Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.

Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#1  Postby TY91 » April 6th, 2017, 10:43 pm

I am wondering about this because my perception rightly or wrongly is that belief in the existence of evil often stems from belief in the existence of Satan.
So I wondered if there is anyone who is a theist who does not believe in evil or, who is an atheist who does believe in evil.
As far as what is meant by the word "evil" in this case I will go with the general dictionary definition of "profoundly immoral and wicked".
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#2  Postby Spectrum » April 7th, 2017, 12:59 am

"Evil" like religion, spiritual, and the likes are very loose words.
If you associate 'evil' with Satan, then your definition is limited to whatever that is related to Satan only.

In practice, the term 'evil' is widely used by all of humanity, in philosophy, psychology, social, religion, spirituality, etc. As such I do not agree the term 'evil' should be confined to Satan or merely religious elements.

Because of the terrible deeds of humans in the present are getting worse and worse and stretching the limits, there is now a need to use the term 'evil' so that we can cover a wider extremes of abominable acts such a serial killing, mass rapes, genocides, suicide bombing, indiscriminate killing by Islamists, etc.

I define 'evil' as any human moral act [deliberate or otherwise] that is a net-negative on the well being of individual and therefrom the collective. Evil is opposite of what is 'good'.

To facilitate standardization, what is 'evil' is also defined in terms of degrees from Low [1/100] to High [99/100]. A petty crime would be say 5/100 while mass rapes and genocides would be 95/100. As such we need to prepare some sort of "taxonomy" to classify the various types of evils.

So, yes, a belief in evil do extend beyond theism into the wider secular community and necessary so.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#3  Postby Steve3007 » April 7th, 2017, 2:42 am

I agree with Spectrum that "evil" can have a meaning that is not, in itself, linked to any specifically religious notions. But I'm often still wary of using the word because it appears to at least sometimes go hand-in-hand with the counterproductive idea that there are no reasons, of human origin, why people do things that we consider to be evil. This idea often seems to go along with stories about devils and demonic possession. There seems to be a tendency to use it as an excuse not to look for real human reasons and to retreat into fantasy.

Perhaps this is because of a fear that explaining why somebody has committed an evil act will somehow be seen as excusing it. It's an understandable fear. For example, anybody who tries to place terrorist acts, such as those of the IRA, into a wider context will be accused by some of being an apologist for terrorism.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#4  Postby Dark Matter » April 7th, 2017, 4:38 am

Every atheist who poses the so-called problem of evil implicitly believes in evil.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#5  Postby Felix » April 7th, 2017, 4:50 am

I don't think you'll find any theists whom will say that evil does not exist, period, but those who are dualists will say there is good and evil, i.e., absolute forms of each (personified as God = Good, Satan = Evil), and the nondualists will say that evil (and good) are relative values.

There are some religious sects such as Christian Scientists who believe that evil is a delusion of the "carnal mind," so in a sense it could be said they do not even believe in the existence (reality) of relative evil. And there are Hindu and Buddhist sects that have a similar perspective.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#6  Postby Dark Matter » April 7th, 2017, 2:01 pm

Felix wrote:I don't think you'll find any theists whom will say that evil does not exist, period....

I wouldn't bet on it. :wink:
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#7  Postby Alias » April 7th, 2017, 3:48 pm

My problem here is not with the word "evil" - I know what that means.
What I'm not sure of is "believe in".

I know some facts, believe some propositions through observation and testing; I believe many statements implicitly, based on my acquaintance with their sources; believe many others provisionally, and am willing to posit the truth of some, until I have time to process and examine them, simply because nothing to contradict them has occurred to me - as yet - or because I don't care enough to study them.
I do not believe in magic, gods, ghosts, healing through prayer, UFO's, Karma, inalienable rights, pixies, the soul, prophesy, witchcraft, an ultimate purpose of evolution, divination by blood-spatter, trickle-down economics, love that was meant to be, divine guidance, or the greatness of America....

To "believe in" something generally means attributing some supernatural aspect to it, and requires a degree of faith.
Alternatively, it can be used in a more mundane sense of having confidence or trust in something: the loyalty of a friend, the ability of an athlete, the integrity of a leader, the solidity of a structure, the social value of a philosophy.
Often, people use it to ascertain the bare existence of something - which seems to be the case here - but I'm never sure what they mean by "exist".

I do not believe in Evil.
I do not believe that concept has any independent existence - not as an entity, not as a spirit, not as a miasmis vapour, not as a free-floating curse.
Words are conceived in order to describe an observed phenomenon, designate an object or convey an idea that at least two individuals can understand in a similar way.

