often played loose with the scientific facts when it came to religion. I attributed this to the fact that it's hard to find a lot of science backing God, the bible, etc. And the atheists would be very precise and supply volumes of empirical evidence supporting their positions.

 

Then I started to notice that in the Religion forum, it seemed as if some of the atheists who were so particular about their facts in the Science forums, didn't find the need to be so precise in the Religion forum.

 

So do atheists and theists fight fair with each other? Does it just seem as if they don't because people are simply more comfortable arguing from their own area of expertise? Is there a natural animosity between the two that makes it hard to understand the other's point of view? Is it just not possible to find common ground?

 

What do you think?

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I think there are definite differences in the way the two groups thinks, the religious need a yes-no, white-black, right-wrong, type existence, the less religious to atheistic don't need total certainly in life and can deal with a world of less certainty that changes as new knowledge comes in.

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I guess to a theist it seems as if science has been after them for centuries. Earth is no longer the center of the universe. Earth is no longer 6000 years old. Evolution. Big Bang. etc. etc.

 

Um...no? I like science and it's ability to toast my bread and keep my car engine running.

 

The main reason is that Atheists need empirical evidence. They need facts, they need proofs, they need observable truths. Theism is about faith in something you are NEVER supposed to understand. Faith in something that is not observable, or tangible.

 

And therein lies the problems between the two. Theists consider that faith virtuous; Atheists consider it intellectually dishonest.

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Um...no? I like science and it's ability to toast my bread and keep my car engine running.

 

The main reason is that Atheists need empirical evidence. They need facts, they need proofs, they need observable truths. Theism is about faith in something you are NEVER supposed to understand. Faith in something that is not observable, or tangible.

 

And therein lies the problems between the two. Theists consider that faith virtuous; Atheists consider it intellectually dishonest.

 

 

I think you have hit the nail on the head, I know that many theists give me a look like I'm brain damaged when they find out my faith is somewhat limited, much the same look i give them when they try to convert me...

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I guess to a theist it seems as if science has been after them for centuries. Earth is no longer the center of the universe. Earth is no longer 6000 years old. Evolution. Big Bang. etc. etc.

 

I think you misunderstand that group. It was the theists that first set science apart from religion. They did it when several theistic thinkers attempted to objectively prove the existence of their God. They set the bar too high and when they couldn't clear the bar they instead concluded that religion and science were in two different magisterial groups. Myself, I think that if a religion is true it must conform to science and likewise true science must include the possibility of a creator.

 

Um...no? I like science and it's ability to toast my bread and keep my car engine running.

 

The main reason is that Atheists need empirical evidence. They need facts, they need proofs, they need observable truths. Theism is about faith in something you are NEVER supposed to understand. Faith in something that is not observable, or tangible.

 

And therein lies the problems between the two. Theists consider that faith virtuous; Atheists consider it intellectually dishonest.

 

 

NO, this seems mostly off the mark. Atheists only need facts about certain things, on others they depend on a continued lack of evidence. Its about where one puts their faith not the presence or absence of it.

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Then I started to notice that in the Religion forum, it seemed as if some of the atheists who were so particular about their facts in the Science forums, didn't find the need to be so precise in the Religion forum.

 

So do atheists and theists fight fair with each other? Does it just seem as if they don't because people are simply more comfortable arguing from their own area of expertise? Is there a natural animosity between the two that makes it hard to understand the other's point of view? Is it just not possible to find common ground?

 

What do you think?

 

It's very easy to make inaccurate generalizations when you're talking about religion in general. It's very tempting to say, "Well, religious people think ______, but clearly that's wrong, so..." when you'd be hard-pressed to find religious people who hold that exact position.

 

I suppose when you're talking science you have clear context and clear subject matter. You're talking about whether a certain thing is possible, whether a certain theory is true, or whatever; the relevant facts are visible and available for your inspection. When discussing religion, it's difficult to define many concepts -- what exactly do they mean by "spirit"? -- and the definitions vary between groups, religious beliefs are variable, the relevant facts are more philosophical than empirical, and very few people have a grounding in the philosophy of religion, or the fundamental theology of their religion. (I've heard many Christians proclaiming things that would be called heretical by an early Church leader.)

