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Dec. 3, 2000



Evil is a harsh and difficult reality for members of our species. Earthquakes, floods, and disease are terrible realities from nature. Atrocities in war, ruthless means in acquiring money and severe alcoholics are illustrations of moral horrors. This article will ask important questions about evil and propose possible answers. The purpose is to increase understanding evil in human lives. I also ask members of this audience to reflect upon important questions concerning evil.

What is evil?

Peter A. Angeles in his Dictionary of Philosophy defines evil.

      1. That which is injurious, painful, hurtful, or calamitous.

      2. Morally bad or unacceptable. Sinful, Wicked, Vicious, Corrupt

      3. That which impedes the achievement of goals, ideals, happiness, or general well being.

      4. Misfortune

Illustrations of evil: Inhumanity of human to human, unspeakable deeds of violence, kidnapping, rape, murder, tragedy, floods, and tornadoes

What are the different types of evil?

The first type is natural evil . Physical evil causes humans harm and bodily injury, thwarts desires, and prevents the full development of man's powers.  Illustrations -- Disasters and natural catastrophes include floods, fires, tidal waves, earthquakes, and famines. Dangerous animals include scorpions and snakes. Diseases torment the body and mind. Man often has no control over physical evils and is powerless to prevent some.

The second type is moral evil. This type of evil is the result of deliberate human action. Moral evil assumptions: Human agents perform actions that are harmful to self and other people The human agent is aware of his or her motives and the consequences of the deed. Moral agents freely choose to do either good or evil acts and are responsible.  Illustrations – Vices are harmful habits to self and others. Some examples are alcoholism, gambling, and greed.  Terrible deeds that kill others such as war and planned murder.  People deliberately and knowingly do immorality such as robbery, cruelty, deception, and callousness.

The third type is transcendental evil. This concept is controversial. Atheists and naturalists believe transcendental evil is not a reality. Theists of Christianity and Islam affirm transcendental evil. The Christians believe in evil spirits such as Satan/Lucifer and Demons. In the distant past Lucifer led a rebellion. These dark angels were kicked out of heaven. They live in hell—kingdoms of darkness, torment, and suffering.  The demons are dangerous to humans. The natures of these demons are criminal, degenerate, psychopaths, and sadists. They encourage humans to sin against God. The demons find pleasure and joy in causing suffering to humans and sowing evils. The other is sin that involves a transgression against God. The sinner performs an act or has a thought against the law of God or the teachings of Christ and is aware of the sin.

What are some of the characteristics of evil?

    ¨ Harm involves injury or damage to a person or a thing.  The form of harm is physical, mental, and/or moral. – physical pain or suffering, mental upset and anguish, or moral vice and depravity.  Person or thing is often damaged – made less useful, valuable, and/or able to function.

    ¨ Wickedness seeks to cause harm and suffering of others. The agent of the action seeks terrible consequences for the other, such as, loss of reputation and damage to the other's career or family.

    ¨ Cruelty is motivated to cause harm and suffering to others. The cruel agent acts without mercy or pity and with deliberation.

    ¨ Catastrophe is a terrible event that often involves many injured and dead. In nature it may be a hurricane, earthquake, or flood.

    ¨ Vice is a negative human habit that brings about great harm and destruction for self and others. Illustrations: alcoholism, drug addiction, excessive gambling, or cowardice.

    ¨ Hate is feelings of dislike, hostility, anger, and antagonism toward important other. Hatred often produces violent actions harmful to the other person. 

    ¨ Crime is an action that involves breaking the law and often harms it victim. Illustrations: robbery, assault, and murder

    ¨ Corruption involves dishonesty and/or exploitation of others for personal gain. Another form of corruption is extreme immorality and/or depravity.

    ¨ Misfortune is an undesirable event that produces suffering and/or misery.

    ¨ Illness involves serious poor health, physical diseases, and mental illness.

    ¨ Sin is a concept of the theist religions of the West: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Sin involves transgressions against God and Divine realm, violating the laws of God, and estrangement from God.

    ¨ War is an armed conflict between nations and groups that often results in great destruction and many injured and killed. These conflicts involve struggle, serious disagreements, and bitter arguments.

What are the objective and subjective elements of evil?

Evil is composed of two elements: (1) objective  and (2) subjective.

Objective element of evil:  The objective deals with the facts and reality of evil situations and people. It requires universal standards for knowing evil. It also means describing evil people and situations accurately.  Outer objectivity is independent of the mind of the acting act and is what really happens in the environment.. Inner objectivity deals with the truth of what is in the mind of the agent and the behavior of the agent.   

Subjective element of evil: The subjective is the individual agent of interpretation of people and situations. The actor has attitudes and feelings toward people and situations. The individuals unique way of working with evil people and situations. It is the unique outcome.

What are evil people like?

These are characteristics of evil people:

    ¨ Evil people have and exhibit bad moral characteristics which include corruption, vice, and wicked behavior.

    ¨ They produce sorrow, distress, injury or calamity for themselves and for other people.

