How do you explain the fact that morally evil people can be highly educated in terms of ethics and religion? How do you explain the fact that morally evil people can be highly educated in terms of...

How do you explain the fact that morally evil people can be highly educated in terms of ethics and religion? 

How do you explain the fact that morally evil people can be highly educated in terms of ethics and religion?

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afi80fl's profile pic

afi80fl | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

Posted on

I think it's easy to understand something and be educated about it without buying into something.  Think about all of the fundamentalists who have to learn about the theory of evolution throughout school.  They are required to know the theory because it's the most scientifically recognized and supported theory or model out there right now, yet they don't buy into it.  They stick to their faith, believe in intelligent design, and use their knowledge of the theory to attempt and disprove it, or, at least, defend against attacks against their own theory. 

I like the discussion about Satan and Satanic cults... I also think that athiests sometimes know a lot more about religion than they let on.  If they didn't know so much about religious beliefs, then they'd have a lot less to say about it.  However, they make it their business sometimes to know about different beliefs so they can pick fun or attempt to disprove them. 

jessecreations's profile pic

jessecreations | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

You can be educated about anything; it doesn't mean you will believe in it.  A morally good person could study the history of evil or Satanic practices; just because they know about such things doesn't mean they will become them.  As they say, "know thine enemy."  You can't be truly against something if you do not understand what it is.  It reminds me of my children, who will tell me they "absolutely hate" a specific kind of food when they have never even tasted it before.  A morally evil person would want to understand the goodness that he or she rallies against; otherwise, how can they truly be evil?

amy-lepore's profile pic

amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Look at Satan.  He was the most beautiful and among the highest ranking angels in Heaven--definitely schooled in ethics and religion.  He knows the Bible inside and out, yet he is intent on enticing and destroying mankind with temptation to evil and planting the seeds of doubt into intelligent people's heads about the existence of the Lord.  Why shouldn't humans also have this issue? Satan is in charge of making sure there are intelligent people who are conning the rest of society out of their hard-earned money.

Does it surprise you that most serial killers are intelligent white males in their mid 20's to mid 30's?  They certainly know what they're doing is wrong, but the power and the rush of having control over another human being transcends the moral filter.

cburr's profile pic

cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

Think about something that you relate to solely on an intellectual basis. You play with the ideas, you understand theirs ins and outs, you spar with other people -- possibly without really caring which position you argue, since it's the points you score that matter.

There is absolutely nothing in that activity that connects with morality, ethical commitment, even emotions other than competitiveness. You must have a belief as to what is right and what is wrong, what is just and what is unjust, in order to connect with an issue on that level.

Otherwise, it is simply a sterile game.

bridgetrbcs's profile pic

bridgetrbcs | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I want to start off by saying that I believe this is a question where you will solicit opinions as I believe that there is no black and white answer for your question.  People who are highly educated in ethics and religion do not necessarily have to be morally sound.  In fact, as you stated, a person can be taught everything there is to know about ethics and religion, but still be a morally evil person.  One must choose to put into practice what they have learned about ethics and religion.

Basically this goes with just about anything so I will use teaching to explain why it may happen.  As a certified and degreed teacher, I have attended many classes, seminars, and workshops on how to teach correctly.  I have a lot of knowledge about exactly what I should and should not do.  However, if I so choose on any given day, I can break those rules if I wish to be lazy and just sit at my desk assigning many pages to the students to complete.  Now I know better but I may not choose to follow the better way.

It's the same with people who are highly education in ethics and religion.  They may have all the knowledge possible about those subjects but may choose not to follow what they have learned.

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pink-zebra's profile pic

pink-zebra | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

When you say that you believe there is no black and white answer, do you mean the you think either choice is equally acceptable?

pink-zebra's profile pic

pink-zebra | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

Hypocrites might be educated in what they teach, but they do the opposite of what they say to other people.

frizzyperm's profile pic

frizzyperm | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

Generally, a solid education in philosophy and ethics reduces the likelihood of immoral behaviour, but it doesn't remove it completely. Humans are emotional as well as rational, and strong negative emotions are very seductive.

I suspect if we devised an experiment to define the relationship between atrocities and moral understanding, we'd find that knowledge of morals and ethics decreases the willingness to commit acts of inhumanity.

I can think of two reasons why one person would willingly brutalise another. By far the most common type of brutality is where the perpertrator does not empathise with the victim's suffering or their own actions; they do not care for their victim. They do not 'put themself in their victims shoes'. And they do not recognise their own behaviour as barbaric, they find excuses for it or choose to ignore it. This is a crime of ignorance and emotional immaturity. It is brutal and ugly stupidity. Education in morals and human behaviour would definitely reduce this type of activity.

The much rarer case would be the person who is fully aware of their own actions and the victim's point of view and just does not care. This is extreme 'sociopathy' and is very frightening, but thankfully rare. These people can do terrible things in complete acceptance of their actions, fully aware they are wrong. They are very damaged people.

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