Social Question

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Do you personally believe in evil?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (21480 points ) January 11th, 2014

If you personally believe in evil what are your examples of its existence?

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48 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Dennis Rodman

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

^ How does that prove evil? Does that mean his parents were evil since they begot him? How many other concur that he is the face of evil?

ETpro's avatar

I don’t “believe” is evil, I see stark evidence of it. Child abuse, genocide, suicide bombings attacking innocents because their God isn’t the same as the bomber’s god, corporate pollution and corruption, hate crimes, murder, bullying, the list could go on and on. The Golden Rule defines morality. Transgressing it defines evil.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Yes I believe in evil. It is typically found riding the horse of deception.

ragingloli's avatar

Defining evil as deliberately inflicting harm, pain, death and destruction, the christian god, while being fictional, is the archetype of evil.

cookieman's avatar

No. I believe in some humans making choices and taking actions that other humans commonly define as “evil” because most of us are repulsed by the behavior.

filmfann's avatar

Yes, I believe there is a Devil, and that evil exists.
My examples? The 9–11 attacks, Dick Cheney, Slavery, Drug Cartels, and my old boss.

downtide's avatar

I believe that human beings are capable of evil acts. I do not believe that evil exists outside of human minds and motivations. Examples – Hitler, Harold Shipman, Google.

flutherother's avatar

You very rarely see unmitigated evil in individuals. It is when people get together in a common ideological cause that it flourishes best. There are many examples.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Yes. Too much evil occurs for me not to.

janbb's avatar

This feels too much like a religious probe for me to answer comfortably.

thorninmud's avatar

The problem with objectifying evil is that it makes it too easy to deny one’s own capacity for darkness. We see this on a grand scale when nations go to war under the pretext of combating evil (remember the “axis of evil”?), only to be shocked when “evil” emerges on their side, too (remember Abu Ghraib?). It’s too comfortable and convenient to posit evil as a thing separate from one’s self. Realistically, light exists side by side with darkness in the human mind; at every moment, either is an option. Unless that capacity for darkness is recognized in one’s own mind, it will be all the easier to fall into it unawares.

Seek's avatar

Oddly enough, when I was religious, I didn’t believe in evil. Even Lucifer believed he was right.

However, as a secular adult, I’ve seen too many examples of people deliberately causing harm to other people for their own material gain (in this life or some posited next). I would define that as evil.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Yes I believe there is evil, and it is a choice made by all of us, wether we act on it or not.

tom_g's avatar

Some people use “evil” to describe people or actions that we identify as immoral. So, yes – I believe the word “evil” exists that serves a purpose. But this is probably quite different from what Christian’s might consider evil.

tom_g's avatar

^ Christian’s Christians

elbanditoroso's avatar

Sure. There is evil. It don’t see it in any way connected to god or anything supernatural; rather I see it as something that is repulsive.

The way I see it, “evil” and “sin” are the same as “good” or “moral” – there isn’t an external yardstick (bible, for example), but rather personal view and ethics.

Blackberry's avatar

Not supernatural, but actions and intentions can be evil. I guess a more grounded term would be malice.

tranquilsea's avatar

The idea of evil changes as societies progress or regress. It is very subjective. My problem with the term is that it often takes away personal responsibility.

TheRealOldHippie's avatar

If you knew my ex, you wouldn’t find it necessary to ask this question!!

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, I believe in evil. But I also believe that it’s the product of a disturbed human mind or minds.

I read a true-crime book several years ago (I wouldn’t cite it if I could, as it’s, well, evil) about a man that fell truly, madly deeply in love with his 13 year old biological daughter, and fathering children with her within the family home/unit. The book ends with him systematically killing every member of his extended family on Christmas, but for one daughter-in-law who was too sick to attend.

It was hideous. The embodiment of evil. I’m sorry I read it, and it haunts me to this day, several years later.

josie's avatar

Evil is nothing more than the void that exists when the Good (a particular product
of human choice and action) does not assert itself.

ibstubro's avatar

Good is nothing more than the void that exists when the Evil (a particular product
of human choice and action) does not assert itself.

