The Scales of Good and Evil

Cliff Pickover

Copyright 2000, 2001, 2002 by Cliff Pickover
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Below is a list of the "Top Ten" evil people of all time followed by a list of the "Top Ten" good people of all time -- sorted in order of evilness and goodness. Please add your votes. Who would you like to see added to the list? What alterations would you make to the list or the ordering? Do the scales of good and evil balance? If I may have permission to quote you in a manuscript, please give permission in your note to me.

These lists and this page were create more than 20 years ago. I do not actually agree with these rankings, which were created for the purpose of encouraging discussion on the topic. Do not take these good & evil lists too seriously. They are meant only to encourage discussion, and surely they did encourage a vast amount of debate all around the world. For this reason, the lists were useful at the time. Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers, and obviously one person's evil person is another person's good person, and vice versa.

Why is it easier to think of evil examples than good ones? Is it much easier to do something big and bad than it is to do something big and good?

Developing this list was not an easy task due to the complexity of human personalities and the fact that goodness and evilness depend on the perspective of the time. (For example, perhaps many Americans consider dropping the bomb on Hiroshima "good" whereas many Japanese consider it "evil.") On the evilness scale, I gave additional weight to those people who actually enjoyed and personally participated in the utter horror they produced. When compiling the good list, I also considered the number of people killed by the followers of the "good" person during the person's life time.

For both the good and evil list, I also asked myself the question, "With whom would I least like to be in a room, and with whom would I most like to be in a room?"

If you are not happy with this list, drop me a line, because the list changes in response to suggestions from my readers. If you had scales and put Stalin's massacres on the left side, what could you put on the right-hand side to balance it? Extreme kindness and attempts to alleviate suffering? Curing cancer? Ending world hunger? Charity? Elevating the thinking of humankind with respect to human rights? Perhaps the very best people don't seek publicity for their good deeds; these are the unknown heroes who work tirelessly with the poor and the sick. When considering religions leaders, do we need to consider possible negative results that evolved, such as fundamentalist groups that suppress women, or wars or violence motivated by religion or relgious beliefs? If the Inquisition arose out of Christianity, need we consider this in assessments we make?

Repeat: These lists and this page were create more than 20 years ago. I do not actually agree with these rankings, which were created for the purpose of encouraging discussion on the topic. Do not take these good & evil lists too seriously. They are meant only to encourage discussion, and surely they did encourage a vast amount of debate all around the world. For this reason, the lists were useful at the time. Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers, and obviously one person's evil person is another person's good person, and vice versa.

The Top Ten Evil

1. Tomas de Torquemada (pictured here) - Born in Spain in 1420, his name is synonymous with the Christian Inquisition's horror, religious bigotry, and cruel fanaticism. He was a fan of various forms of torture including foot roasting, use of the garrucha, and suffocation. He was made Grand Inquisitor by Pope Sixtus IV. Popes and kings alike praised his tireless efforts. The number of burnings at the stake during Torquemada's tenure has been estimated at about 2,000. Torquemada's hatred of Jews influenced Ferdinand and Isabella to expel all Jews who had not embraced Christianity.

2. Vlad Tepes - Vlad the Impaler was a prince known for executing his enemies by impalement. He appeared to employ various forms of torture including disemboweling and rectal and facial impalement. Vlad the Impaler tortured thousands while he ate and drunk among the corpses. He impaled every person in the city of Amlas -- 20,000 men, women and children. Vlad often ordered people to be skinned, boiled, decapitated, blinded, strangled, hanged, burned, roasted, hacked, nailed, buried alive, stabbed, etc. He also liked to cut off noses, ears, sexual organs and limbs. But his favorite method was impalement on stakes, hence the surname "Tepes" which means "The Impaler" in the Romanian language. It is this technique he used in 1457, 1459 and 1460 against Transylvanian merchants who had ignored his trade laws. He also looked upon the poor, vagrants and beggars as thieves. Consequently, he invited all the poor and sick of Wallachia to his princely court in Tirgoviste for a great feast. After the guests ate and drank, Dracula ordered the hall boarded up and set on fire. No one survived.
Note: Every Romanian who contacted me said I should remove Vlad from the list. They said he was not evil and seemed to like him. In an effort to understand how our views of evil can be so different, I reproduce an exchange I had with Marius who was born in Romania. Perhaps this will help us understand more generally how the perception of evil can differ from person to person. Other discussions on this same web page focus on Bill Clinton and those people who truly believe Clinton was more evil than Adolf Hitler who exterminated millions. (Repeat: Do not take these good & evil lists too seriously. They are meant only to encourage discussion. Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers, and obviously one person's evil person is another person's good person, and vice versa. These lists and this page were create more than 20 years ago. I do not actually agree with these rankings, which were created for the purpose of encouraging discussion on the topic. )

3. Adolph Hitler - The dictator of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler, was born on April 20, 1889, at Braunau am Inn, Austria-Hungary.

4. Ivan the Terrible - Ivan Vasilyevich, (born Aug. 25, 1530, in Kolomenskoye, near Moscow) was the grand prince of Moscow (1533-84) and the first to be proclaimed tsar of Russia (from 1547). His reign saw the completion of the construction of a centrally administered Russian state and the creation of an empire that included non-Slav states. He enjoyed burning 1000s of people in frying pans, and was fond of impaling people.

5. Adolph Eichmann - Born in March 19, 1906, Solingen, Germany he was hanged by the state of Israel for his part in the Nazi extermination of Jews during World War II. "The death of five million Jews on my conscience gives me extraordinary satisfaction."

6. Pol Pot - Pol Pot (born in 1925 in the Kompong Thom province of Cambodia) was the Khmer political leader whose totalitarian regime (1975-79) imposed severe hardships on the people of Cambodia. His radical communist government forced the mass evacuations of cities, killed or displaced millions of people, and left a legacy of disease and starvation. Under his leadership, his government caused the deaths of at least one million people from forced labor, starvation, disease, torture, or execution.

7. Mao Tse-tung - who killed somewhere between 20 and 67 million (estimates vary) of his countrymen, including the elderly and intellectuals. His picture still hangs throughout many homes and businesses. Mao's own personality cult, encouraged so as to provide momentum to the movement, assumed religious proportions. The resulting anarchy, terror, and paralysis completely disrupted the urban economy. Industrial production for 1968 dipped 12 percent below that of 1966. In short, the Revolution led to the destruction of much of China's cultural heritage and the imprisonment of a huge number of Chinese intellectuals, amongst other social chaos. This policy is usually regarded as a complete disaster.

8. Idi Amin - Idi Amin Dada Oumee (born in 1924 in Uganda) was the military officer and president (1971-79) of Uganda. Amin also took tribalism, a long- standing problem in Uganda, to its extreme by allegedly ordering the persecution of Acholi, Lango, and other tribes. Reports indicate torture and murder of 100,000 to 300,000 Ugandans during Amin's presidency. In 1972, he began to expel Asians from Uganda. God, he said, had directed him to do this. (Acutally, he had been angered by the refusal of one of the country's most prominent Asian families, the Madhvanis, to hand over their prettiest daughter as his fifth wife.) Over the years, Ugandans would disappear in the thousands, their mutilated bodies washing up on the shores of Lake Victoria. Amin would boast of being a "reluctant" cannibal - human flesh, he said, was too salty. He once ordered that the decapitation of political prisoners be broadcast on TV, specifying that the victims "must wear white to make it easy to see the blood". One of Amin's guards, Abraham Sule, said: "[Amin] put his bayonet in the pot containing human blood and licked the stuff as it ran down the bayonet. Amin told us: 'When you lick the blood of your victim, you will not see nightmares.' He then did it."

9. Joseph Stalin - Born in 1879. During the quarter of a century preceding his death in 1953, the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin probably exercised greater political power than any other figure in history. In the 1930s, by his orders, millions of peasants were either killed or permitted to starve to death. Stalin brought about the deaths of more than 20 million of his own people while holding the Soviet Union in an iron grip for 29 years. Stalin succeeded his hero Vladimir Ilyich Lenin in 1924. From then on, he induced widespread famines to enforce farm collectives, and eliminated perceived enemies through massive purges.

10. Genghis Khan - The Mongol Temjin, known to history as Genghis Khan (born 1162) was a warrior and ruler who, starting from obscure and insignificant beginnings, brought all the nomadic tribes of Mongolia under the rule of himself and his family in a rigidly disciplined military state. Massacres of defeated populations, with the resultant terror, were weapons he regularly used. His Mongol hordes killed off countless people in Asia and Europe in the early 1200s. He was "known for killing boys and men of captured cities; and kidnapping the woman and girls..." Steven R. Ward (Georgetown University Press) wrote, "Overall, the Mongol violence and depredations killed up to three-fourths of the population of the Iranian Plateau, possibly 10 to 15 million people." Genghis told his comrades: "Man's greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total possessions, leave his married women weeping and wailing, ride his gelding, use his women as a nightshirt and support, gazing upon and kissing their rosy breasts, sucking their lips which are as sweet as the berries of their breasts." (Quote source: "101 People You Won't Meet in Heaven" by Michael Powell and "The Lucifer Principle" by Howard K. Bloom.) "During three years, the Mongols destroyed and annihilated all of the major cities of Eastern Europe with the exceptions of Novgorod and Pskov."

11. H. H. Holmes - built a hundred-room mansion complete with gas chambers, trap doors, acid vats, lime pits, fake walls and secret entrances. During the 1893 World's Fair he rented rooms to visitors. He then killed most of his lodgers and continued his insurance fraud scheme. He also lured women to his "torture castle" with the promise of marriage. Instead, he would force them to sign over their savings, then throw them down an elevator shaft and gas them to death. In the basement of the castle he dismembered and skinned his prey and experimented with their corpses. He killed over 200 people.

12. Gilles de Rais - A Fifteenth Century French war hero, Gilles was also one of medieval Europe's worst killers. He enjoyed killing mostly young boys, whom he would sodomize before and after decapitation. He enjoyed watching his servants butcher the boys and masturbated over their entrails. He killed over 140 people.

Some Runners-Up: Nicolae Ceausescu decreed that all women must bear five children. Due to terrible food shortages, many women were unable to support their "decree babies." They turned them over to state-run orphanages. More than 150,000 children were crowded into these institutions. Many died of malnutrition and disease. Others ran away becoming homeless beggars. Ceausescu also forbade testing of the nation's blood supply for AIDS. Through transfusions and shared vaccinations needles, thousands of orphans contracted AIDS. Eventually Romania had over half of Europe's cases of childhood AIDS.

Basil the Bulgar Slayer blinded 14,000 prisoners. Heinrich Himmler was the architect of the "Final Solution." Tallat Pasha decreed there must be no Armenians on the Earth. 1.5 Million Armenians were beaten, raped, robbed, and killed.

The Top Ten Good

1. Buddha - Buddhism, far more than Christianity or Islam, has a very strong pacifist element. The orientation toward nonviolence has played a significant role in the political history of Buddhist countries.

2. Baha'u'llah - Baha'is believe that all the founders of the world's great religions have been manifestations of God and agents of a progressive divine plan for the education of the human race. Despite their apparent differences, the world's great religions, according to the Baha'is, teach an identical truth. Baha'is believe that Baha'ullah (d. 1892) was a manifestation of God, who in His essence is unknowable. Baha'ullah's special function was to overcome the disunity of religions and establish a universal faith. Baha'is believe in the oneness of humanity and devote themselves to the abolition of racial, class, and religious prejudices. The great bulk of Baha'i teachings is concerned with social ethics; the faith has no priesthood and does not observe ritual forms in its worship.

3. Dalai Lama - head of the dominant Dge-lugs-pa order of Tibetan Buddhists and, until 1959, both spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of his nonviolent campaign to end Chinese domination of Tibet.

4. Jesus Christ -- for the preaching of love.

5. Moses - just the idea of "resting on the seventh day" improved the life of countless people.

6. Mother Teresa - Once Mother Teresa was asked how she could continue day after day after day, visiting the terminally ill: feeding them, wiping their brows, giving them comfort as they lay dying. And she said, "It's not hard because in each one, I see the face of Christ in one of His more distressing disguises."

7. Abraham Lincoln - for paving the way to freeing the slaves.

8. Martin Luther King -- American clergyman and Nobel Prize winner, one of the principal leaders of the American civil rights movement and a prominent advocate of nonviolent protest.

9. Mohandas Gandhi -- Indian nationalist leader, who established his country's freedom through a nonviolent revolution. (Repeat: Do not take these good & evil lists too seriously. They are meant only to encourage discussion. Obviously, there are no right or wrong answers, and obviously one person's good person is another person's evil person, and vice versa.)

Who should be number 10? Would you ever consider any scientist, or even someone like Carl Djerassi, "father of the birth control pill"? Because millions of unwanted children were not produced, countless suffering has been abolished (maybe even some decreases in crime, child abuse, and ecological nightmares). With women gaining more control over their reproductive fate, society has changed. Reliable birth control became as easy as taking a pill, which some call the single greatest factor in helping women achieve equality. Although religious people may debate whether a fertilized egg (zygote) should be accorded the same rights as a child (and therefore the pill is evil), the pill may have decreased the suffering of fully formed, multicellular humans throughout the world.

Note that "zygotic personhood" (the idea that a fertilized egg is a person) is a recent concept. For example, before 1869, the Catholic church believed that the embryo was not a person until it was 40 days old. (Aristotle agreed with this 40-day threshold.) Thus, the church did not believe a human had a soul until day 40. Pope Innocent III in 1211 determined that the time of ensoulment was anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks. This means that the Catholic church, for centuries, did not equate abortion with murder. (Pictured at left is a two day old human embryo at four cell stage of development, magnified 260 times.)

Adding to the Evil List

Please send me e-mail if you have ideas for people to add to the evil list. My goal is to make a list of 100 evil people. Feel free to tell me why you think your candidates are evil and how to find out more about your nominated evil person.

Responses from Readers

From Geoffrey Riggs:

For me, when it comes to the most important Good figures throughout history, one has to measure not just their Goodness but, IMO, the degree to which their Goodness inspired or changed others around them. Would this planet be distinctly different had they never impacted either those around them or those coming after them to the same significant degree?

By that yardstick, I'm not quite sure that Baha'u'llah, much as I admire him, would qualify among the top ten, what with the dozens of candidates who have demonstrably done Good for their fellow creatures throughout history. He is certainly among the top twenty, yes, but I don't feel that his influence, salutary as it has been and hardly insignificant, quite rises to the level -- yet -- of a Gandhi, a Moses, a Jesus, or a Buddha. Ultimately, of course, one is dealing with a snapshot of the planet at a given moment only. That picture could always change. But right now, the planet as a whole, while impacted to a degree by Baha'u'llah, does not display his impact to the same degree that it does that of certain others (would that it did!).

Similarly, when it comes to the degree to which certain benefactors may be contingent upon the cultural context in which they arose, I'm more prone to single out figures who more clearly, IMO, established a more or less unprecedented pattern of altruism in their benevolent concerns than in those who may have taken singular advantage of a role already afforded them. Thus, IMO, I might suggest that, for instance, the Dalai Lama could not have existed without Buddha himself, nor Mother Teresa without the example of Jesus himself, nor Abraham Lincoln without the challenge of those cultural pathbreakers in the 17th and 18th-century who first made the political soil rich enough for the American Experiment to spring up in the first place.

Given these parameters, while they might disqualify candidates like Baha'u'llah, the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, or Abraham Lincoln, they distinctly reaffirm the centrality of Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Moses. Gandhi and King we'll put aside for a moment.

We have here three definite Titans (with seven slots still to fill):

Moses was one who significantly amplified the moral obligations intrinsic to law itself in a code that still resonates in many respects today, although generally assumed to have been established way back around 1200 B.C.E.! Many maintain that law itself as a concept would look altogether different today were it not for this man's example.

The first well-documented figure to live out an apparently blameless life and to do so in tandem with an espoused ethical doctrine that urged harm to no one -- thus a figure who acted and said precisely the same in all weathers within a context of caring always for the other -- was probably Siddhartha Gautama, known better as Buddha, 6th-5th centuries B.C.E.

And Jesus was unique in an outlook that encompassed the moral obligations of each individual human being toward each and every other human being without exception. Thus, on an individual level, he seems more willing to give every person, no matter her/his past, a second chance to an extent that is arguably greater than any other comparable figure. Jesus is at as selfless a level as anyone in this lineup. Only a tiny, tiny number in this group are within hailing distance, IMHO.

What of the remaining seven slots? Well, the first legislator who formulated the principle that those who cannot help themselves ought to be protected from -- at least -- _avoidable_ harm, if possible, through the protection of the law -- a law in which the weak would be given some protections against the strong -- was Urukagina, a Sumerian lawgiver from ca. 2300 B.C.E. I'd say Urukagina would be the earliest figure who ought to be viewed as being "unique" in his own way.

A figure as apparently as upright as Buddha who both walked and talked his doctrine faithfully within a context of public life, not just of the individual, was Confucius, a contemporary of Buddha's.

And, for many, the great pioneer in formulating a systematized approach to ethics itself would be the Athenian philosopher Socrates, of the late 5th century, B.C.E. He too appears to have "walked the talk" of an upright life and doctrine before his summary execution.

Around the middle of the first millennium A.D., Mohammed's life traces a remarkable transformation, from increasingly impatient warrior, to a life centered on violent raids and general aggression, to an unexpected return to Mecca, where he refuses to carry a weapon of any kind or to allow his followers one and ends up, at great danger to himself, changing the region where he lived from one convulsed by endless feuds to one where people could live in relative harmony.

Roughly a thousand years later, John Locke appears to have been the first in the second millennium C.E. to urge an empirical approach to experience. Implicitly rejecting an obligation to accept knee-jerk assumptions of any majority, Locke urged study and contemplation for oneself. He also urged the importance of certain freedoms we view as fundamental today. Democracy today could not exist as we know it without the contribution this man made to the human comedy. So I would view Locke as a more central figure than Lincoln ultimately.

In the nineteenth century, wars grew more and more apocalyptic as technology grew more and more fiendish in its pursuit. Deeply alarmed, a new way was urged by a Russian genius who was both an inspired author and an upright human being: Leo Tolstoy. A pioneer in the philosophy of non-violence, Tolstoy established a pattern of peaceful co-existence that flourished in the example of a few others in the twentieth century, including Gandhi and King.

We now have 9 figures in all. They are, in chronological order:

I confess I am almost stumped by whom to choose as the tenth figure. Benefactors who occur to me are the earliest figure whose law code survives practically in its entirety (and BTW, a law code partly based on the mostly lost Urukagina statutes apparently): Hammurabi, ca. 1800 B.C.E. Again, this accomplishment stands as something worthy and pattern-setting -- to a degree.

For some, the most profound utterance on the human condition is the Hindu text, the Bhagavad-Gita. The date when this was written is in dispute (6th/5th century B.C.?), but some ascribe this to a certain (apparent) genius at synthesizing many different concepts and ideas, Vyasa.

Perhaps the first figure to articulate political freedom in a way and a context one can relate to today was Solon, the Athenian lawgiver, who also lived around the same time, I believe(?).

In the C.E. era, we have perhaps the first figure to maintain outright that all are equal, in so many words: the Roman jurist Ulpian. "So far as the Civil Law is concerned, slaves are not considered persons, but this is not the case according to natural law, because natural law regards all men as equal." This may be the first known formulation of the concept of natural law, which has come to function (sometimes) as a counterpoise to tyranny. He also enunciated the principle: "The precepts of the law are the following: to live honorably, to injure no one, to give to every one his due." For its time, it was something new to place these as paramount concerns rather than merely guiding ones.

And now for Gandhi and King: In the first half of the twentieth century, a simple man in India, Mahatma Gandhi, brought one of the great empires in world history to heel through non-violent means. His example, partly influenced by Hindu philosophy in texts like the Bhagavad-Gita and partly by the example of Leo Tolstoy, inspired a whole nation to throw off an imperialist yoke and live free.

