From a religious perspective there are two types: Natural Evil and Moral Evil. Natural Evil will be that of earthquakes and tsunamis etc. Moral Evil is of the sort when acting immorally, such as when someone murders another, or acts in an immoral way against a ‘righteous’ viewpoint etc. But the use of the word ‘Evil’ is always from a subjective position. One man’s Evil is another man’s Good. Also, the word ‘Evil’ has superstitious connotations and the followers of most religions will say that Evil is a force working against ‘good’.
Within the philosophy of religion there is indeed the ‘Problem of Evil’, especially for the monotheistic traditions. Apologetics will use the defence that Evil occurs to bring about a greater ‘good’ because otherwise it would be against the nature of a supposed omnipotent and benevolent God.
We are all familiar with what happened when hurricane Katrina struck a devastating blow on the city of New Orleans in 2005 – a Natural Evil, one might say. Well, there is a chap here in the UK whose name is Stephen Green. Green is the head of an evangelical group called Christian Voice, and they particularly dislike homosexuals – they see homosexuals as Morally Evil. He believes that hurricane Katrina was an act of God sent to clean up the Evil immorality that was occurring within the city. I’ll summarise what he wrote in a press release just a week after this tragic event occurred:
“There are many ‘homosexuals and perverts’ in New Orleans. There are also abortion clinics and other ‘un-Christian’ stuff there too. New Orleans needed to be ‘purified’, just like the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. By divine work, Katrina, which actually means ‘purity’, went about and ‘cleaned up’ New Orleans of ‘Sin’. God only gives one warning, and this was it. Katrina [assuming all God’s work is ultimately good], was a good thing.”
(Full article, if you can stomach it, is here: http://www.christianvoice.org.uk/Press/press010.html)
Green is one example of an evangelical apologetic of Christianity who has justified the occurrence of a ‘Natural Evil’, to clean up the acts of a Moral Evil, and thereby maintain the status that his God continues to be benevolent and omnipotent. This isn’t unique to Christian Voice either. Recently in the UK we suffered the worst rainfall for decades, devastating communities throughout many parts of England. The Bishop of Carlisle – Rev Graham Dow – is on record as saying:
“This is a strong [(the result of the floods and subsequent deaths)] and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way,” he said. “We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused.” He goes on: “The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God’s judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance.”
In other words, the Bishop is saying we deserved this natural disaster as punishment for acting in an Evil fashion, which so happens to be not to God’s liking.
Coming from an atheistic point of view, I reject all notions of supernatural force, so I therefore reject Evil as an existing occurrence. Usually, the word ‘Evil’ is interchanged with the word ‘bad’ – and is used to evoke emotion or to take a higher moral ground. But what theologians really mean when they use they invoke the notion of ‘Evil’ is to describe, or to justify, something of which they actually disapprove of.
So, where does the Evil come from? It is my view that Evil comes only from the wicked imaginations of theologians, their apologetics and their followers. These people use the notion to manipulate the minds of the vulnerable and unwitting. They use the fear of ‘Evil’ to bring about obedience and to force followers to behave to their version of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘not good’.