Is it okay to do evil if a greater good results from it?

In the last post we considered how evil may occur due to our failure to bring about good in the world – a concept most famously coined by political philosopher Edmund Burke who observed that ‘all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. With the hindsight of Two World Wars and countless justice issues from antiquity and modern day society,  today we will consider the paradox of

‘Can the decision to commit evil ever result in a good outcome?’

One of the most obvious examples occurred in the 1940s with the American decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan: one on the city of Hiroshima; the other on the city of Nagasaki. Although there are many theories as to the political intention behind these decisions,  it does appear that the bombings brought about a speedier conclusion to the war, heralding Japan’s surrender and ensuring fewer lives were lost in the process…but at what price?

While the two Japanese cities did have populations that were a mix of military personel and those who worked in factories making armarments or supplying the war, the bomb also killed and injured a number of innocent adults and children, leaving them with debilitating burns or a painful death through radiation sickness. Women and children whose death warranted no significant purpose to gain a tactical position but who were ‘sacrificed’ (for want of a better word) to the cause of a greater good.

Wherever you stand on this matter, there can be little doubt that the bombing did achieve the US objectives and bring an earlier conclusion to the war than many imagined – and with less loss of life. So how do we undertsand the bombings?  A good decision or an evil act and are humans able to make such judgement calls or should it always rest with God. Moreover, what are we to make of Jesus instruction to, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs?’