Paradox25's avatar

I do because I believe people have freewill. I view the term ‘evil’ like I do terms like ‘cold’ or ‘dark’ though, that it means a lack of something rather than a truly opposite concept or entity. To me evil is the lack of love fueled mainly by willful ignorance, so I tend to use the term negation in describing evil.

talljasperman's avatar

I believe that anything that corners or traps me is evil, and to be dealt with by calling the police.

thorninmud's avatar

@josie Is that saying that evil is the default state of nature unless humans come along and good-ify it?

josie's avatar

@thorninmud
Nature simply is. Good and evil are descriptive terms of human choice and action. Sort of like big and small are descriptive terms of size. The default state of nature has no moral quality.

And all of those are conceptual, meaning they are unique to human consciousness.

thorninmud's avatar

@josie I’m just asking because I’ve seen the “Evil is the absence of Good” argument used in a theistic context, where it evokes images of God as the positive force of Good, and Evil as the void left when God withdraws. But I know you’re not a theist, and I’m trying to see how this framing works in a strictly humanist sense.

It seems that if Good is a product of human choice and action, and Evil just is what you’ve got in its absence, then not choosing and not acting would be Evil. But it looks to me that not choosing and not acting is pretty much Nature, which, as you said, simply is, without moral valence.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@thorninmud But I know you’re not a theist, and I’m trying to see how this framing works in a strictly humanist sense.
In a purely humanistic manner if I had a child that was in need and no way to provide for him/her, such as food, clothes, etc. If I know that some miles away the better off neighborhood logically had what I needed, I would go up there with a shotgun, find some elderly person or one I figure weaker than myself, and rob them of their valuables. If they resisted, I would simply blast them with the shotgun and take their goods. I would not care if they lived or died, or what hurt their families would go through; I care just for my family. To me it is logical to take from the weak, why try to take from the strong where personal injury might develop? To the vic I plundered, they would see me as evil.

janbb's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Those sound like good Christian values! It sounds like you are now saying that Evil is subjective and not some abstract out there other.

thorninmud's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central In my first answer, I talked about the problem with objectifying Evil, thinking of it as something “out there”. I think that what you’re saying here demonstrates the problem with objectifying Good.

Here’s an example of a common way of objectifying Good: God is the source of all that is good. Whatever good there is in the human heart and mind is basically “on tap” from this divine source. If a person cuts himself off from this external source, then Evil takes over.

So in this scheme, God is the repository of all that is good. If that’s how you see it, then you imagine what your moral landscape would look like without God in the picture. You imagine that once you’re unplugged from the universal supply of Good, a cold calculus of self-interest would take over (which is essentially the mind of the psychopath). That leads to the kind of overblown scenario you describe. In short, only God keeps us from being psychopaths.

Fortunately, that’s just not true. There certainly are psychopaths in the world, but belief in God is by no means what determines whether one is or isn’t a psychopath (I was interested to see here that psychopaths often become clergy members).

Why is objectifying Good a problem? I was raised to think like you, that if you cut yourself off from God, then Evil takes over. Over many years I saw things that appeared to confirm this: somebody who had been an upstanding member of the congregation would suddenly spin out and cut loose in ways that looked like they had abandoned God and were being taken over by Evil. I now see that this was really just a consequence of objectifying Good.

When you outsource your moral judgment, so that “Good” means behaving according to some received code of conduct, then you tend to lose sight of the fact that you have your own internal moral compass, one based on compassion. It’s like someone who has become totally reliant on GPS when they drive, and so they stop paying attention to their own sense of direction and geography. When the GPS loses its satellite connection, they’re completely lost. But someone who never had GPS will have nurtured those inner resources and, while he may still occasionally get lost, isn’t reliant on some outer source of guidance.

rojo's avatar

@thorninmud I appreciate your analogy to the GPS and the consequences of being overly reliant on only one source.

Coloma's avatar

“Evil” is being unconscious and uncaring of how ones actions effect others, plain and simple.
Lack of conscience, consciousness, empathy, the ability to see the big picture all contribute to evil.
Yes, I agree, evil is not something that exists outside of an individuals fucked up programming, mental illness, pathological selfishness ( narcissism ), where every action is taken in the interest of self promotion, greed, lust, entitlement, regardless of who is harmed along the way.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@thorninmud I was raised to think like you, that if you cut yourself off from God, then Evil takes over.
If you were as I you would know that the state of iniquity was prevalent always; evil is merely a byproduct of it.

