The Myth of Good and Evil: From Hitler to Mother Teresa

These days, the archetypes of good and evil in our society are Mother Teresa and Hitler, respectively. If you start with these two as the paradigms, it becomes pretty easy to figure out what “Good” and Evil” are really all about.

I admit that I have never met Adolf Hitler. Fortunately for this blog post, however, I have met Mother Teresa. It was in Toronto, Canada back in ’84. She was giving a speech at Shea Stadium and I  (being the ‘good Catholic boy destined for priesthood’) was brought to Toronto to be introduced to a living saint.

The woman was a bitch to me.

I shook her hand and she sneered. I said a few words— basic niceties of some sort— and she just glowered at me. After about three seconds, she turned to the security people with her and said “Get rid of him.” They did.

I suspect I would have done better meeting Hitler.

Years later, I learned that Mother Teresa had a disdain for males. This information came to me as I read about the series of accusations leveled against Mother Teresa shortly before her death. It seems that many in India thought she was misappropriating the funds she had raised, using them to build more convents instead of feeding the poor.  She explained that this was her answer to the cruelty of the streets of Calcutta: The more girls there were in convents, the better things were on the streets.

The problem, of course, was that this policy prevented males, married couples, and any girl who did not want to be a nun from getting food or help. Many were pissed about it, and sought to have her relieved of her duties. The Church and the media basically rode out the accusations until she died, and whitewashed it all with a canonization.

Now, this doesn’t make her “evil” or anything, but it does show some normal, human fuckedupedness in this icon of ultra “Good”.

[I can just hear people out there thinking “He’s not going to try to defend Hitler now, is he?”]

Hitler was responsible for killing lots of Jews, and starting a World War. This makes it a tad hard to portray the man as “good”.  However, I’ve always been of the opinion that Hitler was really just a man of his times. Hear me out here…

Long before WWII, there were pogroms throughout Europe. (POGRAMS were mass killings, usually of Jews. See the WIKI.) The genocide of WWII was basically just another pogrom. This is why Hitler’s plan was called ‘The Final Solution’… other extermination plans had been tried before and failed.  The Nazis reasoned that only a large, coordinated pogrom could achieve the genocide they wanted. It was the ‘final solution’ in a series of attempts, not the stand-alone event that many see it as  today.

Here’s bit of little-known Hitler history for you:

In 1939, before his extermination of Jews began, 937 Jews got onto a boat (the S.S. St. Louis) and tried emigrate to anywhere that would accept them. These Jews, having a good idea of what returning to Europ meant, traveled to every port of call they could find, asking for refugee status. None of the allied countries (who were supposedly appalled by Hitler’s Final Solution) would accept a single Jew into their country. Every one of the 937 Jews on that boat were forced to return to Europe to face the concentration camps.

Follow this forward: During the war, German troops were stretched thin, the supplies were dwindling, and Germany still had hundreds of thousands of Jews in concentration camps that no other country would take off their hands. The Nazis couldn’t feed their own men, and they certainly couldn’t feed the hated Jews in the camps. This is why the corpses of the dead were found so malnourished… Hitler was unwilling to “waste” resources on the concentration camps when his own soldiers were starving in the field. When it came down to it, a prisoner in the camps had to show that they could contribute to the war effort, or they were killed.  The Nazi’s only other option was to keep them alive, but starving.

Is this evil incarnate? As I said, I’ve always seen Hitler as a man of his times. These Jews could easily have been granted refugee status in any of dozens of countries, but were rejected.

Still, when it was all over and the cameras moved into the death camps, the rest of the world was able to relieve their guilt by elevating the evil of Hitler. He was the madman. He hated and killed them all. He was the very essence of EVIL.

We, of course, were the good guys. We “saved the Jews”.  (Except for the millions who could have emigrated to the USA in 1939 but were flatly rejected.)

The point of all this is simple: Good and Evil are just monikers. Every icon has a story behind it. More often than not, the elevated status of saints and demons are created to make us feel the way we want to feel.   Mother Teresa is good and holy because she takes  our $10.00 donation and makes us feel better about poor starving children in India.  Hitler is ultimate evil because he exonerates our own guilt.  In Hitler’s case, his designation even allowed us to feel superior and heroic.

