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.

msmiggins Thu 19-Dec-13 19:29:07

The dualism of good and evil is a central mechanism which underpins the christian church.

Most people or acts are not extreme, we are all mostly shades of grey.
The christian church could not exist without evil.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Thu 19-Dec-13 19:32:17

Yes i agree with that, as i said in OP, 'evil' is used as a tool to keep believers in line.

msmiggins Thu 19-Dec-13 19:33:56

I agree. Where would the church be without satan? He was a useful tool to invent.

I don't believe in heaven and hell as I think hell, therefore evil I suppose, does exist on earth. Many people around the world are in hell, death must be better than their lives on earth. I'm not so sure if one person is evil though, I guess they must be, people who are cruel for reasons to benefit themselves or in the name of religion or politics for example. What drives someone to torture, kill, rape, hate, drive people to live in fear, is that not evil?

Sorry, mutterings and musings here, not sure it answers any of you question at all!

Sorry, meant to say I feel I am a Christian, believe in god, but not I agree with heaven and hell as such, that probably makes me a cop out.

I'm atheist too and to me everyone is on a curve from good to bad. With most of us are bunched in the middle.

With me slightly closer to the good end than you lot of course grin

Even without the major influence of the church most people want to believe there's a huge gulf between them and someone who committed a terrible crime. It's disturbing to think that it's just a matter of degree.

I also think that good and bad are relative which doesn't fit at all with there being true evil.

headinhands Thu 19-Dec-13 19:43:18

I agree that it's probably a mechanism to create the idea of an 'us' and 'them'. Although by doing so it appears to nullify guilt i.e..if I am an evil person how can be held accountable for doing evil acts? I guess it's an extension of the commonly held belief that murderers must be suffering from some sort of mental illness, an opinion that has no basis in fact.

msmiggins Thu 19-Dec-13 19:44:32

Onestep closer- is it that simple though? You illustrate "evil" people - are you then one of the "good" people?
Life is a little more complex than that.
Even the good people do bad things sometimes, and "evil" people may be kind to animals.
Still you neatly illustrate the simplicity of the christian dualistic contstruct.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Thu 19-Dec-13 19:51:03

Backonlybriefly* your post is exactly what i think as well.

Gingerdodger Thu 19-Dec-13 19:51:42

I do believe in evil, I believe that there are evil forces in the world that bring about evil things. I do not think it is as simple as people being good people or evil people, I do believe most people are generally good (I am an optmimist) but I think any of us can be swayed and brought into doing evil things, that does not make us evil people though. There are some people who appear more influenced by evil than others - who commit acts that we would all find abhorrent. I still do not necessarily think that makes them evil per se, they may still be capable of good. However, we all have choices as to whether we behave in'good' or 'bad' ways (I appreciate that is an oversimplification and it's not always black and white).

If you ask me to explain what those evil forces are then the simple answer is I don't know. I do know that evil comes between me and my relationship with God, and as a Christian, this is where my conscience and support from God come into play. I do not think you have to be religious to be primarily influenced by good forces, we all have to abide by our own consciences and values whether or not we believe that there are underlying Godly or evil influences.

All very difficult to explain!

YoureBeingASillyBilly Thu 19-Dec-13 19:52:08

And headinhands, what you said aswell.

msmiggins Thu 19-Dec-13 19:53:56

Gingerdodger- where does that evil come from?

YoureBeingASillyBilly Thu 19-Dec-13 19:55:00

And headinhands, what you said aswell.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Thu 19-Dec-13 19:56:06

Sorry for double post.

Ginger is this evil force something not of human making in your opinion?

Gingerdodger Thu 19-Dec-13 20:18:02

I genuinely don't know where the evil forces come from. Are they inherent somehow in mankind and can manifest itself within us or it is something external? I genuinely don't know the answer to that question but that doesn't really matter massively to me as, for me, it is about resisting any urge to follow a path that goes against my conscience and will take me further away from God. I just believe, as humans, we are all capable of good and evil.

MostlyLovingLurchers Thu 19-Dec-13 20:24:28

There is neither good or evil, other than relative to each other. The same as light only has meaning if you also have darkness, two sides of the same coin. What we call good or evil are moral judgements, not a thing in themselves. We all have the capacity for both.

TheArticFunky Thu 19-Dec-13 20:32:04

My definition of evil is when a person displays behaviour with the intention of causing suffering and pain to another person. A person who regularly displays this type of behaviour could by my definition be described as evil. I don't believe there are demonic spirits causing the evil behaviour.

DioneTheDiabolist Thu 19-Dec-13 21:54:47

Evil is a complicated concept. I know people described as evil by the press, legal system etc. They were not. Some were lovely, some were dicks, none were evil.