 

Also, not very many of us are into serious study of religion. I'm taking courses in the field out of curiosity, but I'm no expert, and I doubt many people here are. Whereas we have practicing biologists, physicists, and chemists here who can talk with real expertise about science.

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I think you misunderstand that group.

I wouldn't be at all surprised. But let's take evolution as an example. There was a lively thread going tonight where a theist (he didn't bring up his belief in God until he symbolically gave us the finger while signing off for the night) appeared to ignore or make fun of what I felt were reasonable arguments for evolution. It appeared to me that he was doing this because it was at odds with the bible. I don't see that kind of behavior for topics like plate tectonics or medicine. That type of behavior is why it appears to me that theists feel under attack by science.

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I wouldn't be at all surprised. But let's take evolution as an example. There was a lively thread going tonight where a theist (he didn't bring up his belief in God until he symbolically gave us the finger while signing off for the night) appeared to ignore or make fun of what I felt were reasonable arguments for evolution.

 

Well he gave a couple of atheists the finger after they pissed all over him. It takes both sides to get into a fist fight.

 

It appeared to me that he was doing this because it was at odds with the bible. I don't see that kind of behavior for topics like plate tectonics or medicine. That type of behavior is why it appears to me that theists feel under attack by science.

 

Evolution is a hot topic because it is largely a prior conclusion based on a commitment to a particular worldview as opposed to a pure scientific area of study and it directly contradicts the theistic worldview. These more pure sciences that you mention don't have that baggage so the controversy is reduced.

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It's very easy to make inaccurate generalizations when you're talking about religion in general. It's very tempting to say, "Well, religious people think ______, but clearly that's wrong, so..." when you'd be hard-pressed to find religious people who hold that exact position.

 

I suppose when you're talking science you have clear context and clear subject matter. You're talking about whether a certain thing is possible, whether a certain theory is true, or whatever; the relevant facts are visible and available for your inspection. When discussing religion, it's difficult to define many concepts -- what exactly do they mean by "spirit"? -- and the definitions vary between groups, religious beliefs are variable, the relevant facts are more philosophical than empirical, and very few people have a grounding in the philosophy of religion, or the fundamental theology of their religion. (I've heard many Christians proclaiming things that would be called heretical by an early Church leader.)

 

Also, not very many of us are into serious study of religion. I'm taking courses in the field out of curiosity, but I'm no expert, and I doubt many people here are. Whereas we have practicing biologists, physicists, and chemists here who can talk with real expertise about science.

Yes, but I find many inaccurate statements by atheists that put theism in a bad light, when coming up with an accurate statement is 20 seconds away on Google. It seems as if the rigor is not as important when criticizing religion as it is when supporting science.

 

Well he gave a couple of atheists the finger after they pissed all over him. It takes both sides to get into a fist fight.

It certainly does. So do you think it was the atheist's fault? Did the theist ignore reasonable arguments? Was he right or wrong?

 

Evolution is a hot topic because it is largely a prior conclusion based on a commitment to a particular worldview as opposed to a pure scientific area of study and it directly contradicts the theistic worldview. These more pure sciences that you mention don't have that baggage so the controversy is reduced.

(my bold)

Exactly my point. It seems like it takes a lot more evidence to convince a theist of something if a theory contradicts their worldview, than if it doesn't. Shouldn't the same standard hold for all science?

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The atheist is often associated with science and reason. This is a misconception, since there are many more irrational atheists. Being an atheist only means not believing in God or religion. One can be an atheist, while not having spent any time ponder things with critical thinking. One can merely memorize, copy and mudsling.

 

For example, bringing up the Salem witch trials has little to do with modern religion. What is the cause and effect between that and a modern person? Maybe this projects the atheist condemming those who believe in spirits as blaspheming against their religion.

