- Religion and Philosophy»
- The Role of Religion in History & Society
Does good and evil exist?
Does good and evil exist?
Most people speak of good and evil casually without really thinking about what they mean. Good and evil are part of our culture. In Christian countries the story of the Devil tempting Eve in the New Testament initiates the fall of man and allows evil to exist. Attitudes to evil differ depending on the culture. In Hinduism God (Brahma) is both a creator and destroyer. There is an understanding that opposites need to exist, therefore there is bad so that good can happen as well. Buddhism describes bad actions or outcomes being created by people's actions and that good or bad karma follow a person through their lives dependant on their past actions. What is not answered is whether absolute pure good and evil actually exist?
When a person gives to charity there may be many reasons why they do this. Some people of a religious persuasion may give because their religion tells them to or because they think that they will be rewarded in the afterlife for their good actions. Can charitable actions based on expected reward be seen as pure good, or relatively good? Doesn't a truly good action mean that a charitable donation be a completely selfless action based purely on genuine wish for human compassion? Of course religions such as Christianity and Islam have noticed this which is why there is Agape (compassionate love) in Christianity and in Islam a charitable act must be done quietly so that it is not an egotistical act. The problem still remains however, because in many religions there is still a compulsion to give, therefore a person might give to the poor but only because they are told to do so. This could be classed as an only relatively good action at best.
None religious people fare no better. They often want to be seen to be doing good things. Fun runs, sponsored walks, head shaving and parachute jumps to name a few. These may seem like fun ways to raise money, however I often wonder whether it would be better to just give the money without the fuss. Some would say these events give charities publicity which is true, but the motives of the people participating still is based to a certain part on a selfish need to show others that they are 'good'.
When reported evil acts happen they are accepted as evil. In the 1993 two 10 year old boys from Liverpool, England murdered Jamie Bulger a two year old they had befriended at a shopping arcade. They spent the next few hours torturing the helpless two year old before killing him. By this time the search that had been set up to find him discovered his body. There was an outcry and disgust across the country. People wanted to bring back hanging. The boys were labelled evil. Were they evil or very bad? Evil is associated with a supernatural entity like a demon or the devil or that a person is born evil, whereas bad is something associated with wrong human actions. The problem is that bad just doesn't seem to be a strong enough description for some of the atrocities that happen. Also the boys (who were later convicted for their crime and came out of prison after 8 years) were classed as disturbed due to their disfunctional backgrounds. Were this boys born bad or made bad by their backgrounds? It is hard to say because so many people have bad backgrounds and don't turn out to be child murderers.
Then there are the many natrual disasters in the world that kill thousands. Is God punishing people? If so then it would be wrong to class such disasters as evil considering that God is not normally blamed for directly making evil happen. Are these disasters evil or are they just disasters due to bad luck?
I can not say with certainty if there is pure good or evil in the world, although many religious people would argue that good and evil do exist. I shall have to remaiin undecided.