I have read case studies of "evil" men, psychopaths who have committed acts of extreme violence. Of course most people are not psychopaths, and the "evil" they inflict doesn't originate from a force that doesn't exist within us. Quite the opposite in fact. Psychopaths behave in an "evil" fashion because they don't have empathy.

Declaring a difference between us and them, particularly where Them = Lesser or Worse, is actually where real evil grows. Historical acts of evil were created in such a way. Philip Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect is really interesting reading on the subject. Yet, despite historical and experimental evidence, some people will insist on creating a collective identity which sees those who are different as lesser or even worse, dangerous. It exists in political ideologies and religious/atheistic fundamentalism and proves that we are indeed all the same.

Except for psychopaths who don't have empathy. And even then, it's only the violent minority of this group that end up being described as evil.

As Dione says evil is a complicated concept. I've come across people who are psychopaths and they can do extremely bad things but it seems as if they are wired that way. The same is true of narcissists. Sometimes when you start talking to them there is a huge amount of damage done during childhood and sometimes there seems to be no reason for the way they behave. People are capable of enough extreme acts of violence and cruelty all by themselves.

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 17:33:53

I don't believe anyone is born evil. But I do believe that evil is at work in the world and that evil can use people as vehicles for its bad work. It suits the devil nicely for people to believe that he doesn't exist.

msmiggins Fri 20-Dec-13 17:39:35

Lottie
"It suits the devil nicely for people to believe that he doesn't exist."

Christians created the devil. What about those born in different cultures who have no concept of the devil. Are they at risk too?

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 17:41:43

I have my reasons for my beliefs. If you disagree then that is fine. But I do not believe Christians created the devil.

msmiggins Fri 20-Dec-13 17:47:45

Of course they did. It suits them well to have such a fellow. Are you suggesting someone else invented him?

You may disgaree but you can't suggest that it suits the devil to have people like me who doesn't believe in his existence. That's arrogant and quite presumptious.
You can use the devil as your own bogey man if you like, but don't suggest that he is mine also.

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 17:49:50

Err I didn't msmiggins - I said it is what I believe hmm I don't need your permission to believe what I want. And you say I'm arrogant??

HECTheHeraldAngelsSing Fri 20-Dec-13 17:53:43

I believe that evil is any thing that someone chooses to do to another person or an animal that they know will cause them great harm, be that physical, emotional, whatever.

choosing to rape someone is evil. Choosing to torture someone is evil. Etc etc.

gaining pleasure from causing suffering is evil.

I don't believe that by calling it evil you are absolving the person of responsibility. Quite the opposite. By calling it evil, I am callingnit a choice and differentiating it from the actions of someone who either does not intend harm, gets no pleasure from causing harm or lacks the capacity to understand what they are doing, or who acts in a particular way because they are ill.

it is all about choice. We are all capable of acts of great evil whether we accept that or not. Most of us would never make the choice to do evil things. Those who do bear the responsibility for their choices. Evil is a terrible thing done through conscious choice with clear mind and normally for personal satisfaction/gratification.

msmiggins Fri 20-Dec-13 17:55:12

You are being arrogant because you think my non-belief makes me easy prey.

"It suits the devil nicely for people to believe that he doesn't exist."

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 18:00:30

I think it is much easier for evil things to happen when people don't believe in it, yes. But since you don't believe in the devil then you shouldn't be offended by the views of some faceless stranger on the internet. You can believe what you want and I can believe what I want.

The thread title asked for beliefs about evil and I gave mine - I didn't say 'Msmiggins is easy prey'. If mine make you uncomfortable then I suggest you ignore. You can't force everyone to think like you.

MostlyLovingLurchers Fri 20-Dec-13 18:45:21

But I do not believe Christians created the devil.

Other traditions have tricksters, tempters or bad spirits but the devil is a creation of the Abrahamic faiths. He simply does not exist as a concept beforehand, though he may have some roots in Zoroastrian beliefs.

If you believe in a god who is wholly good then that goodness only has meaning when compared to something that is not wholly good. This is why Christianity needs the devil - without evil as an opposing force god's goodness is meaningless.

The idea that a devil can tempt you to be evil was always a dangerous one. "it wasn't me! It was the devil".

And of course you have god whispering suggestions in the other ear and no way to tell which is which.

Personal responsibility is better, but has always been less popular.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 19:50:12

But surely the devil is only a pre Enlightenmment concept of what we now put down to bad childhoods, neurological conditions like psychopathy or whatever.
It is the same concept - it's something not quite oneself that led you down a prticular path that had you not this addiction, upbringing whatever you would not have chosen.

