Green Room

Prager U: Is evil irrational?

posted at 1:24 pm on October 28, 2013 by

Dennis Prager himself helms this close look at the differences between reason and the structure of good and evil, starting off by challenging a centuries-old narrative about history’s worst despots.  Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Adolf Hitler often get called “madmen” for their massive crimes against humanity, but other than the megalomania that propelled them to their positions of power, did they act irrationally? Reason and rationality are only tools, tools which can be put to any use depending on the underlying motives of those that use them.  And it’s those motives that mean the difference between good and evil, not rationality or irrationality:

Reason and faith go hand in hand in the pursuit of truth, but it’s the belief systems employed that serves as that pursuit’s moral grounding.

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So you earn a course credit for listening to Prager’s spiel?! I could go for that…

The Nerve on October 28, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Reason and faith go hand in hand in the pursuit of truth, but it’s the belief systems employed that serves as that pursuit’s moral grounding.

Insufficient. It implies “belief system” is a matter of selection, and having selected, one can operate within that system perfectly reasonably, even if the behavior would not be reasonable within another belief system.

It’s relativism. :)

God is, or he isn’t. If he is, war with God is irrational.

Prager’s wrong.

Axe on October 28, 2013 at 1:53 PM

Prager here equates rationality to range-of-the-moment pragmatism, a fallacious rhetorical move better known as “attacking a strawman”.

One’s values and motives for action are also subject to being selected or reformed by reason rather than accidents of birth or peer pressure or whatever.

Grames on October 28, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Thank you, Mr. Morrissey, this was enjoyable. I do appreciate the way Mr. Prager can take a ‘religous’ concept as fundamental as good and evil and frame it in a simpler philosophical argument.

However, I believe he errs in two respects.

When he posits that one is necessarily at a loss to attribute the rescue of Jews from the clutches of malefactors during WWII to mere “reasonable(ness)”, he ignores two important, reasonable, motivations. The first factor is why I as an atheist never will try to push my understanding -beliefs, if you insist- of the finite existence of humans on the religous. The religous, at least in the judeo-christian tradition, have a marvellous gift to impart to the non-believer, and that is humility. It is paradoxical, but human intellect seems most limited when it is unencumbered by an appreciation of human fallibilty. If you want to take the light-hearted lesson in that matter, watch the Saturday morning “mad scientist” movie. If you want to cry, look to Washington.

With a secular appreciation of humility, though, one can still summon the will to confront the “irrational” actions of the genocidal by taking the long view, rather than the short view of self-preservation of the individual. For one with humility may rationally consider what is the value of the individual over the lost unknown potential of the many. One doesn’t have to question the loss of his humanity in order to act, to attempt the rescue of the imperiled Jew; one need not label the Nazis “evil” to act; one need only look at the loss of human endeavor and the resulting detraction to society he participates in to act. A merely reasonble, humble choice can be made.

As to leaving the sickly infant to die from exposure as the Greeks practiced, I don’t how to seperate that from “evil”. That’s a task for a better man than I.

M240H on October 28, 2013 at 2:26 PM

God is, or he isn’t. If he is, war with God is irrational.

Prager’s wrong.

Axe on October 28, 2013 at 1:53 PM

I absolutely agree.

INC on October 28, 2013 at 2:31 PM

“God is, or he isn’t. If he is, war with God is irrational.

Prager’s wrong.”

The problem with that view is that one can never prove, or disprove, the existence of God empirically. (That’s not a controversial statement; theologians of all stripes have always agreed with that, since if you could prove God exists empirically, there would be no need for faith).

So, the question is, is it rational to only place ones trust in those things and concepts which one can prove to either exist or to be true by empirical methods, in other words by observation and experiment? Or is it rational to place ones trust in those things that one can NOT prove to exist or be “true” by empirical methods?

People of faith have one view, others hold to the other. For myself, I’m willing to say that both views are rational, but they depend on how you view the world, from a conceptual basis.