    ¨ They impair happiness, joy, and bliss for themselves and others.

    ¨ Selfishness, harmful desires, and greed motivates evil people.

    ¨ Their heroes are persons noted for terrible deeds, violence, and strong diabolical leadership.

    ¨ Evil people with a spiritual orientation revere evil beings and look to demons for guidance. They hate God.

    ¨ They have tendencies to harm self and others. Their behavior is mischievous.

Top 25 Evil People of the Millennium

The New York Post conducted a poll of the most evil people of the millennium The poll was conducted from September 30, 1999 to November 11, 1999. The number of votes were 19,184.

Results: (1) Hitler – 1664 votes (2) Bill Clinton – 1625 write in  (3) Josef Stalin – 1,284 (4) Pol Pot – 919  (5) Dr. Josef Mengle – 783 (6) Hilary Clinton – 765 write in  (7) Saddam Hussein – 710  (8) Adolf Eichmann – 641   (9) Charles Mason –548  (10) Idi Amin – 514 (11) Genghis Khan – 441  (12) Jeffrey Dahmer – 428  (13) Benito Mussolini – 386   (14)Ayatollah Knomeni – 365  (15) Ted Bundy – 327  (16) John Wayne Gacy – 312                 (17) Ivan the Terrible –305  (18) Fidel Castro – 283  (19) Jim Jones – 279  (20) Vlad the Impaler – 276 (21) Timothy McVeigh – 275  (22) Slobodan Milosevic – 242  (23) Marquis de Sade – 222  (24) Mommar Khadafy – 218  (25) Jack the Riper - 203

What are possible attitudes toward evil?

First attitude is optimism and its beliefs

Good is substantially greater than evil in the world.

The good is seen as the predominant force in life.

World will be better in the future.

Good triumphs over evil in most situations.

Disposition to see situations from hopeful perceptions. Expect best possible outcomes.

World is filled with much good and beauty. World has purpose and meaning. 

Humans can control evil in themselves and society. Most human situations turn out favorable. Most people have good motives, and only a minority have evil intentions.

Most people are motivated by brotherhood, love, altruism, and do good for fellow people.

Most people live lives of satisfaction, happiness, and joy.


Second attitude is pessimism and its beliefs

Evil is substantially greater than good in the world.

Evil is seen as the predominant force in life.

World will be worse in the future.

Evil triumphs over good in most situations.

Disposition is to see situations from a despairing perspective. Expect bad outcomes.

World is indifferent to value, and sometimes hostile. World lacks meaning and purpose. World is filled with anxiety, despair, destruction, and death.

Humans have great difficulties with evil. Evil overwhelms people and society.

Most people have evil motives, and only a minority have good intentions.

Humans are mostly motivated by hate, greed, selfishness, and vice.

Most people live lives of despair, misery, and anguish.


Third attitude is mixture and its belief.

The world is a mix of good and evil.

Both optimism and pessimism are viewed as naοve and unrealistic.

Humans can more easily bring about evil results, but with perseverance and the use of the virtues – prudence, temperance, courage, and justice – people can produce good results.

People should examine situations realistically and determine degrees good and bad.

Some societies are more good than evil, while others are more evil than good. Evil societies can be changed with struggle and risk.

Life is a mix: good and evil, beauty and ugliness, love and hate, altruism and greed.

 Human motives are also mixes of good and evil. Profound analysis is required to tell the difference. With great struggle humans can control evil in themselves and society and produce good outcomes.


 Why do pessimistic philosophers believe life is evil?

Reasons for believing life is evil:

    ¨ Life is struggle and warfare. Fierce conflict for necessities of life is the reason for struggle and warfare.

    ¨ Great waste in life. A plant produces a thousand seeds, but it needs only one to create life.

    ¨ The lot of all life is pain, suffering, distress, and misery. Animals are born to suffer and die.

    ¨ Life experiences a cruel and useless eating cycle. Fish eat a worm; humans eat fish; worm eats human.

    ¨ All living creatures are subject to a blind will: irrational appetites and desires, goals that do not make sense, harmful actions.

    ¨ Life is terrible and a horrible mistake. The universe would be better off without life.


Why do pessimistic philosophers believe human beings are evil?

Reasons for believing human beings are evil:

    ¨ Nature made humans evil. Bad passions such as hate, jeolousy, and lust govern many thoughts and actions of people. Man performs violent acts and is continuously at war. Humans are selfish, cruel, greedy, self-centered, egotistic, and grasping.

    ¨ Many humans believe "Might makes right" and "Justice is the interest of the strong."  Politics hides selfish, harmful motives.  Morality is a tool of the strong to control the weak.

    ¨ Men are dangerous social beings. Beneath a veneer of cooperation are egoism and selfish. Men have great difficulty cooperating and ending conflict. Men fear the motives and behavior of their fellow humans.  Men are filled with hate for other groups than their own.

    ¨ Passions and aversions govern most humans. Their reasoning is often irrational and lacking good sense.

