If you believe in evil- what does evil mean to you?

(150 Posts)
YoureBeingASillyBilly Thu 19-Dec-13 18:55:55

Inspired by comments about recent news stories.

I am atheist and struggle (in fact get quite pissed off) when people describe people as 'evil' or having committed 'evil acts'.

To me evil doesnt exist. Its is just as made up as 'god' and used to keep 'good' believers in line. Calling someone evil is, to me, just the same as calling someone 'godly' however when evil is used it feels like its is being used to (understandably) declare a 'difference' between the person saying it and the person it is being said about. Of course most of us would never do such horrible things like have been in the news recently and consider ourselves incapable but we are just as human and in reality as capable (in that we have the ability)of such acts. To call them evil seems to me to be implying there is another force at work within that person that does not live within 'us' (the 'good' people). This is what i struggle with. I think it's an unhelpful or unhealthy way to think of them although i cometely understand the need to declare a difference between 'us' and 'them'.

However, on MN previoulsy people have said that they dont share my idea of what evil is so they are not doing what i think they are doing when they call someone evil.

So i would really appreciate if some could explain to me what they mean when they talk of evil. What does it mean to you?

TIA

Also, i really intend no offence by my comments but understand it is an emotive topic and accept that others will strongly disagree with my opinion.

HoneyandRum you have been offered several arguments that you could address if you wanted . For example can we assume you have another way to look at Abraham's actions that excuses them? The usual way is to say god doesn't make us sacrifice people any more, but that was my point wasn't it about him changing right and wrong.

It's Genesis Chapter 22 btw. I can remember content, but I never remember chapter numbers.

CoteDAzur Wed 08-Jan-14 08:24:44

I haven't equated anybody to Nazis hmm

I have only agreed with BOB that following orders or doing what you are told (by a god, your mum, or your commanding officer) is not a particularly commendable position, unlike coming to a difficult but "good" decision yourself and carrying it out. People can and have done some good things (like not killed other people because God told them not to) or some very bad things (like killed heaps of people because their commanding officer told them to). Once you short-circuit your own mind and do what you are told, a lot is possible.

There are many shades of gray that the "good vs evil" duality does not allow. Like, a soldier who had to follow orders and kill because he feared for his life if he refused. If you have watched the film Monster with Charlize Theron - was her character the serial killer prostitute "evil"?

HoneyandRum Wed 08-Jan-14 07:58:57

By equating practicing Christians and by implication Jewish believers (from Faith traditions thousands of years old with extensively discussed and thought out morality giving the world some of its greatest thinkers, philosophers and theologians) to = Nazi soldiers...

I have decided to bow out of this thread.

CoteDAzur Tue 07-Jan-14 23:26:32

"That's not morality, that's just obedience. As in "I was only obeying orders"."

Exactly. Just like Nazi soldiers obeyed orders in concentration camps.

CoteDAzur Tue 07-Jan-14 23:24:37

"Christians didn't "make up" evil, as mentioned the Jewish and Islamic faiths also believe in evil"

I don't know about Judaism, but "evil" as a basic force opposing "good" in duality etc doesn't exist in Islam afaik.

Evil is not as universal a concept as you might think. I can't think of an equivalent in Turkish, for example.

CoteDAzur Tue 07-Jan-14 23:19:39

Great thread. I agree the concept of "evil" is a fabrication. There is no absolute good or absolute evil. We are all capable of both. Everyone on this thread and everyone you have ever known would lie, kill, steal, etc to keep their children alive.

You know they call it an Abrahamic Religion right? And you know Abraham is famous for being willing to kill his own son on god's orders?.

There are many such examples, but there you have almost the father of your religion being willing to murder a child for god. If god had demanded he rape him first Abraham would surely have done that too. The whole point of the story is that one must be willing to obey god in all things.

HoneyandRum Actually I don't think most Christians have got it straight who he is meant to be. I know the history (he doesn't have one to speak of - the extensive records are a myth) and the main versions of the theology.