There is no ultimate evil in the world, any more than there is ultimate good. They’re just words we use to get over our own guilt, or to make ourselves look good.  People are people, some more fucked up than others, but all of us fall within that five percent deviation from the norm.

Beware anyone who tells you different.

Written by Wm. Hopper, http://www.heathensguide.com.
thumb-heathens-guide-front-cover

www.heathensguide.com

The above post was edited to correct abjectly stupid errors of fact that occurred in the original post. Thanks to v2h3452@mail.com for the one-up.

42 Responses to “The Myth of Good and Evil: From Hitler to Mother Teresa”

  1. Paul Says:

    I believe it should be POGROM not POGRAM which is basically Russian for destruction

  2. heathensguide Says:

    Yup, you’re right. I did the Wikki link right, but screwed up the spelling in the blog. Fixed it. Thanks.

  3. Margo Says:

    Wow, great post! Just found your blog, and it seems cool :)
    I am inclined to agree with you on the issue of Mother Teresa, but not as inclined about the Hitler issue, primarily because I am Jewish and most of my grandparents’ family were murdered by the Nazis. Saying that they were only as evil as the rest of the world doesn’t make them less evil. It just means that other people were acting immorally, as well. (And just for the record, I do not believe that there is ultimate good and evil.) So I would say that Hitler is evil, in my eyes. He led the Nazis, he motivated them, he is primarily responsible for what happened there, but the rest of the people who cooperated or did nothing are partially responsible, as well.

  4. eric perkins Says:

    great post man.

  5. Harbinger of Light Says:

    Excellent post. About time somebody cut Lucifer a break.

  6. Anita Says:

    How did you arrive at 5-per-cent deviation from the norm? And wouldn’t the norm imply a point on some sort of continuum with evil on one side and good on the other? Do you think your argument would fly for a family who has experienced the loss of a daughter to rape and murder by a sociopath? Would the murderer fall within the 5-per-cent deviation from the norm. You said all of us do.

    How do you cope with evil in the world if you can’t even recognize it?

    As for Mother Theresa, perhaps she felt she was in the presence of evil when she was beside you. In that case, wouldn’t it make sense to call security?;)

    But seriously, what can we glean from a few idle statements about your meeting with her? That she wasn’t perfect? A saint doesn’t have to have been perfect. St. Augustine fathered a child out of wedlock, for instance.

    We are all called to be saints. A saint is any person who has died and gone to Heaven. We don’t know who most of them are. But sometimes the Church considers somebody to have led a life of such exemplary holiness that they are considered for canonization, an official declaration that the person is a saint.

  7. vipin paul Says:

    hey nice post man its all good what u have written
    but tell u smthing plz try 2 improve ur words & try to make ur language a little bit polite . that ” bitch ” was not good at all.

  8. Anita Says:

    vipin paul: if there is no good or evil, it doesn’t matter at all what he calls a good and holy person like Mother Theresa. Only your man-made sensitivities have been offended.

  9. SM Says:

    I agree with Anita (except for her last paragraph).
    I agree with the author, but only insofar as his point is intended to indicate that good and evil is not fully manifested within mankind. If he is also trying to say that full manifestations of good and evil do not exist, he is mistaken, and likely deluded (an effective tool of the enemy of mankind). Choosing to remain ignorant of truth does not change reality – it changes only your perception of it.

  10. alex Says:

    Paypal is not letting me buy your book.
    They say something is wrong with your website.
    Help me.

  11. Aneko Says:

    I am Russian, and Hitler can be considered responsible for the death of many Russians as well (not just Jews – and gosh, why is everything always about the Jews?). However, I respect Hitler as a great leader of his nation and a man of great courage and willpower. Actually, I respect him most for caring about his own people (as opposed to the Russian leaders, who led their own people to slaughter blindly – stubborn victory at all costs, where it could be achived with much less victims). Thanks for pointing out that Hitler is only hated so much because this hatred is what allows other nations feel superior and indulge their own ignorance.

