The existence of evil is taken for granted by many people of diverse faiths and cultures. Beliefs in the existence of evil have evolved into elaborate, well-established doctrines that inform many people"s opinions regarding evil so completely that they may fail to consider whether evil may really be real.|
If we accept three Christian premises that are common to many faiths, that God exists, that God is the creator of all things, and that God is good, then we have to seriously doubt the existence of evil, because a good God would never create evil, unless evil served some good purpose.
But then evil would not be evil, evil would then be good.
We cannot, however, simply dismiss out of hand the faithful belief in evil of so many of the world"s religious peoples.
While we challenge the real existence of evil, we acknowledge that a majority of people appear to profess a sincere belief in the existence of evil.
But what is evil really?
On one level, evil is a label; whatever we personally dislike in ourselves or other people may be considered to be evil either by ourselves or by others. Labeling someone or something evil may often serve valuable social functions, such as polarizing a community so that opposing factions may more easily recognize each others’ members.
Labeling someone evil may ostracize them from a mainstream community, another valuable social function because, on the one hand, it may help reduce their opportunity to harm community members, while, on the other hand, perhaps much more importantly, ostracization may help prevent people labeled evil from successfully publicly challenging the dominant doctrines of their alienated church or state.
On another level, evil might be considered to be anything or anyone that has caused harm. Given a wide enough scope, many people may conclude God must be evil, simply because so many things in life appear to cause harm, such as storms, poisonous creatures, or human beings.
Many socially condemned forms of human behavior may be considered to be evil, such as cheating, thieving, or violence.
It is important to remember that these things are not, in and of themselves, actually evil; they are really only labeled evil as a commonplace convention to define local limits of acceptable social behavior.
On still another level, the myth of the existence of evil is manifest in beliefs in evil spirits who either directly cause evil or who tempt people to do evil.
At this level, evil often becomes personified as God"s adversary. The myth of the existence of evil then takes on a supernatural presence and an inimical stature mighty enough to rival God himself.
And yet, God can have no rivals; most monotheistic religious doctrines hold God to be peerless.
While we must continue to doubt the existence of evil, we cannot doubt the existence of the belief in evil, a belief that is a common part of the dialogues of every human society.
Perhaps we can approach the problems of the existence of a persistent belief in evil by asking, “Why do these beliefs exist?”
On the most mundane levels, all evil appears to have natural origins. Evil exists either by accident, such as with floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes, or evil exists by design, because a human being has chosen to hurt themselves or someone else.
Because both nature and human nature contribute to human suffering, nature has been commonly characterized as an evil adversary of God. By extension, those who worship nature have also been labeled evil.
A strong adversary, either real, or imagined is easily exploited to polarize communities and direct their productivity to a common purpose, their mutual self-defense.
In order to use a belief in the existence of evil to manipulate and exploit communities it is necessary to maintain conditions that contribute to human suffering. It is hard to believe in an impersonal evil with the strength of conviction required to surrender our freedom, taxes, tithes, or our lives, when we feel content and happy, so evil must be made a constant presence in our lives by those who exploit our beliefs in evil for their own political or theological power.
There is no dearth of misfortune to contribute to people"s pain, suffering, or anger. However, there are deeper, more meaningful forms of harm, harms caused by human designs, which may become the real meat in a cognitive diet of belief in evil.
In order to successfully exploit a belief that evil exists, a constant state of fear is desired. The more fearful we are, the less rational we become as individuals, or collectively as communities. The less rational we are able to behave either individually, or collectively as a people, the more easily we are manipulated and exploited.
We sincerely doubt in the existence of an incarnation of evil that willfully promotes our fears and exploits our weaknesses, when the idiosyncrasies of human nature are adequate to explain the existence of human behaviors we might label evil out of personal or mutual convenience.
We ourselves, while preferring to disbelieve in the existence of evil, nonetheless can use the belief in the existence of evil to our own advantage. And, if we can manipulate others by their beliefs in evil, then so can anyone else, for we are not in any way a particularly special or privileged person.