So to go to Axe’s statement “If he is, war with God is irrational.”

But if he Isn’t, then it’s not irrational to oppose an idea you think is perniciously false (I oppose the Muslim’s view of God, for example).

So what good is this definition when you cannot decide which one is true by any objectively rational process?

Tom Servo on October 28, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Don’t Christians believe that the devil exists, and that he would rather rule in hell than serve in heaven? For in that case at least, war against God is rational. Or has the devil changed his mind and repented?

Seth Halpern on October 28, 2013 at 3:00 PM

P.S. I never heard any Christian say the devil was crazy.

Seth Halpern on October 28, 2013 at 3:06 PM

So what good is this definition when you cannot decide which one is true by any objectively rational process?

Tom Servo on October 28, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Maybe human understanding is necessarily fragmented because human minds are unable to represent enough of what is to flawlessly logically navigate it.

But the argument, along these lines, is something like this: the Muslim father killing his daughter to save his family’s honor is behaving rationally; according to everything he “believes” (“presupposes is true”), it’s a rational, reasonable, and logical thing to do.

Yet, I see a murder.

I’m not arguing that it’s impossible to create a frame of reference where irrational acts are rational. I’m arguing that one of us, the Muslim father or me, is ultimately wrong. In a larger frame of reference, one of us has come to an irrational conclusion. And I think the only way for that assertion to be untrue is if the Universe, existence, is irrational, a place where two mutually exclusive truths can exist at the same time.*

I jumped to the most external frame of reference possible to try to demonstrate that idea. God is, or he isn’t. If he is, war with God is irrational.

As far as the muddle, I don’t have an answer. I don’t think the inability to understand everything is evidence that everything doesn’t exist, though. As a Christian, I probably have it easy here. I’ve got one assurance after another along the lines of, “I’m God, you aren’t going to completely get all this, and you are going to have to trust me for awhile.”

Which is also a perfectly rational thing for God to assert, and a perfectly rational thing for me to presuppose is true. :)

*Would love to see that demonstrated.

Axe on October 28, 2013 at 3:31 PM

Axe was right to jump to the most external frame of reference to make the argument for the irrationality of evil. He’s not the only one. I believe I have heard Christians speak before on evil’s irrationality.

One way the irrationality of evil plays out is in Utopian thinking. They’re thinking from the largest external frame they can—one that is godless—always believing that they can come up with the right system that will solve all mankind’s problems. They never learn from reality. Their thinking is irrational because they deny their “lying eyes.” History has shown time and again that what Sowell called the unrestrained vision of man descends into bloodshed and evil. That’s reality’s commentary on whether or not their underlying presuppositions were rational.

INC on October 28, 2013 at 3:51 PM

There are rational reasons to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord.

Anyone, whether or not they are a Christian, can read the New Testament as accurate historical documents for there are excellent, valid reasons to view the New Testament as a trustworthy historical account. Belief in Jesus Christ is not an irrational leap that can only be made without reason to believe. In The New Testament Documents Are They Reliable? F. F. Bruce writes:

The evidence for our New Testament writings is ever so much greater than the evidence for many writings of classical authors, the authenticity of which no one dreams of questioning. And if the New Testament were a collection of secular writings, their authenticity would generally be regarded as beyond all doubt.

He goes on to set forth the scholarship that attests to the authenticity of the New Testament and concludes at the end of the book:

Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth’, but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is as axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories.’

The earliest propagators of Christianity welcomed the fullest examination of the credentials of their message. The events which they proclaimed were, as Paul said to King Agrippa, not done in a corner, and were well able to bear all the light that could be thrown on them. The spirit of these early Christians ought to animate their modern descendants. For by an acquaintance with the relevant evidence they will not only be able to give to everyone who asks them a reason for the hope that is in them, but they themselves, like Theophilus, will thus know more accurately how secure is the basis of the faith which they have been taught.