When you outsource your moral judgment, so that “Good” means behaving according to some received code of conduct, then you tend to lose sight of the fact that you have your own internal moral compass, one based on compassion.
Everyone’s moral compass is received by someone; many just don’t know from where theirs come from or deny where it came from. Who says compassion is innate and not learned? Look at a new born baby to a toddler they do not automatically have compassion, benevolence, empathy, etc. they have to be taught those things. Covetousness, selfishness, anger, etc. they know this without being told or taught. Would they just ”grow out of it” if no one ever taught them to share, not steal cookies from the jar, lie, or strike other kids who made them upset?

It’s like someone who has become totally reliant on GPS when they drive, and so they stop paying attention to their own sense of direction and geography. When the GPS loses its satellite connection, they’re completely lost. But someone who never had GPS will have nurtured those inner resources and, while he may still occasionally get lost, isn’t reliant on some outer source of guidance.
A ”man-centered morality” would be like that. My morality is like using the sun or north on a compass to guide me, those things are constant and so far infallible, even science has proven that. There is never a way not to have the right signal, only my misreading or not reading it. In spite of what I do, the sun will rise in the east and set in the west.

thorninmud's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central If you were as I you would know that the state of iniquity was prevalent always; evil is merely a byproduct of it.
As I said, light and darkness exist side by side in the human mind. Either is an option at any given moment. I wouldn’t say that darkness typically dominates, as you seem to think. People usually discover that love and kindness is more conducive to happiness than hate is,

Everyone’s moral compass is received by someone
Yes, we absorb many of the specifics of our moral sense from the people and culture around us. That’s probably why the apostle Paul seemed to be fine with the whole concept of slavery.

Look at a new born baby to a toddler they do not automatically have compassion, benevolence, empathy, etc. they have to be taught those things.
What babies and toddlers are born with is a social brain. We’re wired, from the very beginning, to want to be loved, accepted and have a place in group. We have the neural equipment to sense how well that’s going. The rest is trial and error. Some behaviors seem to cause others to accept us, some cause others to reject us. Eventually, we figure out that hurting people or making them angry is a generally bad social strategy. And when our behaviors enable us to fit in well and be accepted, we feel good. It’s a very simple mechanism that leads to some very complex systems.

There is never a way not to have the right signal, only my misreading or not reading it.
When the Pharisees were about to stone the prostitute, whose signal were they following? Had they misread God’s moral instructions? I imagine that they had grown up in a cultural stew (seasoned with the law of Moses) that caused them to abhor prostitutes and think of them as worthy of death. Jesus, to his great credit, realized that no matter what the “law” says, you just don’t treat other people like that. If you want to know how to behave, in other words, don’t go looking it up in a book; treat others the way you’d want to be treated.

Whenever some “word from God” has appeared on the scene telling us how to behave, it seems like it takes us centuries to begin to realize how much some of it violates that simple “inner compass” rule, and then there’s the inevitable societal struggle to set things right. Jesus was at the forefront of that kind of struggle in his day. Today, we’re beginning to realize how denying gays their rightful place in society is just such a violation. The Muslim world is struggling mightily with its own relics from the “word of God”.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@thorninmud I think some people allow darkness to dominate, or even foster the dark side. Personally, I am not an optimistic person, but I force myself to eliminate evil thoughts, evil deeds and make a conscious effort to repel negativity in every way. I do find that my belief in God strengthens me in that effort.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@thorninmud That’s probably why the apostle Paul seemed to be fine with the whole concept of slavery.
From what I read the apostle Paul was not fine with slavery, neither is the Lord. Since man is predisposed to do that and many other things, well, you have heard it, because they do not believe the One whom Paul spoke of, the Lord was at least telling them how they ought to do it.

When the Pharisees were about to stone the prostitute, whose signal were they following?
Before I could answer that, I would need to know if you understand the difference between the law and Grace, and how Christ/God ties it all together.

I imagine that they had grown up in a cultural stew (seasoned with the law of Moses) that caused them to abhor prostitutes and think of them as worthy of death. Jesus, to his great credit, realized that no matter what the “law” says, you just don’t treat other people like that. If you want to know how to behave, in other words, don’t go looking it up in a book; treat others the way you’d want to be treated.
That is partially right, Jesus wrote the Law, He was showing a better way, the way of grace that was only possible by His sacrifice. Christ was the only one qualified to carry that out under grace because He had never sinned; the Pharisees have, and they knew it. Christ did not spare her because he did not believe in the law He Himself wrote.