Some of the best people on Earth (in their own estimations) rely on the persistent belief in the existence of evil and would have to invent evil to perpetuate their purloined privileges, if belief in evil did not already exist.
A simple examination of the popularity of modern satanic cults of dubious provenance reveals that they are nearly entirely reliant on the existence of Christianity.
The so-called "Satanic Bible" is nothing more than an uninspired revision of Christian Bibles. The Satanic Bible crudely serves several Christian purposes.
Perhaps chief among the Christian purposes served by the Satanic Bible is that it is an instrument that subverts true religious experience just as effectively as the more favorably sanctified bibles of people who falsely considered themselves to be true Christians do.
As nearly as we can tell, there is absolutely no power to be derived from a belief in evil that is not mundane in origin.
By redirecting disaffected Christian youth to Satanism the church successfully builds a base of adversaries with which to frighten and cow its populace. By making Satanism a strong attractor of disaffected Christian youth they divert their youth from the far more threatening doctrines of Pagans, Wiccans, and other Nature worshippers.
True Satanism is an enlightenment movement. The Enlightenment Movement proved such a dangerous adversary of both the church and state that creating a deliberate perversion of Satanism was one of the most reliable ways to undermine the movement.
The enlightenment movement as embodied in its earlier Luciferian form was discredited by association with people labeled evil Satanists who acted out the worst fears of Christians while having no honest affiliation with any true form of Satanism.
Satanic cultists supported by Christian doctrines in turn support Christian faiths and cultures in the same way that militant revolutionaries all too often support the governments they allegedly oppose. Both church and state require their members to believe in the existence of dangerous foes that they alone can protect their people from.
The church and state both use fear to rule their subjects. Both collaborate with each other at their convenience, while each competes with the other to hold the masses as thralls to their false authorities.
If we were to agree to the existence of evil we would have to conclude that both church and state are evil based on their extraordinary histories of evil acts perpetuated to empower themselves and to maintain their powers.
Fortunately, we condemn no church or state as evil, for we cannot believe in the existence of any form of evil that is not a product of human misperception.
Hypocrisy, on the other hand, is evident everywhere we examine the strongest expressed beliefs of states and matters of faith.
We do not need an incarnate evil being to explain the basest acts of human nature, but it is remarkably convenient to create and maintain myths that perpetuate a belief in a being that embodies the ultimate evil incarnate.
As we see it, however, all of human imagination has the power to become real, so an ultimate, incarnate evil being must therefore exist only because we must inevitably create such out of our own misguided beliefs.
An ultimate incarnate evil being may therefore come to exist simply because we have collectively chosen to believe in it.
We must wonder what poor tortured soul we have then forever condemned to eternity in Hell, to be Hell"s master, as a consequence of our own poor, misguided faiths.
Who would choose such a fate for themselves?
Would they abdicate their role if they were free to do so?
Much as we seem to have created a hierarchy of incarnate evil beings as a byproduct of our misguided beliefs, we have also created God and all His Heavenly Hosts as well.
Or we will.
The creation of divine beings is a thorny issue. The creation of an Ultimate Divinity may be the thorniest issue of all.
We humans seem to be perpetually trapped in a mire of our own misbegotten beliefs and illusory perceptions. The true nature of reality is argued endlessly. Advocates on nearly all sides may agree on one thing only, that we simply cannot know what is real and what is not. We may all be only characters in some phantasmal dream, a dream that may not even be our own dream.
In the midst of so much human misery, uncertainty, and suffering we must naturally strive to find something worthy of our faith to believe in, something that is both noble and ennobling. Thus have we dreamt of a good, fair, just, compassionate God.
It is possible our human natures can never be content without an ultimate father or mother figure in whom we may reliably trust our all of our lives and fortunes.
Our own parents cannot help but hurt us, the authority of school masters and church ministries cannot protect us from the harm our parents do; nor can they protect us from the harms they themselves too often do. Parental and societal authorities are both administered with unjust punishments and undeserved rewards.
The immediate perceived harm of a spanking may well serve a greater future good if we learn to harm ourselves or others less often as a result. Yet too often, the perceived injustices of our punishments alienate us from the greater social body, hence the chronic disaffection of many youths who tire of the hypocrisies of their parents, teachers, or spiritual advisors while learning, at the same time, to become much better hypocrites themselves.
