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Old 09-10-2008, 04:05 PM
Location: Nashville, Tn
7,916 posts, read 16,799,963 times
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I get the feeling that a great many religious people see evil as having some sort of substance or manisfestation of itself. I don't believe that's the case, I think that it's a definition that has changed in many ways over the centuries. When I think of something as being evil I'm evaluating someone's behavior and of course an unprovoked murder, rape or violence against children is something that virtually everyone would agree is evil. I've noticed that certain conservative commentators on tv like Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity like to ask the question "Do you believe in evil?" as though it's a stand alone entity of some sort that you can actually identify as evil. I know their motivation in asking that is to promote the concept that there are clearly defined behaviors that are inherently evil and they're trying to tie it into a religious framework. It wasn't all that long ago in our history that slavery was socially acceptable and even some of our Presidents had slaves which would be incomprehensible today. There is no question that the human race has advanced to the point to recognize that slavery is immoral, cruel and evil. The Bible doesn't say anything against slavery or condemn it in any way and yet mankind now universally rejects the idea of slavery. The point I'm trying to make is that human morality is gradually changing over the generations and I personally think it's improving. So what do you think about this? Is evil something that can exist on it's own and somehow influence people or is it merely the description of human behavior that is considered unacceptable at a particular time in history?
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Old 09-10-2008, 06:40 PM
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I would agree with you that human morality is changing but would disagree that it is improving. Whether you support the right of a woman to make decisions about her own body or not, it is a simple fact that the killing of unborn children is allowed in our country. Sexual immorality is increasing exponentially, men don't want to take care of their kids, politicians want to slaughter people over energy interests.... and that's just our own "civilized" country. If we consider all the atrocities occuring around the globe, I think you would have a hard time making the case that human morality is improving. Though, there have been some great gains (abolishment of the slave trade and other human rights endeavors).

Morality is becoming more relative and there is significant decline in moral absolutes. If there is no source of morality of higher authority than the state, then there is no source for evil higher than the self.

To have evil and to know it, don't you have to have an opposite to contrast it against? A standard of selfless righteousness? If so, what is that standard and what is the authority? Is evil nothing more than blatant excessive self-interest of a person doing whatever they choose despite severe negative impact on others ... having no remorse for those actions and possibly even feeling good about bringing harm to others? If that is the case, is the source only human nature? Satan? What?
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Old 09-10-2008, 07:47 PM
Location: Jacksonville,Florida
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We are all evil in one sense or another,we are born into this world as sinners. There is only one person who is righteous and that is God. We as Christians are fortunate as well of those who want to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour to know that He went to the cross and died for our sins,that whosoever believe shall have eternal life in His Kingdom called Heaven.

Without the Lord in our life,we are bad to the bone.

Last edited by noland123; 09-10-2008 at 07:56 PM..
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Old 09-10-2008, 08:01 PM
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Personally I think the whole idea of 'evil' as a very juvenile way of veiwing the world, people shouldn't be given the excuse not to think. Moral values are culturally defined, wether people want to admit it or not.

But as far as the idea of 'evil' I think most, if not all, people know what is good and what is bad. In our society we consider stealing, murdering, and raping to be all bad. We consider volunteering, altrustic actions, and sending money in relief efforts good. So the answer to your question, yes, evil is something we define, not something in and of itself.

That said, if there is a God, he probably doesn't think we're doing very well with all the 'evil' going on.
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Old 09-10-2008, 08:12 PM
Location: The Netherlands
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The other/the unknown will always be seen as 'evil'.
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Old 09-11-2008, 02:56 PM
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Great question to ponder! Here's my take on this.

Evil is a consequence of suffering. There is a lot of suffering in the world, that is a fact. That suffering can take a million shapes and forms but the bottom line is that we all pretty much know what it is and when we're experiencing it. To me, the most concise definition of suffering is: Suffering is a the organism's reaction that arises in response to things not being the way we want them to be..

You're poor, you can't get things you want-- you suffer. You've experienced violence and your body's preferred equilibrium has been compromised-- you suffer. A friend abandoned you even though you wanted them in your world-- you suffer. Yes, suffering can have a lot of different immediate causes but its essential nature is the same: we have a concept for everything, including ourselves, yet that concept can't support itself in the real world and hence the suffering.