Finally, a whole people who -- to the country's shame -- did not live free, though dwelling in an assumed democracy, were finally afforded greater rights than their forebears (although still not made entirely equal to their compatriots) through the tireless efforts and eventual martyrdom of an apparent follower of Gandhi, of Jesus, and of Locke: Martin Luther King, Jr.

To choose just one amongst these towering six altruists may be impossible. One could perhaps argue that, with Hammurabi being an arguably transitional figure between Urukagina and Moses, Hammurabi is probably to be relegated to the next ten along with Mother Teresa and so on.

However, Vyasa is certainly a strong candidate, being a profound synthesizer of one of the chief global religions and a philosophical forebear of Gandhi.

Solon is in many ways the Ur-democrat (small "d"), making him arguably as essential as Locke.

Democracy could not exist without the concept of equality, so Ulpian is pivotal here, too, although one could argue that Ulpian could not even have been possible without the prior example of Athenian democracy -- hence, Solon.

Gandhi is the first one who had to carry out the Tolstoy philosophy on a practical globally transformative level, so one could claim him as central to the human condition today, even though Tolstoy was partly conditionally foundational for Gandhi in turn.

King, arguably, has three distinct forebears already: Jesus, Tolstoy and Gandhi.

That leaves us, IMO, with at least two figures whom I find it impossible to ignore: Vyasa and Solon. This is why I am pretty much stumped in my choice of either one as the tenth. If I were choosing a dozen instead of ten, both Vyasa and Solon would be easy, but then the 12th would become a difficult choice between Ulpian and Gandhi -- possibly Gandhi, but.........

Sorry to be so inconclusive.

As for choosing the Evil figures, they frankly bore me.

Cheers (and feel free to put this up on your discussion page re the most significant Good and Evil figures, if you wish),

Geoffrey Riggs

Reponse from David G.:

Wow, Cliff, you've really ventured into a mine-field here, haven't you? I think that it will be very difficult to devise such a list, mainly because no one is entirely good or entirely evil. And, often, even those with evil means are attempting to carry out good agendas (although perhaps in the wrong manner).

For example, I think most people would say that Adolph Hitler was the personification of evil. However, at least, in the beginning, his intentions were good. He was attempting to rebuild Germany after the collapse caused by the loss of the first World War, and by the war reparations demanded by the victors which resulted in the financial collapse of the German economy. While the means he used to accomplish this were rather draconian, he did achieve his goal of the reunification of Germany, restoration of civil order (as opposed to the anarchy which was in effect), and an improved economy. It was only later that he started his campaign of military assaults, and his crusade against various ethnic groups (which, in my personal opinion, is the ultimate evil). Additionally, in his younger years, he was an aspiring artist, and some of his paintings were rather interesting. Thus, even in the most evil person imaginable, it's possible to find good characteristics.

Consider the case of Ivan the Terrible, and the situation in Russia in the 16th century. Would the fear from such stories be useful in controlling an unruly and partially barbaric population? Even Tomas de Torquemada was inspired by religion.

Also, don't forget that we tend to judge people by our own standards. Thus, good and evil are relative to our environment, our thought process, our heritage. Consider how someone like Hitler might have been thought of if Germany had won the war. Would we have thought that Franklin Roosevelt was a war monger who needlessly sacrificed soldiers, and caused needless suffering while wrongly attempting to influence the proper world order? Would the United States have been thought of as a barbaric country filled with soft-headed idiots? Could Germany's persecution of the ethnic groups be compared to the slaughter of the Native Americans by the early Americans?

Personally, I think my own beliefs tend to run close to your own. But, I think that these issues need to be considered before attempting to classify people into either the evil or the good category.

Ok, now for some of my own recommendations. Where on the list would Idi Amin fit (Dictator of Uganda)? Didn't he publicly profess to cannibalism? Does this automatically qualify someone as evil? Or, isn't this really a cultural bias? What about Abraham Lincoln? Here was a man who had an impossible job, the reunification of a country at civil war, which eventually led to the loss of his life. What about the various winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor? While these were typically not leaders, quite a few of them voluntarily sacrificed their own life to save those of their friends (and, what higher good can there ever be?). What about Jesus? Isn't he the personification of goodness? Of course, now we're factoring in various religious thoughts, so I'm sure this could be considered very controversial. What about the prophet Mohammed? Going back to the second World War, what about Schindler (Have you ever seen the movie "Schindler's List"?). What about Timmothy McVey? He's almost certain to take a place on the list of the top twenty evil for his part in the Oklahoma City bombing. What about John Kennedy? While generally regarded as being responsible for putting a man on the moon, which has partially led to the technology explosion which exists today, he also came extremely close to provoking worldwide nuclear war. Where on the list does he belong?

I'm sure that there are literally millions of candidates for each list. However, in nominating these candidates, we're all evaluating them according to our own particular beliefs, so everyone's list will be vastly different, and, some entries might even swap portions, depending upon the person doing the evaluation. And, of course, the scariest part of this whole process might be that people have to publicly examine their own thoughts and their own morals, and, this can be extremely frightening at times!

From: Ron Kuby (famous attorney and WABC talk show host, pictured at right)

Cliff, thanks for your note. I was slightly familiar with your work as I am a sci-fi buff. Terry Bisson is a friend of mine.

As to good and evil, I do not know where to begin. In the absence of some definitional framework (intent vs. result, for example), it is tough to know where to begin. Surely Harry S. Truman deserves a place above Vlad the Impaler; Hiroshima/Nagasaki resulted in the murders of over 100,000 innocents. And if you want to argue that the murder of 100,000 saved 1,000,000, then why is Chairman Mao in the negative column? And so on. Anyway, glad you like the show. Best, Ron

[More about his show at: ]

From V. Ling:
I think number one should definitely be the Turko-Mongol conquerer Timur, who built a vast empire over much of Central and Western Asia in the late 14th century.

Like Vlad Tepes, he was completely merciless. But Timur was a travelling conquerer, sweeping through western Persia, India, and even Eastern Europe in an attempt to restore Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire. It is estimated that he killed over 17 million people in his imperialistic reign, razing cities of defeated peoples and massacring the inhabitants. There are some stories of his brutality including but not limited to creating towers of skulls from civilian corpses, molding live men together from a defeated city as psychological torture, and promising no bloodshed, and then burying thousands of people alive outside one city.

He is the highest standard of cruelty of the Medieval Period.

From Greg K.:

One of my favorite examples - how would JFK have been viewed if the same moral standards we are applying to President Clinton were applied, and if the press pried into his personal life as deeply as the press does now (I am grossed out that this is an issue at all for the President). I believe he would have one plot in a ranking based upon his lifetime, and quite another if the standards of the time were applied.

Then, what do we apply "good" and "evil" to? The person's day job? Their life as a whole? Their motivations? President Carter may not rank high as a "good" president, yet I believe of all the recent presidents that he is truly committed to helping others - is this "good", does it count?

Then there is Mother Teresa - I'm not saying she shouldn't be considered "good" - but what about the other nuns that worked with her that aren't recognized as individuals. Is the same work without world recognition even more "good"?

Is saving people "good"? If you feed a starving person, are you good? If that person lives to have children and the same basic problems of lack of resources still exists, haven't you made things worse, merely deferred a current problem and made it worse in the long term? Is that good or evil? Is the leadership of China good or evil - clearly their Draconian state enables a rapid reduction in their birth rate. Isn't that evil? Yet, if they didn't control their birth rate, millions would die - isn't that evil?

From Avi K.:

You had a good idea, but your lists do not look great. Here are my comments.

For evil, take Torquemada off your list. The Spanish Inquisition was not as bad as it was made out to be and was in fact no worse than any of the other Inquisitions throughout Europe at the time. Genghis Khan also should not be on your list as while he was very brutal when conquering, he was actually a pretty good ruler who cared about his own people. If you include Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot then you must also include all those who followed them and helped their mass murders. Yes, Hitler, Stalin and the others told them to do it, but they all had their own minds. Yes, the ones on your list are evil, but they have shared blame. On my list I try to include people who did what they do themselves, without getting others to do it for them, because for me that shows not just a desire for death but an enjoyment of their despicaple deeds. Here is my own list. These honestly aren't the top 10, but they're the first ten I thought of:

Let`s also think about those who raised them to be evil. Hitler, Stalin, Vlad the Impaler, all of them learned from their parents and authority figures. Surely their parents deserve a place on the list too.

As for your good list, Buddha, Bahaù`llah, Jesus, and Moses, can all be immediately dismissed on the grounds that they don`t exist or that we have no idea who they were. Even if we assume religion is correct, only Buddha might belong. Moses advocated animal and human scarifices as atonement for sins, and calimed death penalty for members of other religions among other things. Jesus Christ told slaves to be content with their lot in life and refused to heal a woman before a man. Bahaù`llah simply isnt influential enough to be on the list. As for the rest, Mother Theresa definitely does not belong. Yes, she gave people comfort in dying. But they were still dying. A truly good person would have tried to keep them from dying in the first place. She was only interested in converting them, not actually helping them. It`s sickening that people call her good. Abraham Lincoln also should be nowhere near your list. While he was anti-slavery, it was not his chief concern. His prime concern was the secession of the Confederacy, then the loss of industries in the South, then slavery. Lincoln also suspended Habeas corpus and kept political prisoners. Gandhi should not be on your list either. He slept naked with attractive young girls to prove his ability to resist such worldly temptations. I don`t see why he would need to prove that unless he was in it for the press. Also, I think it would have been proven better by just not sleeping with them in the first place.

From Arni D.:

Hi, Your list looks really strange. I have another:

  1. Leopold II king of Belgium. Killed half of the population of Congo, about 10 to 15 million people, during his reign in the Free State of Congo 1870-1908. Hands were cut of much of the rest of the population, preferably children, to ensure rubber production quotas were met.
  2. Christopher Columbus. During his reign in Hispaniola in the Carribean the Indian population dwindled from 3 000 000 to 300 000 in about ten years. In 1520 none were left.
  3. Oliver Cromwell. During his campaign in Ireland in the middle of the 17th century 400 000 Irish, a third of the population, perished because of his cruelty in conducting the campaign.
  4. Fransico Pizarro. Brutally destroyed the Inca empire and its culture in the 16th century and killed its emperor despite receiving a room full of gold in ransom for the emperor.
  5. Julius Cesar. Campaigned in Gaul in 1st century BC. Killed every third grown male in the country, another third was enslaved. Culture of Gaul destroyed.
  6. Hernan Cortes. Destroyed the Aztec culture in the 16th century.
  7. Lyndon Johnson. Organized the slaughter of 2 000 000 innocent Vietnamese.
  8. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, politically responsible for neoliberalist policies of the International Monetary Fund. Responsible for suffering and death of up to 100 000 000 people, primarily in Africa because of „structural adjustment“ (privatization etc.).
  9. Merchants from Liverpool, f.ex. mr. Penny (Penny Lane of the Beatle song is named after him) in the 17th to 18th century. Responsible for enslavery and transport and death of 30 millions of Africans (minimum numbers). 20 million of these died as a result of captivity.

From Kate W.

Mao was not an evil man. I just want to clear that up. He only executed about 2 million people, which might seem like alot, but was necessary in the long run to secure China's prosperity. The rest of the deaths in his reign were from unintentional famine. Mao built up the chinese economy, almost doubled the population, dramatically increased the standard of living and literacy rate, and improved the rights of women and the poor.

Just wanted to clear that up.

Top five good

Top five evil

From John E:

Hey Cliff, Great site! Really enjoyed (not sure enjoyed is the right word) learning about Vlad and thought the exchange between you and the Romanian was fascinating. It is indeed disturbing how we can justify any evil. I do think he was correct in his denouncement of the evil done in the name of God and good in the bible. Most Westerners tend to see even the genocide commanded by Yahweh as good and the Hell threatened by Jesus as just because we have been brought up in a Christian culture. I would suggest Jesus was largely if not completely a mythical creation. Whether historical or not , the Jesus character was the most divisive in history and his promise of eternal torture the most wicked thought to ever lodge in the mind of man. Needless to say, though I was a Christian for over 3 decades, Jesus would no longer find his way onto my list of good people. I would suggest rethinking Moses as well. He too is likely a mythical character based on the Legend of Sargon but the commands to murder helpless women and children attributed to him along with his many other atrocities should have him on Santa’s naughty list.

Mother Teresa is another fallen hero of mine. Once at the top of my good list I have since learned she was only interested in comforting the suffering to a degree and not interested in trying to eradicate it. She said,““I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot...I think the world is much helped by the suffering of the poor people.” I believe Christopher Hitchens has written about this dark side of her. I believe she meant well but much of the Christian message poisoned her thinking.

From Doug M., Ph.D.:

Cliff, Some of your top ten worst of medieval Europe do not compare to modern tyrants:

See this chart

I would also consider T Roosevelt. The Phillipine-American War was: 1. totally unnecessary, 2. had a high civilian death count, 3. Roosevelt's responsibility.

I would also remove Lincoln from the top ten list. Your contention that Lincoln "freed the slaves" is factually incorrect. Slaves in Brazil were freed by acts in 1871 and 1885. Then there is Jamaican slavery, Antigua, Martinique... Lincoln freed the slaves in the Southern States that had left the Union. Lincoln did not free the slaves in the border states that were directly under his control. Why should he have left the slaves of Kentucky in bondage? Furthermore, South and Central American nations feed their slaves without fighting wars.

Lincoln knew of examples where slaves had been bought out or granted freedom by legislation. Slaves of the US South could have been freed without that war. A great President WOULD HAVE freed slaves in the US South without a war. In fact, the monetary cost of the Civil War would have been enough to buy out all the slaves of the American South. The 600,000 deaths in the Civil War should count against Lincoln.

Lincoln also suspended Habeas Corpus, imprisoned war protesters and political opponents, suppressed freedom of the press... Lincoln is a highly questionable candidate for your ten best list.

From Rick.:

Dr. Pickover,

First of all, let me say that I greatly enjoyed reading your list of the "Top 10 Most Good and Evil People in history," and I was especially intrigued by the wide array of responses that you got to it. I think the list is a great thought exercise, and I would like to briefly throw in some of my own insights and responses to the site.

As I said, I feel that what you have done is an OUTSTANDING thought exercise -- it certainly got me to think -- and a great way to spark debate and intellectual discussion, as the many responses to your site have proven. One of the questions you ask is "Why do our perceptions of good and evil differ so much?" For example, you seemed confused as to how someone can possibly think Vlad the Impaler was a good man, or that Bill Clinton was more evil than Adolf Hitler. I agree with your confusion: when I first read that someone actually was trying to argue that Clinton was more evil than Hitler, I burst out laughing, thinking that surely the person must be some right-wing fanatic who thinks every Democrat is Satan's offspring. However, as I thought about it more and read the discussions you had with these people, I started thinking deeper about this, and I thought I'd share my insights with you.

I believe that, as good of a thought exercise as it is, any attempt to make a list of "evil" or "good" people is ultimately futile. No one, I repeat, NO ONE, is born either purely good or purely evil (for the purposes of this response I'm going to assume an agnostic point of view . . . obviously, Christians would believe that Jesus was born without sin or evil in him, but adding in that assumption would make this response more complex than it has to be right now). As humans, we are all born with the potential to perform acts of both great goodness or great evil. At birth, we are all "blank slates," and our lives and experiences end up drawing on this slate, molding us into the people we will ultimately become. People who have warm, loving parents who teach them openness and love will naturally become more open, loving people. People who are brought up to hate -- for example, children of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptists -- will naturally become angry, hateful people. People generally take action based on their view of the world, and this is different for everyone. For example, it is easy for us to condemn a man like Adolf Hitler, who committed some of the most atrocious crimes in history, as "evil" -- however, had Hitler faced a different set of experiences growing up, he may have adopted a different worldview and become the founder of an international charity for orphans, rather than becoming a megalomaniacal mass-murderer. It is important to note that Hitler did what he did because he felt that the rest of the world had been cruel and unjust to Germany, and that the Jews were at least partly responsible for the country's problems; he felt that creating a "master race" made up of who he felt had been formerly oppressed and exterminating the "problem" of the Jews was the right thing to do. In his mind, he was doing what was right, just, and GOOD! Therefore, calling him "evil" may be an inappropriate label . . . however, few can doubt that the ACTIONS he performed, including the Holocaust, were some of the most thoroughly evil actions in history.

My point is, it is futile to try to put a label of "good" or "evil" on any individual, as everyone is capable of acts of both good and evil, and nearly everyone tries to do the right thing based on their own worldview, which is different from person to person. Instead, we should judge the ACTS that these people commit as good or evil, since those are (somewhat) easier to put a label on. Hitler is obviously an extreme example, and truthfully I think there are very few who would even attempt to justify his heinous actions . . . but what about, say, Che Guevara? He committed many acts in his lifetime that most would say are "evil"; however, to many people, particularly the poor of Latin America, he is practically a SAINT, because he devoted his life to trying to help these people who truly do deserve help! So is he "good" or "evil"? My answer is, he is NEITHER; his individual actions can be labeled, but HE cannot be, because he, like everyone else, is too complex and multifaceted for that. He did what he thought was good and right; let us judge and debate on the morality of what he did, but not who he was as a person, for there is no real answer to that. This, perhaps, explains why so many Romanians jump to defend Vlad the Impaler; clearly, he committed many evil actions, and those who defend him even agree with this, but they refuse to label him as "evil" because these actions were motivated by his past experiences, the hatred for the Turks he had been brought up to feel, and other things essentially beyond his control, as well as the fact that he did many good things in his time too; he truly was doing what he thought was right. This also explains, perhaps, why some consider Bill Clinton to be evil; after all, although he did many good things during his presidency, no one can deny that some of his actions, like those of any other world leader faced with astronomically difficult decisions, could be considered evil by some (and of course, his affair with Monica was an evil action as well).

Finally, it is important to remember that people who "enjoy" their acts of violence and murder are probably suffering from some sort of mental illness or instability; therefore, the labels of "good" and "evil" cannot apply to them because they are not fully in control of themselves.

Judge the action, not the person. That is my basic argument. Once again, thank you for providing such an excellent resource for thoughtful people to express their opinions on such a complex topic, and I would love to hear your thoughts on what I have said when I get around to it.


From Jim M.:

I can't think of him as more evil than, say, John Gacy or Jeffrey Dahmer.

There are probably lots of exceedingly "good" people (measured from the view of *not* being evil in any way) that have had no impact on the world whatsoever, except perhaps as role models to those who have known them. Those who have "*done* good", like some of the examples Dave mentions, tend to be less perfect -- it's hard to be effective without stepping on a few toes here and there. How interesting that it's easier to come up with evil examples than good ones.

Dave's comments are interesting, but I wonder whether there's not a tendency to confuse the inherent nature of a person with the results of acts. For instance, McVeigh may have killed a lot more people, but

There is a web site called the "Serial Killer Hit List" that might be useful, at . Fairly strong stuff, but if we're talkin' 'bout EEEEvil . . .

From Craig B.:

I think Dave had a point, this is something of a can o' worms, because as we all know, there are no moral absolutes in the cold, existential universe we live in...or something like that, I dunno, it sure sounded good when I typed it. But seriously, for example, one of my top contenders would be Mao Tse-tung, leader of the Gang of Four, who killed off somewhere between 20 and 67 million (estimates vary) of his countrymen. But my parents recently returned from a trip there, and his picture is still hanging all over the place.

Similarly with Mohammed, the Prophet of the Islamic faith. An amazing number of people alive today would put him at the top of any list of "Good" people, but if "Name the top 10 Good People of all time" were to be asked on _Family Feud_, he wouldn't even be on the list.

Is Jack Kevorkian Good or Evil?

