Are People Inherently Good?

Even though some people have done things that make them end up in jail for life, I still like to view all people as inherently good overall even if they sometimes don’t act like it.  I think the people we view as “bad” are hurting in some way or have been badly mistreated at some point in their lives, and that these “bad” people can become good people through rehabilitation and healing.  Many of the people seen by society as being “bad” or as a criminal are treated differently than someone who society views as good.

Growing up in suburbia, one does not see many people that society would consider “bad” and from childhood to the beginning of college, I thought that all people were inherently good because all the people I really knew could be considered “good.” A major reason for believing this probably comes from going to church as a child, where I learned that God forgives everyone for their actions on earth supposedly, and this idea probably led to believing that all people are good.

Another reason for believing this is just my hope that people will choose the good over the bad in their daily lives. My parents also led me to believe this, but I think their motivation was religious.  A huge factor in me believing this was that nearly all the people I associated with could be considered to be good people overall.

Religion could also have the opposite effect on people in regard to this belief.  Some religions view people, and themselves, as being inherently “bad” or sinful, which is the reason why they have to ask God for forgiveness. A person that is influenced by a religion like this would not view people as being inherently good but the opposite instead.  A child raised under these types of views would be told by their parents that they are inherently “bad”, along with everyone else.  Being repeatedly told that humanity is “bad” could eventually influence the person into believing it.  If one’s church tells them every Sunday that they are sinners, they may possibly end up believing it.  The parents can take it one step further also; to punish the child physically solely because of their belief in man being inherently “bad.”   I knew a kid whose parents were like this.  He was very skittish around other people, which is probably due to the fact that his parents abused him.  He viewed people as “bad” because his parents and church basically made him believe this or he would be punished otherwise.

A person who was teased as a child would probably disagree that people are inherently “good”.  Being teased would cause them to view others in a negative light.  If they constantly see other people as a type of threat to them, then they would not believe that people are inherently “good”.  The constant fear of being teased could also make them afraid of other people in general because anyone could tease them. If other people only cause you fear, then that would probably influence you to view others as “bad”.

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3 thoughts on “Are People Inherently Good?

  1. Hi Charlie,

    This is a great start to the assignment. You do a great job of laying out some of the background for your beliefs in the first half. You look closely at both what you believe and why, examining the social context as well the specifics of your own thinking.

    The second half of the response gets more complicated, though, and it’ll need to be developed more in order for the assignment to be graded satisfactory. Remember, the assignment is asking you to think about why other people might think differently from you. For instance, you say:

    “Instead of being influenced by their parents and the church, they could be more influenced by gangs or criminals. And the person does not even have to come from a bad area; plenty of bad people come from suburbia that I have met from personal experience. They did not necessarily have a bad childhood or anything; it was usually that they cared more about their own well-being much more than they did about other people. It is likely that these people came from a broken home and/or an abusive one.”

    This doesn’t really get at the question of why someone might not believe in the inherent goodness of people. Instead, you veer off into a discussion of why people turn bad (broken homes, crime, etc.). But, why might someone think differently from you? You seem to say that it’s just because “they care more about their own well-being.” But why? If it’s not explained by a “bad childhood,” what explains it?

    More fundamentally, by the end it doesn’t seem to me that you really do believe that people are inherently good. You talk about “crime-filled areas” and other problems. You talk about selfish people who care only for themselves. Are you sure you actually believe that all people are good? To receive an S, you’ll need to really dig deep and think about what it is you actually believe and why others might disagree.

    Please review the assignment prompt. To receive a grade of S, this post must be revised to meet the requirements of the assignment. You have until September 24 to complete the revisions, but I strongly suggest submitting them ahead of time in case a second round of revisions are necessary. After you’ve edited the post, inform me in-class and I’ll mark it for review.

  2. Charlie,

    This is getting very close, but to get an “S” you’ll need to expand a bit on the last two paragraphs. You say that religion helped you, but that it might have the opposite effect on others. You say that bad news might affect some people to believe that people are inherently bad, but it doesn’t seem to affect you that way. Why? What happened to this person? How was their life different?

    The trick is to imagine someone else’s life. The second half of the essay should be as vivid and detailed as the first. Why might someone think this whole idea of people’s inherent goodness is just a load of bunk? Imagine — don’t just say the words, but really think it through — what it’d feel like to have been abused as a kid, for example, or to have been mugged or teased as a child. Think that through then imagine them reading what you have to say about peeople’s inherent goodness.

    Good luck! You have until Tuesday.

    M

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