Can you be agnostic and still think evil exists? I mean people do heinous things, but I had an argument once with a Christ-er who tried to convince me that evil was an outside entity. I hate magical thinking.
"Evil" is culturally subjective, but most cultures have the same edicts. It is "evil" to kill, steal, etc., but even those provisions have their subjectivity. It is ok to kill in self defense and in war and there are levels of punishment (first degree/second degree manslaughter) for killing. Most of us are held back from committing heinous acts because we have empathy; psychopaths commit heinous crimes, but are they "evil" if they lack basic human empathy?
Evil is definitely not an "outside" entity, regardless of psychological states.
The definitions of what is immoral or evil evolved societally to protect the clan; for a clan to survive, there had to be order. However, some clans had no prohibitions against committing evil against other clans. In the myth of Exodus, the Hebrews "reclaimed" Canaan and committed genocide; the Europeans did the same to indigenous peoples.
My personal definition evil is to commit intentional harm to others and feel no remorse over the act(s). Kinda like passing a tax bill that is going to benefit the rich and harm the less fortunate. But even my definition is subjective: I can be blunt and honest (some might call it "rude" ) to racist, sexist , and their ilk and feel no remorse if I hurt their feelings.
I think evil clearly does exist. I think that evil had to be included in any religion, because it's observable where as Gods aren't.
Referring to something I heard elsewhere: the devil doesn't appear anywhere in the Christian Bible yet preachers refer to the devil all the time. That tells me that the devil got added later.
A lot of you didn’t really address the idea that evil is some outside entity that enters one’s mind, soul, digestive tract,baby toe or whatever. I think people do heinous things, like I said, but it is because they are mentally ill, sick with power and greed, or somehow else delusional.
Thanks for the great comments however.
Evil is behavior and intent. Watched a good documentary on psychopaths, learning how prevalent they are within positions of power; they’re not all serial killers. Well represented in the religious hierarchy, I suspect the concept of ‘evil’ has been crafted by those projecting their heinous behavior on make believe.
As human beings, we have a great imagination and that has its pros and cons. We have the capacity to do tremendous good and create great harm.
The word "evil" has changed from its original meaning as so many words have in the last few hundred years and my guess it was to evoke fear and compliance.
Mr. John Ayto writes:
"Evil" has gotten distinctly worse over the millenia. Originally it seems to have signified nothing more sinister than "uppity," and in the Old and Middle English period it meant simply "bad"; it is only in modern English that its connotations of "extreme moral wickedness" came to the fore. It probably comes ultimately from "upelo-", a derivative of the Indo-European base "upo-, under (source of Greek hupo, under, Sanskrit "upa", at, to, and English "up" and "over" ), and so its underlying connotation is of "exceeding due limits, extremism. Its Germanic descendant was "ubilaz", source of German übel, evil as well as English evil."
"Evil" as an outside entity is fear tactic that allowed the Catholic Church to create "exorcism" as one of their services (at a cost of course). Evil equated to demonic possession had allowed the government to institutionalize the poor for experiments. Look up Nellie Bly.
You can believe in evil, but it is something considered from your own perspective, ISIS would certainly deem me evil, and visa versa for that matter, others may have the perspective that the world will be destroyed one day regardless, so nothing matters.
People, objects, creatures and physical forces are not evil in and of themselves. Evil is also not an independent force. When a person acts knowlngly in a manner which fails to treat others with dignity and respect or when the consequences of a person's decisions and/or actions harm others and when he or she fails to accept responsibility for those consequences.
According to some neurologists, many psychopaths are born with tendencies which would lead us to label them as evil. Those psychopaths are so absorbed in themselves and what they want that they do not care if they hurt others. In fact, they are likely to enjoy hurting others.