INC on October 28, 2013 at 3:52 PM

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1:1–3

In the opening lines of Luke’s gospel as he writes to Theophilus he mentions these eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ and of his own care in investigating and recording their witness.

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)

In Jerusalem Peter mentions these witnesses when he proclaims:

This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.
Acts 2:32 (ESV)

Paul states that over 500 people saw Jesus Christ after His resurrection, including himself. Not only that, he says that most of those witnesses are still alive—verification of his own witness could be made.

Why such an emphasis on eyewitnesses? Because Christianity is Jesus Christ. Christianity is not a mere system of ethics or philosophy, but proclaims that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again, in—as Francis Schaeffer said—historic space-time. Without the actual, real events of His death, His resurrection, we would be lost; we would be without hope. Look at how Paul reviews the content of the gospel, and read what he writes as being of first importance in 1 Corinthians 15:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV)

This is why the record of the eyewitnesses is so important. Christianity is grounded in the history of the person and work of Jesus Christ. The eyewitnesses of the New Testament attest to what they have seen and known about Jesus Christ. They want those who read their witness to know and to be confident of the truth regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ.

INC on October 28, 2013 at 3:52 PM

Handbook On Faith, Hope, and Love
By
Saint Augustine

14. Actually, then, in these two contraries we call evil and good, the rule of the logicians fails to apply. No weather is both dark and bright at the same time; no food or drink is both sweet and sour at the same time; no body is, at the same time and place, both white and black, nor deformed and well-formed at the same time. This principle is found to apply in almost all disjunctions: two contraries cannot coexist in a single thing. Nevertheless, while no one maintains that good and evil are not contraries, they can not only coexist, but the evil cannot exist at all without the good, or in a thing that is not a good. On the other hand, the good can exist without evil. For a man or an angel could exist and yet not be wicked, whereas there cannot be wickedness except in a man or an angel. It is good to be a man, good to be an angel; but evil to be wicked. These two contraries are thus coexistent, so that if there were no good in what is evil, then the evil simply could not be, since it can have no mode in which to exist, nor any source from which corruption springs, unless it be something corruptible. Unless this something is good, it cannot be corrupted, because corruption is nothing more than the deprivation of the good. Evils, therefore, have their source in the good, and unless they are parasitic on something good, they are not anything at all. There is no other source whence an evil thing can come to be. If this is the case, then, in so far as a thing is an entity, it is unquestionably good. If it is an incorruptible entity, it is a great good. But even if it is a corruptible entity, it still has no mode of existence except as an aspect of something that is good. Only by corrupting something good can corruption inflict injury.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 3:54 PM

Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Adolf Hitler often get called “madmen” for their massive crimes against humanity, but other than the megalomania that propelled them to their positions of power, did they act irrationally?

Stalin; Purged most of his military leaders due to paranoia. Mandated Five-Year Plans which resulted in famines that killed over 30 million Russians. Ordered his army out of prepared defensive positions in May of 1941 to advance positions for an invasion of Germany through Czechoslovakia and Austria, in spite of his own intelligence people warning him of the impending German attack.

Mao Tse-Tung (I prefer the old spelling); The “Great Leap Forward” was even more catastrophic for China than Stalin’s “terror famine” was for Russia. Followed by the “Cultural Revolution” which was the worst massacre of its kind in history prior to the Islamist purges in Iran (exact casualty figures remain unknown but are believed to be on the high side of two million dead). Repeated “Five-Year Plans” which in the end nearly starved half of China to death. And on top of that, his sexual proclivities included prepubescent girls; Chinese families were taught that it was a great honor for the “Great Helmsman” to deflorate their daughters at age eight.

Pol Pot; Basically wanted to kill everybody in Cambodia and nearly succeeded.

Hitler; Whatever he said he didn’t intend to do, he did. Including fighting a war on two fronts, declaring war on the United States, and being convinced that “wonder weapons” would win it all for him. He was also an occultist in addition to his other delusions.

