Someone might be misguided, bad, or even horrible. But what must they do to be called evil?
Do you have a definition of “evil”, whether that includes an action, a person, or a group?
Related questions: Why are bad words bad? How important is the artist to art? What does it mean to be a good person? Why do we hate?
5 thoughts on “What Is Your Definition Of Evil?”
I believe some people are at a basic level evil. Those who subjugate others fit this category. Others who frequently and intentionally act with malice belong here too. And, as is a prime example now, aggressors of war are evil.
I also believe that nearly everyone in wealthy countries participates in actions and non-actions that perpetuate systemic evils. Either out of ignorance or indifference, almost all of us benefit from systems that provide us with comfort at the expense of others. For instance, Americans’ energy usage, filling landfills with wasted food, excessive consumption of meat, and accumulation of things we will rarely use dramatically contributes to climate change. As a result, for example, island nations are disappearing right now, as these nations’ lands no longer exist! Similarly, many poorer countries in the southern hemisphere suffer formerly-populated or farmland land loss because of the consumption of many wealthier nations in the northern hemisphere.
Here’s what I don’t believe evil is: I don’t think that evil is a supernatural force at war with good or warring with a god or gods. While this may offend some, I believe this reduces the responsibility many feel to not only change their indifferent ways but to demand changes to systems that perpetuate evil.
Michael, I like to distinguish between people and their actions. Good people can do evil, and vice versa. My first reaction to your question was that Vladymir Putin is the personification of evil, because he is inflicting so much harm on others. Is he evil or is he mentally unbalanced? Is there any difference? He is committing crimes against humanity and needs to be brought to justice.
Very, very few people would warrant being called evil in my mind, but occasionally when someone has committed intolerable acts and I think there is no hope for them to refrain from such very bad behavior and I truly believe they will never turn recover, then I might call them evil.
Ruby, I agree with most of your comment, and yet I believe no one is so evil they cannot be forgiven and rehabilitated. If a person grows up in a culture that doesn’t value human life, they can kill innocent human beings and think they are making the world better. I think that is why we need religions or philosophies that teach the golden rule.
Here is a quote from the Hebrew Scriptures prophet Ezekiel that jumped out at me today:
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord,
but rather in his conversion, that he may live.