 

But it is presented in an irrational way to create an illusion there is a connection; QED. The irrational trick is to incite emotion so the argument remains irrational for the irrational atheists. The atheist leadership does not step in with reason, because this tactic may reflect the irrationality of the cause. I always thought atheism was a type of godless religion. If you take god out of the equation the dynamics are not much different. Budhism does not believe in God, but that is called a religion. One can have religion without God.

 

Religion does not claim to be rational. But since atheism does, it sets the rational standard for itself. As long as atheism deviates from its own standard, one gets the impression this rational claim is only smoke and mirrors. How does atheism deal with the irrational atheist in their flock, since they pervert the philosophy? Are they the minions for this godless religion.

Edited by pioneer
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Then I started to notice that in the Religion forum, it seemed as if some of the atheists who were so particular about their facts in the Science forums, didn't find the need to be so precise in the Religion forum.

 

This could be due to how such argument is treated. On a science forum, precise scientific arguments are valued and most convincing. It is worth the time to back up what you say with solid references. On the religion forum, the validity of the most respectable references might be questioned (not as methodological errors but potentially as simply lying). After a few times of this happening, people will realize it is worthless to give references to people who don't want them, won't read them, and won't believe them anyways.

 

So do atheists and theists fight fair with each other? Does it just seem as if they don't because people are simply more comfortable arguing from their own area of expertise? Is there a natural animosity between the two that makes it hard to understand the other's point of view? Is it just not possible to find common ground?

 

Some fight fair and some don't (goes for both sides). But mostly they fight different -- they start out with different sets of assumptions, and often can't realize that the other is basing their argument on a different set of assumptions. This makes argument difficult. To convince someone you need to either show their assumptions are false (they'd have to be shown to be contradictory with their other assumptions), or somehow convinced to abandon them. Alternately, you can temporarily go with their assumptions and try to show that it still leads to your conclusion. However, arguing from your assumptions without regard for their assumptions, will likely get nowhere.

 

And therein lies the problems between the two. Theists consider that faith virtuous; Atheists consider it intellectually dishonest.

 

Scientists have faith too. It's the mathematicians and philosophers who don't need faith (anyone who states their axioms and does proofs from that). To see the faith in science you need to understand the built-in assumptions of the scientific method (faith that the universe is observable, objective, consistent). I don't think there is any way to justify the assumptions of science no matter how reasonable they may be, not philosophically anyways. We can of course point out how convenient it is that the results match and allow us to manipulate the real world, eg create computers.

 

Note that the scientific method will be largely blind to God, unless such God were to be perfectly consistent. After all, who would be surprised if someone tries to repeat Jesus' "experiments" such as feeding 5000 with a few loaves of bread and fishes and prayer, and the repeated experiments fail to substantiate the result? The scientific method would conclude that the previous result was experimental error/fraud, the religious would decry the scientist's premise of consistency and objectivity that would allow someone else to repeat the same thing without expecting different results (ie, miracles can't be consistent and they could very well depend on who attempts to perform them).

 

Evolution is a hot topic because it is largely a prior conclusion based on a commitment to a particular worldview as opposed to a pure scientific area of study and it directly contradicts the theistic worldview. These more pure sciences that you mention don't have that baggage so the controversy is reduced.

 

Quite. Science and religion start from different assumptions and logically they arrive at different conclusions, both via valid logic. But while there isn't any philosophical way to say which set of premises is better, when given a certain measuring stick (such as correctly predicting data or correctly giving glory to God) than one turns out better than the other. In any case, even with all the evidence for evolution science can't really say that it wasn't actually the case that God designed life via an evolutionary algorithm, ran a universe simulation, and then poofed it all into existence in a week. But even though scientists can't tell if what they're doing is understanding the universe or peering into the mind of God, they nevertheless make correct predictions, and that is what matters to them.

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NO, this seems mostly off the mark. Atheists only need facts about certain things, on others they depend on a continued lack of evidence. Its about where one puts their faith not the presence or absence of it.