Seek's avatar

Leviticus 25:

38 I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.
39 And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant:
40 But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile.
41 And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return.
42 For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen.
43 Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God.
44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids.
45 Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession.

thorninmud's avatar

@KNOWITALL There are definitely people who give themselves over to their darkness. For the rest of us, like you, we try to remain aware of our dark potentials and choose not act on them. In your case, faith plays a role in that. I’ve always appreciated in you that you seem willing to reject the “party line” when you find that it doesn’t jibe with your own sense of what’s right. I respect that.

In my own case, faith isn’t a factor. I just want the world to thrive. I find that my happiness isn’t separate from how everyone else is doing. My happiness is intimately linked with the well-being of everyone else, and certainly can’t come at the expense of others’ well-being. Keeping that in mind helps me avoid my darker inclinations.

thorninmud's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central I remember very well how it felt as a Christian to have to come up with intricate workarounds to justify the many ghastly aspects of the Bible and somehow harmonize them with a loving God. I know all those arguments because I rehearsed them to myself once upon a time.

Maybe you can piece together an apologia, with the help of the many others who have also tried to make some moral sense of the Bible as a whole, that will satisfy you. But personally, I can assure you that things get a lot clearer when you just admit that yes, some of that stuff really is simply awful. Your gut is right in recoiling in distaste, if not horror, at some of it. There’s no need to bend over backwards to justify or sanitize it; just be glad that we’ve gotten past thinking that this is how it’s supposed to be.

If you’re so inclined, by all means join @KNOWITALL in drawing strength from Jesus’ message of love.

talljasperman's avatar

Evil is the opposite of live… so evil is anything that prevents life from occurring.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@thorninmud There’s no need to bend over backwards to justify or sanitize it; just be glad that we’ve gotten past thinking that this is how it’s supposed to be.
Bending over backwards would be to try to pigeonhole God into agreeing with the world so that man can do as he feels denying God His sovereignty. There is no need to try to excuse man of willful disobedience because it is convenient to use to escape any culpability.

If you’re so inclined, by all means join @KNOWITALL in drawing strength from Jesus’ message of love.
I can say that as well, if you are so incline you can forget the excuse tactics and end embrace the full message and grace of Christ. Everyone wants God’s stuff and forgiveness but don’t want to give him honor or even credit for it. How @KNOWITALL worships God or perceives the message is between her and God. If it ingratiates her more to you all, if she does so without letting the leaven work through her dough, I am more than happy for her. I have to do what is right for God before I do what is right for any man. There is not a single man on this planet now, or that will ever come in the future that can save, raise, or decide where my soul will go for eternity; if he shows up, I will then listen to him and what he is preaching.

ETpro's avatar

^^^ Doxastic closure.

thorninmud's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central …if he shows up, I will then listen to him and what he is preaching
I have to wonder if that’s really true. Let’s go back to that scene were the Pharisees are poised to stone the prostitute. They know exactly what God has told them to do because it’s written in no uncertain terms in God’s word. Along comes a guy who challenges this. He tells them they they have no moral standing to do what the law dictates.

Now, he doesn’t say, “Yo, I’m God, so I make the rules. Disregard what I said before”. And he doesn’t whup out some miracle to show them he means business. He simply directs them to their own humanity. He says, in effect, “You’re not so different from her. Where do you get off treating her like that?”.

Don’t you suppose that the more zealous of the Pharisees, the ones who were absolutely certain about the righteousness of following God’s word even when it commanded that they ignore their own sense of compassion, would have thought “Who the hell are you to suggest that we not execute God’s will here?”.

Maybe some of that group were moved to a change of heart. But I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have been those who were so certain about what was right that they couldn’t here anything else. And it wouldn’t have been those who needed a miracle to convince them. It would have been those who were willing to set aside what was written, and consult their hearts.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central That’s the whole thing about a personal relationship with God, if Him and I are good, that’s all that matters. :)

filmfann's avatar

^^^ I believe in that!

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@thorninmud I could explain that to you, but since I am some misogynistic, homophobic, zealot, and bigot (not that you said so, but widely believed it seems), I will let @KNOWITALL explain it to you, seeing the Collective likes her swagger better, I am sure you would listen more closely. It is important enough that I would not want you to miss the opportunity to learn from it because my personality got in your way. :-)

DWW25921's avatar

Yes. Simply put, it is the antithesis of good.

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