So yes, by any standard of measure, all of the above behaved irrationally. But blaming their environment or “geopolitical conditions” does not take into account the fact that except for Pol Pot, who lead a group of fanatics who were as homicidal as he was, all of the above had advisors who warned them their actions would lead to disaster.

Stalin had his sent to Siberia or shot. Hitler had them shot. Mao had them shot and made their next of kin pay for the ammunition expended.

When this sort of behavior occurs in the face of opposition from the perpetrator’s own allies, the only reasonable assumption is insanity, specifically megalomania and power-lust, possibly coupled with homicidal psychosis.

What is telling is that this sort of mentality is strongly attracted to authoritarian rule. That is, they dream of having this much power.

And when they get it… look out.

clear ether

eon

eon on October 28, 2013 at 4:06 PM

Reason and faith go hand in hand in the pursuit of truth, but it’s the belief systems employed that serves as that pursuit’s moral grounding.

Absolutely dead on. And it goes beyond simply matters of morality.

I defy anyone, right here in this thread, to make a reasonable statement about any matter on any topic whatsoever, that is not subject to some leap of faith.

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 5:45 PM

I defy anyone, right here in this thread, to make a reasonable statement about any matter on any topic whatsoever, that is not subject to some leap of faith. RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 5:45 PM

I am eating jambalaya right now.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:17 PM

I am eating jambalaya right now.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Why?:)

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Wait, I misunderstood, and thought that was your way of saying “Hold on a sec, I’ll get to it in a minute. I’m a little slow today.

So the actual response is, “How do you know?”

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 6:24 PM

My point being, you assume that you are not hallucinating – you have faith in your sense of taste, smell, vision, as well as your memory (specifically, you trust your own cognitive abilities enough to assume you haven’t forgotten what jambalaya is made of and tastes like.)

You assume that you aren’t dreaming. You assume that God isn’t playing a trick on you, and you have faith that he isn’t letting Satan screw with your head in some way either.

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 6:33 PM

I am eating jambalaya right now.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Why?:)

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 6:21 PM

You lose.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:38 PM

Because I was hungry, but not no more. Now I got my Macanudo on, rockin a li’l white wine. Life, she good.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:38 PM

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 6:33 PM

No, sorry, didn’t make any assumptions. The wife put it on the list Saturday, we went shopping for its ingredients among other things, it just went down my gullet and that’s all there is to that. Until tomorrow around 10:00AM.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:43 PM

Keep in mind, it’s hardly implausible that Satan is playing a trick on you, from a Biblical perspective. I can imagine the conversation:

And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it. And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Akzed, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Akzed fear God for nought? Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side. And most of all, Hast not though blessed him with sanity?

But put forth thine hand now, and take away his ability to know the Truth, about even that which doth enter his own mouth, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he eateth is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 6:46 PM

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 6:46 PM

If Pantokrator and Satan were involved in some kind of wager regarding my jambalaya, I would be very surprised.

Stop reading Berkeley and get some Descartes in your diet.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:52 PM

Hast thou considered my servant Akzed, that there is none like him in the earth,

I must say, you have a point there…

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:53 PM

No, sorry, didn’t make any assumptions. The wife put it on the list Saturday, we went shopping for its ingredients among other things, it just went down my gullet and that’s all there is to that. Until tomorrow around 10:00AM.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:43 PM

How are these not assumptions? Sure, maybe your wife told you, but you have to assume she’s telling the truth, which you might deduce from her previous behavior – you’ve known her to be an honest woman. But then you have to assume that your discernment is such matters is sound. Which, I hasten to add, I don’t have any special reason to really doubt – you do not come across as someone who puts trust into people casually.

But you can’t reason your way into the fact that all of these basic things are true, unless you deduced them from some other basic assumptions.

