Dr M Scott Peck a psychiatrist who is in the self-help genre wrote the famous book People of the Lie. It is about evil people and what he learned from his patients regarding what evil is and what it does.  We will learn that evil is ordinary and so ordinary that its banality empowers it and empowers evil systems.  Evil makes its own obedient to it!  Religion makes an essential ingredient out of obedience.  Peck hints at problems with religion but seems to be in denial of his gut instinct that religion is bad.  The banality of evil forces us to ask if religion is truly good for if it is not it will be banal evil that looks harmless itself.

He regards evil at being its strongest and most complete form when the person does not even realise they are evil. He points out how ordinary evil is. Evil people will see evil as good or justifiable or neutral. He sees your evil as a mental disorder for it is a mask for terror you are in denial about. But here we wish to look at some of the specifically religious material in his work.

The terror happens to all in this view.  But if you believe in God this adds to it for now you have more than just the fears of pain and suffering caused by evil but the fear of offending him and maybe creating a hell out of your evil to spend eternity in.


Peck's notes tell us,

Even civilians will commit evil with remarkable ease under obedience. As David Myers described in his excellent article ‘A Psychology of Evil’ (The Other Side [April 1982], p. 29): ‘The clearest example is Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments. Faced with an imposing, close-at-hand commander, sixty-five percent of his adult subjects fully obeyed instructions. On command, they would deliver what appeared to be traumatizing electric shocks to a screaming innocent victim in an adjacent room. These were regular people—a mix of blue-collar, white-collar and professional men. They despised their task. Yet obedience took precedence over their own moral sense.’

Comment: Obedience is intrinsically dangerous for you feel less responsible for evil when you are told to do it. That is a fact of human psychology. Then when you are told to do good you feel double good for you are doing good and being obedient as well. So you will think you are good when you do good but you will think you are better when you do it obediently. So obedience makes you smug. It is fake humility.

Obedience to God is inherently risky and harmful for the same reason. Why can't you just love the beggar on the street and need there to be a God who wants you to do it? Or worse commands it? Human nature notoriously cannot do good unless it can find some bad in it.

If obedience to people is bad, obedience to the God they tell you is there (which is just obeying their image of God not God - it is obeying them for they are the ones telling you what they think God wants) is worse.

Peck writes that the demons are dumb for they are disproportionally obedient to other demons. They are ultimately at Satan's beck and call. The Church reasons that the infantile and ridiculous behaviour of demons is down to that immature obedience. They are so used to Satan giving orders that they cannot do anything by themselves.

Why is Satan not as mindless as they are? The Bible says even now he is very bright. Reason says demons will not mess up if they have such a gifted mentor.

The real reason demons are stupid is because the victims are inventing them. They are not real.

A smart demon who knows the lottery numbers is too hard to fake so believers want to put possession and exorcism beyond scrutiny.

Peck thinks demons are too narcissistic to possess a person and not show their presence though all it does is attract the exorcist. This is rubbish for when their performance is dumb they would feel shame not pride at their efforts! And the theology is that the demon does hide - no possessed person acts possessed 24/7.


Peck warns about magical thinking. By that he means that it is basically a belief that a thought can cause events to happen just by thinking of those events. He shows how a child of five may wish his little sister would die and he blames himself if she actually does. He thinks it happened because he wished for it. Peck warns that this kind of thinking in adults is a neurosis or mental disorder.

My response to that is Peck needs to realise that adults do magical thinking too but are not as obvious as children. For example, the car gets the blame for breaking down. You feel that cancer happens to your friend not you. Thinking your bad wish killed somebody is as destructive to you as actually killing them.

Peck gives us an example of magical thinking in the book where useless parents give their boy a gun, the gun his brother shot himself with. He will take the gun as a message that he deserves to die and should go and do the same thing.

My response is that is a good warning about the dangers of magical thinking and treating things like omens. Believers in God and prayer inevitably see things as signs of God's activity though there is no objective way to determine that. Finding a loaf when you pray for bread is seen as a response to your prayer by God. That is just the same process at work and it is arrogant for since when are you able to decide what God has done? Who can know his own mind but God himself?


As a Christian, Peck seeks to bewitch us with the doctrine that if you die estranged from God you will face an inevitable and permanent imprisonment in Hell.

Peck says those in Hell can walk out this very minute but won't for they imagine the journey out is impossibly hard and painful. This is very logical for many people who go to Hell would have chosen different had they lived a few seconds longer!! It is just Peck trying to victim-blame! Nobody has the power to delude themselves that fast that they can end up shut away forever!

God who knows all and can do all is a very bad therapist, and that is what you accuse him of Mr Peck if you would only admit it. How could trying to get out be any worse than staying? And how can you be happy in Heaven when your loved ones in Hell are trapped in it by their own stupidity? If stupidity not deserving is the main or only reason you are in Hell then you need pity. Deserve and stupid don't fit together well. It amounts to saying you are being punished for a mistake. If you deserve it because you are stupid that makes no sense.

Clearly what we are seeing is an excuse for people being in Hell. That is stooping low. Peck knows it is evil but he seeks for a way to present it as something that does not challenge God's goodness!


Peck thinks God did not destroy Satan for becoming the rebel who ultimately is the cause of all evil for God only helps never hurts and creates and never destroys.

It is not Satan existing that is the problem - it is Satan having the power to telepathically rule demons and tempt people.

Peck says that "genuine love is always ultimately sacrificial".

Evil is sacrificial too if it is self-defeating!

Peck says that Satan's evil personality is not just an absence of love. There is a presence of hate there. To call evil unreal is a half-truth he says. "The spirit of evil is one of unreality, but it itself is real. It really exists."

We see then that if it is true that God does not make evil as a thing, this does not matter for Satan manages to amount to being such a thing. He is to evil what drugs are to a generic drug. It is real for he makes it real. It is not just Satan then that makes evil real. We make it real too as persons and personalities. Thus love the sinner and hate the sin is rubbish if sin or evil is real and is people.


God gives us free will. We use it to make evil a reality so that we become real evil. If evil is not real but just a lack of goodness then it is not serious and you cannot really reward a good person for if the difference between good and evil is just degree what is there to reward? If you cannot punish you cannot reward - not really. The motions are no substitute. Peck says evil pollutes you even if you only observe it so what hope is there?

Obedience is bad and a necessary evil. And that is so even if it is God. So God cannot really reward.

He cannot even reward us with a mere assessment: "You are a good person." That reward is the biggest one of all for even if you get a billion dollars reward it is the assessment that is the real reward that makes the money a reward. In reality the money expresses the reward and is not the reward.

God then has no real relationship to being a good person so the idea of God making us for he loves us is nonsense. A God without love is not a God so there is no God.

Peck says evil is not an absence but a real presence that harms and has power. This means he is saying God creates evil. The absence doctrine is about saying, "Good is good and evil is just parasitic on it and is a lack of good not a thing so you cannot say there is anything there for a God to create."


Peck writes, "The fact of the matter is that the healthiest people - the most honest, whose patterns of thinking are least distorted-are the very ones easiest to treat with psychotherapy and most likely to benefit from it."

My point here is that it is important that we see reason and looking for evidence and reasonable verification are good thinking habits and will help us if we get into mental trouble. Religions of blind faith or that ban investigation or obstruct it are intrinsically dangerous.

Peck needs psychotherapy but it will not work for religion has made him irrational. Ultimately the book, The People of the Lie is just a rambling pack of tragic lunacy based on blind faith.

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