Hypocrisy is clearly rewarded; otherwise, it would not be so prevalent in our human societies and cultures.
Yet we would hold forth that even hypocrisy is not evil, albeit it may often exhibit consequences measured in human pain and suffering.
If we do not wish evil to exist in our lives we are powerless to prevent it, except by our own choices to do our best, as best we can. We cannot successfully rule or legislate the behavior of anyone, not even ourselves.
We are an ungovernable lot, we humans.
For all of our best desires to be noble, honest, loving, nurturing, compassionate, human beings, we may all too often still fail to live up to our own highest ideals.
Our human failings may be the inherent results of our all too human natures. However much we may strive to overcome our own perceived faults, we are still likely to fail in our own eyes, to become the harshest critics of our own behavior.
One aspect of human nature and cognitive development seems to compel us to project our failings outside of ourselves; we may often prefer to deny the existence of our own worst faults. We may tend to see our own worst faults more clearly in anyone other than ourselves, and to then label them evil while maintaining a false sense of our own virtue.
This is the root of our hypocrisies both as individuals and as societies.
We have a culturally acquired model of good which we may learn to strive to uphold.
Unfortunately, our own models of our best behaviors often come into conflict with our basest human needs and desires creating tensions within us that can erupt in mayhem or mischief at the vagaries of our emotional dispositions of any peculiar or particular moment.
What seems clearly right or reasonable in a state of anguish, anger, or despair is all too often a cause for our regrets or remorse when we experience moments of greater wisdom, love, compassion, or nurture.
When we are stressed we fall back upon our basest human characteristics more easily. When we are stressed we tend to forget our noblest ideals, ideals that depend upon more highly evolved states of mind than we remain capable of when we become too anxious.
Consequently, many people often find themselves doing things they may later regret, simply because, under stress, their best skills and ideals are less accessible, less functional, than ideals and skills acquired and habituated during earlier, more primitive, more selfish phases of their cognitive or spiritual development.
As human beings we must each recapitulate the growth of our native cultures, we must learn to acquire our highest human ideals and ambitions at the expenses of our more primitive self-serving natures. We begin our lives in states of semi-barbarism; we do not yet know the social conventions we will be expected to maintain.
Our individual and collective growth toward our ideals may be hampered by the pressures of our circumstances. We may learn to hate more easily than we learn to love, we may learn to harm more easily than we may learn to nurture.
It takes a trained human will and strong determination to consistently choose the greater good over our own personal self interests, to learn to choose to sacrifice our fortunes or our very lives for the sakes of our families, friends, communities, or nations.
When we fail our own loftiest human ideals, we often prefer to see our failures as the consequences of the influence of some malignant, incarnate evil being, rather than accept that our failings are simply the results of our own human natures, natures often weakened to their breaking points by our culturally conditioned states of ignorance, stress, and fear.
We nearly always have the capacity to learn to choose to do better. As our behaviors evolve, old behaviors which once rewarded us may become behaviors for which we now punish ourselves or for which we may expect to be punished by others around us who have learned to expect us to do better.
Rewarding behavior on one level may often be punishing behavior on another level, such as eating too many sweets.
When we are hale and hearty, happy and content, the harder choices for our own good or for the welfare of our families, friends, and societies become easier for us to make and to maintain.
Our natural failures to make the best choices consistently when we are under too much stress might be regarded as evil, but we would say that any failure to do our best at any time is more a product of our primitive reflexes or social conditioning than any inherent will to do ill.
If evil exists at all, beyond our acculturated belief in its existence, perhaps it is in our occasional or persistent will to choose to do harm, when we know we can choose to do better.
The existence of a persistent, acculturated belief in evil is conveniently used to explain those hypocritical, idiosyncratic aspects of our own human natures that sometimes cause us to harm ourselves or others.
Occam"s razor simplifies this equation. Evil is not required to explain it; therefore it is not evil which inspires human failings, but only our momentarily inadequate love, wisdom, nurture, or compassion.
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