 

I'm a theist in a science-intensive major. I know a lot of atheists. This is NOT off the mark. They do not have "faith" in a continued lack of evidence. They simply accept the range of natural mechanisms that offer the most coherent explanation of nature. These mechanisms are always being revised, and constantly updated. It's hard to see that as "faith" in a lack of evidence.

 

Scientists have faith too. It's the mathematicians and philosophers who don't need faith (anyone who states their axioms and does proofs from that). To see the faith in science you need to understand the built-in assumptions of the scientific method (faith that the universe is observable, objective, consistent). I don't think there is any way to justify the assumptions of science no matter how reasonable they may be, not philosophically anyways. We can of course point out how convenient it is that the results match and allow us to manipulate the real world, eg create computers.

 

But this is also a good point.

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Compare the following posts:

 

 

 

I think there are definite differences in the way the two groups thinks, the religious need a yes-no, white-black, right-wrong, type existence, the less religious to atheistic don't need total certainly in life and can deal with a world of less certainty that changes as new knowledge comes in.

 

 

Um...no? I like science and it's ability to toast my bread and keep my car engine running.

 

The main reason is that Atheists need empirical evidence. They need facts, they need proofs, they need observable truths. Theism is about faith in something you are NEVER supposed to understand. Faith in something that is not observable, or tangible.

 

And therein lies the problems between the two. Theists consider that faith virtuous; Atheists consider it intellectually dishonest.

 

The first says that theists need absolutes and atheists can deal with uncertainty. The second says that atheists won't rely on faith because they need absolute facts, truths, proofs, etc. I don't think atheism fights fair because it basically seeks only to differentiate and conquer by any means possible. Theism, on the other hand, seems to advocate certain positions and tries to do so in language that will appeal to atheist reasoning, but ultimately they're just trying to share their peace of mind with the atheists one way or the other. Atheists, on the other hand, revile at such peace of mind because they see it as false consciousness and prefer to travel the various roads to falsification. Ironically, faith is ultimately what saves you from total nihilism when you reach the point of total doubt; but before you reach that point, you have a sense that there are certain fundamental truths that cannot and will not ever be falsified and so you live in a consciousness immune from fear of ultimate doubt. It is also ironic that as long as you have this feeling of immunity from fear of doubt that your state-of-mind is basically the same as someone who lives by faith.

Edited by lemur
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The point in time when religion and science really butted heads can be pin pointed.

 

Until this point in time religion and science has pretty much been ok with each other, there had been a few skirmishes about the sun, the earth, the moon, and planets and how they moved but that had been mostly an intellectual exercise with neither side really suffering due to it. but the real point at which religion really found it's self unable to explain why science was right and religion was wrong was the.....

 

Lightning Rod!

 

Yes the lightning rod, with a simple metal rod you could thwart the will of God! Up until then it was widely taught that lightning was definite proof of gods wrath and anyone who suffered a stroke of lightning was being punished by god! (of course the sin of the occasional Oak tree that was blasted out of existence was unexplained as was the fact that the church steeple was the most likely Building to be hit by lightning) Any man could by simply installing a lightning rod to keep God from striking his house or place of business.

 

Of course to us today this seems silly but at the time it was a real problem for religion and some churches claimed it was sacrilegious to install a lightning rod because it interfered with god and his ability to punish people. But the common mans desire to not be struck by lightning prevailed and slowly the use of lightning rods spread around the world, finally showing up in church steeples...

 

BTW good post Lemur, @ #14

Edited by Moontanman
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I think Galileo might argue with the lightning rod argument - earliest known lightning rods in russia 1720ish / ben franklin 30 years later; Galileo put under permanent house arrest 1632.

 

 

No not at all, Galileo was one man, his struggles did not cause the common man to question religion but the idea that the wrath of God could be avoided by simply hanging a metal rod on your house was profound, it marked the true turning point of science showing that religion was not the end all be all of reality.

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ightning Rod!