  12. quinn Says:

    i agree with Aneko, Hitler was a great leader, he wanted Jews and Russians, gypsies and other groups such as these off the planet, however people blaming only Hitler like Margo say he did lead them (thought others might have done worse to jews) Few countries such as the U.S or Britain can say they did all they could to protect them, Denmark is a country that can say that, they gave Germany food and other rescources (in bulk) in return for not harming there aprox. 6,000 jews for the extents of the the German occupation

    (many of my fact like the Denmark one came from a book i read 1-2 years and lost -_- sop if i’m wrong sorry)

  13. anotherheathen Says:

    The Missionaries Of Charity (that’s the Catholic order of Mother Teresa) in India mostly kidnap children off the streets. They identify poverty struck people and target them and of course the children are brought up Catholic ; working as slaves in the convents once they are about 7-8 years old, and a lot of them are sexually abused by the “holy fathers”.

    “Bitch” is too good for her.

  14. v Says:

    NONE of the Jews from S.S. St. Louis returned to Germany. They were taken by several countries as refugees… England, France, Belgium and Holland if I remember correctly. And Hitler did not “put them on a boat and told them they could emigrate to any country in the world”. It was a regular line to Havana – they could “choose” only Cuba – but were declined as Cuba’s imigration rules were changed and became very strict earlier that year. They all had visas (landing permits or whatever) which were nullified in the meantime by the new law and no money to buy new ones.

    And your justification for the starvation to death is below common sense. The very fact they were separated and put in “camps” should be wrong enough to an average mind.

    BOTH Teresa and Hitler were much more evil than you depicted them here.

    • heathensguide Says:

      I have to learn not to blab on. You are right, they were not sent back to Germany, they were sent back to continental Europe where the vast majority of them were killed in the holocaust. My point, however, was that the USA, Canada, and other supposed “allied nations” refused to take them even knowing what they faced back in Europe.

      My “justification” for the camps is not a justification… it is what happened. The SS sold the idea of camps tot he people by saying they were freeing up “Germany for the Germans”. As the Jews (et.al) had not assimilated, they were “other”. As they could not emigrate, they were interned.

      As for Hitler and Mother Teresa, they were human. As such, I think they really believed that what they were doing was right and good. That’s my thesis here really… I don’t think anyone ever goes out to commit “true evil”. It usually just deep selfishness, but they use a God or patriotism to justify it to themselves and others.

      I will edit the posting based on your insight, however. Thx for this.

  15. Milk Cow Says:

    I agree with your message, the way that I understand it. There is the possibility of good and evil in everyone. There are consequences for both. For the general population – of – law abiding citizens, there is a different set of rules and standards that is held individually. The things of capability varies under inner and outer circumstances of which an individual is going through or has gone through. Happenstance, etc. may alter ones’ ability or insight to direct or discern decisions for quality-outcome of issues. I believe that most people are mostly good and what may seem evil may not necessarily be evil; in the same token – what may seem good may not necessarily be good. Example: Laws to protect – in theory. Take away enough “privileges” – and – leave no rights, freedoms, and no protection for individuals. Loopholes for those who qualify. The more laws, the less freedom. This promotes less space for individuals to consider outcomes before decisions are made: good or evil. I have no problem with the perception you had in the way you were treated by Mother Teresa. The broad forum in which you chose to express it was a very bold move, because in the name of respect – just like she treated you less than she should have (or less than you thought she should have) – was wrong for her to do. Maybe you should have toned down your expression for the disappointing event. If I met someone from a position of her stature, I would be in shock to be treated the way you were treated. You did not call her the “B” word, you were simply stating your perception of the issuance of her authority without tact. I got the message, but it was still a bold move on your part. People do not like the truth put as bluntly as you put it. I have issues with individuals who over exercise their authority. I bash them in the privacy of my home, while I digest what has happened in the first place, and then regroup and find tactful ways to deal with the situation if opportunity presents itself- and possible situations that may arise, later. I do not believe all that I read or hear. I have never thought Hitler to be all bad. He was made out to be much worse that he was. He may have been or done very grotesque and bad things. He did the job he had – to his ability. He was made the fall guy for everyone. People have a tendency to point out others faults to make themselves look better and to differ attention away from themselves – good or evil. I believe he may have known too much and was ostracized because of the knowledge he possessed. He seemed an intelligent human. I believe he just got caught up in a lot of ideals and situations that were out of his control – and somewhere in the middle, he lost control himself and ended up being the scapegoat. As for Mother Teresa; You expected grandma and got the wolf. I am sorry you had to go through that. Because others are doing wrong, doesn’t mean one is not responsible for their own individual behavior. A single person should not have to take the fall for the entire suit of people who are doing evil. Both of these individuals did evil due to their position. One was more by choice than the other.