That's the temptation aspect, when the choice is there to be made. We have all experienced that. What's satisfying (perhaps in some complicated psychological way)for yourself rather than what your conscience tells you is Right.
The devil is only a personification of forces at work in all of us.

mintberry Fri 20-Dec-13 20:29:36

"We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on." - Sirius Black

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 20:36:21

I agree and I actually find it a very unhelpful word. When we dismiss someone or some thing as being evil we lock ourselves out from learning about what is actually going on and working on prevention or cure. Same with denying people their humanity when they do awful things. They are human. Humans are capable of terrible things.

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 21:12:33

Humans are capable of terrible things, but evil can be a manifestation of other things like illness IMO. The devil is not a bogeyman for me but a negative force. Responsibility for ones actions cannot be absolved by saying the devil made me do it and there is no basis in Christian theology that would suggest it would.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 21:20:26

Billybanter you have explained what i think perfectly.

I think the confusion for me is that different people mean different things when they talk of 'evil'. I was raised catholic in ireland and so the devil was often talked about. This is what i have been assuming people meant when they say evil, that they mean the devil at work making thay person do his evil deeds for him. However if some people see evil as just the horrible things people do then i can see how that isnt absolving them of the responsibility. Not sure if i am explaining well.

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 21:24:27

From a Christian point of view people would say that we have free will, which means we can choose to do wrong things even though we know they are wrong.

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 21:38:33

I don't object so much to saying 'she did an evil thing'. I do use the word sometimes. But I still think it is preferable to find another word, if possible.

See also describing people as monsters. Take for instance the people who had jobs in concentration camps. They are 'monsters', and because they are monsters we can strip them of their humanity, and if we strip them of their humanity we can treat them inhumanely ourselves while not seeing ourselves as evil, and which is repeating what they had done to be able to treat the jews inhumanely. It's all right for us to do terrible things to some people because they are evil or subhuman in some regard. They're not real people, not like you and me.

Better to understand how the human mind works, what societal dynamics can lead to such behaviour and work on solutions from knowledge.

At the moment benefit claimants are being stripped of their humanity to some extent. Africans were stripped of their humanity which helped us think slavery was just dandy.

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 21:40:20

I can't comment really on the religious side of it. I think what you say is correct for some people now or in the past, but no idea if religious people tend to view it that way.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 21:44:19

Again, i agree with all of that post billy.

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 21:50:27

I completely agree BillyBanter. I would never agree with calling someone 'subhuman', no matter what they have done. It does make it easier for people to distance themselves from a terrible crime by saying 'ah well, they are evil and I am not, therefore I am a different 'species' and I would be incapable of that in all circumstances'. It's hard for people to accept that humans can do awful things and still be human and still capable of good.

From my own point of view I would say that people have different life experiences that can sometimes make them choose bad things. Or that can make them susceptible to manipulation.

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 21:51:44

Yes Billy that is a good post. But if we don't believe evil exists....

Where does Peter Sutcliffe feature in these arguments? the Black Panther? Do you think it's fair to say to say that we could all be capable of those crimes OP? And it is not right to use the word evil? I still believe in right and wrong.
Evil means very wrong. To me.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 21:56:13

But there is a difference between getting in a fight and smacking someone in the heat of the moment and someone systematically torturing another person and enjoying their pain.
the first we can all understand, but the other - well, 'they' are separate from 'us' aren't they?

I don't think there is anything at all wrong with using stigmatization and othering as a form of social control. They are evil monsters. Ian Watkins, anyone? Of course, who we direct it at and under what circumstances is another thread BUT keeping people in line is how civilisation keeps going. Concepts of evil and the devil may be mere tools, but we need those tools to build a world we want to live in.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 21:57:12

I do think Good and Evil are discrete categories, and not relative.

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 21:59:34

sinister yes! I agree. We have to have a way of classifying behaviour otherwise anything goes and everything can be explained or justified.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 21:59:39

I am not familiar with the black panther or peter sutcliffe's crimes (although his name is familiar) but yes i do think we are all capable of awful crimes in that had we lived a similar path as that person or had the same personality disorder/ mental health issues then we would be closer to doing those things and justifying them to ourselves. I think we are all on a spectrum in that respect. And yes all capable. Applogies if that offends. I am not saying we are all likely to or would but the possibility and ability for it is there. There are if course adults and young people with LD or SNs that just wouldnt have that ability.

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 22:05:47

So what about the people who commit terrible crimes but who don't
Have a personality disorder (whatever that means?) Jeremy Bamber, for example? Your argument doesn't offend, I just don't think it's valid.

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 22:08:08

I think you need to be careful about making assumptions that people with mental health issues are more likely to commit crimes. That's quite an offensive approach to the issue. Most people with schizophrenia are no more likely to be violent than someone with anorexia for example, and yet schizophrenia is still one of the most stigmatised illnesses.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:08:15

Yes what about them? What are you asking?