 

Yes the lightning rod, with a simple metal rod you could thwart the will of God! Up until then it was widely taught that lightning was definite proof of gods wrath and anyone who suffered a stroke of lightning was being punished by god! (of course the sin of the occasional Oak tree that was blasted out of existence was unexplained as was the fact that the church steeple was the most likely Building to be hit by lightning) Any man could by simply installing a lightning rod to keep God from striking his house or place of business.

 

Of course to us today this seems silly but at the time it was a real problem for religion and some churches claimed it was sacrilegious to install a lightning rod because it interfered with god and his ability to punish people. But the common mans desire to not be struck by lightning prevailed and slowly the use of lightning rods spread around the world, finally showing up in church steeples...

 

BTW good post Lemur, @ #14

 

Thanks but that post was more of a question than a statement, or at least it was intended to beckon responses about the seeming discrepancy between the ideas expressed in the two posts.

 

As for the lightning rod story, it is cute and funny but it also obfuscates the fact that there are deeper philosophical issues in theology. I think it's worth distinguishing well thought-out theology from superstitious ideas about natural phenomena. It's actually one of the most undermining facets for serious, intelligent theologically interested people to have to deal with notions like ghosts and spirits flying around in the air and "the body of Christ" referring to the physical flesh that was crucified. There's a quote where Jesus says that things of the flesh are flesh and those of the spirit are spirit. A TV news story that enlightens you to the dangers of alcoholism and stimulates you to clean up your life could be interpreted as an "angel" bringing you a message of good will. That doesn't have to mean that a physical or energy being actually manipulated the TV broadcast or transformed itself into a TV signal, etc. It's just a way of interpreting the complex interactions of life-circumstances that result in a particular person being inspired in a particular way at a certain moment. Same thing could be said if a cat caught the attention of your dog and the dog jumped for the cat and ended up pulling you by the leash out from under a tree branch that would have fallen on you if you had stood still. You could say that an angel saved you at that moment without believing that a physical entity actually released the cat to seduce the dog to pull you. It's just a way of talking about meaningful coincidences as being a form of goodness in the universe. You don't even have to think of it as intentional - a pantheist could see such life-changing events as direct messages from God since God is viewed as existing in and through everything. Someone else might see it as angels, but there's really no need to invoke the idea that the angel has to be an actual being in some form, because it's ultimately a question of lucky random events defying human ability to experience them as equally meaningless as any other random event.

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Yes, but I find many inaccurate statements by atheists that put theism in a bad light, when coming up with an accurate statement is 20 seconds away on Google. It seems as if the rigor is not as important when criticizing religion as it is when supporting science.

The accurate statement may be easy to find, but with no fundamental understanding of the basis of religion, it's hard for people to accept these explanations. Sure, you might look up the Trinity to be sure you've got it right, but when you're an atheist, the idea of one thing being three things that aren't the same thing simultaneously gets rather difficult to understand. You could try to understand the deeper theological explanations of it, but things just get harder from there.

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I don't think I know of any private dwellings that have lightning rods (possibly quite different in USA) although I guess the big stately homes do. I really do not think it had any major scietal effect in the UK. I never heard of any anti-religious fervour when they were introduced, whereas many scientists had to move from catholic dominated southern europe to protestant nw europe to avoid persecution and gain funding and favour.

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Thanks but that post was more of a question than a statement, or at least it was intended to beckon responses about the seeming discrepancy between the ideas expressed in the two posts.

 