For personal selections, I'd probably add Mao (above), Stalin (who killed off ~10 million misc farmers while "collectivizing" their farms)(and there were at least a couple of other "purges" in the USSR in the first half of this century that killed off similar numbers of people), good ol' Pol Pot, Adolph Eichmann and the rest of Hitler's buddies, Genghis Khan (his Mongol hordes killed off an amazing number of people in Asia and Europe in the early 1200's (like 35 million Chinese, I forget the figures for Europe, I know he hit Poland hard).

All of which leads me to wonder, what's worse? Mass, impersonal murder of millions, or attention to detail? There was some nut- case in California who got caught some years back, his deal was driving around, picking up hitchhiking young men, then he'd knock 'em out, wire them up to a 4x8 sheet of plywood and torture them to death. Similarly, I've heard stories of some of the so-called "scientific research" conducted in the WWII concentration camps. Are the doctors involved more or less evil than Eichmann?

I'll write more on "Good" when I get a chance...sad fact is, as Jim observes, it's easier to come up with ideas for the "evil" list than the "good" list...but I wonder if this is a survival trait, as it's more important to be aware of evil (which can kill you or hurt you) than it is to be aware of good (which can help you, but in general you're doing okay on your own if you can avoid evil).

BTW, a couple of excellent sources for this kind of discussion would be a copy of the _Guinness Book of World Records_ and one or more of them there _Book of Lists_...I seem to recall that at least one of them had a list of "evil" people.

From Mike H.:

There is another aspect, and that is while we tend to single out an "individual" as being good or evil, not infrequently as in everything else it is the collective environment that results in the fame or infamy of a particular person.

In post WWI Germany, if Hitler did not rise to power, someone else would have. Perhaps the someone else would have beaten the U.S. to the atom bomb... or managed to throw off the shackles of the punitive Versailles "treaty" and institute a democracy (not likely in that era, but possible). Europe was not known for peace and tranquillity back then, it is a recent phenomena for that area.

While comment is made of Stalin, does anyone realize that the British and French applied considerable pressure in the Dumas (but mostly with Czar Nicholas) to continue Russian participation in WWI? The continuing debacle led to the rise of the Bolsheviks and thence Stalin-- heir to millions of deaths. Is Stalin the sole holder of opprobrium here or does some get spread around to the others that caused the environment that lead to his ascendency? In other circumstances Stalin would be just the guy next door... or you or I could be a Stalin... how do we know?

From Craig B.:

Okay, I've been trying to come up with a nice, big, juicy list of Good People, and I'm finding it's harder than I thought it would be. And I think I found a simple reason why: it's a lot easier to do something big and bad than it is to do something big and good.

Like, if you had scales and put Stalin's massacres on the left side, what could you put on the right-hand side to balance it? Curing cancer? Ending world hunger? I don't know. I guess you could put people like Jonas Salk (and others who have saved countless lives by developing vaccines) in the Good category. But with the occasional exception (Dr. Martin Luther King), there really aren't many individuals who you can really say have done good things that have affected millions of people. And someone mentioned Jimmy Carter, a man who I agree is probably the only "good" man to hold the office in the past few decades. But how much good did he really do while he was president? One could argue that he's done the country more good working with Habitat For Humanity than he did while he was in office (not to slag the man, but it seems that Nice Guys Make Lousy Presidents).

I guess charity is one way that people (rich people, at least) can do Big Works Of Good. Perhaps Carnagie belongs on the list, for all of those libraries he funded? (I know that the library in my hometown of Edwardsville was a Carnegie library). But to do so means that Ted Turner is Really, Really Good for giving all that money away.

And also, there is something like the Heisenberg principle at work here: the very best people don't seek publicity for their good deeds. The unknown heroes who work tirelessly with the poor and the sick, firemen who risk and lose their lives saving people...these are some of the best of the race, but few people know who they are. Even rich people fall into this category: in the last three months I've seen at least a couple of news- paper accounts of wealthy people who've been very quietly donating tens of millions of dollars anonymously for years.

That said, still the question remains: what Good Deed balances the slaughter of millions?

From Daniel P.:

These are all pretty obvious... Have you ever read Dostoyevski's (sp) ``Notes from Underground''? Fiction, but describes a kind of violence we all participate in to some extent. Some of those you listed are simply mass murderers. How about a mass of murderers -- like the 3 million + KKKers who were active in the 1910's - 1930's? Or those who for the sake of political advancement, promote the death penalty even when it is applied to mentally retarded people who were juveniles at the time they committed their crimes? (Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, went back to his home state to sign a death warrant for a mentally retarded kid while campaigning for the presidency.) Or the rest of the Americans who voted for this kind of thing? Or how about when nobody's life is at stake, but rather what about individual belief? Consider the Scope's trial... On one side are people who believe people's immortal souls will be lost if they do not hear and accept a picture of Christianity that is built on ancient Babylonian mythology and cosmogeny... and the others who feel that they will do their children a grave disservice in dealing with a modern world if they do not learn the principles of science and critical analysis. Or more, that people feel they have no need to offer charity, that it is not a part of their moral conscience? That it is better to lock somebody up and permanently disfranchise them, than to try to promote their participation in legitimate society?

My own sense is that evil people have done far less than evil ideas.

From Dina R.:

I object to Lincoln's being on the good list for freeing the slaves because it was a necessary political move and not from the goodness of his heart. if not freeing the slaves gave him more support during the war, he may have very well not done that. Aand i think that stalin and hitler were more evil than genghis khan, but that's probably just cultural conditioning, I don't know the inner motives of any of them too well. Hey, do you know that story about when genghis khan wanted to take this city that was behind a wall and he couldn't get into, so he surrounded it and told the people that he'd leave if they gave him 10000 swallows and 1000 cats? Wwhen they did, he set them on fire and let them go and they went back into the city and set it on fire and burned it down so he could take over it. That just has style.

"When choosing between two evils I always like to take the one I've never tried before." -- Mae West

From Clarke N.:

I would definitely add Saddam Hussein to the Bad list. Not only did he invade Kuwait for no good reason, and torch the oil wells on his way out, etc., and also force his people to fight for his foolish cause, but he has gassed and tortured his own people, killed hundreds and thousands, drained the lands of the Reed people in southern Iraq, causing genocide there, and destroying thicker culture. He is an ego maniac, etc., his photos all over the place. etc.

I am not so big on history so as to know history's worst characters. I am wonder if Torqemada should be so high, since, in theory, he thought he was pursuing the good of the church, etc. Shouldn't, really, the Pope that appointed him as Grand Inquisitor be on this list then.

I don't know a thing about Vlad Tepes. But shouldn't he be much lower on the list?

I would rate Hitler higher, perhaps at the top. And, I wonder, does Eichman belong, given that he is really in Hitler's shadow. He would not have existed but for Hitler. Stalin, also, should be much higher. He killed some 20 million peasants, recall, and was ruthless etc. in every other way. Anyway, in today's NEW YORK TIMES, on page B8, is a superb book review on a book about Hitler. The book is "The Hitler of History" by John Lukacs, and it addresses many of the issues you are concerned with. Check it out and you'll see.

Interesting that so many are in the 20th century. Weapons of mass destruction, mass propaganda, etc., have given evil minded sorts even greater power, when they get to power. You might want to comment on that.

H.H. Holmes certainly sounds interesting. Never heard of him, either, so his inclusion would definitely make the book interesting.

I think you need to do a bit of discussion about what makes evil, what is evil and good. I don't think you can define it solely in terms of a body count. But rather it must have something to do with purity of motive, of ego, etc. Someone who is not merely crazy, but knows what good is and turns away, out of selfish interest. Doesn't that define it. Evils is really putting your own selfish interests above everyone one else's, in a manner that uses coercion and violence to achieve it. In this respect, Hitler might actually drop on the list, inasmuch as, from what we know, he sincerely believe in his Cause. Whereas someone who knows better, supposedly, would rate higher. But, still, coming from a supposedly "Christian Culture" Hitler should have known better.

And shouldn't we hold people to a higher standard in the 20th century, when ideas about good and human rights and all are in wider circulation? For example, this is why I think Saddam Hussain is so bad. He knows what the world thinks of him, he has lived through the genocide of Nazism, and should know better.

Now, about good people. I like that you have Baha'u'llah -- and would put him at the top of the list in some respect. On the other hand, theologically speaking, it would be unfair to put Baha'u'llah -- or Buddha or Christ or Moses or Muhammad, etc., on the list at all, since I believe they are not really ordinary men, but rather all are incarnations of pure God, of the pure God-head, or as, we say, manifestations of God. So there can be no evil in them at all.

If I were to draw up such a list, I would make a point about this, talking about these figures in this way, and then excluding them from the list. But, I know, from your point of view, this does not make sense. So, looking at it from your perspective, I would have to include these people, since they are so manifestly good.

If we look at goodness in terms of deeds, rather than teachings, and if we define good as the opposite of my definition of evil, that is to say, people who have sacrificed their self interests in favor of serving others and helping others, then, still, Baha'u'llah would come out very high, in that he walked away from a very comfortable life as a Prince to go endure a life of torture and exile to promote his concept of Good.

But if we exclude the Manifestations of God, I would suggest the following possible additions:

Abdu'l-Baha -- Baha'u'llah's son was an ordinary man. Yet his life was one long sacrifice and tenure of service. He had, for example, only two coats. And he was always giving one of them away to the poor. Giving the shirt off his back, so to speak. Lots of more stories of self-sacrifice, etc.

Gandhi -- a similar life of self sacrifice and working for other people's go od.

Martin Luther King -- likewise, courage in the face of fire, promoting a good cause.

Going back in history, you might want to consider some of the Saints. Assisi perhaps? Augustine? I don't know much about them, but there must be something to what they have all done.

And what about great scientists who have shown courage in the face of repression. Gallelio was imprisoned for his views. Or the contributions of Louis Pasteur.

Then there would be the deeds of statements. Thomas Jefferson, perhaps. Ben Franklin. You listed Abraham Lincoln. Are there others?

And what about people who have risen above and beyond the call of duty. Done things at risk to themselves when they didn't have to. Isn't that a high form of Good? I am thinking of people like Schindler, etc. Although I suppose what counts is doing this consistently, over a long period of time, over a life time. So, in that regard, Mother Teresa is probably a good candidate for the list (although, frankly, I think she has received rather too much publicity.)

And what about someone like a Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, in some ways, was responsible for ridding the world of Hitler. And who sacrificed his health and life in some ways in the battle? He was a politician, it is true, and so many does not qualify. But he must be counted as one of this century's greatest and most influential men. He was also involved in founding the UN. His speech, the Four Freedoms. etc.

And who else has won the Nobel Peace Prize?

From Diane R.:

And while we're at it, where are people like Albert Schweitzer? Or Mohandas Gandhi? Or Florence Nightingale? Or that guy whose name I've forgotten who hid and saved so many Jews in his factory during the Naxi occupation in WW2? Or various winners of the Nobel Peace Prize? And don't be saying that Lincoln "freed the slaves": I think historians will argue that point with you, although it *is* convenient shorthand. And did the Number 2 spot go to Baha'ullah because you know a lot about the Baha'i faith, or really because people nominated him for that spot?

From Phil J.:

I certainly agree with your placement of these people into their respective "good" and "evil" categories. I would, of course like to see Jesus at the top of the good list, as would those of other faiths like to see, for example, Mohammed, at the top of the list. difficult, since we have no good historical record to go by, and Millions have needlessly died in their names due to our animal behavior. Man's inhumanity towards his fellow Man knows no bounds...nevertheless, the basic message is to treat others decently,which is what we are always trying to "get around" would think the ten commandments say it all...ok, I can't "rip-off" my neighbor, nor his ass, etc.; but how much can I steal from him before it is considered "ripping-off"?...always pushing the a child. which is why from ancient times we have had multitudes of laws and regulations, and lawyer-types...

From Lars N.:

Today I perused your list of good and evil people, which I guess is a matter for conjecture. My own list would include Churchill (more people died through the bombing of Dresden than in Hiroshima and Nagasakiya combined) and that when the war was virtually over.

The west stood by when Ida Amin killed his countryman, they went to Bocassas wedding as well. The UN condemned the Israelis for rescuing the hostages in Antebe.

So if there is a spare spot on the evil list please include "Those who let it happen".

From Edward A.:

Hello, Cliff.

Here are my nominations for the list of evil people:

That should keep you going. I think Stalin and Mao should be the other way around. The Great Leap Forward was a terrible mistake, but it's never been clear that Mao did that deliberately. In a country as big as China, a bad economic policy can affect large numbers quickly. You might respond that it's the same thing with Stalin and the Holodomor, but we know from other things Stalin did that letting people starve is in line with his character. Stalin purged all his comrade in the party, deported the Volga German nation (was part of the USSR) to Kazakhstan, deported the Chechans a few years later, attacked Finland, invaded the Baltic countries, ordered the Katyn Forest massacre and ordered the massacres of NKVD prisoners when Hitler attacked. Mao didn't order that many crimes in comparison, and it's possible that the Great Leap Forward was just a terrible mistake rather than a genocide.

I agree with you that torture is the sign of true evil. You are right to put Vlad the Impaler at number 2. All those people e-mailing you about his greatness have been indoctrinated. The man was pure evil.

I'm surprised Saddam Hussein's not on the list. He was certainly keen on torture. Also, during the Iran-Iraq War, a minister suggested that he should step down for a while, so Saddam asked him to step outside the room, and shot him there and then. He was a very nasty man. Ante Pavelic was also keen on torture. Apparently he used to keep bowels of eyes extracted from his Serb victims.

Keep running the website. I enjoy reading it.


From Ben B.:

First of all, Vlad, more formally Vladislav, impaled 10,000 men and women when the world population was just peaking over three million. He deserves the spot for number one most Evil man. Secondly, Octavian of Rome is entirely missing from the list. He burned down the Great Library at Alexandria. Had this event not taken place the Dark Ages would have never come about, nor would slavery have existed in the New World. Humanity would have been far more prepared for diversity. The Spanish Inquisition would probably never have happened either. I have successfully argued that Octavian was the most Evil man in all history, on the grounds that had he not done what he did, most evil acts after would never have come about. Besides, Rome needs a representative on that list.

Perhaps Lincoln does not belong on any such list. He freed the slaves yes, but Socrates once said: Always examine the motives of those in power. What were Lincoln's motives? He, at various points in his life, owned slaves. Was his motive to free the slaves, or to hold power of the nation united. I would venture toward the latter. He was no saint, nor should he be seen as one. After all, all he did was unite the nation, the slaves were not truly freed until well after the 1960's. Political and Social freedom are very different things, neither of which African-Americans had for a very long time after Lincoln was dead. The south did experience a short lived political/social backlash, in which African-Americans had extended rights, but that was, as I said, shortly lived. Newton is a far more fitting candidate for the Good list, he created much of the modern world. Sometimes Good is complimented by evil. Had Lincoln truly been a man of goodness he would have rescued the slaves, burned the southern crops, and expelled every state south of the Ohio river from the Union. Instead place Newton on this list, he contributed much more to humanity, and was one of the most influential persons in history. Early founders of Taoism and Hinduism may also make fitting additions to this list.

The Dalai Lama is the same immortal being reincarnated time and time again, each time, at the moment of death, revealing his next identity. When we Westerners make a reference to any one of his physical forms we tend to forget that they are all the same guy, according to His theology. The other night I heard a news report on the new Lama, in this report it was stated that he would have to strive to meet the standards of the previous Lama. The report neglected to mention that they were the same man. If we chose to look at any one religion as basically accurate in theology, must we not look at all religions in the same fashion? Although I do like the way in which your page gives no factual credit to the theology behind any of the religions, perhaps that is the better way to go--to be agnostic rather than generally faithful.

From Rachel R.:

First of all, I'd like to say that I love your's one of the best things I've ever seen on the great, vacuous monster we call the Internet. You asked for comments about the list of good and evil people, so here goes. I do not believe in concepts such as good and evil - the world is infinitely complex, and thus reducing the immense scale of gray to simple black and white is a dangerous thing. This said, I feel compelled to argue with a few of your choices, just because I can.

Mother Teresa, although she accomplished many "good" things, would be nowhere on my list of good people. She vehemently preached against homosexuality and abortion. She was known to baptize children against their will - given the choice of saving a sick child's life or baptizing it, she would choose the latter. Not being a Catholic myself, I cannot accept this.

Back on the religious theme, Jesus wasn't so wonderful either. At one point, a rich woman was criticized for anointing him with expensive perfume, rather than using her money for something more important - say, feeding the poor. Jesus replied (and I'm paraphrasing, of course) "Do not criticize her, for the poor will always be with you, and I am here for a short time only." Also, what about all the atrocities that have been committed in his name - not that he would approve, but I think that should be considered.

How about Vlad Tepez's contribution to literature? If he hadn't been such a monster, Dracula might never have been written. Just a thought. Keep up the good work!

From Anoop:

Like others I was surprised at the omission of a few people in your list of the 'Good'. 1. Mahatma Gandhi : I am an Indian and owe a lot to him. But so do a whole lot of other people and countries. Showed us the strength in truth. righteousness and nonviolence. 2. Martin Luther King. 3. Nelson Mandela. Both of them more than once acknowledged their own debt to the Mahatma. Incidentally Mahatma means 'Great Soul'. What better name for a man like him ?

From Ross M.:

Your lists have certainly generated the controversy and stimulated thinking as I'm sure you desired. Reading your reasons for putting people on the list was as interesting as who was on it. By the way, I'm responding through e-mail because there was no other indicated way to post a response. I would have to say the motivations are the mark of good and evil, and even those are suspect when put in terms of religion and politics. Were the Iriquois who tortured their captives evil because they believed they would gain spiritual strength if their victim screamed out his essence, or were they simply practicing a common belief among the five nation confederacy? Was Genghis Kahn evil when he used total destruction of those who opposed him to spare the lives of his own soldiers by preventing future battles. Don't forget that once he conquered a territory he wanted it productive. When he killed it was purposeful, and the threat he posed led to numerous peaceful surrenders. Under the Kahn's rule, Genghis' and Kublai's at least, a "pax mongol" existed in their empire which encouraged trade and bettered the lives of more people than were killed in the conquests. If you use the threat of mass destruction as a qualifier for evil in those terms then every president of the United States,and most of the rest of the government and American people are just as evil. Didn't we bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki to prevent more killing of our own warriors? And didn't we, successfully, hold the threat of the same destruction over our main rival to prevent further mass warfare? How different is that from Genghis making an example of some cities which resisted him to get peaceful acquisition of others? (One could argue he had no right to want the other cities in the first place, but that opens up another can of worms in the virtues vs. problems of imperialism and colonialism.) Besides before condemning the Kahns and Torquemada, look at what other divinely inspired slaughters have occurred. Read Joshua 6:21, where under God's order the Israelite tribe "utterly destroyed the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep and asses, with the edge of the sword". The only people spared were two harlots and their families. Because they'd sheltered the Israelite spies. This is in the same bible where just a few books earlier God had condemned harlots and other adulterers to death by stoning! Apparently even God has a hard time figuring out relative good and evil.

Then we could get into the Machiavalian aspect. He is often regarded as evil, his writings in "The Prince" are usually summed up with the phrase "the ends justify the means". We tend to regard that as an unsavory way of thinking, but to Machiavelli, it made more sense to have an opponent assassinated than to go to war against him. We have laws in the United States against assassinating our ideological foes, but what makes more sense? Risk a few agents to assassinate Hussein, or send 100,000 and more Coalition troops into full scale battle against an Iraqi army that had no idea what a modern air attack could do to it? I don't feel like looking up the casualty figures from the U. S. invasion of Panama, but on the good/evil scale, were any casualties more than one on either side worth more than the "dishonorable" act of taking out Noriega the individual?

Good and evil are sticky subjects. The followers of Moses who killed their wives and children then committed suicide at Massdada are revered, yet the followers of Jim Jones and David Koresh are considered weird cultists because they did exactly the same thing under an outside threat to their beliefs.

