Evil Essay

This essay has a total of 3291 words and 12 pages.


Senior Seminar
TRL499/Fall 99
Marty Heard

Ten children are killed every day in the United States by guns; people are murdered
senselessly; Columbine High School; Over one-third of middle school children in Cascade
County have used illegal drugs and over one-half have tried alcohol; innocent people in
foreign countries are being wiped out (Kosovo); The Holocaust; Hiroshima; Vietnam;
poverty, starvation and oppression in third world countries; Capitalism; environmental
decay and neglect; the media; Oklahoma City; the uni-bomber; earthquakes, fires,
tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanoes, airplane crashes; domestic/child abuse; disease, birth
defects and mental disorders. Why?Why?Why?… The question never changes and is
asked over and over and over and over. People in every age and every time try to
understand why evil exists, what may be its purpose, and why does it seem at times to be
so present and powerful, or in other words – “why did this have to happen to
me, again?!” Or better yet – “What did I/they do to deserve
this?!” Oh, and here’s another one – “God must be really angry at
you for this to happen!” And finally – “If there really is a God, then
why does He allow such evil to even exist?!” When confronted with the dark side of
life, these questions come naturally to most and not so naturally to some. Yet, they
still come. They have to. As humans made in the image and likeness of a creator who
acted out of pure love and complete freedom, it is our obligation to ask these questions
and to confront the evil situations that exist, situations that go against the very nature
and Spirit of God.

Many conflicts can rise from determining exactly what is evil and what it is not. I
don’t want to go there. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I
should dismiss this argument altogether. I just don’t want to get caught up in the
triviality of different perspectives. In other words, some people refer to evil as sin
and suffering; others think of it as a separation from God while still more people
personify it in the form of satan. My purpose here is not to discuss what form evil may
take in an individual’s life even though it may come up periodically. The central
fact remains that evil, in one form or another, does exist and anyone not willing to
believe in this reality quite frankly lives in a different dimension. Either that, or
they simply live in a total state of denial! Keeping all this in mind, what I want to
accomplish in this paper is to first explore the idea that evil is a relative term that
exists within the context of each situation. Ah, yes! Even as I wrote that last
sentence, I could see the wheels turning in your head. But not to worry. I will clarify
soon. From this point, I will seek the wisdom of people who have tried to answer these
tough questions proposed on the first page, come to some more conclusions through personal
interviews and then end on a more personal note, using the help of my life experience as a
Christian. This topic hits me hard at times. I often find myself in reflection, trying
to formulate an answer to the evil that I see, and yes, the evil that I do. This evil
will sometimes leave me feeling totally powerless and at its mercy. Yet I never give up
hope for I know that just through the process of writing this paper, some new insights
will be reached and I will come to some new levels of awareness. And isn’t that
what it is all about anyway? For I don’t know what the final answer will be, but
the search will go on and on and on. It must. And as a recovering Catholic and a student
of theology, God is calling me to speak boldly and with confidence so as to reaffirm the
‘purely good’ and ‘totally free’ nature from which I was created.

For most who take the time to research and probe into the topic of evil, there exist two
different kinds, natural and moral. I am going to spend the majority of this paper
talking about moral evil for one simple reason: it’s really the only evil that
exists. Natural evil are two words that just don’t go together. One definition of
natural evil says that it is the suffering and pain that human beings experience at the
hands of nature. Earthquakes, flash floods, and tornadoes, just to name a few,
are all part of the natural order of this evolving world we live in. To actually say that
these things are evil is false and to imply that they are evil because they cause pain and
suffering to people is, in my view, false as well. I am not trying to diminish the human
conditions of pain and suffering, nor am I trying to excuse the tragic losses that occur
because of nature. I suppose that all I’m trying to relate here is that the idea of
evil, as I understand it, does not fit as a proper term for dealing with the
sometimes-violent acts of nature. “God has created a world in which there is both
birth and death, both rationality and contingency, both order and freedom, both risk and
vulnerability. In such a world, challenge, struggle, and some forms of suffering belong
to the very structure of life.” Moral evil, which will be referred to as
just plain old ‘evil’ for the rest of this paper, is the suffering and pain
that human beings inflict on each other and on the world they inhabit. I want to make
this my focus since it is here that I believe the reality of evil takes root.

Evil is a relative term that exists within the context of each situation. To start, evil
does not exist by itself and to help explain what I am proposing, I will call upon process
philosophy, which says, “Metaphysically speaking, evil arises from the
incompatibility of alternative potentialities.” However, this does not
imply that evil has to be a realization in every situation. But what it does say is that
the potential for evil is present. It has to be. Otherwise the potential to realize what
is truly good in every situation would not exist. This is a lot easier to understand by
looking at the subjective nature of human beings. We are intelligent beings and we have
been given a gift that allows us to respond to each other and to the world around us from
an emotional perspective. Our focus in life is intertwined with our emotional state of
being and can lead us to experience a life of love, happiness, and joy. Or it can lead us
into a journey with the dark side where our emotions are ruled by feelings of fear, pain,
and despair. I will expand more on this in my conclusion where I will talk specifically
about love and fear. For now, a good summation would be to say that since we were given
the freedom to choose our own path, we must respect the potential that exists for both
good and evil - in every situation - in any given place - in any given time.

I know that making the statement that evil does not exist by itself could present a
problem to those who believe in the devil/satan. The personification of evil is recorded
throughout the Bible as a way for the people of Israel to make sense of the evil acts they
witnessed. In the book of Job, they took it a step further by trying to demonstrate that
evil does exist by itself and can strike anyone at any time, even those obedient to God.
The message of Job, however, is not one that puts the focus on evil, but rather it is a
message that calls all people to remain faithful to the covenant, no matter what happens
to them in the temporal world. Today is no different than 2-3 thousand years ago. As
Christians (or Jews), we are reminded that God’s creation is “good.” So
in order to cope with the evil that exists, it has become necessary for many to personify
evil so as to separate it from the loving nature of God. Personally, I believe the
creation of a devil by humans is just a way for them to excuse their poor efforts in
exercising the free will that was given to them by God. This is a gift God always hopes
we will use to recognize the potential of “good” in His creation. “The
devil made me do it!”— Sorry, but I just don’t buy that one!

I have taken the time to look up many articles from well-known scholars and theologians
and have also read excerpts from several books regarding the topic of evil. I don’t
feel the need to get caught up in quotes and citations here because what I found was that
for the majority, the scholars are faced with the same task of answering the questions, or
ones similar, that I proposed on the first page. They may use different wording such as
moral evil, natural evil, metaphysical evil, social evil, sin, suffering. And they may
phrase it in different ways so as to appeal to their specific audience. But what I found
evident through all the reading and through all the different terms and phrases was one
central theme: “How can we understand that an infinitely good and wise God has, if
not willed, at least allowed humanity to be plunged into an ocean of physical and moral
evil?” Or in other words, if God is all-powerful, then He could or should
prevent the existence of such evil. Different religions have tackled this problem in many
ways and one could easily make each response a topic for research. With that in mind, I
believe I will stick with the Christian response to the reality of evil since it best
relates with the ideas expressed in the interviews I conducted and also because it best
relates to my own personal beliefs. So lets go back for a moment to the invention of
satan. The Hebrew Scriptures talked a lot about this and the New Testament followed suit
in their efforts to link the Old with the New and to provide the reader with a solid
explanation for the existence of evil. Even Christ Himself is said to have battled
directly with the devil. This was important because it was very necessary to separate God
from evil and how better to do that than to set up an epic battle where the God of
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