As for the lightning rod story, it is cute and funny but it also obfuscates the fact that there are deeper philosophical issues in theology. I think it's worth distinguishing well thought-out theology from superstitious ideas about natural phenomena. It's actually one of the most undermining facets for serious, intelligent theologically interested people to have to deal with notions like ghosts and spirits flying around in the air and "the body of Christ" referring to the physical flesh that was crucified. There's a quote where Jesus says that things of the flesh are flesh and those of the spirit are spirit. A TV news story that enlightens you to the dangers of alcoholism and stimulates you to clean up your life could be interpreted as an "angel" bringing you a message of good will. That doesn't have to mean that a physical or energy being actually manipulated the TV broadcast or transformed itself into a TV signal, etc. It's just a way of interpreting the complex interactions of life-circumstances that result in a particular person being inspired in a particular way at a certain moment. Same thing could be said if a cat caught the attention of your dog and the dog jumped for the cat and ended up pulling you by the leash out from under a tree branch that would have fallen on you if you had stood still. You could say that an angel saved you at that moment without believing that a physical entity actually released the cat to seduce the dog to pull you. It's just a way of talking about meaningful coincidences as being a form of goodness in the universe. You don't even have to think of it as intentional - a pantheist could see such life-changing events as direct messages from God since God is viewed as existing in and through everything. Someone else might see it as angels, but there's really no need to invoke the idea that the angel has to be an actual being in some form, because it's ultimately a question of lucky random events defying human ability to experience them as equally meaningless as any other random event.

 

 

I liked the way you asked the question, i just don't have an answer for you.

 

As for the lightning rod you have to look at it in the context of the times. Religion has changed severely since the lightning rod was invented, back then what we would call superstition was a big part of religion. Accidents befell people who deserved it for some reason, just like the king deserved his station in life due to god giving it to him, the common man like wise deserved his station in life. Devils and demons, angels and saints, spirits and ghosts, the world was full of ethereal beings bent on either our destruction or our salvation, the often used what we would call natural phenomena to cause change in the world.

 

The lightning rod was best first example of science triumphing over dogma. Dogma held that lightning was the wrath of god, people believed it, it was taught from the pulpit if not the bible, the idea that humans could thwart the wrath of god was at the time a revolutionary idea even if now we can clearly see lightning is a natural process that can be manipulated and in many ways now, then it was an active act of god, the easiest to see and experience, the one most often thundered from the pulpit was punishment for some wrong known or unknown buy the person what was affected. The lightning rod changed all that...

 

I know there are people who still think in terms of direct interaction by God, the old put the part of your body that is diseased on the TV while we pray and send us a check for $100 and you'll be cured sect is still alive and well but they no long hold the power of life and death of all of us.

 

Here is a good link to the problem

 

http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/White/air/rod.html

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The first says that theists need absolutes and atheists can deal with uncertainty. The second says that atheists won't rely on faith because they need absolute facts, truths, proofs, etc.

 

I'm pretty sure he was referring to morals and paths to salvation and such. Most theists HATE gray areas of morality. I personally think it's ok to kill evil people, though this in and of itself is an evil act. It is a gray area. Most theists want a DEFINITIVE guide on how to live their lives.

 

I was referring to the fact that atheists need something to be defined as a truth in the purest sense before agreeing with it. God does not fall under this category. The Bible says (and I'm paraphrasing): You will never understand God. Stop trying. No, I don't care. Just stop. It's all part of a plan.

 

Such an ideology is anema(? is that the word I'm looking for ?) to most atheists.

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I personally think it's ok to kill evil people

I personally don't think evil people exist.

 

, though this in and of itself is an evil act. It is a gray area. Most theists want a DEFINITIVE guide on how to live their lives.

This might be because of the differences in how conservatives and liberals think(yeah, I know, but the vast majority of nontheists are liberals). There have been studies that show that conservatives tend to think of morality as a set of rules whereas liberals tend to think of it as a set of processes.

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I personally don't think evil people exist.

 

Most people think that the actions of figures such as Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Vlad the Impaler, Ghengis Khan, etc ect, to be evil. I do not know what sort of pedantic nit-picking you're trying to set me up for, but it's almost universally accepted that these people were evil, in that they committed many horrid crimes, with no remorse at all.

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Most people think that the actions of figures such as Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Vlad the Impaler, Ghengis Khan, etc ect, to be evil. I do not know what sort of pedantic nit-picking you're trying to set me up for, but it's almost universally accepted that these people were evil, in that they committed many horrid crimes, with no remorse at all.

Surely they thought they were doing the right thing. I don't think anyone wakes up and says 'what evil can I do today?'.

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