I'm quitting this commentary now. It's going to take me a while to put together lists of good and evil people with a minimum of cultural bias

From: Dan K.

Hi Cliff, Thanks for the interesting site. I spent quite a bit of time on it. I was looking at the good and evil people and I noticed that one remarkable humanitarian is missing: Raoul Wallenberg. He is credited with saving the lives of 100,000 people. How many individuals in history can you say that about? In fact there was a direct encounter between him and Eichmann on the platform of the Budapest train station as he intervened even in the eleventh hour to get Jews headed for Auschwitz off the train. Thanks again and I would like to be on the mailing list for the new books that come out,

From: Carol K.:

Dear Cliff, Your lists, and many of your visitors' comments, tend to assess degrees of evil on the basis of numbers affected -- but those who commit mass murder in the name of some perverted ideal are driven by ideas which surely qualify them as insane. While insanity is not an excuse, it does serve to explain the otherwise unfathomable...and, I think, it may dilute the Evil quotient.

But what about the thug who guns down a convenience store clerk for a six-pack? Imagine the thought process (if such people think at all): "I want a beer. Let's kill that guy."

Do those thugs have the same mental defect that (I believe) Torquemada had? I don't think so -- there are just too many of them. They can't ALL be born that way.

No, I think most of them KNOW what they're doing is wrong -- they just don't care. Yes, they are often the products of an impoverished and violent upbringing; yes, American television offers far more evil role models than good ones; yes, drugs and liquor drive otherwise good people to acts of desperation. But I contend that if you have the slightest shred of human decency in you, there is NOTHING, nothing in the WORLD, that could induce you to kill so lightly.

So when I turn on the local news and watch the endless parade of sullen, cold-eyed young men on trial for acts of appalling cruelty, I see in each one of them a darkness at least as profound as that in the heart of Hitler.

From Sherry M.:

On good and evil. Don't write a book on it. Books written on good and evil are usually either trite or pedantic. Either way the issue is so fraught with pitfalls you will be open to critics from one point of view or another. Consider the "Golden Rule" of the western tradition "do unto others what you would have done unto you. Would you want your local masochist obeying this? Or the "Silver Rule" associated with eastern religions "Do not do unto others what you would not do unto yourself" Why shouldn't someone be standing on the bank of the river as you go swirling by and think "Soon he's going to die and be with God. I wish I was drowning".

The problem with good and evil is you can't get past the dichotomies. Even Yaweh, giving the law to the Hebrews in Sinai says "Thou shalt not kill" (Ex.20.13) then spends the next several chapters laying out the law and denoting which ones the perperpertators should be executed for. Not to mention the numerous massacres (e.g. Jericho, Josh.6.21.) divinely ordered. My advice is stick to the beauty and, so far as we know, objective truth of math and physics. Morality is even more imprecise than chemistry, as I'm sure Dr. Asimov would say.

From: G. Chandy:

Dear Dr. Pickover: Marvellous Home Page! Shall be returning to it again and again and again... A couple of strong disagreements: Apropos of your list of good people there is one person whose leaving out of the list you should justify: M.K. Gandhi Apropos of your list of favourite books: please do read 'Story of San Michele' by Axel Munthe - and tell me if you do not find it to be unquestionably one of the greatest books of this (or any other) century. More later, when I revisit your utterly fascinating page.

From: Drew H.:

It was not the people that were chosen that I found most interesting I believe it was the illustration that defining humanity in such linear terms of good and evil has a tendency to be inadequate and frustrating.

I also believe that there is a recurring theme between your attempts to define good and evil and your mathematical questions. As a programmer, attempting model real world objects the greatest challenge in defining them is the definition falls into what we call a "gray" area. How do we define concepts that have no bounds of expression? How do make binary computers truly understand "close" or "kind of" or "like". It is as fruitless, or challenging, as defining beauty on a linear scale.

I believe with the advent of chaos theory we have the beginnings of tools necessary to approach definition of these abstract concepts. Who knows maybe we will have a "Satan Set" that persons of evil, or in the neighbourhood of evil, will be bounded by.

Q: (Forgive the generalization) Aren't you a bit of a "wild duck" for IBM?

From Dugan B.:

Hw the heaven can you rank Jesus Christ 3rd? He is the most spiritual person that ever did.

From Kntaro T.:

Hi Cliff, I have a comment to make about your Top Ten good people list, and one which someone with your web page and your book preferences is sure to understand:

One measure of goodness depends on what extent a person does something for self-glorification. In particular, I think action for which public recognition is the aim significantly diminishes the value of an action. This belief arises out of my personal biases for judging goodness, which are (1) that goodness depends entirely on the intention of the actor, proverbs about paved roads to hell notwithstanding, (2) that acting for reasons of gaining recognition are ultimately wholly ego-gratifying, and (3) that ego-gratification is at the root of all human evil. [Incidentally, (1) makes sense because judging a person by the consequences he or she had on the world is always ultimately a futile exercise, since no one will ever know.] This reasoning immediately makes suspect many famous people who are widely held to be good. Frankly, I doubt, for example, that Mother Theresa did it for the fame -- she had been doing what she did long before the world took notice. But, for example, Gandhi, whom some of your respondents listed as a perfect candidate is suspect. Did he really do it for India? Or did he do it to secure his place in history? He is said to have slept with beautiful naked women to prove his ability to resist such worldly temptations -- but who would need to demonstrate such an ability except one who wishes to be known by them? I, personally, would change places with Gandhi (even in his grave) if it meant I would have similar world-wide recognition for having done good, and that suggests that what he did overall would be "easy" for me.

What would be difficult (and hence, good?) would be to be the nameless worker in the soup kitchen or the anonymous Oscar Schindler-type who performs good consistently for the sake of good, with little or no recognition for it. Would I trade my life for that? Right now, probably not. Yet I would recognize those people as people with good intentions were I to meet them. That suggests that those people are doing the most difficult kind of good -- that without the incidental reward of recognition. So, I don't know if it was intentional, but I think it's good that your top ten list is short of ten -- the rest should be saved for the anonymous figures who did good but never took the credit.

Finally, one last comment -- surely a graphics person can do better than that composite of you and Piers. ;-) I hope we have a chance to meet some time -- where do you spend most of your time? Yorktown Heights? Wisconsin? Regards, Kentaro Toyama Microsoft Research

From Dennis G.:

I was just looking at your WEB site once again, and I've been thinking about one question for a while, namely the one about Good People or what Good Deed balances the slaughter of millions. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the road to heaven must be paved with results, and I would suggest these individuals as Good:

Alexander Flemming for his discovery of penicillin

Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, Mikhail Gorbachev, for their work in ending the Cold War.

Louis Pasteur, in his effort to make French beer better than German beer, developed his pasteurization process for milk that saved uncounted millions of children from from death or serious illness.

Jonas Salk, for the polio vaccine.

Newton and Tesla to whom we owe much of our material comfort.

John Harrison for invention of the marine chronometer, motivated in part by the loss of some 2,000 men in a storm off the coast of the Scilly Isles.

The guy who devised the 401(k) plan for common people; I can't remember his name, but he was featured in an article in Fortune Magazine last year. He didn't make a lot of money himself, but he was developing 401(k)'s for rich people, and his religious convictions led him to do something for ordinary people. Must have been some interesting mathematics here. I'd like to see this guy considered for a Nobel prize in economics.

From Catt F.:

Some names I thought were missing from the list:

Evil - Caligula

Good - Gandhi, St. Francis of Asissi (sp?), Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, Tesla

Also - I often do book reviews for various publications on a freelance basis and would be interested in receiving review copies.

From: Mona Marie K.:

Hi Cliff,

The Top Ten Good: You ask for suggestions or alternate ranking. I have no interest in debating relative evils, so I'll stick to the good. Unfortunately, history is not one of my strengths so I can't make more than a few simple statements: my main suggestion is to put Muhammad before Baha'u'llah. All the rest seems okay, although there may be some good lost somewhere in the cracks!

1.Buddha - Buddhism, far more than Christianity or Islam, has a very strong pacifist element. The orientation toward nonviolence has played a significant role in the political history of Buddhist countries.

I would put either Buddha or the Prophet Muhammad as #1.

Given the reasons you state for Baha'u'llah of the Baha'is, I would suggest putting Muhammad before Baha'u'llah, since he taught the same thing, 1300 years earlier, to far more people. Without Islam, the Baha'i faith would have never developed. The teachings of Muhammad had a profound and immediate beneficial effect on society and the advent of mathematics, astronomy, and science in general, whereas Baha'u'llah has not had such an effect on our society. At the height of Islam, religious tolerance was present in abundance and societal ills were low. Islam is also meant to be a universal faith. Muslims also believe in the oneness of humanity, and also devote themselves to the abolition of racial prejudice, class prejudice, and other injustices of all kinds. Islam, in its true form, has no priesthood: the muslim can communicate directly with God at any time and in any way. No priestly intercession is ever necessary. Muslim men and women are equal in the sight of God and Islamic society - although you might realize this by looking at the culturally distorted representations of Islam in our world today. The presence of a muslim clergy is mainly for advice-giving capability due to the massive amount of Islamic literature that can be studied. Muslim clergy are also recognized for their familiarity with Islamic jurisprudence, or the Shariah. Although ritual forms of prayer are observed, Islam also aims to guide society spiritually, socially, politically, and economically. Unfortunately, in today's world, muslims are often not true to the spirit of Islam. But that does not reflect upon the message taught by the Prophet Muhammad, nor his inherent goodness. Islam also maintains that all the great world religions point to the one god, Allah, but that the messages were often muddled, confused, or lost over time - hence the apparent differences in faiths. Furthermore, jihad does not actually mean holy war, but instead means 'struggle in the path of Allah.' War is not encouraged by Islam - in fact, the word Islam is derived from the Arabic root SLM, pronounced Salm, which literally means peace, submission, and obedience.

2.Baha'u'llah - Baha'is believe that all the founders of the world's great religions have been manifestations of God and agents of a progressive divine plan for the education of the human race. Despite their apparent differences, the world's great religions, according to the Baha'is, teach an identical truth. Baha'is believe that Baha'ullah (d. 1892) was a manifestation of God, who in His essence is unknowable. Baha'ullah's special function was to overcome the disunity of religions and establish a universal faith. Baha'is believe in the oneness of humanity and devote themselves to the abolition of racial, class, and religious prejudices. The great bulk of Baha'i teachings is concerned with social ethics; the faith has no priesthood and does not observe ritual forms in its worship. Putting the Dalai Lama after Muhammad and Baha'u'llah is also fine with me!

3.Dalai Lama - head of the dominant Dge-lugs-pa order of Tibetan Buddhists and, until 1959, both spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of his nonviolent campaign to end Chinese domination of Tibet.

Also fine:

4.Jesus Christ - for the preaching of love.

5.Moses - just the idea of "resting on the seventh day" improved the life of countless people.

I'm not so sure Mother Theresa had such a profound good effect on humanity in general as did the other people mentioned in this list. I would put some beneficial scientist in her place. Perhaps Louis Pasteur?

6.Mother Theresa - Once Mother Theresa was asked how she could continue day after day after day, visiting the terminally ill: feeding them, wiping their brows, giving them comfort as they lay dying. And she said, "It's not hard because in each one, I see the face of Christ in one of His more distressing disguises."

7.Abraham Lincoln - for freeing the slaves.

Okay, but what about Martin Luther King? Or Gandhi?

From: Marius L.:

Hallo Clifford

While looking at some fractal resources over the weekend, I changed upon your pages. After exhausting the fractal and chaos section, I had a look at the more "esoteric" pieces on display. It was with great interest that I read the piece: The Scales of Good and Evil.

While busy with this, in the background the death on Diana was again force-fed through the commercial grinder. Some people would argue that Diana should be on your list of good people. Taken from a historical perspective, the question immediately arises wether or not any mention would be made about Mother Theresa, who died in the same period. Those same people would, if presented with a list and without any outside influences, most probably select both of them as very good people.

If the above sounds like illogical rambling(1), let me try and completely rephrase: How much hype surrounding people are just propaganda with hidden motives?

In the case of Diana, commercial interest keeps the machine oiled. How many people would buy a coffee-cup with and image of Mother Theresa on the side? Of Diana? Who was better? Or were they equal?

The same can be said for most of the other people on the your list, both good and bad.

A piece that kind of sums it all up:

And in the end In all that we say And all that we do All that we leave behind Is a trail of memories Will you remember Those that are enclosed Within the border of your mind?

Rephrase the third last line:

And in the end In all that we say And all that we do All that we leave behind Is a trail of memories How will you remember Those that are enclosed Within the border of your mind?

You are welcome to use the above if you want to as long as acknowledgment is given. I do retain the copyright.

Greeting from Afrika Marius

From David A.:

Hello Cliff,

Loved the discussion of good and evil characters - great choices for the evil ones. A couple of quick thoughts - I'd also question Abe Lincoln's inclusion on the 'good' list, for the reasons of political expediency behind freeing the slaves that some others have mentioned. I'd also like to nominate L. Ron Hubbard for a spot on the 'evil' list, for enslaving many minds and making a lot of money doing it. Dave Anderson

From Terry F.:

Your lists displayed an obvious pro-religious politically pro-western bias. Abraham Lincoln?!?? "For freeing the slaves?!!?" Moses because resting every seventh day is desirable?? As if working six days a week is acceptable? Thanks for nothing!! And never mind Moses' 300 or whatever other mostly bloodthirsty patriarchal and authoritarian commandments! For the evil list, how about Columbus, Cortez, or JP Morgan?? Plenty of people did more harm than some guy who gassed people at his bed and breakfast, but you refuse to see it because of your biases. Andrew Jackson killed more people coldbloodedly when he sent them on the Trail of Tears, even if they weren't rich white old ladies. And lots of people "preached love", but few screwed the world up as badly as the followers of jesus did.

From Anonymous:

Perhaps you should rename it the most Charismatic or Powerful Leaders. Most of the people you named did not accomplish these deeds alone, their ability to lead, and feed of off general trends and hysteria of the masses, is what made all of these atrocities/good deeds happen. No one personally murdered millions, or fed millions, it was their ability to inspire others that created the effects described. Any World leader/Dictator or Religious Icon does nothing more than fan the flames of general emotion. Having the ability to discern general trends in the population and utilise them does not in essence make someone evil, Hitler is no more evil than the thousands of people who carried out his orders, he was one man.. In fact we are all one person, so unless you work alone (as in serial murderes/pedeophiles/abusers etc) I do not believe you can be held accountable for the "whole" . That then leaves all who participated in any way, or who did not participate but stayed silent accountable. Of course this is just my opinion. We all have the capacity for good/evil if you get us at the right time, especially if we get caught up in mob hysteria. Thus accordingly I would imagine that you would have to take all Leaders of off your list and concentrate on individuals. Just my thoughts. Peace

From Jeff T.:

I've enjoyed your personal pick of the 12 vilest and the 10 someone mentioned- yin/yang. But most of those mentioned had a definite lean towards one side! Vlad Tepes surprised me. I had thought he killed a few people (well that is bad enough), but THAT many? HH Holmes is a big surprise as I have never heard of him. I heard that Timur-i-Leng (or Tamurlane) left a pyramid of 70,000 skulls after the conquest of Isfahan, Persia. I be- leive he was the last of the Mongol leaders. Josip Stalin goes to the top of my list. It is becoming more likely that he is responsible for 30 million deaths of his country- men. Fortunately my grandparents left that country seven years before he came to power- as "native Germans" or Volgadeutsch they would likely have had such a fate.

From Rich B.:

Well, it was a big topic, but you seem to be off to a good start.

I would like to suggest one more person for your good list - Ghandi. Read a biography - absolutely amazing. The things he was able to accomplish through non-violence is an incredibly inspiring story - he managed to free his country from the grip of the British. Without war.

Of course, the list of things he did not manage to accomplish is sad as well. He opposed the creation of Pakistan as a separate Moslem country. Even his harshest critics admit that he had a good point there. If they did, the fact that these two countries are the newest members of the "Nuclear Club" should persuade them.

Not bad, seeing as how was an actual person. Not like another one of your choices.

I refer, of course, to Jesus. If mythological figures are to be included, The Tick, a mighty force opposing evil (at least on Saturday morning cartoons), should be considered.

As far as your contention that Jesus preached love; he may have indeed done so, but don't forget some other memorable verses attributed to the "Lamb of God:"

Luke 14:26 "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." This from your preacher of love, a commandment to hate.

Also, Matthew 13:41-42 "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." I don't feel that preaching an everlasting hell is appopriate for someone on your list of all-time good guys.

But my favorite one, in Jesus' own words: Matthew 10:34 "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." And that promise has surely been kept. Think also of the great wrongs inflicted by followers of Jesus - the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, the sufferings inflicted upon the natives by the (largely) Christian settlers form Europe, the support of slavery by the Southern Baptists before, during, and after the American Civil War.

Ghandi did not do, or inspire, any of these things. Of course, he hasn't had as long to inspire them either...

As far as Mother Theresa goes, I suggest reading "The Missionary Position." She was an outspoken critic of birth control, even though she lived in the midst of an overcrowded land. She considered suffering to be a blessing, because her lord Jesus had suffered on the cross. She certainly did more in the face of poverty and suffering than I could ever hope to, but she could have done more by advocating birth control.

From Ned H.:

Dear Mr. Pickover, I read the list you have on your website of the most evil and most benevolent people that have ever lived, and there are two things that I would change. If I made such a list, I would rank Adolf Eichmann first. Eichmann was not simply sitting silently by in Hitler's "shadow," as one of your respondents said. Eichmann was the sole orchestrator of the Nazi extermination of the Jews. He was truly Hitler's right hand man. And at the end of the war, he did not even have the bit of conscience to turn himself in to the war crimes tribunal. He escaped Germany through a secret Nazi organization called Odessa, which gave him a fake identity. He was finally tracked down in Argentina over a decade later. After hearing his death sentence at his trial, he said, and I quote, " I don't mind going into the grave, because I have placed six million Jews in the grave before me." One thing that you also have to remember about men like Eichmann, "Hitler's Henchmen", as they are called, is that they were truly messed up in the head. Heinrich Himmler, who was second only to Eichmann in the Nazi's death squad, and head of the Nazi Gestapo, had an actual mental disease that caused him to laugh and giggle uncontrollably at the sight of anything in pain or suffering. I forget the name of the condition, but Nazi officers said that Himmler would sit at his desk, trying to kill a chicken by twisting its head off, giggling wildly as it screamed and squalled in pain.

Another thing I would do would be to take Abraham Lincoln off the list altogether. Yes, Lincoln wrote the Emancipation Proclomation freeing the slaves, and yes he tried to keep the United States together, but there is something that you are forgetting. Although Lincoln obviously had other things on his mind, during his Presidency the drive to push Native Americans off their land continued unabated. No President, whose was in command during the Indian Wars for the continent, Lincoln included, ever came out in condemnation of the attacks by the U.S. Army against sometimes innocent tribes of Native Americans, or made a move to negotiate lasting peace with them. Consider this: In 1863, Kit Carson, a commander in the U.S. Army, marched 400 men to the Canyon de Chelly to surround a Navajo stronghold. His troops killed their livestock and destroyed their crops, in an effort to keep skirmishes between the Navajo and settlers under control, even though there had never been a specific offensive move by the Navajo against the army. A year later, his troops once again entered the canyon and captured the remaining Navajo, who were taken to Fort Sumner and imprisoned there until 1868. And also in 1864, there was an event that came to be known as the Sand Creek Massacre, in which a large army force in Colorado ambushed a village of peaceful Arapaho and Cheyenne, killing men, women and children. All who were Commanders In Chief during the Indian Wars and made no attempt to stop it are just as responsible as the army leaders who were in the field, there by making Lincoln responsible to. It is a sad feature of the people of this country, who, ignorant of their history, are apt to forget and ignore the fact that they reside on land that was literally swept out from under the feet of those who originally inhabited it, the instruments of this take over being disease, broken treaties and half-hearted attempts at peace.

