On Evil…..Its Perpetuation….and Its Destruction

good_vs_evilWhat is evil? Is it a thing, something in existence? Is it the opposite of good?

Good appears to be embodied in being, in people for example. Goodness has a quality of a thing, something that exists in being. If evil is the opposite of good, then it too exists as a thing in being.

If evil exists as a thing, then God does not exist. Why? Because if God exists and is good, then evil cannot be created and exist, otherwise God is not good. In other words, if God creates evil then we are mistaken that the creator is all good and therefore we are mistaken about the creator-as-creator.

We have four possibilities: 1) God exists and has created evil (a contradiction and so we can dismiss this one); 2) God exists and has not created evil (although it can exist, just not as a created thing); 3) God does not exist (as monotheism describes God) and evil exists as a thing (as goodness exists as a thing). In this case we have a form of ancient Manichaeism which suggested a struggle between good (as a spiritual thing, but not with the attributes of the monotheistic God) and evil (as a material thing). Augustine of Hippo eventually came to dismiss this premise because this way of living condoned evil (after all, if it exists alongside good, and defines the physical world, it cannot be all that bad); or 4) neither exists.

So, the two premises with the fewest contrary or contradictory aspects are #2 and 4: God exists and evil is not a thing (a creation of a good creator), or God does not exist (with the attributes as outlines by monotheistic theology) and evil does not exist other than perhaps as an illusion.

We will develop point #2 and allow atheists/materialists to voice their view in #4.

If evil is not a thing, then what is it? Augustine of Hippo solved this problem (of whether or not evil exists) by arguing that evil exists as the absence of good. It is not an opposite thing to good. Instead it is the absence of that which is good. (We are not saying that people are evil. Instead, we are interested in evil as evil and not as embodied or not in persons.)

If evil exists, then, how does it continue to exist? How is it perpetuated? I think evil continues to exist as viruses continue to exist: Each has to seek a host on which to prey to continue in existence. In other words, evil must somehow (the mechanism of this need not concern us here) have an effect upon good so that it ceases to be good or at least fully good. It invades good, in a certain sense. (As a virus cannot be 100% effective in destroying all hosts lest it become extinguished, evil cannot be 100% effective lest it has no more hosts).

To continue to exist, a virus then needs to continually inhabit other hosts. Evil, then, must go from the goodness in one being to another being. Evil has to spread to continue in existence.

I think that resentment is a primary mechanism for evil to continually find new hosts in which to exist. Why? Because resentment is the seed of rage and revenge. If we can destroy the mechanism by which evil seeks new hosts, then evil is destroyed (because it no longer can jump from host to host, as a virus does.)

Forgiveness is the means by which resentment no longer exists.fear_no_evil_original Forgiveness, therefore, destroys the pathway of evil from one person to another. Forgiveness stops the spread of the disease of evil as sound hygiene stops the spread of viruses.

Forgiveness not only provides the mechanism by which evil no longer can spread from host to host but also forgiveness stops the effects of evil within any one host (person). Forgiveness eradicates the resentment (with its concomitant anger, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and hopelessness) destroying the effects of evil.

Forgiveness, then, has a vital role to play in destroying both evil itself and the effects of evil.

Long live forgiveness. Is forgiveness a thing?  We will ponder this one another time. Well, ok, here is the answer: Good exists as a thing. Forgiveness is part of the good. Therefore, forgiveness exists as a thing. If forgiveness exists as a thing, then what is it? From the viewpoint of monotheistic theology, it is an attribute of God and is therefore a thing. Atheists, you may come in with a different viewpoint, which we will respectfully consider.

Robert

15 thoughts on “On Evil…..Its Perpetuation….and Its Destruction

  1. Chris May 10, 2013 / 11:43 am

    The atheist/materialist technically cannot enter into this discussion because he has already decided not to use the evaluative, “judgmental” language of moral virtues. There is no true right and wrong here. “Right and wrong” are convenient place-holders for natural selection and its moral neutrality. If the atheist/materialist insists on using moral language, then we must ask what this is all about. If they cannot engage in discourse withour moral language, then it follows that they cannot engage in such discourse without God. This is the case because there has to be an origin of goodness. If it has just evolved, it is not truly good, but only serves to preserve life and pass on genes to subsequent generations.

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  2. Alexis May 10, 2013 / 12:03 pm

    Just as a clarification, the term “thing” in philosophy suggests an actual entity rather than, say, merely a thought. A person, then, is a thing as is an apple and the ocean. Because God (in the Christian worldview) is three Persons in one God, it is legitimate to refer to God (strictly in philosophical terms) as also possessing the properties of a thing. It is not meant as a term of disrepect.

