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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?


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.

OneStepCloser Thu 19-Dec-13 19:39:55

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!

OneStepCloser Thu 19-Dec-13 19:41:33

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.

BackOnlyBriefly Thu 19-Dec-13 19:42:48

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

"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??

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