From Michael P.:

Hello Cliff, I looked through your good & evil lists, and figured you had set yourself up for some controversy, but I thought it would be based on minor quibbling over who might have been added or deleted from the lists. I was astounded by the ignorance about Abraham Lincoln expressed by some of the writers. I suppose it is because of the well-noted failure of students to learn history in school, but this is pretty fundamental. Here are the facts:

Lincoln did not own slaves. The writer is probably thinking of Thomas Jefferson. The emancipation was not something done to meet some unexpected political event. He did not do it to deal with the war. The war was the result of the emancipation order. He was the most outspoken opponent of slavery of his time. The famous Lincoln-Douglas debates were primarily about slavery. Douglas had created a bill which repealed the ban on slavery in the territories. Lincoln said "No man is good enough to govern another man, without that other's consent. I say this is the leading principle--the sheet anchor of American republicanism."

He was the first republican president. The party was founded as a single issue party, and the issue was slavery. Freeing the slaves was pretty much the whole platform. Long before becoming a presidential candidate, Lincoln said "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master - This expresses my idea of democracy - Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy - "

It is true that the plight of blacks in the south did not improve much after the war, but that was largely because Lincoln was assassinated at that critical time. His successor was a democrat who tried to complete Lincoln's program, but was unable to because he lacked the mandate that Lincoln had. The war was fought over whether the individual states could opt out of the nation to avoid federal orders. The absurd idea of burning their crops and expelling those states would have put Lincoln on your evil list, rather than qualifying for the good list.

PS: Since we are talking about a U.S. president, how about George Washington? He was one of the most noble men who ever lived. After defeating a much larger & better British army, there were many who expected him to become "King." That was the tradition of the time, and those who suggested it to him were probably quite surprised by his response. He basically told them that they were insane, and how could you have gone through this long fight for freedom and then talk of giving it up to a new king? He told them to never speak of it again unless they would like to be charged with treason. Think how different our country would have been if he had not been such a champion of freedom.

From Dennis M.:

I disagree with having Lincoln on the "good" list. His actions were politically motivated. You also don't take into account his policy concerning the Natives. His methods didn't involve negotiation or peacemaking attempts. But merely forceful conquest.

From Matt G.:

One respondee said it was a minefield. He is a master of understatement.

Let me open by pointing out that good and evil are religious concepts so first you have to determine the religious orientation of the respondant. Try to find a Jew putting anyone but folks like Hitler and Torquemada at the top of the evil list.

But in the land of ritual sacrifice he who refuses to offer his child is evil. And those who would try moral superiority to decide, explain first why it is our moral obligation to kill Serbs to save Albanians who have been openly engaged revolution and who pattern of terrorizing Serbs over the last 20 years caused the invention of the term ethnic cleansing.

And that leads up to separating the person from the person's reputation. Modern research of the Spanish Inquisition, right from the official records reveals there are barely 100 executed in both the old and new worlds in its first century of existance. It seems the Lutherans had the printing press and vilitifed him as part of Catholicism. And to look to those same Lutherans, the racked up a score of a million or three witches for their first two centuries.

But the destruction of witches was a religious good, correct? The Devil was real. Just look how he attacked church steeples with lightning.

And then you get into politics. There are so many people who supported, defended and so many who still do, that his 20-25 million murders before Hitler took power fall into the Orwellian memory hole. Down that same hole went the murders of those who surrendered to the Nazis and of everyone who supported the Nazis and of everyone accused of supporting the Nazis.

And then shall we judge absolute or percentage? Way back when there was a significantly lower population, we can't downgrade people for lack of effort, just lack of targets. Pol Pot only had a small country to work with but got 1/3 of them or so. And it depends how you group the targets. The US got 100% of more than half of the Indian tribes.

And then times change. Folks like Washington or Jefferson can be condemned for owning slaves but never Julius Ceasar. Ceasar not only owned slavs but destroyed Roman democracy and set himself up as dictator -- Hitleresque to say the least -- and ask the Gauls about him.

Speaking of which, after the Napoleanic Wars, saying anything good about "that satanic Corsican" was risking a jail sentence.

And then there are problems even currently as to what people actually said and did. Nearly all the damning things Nazis are quoted as saying can only be found in Allied propaganda without factual basis or so greatly distorted as to reverse the meaning. Eichmann's "5 million on my conscience" is similarly propaganda.

Good is not nearly as interesting to talk about but citing Bhudda for his pacifist influence on bhuddist countries such as China and Japan shows, shall we say, an interesting avoidance of certain aspects of their hisories. While the US Civil War was going on, China had their own with maybe 60 million dead. I prefer war-mongering to pacifist, thank you.

As to others, you appear to be awarding credit based upon theory rather than positive results. That is the only thing that appears to save Marx and his ism save that his views on Jews and Slavs as he published made Hitler look like Mother Theresa in comparison.

Lincoln ATTEMPT AT freeing the slaves was purely political. He did not and could not as he had no power to do so. His attempt was limited to the states in rebellion so was clearly a war or political move at best.

And Moses for resting one day in seven. If there ever was a Moses (or Jesus or Bhudda for that matter) prior to and long after his "time" folks had more that 14% of the year as some form of holiday or other. The most he can be creditted with is regularizing it and that sort of sucked for farmers. Instead of getting their holidays in when the farm work was minimal this screwed up the work year.

And all those native Hawaiians we have sort of a soft spot for. Dig up their original temples and find the bones of slaves under the foundation posts. Which of course was a good thing in their society.

Vlad Tepes is attributed with a lot but he did most all of it to the pagan muslim invaders in defense of his country. His political problem was that he appears to have continued it to maintain local political power and eventually lost.

From Arne G.:

I just discovered your website (certainly above average interesting compared to the rest of the www). I read the article "The Scales of Good and Evil", and naturally, have an opinion of my own. I don't know if the discussion is still open, or if you ever have the time to read my comments (hey, you must get bucks of mail each day) but here go some random thoughts:

Nitpicking: The guy who ordered the killing of the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki via nuclear bomb should definitely be on the list. Not as high as, say, Josef Stalin, but on it. Reasons: The bombs were dropped after Japan had offered to surrender (though not unconditional surrender, which the US insisted on. Well, according to my limited knowledge of history at least). While that may not be much different in an absolute sense than Genghis Khan slaughtering the inhabitants of an enemy city for strategic reasons, being a 20th century person, he should have known better. 20th century people, americans especially, generally think of themselves as having higher moral standards than other people. Sounds offensive? Well, it just shows how pointless (apart from making you think about the topic) arguing about the details of such a list actually is. The people who have contributed to your list come from a relatively narrow part of cultural space/time. They have a certain set of ethics, by which they judge what is good and what is evil. Other people had/will have other ethics, which may differ drastically. A prominent feature of evil persons on the list seems to be the number of people killed. But could there be a viable set of ethics, meaning a set which functions as the foundation of a thriving society, which doesn't put such a harsh penalty on killing people, if done for the "right reasons" whatever that may mean to "them"? Stuff to think about.

Some more thoughts: The first place of the evil list should be left blank, to be filled by that someone (or the chain-of-command or similiar) that destroys the human race. Something of a scope not easily imagined (!) but certainly possible with creative use of todays technology. I presume that deed, should it ever happen, would shadow everything else put together. Or how about someone who destroys our universe? We might not care whether just we or the whole big everything bites the dust, but should there be some alien intelligence, it might very well see things differently.

As to why listing evil persons is so much more easy than good persons: We are much more aware towards killing than towards almost any other thing people can do. Since killing people, whether directly or indirectly (and the reason for it) is the single criterion for getting on the evil list, this makes listing evil people naturally easier than listing good people, whose actions are more diverse. IMHO good stuff often has to do with people who think long term, while evil stuff often results from people who just think about the immediate future. But long term effects are not easily attributed to single individuals.

Otherwise, good and evil are just memes with not much worth for me. They tend to give the illusion of an easy partitioning of the world, but the world is really much more complicated for that to hold much value. My subjective opinion.

From: Ross S.
I will probably offend a lot of people for saying this, but I think the "Prophet" Mohammed deserves to be on the evil list. Islam is the only major world religion that started wars of conquest during the lifetime of its founder. Mohammed personally led armies to conquer those who disagreed with him. Out of curiosity, I read the Koran. I found it to be an intensely violent and paranoid book with dire warnings and curses on nearly every page against anyone who doubts or disbelieves its contents. It teaches the slaughter of pagans and the enslavement(placing them under tribute) of Christians and Jews as a matter of principle. It differs from the more violent parts of the Hebrew bible in that the various prophecies of Israels triumph over its enemies were in revenge for or correction of a historical injustice. Even the divinely directed genocide in the Books of Joshua and Judges were cast in light of divine retribution for specific wickedness including ritual prostitution and infanticide practiced by the Canaanites. The Koran offers no such justification. If you are pagan, no matter your moral conduct, you are to be killed. If you are Christian or Jew, you are to be enslaved. Fortunately, most modern Muslims interpret away the literal meaning of the Koran, but the Muslims in the days of Mohammed practiced Jihad in the literal, violent way, not in any spiritualized "struggle". Medieval Muslims transcended the violent origins of their religion and turned out to be some of histories most magnanimous conquerors. Jews and Christians were treated far better under Muslim rule than medieval christians ever treated Jews or Muslims or each other for that matter. But as I would not lay the conduct of the Spanish Inquisition to Jesus charge, I will not give credit to Mohammed for medieval Muslims charge. One of your readers, in suggesting that Mohammed be placed on the good list, pointed out the tremendous flowering of Arab culture following the introduction of Islam. Many great and beautiful things were created by the rich and powerful by exploiting the underclass. The pyramids and cathedrals, while beautiful if viewed in isolation from their origins, were created by the death, slavery and misery of the masses who lived and died to build them. I cannot help but see a blood covered gravestone when I look at a Cathedral. The flowering of Arab culture in the middle ages was purchased with the blood of peoples conquered in the previous centuries.

From: Arlin A.
I'd delete the last one or two (de Rais was accused, on rumor, of killing 140 children. I don't know if there is or ever was any real evidence. Even if he did it, it pales by orders of magnitude with the others.)

Try Fidel Castro, Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, (or even Pinochet or Juan Peron?) just in our own hemisphere and century. How about Kim Il Sung, Khomeni, Gadafy?

I would argue that anything that reduces or restricts intelligence is evil. The Moslems and then the Christians that burned the library of Alexandria rank right up with your worst. It could be argued that someone who kills a baby has done less damage to civilization than someone who kills a young adult-the investment is much less and it may even be possible for the parents to "replace" the loss by having another kid-if their child dies as an adult, the parents are (usually) too old to have another. [Don't misunderstand; the loss of a baby is still a loss!]

From: Shanky
You left off many time honored favorites..What about Nero..or Diocletian...or is your site designed to be anti-christian..if so you might not want to include them because, they were martyred by this man. Then there is always Sadam even though he is a modern topic...look at what he does to the curds and shi'ite minority. Chemical up the oil wells..I mean even though I am a patriotic can see through my bias and agree this guy is one of the biggest dicks in history. Hmmm and what about dodge dondalo of venice....In the 13th century he lead a crusade against..constantinople a christian city!! Why? greed and jealousy...mostly jealousy of the magnificence of the byzantine state...anyway the inhabitants were slaughterd..the churches defiled..BY FELLOW CHRISTIANS..And the eastern empire was weakened indeffinitely for the conquest by the Turks...which subjected the christian populace of the balkans to turkish slavery for 4 hundred plus years..

From: Colton
I would like to add Courtney Love to the evil list. That stupid b*tch had her husband, who was a frightening wellspring of talent, murdered and didn't care one bit about the copycat suicides. She continues to make mediocre safe music but defeats the whole punk cause by portraying herself as one. Before you say I'm crazy and that Kurt Cobain killed himself do some research on the case.

From: Carol C.
Shift Mao from the list of evil to the list of good. You have your facts (even front-page trivia) wrong. Shift Dalai whatever to the list of the dull. He belongs on a trivia list, having been created by the CIA

Add to Evil List: Tibetan Theocracy pre-1955

Add to evil list (would-be or actual perpetrators of genocide):

Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter (approved of carnage in East Timor and provided weapons, etc for same) Ronald Reagan, George Bush William Clinton


Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, N. Lenin, Eleanor Marx, Malcolm X Wallace (I forget his first name; he was co-discoverer of theory of natural selection. He goofed up for a noble reason, he was one of the few white men in the 19th century who was not a racist) Merlin Kennedy, President of Bloomington-Normal NAACP off and on for over 40 years. He stands for all the unknown local activists who made the civil rights movement Citizen X, NFL cadre assassinated by CIA and so forth

From: Kathryn C.
Princess Diana She was known as the peoples princess for a reason. she crossed the barriers put up by royalty in society. she helped raise two good sons, one of which is going to be the king of england (hes really cute too), and they're both compasionate, caring, and totally unlike the former view of royalty is/was. they help normal people, they help homeless, they help. and they learned how to help from their mother, Diana, princess of Wales

From: Emmar F.
Fred West was an incredible evil man. He was a mass murderer in the West of England in very recent years. He is known to have killed 15 women, probably more. The attrocities he inflicted upon the women before their death has never been revealed to the public, but it is known that he tortured, raped, sodomised etc his victims. His wife, Rose, was a willing accomplice to his deeds, and she languishes in Durham prison with another EVIL woman, Myra Hindley. Myra Hindley is pure evil, she and her lover Ian Brady killed 6-8 young children, after torturing them. There is an excellent book about her called Inside the Mind of a Murderer, I forget the name of the author bu can find it for you, read that book and you will be left in doubt as to how evil that woman is. Fred West commited suicide in prison before he could be tried for his crimes. I am happy to help you find more info on these people if you wish to add themto your list.

From: Bob D.
Hi, So you want suggestions for your list of good and evil, hmm? Read on, but be prepared to be shocked and/or offended. And don't post these names until you do a little research on them yourself; always verify everything you read, I could be a liar with an agenda. O_- Of course, it's always easier to make a list of evil than good, that's why I've got 5 good and 10 evil (well, nine, since one's a joke).
1. Martin Luther (1483-1546)
No, not Martin Luther King Jr. or his father, but Martin Luther, who caused the Reformation. In simply publishing a list of subjects he felt the dictatorial Catholic Church should discuss with Christians, he started a firestorm of arguments. In doing so, he split Christianity into Catholicism and Protestantism. Both were as dictatorial and capable of atrocities such as the Inquisition, but because there were two sides, individual people could run from one to the other for protection, for freedom to think and act. The spread of ideas and the freedom and safety to think and practice them can be directly attributed to Martin Luther. Not only that, but he was the first to translate the bible into languages other than Latin, to make Christianity a _people's_ religion, not a church's.
2. C. Everett Koop
In a time when AIDS spread across the world, when teen pregnancy was skyrocketing, anti-smoking forces needed a champion, here came a *Christian Fundamentalist* who was willing to put aside his own beliefs (he was anti-abortion, yet stayed in favour of a woman's right to choose) to do what was in the best interests of all people. Ronald Reagan appointed Koop thinking he had a puppet to support right wing ideology and instead appointed a hero.
3. Tito (1892-1980)
A cold-war communist dictator as one of the most good? Yes. During World War II under Nazi occupation, he was a key figure in the Yugoslavian resistance. As leader of Yugoslavia under his regime, he prevented and defused ethnic problems which have plagued Balkan nations for the past ten years (the genocides happenning in Slovenia and such places never happened under Tito). Tito railed against Soviet communism, refusing to buckle under to the USSR, and he openly support third world nations (communist and non-communist) at a time when the west didn't care about them.
4. Kublai Khan
A Mongol emporer, though an imperialist, was also a patron of cultural and social aims. His rule allowed China to thrive and spread its knowledge to the world while able to do so safely under his protection.
5. Turkey (as a nation until this century)
When the Palestinian state was created 2000 years ago, the Jews were left homeless and spread to many parts of Europe and the world, the Christian and Arab Turkey provided them a safe haven, setting no extreme religious conditions on them, allowing Jews to live openly in a tolerant society. Sadly, how the Turks have treated the Kurds (a genocide of thousands of them in the past 20 years) puts Turkey on the most evil list, too.
As for the most evil, you're *not* going to like some of them. The first three are organizations, but still, their heinous crimes done for political or religious policy is amongst the most evil ever committed.
1. The CIA
Murderers and assassins for hire, corruptors of the democratic process, liars who spoke of protecting the world while only protecting a small minority of the American government and wealthy. Did you know the communist Sandanistas in Nicaragua were *democratically* elected in an uncorrupted election? That many democratic forces in fascist Latin American, European, Asian and African countries were thwarted and attacked solely to allow puppet dictators who toed the US government's line? It was only when Manuel Noriega went against the US was any attempty made to remove him. From its start as the OSS during World War II (helping Nazi scientists escape) to its renaming in 1947 to its crimes of today, the CIA is arguable the most corrupt government agency ever. (Read Philip Agee's "CIA Diary" or "On The Run" if you can find them; "Diary" is banned in the US, and it's doubtful bookstores will carry the other. You'd probably have to order them from a Canadian company.)
2. The Stasi
The East German secret police many times made the KGB look like do gooders. Their control over individuals lives, spying and bugging, their assassination attempts, all went further than most communist bloc government agencies. Imprisonment without trial and torture-induced insanity (putting dissidents in asylums was a favored communist tactic) was rampant.
3. The Mossad
Israel's secret service, this organization is amongst the most corrupt and openly violent. Don't be fooled thinking Jews as only victims, this group is heavily involved in crimes across the Middle East. Just as Nettenyahu did not represent Jewish people who wanted peace with Palestine, so do the Mossad not represent Jewish feelings towards Arabs. The Mossad are thugs who pretend to be heroes. (Read ex-Mossad member Victor Ostrovsky's book "By Way Of Deception" detailing the crimes of the Mossad. Fact from the book: annually, the Mossad places a list of people it wants to assassinate in front of the Israeli Prime Minister, and anyone he signs his name to, they have his permission to kill. And they kill all of them.)
4. Ronald Reagan
A man who almost started World War III ("We have outlawed Russia and begin bombing in five minutes" he once said jokingly before a Presidential radio address into a live microphone, the USSR almost launching in response), this puppet of the far right was as responsible for the destruction of the middle class with his economic policies, for causing strife and conflict in other countries, and for promoting racism (not overtly, but subtly with policies that made it acceptable). This coward was a stool pigeon for Joseph McCarthy in the 1950's: while pretending to be a loyal member of the Screen Actors Guild and other union causes, he secretly provided accurate and false information to McCarthy which destroyed lives and careers.
5. Hirohito, Japanese emporer (1901-1989)
This "walking god" of Japanese society knew full well all the atrocities and crimes of his country and military: the forced sexual slavery of Asian women ("comfort women"), the torture of POWs, the imperialism and rape of nations, the murderous massacres in China (including the Nanking massacre: more than 300,000 people, the ENTIRE city murdered within a week). He knew full well all the acts committed in his name and as a head of state never faced trial as a war criminal.
6. Pope John Paul II
This hypocrite, while spewing words of Chrisitianity is amongst the most intolerant dictators of the 20th century. Unwillingness to face the reality of the modern world, his hatred of women, his inaction in the face of crimes by his church (child molestation, money laundering and economic collusion with the Mafia, church assets which include an Italian pharmaceutical factory that makes the pill and condoms), his arrogance toward the world population problem (his own hand-picked Vatican Science Council says the world cannot support more than 2.5 billion people living a western lifestyle; the pope ignores it, saying the earth can handle 13 billion), all these acts collectively are as abominable as any other dictator.
7. Mother Theresa
Yes, you have her on your "good list", but anyone who says women should die rather than have abortions when their health is threathened, or that peope in poor nations who are starving should not practice birth control, is irresponsible. That act alone is enough to call her evil.
8. Nero, roman emporer (37-68 AD)
Although there were actually no fiddles to play when Rome burned (they didn't exist then), all the other things you hear about him are true. He ordered hundreds (if not thousands) on his opponents and dissidents killed, he himself murdered three of his own family (including his mother), and ran the greatest empire in human history into the ground. He stole from the people, lived in opulence while the poor starved, treated slaves horribly (worse than anything you'll see in "Spartacus"). The only thing he ever did to benefit anyone else was commit suicide.
9. The Argentinian military junta of the 1970s
While not one particular person, this dictatorship was one of the most ruthless and brutal in South America, possibly the world. The "disappeared" (people kidnapped and murdered by the army; "disappeared" is how the government classified them, though they often gave the orders to kill) were in the thousands, repression of opposition was violent to an extreme (think of the Mexican or Columbian governments' treatment of opponents; the Argeninian government was twice as bad). One of the favored means of killing political opponents? Throwing people (concious or not) from aeroplane and helicopters into jungle or the ocean from thousands of feet in the air.
10. The creator of Barney the Dinosaur. 'Nuff said. ^_^
Well. With all that cheery discussion, I'll leave you to it. Say what you think, and let me know. If you want places to start doing research for yourself, I'll give you some reference points to start from.

