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On "The Greater Good"

Updated: Feb 20

A house on flame

Is it rational to believe that every event, since the dawn of mankind, has been made for the greater good of mankind? The wars, the massacres, the holocausts, and the genocides, the abuse, the various traumas inflicted on us by others -- can we truly say that all of these were eventually made for the greater good of humanity, either collectively or individually?

In Judaism, there is the concept of "Ha'kol Le'tova", which means "everything is for the greater good". According to this concept, even the most unfortunate of happenings were, are, and will eventually be for the good of mankind and/or for its betterment. In other words, horrible events such as WWII and the genocides of certain ethnic groups can all be considered "good" for the long term, even if, in the short term, they were horrible.

Why? Because according to this belief, everything has already been planned by a higher deity, who is far superior and wiser than us in every way. Accepting that everything is for the greater good, is to automatically accept determinism, the belief that everything is designed and planned before our very existence, and that we can't do anything to truly alter it.

Thus, if everything is for the greater good, then nothing truly matters, because nothing can actually change that "fact". Should we kill, or declare war? Not only will it not matter, it will also not change the fact that each and every one of our "planned" actions is for the greater good (whatever the "greater good" means).

It is difficult, at least for me, to accept this belief, no matter how infinitely wise a higher deity is than I am. It is difficult to accept such planning, when such planning seems to be very flawed. Is it for the greater good to lead innocent lives to premature death? Is it for the greater good to inflict pain and trauma on those who don't deserve it? But I guess that, as long as I lack the so-called "infinite wisdom" of God/s, who am I to judge? Of course, this is being said ironically.

Whether or not there is a cosmic designer and judge, it is difficult to say that their actions are just, when countless lives have been theoretically seen by them as utterly expendable and irrelevant. What is the point of punishing "sinners" when their actions could've been prevented by the all-powerful and wise designer?

Why punish the r**ist with eternal damnation when their actions could've been preventable in the first place? After all, said designer is all-powerful, are they not? Surely it is preferable to prevent injustice and corruption rather than punish souls for them in an inescapable dimension of torture.

To counter all this, it is said that we have "free-will", one that could overcome the grand designer, while not opposing their grand design, at the same time. It is an oxymoron, for sure -- that your actions, regardless of their impact, cannot match those of the designer, even if you could lead entire human lives to absolute doom, like Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein did to their subjects and enemies.

BUT! It matters not, does it, when everyone and everything comes to justice? Hence, perhaps, "everything is for the greater good"? Perhaps divine justice IS for the greater good? Still, the flaw remains -- why is divine justice necessary, when a benevolent grand designer has the omnipotent power to prevent the injustice and corruption made in this world?

So, we just "should" accept that people die of starvation, of genocides, of torture, and of abuse, just because we have some vague idea of a "greater good" in mind? Oh, you may die tomorrow in the cold, all alone and without money for food or shelter under your head; I guess that your very own unfortunate death is for the greater good?

Even if I were not an atheist, but a believer in higher deities, then, based on reality, I would not love them, nor see them as symbols of hope and salvation; I would see them as malicious, egomaniac tyrants to be feared.

I also have a critique of the idea of someone having to be painfully tortured and killed for our sins as a compensation for our ultimate salvation, but I might do it another time.

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Tomasio A. Rubinshtein, Philosocom's Founder & Writer

I am a philosopher from Israel, author of several books in 2 languages, and Quora's Top Writer of the year 2018. I'm also a semi-hermit who has decided to dedicate his life to writing and sharing my articles across the globe. Several podcasts on me, as well as a radio interview, have been made since my career as a writer. More information about me can be found here.

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