He is god as you say. The same god who in the Old Testament was fine with the slaughter of innocent children. When he appeared as Jesus he had changed his mind and now said that was all wrong. Those who believed did a U-turn too without much of a problem it seems. If he comes back and tells you he has changed his mind again you will have no choice, but to do another U-turn.

That's not morality, that's just obedience. As in "I was only obeying orders".

HoneyandRum Tue 07-Jan-14 22:11:12

Backonlybriefly it sounds from your comments that you may not understand who Christians believe Jesus is. We believe Jesus is God who came into our lives embodied as a human person to reveal who God is. Jesus was born and grew up in a human family with a mother and father and extended family. He had friends and human relationships and Christians believe we have extensive records about who he was/who he is and what he said and did. We believe we continue to relate to him as a human person and as a member of the Trinity. He showed us that he is deeply concerned with human communities, persons and relationships. He is forgiving, gentle, loving, wise, strong, compassionate, empathetic and inspiring of devotion and love. He told us to suffer the little children and that it would be better for a person to have a millstone tied around his neck and fall to the bottom of the sea than to sin against a child. He was consistent even to the point of death.

If Jesus appeared saying that pedophilia was acceptable then "all decent Christians" would immediately know that this was not in fact Jesus.

Elizabeth You believe then that Lucifer is a literal entity then? An angel who rebelled and can force people to do things they wouldn't do otherwise?.
If you were right there'd be little point doing anything since we'd lack the free will that christianity puts so much stock in.

You say "Many New Agers worship lucifer, but are unaware". Can you tell me how one can worship a god without knowing you are?.

If Lucifer is a metaphor then let's consider what that would mean. If some people get together on say Friday nights and say a few 'Hail Lucifers' does that make them evil? Do you see them planning how they will run over old ladies the next day in the name of Lucifer?. I don't think that is a realistic scenario.

If evil doesn't exist does that mean that good doesn't exist either?

There can be no absolute good or evil unless imposed from outside - presumably by one of the gods. In which case evil is whatever god says it is and he can change evil to good by just saying so. If Jesus returned now and said paedophilia was good then all decent Christians would be obliged to agree.

As an atheist I wouldn't be required to change my mind so I feel the relative morality humans have developed is more stable, reliable and fairer.

As humans we have developed ways of getting along in groups. These include not killing each other. Not really because it's bad, but because we can never get things done if we have to keep fighting. Similarly we have agreed that harming children is a bad thing because they are the next generation. At least in this country we have. In some less advanced societies religion is desperately holding onto FGM and child marriages, but they will catch up eventually.

We call theft immoral for the same practical reasons.

We constantly examine our morals and recently have made laws against racism, sexism, homophobia and so on. We work to improve it all the time. Good and evil are just labels we use. They are not separate entities.

atthestrokeoftwelve Mon 06-Jan-14 19:11:49

Elizabeth- what an arrogant post. You seem to pity those who "seek wisdom".
A far better path imo than blindly following like a sheep.

Elizabeth1960 Mon 06-Jan-14 19:05:39

Those who worship such a force is larger than you think. Many worship it unknowingly, while others worship it in hope of gaining wisdom and knowledge. Many New Agers worship lucifer, but are unaware, the basic teaching of the New Age is about the coming of the maitreya who is the luciferian christ but I'd say 90% are unaware. The upper realm of free masonry worship lucifer, so do the upper realm of the zionist illuminati as they too are a waiting a false messiah. They all worship lucifer as they see him as the enlightened one who set man free from the yolk of god, he gave man the choice to know evil.

Elizabeth1960 Mon 06-Jan-14 18:52:33

If evil doesn't exist does that mean that good doesn't exist either? Are we just in a state of it "just is"? if this is the case then anything is acceptable. Is paedophilia evil, of course it is we are born with inherent knowledge of right and wrong, we are born with a conscience, but when we allow our conscience to be come warped by feeding it with the wrong things, we can then become desensitised this allows evil, which is gross imperfection to enter our hearts. None of us are perfect, I believe there are variations of evil, some are wicked and others deliberately entertain or tap into evil. I have been in the presence of pure evil, when a friend of mine was dabbling in the occult, it's the most disgusting, soul less, cold presence you could ever imagine. Don't be fooled evil is very real now more than ever, because much of it is disguised.