From: David & Kristin H.
I would have to disagree with you on many of your selections for "evil". I just can't see where the likes of Stalin, Hitler, Eichman, Pol Pot, and Chairman Mao belong. Yes, each of these men were responsible for great attrocities, but none of them carried out the attrocities. Who's worse? The man who orders a death from afar or the man who looks into the victim's eyes and pulls the trigger (albeit on orders)?
In my opinion, anyone who has little or no blood on his hands just doesn't cut the proverbial mustard. Certainly the likes of Ghengis Khan and Vlad the Impaler had plenty of blood on their hands directly - they rose to power through warfare in an age where hand to hand combat ruled. They could never have risen in the (reasonably) bloodless manner Hitler did.
I would make one exception to this idea (of requiring direct blood), however. I would add Dr. Edward Teller to the list of the most evil. Granted, while he's no blood on his own hands directly he seems to have taken absolute glee in the creation of the US's hydrogen bomb. Never have I seen any indication that he sees the bomb as anything more than the grandest of toys. Any man who can build such a device and show a complete lack of humility or remorse for what he has done most assuredly has a heart as cold and black as coal. Compare that to Sokharov(sp!), his Soviet counterpart who was perhaps the Soviet Union's biggest anti-nuclear weapons advocate despite being responsible for the success of the Soviet program to build the "super". Clearly Sokharov understood what he had done - even if belatedly.

From: Steve V.
Hi just some thoughts on your page. It seems to me (I'm not a Christian btw) that your objectivity is being compromised by some sort of personal bias torwards the christian religion. For instance why is evil person number one a man who killed and tortured 2000, while number two a man who killed and tortured over 20,000 (going by the numbers you mention)? Additionally one would look at the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and even if one doesn't believe the son of god stuff he would still place much higher up on this list than he is.
Secondly I strongly disagree with putting Budhha at number one on your good list. Although buddhism is a commendable religion in many ways there's a much lesser commitment to help others than in some other religions. I've heard it said that the concept of Karma means many buddhists believe those in poverty or other misfortune 'deserve' their station in life and are far less charitable, on average, than other religions. Whether this is Buddha's fault or not I couldn't say, but it does seem a self-centred religion.
Thirdly a suggestion for the good list, I think Gandhi is missing and should be there.
And finally some notes on what you give priority to. Firstly no I don't think religious leaders should have negative results such as fundamentalist groups counted against them, none of them (AFAIK) preached violence or intolerance and none have control over what evils are done in their name, especially after death. As for evilness why is personally participating in evil considered? Is the serial killer who sadistically kills 10 victims for his own pleasure more evil than the politician who orders a genocide of an entire race from the safety of his office?

From: Seth E.
Without Lenin's perversion of Marxian economic fantasies, there might not have been so much Western acceptance of Hitler's perversion of Nietsche's ideas....

From: Marty A.
Cliff, Excellent topic for a homepage. I've shared it with all my friends.
I agree with Dina and many others -- strike Lincoln from the "good" list. No only did he NOT free the northern slaves until after the war, he began in earnest the rise of federal paternalism that led us down the path of EVIL.
Which brings us to FDR, arguably the most EVIL man in history. He did more than any other individual to destroy the strong American Spirit of rugged individualism and self-reliance and replace it with a weak, simpering malaise that rewards sub-human behavior such as licking the hand that feeds them.

From: John G.
Another person that should be added for evil is the late Deng Xiao Peng of China for the murder of the non-violent student protesters at Tiannamen Square in Beijing China. That was evil at its' purest.

From Aaron:
Hello, I found your Scalse of Good and Evil. I think I have to disagree and dispute your placement of Mother Terasa on the good list. While it is conventional wisdom and makes us feel warm inside, there is plenty of evidence contrary to the belief that Mother Teresa was in fact an entirely altruistic giving saint.
These are the only links I could come up with quickly, but if you look into it you doubtless find much more:
Also, although respectible for his ideals and determination, there is evidence that Abraham Lincoln used slavery more as a means of division between the North and the South, than an actual end being fought over. The Civil War was the bloodiest war in American history. However, this is not to say that it was entirely unavoidable, or that slavery needn't have been terminated.
And while on the topic, while Jesus himself may have espoused and embraced love, it could very well be arguable (first of all whether he existed) whether the net outcome of Christianity over history has been good or evil.
You can't take everything at superficial face value. There is usually a more complex explanation beneath everything.
It seems that the Good list is filled mostly by religious, or pseudo-religious historical figures. Surely there must be historical people from fields other than politics and religion who were truly good. Just because I've watched Braveheart way too many times, I can say William Wallace and Robert (I think) the Bruce fought against British oppression for the liberation of Scotland. That has to be worth something. Unfortunately I can't think of many others besides those in recent history (Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King, etc.).

From: Ender
I admire your effort with the list, and further admire how you publicly post criticism of your list.
However, I have some criticism of my own. Abraham Lincoln is listed as being "good" for freeing the slaves. He did not however, defend the rights of the slaves. This was more an image decision. Before the emancipation proclamaiton, he owned slaves. There is now DNA evidence to support that Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln both fathered mulatto children with slaves. Whether this was consentual, or rape is unknown. Moses is listed, while he was known as a murderer. He killed in defense of another, but killed none the less. You call pacifism good, but praise Moses. This appears to be a contradiction. Moses did free "God's people" from slavery, but only because God called him to.
I can't remember his name, but Abraham's son was willing to be sacraficed by his father for God. That pretty much parallel's Jesus' sacrafice. He might be a better candidate.
I also don't understand how you list the Dalai Lama (I thought it was Dhali Lama, but I could be mistaken) for his pacifist actions, but do not list Ghandi.
Then when it comes to your list of evil, you chose high-profile political leaders. I think it is easy to order people to death, regardless of numbers. I personally believe that someone who killed two people with his bare-hands, without remorse, for no reason other than pure sadism is just as evil.
How many women did the Boston Strangler kill with his own two hands? He also molested many of them. How can you measure good and evil, by the number of lives it impacted, or the sincerity in the action? I believe the motive is more important than the action.
T. J. Brumfield

From: Thorbjorn J. (Sweden)
Include Harry S. Truman on the list of evil, as #8. He ordered the killing of 250 000 civilians and caused nameless sufferings for generations on japanese.

From: Shawn R.
To add to "good list" Muhatma Gahndi (spelling)
Even though I agree that your list of evil people were in fact evil, I dissagree with the criteria used for putting a person on the list. It seems that the number of people tortured or killed was the most important factor in getting on your list, or getting a high position on your list.
I think the more truely evil people in history were the people who knew that what they did was wrong, yet did it anyway. Many on your list didnt believe that what they were doing was wrong. For example, I think Genghis Khan and Mao Tse-tung are good examples of people who probably did not see what he was doing as evil, whereas H. H. Holmes and Gilles de Rais probably did know, on some level, that what they were doing was wrong but they did it anyway.
Just a thought.

From: Julio G. (Argentina)
Carlos Saul Menem: President of Argentina between the years 1989/1999. Murderous to but 23 million of persons and I condemn to other 10 million to the desperation and the hunger.

From: Justin C. (New Zealand)
Whoever the american was who ordered the nuclear attack on that Japanese city (It's never slipped my mind before.. hrmph). I'd say killing off a few million people that way is pretty damn bad. Sein Fein for causing the entire irish and a good part of the british populations of the UK to live in absolute fear? Thejapanese cult leader who gassed japanese subways? Ronald Regan for inspiring nuclear war even more than JFK did. Ronald's stupid actions are only now being seen as actions that ought the soviet union to the edge of full nuclear alert. They were ready to pres the button anytime it looked like he had. Nero for using chirstians as human tources to light the roads to his palace. Pretty much any roman ruler who continued to let the games go on, killing and maiming people and animals. Any Papua New Guinea tribe, who hacked and slaughtered neighbouring villages for food.
Tell me, once we have this list, are we going to do something about it? It might be considered evil to raise a world-wide army and slaughter the people on the list who still live, and to destroy their regimes, but it might just be worth it.

From: Jan B.
Charles Manson......... BORN KILLER| psyhopatic

From: terrapin (Argentina)
Jorge Rafael Videla , Emilio Massera , Jorge Camps Agosti, Viola Galtieri ....etc (las Juntas de Gobierno de la yltima dictadura militar de Argentina (1976-1983))

From: Tulse L.
Good: St Francis of Assisi: the best face of Catholicism, which has many ugly ones. Apollonius of Tyana: a contemporary of Christ, traveled the known world learning, mediating, teaching, & purifying; deserves to be much more widely known, but isn't because Christianity destroyed the ancient cultures he struggled to heal and reform. Raoul Wallenberg: single-handedly saved tens of thousands of Jews during WWII (far far more than Schindler), and one of only two foreigners granted honorary American citizenship (the other was Churchill), died (probably) in the Soviet gulag; deliberately dropped and forgotten by history because he was gay. Jimmy Carter: maybe not for the top ten, but he could have cashed in on his ex-presidency by hiring himself out to large corporate boards (look at Gerry Ford) but instead turned his presidential library (usually a self-aggrandizing mausoleum) into a think tank for peaceful intervention, mediated numerous conflicts to a peaceful conclusion, and builds homes for the poor in his spare time. Lost the presidency for naively believing good government needed no PR, succeeded by a caricature who was nothing but PR. Probably the best person to ever hold the presidency. Nelson Mandela: despite decades in prison, emerged from prison cleansed of vengeful motives and became a great healer. Rumi: great Sufi master of spiritual ecstasy, great poet, founder of the whirling darwishes.
Eichmann was penny ante. Lincoln not exactly a peacenik, though awfully smart ... (why not find out who freed the slaves in other countries long before Lincoln?). NB: Indian (Asian, that is) history has included some truly despicable leaders. Offhand, no real quarrel with the others, except that the list could take a deeper look at non-western and pre-20th c cultures.
Note: Octavian did not burn down the library at Alexandria, which anyway was burned many different times.
A few further notes: good choice in Gilles de Rais - you've done some research, I see. But what about the modern-day posterboy for sadism, the Marquis himself? Measuring the potential influence of his writings, I mean, which continue to be admired by more than a few academics and who knows how many nut cases.
Suggest you replace Eichmann with Mengele. By consensus (I believe) Eichmann is held to have inflated his influence. Mengele is the premier example of a specific type of "scientific" sociopathology.
In addition to his doctrine of love, Jesus preached the Golden Rule "Do unto others ...", which (I am told by christians) is more pro-active than previous iterations of the idea of reciprocal behavior (i.e the "Silver Rule" that we NOT do unto others what we'd NOT want done to us). Something very akin to Christ's doctrine of love, and antecedent to it, was preached by Rabbi Hillel. Indeed, it is sometimes speculated that Jesus learned it directly from Hillel himself, who would have been a codger when Jesus was a youth. So you might want to research Hillel too.
The noun form of evil is evil, not evilness (what does your spellcheck say about "evilness"?) :)
I assume you're familiar with "Eichmann In Jerusalem; A Report On The Banality Of Evil" by Hannah Arendt. More than any other work, it seems to have defined the terms by which we address the Holocaust in particular and evil in general.
Glad to assist, though I think your project is somewhat dotty. Another Good: Mahavira, founder of Jainism, a world religion begun as a reform movement of Hinduism. "Jainism was born out of teachings of Mahavira (b. 599 B.C.) who denied the existence or worship of a supreme deity and taught enlightenment through strict self-denial and non-violence. Later followers deified Mahavira, calling him the 24th Tirthankara (last great savior teacher) who descended from heaven without sin and with all knowledge." A precursor of Ghandi, King and Mandela, one might say. I don't know how many zillions of ppl follow Janaism, but it's pretty big.

From: Chris N:
Wow, almost everyone who commented on Lincoln was completely wrong. Lincoln indeed was one of the most outspoken critics of slavery, and Frederick Douglass was a supporter of his well before his presidency. Yes, I do believe the emancipation proclomation was somewhat politically motivated, as are all actions by Presidents. However, Lincoln -- well before he ever became president -- voiced his support for the eventual abolition of slavery. Against Stephen Douglas he argued that Thomas Jefferson included slaves when he wrote that all men are created equal. He was great and did great things. Was he perfect like Jesus? No. But Lincoln is, after all, only human.
And that speaks to why it is easier to think of evil examples than good ones. Adding a bit of evil to a pile of good ruins the good. Adding a bit of good to a bunch of evil has little effect. Jesus said to someone who did not know he was the Christ, "why do you call me good? There is no one good but God alone." Good is ruined by evil, but evil is not sanctified by good, unless that good is so pure as being from God himself.
Oh, one more thing. Lincoln clearly was racist by our standards. He thought that while we are all created equal, that there was a justifiable -- even necessary -- social hierarchy between the races, and that whites deserved the top rung of that hierarchy. But by his times, he was nothing even resembling a "racist".

From: Bostjan T
It's quite stupid to put religion as such and/or religious leaders as "good". Religion is definitively the most evil invention of man kind. What mother Theresa did, for instance, was only soothe the pain caused by her own religion (war, poverty of people who paid for the golden churches,...). Billions of people were killed in the name of Jesus Christ (who was nothing more than a drunk fruitcake). If blinding the people is good, and that's what religion is all about, then Satan may really exist (and is very successful), after all.

From: Robert S
I think what you fail to realize is that impalement was the standard form of punishment practiced in eastern europe at that time. The fact that Vlad did it more than any other ruler was a result of his homeland being invaded more than any other. I had the benefit of a Rumanian grandmother looking over my shoulder as I watched Bela Lugosi do his "shtick" on T.V. and was promptly set straight as to their national hero. You seem to forget 90% of the material gathered on Vlad is docudrama quality at best.. I myself have a "B" video on the life of Dracula claiming to be 100% accurate. It's comical at best. Maybe you should add He was king of the Vampires to your page as well.
His favourite way of killing people? Hahaha, you read his diaries I see :)

From: Robert S

First of all you report these stories that have past down through the generations as fact when the actual recorded information is very limited. You didn't know that impalement was the standard form of execution in eastern europe? That makes me wonder if you did any research at all. The incident you refer to "Vlad the Impaler tortured thousands while he ate and drunk among the corpses" is taken from a woodcut depicting one incident. Thats parallel to me saying the United States favourite past time is dropping atomic bombs on innocent people in Japan. We all know how necessary that was, so much so in fact that your government had to drop a second one to kill a few hundred thousand more. But thats a matter of perception to you? It's all how you define evil? I consulted my Uncle on Amlas after I saw this page and he laughed at the idea of that city even having twenty thousand people at that time in history. It's amazing how Rumanians don't know their own history yet you can extract all these facts from? A bibliography would be a good addition to your page. Enough said. At least correct his name: Using the "Son of" tradition (Dragon, not Devil)
Evil is personal. I have no idea if Vlad was evil, My grandparents were under the impression he was a national hero. I thought he was Bela Lugosi when I was a child. I spoke to a woman a few years ago who was under the impression that because I had a background in the occult I could tell her where to find a vampire. (Thankyou Anne Rice, you've given hope to the romantically handicappped) If you percieve him as evil then to you he is. Would removing him from the page change your mind? If you didn't have him on your page I wouldn't be enjoying this exchange.
> 2. Simply the fact that he impaled thousand of men, women, and children would not make him evil, in part because it was a standard form of execution in Eastern Europe.
*I question the accuracy of any statement made about history in this case. If you get two Historians that disagree about the events are they then only 50% correct, if four disagree?
> 3. Vlad might not have tortured 1000s while eating and drinking among the corpses, or, if he did, it would not make him evil. If he was torturing Innocents, yes. If he tortured Nazis's while drinking among the corpses, would this make him evil? Childhood tales taught to Rumanian children may have included the one about the evil Turk, who when trying to rape and kill a village girl was impaled and disemboweled by Vlad. Who then continued with his dinner party oblivious to the stench of fresh entrails. Again this is perception.
> 4. I think you do not dispute this sentence, so I think you accept it but do not think it makes him evil: Vlad often ordered people to be skinned, boiled, decapitated, blinded, strangled, hanged, burned, roasted, hacked, nailed, buried alive, stabbed, etc. He also cut off noses, ears, sexual organs and limbs.
Refer to * Once again, who were these people he skinned, poached, filleted, were they Innocents? or were conquering Turks or, who left to there own evil would have raped and tortured his own people.
> By the way, was Hitler evil? To me? yes he was.
Me saying to you "I want you to remove him from your page" is something that's not going to happen. It's your page and therefor your beliefs. I like that fact you have the page up because it promotes these kinds of exchanges. I see people saying Christ should be removed from the page because "He said", this makes me chuckle everytime I read it. If the Ben Benohim knew the trouble they would cause by laying the framework for that allegory, I'm sure they would have thought twice about genesis.

From: Andy D
Dear Cliff,
Probably a good thing Marius is not in a position to exercise his views on any sort of grand was attitudes like his that made it possible for the German people to accept the Holocaust as 'necessary'.
In am a fan of your work and in substantial agreement with your views on most issues.

From: "Chris A

You forgot Bill Gates on your evil list

From: Donovan L

I suggest adding Harry Truman to the list of evil people for ordering the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Excerpt from Encarta on the Web: "On August 6, 1945, during World War II (1939-1945), the first atomic bomb to be used against an enemy was dropped on the city by the United States Army Air Forces. The Supreme Allied Headquarters reported that 129,558 people were killed, injured, or missing following the bombing. The blast completely destroyed 68 percent of Hiroshima's buildings."
That's gotta be a bad thing to do.? Resulted in years of fallout damamge, people were burnt to a crisp. There are reports and pictures of people actually having their shadows burnt into structues.
Thanks Donovan.
Jephtha made a rash vow that promoted him to sacrifice his daughter, and St. Paul speaks of him as a man of great fatih. Angry Jehovah slew Moses' two nephews with lightning bolts merely because they failed to mix the incense properly for sacrifice.

From: John U

I think a few people in the comments section are missing the point, or maybe it just needs to be stated a little more clearly for my own satisfaction.
Evil is not in the numbers. Evil is in how personally related you are. Hitler was evil. Hitler wasn't anywhere near as evil as he could have been. He never (that I know of) killed anyone himslef. He wasn't in the death camps, watching through the windows as all the pople inside the gas chambers twisted and screamed. He wasn;t in the street killing womean and children. He was removed from the scene of the crimes. He was evil, and guilty, but If he were more evil, or a stronger man, he might have been more directly involved with the nastiness going on under him.
I think Dahmer, or Gacy, who had a lot of hands on experience, and killed with their hands, then lived with the parts of the bodies of thier victims around them, almost surely puts them up there with torquemada...