    • heathensguide Says:

      I contend, though, that “good” and “evil” do not exist in reality. They are words we use to demonize or glorify people. Everyone THINKS they are acting “good”… even Hitler. What I argue against is the common notion that there are saints and devils in the world. People are people… Mother Teresa and Hitler alike. As for my experience with Mother Teresa, I bare no grudge. She was who she was. A lot of people are miserable or have phobias/dislikes. I just happened to hit on hers by being male.

      As for saying all this in public, it’s what I do (with religion anyway). I believe intently that whatever good religions do in the world is offset by the myriad of oppression, dysfunction and (predominantly) egomania that you find in churches, synagogues, and mosques alike. It’s time folks said what they really think about it all. The option is status quo which— as 9/11 and a dozen recent wars have shown– is not “good”.

  16. 43 People (and 1 Cat) Who Have Been Compared to Hitler | Dallas Public Relations Expert Scott Baradell's Media Orchard Says:

    [...] 43. Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa [...]

  17. 43 People (and 1 Cat) Who Have Been Compared to Hitler « Ike’s Place Says:

    [...] 43. Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa [...]

  18. H. Bruhl Says:

    I came across the following in my reading: When Mother Teresa was once asked why she dedicated her life to the poor and needy of Calcuta, she is said to have replied:”Because I realized that I had a Hitler within me.”
    Do all humans have a dark side? Capable of evil?

  19. Citizen Says:

    Excellent post, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    It is unfortunate that Mother Teresa was so biased, or even, dare I say,
    prejudiced against males. It does show that empathy has limits, and compassion is in short supply.

    As for Der Fuhrer, he was definitely a man working within the confines of the environment. I always found ironic the fact that so many countries rejected the Jews multiple times.

    Then again, if we rounded up the 12-15 million illegal aliens residing in the US, and tried to send them to Europe or Asia, the receiving countries would undoubtedly decline. Hell, even Mexico doesn’t want them back. Of course, 937 is a far cry from double-digit millions.

    I end with these interesting words:

    “It is remarkable that the states whose public opinion is in favour of the Jews all refuse to accept our Jews from us. They say they are magnificent pioneers of culture, and geniuses in economics, diplomacy, philosophy, and poetry, yet the moment we try to press one of these geniuses upon them, they clamp down their frontiers: ‘No, no! We don’t want them!’ I think it must be unique in the history of the world, people turning down geniuses.”

    – Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels

  20. Cameron Says:

    This argument was really silly. Good and evil are real. If I robbed you, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t just knock it off and forget it because good and evil are a myth. Good and evil, at least for me, are not equated with people because everyone on some level commits an evil act. Morality and corresponding actions are either good or evil. When my uncle was beating my aunt when I was 11, I’m pretty sure that action would be evil. To state morality as relative using two so-called “universal” extremes is absolute foolishness and since most “good” people go unseen and I guess you’ll just have to do with flawed comparisons.

  21. thinker Says:

    I say excellent post. I like to see a little bit of critical thinking. I have my beliefs but I’m going to shoot for word economy because nobody cares what I have to say about this. All I can say is that I like to see somebody who recognizes the fiercely subjective nature of human interaction, and classification based on actions. Good and evil, as the world knows them to be, are terribly subjective topics. So I say rock on for seeing a realistic picture.