MostlyLovingLurchers Mon 06-Jan-14 09:01:51

If anyone is interested there is a discussion just starting on Radio 5 live about the nature of evil and the devil (at 9am).

atthestrokeoftwelve Sun 05-Jan-14 10:51:54

Who are the evil worshippers?

MostlyLovingLurchers Sun 05-Jan-14 10:37:23

What do people think of the small number of people who actively worship and glorify evil?

Do you have any particular group in mind here?

HoneyandRum Sat 04-Jan-14 22:31:56

I dunno, he had free will and he actively chose to do it (although of course Jesus knew what he was up to - but then again he was/is God). Sadly Judas could not forgive himself or accept God's forgiveness - that is the saddest part.

I have a feeling in the bible it says that Satan entered into Judas? Is that right?

What do people think of the small number of people who actively worship and glorify evil?

A good question. I'd like to talk to someone who actively worshipped evil to see how that worked. (from a safe distance)

Seems to me that most people who do wrong justify it rather than claiming that evil is a desirable end in itself. Most crimes can be justified by saying that survival of the fittest is natural or that the end justifies the means.

To see something as evil and still do it I think would have to be a religious act. Faith rather than reason.

I suppose an internally consistent argument could be made that since evil is part of god's plan someone has to do it. Judas had to do what he did or Christianity wouldn't exist.

HoneyandRum Sat 04-Jan-14 21:32:19

Christians didn't "make up" evil, as mentioned the Jewish and Islamic faiths also believe in evil. Zoroastrianism is (still exists) a dualistic faith too. Jesus talked about the power of evil and was tempted by the devil during his 40 days in the desert preparing for his Passion.

In all these faiths there is a belief in universal truth and not that everything is relative. For Catholics at least we do not believe that people are or can be entirely evil. Quite the opposite, we believe that we are all created good but somehow something went pear-shaped and Original sin separated us from the love of God. We now can be baptized which brings us back into friendship with God. However, we can decide to turn away from God's love and choose to sin, through the action of our free will. In Catholic theology there is a difference in culpable sin (where we were fully aware of what we were/were not doing) and sin where we were ignorant of what the result of our action (or non-action) would be. However, although we were not culpable the result was still evil. We also have the concept of social sin: when a society is going along with acts and philosophies that are against the love of God: slavery, racism, Nazism etc.

Like another poster I have definitely experienced the presence of evil (this presence may be the spiritual and emotional debris of frequent and constant sin). Likewise I have experienced the presence of love, tangibly, outside myself.

Some acts are evil in themselves. I am at a loss to think of an example of how rape is ever not an evil act. It might be the "lesser of two evils" such as a person being raped instead of murdered, but still evil nonetheless.

Of course, just to be controversial grin I guess Catholics really believe in the reality of evil as something that can be revoked and attacked directly because we have exorcisms and specialist priests to deal with very serious manifestations of unrepentant evil. These are considered extremely rare and unusual however and are kept very private, for the very reason that evil does not triumph - good does.

What do people think of the small number of people who actively worship and glorify evil?

BillyBanter Sat 21-Dec-13 17:02:48

Missed it too.

I knew I should never go out and leave the internets. angry

Don't know what Minnie said to get deleted. I thought this was the calmest thread I'd been on for ages.

Minnieistheglittermouse Sat 21-Dec-13 14:47:51

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

BillyBanter Sat 21-Dec-13 14:31:17

A practically word perfect example in minnie's post of why I don't like evil being used to describe people or actions.

Don't try to understand, just conclude it is evil ad leave it there.

YY to Back

Minnie, I'm as much a product of my genes and my culture as anyone else and if we compared notes we'd find we were repulsed by pretty much the same behaviour.

To be able to understand the root cause of the way I feel about 'bad' people and why they act as they do is both valuable and interesting. It's all very well being shocked at the things people do, but that doesn't help anything does it. Understanding it enough to do something about it would be much better.

garlicbaubles Sat 21-Dec-13 13:44:57

It's a bit of a stretch to conclude the discussion's heading towards approval of malevolent acts, Minnie!

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