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 22:08:48

Yes SillyBilly I don't disagree

I think it's at the moment of choosing. And Sutcliffe chose the 'evil' path. Because whatever way his brain was wired made that the more attractive option for his personal psychology. That's the way we frame it today. But it premodern times the Devil tempting you was a kind of (anthromorphised?) explanation for the same process.

I think...

Like Thor throwing his hammer. today we know thunder is clouds and ions etc (er actually I don't actually know what causes thunder blush) but it's the same prescience type of explanation.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:11:36

I havent said people with MH issues (i am one myself) are more likely to commit those crimes. I have said if we had taken the same path in life OR had the same personality disorder or MH issue then we would be closer to doing what they have done. What i meant was that if our circumstances were more similar to those people we could find ourselves closer to being like them or more likely to justify their actions.

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:11:39

Where does Peter Sutcliffe feature in these arguments? the Black Panther? Do you think it's fair to say to say that we could all be capable of those crimes OP? And it is not right to use the word evil? I still believe in right and wrong.

He's a human being whose sum of life experiences led him to be a killer. The sum of my life experience makes it unlikely I will take to going out and killing prostitutes any time soon. But different life experiences might have taken me there.

We all like to tell ourselves we wouldn't have been a naze in 1940s Germany. But many of us would have been. They were just people in a particular time in a particular place. What is the alternative? That there was a nazi gene that somehow popped up in one generation of a large proportion of the German population?

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:12:09

*nazi not naze.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:16:26

Billy i was just about to post about nazi in germany. They were nazis because of their circumstances at that time. The biggest factor being their location. It wasnt that all those people travelled from all over the world to germany to do what they did. They lived in germany at the time and for whatever reasons decided that becoming nazis was the best thing for them to do at that time.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 22:17:38

No - but every German of the era had a choice to make.
An impossible choice for many, kill or be killed. I wouldn't think it's that that makes you evil.
And even the Nazis had to justify themselves in their own minds so they wouldn't be 'evil'. Back to the dehumanising thing again, many of them had to believe or had to jump through mental hoops to believe that they were actually doing a good thing by 'cleaning' Europe.

Perhaps 'evil' is someone doing wrong, consciously, for the sheer pleasure of it? there is quite little of that about but plenty of harmful acts that cause misery, of course.

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 22:18:14

I think you need to brush up on your knowledge of C20th crime before voicing ideas about whether evil exists. if we don't have evil as a means of describing behaviour then we don't have good. I know what what sort of world I would prefer to live in

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:20:14

I have no idea what you mean by that.

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 22:22:02

Yes Nazi Germany could have happened anywhere. But that was my point originally. People are not born to be evil but various circumstances can make them vulnerable to be a vehicle for evil. If the rise of Hitler never happened, many of the people who were hanged for war crimes probably would have lived ordinary uneventful lives.

Obviously the biblical idea of 'the devil' seems like a story. But for me there are benevolent and malevolent forces in the world. Personally I find that sometimes you can talk to someone and feel better just by talking to them and then there are others who you feel repelled by. I think we can all be affected by various energy sources. To someone who doesn't believe in a spiritual aspect of life then that may seem like nonsense but that's how I've always understood it.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 22:23:30

But what about Hitler himself?

lottieandmia Fri 20-Dec-13 22:23:31

To be clear, IMO what many people did in Nazi Germany WAS evil but the people themselves were not born to be evil.

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 22:23:42

billy please don't talk about Sutcliffe killing prostitutes. He killed women. Some (most) worked as prostitutes. Others were cleaners, administrative workers, one was just out of school, one was a student nurse.

NeverKnowinglyUnderstood Fri 20-Dec-13 22:26:29

I will say from the get go that I am a christian.
However I have often mused that I am not sure anyone who is of right mind could kill/torture/mutilate another human being.
And as such I do wonder why diminished responsibility isnt used more in court.
It has to be someone in an abnormal mental state to feel this is ok.

I am a sufferer of mental health issues so not saying all people with these issues are a danger at all.
As for Evil. I think we as human beings label things that are abhorrent and unpalatable as evil so we don't have to try to understand it.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:27:21

Does evil only relate to C20th crimes? confused

letsgotostonehenge Fri 20-Dec-13 22:28:28

do you believe in poltergeists?

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:29:18

Very few people deliberately cause hurt or pain to others for pleasure without justifying it either beforehand or afterwards. We all do it at some point. ''Well she was going on about how she loves keeping in shape while looking me up and down so she deserved that snippy comment I made about her fashion sense''.

If we say these people are simply 'evil' then what is there to do apart from lock them up, kill them, hope no one else does it, then be shocked and horrified at the evil when it does happen again.

But if we recognise them as human where something has gone wrong somewhere for them to do this then we can look for causes. And if we can find causes we can work on solutions.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:29:42

Neverknowinygly. Yes i agree about labeeling as evil so as not to have to understand it.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 22:29:58

Poltergeists?