  22. Ella mackay Says:

    this is alsume i think it is great info on GOOD AND EVIL im wrighting about mother teresa :) :) :) :D :D :D LOL!

    • heathensguide Says:

      Can’t tell if you liked it or if you’re trying to be sarcastic. I encourage both kinds of responses, but I can’t figure yours out. If you’re trying to call me a moron, please use the word “MORON” in your post for clarity’s sake.

  23. Denise Says:

    Very insightful post. Most people (at least most people I know personally) tend to try to hide their flaws and accentuate their strong points…as is basic human nature. I will not say that Hitler was incapable of evil things; I will not say MToC was incapable of good things. It’s an odd mix, what humans are capable of, dependent on their indoctrination at youth (by well-meaning parents, by churches, by peers, by what they see happening around them). I won’t divorce Hitler’s “good” from his “evil” – I will say that he did not act alone in his decisions. He had an entire regime acting – what he was most guilty of was his fascist totalitarianism, resulting in the deaths of not only millions of Jews, gypsies, gays, some fellow citizens…and many people from other countries (has anyone forgotten about what happened in Russia?)…and don’t get me started on the deaths that transpired under the men/regimes who bastardized Marx’s ideals in Russia.

    As for Mother Teresa…*sigh* She *did* do good things. However, as a follower of a specific faith, one that has a distinct history of abominable crimes, the only people who generally see her as a “saint” are the devout of the faith who know no better. I personally abhor the messages she sent — not because I have anything against her as an individual, but for the same reason I hold in contempt anyone who tries to demonize blindly Adolf Hitler with a broad brush. I hold the same abhorrence for the Church responsible for MToC’s canonization — because they continue to perpetuate her “words of wisdom”, and worse…discourage condom use in a continent rife with HIV/AIDS.

    It’s not that I “hate” either individual named. It’s that I recognize that each and every one of us are capable of the same capacities. Further, I *do* despise the establishments each was a part of, because collectives bent on the destruction of any particular group of people undermine any positive ideal they might strive for by turning a particular group of people into “sub-human” by the standards they set. By doing so, they fail to adhere to the Christ’s actual message.

    Then again…we could apply these thoughts to any public figure of prominence over the eras. My general feeling on it isn’t to marginalize them as individuals, but to acknowledge that they were/are merely human…forgive them, because they know not what they do…and to strive to be better within ourselves, rather than judging them or anyone else.

  24. Anonymous Says:

    Well said as for Margo whose family were “murdered” by the Nazis I am sorry but I hope your family suffered

  25. veejee Says:

    Very interesting.
    However, as you’ve noted, there is always another side to the story. On one hand, other countries denied access to the refugees, on the other, they shouldn’t have needed it in the first place. Yes the troops were starving and thus the Jews were too, but if Hitler hadn’t disrupted the nation with his egomaniacle greed perhaps few if any would have been starving.
    I do agree, we all have the propensity to do good and to do bad as our passions dictate…..some just to a greater degree than others.

  26. Jojo Says:

    I want to agree with your message but i can’t, i have one example of a true evil : me. Since i was a child i often betrayed my friends, hacked into their computers, etc, with no apparent reason, so i don’t think there is any “different side of the stories here”, sometimes people are sadly just evil, that’s it.

    • heathensguide Says:

      No, they are asocial or antisocial in their behavior. There’s no supernatural aspect to it. The word ‘evil’ means there’s an external force acting on the person to make them do the things they are doing. Yes, ome people are just assholes, but it’s not because of a god, demon, or some supernatural trait.

  27. Antonio Says:

    Totally agree. Good and evil exist … as definitions that we create to give ourselves a framework within which to judge each other, ourselves, and anything that happens to or around us. Just like gods exist inasmuch as we create and define them. Just like gods, our definitions of good and evil are very inconsistent – depends on who you ask, when, and the context (under what circumstance). Even the uncle beating the aunt probably doesn’t think he’s evil. More likely HE thinks SHE’s evil (not defending the action). Eveyone, for the most part, has an inherent concept of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘true’ and ‘false’ – there is just no universal definition that everyone agrees on. If there were, there probably wouldn’t be so many wars. For that to happen though, there would probably need to be enough stuff to go around so there wouldn’t be large groups of people who can’t secure food and shelter that eventually need to find a way to take your stuff from you so that they can survive.

