Why are we more fascinated with evil than with good?

Thanks to Jim for probing. In a previous post I wrote, “The idea that knowledge of good and evil is what God wanted to keep us from misses the point of the Garden, God’s prohibitions, and the Fall.”

To clarify, the point of the Garden was obeying God, not the knowing good and evil. It’s not at all consistent to say that God did not want humans to know good and evil, but there are at least two ways to learn: by doing good (obedience and intimate worship), and by doing evil (e.g. disobedience and consequent estrangement). While it’s my speculation, it’s more consistent with God’s character that we would learn good and evil through doing good, not evil. C. S. Lewis has a great passage on this topic, but I couldn’t find it. Anyone have the reference?
So, why are we more fascinated with evil than with good? I think it speaks to both our nature and the influences in our lives that promote that fascination.
What do you think accounts for our fascinations and preoccupations?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “Why are we more fascinated with evil than with good?

  1. > To clarify, the point of the Garden was obeying God, not the knowing good and evil.

    Mmm…I have to disagree there, unless I misunderstand what you mean by “the point of the Garden was obeying God”. It sounds like what you’re saying is the point of the Garden was a test of “loyalty” or “obedience”, as though the actual “test” itself was irrelevant and just the act of obedience was
    the point.
    When I read Genesis I get a very strong sense that God was specifically trying to protect Adam and Eve (and the rest of us) from a particular objective (no pun intended) danger to us, specifically “the fruit of The
    Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” (I have no idea exactly what that metaphor refers to…I don’t think anyone else does either?).

    It seems to me that when Adam and Eve proved incapable of heeding that
    warning, incapable of avoiding that Tree and its fruit, God tossed ’em in order to keep that lack of self-control from hurting them (and us) even further, e.g. where God says something to the effect that he’s sending them out of the Garden “lest they discover also The Tree of Life, and live forever” (apparently that kind of “living forever” wasn’t the same as
    “Eternal Life” with God but rather living forever in a fallen state separate from God with no hope of return?).
    In terms of the Objectivism vs. Christianity “dichotomy” (if such a thing actually exists), I’d think that the latter idea, of God as a concerned parent protecting His children, would be slightly more palatable to an Objectivist (an actual concerned-with-reason-and-knowledge Objectivist, not
    some self-righteous, intellectually-preening a-hole) since it doesn’t
    require blind obedience to some fake deity but rather a rational decision by that (fake? 😉 ) deity to protect His creations and a rational reason why said creations may indeed be better off *without* a certain kind of knowledge…even though as good Objectivists we must acknowledge the primacy of our Individual Right to any knowledge that we are able to obtain.
    The fact that obtaining that knowledge stuck it to all of us, good and hard, doesn’t seem to violate that Sacred Objectivist Recognition of our Individual Rights if the terrible effects of the knowledge are merely a natural consequence of knowing something we weren’t ready to know vs. a “punishment” set upon us by a vengeful and angry “god”.
    Or, I completely missed your point regarding the “obedience vs. knowledge” situation that you were commenting on (I’ve been known to do that once in a while 🙂 ).

  2. Jim, thanks for the pushback. I’m happy to stay on the topic until I understand where you’re coming down on this issue.
    I appreciate your analogy of God as a parent, protecting his children. That resonates from several perspectives. For example, I want my little boy to obey my command not to go in the street. It’s not a test; I really don’t want him to be hit by a car. But he doesn’t understand about cars yet. Remember that we, as humans, are the children in the analogy. We don’t see the reasoning of the parent. We only know that he said, “Obey me.” If I knew why God put the tree in the Garden in the first place, I could reason through whether it was a test or not. I really don’t know. But, in terms of what the Garden was about, I know that it was about obeying God. We didn’t. I wonder what would have happened if we did obey. Would God have eventually (at a time that he deemed appropriate) allowed us to eat from the tree? I know that changes the rules, but it’s an interesting thought.

  3. > We don’t see the reasoning of the parent. We only know that he said, “Obey me.”

    Ah. So it’s kind of both. Rationally we believe that God wouldn’t give us the rule just for Divine Kicks, so we decide to obey it. Or if we don’t decide to obey it then we suffah because of our disobedience, regardless of whether we understood the reason for the commandment. Am I expressing your
    point correctly?
    If so then that would seem to encompass the idea that God “demanded” obedience, but not because of some egotistical need to have us obey him but rather because He knows that we need to obey him for our own good (and since He’s Perfect He has no emotional pride to interfere with His good judgement, whereas we constantly let our pride get in the way of our good judgement).

    Thanks for elaborating…I hope I understood you correctly…

  4. This is a bit of a side-comment but touches on the earlier comments.

    My perception in that passage that God indicated there was definite danger to us eating from the tree of knowledge and then the tree of life, and this has always made sense to me… living in a sinful state as an immortal is far worse than living in a sinful state as a man for a while, and then, potentially, being “raised incorruptable”, with a body that has no sin.

    Perhaps the danger of us eating from the tree of knowledge was not just knowledge per-se, but knowledge combined with immortality.

    Or, and this is just my speculation, the problem is eating from the tree of knowledge without also having a “tree of goodness” to also eat from.

    I guess that I’d also add that if someone believes that “knowledge is always good”, why do people say “curiousity killed the cat?” That saying sticks because there is some fundamental truth to it. I’ve never heard a good articulation from a rationalist’s perspective on the dangers of knowledge, but I think there is a rarely made argument purely rational argument there that may be somewhat relevant to the Garden of Eden story, which, on its surface, has “obedience over knowledge” sensitivites that may bother an Objectivist (or any freethinking person.)

  5. Great comment, Greg. I think the idea that “knowledge is bad” is at odds with the Bible. I like your thoughts, but I still maintain that it wasn’t the knowledge that was bad in the Garden of Eden; it was disobeying God. He has his reasons.
    I like your reference to the familiar adage about the cat. It wasn’t knowledge that killed the cat; her curiosity led her to put herself in dangerous places. The danger led to her demise.
    Just speculation, but I can’t help imagining what would have happened had we acquired the knowledge of good and evil through obedience, instead of disobedience. The only commentary we have on that possibility is from Satan in the Genesis account, and I don’t think he’s a credible authority.

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