I dunno, think the human nature aspect to this discussion is more informative

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:30:45

Poltergeist? Those naughty ghosts? No i dont believe in them. Why?

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:31:47

billy please don't talk about Sutcliffe killing prostitutes. He killed women. Some (most) worked as prostitutes. Others were cleaners, administrative workers, one was just out of school, one was a student nurse.

Apologies, you are quite right.

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 22:31:59

Of course not. You need something to base an opinion on and given the topic you raised, the most terrible crimes committed over the past forty years might have been a good starting point. IMHO.

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 22:32:51

Thanks billy

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 22:36:17

But we dounderstand it, in a way, don't we? It's because people WANT something (food, sex, ego) and justify how they SHOULD have it (she's rich and won't miss this Fifty pound note, she was flirting with me, she thinks she's above me in the pecking order)

I don't see what else we can understand to preempt another case, if you follow me? There are too many variables in (forensic?) psychology to meaningfully apply them to someone else who hasn't done anything yet. There is criminal profiling but you can't use that pre emptively can you? That's another moral dilemma

I might be missing your point

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:38:57

The 8 stages of genocide are quite interesting.

www.genocidewatch.org/aboutgenocide/8stagesofgenocide.html

Part of an attempt to understand how an 'evil' event comes to be.

We could just say a genocide happened because a group of people were evil. We might say the devil got them. I don't think exorcisms are the answer to genocides.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:39:20

Im not really sure i understand your point paula. I dont have much knowldege of famous killers or paedophiles. I try to avoid the topic if possible as i find some details of certain crimes quite triggering. I dont think that disqualifies me from asking what others believe evil to be and expressing my own opinion on what evil is (not an opinion on those crimes)

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 22:43:19

But nobody does say that, Billy. Not any more. It's understood that it's basically self interest and the madness of crowds not the DEvil getting to them.

In everyday talk now The Devil and Evil are colloquialisms for something we don't want to think about. Which i would never criticise anyone for wanting to keep their heads clear from contemplating the shit that surges through the world.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 22:43:55

That was addressed to BillyBanter

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 22:46:02

If you want to consider evil then I think the most obvious and logical starting point is to look at people who have been convicted of heinous crimes that are impossible for most people to understand, and find out what their background/mental state etc. was. The fact that they are famous (infamous) is irrelevant.

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:47:00

^But we dounderstand it, in a way, don't we? It's because people WANT something (food, sex, ego) and justify how they SHOULD have it (she's rich and won't miss this Fifty pound note, she was flirting with me, she thinks she's above me in the pecking order)

I don't see what else we can understand to preempt another case, if you follow me? There are too many variables in (forensic?) psychology to meaningfully apply them to someone else who hasn't done anything yet. There is criminal profiling but you can't use that pre emptively can you? That's another moral dilemma

I might be missing your point^

Well we are trying to understand and learn all the time. I don't think we can ever do enough to design all nastiness out of society/humans. I think psychology is trying to understand something more complex than astrophysics or whatever. But we are working on it all the time, whether we know it or not. You can see that from different parenting theories which come in and out of fashion. So I don't really mean we can profile people and lock them up (that might be slight point-missing) but we can try to design it out of society as much as possible.

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:47:25

italics fail.

DioneTheDiabolist Fri 20-Dec-13 22:50:18

It is wrong to say that giving someone the label "evil" means that we are refusing to try to understand it. We are constantly trying to understand it. "Evil" men are studied and experimented on, insofar as the law allows.

Experiments recreate "evil" situations at a basic level and record the results.

We are constantly trying to understand evil.

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 22:50:39

But nobody does say that, Billy. Not any more. It's understood that it's basically self interest and the madness of crowds not the DEvil getting to them.

I agree that mostly people don't think that. some do though, even now.

I think it's a combination of many things.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 22:54:02

Trying to design it out of society - how? This goes back to social control again - ostracisation, stigmatisation, outcasting people. You need simple concepts of us and them, good and evil for that.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:57:44

Maybe for you that is what evil means (worst crimes) and yes i started the thread based on other posters comments referring to a very recent case (dont want to use names) and the perpertrators as evil. However evil has been used to describe all sorts of people aside from criminals, women declared witches for example, children with illnesses not understood by their community, people with MH issues (those who havent committed any crime- just to be clear). All those people have been called evil and in some places still are but there is no crime involved.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:58:39

Di

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 22:59:56

Dione- are people trying to understand evil or are they trying to understand things people have done that some consider to be evil?

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 23:05:25

Is evil a psychological decision making process, then? I'm just wondering are we all talking with different definitions

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 23:07:14

Trying to design it out of society - how? This goes back to social control again - ostracisation, stigmatisation, outcasting people. You need simple concepts of us and them, good and evil for that.