From: L

I was just lookking at you web page of the 10 most evil and most good people of all time. I have two suggestions for most evil:
Josef Mengele: Nazi doctor who perfomed hidious medical experiments on children, adults, the mentally disfunctional, and pretty much anyone he could get his hands on. Here is a good source of info. on Mengele:
Elizabeth Bathory: a 16th century Hungarian countess who is generally thought to have tortured and killed over 600 young girls. Her guilt is widely accepted, although she died before she could be tried for her crimes. Here is a good source of info. on Bathory:
Another thing that I wanted to comment on, is the position of Abraham Lincoln in the Ten most good people list. While freeing the slaves was a very good thing, Lincoln did it to save the country from being split apart, not because he was a good guy who wanted slavery abolished. He is on record saying some pretty nasty things about black people and their inferiority. Lincoln took actions which greatly benefited the world, but I don't think that he was one of the most good people ever.
Anyways...your web site if very cool. Thanks for your time.

From: Dave
So where's the sleazebag? I'd have to rate him at least in the number three slot. He is, after all, hell-bent on destroying an entire nation, and subjugating the world. All you need is an awareness, an abiility to read, and to reason, and you will come to the same conclusion. All that Bill has done in the last seven years has been aimed at destroying the individuality and independance of America and Americans, and placing them and their country under the rule of a super-ruler organization, either the UN, ar something very like. With him as it's head, a position he has admitted coveting on two occasions that I am familiar with. Those he is friends with, the people he hires to work for him all have one thing in common, the philosophy that the world needs a one-world government, with national borders erased, with them as the elitists running the show. I view this lust to destroy the world organization in general, and America in particular, as evil personified, thus his high position in my vote. Stalin and Mao were doing much the same thing, albeit on a smaller scale, but they do have the body count on their side. So they can retain the number one and two slots.
Some of the others do nothing more than showcase your horrifically strong anti-Christian bias. I notice that you take the Christians to task unmercifully for some of their excesses, but you have not the gonads to even mention some of Islam's excesses, of which there are plenty! Still remember the author placed under the fatwah, do you?
And then you talk about a couple garden-variety psychos. We here in the Northwest have one to rival several of your picks - ever heard of Ted Bundy? The estimates range from 50 to in excess of 150, and all comely young ladies just entering into the prime of their lives.
So I think you had better rethink your list, and try to rewrite it factually and historically, not letting your hysterical biases so obviously sway the listing.
P.S. Where is Attila the Hun? Or is he OK because he opposed, and very nearly destroyed the evil white, european male Christian civilization of the time? << Do you think he was as evil as Hitler?>>
Evil is bread of character, but bounded by circumstance. Not every sociopath gets to start a World War. Hitler was not bounded by a strong democratic tradition of checks and balances as is Clinton. A Chancellor Clinton in 1930's Germany, would have done many of the same things. Without a doubt, he would have used violence and concentration camps to consolidate his power through the scapegoating of an unpopular minority. Aspirin factory bombing, Waco and Ruby Ridge are mirrors of Reichstag fire and Crystal Night. Clinton did not hesitate to order siege of several minor Militia groups. He even hinted that a round up of such dangerous elements was called for. If no Judicial or Legislative check existed, how far behind would be Clinton's gulag?
Hitler and Clinton share several traits;

-- abusive fathers with a doting mothers.
-- Bizarre sexual relations. Hitler also had rape charges, cross dressing episodes, etc.
-- willingness to readily sacrifice old friends if political advantage could be had.
-- starting projects without planning and follow through.
-- periods of hyperactivity followed by self-indulgent inactivity.
-- paranoia blaming personal failure on wide spread secret conspiracies.
-- extremely violent tempers that the public rarely saw.
--failed attempts to buck the system through protest or Putsch, then turning to more traditional means of attaining power.
Sure, there are some dissimilarities;
-- Clinton has a strong formal education.
-- Hitler's idea of international relations was never tested outside his Germano-Austrian upbringing. Clinton viewed the world from US, European and Soviet perspectives.
-- Clinton came to office with far more executive experience.
Clinton could not have been elected in the 30's because of his loathing of the military and cowardice in time of war. Hitler's paramilitary style would defeat him in any election in 1990's USA of 1999. THE SEED OF EVIL IS IN BOTH! It comes from an internal drive for absolute power, coupled with an amoral soul.

Would Clinton would like to round up 6 million Jews and gas them as a final solution?
Clinton would do what ever it took to achieve power, just as my Managing Partner. You are missing the point of OPPORTUNITY, and a means to and end.
You do not do that which is unnecessary. Do you argue that Clinton would NOT round up Militia even if it politically advantageous based on some ephemeral morality? Of course not.
Gassing 6 million Jews is a bench mark, not an absolutism.

Which is the greater evil; having "lethal affairs" with 140 women, or creating a phony war to boost your polls. The Kosovo war was based on charges of massive "ethnic cleansing." It now appears never happened any where near the numbers charged? Reports coming from Kosovo are showing a grave count of 2000 killed by Milosovich paramilitary, NO WHERE NEAR the the 200,000 touted. AND "ethnic cleansing"is continuing at a greater rate by the victors than before! Clinton's bombing alone killed 5 times that 2000 graves count number. A provoking a sham war is a Crime against Humanity ... check the Nuremberg Trials. Incidentally, Clinton has war crimes charge being considered at The Hague for just this reason.
I will just hit the high points, AND I will stick to ones that have justification in Law.
-- Crimes Against Humanity in that Defendant Clinton did knowingly provoke an aggressive and unprovoked war against Kosovo. This is the first unprovoked attact in our nations history. It was based on charges of genocide proven to be intentionally erronous, and inflamatory. A NATO Finding of Fact attests to ths thousand fold exaggeration.
-- Wanton disregard of Human Life in that Defendant Clinton did authorize
a) bombing of a fully manned aspirin Factory. Knowing, from US Military Intelligence that it did NOT contain contraband Chemical warfare apparatus b) Authorized the use of Delta force at the compound in Waco. Record now show that Clinton over road the Posse Comitatus Act and DID SO IN WRITING. Waco could not, by any definition, be considered an act of National Insurrection like the Seccession of South Carolina in 1861. c) endangered the lives of 250,000,000 American citizens by authorizing the transfer of Strategic Nuclear technology to a potential enemy, not only in exchange for cash campaign contributions, but also in the face of universal oppostion by six (6) cabinet level officers; SecState, SecDef, SecTreas, FBI, CIA and Arms Limitation Committee. Furthermore, Defendant Clinton failed to notify the Congressional Intelligence Oversight Committee as requiored by Federal Law. -- Corrupted the national morals in that Defendant Clinton did knowingly authorize a) The use of IRS audits against political opponents. There is precedent for this charge in the Nuremberg Trials also! This charge is also supported by a Congressional Finding of Fact. b) Directed Justice Dept. to hinder and obstruct investigations into Influence peddling and Campaign Funding scandals. c) Did commit perjury to the American people involving subject matters of NO significant National Defense. d) sell Judgeships and Commissioner positions while Governor of Arkansas. At least three witnesses have attested to this. -- Committed Capital or class A felonies in that Defendant Clinton did a) rape Juanita Broadderich.
I could go on and on but I think you get the drift. He makes Gilles de Rias and H. H. Holmes look like pikers.

From: CParret

Marquis de Sade -- The term "sadist" originates from this evil soul. de Sade treated torture as an epicurian delight. May his soul be judged accordingly.

From: Chris C

First I have to say that your website is one of the best, informative, contraversial sites I've ever visited (i gotta say is thee best but that comes form a computer geek heheh) becuse I have not told you so yet after several emails. I just finished reading your top 10 good and evil list. I also read the corespondants. I must say I had to laugh at the whole page in general. Not once is there mention of balance. This person thinks that person good...that person thinks this person is evil. There cannot be day with out night and vice versa. There cannot be heroes without villains. Nature is about balance...I'm sure you know of the Predator/Prey mathmatical equations. Yes, I do beleive there were some really bad people in time and some really good people intime as well but I didn't hear mention of the person who overthrew Vlad the Imapler (who dun it Marius?). Did he get impaled himself? that would be a bit ironic. I digress, my point is maybe instead of eliminating evil, we should just keep it to a dull roar. Goodness should not be too prevelant lest it makes us soft and another evil being comes into power. know what they say though, Opinions are like A**holes, Everybody has got one. chris c

From: darryl b

hi cliff, I think that your "good" list is perhaps a little skewed.
Also, I would say that your "evil" list is perhaps a little sophomoric and arbitrary.
You put forth Torquemada as an example of evil but then why would you not instead include Pope Inoccent II who ordered the deaths of thousands of Albigensians (Cathars) and in the process coining the phrase "kill them all; let God sort them out" (when what he actually said was "kill them all for God will recognize his own").
You suggest Vlad Tepes is somehow evil (and I agree that Romanians are just weird and that Eastern Europeans, in general, seem to have some pretty different ideas about right and wrong) but why not Robespierre? Why not Countess Bathory? Why not any number of other twisted, hateful European monsters of history?
You site Hitler as evil but if Hitler, then why on Earth would you not fault Napolean Bonaparte whose last act of disruption and violence culminated in WWI (which was still only a precursor to WWII, though that is a matter of no Historical agreement).
On your "good" list you begin with "Bhuddha" but by this do you mean Siddharta Gautama? I am not sure he would have concurred with your assessment of "goodness" in his regard. Part of the Bhuddist metaphysic is an essential denial of the duality inherent in your basic breakdown of "good" and "evil." Basically, there is no difference between good and evil in any absolute sense which puts the vantage point of the pronouncer (or goodness and evilness) on the center stage when it comes to decrying villainy and praising weal.
There is so little that anyone really knows about Y'Shua that saying "Jesus" was good for preaching love puts the level of his contribution on the same level as John Lennon and Paul McCartney (who also said "All we need is love"). The inclusion would be sure to attract the good graces of the church lady but as far any serious considerations go, your choice seems trite. The same with Moses and Lincoln.
How do you judge "good?" How do you judge "evil?" I'm not talking about definitions here either, I'm talking about how do you judge a person's overall impact, murder and perversion not withstanding?
I believe Mother Theresa was a "good" person because the particular events of her life are generally well known to me.
I believe Hitler was evil because the events of WWII paved the way for the totally fucked state of geo-political affairs that I was raised in but that doesn't mean that he was somehow intrinsically worse than Andrew Jackson (whose pet project of Indian repatriation-cum-genocide became know as the Trail of Tears).
What do you think?

dear cliff: i think that your number 100 most evil person would be the inventor of "the list". seriously, do you notice a lop-sidedness in the gender department? aren't we women interesting enough to be "evil"? ( i know my husband thinks i am evil in my own way, but i am menopausal.) Why aren't there (m)any women butchers, serial killers, mass murderers, ad nauseam? isn't it all a matter of testosterone gone awry? by the time women get any appreciable amounts of testosterone ( or our estrogen diminishes) , we are menopausal and have been socialized for so long that we rarely do any large scale damage. (we can however make a living hell on the homefront!) Seriously, though, what is this fascination with evil anyway? so we can cluck our tongues, and say tsk tsk, and consider ourselves so far removed from such butchery? believe me, we, as a species, are capable of incredible savagery. the most we can do is try to keep each other in line and stop celebrating evil deeds and people as if we were doing an MTV Millennium Countdown. (by the way, I think Britney Spears' breasts are evil incarnate!!!)

From: Brett R
I am not sure I agree with the order (number one being someone I have never heard of before), but the site is a fascinating read.
One person I would ask you to include would be Emperor Hirohito (of Japan). In all honesty, he was more evil than Hitler and personally responsible for countless more deaths and atrocities.
Most notable, the Nanjing Massacre, where more than 350,000 Chinese were killed (completely in cold blood), and 20,000 - 80,000 women were raped within 6 to 8 weeks of continuous Massacre.
A few numbers:
Japan is responsible for the deaths of 20 - 35 million Chinese during the 14 years of invasion, not to mention large numbers of Korean (9 million), Indonesia (4 million), Vietnam (2 million), India (1.5 million), Filipinos (1 million), and other Asian countries Malaysia, Burma, Thailand ..........
Also unbelievable is the creation (commisioned by Hirohito) of Unit 731, a death factory that put Auschwitz to shame. Thousands of "POW's" were experimented in every horrible manner... no one survived.
The most scary thing about this whole time of Japanese history, is how efficiently it has been swept under the rug. In Japan, history courses *stop* at the time leading up to WWII. No concessions were ever made and only a handful of Japanese were ever put on trial as war criminals. In Germany, it is a crime punishable by jail time to state that the Holocaust never happened... while in Japan, the government sponsers a public policy of denial. Numerous Class A war criminals rose to prominent positions following the war (including a prime minister, governor of Tokyo, head of the Japanese Olympic Committee and head of the national health association in Japan), and these monsters are prominently displayed in Japanese homes to be revered to this day.
The following is a site which outlines Japanese war crimes and chronicles the attempts to get their government to atone for their crimes:
Here are a few sites which include info on the brutal Unit 731:
Please include Emperor Hirohito on your list because I trully believe it is important for people to realize just went on by this government.
I am sure you will piss off a lot of people however...

From: Brian
Cliff, Something interesting to think about: While I agree with you that the pacifist element of Buddist teachings qualifies Buddah himself as the #1 "good guy" of all time, I would argue that Christ, due mainly to the good he has inspired in others (Mother Theresa and other saints) should rank up there above the Dalai Lama...and probably above Baha'ullah as well.
True, there were countless atrocities commited in the name of Christianity...and true, Christianity as a religion does not compare to Buddaism as far as its overall view of good. However, Christ himself, as evidenced by his direct teachings in the New Testament, was a very passive individual and taught very similar values as Buddah. need to add Ghandi to the "good" list, and probably martin luther king jr, and perhaps someone like Simon Bolivar as well (liberator of 5 south american spanish colonies).
at any rate, it's a very cool site.
I read your arguments about Vlad the Impaler, and I have to agree with you. Attempting to "write off" evil acts for the sake of patriotism is a dangerous thing to do. Whether or not Vlad was impaling only the rich land owners and foreigners, and giving their land to the poor has nothing to do with him being evil or not. You are right in bringing Hitler into the argument. For what did Hitler do? He was essentially a champion of the people. The jews were highly unpopular at the time. Many of them being large, rich land and business owners... as well as being foreign. Hitler simply "got rid of them", and the spoils went to the common man of Germany (ideally). These facts have nothing to do with whether his actions were "right" or "wrong".
The "Good" list is a bit lacking. I would definitely include Gandhi... I can not think of anyone else who has sacrificed more for his country and the good of all. In the same vein, you would have to include his greatest pupil, Martin Luther King. These two proved beyond a doubt that peaceful protests really do work.
I would include those two men before Mother Teresa... whom I have a few problems with (solely opinions). It is true she spent her whole life caring for the diseased, malnourished and homeless of impoverished nations. However, she publicly denounced and vehemently fought all forms of birth control for thesse people... failing to realize that over-population was by and large the number one reason these people were suffering so horribly.
Another person not to be left out is the prophet Muhammad of Islam faith. His teachings were beautiful and have been grossly misconstrued and twisted by numerous Muslim Nations (just as Christianity has done with the teachings of Jesus).
I would love to include a few of the great inventors out there, whose inventions have spurred humanity to much higher forms of living... but many of them did so for monetary purposes, so is that as "good" as self-sacrificers like Gandhi? Ideas in this list would include Thomas Edison, Leonardo De Vinci and Johann Guttenburg. Folks such as Newton, Copernicus, Darwin and Galileo were instrumental in our seeking out greater truths... thus helping all mankind as well. Might you also consider J.S. Bach?
Again, just my thoughts,

From: james
Charles Manson, Fred & Rosemary West, Saddam Hussein, Pinochet

From: Lawrence P
Dear Cliff,
I read with interest your exchange with that nut Marius. Perhaps if he were a young sensitive, kind, and caring 10 year old girl living in that time in the wrong town or having the wrong parents and was impaled with a red hot stake through the vagina he might not be so upset to have Vlad on your list.
Instead he is greatly separated from Vlad in time and place, having his own bizarre agenda and cloaked in the anonymity of the internet. Instead, being uncaring, smug, and pedantic he is more concerned with your spelling of Ceausescu. He would probably have difficulty deciding if Vlad was more evil than Clifton, like that pea brain Debbie.
Fortunately your intelligent and clever discussion shows him to be the fool he is. Deep down it seems he may realize this, as he makes an issue of you not continuing to reply to his email (though he sends you 5 emails-each making him look more foolish than the last). However I'm not sure I'd give him this credit.
As I've stated before the internet is the refuge and haven of the mentally imbalanced, the rude, the unpleasant, the socially unacceptable, the immoral, the hate mongers. They are in love with the internet. So many have a bizarre agenda - like Marius - that you can't even figure out what it is. In the real world they have little friends (and only those who think just like them). On the internet they can say what they want, with no concern for any manners, rationality, or responsibility and feel they are big shots. Most are not worthy of your replies/time.
Keep up the good work. Great site!
Sincerely, LP

From: Mikee C
This isnt a person that I think should be put on the evil list, but instead some that should be removed from the good list. Abe Lincoln did many great things for our country including the 13th ammendment, but his intentions dont nessisarly merit his placement on the list. Yes Abraham Lincoln did feel that slavery was moral wrong, but he wanted african americans removed from america, he felt it best that they return to africa, he belived that they could never be productive members of socity.

From: Billy Grassie

Below is an excerpt from Paul Davies in Australia on the question of good and evil. Davies wonders about the evolutionary role played by human aggression and the possibilities of modifying innate tendencies through genetic engineering of our descendants. The article is adapted from an essay which appeared in the Times Higher Education Supplement, UK, in February. -- Billy Grassie

Meta is an edited and moderated listserver and news service dedicated to promoting the constructive engagement of science and religion. Subscriptions are free. For more information, including archives and submission guidelines, go to

From: Paul Davies

Subject: Good and evil: Reshaping our moral universe

General Augusto Pinochet is now back in his native Chile amid a welter of recriminations. He stands accused of the kidnap, torture and murder of thousands of his fellow citizens. On the grisly Richter scale of genocidal horror, the world has seen far worse than Pinochet - Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot killed millions. The recent slaughter in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans are timely reminders that deliberate, systematic human savagery is never far beneath the surface veneer of civilization.

The conduct of the men involved in brutal campaigns of terror and extermination is so extreme it can only be described as evil. Which raises the question of how these predilections became part of human nature. Why do people have a capacity to inflict such misery on others?

The problem of evil has baffled theologians and philosophers for centuries. If there is an omnipotent God who is supremely good, why does he not intervene to prevent gross wrongdoing? One traditional answer was to portray the universe as a battleground between opposing forces of good and evil, with humans caught in the crossfire. Another was to argue that evil is the price paid for human free will, which is on balance a greater good. Today, however, more scientific explanations are demanded.

From the scientific viewpoint, human wrongdoing isn't hard to understand, at least at first sight. We are, after all, the products of Darwinian evolution, with its central mechanism of natural selection. Each of us carries the winning genes that have got what it takes to survive. Because genes help build our minds as well as our bodies, the way we behave is influenced in large part by the DNA we have inherited from our successful ancestors. Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins coined the term "the selfish gene" to make the point that we dance to the tune of the genes that are good survivors, even if that means we may sometimes act ruthlessly to ensure they reach the next generation. If rape, murder and theft prove good reproductive strategies (which they often do), it is no surprise to a Darwinist that people resort to these acts given an opportunity. Of course, Dawkins is quick to point out that he is using a metaphor: genes themselves aren't selfish or evil entities. Nature is merely indifferent to our plight. "Genes don't care about suffering, because they don't care about anything," is how he eloquently puts it.

But doing bad is only half of the story. What about good? For every Hitler, there is a Mother Teresa, for every Stalin an Albert Schweitzer. Countless people around the world devote their lives to helping their fellow human beings. How do we explain the many individual acts of selfless generosity, the sacrifices people make for others, the pervasive influence of brotherly love in shaping our social conventions and institutions? How do decency, democracy and the rule of law triumph in the face of innate selfishness?