    ¨ Human life is a struggle for survival. Each person must look after his or her own self-interests to survive and prosper. Only the clever and ruthless succeed in this life.

    ¨ Morality is a fraud. The superior minority use morality to control the mediocre majority. The majority is filled with irrational fears and is weak. The real virtues are power, conquest, and pride.

    ¨ Most humans life lives of "quiet desperation." Bad marriages continue for the sake of the children. Work in boring, bad jobs in order to earn enough money to survive. Children misbehave and are difficult to control. 


What is the relation of these core philosophies to evil?


Basic beliefs:

God is everything; All is God, and God is All

God is present in everything; God is present in everything

God and the material universe are one and the same thing; universe taken as a whole is God.


Evil from the pantheistic viewpoint


Evil is a manifestation of the Ultimate Reality and All.

Evil is a product of human suffering..

Humans are under the governance of law: reincarnation and karma.

Bad karma is the result of destructive acts toward self and other, Ignoring the presence of the All in the world, and karma is carried from reincarnation to the next.

In physical realm most humans are ignorant of the All and Absolute.

When humans achieve liberation, they see life and God as ALL, and good and evil are transcended.  Humans know and live the UNITY and ALL.



Monotheism is the belief there is only one God. This belief is found in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Evil in Christianity.

Evil is real and has a personal identity (Satan).  This evil being revolted against God and fell from an original good state as a result of using freedom of will. Satan is opposed to God and acts against God. On Judgment Day Satan will be isolated and sent to HELL.

Evil and suffering in the world are realities of the physical world.

God solved the problem of human evil and suffering by sacrificing his son (Jesus Christ).    

Humans can oppose suffering and evil by living the principle – loving your neighbor.




Two gods exist – one is a force for good and the other is a force for evil. They vie for control of the universe. The two forces are antagonistic and determine the courses of event. The two forces are co-equals and do not control each other.

These opposing forces influence human thinking, feelings, and action. Dual nature of people – Humans are inherently dual in nature – physical and spiritual.




There is no GOD, deities, and transcendental worlds such as Heaven and Hell.

Only the physical and material universe exists.

Spiritual and supernatural explanations of the world are rejected.

All truth is found in nature. Science is the best instrument to know the truth.

Human beings are animal creatures of the material universe. Humans have an organic relation to the environment, society, and natural universe.



Evil is a reality of human life. Two forms of evil are natural and moral.  Most suffering and harms are evil.

The universe is indifferent to evil and suffering  At worse, the cosmos is conducive to human pain, suffering, and evil.

Humans are a combination of evil such as cruelty, selfishness, and greed and goodness such as altruism, love, and virtue. Life is difficult, because of these two tendencies.

Optimistic atheists believe humans can improve the planet and live good lives, despite the fact of evil.

Pessimists believe evil is the dominant force of human life. Humans must learn to adjust to the realities of evil and be on guard for evil.


What is the soul-making theory of evil?


John Hick, the English Christian philosopher, created the theory of soul-making.

The theory is based on these ideas:

Five propositions of traditional theism:

    (1) God exists and is real

    (2) God is omnipotent – all-powerful

    (3) God is omniscient – all-knowing

    (4) God is wholly good, supremely benevolent, and all loving

    (5) Evil exists – both natural and moral

Man is created in the image of God and develops in the likeness of God.

Human beings possess free will.  They are created by God as relatively free, self-directing agents, and are responsible for their choices and decisions. They choose good or evil/ piety or sin.. Men are not automatons that automatically choose the good,

Physical world in which people live is filled with hardship, difficult problems, dangers, pain and suffering, and death is always present danger in human life. The world is not a utopia – a place of maximum pleasure and minimum pain and always very pleasant and comfortable.

God has a purpose and plan for human beings – soul-making. Human beings are on pilgrimage

The destination is two –fold: character building and salvation. Character building involves building virtues of  human life. People face challenges, hardships, and obstacles presented by the environment and actions of other people.  Struggling with adversaries develop moral qualities: meeting dangers develops courage, prudence by solving difficult problems, self-sacriface in helping others in trouble, and self-esteem in overcoming uncertainty and challenges. The other is salvation. The process involves acting from love and learning to commune with God. A most valuable love is built in a family. A man and woman create a household together, bear each other burdens, and learn mutual giving, sharing, and help in times of difficulties. Man learns to overcome separation from God and makes his life God centered.


The Sydney Grammar School – The Philosophy Club states these observations about soul-making

 "A world without pain, suffering, frustration, danger, and misery – without evil, in other words – would totally unsuited for soul-making". The world is "a moral testing ground suitable for soul-making." God created "a giant obstacle course to test and develop the moral fibre of human beings with the power of free choice."


Questions for the audience reflection:

    1. What are your beliefs about evil? Why are these your beliefs?

    2. Are you evil? Why or why not?

    3. Do you know evil people? Why are they evil?

    4. How do you deal with an evil situation with good sense?

    5. How important is soul-making to your life?

    6. Why is evil an important issue for people?

    7. What is a wisdom approach to evil?