My point isn’t that you shouldn’t make these assumptions – in fact, it’s kind of the opposite – you have to make some assumptions before you can do any kind of reason.

And lest you think this is just an exercise in pedantry, try to make a substantive theological or moral statement. And this time, feel free to assume anything that truly is obvious just from your immediate surroundings and sensory perceptions. How do you make any profound conclusion about the existence of God, or morality, or heaven, or the universe, or time, or consciousness, or cause and effect, without a boatload of assumptions that aren’t deeply non-obvious?

None of this says there’s no absolute truth, or that “everything’s relative”, or that we should pick and choose whichever assumptions we want. It’s just that reason alone won’t get you anywhere without some profound statements taken entirely on faith. You might be able to reason your way to the existence of God, but you’ll have to take a bunch of statements about time and/or Morality and/or cause-and-effect – assumptions that are just as non-obvious.

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 7:07 PM

Man falls of a cliff, and grabs a branch.

“Let go,” says a soothing voice.

“You’re crazy!” says the man.

“No, I’m God. I will catch you.”

Man pauses… then says, “Anyone else up there?”

Is that a lack of faith?

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 7:12 PM

I am eating jambalaya right now.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:17 PM

Why?:)

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 6:21 PM

You lose.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:38 PM

Actually, that does have require an element of belief. You believe jambalaya tastes good. There are people who would disagree based on their belief that it doesn’t.

whatcat on October 28, 2013 at 7:15 PM

Stop reading Berkeley and get some Descartes in your diet.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:52 PM

I’ll confess, I’m not well-read at all when it comes to philosophy. Perhaps it shows. It’s mostly because it always seems too fuzzy and imprecise. I usually feel confident that once any of the arguments are rephrased into plain modern English, you can find the hidden, very non-obvious assumptions. But I’m never quite sure if I’m interpreting the text as intended.

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 7:17 PM

Is that a lack of faith?

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 7:12 PM

It certainly seems to be a lack of faith in the authenticity and/or benevolence of the mysterious voice. Though strictly speaking, it’s possible that he does believe the voice, but is just genuinely curious if anyone else is up there.

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 7:21 PM

Descartes in your diet.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 6:52 PM

I’ll confess, I’m not well-read at all when it comes to philosophy. Perhaps it shows. It’s mostly because it always seems too fuzzy and imprecise. I usually feel confident that once any of the arguments are rephrased into plain modern English, you can find the hidden, very non-obvious assumptions. But I’m never quite sure if I’m interpreting the text as intended.

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 7:17 PM

A wise person doesn’t put Descarte before the horse-sense.

whatcat on October 28, 2013 at 7:22 PM

Actually, that does have require an element of belief. You believe jambalaya tastes good. There are people who would disagree based on their belief that it doesn’t. whatcat on October 28, 2013 at 7:15 PM

But I’ve had it before and it’s always been great.

That is not based on faith but empirical evidence and experience. The first time I had it, it was great. It’s always possible that my wife could put too much spice in it and ruin it, but then our evaluation of the facts would lead us to correct her mistake.

If someone doesn’t like it after having tasted it, their judgment is also based on the same kind of evidence that led me to enjoy it. The proof is in the pudding. Experimentation is not necessarily based on faith, but skepticism and curiosity and desire to find truth, and more.

There are such things as facts.

Berkeley believed that God made me taste and judge the jambalaya favorably. The bell didn’t cause me to hear its ring, God put the sound in my ear. Etc. In other words, there are no facts, and nothing is predictable, we must rely on faith because each event is unique in history. So that eventually Berkeley had no certainty in whether or not he or anyone else even existed.

Descartes put that to rest.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 7:33 PM

It certainly seems to be a lack of faith in the authenticity and/or benevolence of the mysterious voice. Though strictly speaking, it’s possible that he does believe the voice, but is just genuinely curious if anyone else is up there. RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 7:21 PM

How do you know this same scenario hasn’t happened before, and the man fell to the ground after trusting the voice?