The easiest examples of altruism to explain are those involving kinship. In crude statistical terms it makes sense for a mother to sacrifice herself for her children, since each carries half her genes. So from the genetic point of view, the intense love bond between mother and child is wholly expected. Siblings likewise share genes, so it also pays for them to "look after their own." And humans are by no means alone in displaying kinship altruism. Many birds and mammals are prepared to endure sacrifices or incur risks to protect close relatives, while some insects are far more altruistic than us.

More puzzling are cases of altruism directed at unrelated individuals and even total strangers. Jesus' powerful parable of the Good Samaritan is effective only because some people are prepared to engage in acts of humanitarian charity, even to rivals and enemies. Why? In the 1970's the biologist John Maynard Smith pioneered the application of a branch of mathematics called game theory to animal behaviour, and proved that cooperation between competing individuals can sometimes be mutually advantageous. Extensive computer studies have since confirmed his ideas. The simple message is: it often pays to be nice.

One example that is easy to understand involves tit-for-tat scenarios, or reciprocal altruism. I do you a favour today in the expectation that you will do me a favour tomorrow. In the right circumstances this can produce a win-win situation. A great deal of familiar social order, such as trade and commerce, military alliances and social welfare, falls into this category. Since cooperative strategies can work well and aid survival, we might expect the genes that prompt us to adopt altruistic behaviour to be selected in the great Darwinian lottery.

Although genetics and game theory can explain the broad features of good and bad in animal species, some scientists are still baffled by the enormous propensity for evil that human beings possess, which seems out of all proportion to Darwinian imperatives. To be sure, chimpanzees are observed to murder and rape when the opportunity arises, male lions regularly kill the young of females newly recruited into their harems, and many birds are highly accomplished at sexual cheating - hence the word cuckolding. But only humans deliberately torture their fellows or carry out the wholesale and systematic slaughter of unthreatening and helpless individuals. Significantly, homo sapiens belong to the only family of mammals with just one representative. All other species of homo, such as Neanderthal Man, were annihilated by our ancestors. So did something go terribly wrong along the evolutionary way, leaving homo sapiens uniquely prone to extreme transgression?

Whatever the explanation for the dark side of human nature, not many people use the terms good and evil these days. The very concepts seem somewhat anachronistic when one is appealing to psychology, neurology and genetics to explain human behaviour. This abandonment of the old categories of judgement has been accompanied by a radical reappraisal of traditional moral values. Right and wrong have now been replaced by socio-political categories like rights, responsibilities, entitlements, freedoms and equity.

In the past it was simple. Religious leaders claimed a direct line to God. There was a clear-cut set of moral absolutes, enunciated by priests and enumerated, for example, in the Ten Commandments. Now that such a world view is no longer credible to many, we have been cast loose from our ethical moorings. Morality is being sought not in ancient scriptures, but within us, in our genetic and psychological make-up. Moral absolutism has been replaced by moral relativism - a world in which alternative value systems are deemed worthy of equal consideration.

Even during my lifetime, I have witnessed moral reversals from entirely within Western society. Homosexuality was once regarded by many as unnatural, even wicked. Today we celebrate the right of people to express their sexuality as they wish, and regard attempts to suppress that freedom as morally offensive. Thrift used to be a virtue, until inflation arrived and banks started to encourage borrowing and debt. Now we think that anybody who doesn't provide for themselves and their family with a massive house mortgage is shirking their responsibilities.

Not only are advances in science and technology re-shaping our moral universe, they are presenting us with ethical choices that never existed before. Is it right or wrong to clone a human being? Should genes for certain diseases or psychological defects be removed from the human genome? Should frozen sperm be used without the donor's permission? Divine guidance is of little help; the answers won't be found in the scriptures. Instead, humanity faces a huge new responsibility. Since nobody will tell us for sure what is right and wrong in these circumstances, we will have to work it out for ourselves. "The roots of social order are in our heads," concludes biologist and writer Matt Ridley in his best-selling book The Origins of Virtue.

To appreciate the magnitude of the task ahead, consider the vexed issue of genetic engineering applied to humans. At the moment, tinkering with the human genome is widely regarded as both dangerous and morally repugnant, and is unlawful in many countries. Mostly the objections are a reaction to scare stories about designer babies, or creating races of super-athletes, mad scientific geniuses or Hitler clones. But what if gene manipulation could be used to turn humans into a species of Good Samaritans? Wouldn't the world be a much better place?

The project to map the human genome is forging ahead, and soon a complete recipe for a human being, written in genetic code, should be available on the Internet. Although it is probably naove to assume that genes for different aspects of human behaviour are neatly packaged, just suppose it were possible to identify a set of "evil genes." This raises a profound ethical conundrum. Would it be right or wrong to eliminate these genes permanently from the human genome? To solve it, we must confront a stark and awkward question: Is homo sapiens' grotesque capacity for evil part of what makes us human, and therefore to be regarded as sacrosanct and preserved?

A more immediate dilemma concerns the role of individual choice in determining the make-up of future generations. Do parents have the right to decide the qualities of their offspring? Most people would sanction the abortion of foetuses on the grounds that the future adult was at high risk from disease. But what if the parents wanted an abortion because genetic screening showed the foetus failed to measure up to their required standards of sporting or musical potential?

This situation is not at all hypothetical. Parental selection on grounds of sex preference has long been practiced in many societies in which male children are prized. This takes place either by aborting female foetuses where the sex has been determined or, more brutally, by infanticide. For example, it is common knowledge that in China men outnumber women by some millions. The systematic elimination of females provides a salutary lesson that if fashion and prejudice are allowed to dictate the genetic mix of the next generation, gross distortions in the make-up of society may result.

Clearly there is an urgent need to reappraise our concepts of right and wrong, and develop an ethical framework appropriate to the scientific opportunities and challenges of the near future. A hundred years ago the philosopher Friederich Nietzsche proclaimed that God is dead and painted a bleak future for mankind in the twenty-first century, predicting that moral values would disintegrate. But need this be so? Science may never replace the secure ethical certainties of traditional religion, but it does offer a rational basis for moral choice and a framework for understanding human frailty and selfishness. The father of sociobiology, Edward O. Wilson, has a vision in which ethics are brought within the scope of systematic scientific inquiry, forming a grand synthesis of science and the humanities for which he has appropriated the term "consilience". He leads a new breed of social commentators who maintain that the inner core of human goodness - which we might call our spirituality - should not be ignored, but nurtured by informed contemporary analysis. To meet the awesome ethical challenges of the future, a form of spiritual progress is needed that embraces the findings of science, rather than shies away from them.

Paul Davies

Copyright 1999, 2000 by William Grassie. Copies of this internet posting may be made and distributed in whole without further permission.

Credit: "This information was circulated on the Meta Lists on Science and Religion"

From: Paola B (Brazil)
Hi! A very interesting discussion! While I am racking my brain for good or evil representatives, I thought I'd take the opportunity to express my views on Mother Teresa. I just don't think she deserves to be on any "good" list, because, aside from keeping people in squalor company and swabbing their dirty sores while they lay in the throes of death, she did nothing to improve their lives.

R.M. MacIver says that the "biggest evils commited against mankind by mankind are wrought not by the self-seekers or the pleasure lovers merely amoral, but by the fervent devotees of ethical principles". Mother Teresa went to a part of the world plagued by blind ignorance and offered nothing more than another brand of blind ignorance, dogma, and dependence.

When one considers the level of suffering directly related to overpopulation - unsanitary, crowded conditions, malnutrition, disease, crime, and chronic poverty of the most abject variety, how can one really consider Mother Teresa a saint when she encouraged the very condition that kept the slum-dwellers in their misery? How could anyone with an ounce of responsbility actually encourage those people to freely reproduce, under the naive dogma that "every human is a gift from God?"

Mother Teresa is NOT a saint. She was a tragic example of unenlightened dogma wreaking havoc on human lives and exacerbating the roots of misery. Until the Catholic Church (and a number of other behemoths) gets OUT of women's crotches and gets REAL about birth control, I cannot, in good conscience, pay tribute to someone who bandaged dirty sores while encouraging new ones.

From: IrishPoet

Search your local library's encyclopedia of religion, science, or philosophy, and I guarantee you that you will have more people than one can count (either individually or collectively) who have dramatically changed life as we know it, in thought, science, or belief.

From the Pre-Socratics to Eastern thought, from Native North American to Mayan and Incan, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

For Starters, what about Chief Joseph, who taught unconditional love and peace to the last of his people, as the racist, facist, capitalists called "settlers" killed off his people...I could send you more than bookfuls of information on any native american tribe on dozens of truly GOOD Heroes they each have. I see no reason why you haven't already seen them, if you've already looked...

Tell me if you're serious or just being defensive...I'll give you a list of native americans longer than the length of your site as it stands right now.

From: john

Where's Mangela? Dr. Joseph Mangela, the most evil Nazi. Hitler led the group but he didn't actually go out and kill the people himself. Eichmann I can understand but not Hitler( at #3). Mangela took limbs from twins and switched them just to see what would happen. He also took gangrenous limbs from the dead and attached them to the living. Add Dr. Joseph Mangela to the list, the man who had the eye infatuation. He tried to make dead eyes work in living bodies.

From: Colan K

I'd like to begin by saying I am simply a senior in high school. My opinions are not highly educated, but good and evil are beyond schooling.

For the most part, I agree with the evil list. You've chosen the "pick of the litter."

To me, however, it seems the good list is very biased. More than half the figures are religious in nature. Just because a person founds or influences a religion, that does not automatically make them one of the best people in history. Baha'u'llah sure had good ideas, but what have the Baha'is really done (if they have done something that i don't know, disregard previous statement). Second, if you put the Dalai Lama on the list, why not the patriots who started the Revolutionary War, The French Revolution, and every other revolution. I know Mr. Lama was nonviolent, but i think it would be harder for a person to risk their life than to complain without taking any real action. Although lives are saved, violence has faster results). Moses should not even be on the list. There is no proof he was real (that i know of), and he had the power of the almighty behind him, which makes it easier to be good. 20

My main problem is with Jesus. As with Moses, there is no proof of the legend of Christ. If Jesus is on the list, why not Hecules? They both helped people, and Greek mythology is just as good as Christian mythology, right? And if there was a Jesus, and he preached love like you said, what is the big deal? You could put countless hippies on the list. Another argument is his influence on peoples lives through history. What did he accomplish; the Crusades, the Inquisition, Vlad Tepes (who was endorsed by the Pope and fought Muslims for the Christians) and Hitler (who killed those who didn't believe in Jesus). Plus, if his influence makes him good, does the influence of Hitler's parents and teachers make them evil?

The problem in finding good is that we are surrounded by good. People help each other every day, making it so that you have to do VERY good even to be recognized. All the researchers who found vaccines, cures, life improving technology, and ways to stop evil get not even an ounce of recognition. Evil is easy to spot because we are not used to it. We are surrounded by goodness, so evil is magnified in our mind's eye. Plus, looking back in history cannot truly give us a view of the people in question. Your first ten villians were trying to help their countries. In their eyes, and their peoples, they were doing right.

One last thing, all the people saying Clinton is evil are ignorant. He is a great president. Sure he won no big wars, but it's GOOD we had no big wars. Our country is at an all time high. Peoples lives are better, unemployment is down, what's to complain about? So he committed adultery, that's not bad for the world, just for his poor wife. He is definitely not as evil as people say he is.

From: "Can N

Great idea creating a scale of good and evil! Just a few thought or corrections: In Turkey, Genghis Khan is considered a hero, just like Richard Lionheart or King Arthur in England. Many of the misconceptions concerning his "evilness" is based on cultural differences. E.g. when Genghis Khan died, his body was carried back home to Mongolia (or wherever he was eventually buried, I forgot where...) accompanied by a long caravan of his soldiers. And whenever someone crossed their path, they killed the unfortunate traveller. A western history book explained this "evil" behaviour like this: the killing of so many foreign travellers and merchants would soon spread the news throughout the known world and make people fear the Mongols even more. However, the explanation given in a Turkish textbook was the following: according to Mongolian animistic belief, the travellers - if they were killed in the presence of the Heavenly Khan's body - would become servants of Genghis Khan in the Afterlife. So Genghis Khan's followers naturally sought to kill as many people they could get their hands on. Of course, that doesn't make it any better, but would one still be able to call it "evil"? Is loyalty to and love for one's Khan (i.e. leader) a vice or a virtue? Another example: the people of Sparta cast their handicapped (unwanted) babies to death from a mountain top. Sounds pretty evil. But can one call this "evil" without being a hypocrite while our own culture aborts unwanted babies? Maybe the Spartan woman's right to choose consisted in killing her own child, who knows? After all, Spartan women are reported to have been quite callous mothers. And finally: what's worse, the way you kill someone or how many people you kill? Giving evil orders or carrying out evil orders?

The only conclusion I can come up with is this: the one who deserves the Number 1 title most in your Evil Scale should be : [add your own name]. Because every concentration camp commander and every tortured political prisoner, "we" and "them", you and I and everyother human has the same starting point: a mother's womb. From that point on everything else lies in our own hands. In essence we don't differ from those we fear and hate, and maybe that's why we fear and hate them even more. Offender and the victim alike are mirror images of who we are or might become one day.

From: NICK V

As per your question as how Vlad could be viewed so diffrently by diffrent people I suggest you read the book Dracula Prince of many Faces: his life and his times by Radu R. Florescu the foremost athority on Dracula, at the end of the book it discusses the various stories of Dracula and why he is considered a hero by the romainians. This book is very interesting and I hope you enjoy it. Its a little heavy on the history, I had to read it twice, but if your looking for the quick answer skip to the end. One more thing I noticed that Abraham Lincoln is 7th on the good people list for freeing the slaves, I just wanted to share something my history teacher used to say, "How many slaves were freed by the Emancipation Proclimation" the war is what freed the slaves not Lincoln. I alway found this amusing. Just as a not I an NOT chalenging your selection of Lincoln, I jsut thought that you might find this as amusing as I do.

From: Colin Hu

I love the list: Here are some more for the "Evil" category:

Li Peng--principal architect of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

Reinhard Heydrich--Himmler's principal enforcer in Eastern Europe

Caligula--examples abound of his excesses when he was running Rome

Robespierre and St. Just--architects of the Reign of Terror in France

Countess Ereszebet (sp?) Bathory--who bathed in the blood of slaughtered virgins

Ayatolla Ruholla Khomeini--outdid the Shah of Iran in the ruthlessness department

Sen. Joseph McCarthy--ruined countless lives and gave Americans a taste of Soviet-style totalitarianism in their own back yard

Moses--I know you put him on the "good" list, but read about his scorched earth campaigns in Numbers and Deuteronomy (eg: Num. 31:17-18--"Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him. But all the women children that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.")

Edward Teach--a.k.a. "Blackbeard"

Mohammed Omar--leader of the Taliban

Ferdinand Marcos--Philippine dictator who ruled w/ an iron hand, lied about his activities in WWII, and lived conspicuously large while his people starved.

Raul Cedras--lastest in a line of Haitian despots, he waged war on his own people to win a comfy retirement, like the Duvaliers before him.

Ted Bundy--high profile serial killer

Charles Hurwitz--CEO of Maxxam. In the 80s, Hurwitz overleveraged himself in acquiring Pacific Lumber and then stepped up clear-cutting of our forests to pay for the acquisition. (Incidently, he knows and cares little about the trees his company harvests or the effect his policies have on the environment.)

King Leopold of Belgium
--in the 19th century, his administration oversaw the rape of Congo, and that beleaguered nation is still feeling the effects to this day.

Whichever individual codified Apartheid.

Saddam Hussein--Iraqi Dictator (for obvious reasons!) and his nemesis:

George Bush--former US President, who, during the Gulf War, urged Iraqis and Kurds to overthrow Saddam, but left them hanging when he got what he wanted from that war. (He pretty much left the whole to-do unfinished, and Saddam got to keep most of his weapons.)

Napoleon Bonaparte--a Corsican soldier of fortune who talked France into letting him run the country, whereupon he crowned himself Emperor and pushed France into a costly war on two fronts which they lost badly.

Okay, okay, here's a few good ones:

Jackie Robinson--2nd Baseman for the Dodgers. Kept his poise when the racist taunts rained down on him, paved the way for integration in more than just baseball.

St. Jean Baptiste De La Salle--founder of the Christian Brothers and modern public education. (He taught poor children in vernacular--a novelty for that time.)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart--All ya gotta do is listen! (Ditto Duke Ellington and many others in that field.)

And finally, in the category of "Evil, but Well Intentioned":

Jimmy Carter--former US President whose Administration inexplicably gave $230 million to the Pol Pot Regime, and who has negotiated with such luminaries as Kim Il Sung, Raul Cedras, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to favorable terms--favorable, that is, to those aforementioned butchers.

And finally, finally, in the category of "Good coming from Evil":

William T. Sherman--To this day, this Union General's name is never mentioned in polite company in the South, but his scorched-earth campaign down to Georgia sure put a permanent end to the Civil War as a military matter. (Get the U.N. to mediate that conflict, and it would've dragged on another twenty-five years, resulted in a bigger body count and not a single African American living below the Mason-Dixon Line.)

From: Mihai Hehe! Hi, mate!

Just found that gibberish top of yours. You are mistaken in more ways than you possibly know but, for instance, I will start with Vlad al III-lea. Well, it's quite easy, he was a ruler that did to his subjects and enemies what any other medieval ruler did at that time, he was just more consequent with the method used, meaning he usually used impalement as a choice of punishment. Also, you should know that he became so known for this due to his German rulers of Brasov, a kind of a city-state, that were unpleased by Vlad cause he put a stop to Brasovan merchants favoritism by Walachian state. You should also know that those Brasovan stories are at the base of Bram's story of Dracula. Yes, he was a harsh ruler but he was also just: impalement was for everyone, boyar or peasant or enemy. He also wanted independence of Walachia. Both reasons to be considered a national hero. After all he only punished (apart from other medieval rulers) only enemies and thieves, not to establish a control by fear as, for example, Torquemada did.
Now, as a secondary comment, your top is a crappy one by far:
1. Allegedly Mao killed 70m, that would've rank him no1 by you standards but you've put him on 7th place? WHAT?! That's nonense, mate.
1. Stalin killed 27m only Russians (others sources indicates 20m - meaning at leaast 20m) and a total death toll of 40m during his reign, making him 2nd biggest killer by numbers after Mao.
2. You should use in your top scientific and logical reasons as:
a. total death toll by world population of that time (by various sources, compared to world population at each period, Gengis Khan should've been the world's no 1, by far surpassing Mao or Stalin)
b. reasons of killing (meaning control of population by fear, wars, theives, etc.) c.etc.

I can go on but I am soooo used with people from West making judgements without analyzing various sources... I mean I understand, it's hard to inform and to think. For example, on the same page you have The Top 10 Good. Ohh, man!, what a mockery and lack of knowledge! Where's Zoroaster, Vishnu, Krishna, Zamolxe (last 2 of them established monotheistic religions long before Jesus, for example).

I don't even know why I feel the reason to answer to such a pathetic point of view you've made but, hey, wtf!, I did and here's an answer, based on minimal and logical common sense, based an little knowledge but, obviously, more knowledge than yours (unless you pursuit a certain agenda). Cheers!

My response to Mihai:

Mihai, nice to hear from you!

That list of Good and Evil is so old (over 20 years) that I hardly recall the details. I do recall it was mostly to stir debate, to see how people think. I'm sure any ideas I had 20 years ago have changed by today.
If you give me permission, I would be happy to post your comments so that people would see your useful opinions! I can just use your first name to protect your privacy.

Click here if you would like to see thousands of more responses to the Scales of Good and Evil. The debate continues...

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