Sunday, March 13, 2011

What is EVIL?

I am currently reading Gregory Maguire's Wicked, the book that inspired the hit Broadway musical of the same name. If you haven't heard of the book yet, it's basically a retelling of Frank L. Baum's classic children's story The Wizard Of Oz - in the Wicked Witch Of The West's point of view. The book explores and explains why the Witch's evilness came to be, and why she was obsessed with those silver (yeah - they aren't ruby) shoes.

Anyway, there's a scene in the book where the Witch (then known as Elphaba) has just "killed" her old school's headmistress, and she was at a party hosted by her old quasifriend, Avaric. At the dinner table, the topic of what evil is was raised up, and the responses were pretty interesting.

"Evil is merely an affliction of the psyche, like vanity, or greed. And we all know vanity and greed can produce some pretty astounding results in human affairs, not all of them reprehensible."

"Evil is the absence of good. The nature of the world is to be calm, and enhance and support life, and evil is an absence of the inclination of matter to be at peace."

"Evil is a presence, not an absence. It's an incarnated character, an incubus or a succubus. It's an other. It's not us."

"Evil is moral at its heart - the selection of vice over virtue."

"Evil is an act, not an appetite. How many haven't wanted to slash the throat of some boor across the dining room table? Everyone has the appetite. If you give in to it, that act is evil. The appetite is normal."

Those were pretty intelligent and interesting answers. I agree with some of them, and some of them I don't. But really. What is evil? And more importantly, why did God allow evil to seep in His perfect world? Why did He allow disasters, such as the recent 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan, to happen? Why did He allow evil people, such as Hitler, to even have been born?

Well, this short yet powerful anecdote answers my questions.

A University professor at a well known institution of higher learning challenged his students with this question. "Did God create everything that exists?"
A student bravely replied, "Yes he did!"
"God created everything?" The professor asked.
"Yes sir, he certainly did," the student replied.
The professor answered, "If God created everything; then God created evil. And, since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we are, then we can assume God is evil."
The student became quiet and did not respond to the professor's hypothetical definition. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the students that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.
Another student raised his hand and said, "May I ask you a question, Professor?"
"Of course", replied the professor.
The student stood up and asked, "Professor, does cold exist?"
"What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?"
The other students snickered at the young man's question.
The young man replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 F) is the total absence of heat; and all matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat." The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?"
The professor responded, "Of course it does."
The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir. Darkness does not exist either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wavelengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present." Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"
Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course, as I have already said. We see it everyday. It is in the daily examples of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.
To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat, or the darkness that comes when there is no light."
The professor sat down.
The young man's name: Albert Einstein.

To close, I would like to share a short quote that I think is really awesome. Good night. :)

"I believe in the sun, even when it isn't shining;
I believe in love, even when I'm alone;
I believe in God, even when He is silent."
                                        - Author Unknown
Credits to Flickr for the Wicked book cover, http;// for the Einstein story text, and to some guy at YouTube for the video.

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