Anything our parents teach us or school etc teaches us has an element of social control, of course it does. We're trying to bring our children up to be good people whatever than means to individuals/societies, it will vary.

What you need is psychology, neurology etc. Science. Understand how the brain works. Understand how societies evolve the way they do etc.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 23:08:04

I think thats why i was struggling sal. People using evil meNt something different than what i thought they meant and so i assumed they were saying something they werent.

Minnieistheglittermouse Fri 20-Dec-13 23:09:59

Rather weird. Would think the one thing many across cultures agree on is what evil is.....

It's all just shades if naughty or nice. One book, two sides. Nice and naughty or naughty and nice. It's perception that changes.

Except on agreed items like adultery, murder, rape, child abuse.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 23:11:35

Minnie what is rather weird?

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 23:13:11

There are two levels so BillyBanter, becuase the ordinary person on the street cannot* learn the intricacies of neurology and all the rest of it. That's where the simple concepts come in, how you teach kids, how you motivate people to police each other.

* Not because the ordinary person is thick, because there aren't enough hours in the day to become expert in every field.

I wonder is there an innate element to the disgust we feel?

garlicbaubles Fri 20-Dec-13 23:13:22

What an interesting thread. I haven't read it all yet, so this is basically a bookmark. I don't believe evil exists as an entity or force, neither do I find any living creature evil. Some do evil things (that anyone, at any time in history, would call bad) because it is simply their nature or, in the case of humans, out of extreme selfishness or misguidedness.

But then you get into definitions of evil, and who decides? There is probably no human act, however harmfully depraved, that hasn't been praised and admired by at least some people. And many wilful acts of extreme cruelty have been re-interpreted or whitewashed, both at the time and historically.

As you can probably tell, 'evil' is not a word I use unless I'm telling a story! Real life isn't black & white, good & bad. I'd better shut up until I've read all the other posts ... fblush

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 23:16:27

Well if an example of evil is the case the OP is specifically not mentioning then we want to know what causes someone to behave that way. If we can understand the causes we can work on preventing that perfect storm of circumstances happening. And we do try to do that but there isn't really enough funding in any of the areas which could help to prevent it - research, Social Services, education, psychiatry, medical drugs etc.

Many people (and often the media leading the way) just say 'evil! leave them to rot in prison! You can't help people like that! They're monsters!' etc. which I think is dismissive and unhelpful.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 23:19:59

Nodding in agreement with everything you are saying billybanter.

Minnieistheglittermouse Fri 20-Dec-13 23:21:31

It's occurred to me to question a validity of god or higher being.

It has never occurred to me to question evil, primarily because I watch the news. Or in its basic, naughty. To wonder if evil exists seemed odd. Still does and I've been mulling it now a few mins to Allen Carr....

PoshPaula Fri 20-Dec-13 23:21:42

Using the word 'evil' to describe terrible actions is not the same as describing as people as 'monsters'. The latter is unhelpful and there is a level of denial there.

Minnieistheglittermouse Fri 20-Dec-13 23:23:25

As I say, strikes me many people across cultures and pay/money divides agree on evil. Even prisoners have codes for example....

garlicbaubles Fri 20-Dec-13 23:26:04

YY, Billy.

That said, one of my many books on sociopathy tells the story of some lovely, peaceable tribe somewhere, which handles crime very compassionately, calling on the criminal's shame and desire to rejoin the community. They have no other system of punishment, and it works. The author was interested to know if sociopathy develops in such a community. They didn't have a word for it, but instantly recognised the behaviour pattern that was described. When asked how they deal with a criminal sociopath, they said "We walk him to the edge of the high cliff and invite him to jump off"!

I may have misremembered the story's details, but the message was clear.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 23:27:10

There is absolotely no discussion here about whether horrible people exist and do horrible things. That is not what i am asking. Watching the news shows us these bad things on a daily basis. They exist- no question. What i am questioning is what other people think evil is, if they do believe in it's existence.

Most of the things we call 'bad' are acts we have decided to classify as bad. Even murder is a matter of opinion given that killing a soldier in a battle is something you can get a medal for.

So we can't really think of evil as being a separate state can we.

An example that came up recently was the age of consent. It varies from country to country so what is illegal and immoral in one place is perfectly normal in another.

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 23:29:30

There are two levels so BillyBanter, becuase the ordinary person on the street cannot* learn the intricacies of neurology and all the rest of it. That's where the simple concepts come in, how you teach kids, how you motivate people to police each other.

* Not because the ordinary person is thick, because there aren't enough hours in the day to become expert in every field.

I wonder is there an innate element to the disgust we feel?

