For all my thinking years. the problem of evil has captivated my attention more than any other knotty issue. I have explored it somewhat more metaphysically in other posts, but on a simpler level, I wonder what really leads people to false opinions and immoral behavior. Does one of these unpleasant sets cause the other, and, if so, which leads to which?
When I was an undergraduate, a fine young Jesuit scholar told me once his rather controversial opinion on the matter. He believed that most people persist in error to justify their immorality. I did not accept his argument as I did not wish to diminish intellectual controversies to the level of psychoanalysis, but I have considered it many times in the years since. There may be truth to it. Obviously, human matters are complex, and the soul’s calculus in decision making undoubtedly has many non-rational and non-moral influences. Depending on one’s character, barely conscious or subconscious self-rationalization might skew one’s allegiance among the claims of competing beliefs. It is not flattering to think that some form of selfish cost and benefit analysis might be at work with matters of theology, morality, and metaphysics, but it might be accurate.
Another professor of mine is fond of characterizing human beings as agents of truth. It may be just as honest to say that we are self-justifying manipulators of ideas.