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  3. Andy May 10, 2013 / 12:09 pm

    An atheist can say this, that persons have developed in their use of precise language and therefore moral words are legitimate. Certain behaviors will promote the species while others will not. We can refer to those behaviors that perpetuate the species as good. Those which destroy the species or threated to do so are evil. These words then are meant to relay something quite different than the use in this blog post, but I think the words are legitimate in and of themselves.

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  4. Beth May 10, 2013 / 12:19 pm

    Andy, you actually cannot mean the same thing as Robert does in the blog post. He has another post in which he talks of the “equivocation” of meaning. By this philosophers mean that one word can have two very different meanings. That previous post made this very point about the term “forget” which can mean a “wiping away from memory” or a “putting an issue behind us.” It is the same with the moral language of good and evil. You cannot mean by evil that which is morally reprehenisble or bad. If you do, then what is your standard for saying that? When someone gets a “bad grade” on a test it is because there is a standard, an existing standard on which the student is judged. This standard implies that there is a good, a good that exists. If you start saying that the destruction of the species is “bad,” then you must have a standard that includes the good. And when you do that, you must ask what that standard of goodness is. And this might make you bump right into the ultimate good, which is God. So, either you commit the fallacy of equivocation or you accept that there is good or you have no voice on the matter.

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  5. Marcy May 10, 2013 / 1:03 pm

    The destruction of evil is something I had not considered before. Forgiveness does seem to have the qualities to do just that. We need to take forgiveness very seriously especially in light of all the crazy evil that is going on in the world today. The Boston marathon bombing is just one example of crazy evil and we have to have an answer. Forgiveness is a cause for us to hope.

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  6. Samantha May 10, 2013 / 1:13 pm

    Forgiveness by human effort will never eradicate all evil from the world, but even if it makes a dint in the problem then it needs to be tried. Your website helps get the word out on this. In an indirect way your site is helping to destroy evil.

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  7. Jichan May 10, 2013 / 2:41 pm

    Another question to ask then is where does evil come from? It is not from God, but God created everything (everything that is good), so it (the absence of what is good) must be permitted by God (different from saying approved by God) without compromising his goodness. Among creatures, who/what has such a quality? I think we are… humans who are capable of choosing between forgiveness and resentment.

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  8. Andy May 10, 2013 / 2:51 pm

    I am afraid that I cannot accept the ideas so far posted. You talk of goodness coming from a divine person who is good. Were this the case, then this all-good and all-powerful being surely could have “created” the creatures to be all good without evil. This shows a defect in both the created and the creator.

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  9. Samantha May 10, 2013 / 3:14 pm

    Andy, are you aware of Augustine’s notion of plentitude? This amounts to the highest possible good. The highest possible good must include free will and free will must include the possibility of choosing for oneself, which at times might be immoral choices. Further, the greatest possible good includes self-sacrificial love and forgiveness, which particularly shine under the conditions of evil. No, Andy, a good God would not make us robots incapable of choice and of engaging in the heroic virtues.

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  10. Jichan May 10, 2013 / 3:26 pm

    Hi Andy, I think we are asking a similar question. After reading this blog post, I thought more about the source of evil. God did not create evil, but evil clearly exists. Then, where did it come from? I think evil came in because we humans used our free will (which is not something bad but our essence) to alienate ourselves from the source of good.

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  11. Andy May 10, 2013 / 3:29 pm

    Hello, Jichan. OK, let us assume you are correct. Why would a good God allow us to choose evil. I understand that evil comes from us, from our deliberately choosing not to do good. An all-powerful God surely could find a way out of that, don’t you think?

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    • Jichan May 10, 2013 / 3:39 pm

      I agree with you Andy. I think God can surely find a way out of that–by wiping out the human race. Without free will, there will be animals, robots, and all others, but no human beings.

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      • Andy May 10, 2013 / 4:19 pm

        But, don’t Christians say that there is no evil in heaven? If that is so, then why does not the divine being arrange it that way now on earth?

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      • Samantha May 10, 2013 / 4:43 pm

        Andy, here is the theological point. This earth is the time of growth for us and this includes growth in the virtues. We will not grow in what has been called here the heroic virtues (self-sacrificial love and forgiveness as examples) unless we react to hardship, which includes evil. God does not create the evil, but uses it for good. Christians, for example, are well aware that in Christ’s suffering there was triumph. We have a similar opportunity. Evil is the chance to grow. As the blog post states, we have the chance here on earth to destroy evil. That is an opportunity for growth, is it not?

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      • Jichan May 10, 2013 / 4:44 pm

        That’s really a great question. I’m not sure I have a clear answer to it, but in my opinion, God wants to “arrange it that way now on earth.” It just that the source of evil is not God, so he is left with two choices: wait for those who are alienated from him to come back or wipe out and start again.

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