Yesterday we talked a bit about the Gods not being all powerful and that sometimes maybe they just can’t help us out of problems. This really brings us down to that old chestnut the problem of Suffering. Why does Evil and Suffering exist in the world?
Alexander Solzhenitsy, one of Stalin’s prisoners said, “The line between good and evil lies in the centre of every human heart, not in some abstract moral, celestial space, but right here in each of our individual collective beings.”
Now can you really see what he is saying here? We are all capable of becoming a serial killer or a terrorist or Stalin, Hittler or Pol Pot. This is inside of us. All of us.
I think that having a separate devil is somehow more comforting because we can distance ourselves from what we really are. We can blame this separate entity. In some way we are removing human involvement because I think it is less scary to believe in The Prince of Darkness than to accept what we could all be capable of.
Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr made a very interesting comment on the nature of evil. Niebuhr commented: “Evil is always the assertion of some interest without regard to the whole, whether the whole be conceived as the immediate community or the total community of humanity or the total order of the world. The good is, on the other hand, always the harmony of the whole on various levels.”
This is a very important statement. Evil is a force which leads us to put self interest above the needs of the many. Evil is in these terms the desire to get something without thought or feeling for the needs interests or the effect this can have on another. Since we as Pagans see all things as interconnected this extends to how we use the Earth too.
I would like to conclude this introduction to a huge topic with a quote from the theologian Gordon Kaufman, who said that “evil is that which destroys life or prevents life from unfolding. Evil is that which dehumanizes.”
So, evil is the placing of self-interest over humanity’s well-being. It is made worse by our capacity to dehumanize others. Also we have to acknowledge that evil is systematic. We are all often sucked in to these huge systems even without knowing it. We become participants in things that we may not even agree with. This is often achieved by just being passive bystanders.