The whole idea of "Evil", in my opinion, is an attempt to simplify this problem of suffering that we all have to deal with. To be more precise, I believe that the concept of "Evil" came about in order to blame all suffering (but especially our own) on one source. A mind that thinks of Evil essentially lumps all forms of suffering into one and gives that unity of suffering a name. Evil is what you blame when you find something that is disagreable to you.

Furthermore, we traditionally view "Evil" as an entity that is separate from ourselves.It is an obscure enemy that sabotages us either by directly attacking us or tempting us. That makes sense-- we take ourselves and our world view for granted and are inclined to blame all disturbances on something or someone else. It's easier that way and we can justify a lot of our own behaviours by fighting this "evil".

Philosophically, this stand-alone Evil Entity does not make sense to me. I think that suffering is very real but its explanation does not require the concept of stand-alone, Absolute Evil, standing outside of us.

A lot of suffering is due to our false expectations of the world and others-- we are really attached to certain things and we desperately prefer some situations over others. Yet our control of the world is very limited and if our expectations are high, we'll suffer plenty. It appears to me that most of suffering is like that, self-inflicted by our erroneous view of things and our miserable failure to appreciate our lives as they are. The cause is clearly our own minds and nothing else. In a sense, we are "evil" ourselves, by choice.

And then there's the kind of suffering that is inevitable. I mostly talk about physical suffering here, due to such things as hunger, illness or trauma. That suffering isn't something that we can make go away, its basis is in biology. To hypothesize the existence of any force or being behind that biology is baseless.
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Old 09-11-2008, 03:49 PM
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Eastern religions usually don't believe in Evil with a big E. Evil acts exist of course, but they are not evil in themselves- they are evil because of what they cause to arise. Most of Hinduism, for instance, is like this. There are some called Dvaita hinduists that believe that Evil is real, but they are in the minority. Taoism and Buddhism reject the concept of evil altogether. This doesn't mean they don't believe in virtues, indeed, Taoism and Buddhism both hold that there are things that are virtuous, and things that are unvirtuous or unskillfull.

Buddhism has the Brahmaviharas, the Refuge of Brahma. Equanimity, love, joy, and compassion. Taoism has Three Virtues (Te) - humility, compassion, and equanimity/forebearance. These things are seen as good because they do not cause karma or leard to "wei wu wei"- acting without action, harmony with the Tao.
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Old 09-12-2008, 09:18 AM
Status: "The nicest curve on a woman's body is her smile" (set 20 days ago)
Location: Florida/Tennessee
2,427 posts, read 4,314,656 times
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A)Is evil something that can exist on it's own and somehow influence people or B) is it merely the description of human behavior that is considered unacceptable at a particular time in history?
A) Yes..... evil does exist on it's own and does manifest itself within people.

B) No..... evil is not subject to definitions of what man can assign as a result of changing values.

The basic tactic of evil is to promote the idea of (via denial,) ... evil does not exist. To reinforce this tactic most, evil starts out as "doing something good" or something that makes you "feel good", which ultimately puts "you" at the center of the equation.
Evil will always manifest itself as "light" ... initially. How could evil succeed by starting out like Frankenstein? Bad tactic... and won't work. Evil uses subtle deception, partial truth and always accuses someone or something. Evil does not waste it's time with those already in it's grasp. Why? because evil has inertia... one needs only to make casual observations to realize this... look at addiction.

Evil will always rear it's ugly head, ........ and will be flushed out by "unchanging virtues".
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Old 09-12-2008, 09:20 AM
Location: Southern Oregon
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I have posted a few time on this forum about this topic, for me, evil is nothing more than an action judged by societies morals. If we label something as good then we create a polar opposite called evil, both of these lay on the same yard stick, so to say, good at one end, evil at the other. In that reference, evil doesn't exits it's just different degrees of good sliding down the stick to "no good at all". So when does good become evil? It all depends on which end of the stick you're judging actions by. Does one look at the worlds actions and say there is evil and it needs more goodness, or, is the world good but needs less evil, that all depends on where you put your focus.
Evil as a force of its own, IMO, doesn't exist, if it did we would see it reflected in the natural world. This force only seems to exist within the world of mankind, it is created by man. The worse "evil" inflicted upon mankind is the blind obedience to a God and those who follow this that know no boundaries. These are the ones that would do anything if it is thought that their God demanded it.
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Old 09-12-2008, 09:44 AM
Location: Orlando, Florida
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As a Christian, my answer would be that evil is the end result of the selfishness of mankind. The only way to correct it or reverse it is to understand and participate in the love commandment of Jesus.
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