They did an experiment where they tried to get people to drink apple juice from a newly opened carton out of a brand new out of the wrapper potty. Not many takers. grin

I think stigmatising etc actually comes quite naturally to humans but I think it only gets us so far. I don't think everyone needs to be an expert. But we need the experts. And we need the learning to be filtered down to us somehow. And it is to an extent. The parenting books that I mentioned earlier for instance. What we do now is different from before because someone studied these things and got better results using one method over another. eg higher expectations from teachers = better results from student. lower expectations lead to worse results.

Minnieistheglittermouse Fri 20-Dec-13 23:35:11

Well again I'd say obvious. Light /shade. Happy /sad. Good evil.

I mean how do you recognise good if you don't have an appreciation of evil? Or what it might be?

BillyBanter Fri 20-Dec-13 23:35:48

YY garlic and briefly.

Different countries have very different % of people considered to have x y or z mental illness for instance.

"Except on agreed items like adultery, murder, rape, child abuse." I'm not sure there is as much agreement on those as you seem to think.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 23:39:57

Good? Improves a situation, benefits a person. Their day/week/life is better because of an act. I know that my friend did a good thing when she lent me some money because it meant i could eat and had electic- i felt better because of her actions. If she had taken money from me i would have been hungrier for longer and colder for longer. I would have felt worse. Taking money from me would have been a bad thing.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 23:40:57

Adultery myrder rape child abuse and stealing are all 'frowned upon'. To different degrees, different mitigations, different exceptions, but afaik they are all universally recognised as wrong.

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 23:42:35

So that's a discrete, non relative act of good, SillyBilly

You don't need evil as a counterpoint

Causing to suffer is 'evil' then.

garlicbaubles Fri 20-Dec-13 23:49:57

I didn't realise I wasn't allowed to join this discussion after saying I don't believe in 'evil'. It's a pity, I would have liked to.

<goes ahead anyway>

Sal, you can't define it as causing to suffer, because causing pain can sometimes be necessary - either for the further good of the sufferer, or for the good of others is greater measure than those who suffer.

garlicbaubles Fri 20-Dec-13 23:50:36

* in greater measure

SinisterSal Fri 20-Dec-13 23:53:03

causing to suffer for one's own pleasure, then? No justification. Just a kind of zero sum game

MostlyLovingLurchers Fri 20-Dec-13 23:56:23

Suffering and evil do not necessarily equate. Nature is full of suffering without any intent. Would you describe a lion ripping a gazelle to shreds as evil?

YoureBeingASillyBilly Fri 20-Dec-13 23:58:39

Sal- causing to suffer is bad. I agree with that. I'm still not sure that means evil. Although i am aware my upbringing is having a big influence on what i have taken 'evil' to mean.

YoureBeingASillyBilly Sat 21-Dec-13 00:00:26

Garlic i hope i havent implie you cant join this discussion if you dont beleive in evil. Its definitely not what i think as i dont believe in existence of evil (or what i have believed evil to mean) either.

garlicbaubles Sat 21-Dec-13 00:03:25

Interesting, Sal - a zero sum game is the nearest I get to defining evil. I think they are grounded on antisocial values. But a lot of people play them quite happily, convinced of their moral okayness.

I have known a sadistic psychopath very well. He caused suffering - not exactly for pleasure, although he did get pleasure out of it. He described it as more like curiosity, he wanted to watch what would happen. He had no 'compunction'. But he wasn't, like the personification of evil or anything. He was full of sadness, and of course did some very good things. Some heroic things, actually, which are probably easier for a man without 'compunction'.

Mostly, I was thinking about cats playing with mice! If they were human, we'd call that 'evil'.

SinisterSal Sat 21-Dec-13 00:03:48

No there are no evil lions.
But the lion kills for meat.

The evil person would kill for personal gratification, not to protect, to eat or anything else but for the sheer pleasure of causing suffering/pain/fear. Zero sum. A direct transfer that the victims pain becomes the perpretrators pleasure. Is evil the intent, then, rather than the act?

garlicbaubles Sat 21-Dec-13 00:04:54

Thank you, Youre smile

SinisterSal Sat 21-Dec-13 00:06:08

satisfying one's curiosity is pleasurable, though

garlicbaubles Sat 21-Dec-13 00:22:08

Yes ... and the suffering was part of the payback, for him. It's extraordinary how fundamental empathy (or theory of mind) is to our understanding of morality.

I think this is why 'othering' is so crucial to successful campaigns against people: when we convince ourselves they're not quite human like us, we relieve ourselves of caring about their life experience. Sociopaths have already 'othered' everyone else, by the nature of their disorder.

I am utterly terrified by the 'othering' that's going on in our society, right now - but I still wouldn't want to dehumanise the bastards who are doing it! (I can think of some things I would like to do them, though!)

SinisterSal Sat 21-Dec-13 00:33:08

that's a very interesting point, about sociopaths having automatically 'othered' everyone else.

