All that is Required for Evil to Prevail is for Good Men to Do Nothing

WWII Soldiers

World War II

I remember from my history class that as Adolph Hitler was first consolidating power by force in Europe, America was divided about going to war. Isolationism, which was a popular political philosophy in the United States at the time basically said that we were not going to get involved with other countries’ problems.

As a nation we had trouble seeing that our neighbors’ problems were our problems as well. Some of us were blind to the fact that we would be next. This hesitation allowed Hitler (who was obviously evil) to have free reign to kill, steal and destroy.

The opposite was also shown. The American entry into the war after Pearl Harbor turned the tide and started causing Hitler to go backward. (It can be argued that a lunatic Hitler did this to himself as well, but I believe Hitler began to crack when good men began to resist him.)


There is a well known quote from Edmund Burke. “All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.” I would submit that WWII and the subsequent involvement of the U.S. displays this truth well. This concept is true on so many levels: from the personal, all the way up to a global level like during World War II.

Down To Our Level

This is so true on a smaller individual level. When evil shows its head in the form of violence (for instance) it will prevail if men who aspire to be good do nothing. We can isolate ourselves and say that another person’s problem isn’t our problem.

However, Christ tells us that all the other human beings around us are our neighbors. Their problem eventually effects us and becomes our problem. If good men risk themselves and resist the violent evil, that evil is held at bay.

Gun Owners

I believe this concept is crucial when it comes to personal gun ownership and responsibility. We as individuals cannot change the world, but we may be able to save another individual’s world. There are many documented cases where the presence of force to defend the innocent turned that situation away from death and destruction.

It may be a stretch, but we may be the only one in a given situation who can defend an innocent from violent evil. Evil comes in many forms: armed robbery, rape, murder and more.

If I ever have to make this choice, I hope that I stand and stop the little Adolph Hitlers of the world.


Can you see yourself as one who could possibly stand against evil and resist it, even on a small level?

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  1. I have had a life-long battle with pacifism (that sounds funny, but it’s true), whether in the development of my personal faith, in the context of higher education (both of the conservative “Christian” variety and of the liberal secular variety), in the midst of currently living in an anabaptist, pacifist land. In the space of this battle, I have become convinced that pacifism (for pacifism’s sake) is one of the greatest evils that man has ever introduced to this world – even when we couch such pacifism in terms of “obedience” to our (faulty and insufficient) notions of who God is.

    For the better part of 2 years, our country sat on the sidelines of WWII, largely in the name of isolationism, “national interest,” and pacifism, and in that time, Hitler extended his reach of power to such an extent that all of the world would bleed and eventually mourn over the loss of 6 million innocents in labor camps and gas chambers (not to mention the unknown millions who were slaughtered in Russia, and China, and throughout east and southeast Asia). It was only when the war was brought to our back door were we willing to pick up arms and fight evil. I have no idea what would have happened to those lives had America intervened when first asked (and asked, and asked, and asked), and have no desire to re-write history or criticize what great good my country did in that war; but, it is important to note that the failure to do something about evil clearly does contribute to the advancement of evil, the effects of which the world has to deal with for decades. One need look no further than the people of present-day North Korea for evidence of this.

    • That is so true. It fits exactly what I was saying. Thanks.

      • Check out this great quotation from Ssu-ma Ch’ien, a Chinese contemporary of Sun Tzu:

        “Military weapons are the means used by the Sage to punish violence and cruelty, to give peace to troublesome times, to remove difficulties and dangers, and to succor those who are in peril. Every animal with blood in its veins and horns on its head will fight when it is attacked. How much moreso will man, who carries in his breast the faculties of love and hatred, joy and anger! When he is pleased, a feeling of affection springs up within him; when angry, his poisoned sting is brought into play. That is the natural law which governs his being . . . What then shall be said of those scholars of our time, blind to all great issues, and without any appreciation of relative values, who can only bark out their stale formulas about ‘virtue’ and ‘civilization,’ condemning the use of military weapons? They will surely bring our country to impotence and dishonor and the loss of her rightful heritage; or, at the very least, they will bring about invasion and rebellion, sacrifice of territory and general enfeeblement. Yet they obstinately refuse to modify the position they have taken up. The truth is that, just as in the family the teacher must not spare the rod, and punishments cannot be dispensed within the State, so military chastisement can never be allowed to fall into abeyance[.]”

        Very prophetic.

  2. It is a “natural law” to defend one’s self and others, even with violence when needed. I would add that this nature comes from the way God created us.

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