  28. sure Says:

    Hitler wasn’t going with the times. The nazi party had less that 50% of Germany supporting it.

  29. Edward Millet Says:

    Where then did the idea of good and evil come from? So, if I go and rape your mother, that was not evil I was just being who I am??? Bullshit, that is evil and just wrong. There is a law of morality on the inside of me that tells me that is wrong and a matter of fact if I saw someone raping your mother or any woman at that, I would run to help them. Why? Because raping women is wrong or should I say evil and standing by, letting it happen would be just as wrong. Explain this law of morality inside of me that pushes me to know and do what is right. I agree there is no perfect person and more times than I would like to admit, I, myself have ignored this push toward what is right, but that is what I love about the stories in the Scriptures. The Scriptures point out flawed people that God used for his purposes regardless of their flaws.
    You know what I believe, I believe that people like yourself, do your best to reason or justify the fact that an absolute good and evil do not exist, so that in your mind there is no absolute that you have to answer to for all the jacked up stuff you did in your life. Without an absolute good (God) there is no higher authority than yourself and you are free to do whatever you want. Well, there is proof of good and evil not necessarily fully embodied in one particular person, but are expressed by acts of kindness or acts of hatred. You can find them in the actions of individuals will be what you are remembered for.

    • Edward Millet Says:

      Replying on my own comment to fix that last sentence, I meant ,”You can find them in the actions of individuals and these actions will be what we are remembered for.” Which is the reason Mother Teresa and Hitler are remembered in the way they are.

    • heathensguide Says:

      First off, I have not lived my life in some kind of amoral hedonistic bent. I have, in fact, spent a good portion of it working with homeless and disabled folks (not to mention the years at university studying religions). So no, I am not looking for some way to absolve myself of absolutes because of guilt.

      You say that you would interfere if my mother was being raped. But what if my mother was a Midonite whom God sent the Israeli army to rape? (Numbers 31). Stopping the Israelis from raping my mother would then go against the Will of God. Inversely, what if my mother was Israeli when God commanded that the Israeli women be raped? (Zechariah 14:1-2) Where is your absolute ‘good’ now?

      Morality is not from some magical place inside you, but from the environment you were raised in and the laws of the land. Sometimes rape is ‘evil’. These days we see it as universally so. But this was not always so, and many cultures today still adhere to practices that we would call rape and hold it dear to them.

      The terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are just catch phrases that people use to label the world so they can exonerate themselves. As long as there is a ‘devil’ of some other innate ‘evil’, the deeds of fallen Christians can be blamed on succumbing to this evil, instead of being recognized for what they are” Part of human nature.

      [That is not to say that human nature justifies the act btw. Merely that the individual is ultimately responsible for it, not some demon, snake, or mythical 'evil' force.]

  30. Francis Miville Says:

    Actually, Teresa of Calcutta was an outright sadist who lacked very few competences to be hired by Adolf Hitler as a woman guard at Auschwitz during the Shoah. What she did in the gutters of Calcutta was more like the complacent supervision of an open-door concentration camp, than Florence Nightingale’s work with the sick and dying. Had Teresa done in Dachau with the starving Jews and Social Outcasts the very same activities she performed with the Calcutta paupers, she would have been rightly summoned to Israel for an international trial. She helped people die (under the pretext of securing them a death in dignity, which was not even true) while collecting more than enough money, food and free manpower to provide them with top-notch nutritional and medical care. She would rather accord them less than substandard care under the pretext their suffering in God was so beautiful to contemplate, although the sufferers themselves did not share her opinions about God.

  31. RANT: 43 People (and 1 Cat) Who Have Been Compared to Hitler | IdeaGrove Says:

    […] 43. Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa […]

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