It's extraordinary how fundamental empathy (or theory of mind) is to our understanding of morality.
I wonder about this. Sweeping generalisation alert. But one of the features of the Abrahamic religions is the emphasis placed on the individual. You can especially see this in the New Testament, Every sparrow that falls, all that. Obviously we are heavily influenced by that, in comparison to say the more community focused systems like Confucianism. So you can see where the theory of mind and respect for the individual experience grew from. So I wonder would other understandings of morality have slighty different shadings, more of an emphasis on trangressions of the social mores?

garlicbaubles Sat 21-Dec-13 00:43:35

I dunno. My current understanding is that 'empathy' has evolved in response to human need to live in communities - we're pretty feeble as animals go, but gain advantage by acting as groups. A community with a high proportion of non-empathetic individualists would tear itself apart, leaving the 'winners' alone & vulnerable.

From this point of view, I see all cultural systems as dependent on empathy to survive. But I'm willing to be proved wrong! (And am being pretty circumspect in my use of the word 'empathy'. It's a bit of a woolly term.)

msmiggins Sat 21-Dec-13 08:02:29

Altruism garlic?

MostlyLovingLurchers Sat 21-Dec-13 11:04:42

In response to Sal's point re the individual, i think there is a marked difference between the Abrahamic faiths and the eastern traditions in this regard. Most eastern belief systems (generalising a bit here) teach that we are all ultimately one, all life is connected. So, to do harm to someone else is to hurt yourself, To be kind and compassionate to others is to be kind to yourself. This is why it is thought that we have an innate sense of right and wrong. When someone acts against this sense it is generally because they are detached from who they are and what they are (for all the reasons already mentioned), and so are lacking in empathy.

Re cats and mice, often animals do this is because they are honing their hunting skills, so although it may seem like wilful murder there is a point to it (they do seem to rather enjoy it though). Otters do this too with frogs - they will kill dozens in one go. It is not for food or for blood lust, but is how they teach their young how to hunt, although it can look like a pointless massacre if you find the carnage the next day.

If we're ok with animals killing to gain an advantage for their offspring then what is actually wrong with humans doing it. The equivalent for us would be killing your neighbours to gain nutritious food, a warm house and money to pay for university and private medical care. If you did it to give your offspring a better chance it is logical enough.

If we did though then we'd have to spend all our time defending against neighbours doing the same things to us. We couldn't really send the kids to university because someone would be trying to kill them so they could get first place or a nicer room.

So it's not so much evil as impractical. If we just learned that it was in our own interest to work together then evil is just a label for behaviour that messes up the system.

Does that mean that all criminals are simply cheating or is there a smaller group that breaks the rules without the excuse of gaining an advantage who are worse?

garlicbaubles Sat 21-Dec-13 12:20:24

YES, miggins, that's more like it. Thanks!

garlicbaubles Sat 21-Dec-13 12:31:04

Evil is just a label for behaviour that messes up the system.

I agree with this, too. I don't believe there's any such thing as total selflessness - everything we do is for a payback of some kind, even if it's a maladapted emotional reward (eg, why I'm doing this instead of my laundry!) or a contribution to the communal favour bank.

Does that mean that all criminals are simply cheating or is there a smaller group that breaks the rules without the excuse of gaining an advantage who are worse?

There are, I think, smaller groups that break the rules for extremely maladapted emotional rewards. My psychopath dad would be among them. But psychopaths can live acceptably within society: they have to learn the rules the way we learn history, but they can do it IF they perceive rewards for making the continuous effort.

Which brings us back to the question, is 'evil' just a word we apply to the results of other people's unhappy psychology?

MostlyLovingLurchers Sat 21-Dec-13 12:45:16

If we're ok with animals killing to gain an advantage for their offspring then what is actually wrong with humans doing it.

I guess the difference is our survival doesn't depend on killing (obviously humans have killed to further their own ends throughout history). A carnivorous animal who relies on hunting has no choice but to be a successful hunter, and in order for their offspring to survive to teach them how to be successful hunters. As humans we also try to equip our offspring with the skills they need for surival, just thankfully they are slightly different ones.

Minnieistheglittermouse Sat 21-Dec-13 13:06:39

The difference here to my mind is far simpler. I've seen evil. I saw it in a person. It exists. Sadly. It's above and beyond 'bad' and this cerebral exercise. You are using evil as a theological or mental discussion. Might as well ask if we all feel the suns heat the same way. It's as useful, not.

I'll bow out now. As someone will make arguments as to why certain acts should be really ok. It's been borderline already with the assertion some acts can be 'pleasurable' and it's not much of a stretch to the next point.

It then concerns me as to the veracity of whose on the discussion. Not something I'm comfortable with.

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!

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Missed it too.

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

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?

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 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?

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?

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

Who are the evil worshippers?

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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".

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.

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.

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 23:26:32

"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.

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 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 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.

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