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 7:34 PM

A wise person doesn’t put Descarte before the horse-sense.
whatcat on October 28, 2013 at 7:22 PM

Clever, but “I think, therefore I am,” is the ultimate in horse sense.

The wife’s waiting to watch some Hulu. Gotta go.

Shalome!

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 7:35 PM

But I’ve had it before and it’s always been great.

That is not based on faith but empirical evidence and experience. The first time I had it, it was great.
Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 7:33 PM

What non-subjective criteria did you employ to come that conclusion?

whatcat on October 28, 2013 at 7:46 PM

There are such things as facts.

I don’t disagree

Berkeley believed that God made me taste and judge the jambalaya favorably. The bell didn’t cause me to hear its ring, God put the sound in my ear. Etc. In other words, there are no facts, and nothing is predictable, we must rely on faith because each event is unique in history. So that eventually Berkeley had no certainty in whether or not he or anyone else even existed.

Descartes put that to rest.

Akzed on October 28, 2013 at 7:33 PM

I don’t see how “there are no facts” can be concluded from Berkeley’s statement. It seems to me what he has said here is that three are facts. And God caused them all. Just because nothing is absolutely predictable through powers of reason alone doesn’t mean nothing is true or there are no facts. And it further doesn’t mean that God had to do everything Himself (though it doesn’t preclude it either). These seem to be three mostly separate questions:

1. Does God cause everything to happen?

2. Is everything that happens predictable? Or if not everything, are at least some things predictable? Here, I mean absolutely predictable – we can always try to guess, but if we want to make absolutely true statements about the future, educated guessing isn’t good enough.

3. Is there such thing as a fact?

#1 and #2 seem to be independent, in the sense that either a yes or no answer to one of them can’t immediately give you a yes or no answer to another, without at least some more assumptions or some more precision about what all these words mean.

#3 is sort of necessary for any logical discussion about anything, if you want to be able to answer “yes” or “no” questions. In general, I’ve always defined a “fact” to mean a statement for which the answer is “yes”. When thinking about reality, I do assume that there is such a thing as truth and falsehood, though if I think too hard about it, I sometimes realize that this might be some oversimplification that’s just our minds’ best way of grappling with the universe. But once I start trying to suppose, just for the sake of argument, that there is no absolute “truth”, I start thinking about things like absolute non-existence, and then I get really uncomfortable and I have to stop. I guess this is why that movie “The Never-Ending Story” gave me nightmares as a kid.

RINO in Name Only on October 28, 2013 at 8:59 PM

Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Adolf Hitler often get called “madmen” for their massive crimes against humanity, but other than the megalomania that propelled them to their positions of power, did they act irrationally?

Hitler certainly acted irrationally in his pursuit of evil. The entirety of the Holocaust was both a misapplication of resources, and designed to chase some of the best, brightest, and in some cases the most loyal, Germans from Germany, or outright kill them. There is no way to rationalize it. I think you could certainly make the same argument against Pot’s rationality.

Mao and Stalin make it more difficult. To start with, they arguably had successful reigns. Stalin died as the undisputed leader of his nation, and in fact of the Soviet bloc. And Mao…? Well, just look at Tianamen(sp?). Big, giant picture of Mao, for all to see. Tough to argue their reigns were unsuccessful, politically. Unlike Pol Pot and Hitler…

JohnGalt23 on October 29, 2013 at 3:38 AM

I must also respectfully disagree with our friend, Mr. Prager. Unfortunately, he not only lacks the answers to his questions AND is oblivious to them when they are aptly provided.

As a religious agnostic, I sincerely thank god for HotAir. Apparently I’m not alone.

Quetzal on October 29, 2013 at 10:13 AM

It’s rational if you think living in a fundamentally corrupt, hate-filled and brutal world without trust on any level is in your best interest. A belief in God is not required to decide.

elfman on October 29, 2013 at 12:32 PM