Monthly Archives: July 2015

Absolute Good and Evil

This is the second installment in my on-going musings on absolute evil.

There are a few problems that come from defining absolute evil as that which is opposed to absolute good, and/or that which is distant from absolute good.

1) It requires faith, to believe that there is absolute good, and to know the nature of absolute good. Without faith, we end up with a circular definition of absolute good: absolute good is that which is divine, and divinity is that which is good. Without faith, there is no way to know if one has the whole God vs. Satan bit backwards. God has certainly ordained some evil-seeming things, like filicide and genocide and the apocalypse, and it is only through faith that one can believe that whatever God goes for is, in fact, good. Otherwise, we would need an independent way of judging whether this God character is good or evil in the first place; in that case, absolute good would precede God’s goodness, rather than follow from it.

2) The unfortunate fact of life is that the human race has worshipped many different gods who have very different expectations, and that even those who worship the same god have very different ideas about what the god wants in any given situation. It appears that absolute good that is defined as the divine is, in fact, good only relative to a given god, or even to a given understanding of a given god. Faith can give clarity to one group of believers, but it would hardly define absolute good for the rest of the world.

3) If evil is that which is not good, what exactly is absolute evil? How absent must the divine be? How far away? How strong an opposition must the anti-divine put up? The Greek gods, for instance, squabble against and oppose one another, sometimes to quite an extreme, but we would not name any of them as absolutely good or absolutely evil. In fact, they are all presumed to be good, even in their opposition to one another. This suggests that opposing the divine does not necessarily make one evil. Despite their feisty jousts, God and Satan may be working toward a shared goal, and in that case neither the followers of God nor Satan would be deemed absolutely evil.

This is all well and good as theological arguments, but I am actually just trying to write a novel, and I would like to be able to depict something that is absolutely, undoubtedly, unequivocally evil. There is something creatively unsatisfying with having to come up with an absolutely good character in order to be able to portray someone as absolutely evil. Can someone be hideously evil without some good person to oppose?

On Absolute Evil

In all my books so far, I’ve explored what one could call “relative evil”. Most of the evil has come from well-meaning people doing things that they believe are for good. Even people who do unspeakably evil things do so to pursue something that they value, or to protect something that is dear to them. The ends are justified, and so the means seem justified to the evil-doers; it’s only from the victim’s or a third party’s perspective that it doesn’t.

For my next book, I am hoping to write about something one could call “absolute evil.” Evil deeds or effects or presence that just is evil, no matter how anyone sees it.

And I’m having some trouble defining just what that would be and how it would play out.

So, I need your help. What is absolute evil? Is there such a thing?

Here are some theories about absolute evil of which I am aware.

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