I do know that human beings often behave in ways that are destructive. It is the extreme forms of such behaviour that elicited the invention of the words "evil".
I believe people are are not about to stop behaving badly enough to earn that label -
if they ever do, the word will fall into disuse, as all obsolete words do.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#8  Postby Felix » April 7th, 2017, 6:44 pm

I think it was Philip K. Dick who quipped, "Reality is that which does not go away if you stop believing in it." Unfortunately when I stop believing in evil, it does not disappear from the world, so it must be real. Now if we all stopped believing in it, we might have a different outcome, just like you couldn't have a war if no one agreed to fight in it.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#9  Postby Dark Matter » April 7th, 2017, 9:52 pm

"I refuse to be intimidated by reality anymore. What is reality? Nothing but a collective hunch."
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#10  Postby Spectrum » April 8th, 2017, 12:17 am

Alias wrote:To "believe in" something generally means attributing some supernatural aspect to it, and requires a degree of faith.
Alternatively, it can be used in a more mundane sense of having confidence or trust in something: the loyalty of a friend, the ability of an athlete, the integrity of a leader, the solidity of a structure, the social value of a philosophy.
Often, people use it to ascertain the bare existence of something - which seems to be the case here - but I'm never sure what they mean by "exist".

I do not believe in Evil.
I do not believe that concept has any independent existence - not as an entity, not as a spirit, not as a miasmis vapour, not as a free-floating curse.
Words are conceived in order to describe an observed phenomenon, designate an object or convey an idea that at least two individuals can understand in a similar way.

Point is in the above you have defined 'evil' within the ontological and religious framework which assume 'evil' to have an independent existence.

As I had stated, the use of the term 'evil' depend on the framework it is defined.

From an empirical-philosophical framework, the human response to data is as follows;
1. An opinion - lack subjectivity and lack objectivity
2. A belief - sufficient subjectivity and lack objectivity
3. Knowledge - sufficient subjectivity and sufficient objectivity

Evil as defined within the above framework can be classed as 'knowledge' i.e. justified true beliefs when we establish the framework properly.

Within the above empirical framework 'evil' can be objectify within certain specified criteria and a 'taxonomy' of evil. There is no precision for such a framework and system at present but we can work toward refining a practical and useful system.

One example of the objectification of evil is from this;
Forensic psychiatrist Michael Stone of Columbia University has tabulated a hierarchy of evil from low to the most evils of human acts.
http://bigthink.com/the-voice-of-big-th ... le-of-evil
Obviously there will be various views on such an idea, but such objectification can be refined to be reasonably reliable and useful as a guide for human behavior.

From,
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/

During the past thirty years, moral, political, and legal philosophers have become increasingly interested in the concept of evil. This interest has been partly motivated by ascriptions of ‘evil’ by laymen, social scientists, journalists, and politicians as they try to understand and respond to various atrocities and horrors of the past eighty years, e.g., the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and killing sprees by serial killers such as Jeffery Dahmer. It seems that we cannot capture the moral significance of these actions and their perpetrators by calling them ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ or even ‘very very wrong’ or ‘very very bad.’ We need the concept of evil.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#11  Postby Alias » April 8th, 2017, 6:43 pm

Spectrum wrote:Point is in the above you have defined 'evil' within the ontological and religious framework which assume 'evil' to have an independent existence.

How do you interpret this
[A -- I do not believe that concept has any independent existence ]
to mean its exact opposite?
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#12  Postby Spectrum » April 9th, 2017, 2:28 am

Alias wrote:
Spectrum wrote:Point is in the above you have defined 'evil' within the ontological and religious framework which assume 'evil' to have an independent existence.

How do you interpret this
[A -- I do not believe that concept has any independent existence ]
to mean its exact opposite?

As I had stated you have defined 'evil' within the ontological and religious framework which assume 'evil' to have an independent existence, then you disagree with it.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#13  Postby RuleOnu » April 9th, 2017, 12:19 pm

Philosophically there are two types of evil, natural evil and moral evil.
Natural evils are not man-caused, like an earthquake or plague.
Moral evils are willful acts by a human being, like rape and murder.
As you can see neither require a religious or supernatural belief.
Once you bring up the question of "satan", then you're applying a supernatural force to evil, which the atheist, whether they accept the existence of evil or not, will not apply.

I think many have the wrong impression of satan, according to Christian understanding, in that satan cannot "cause" anything. The entity does not have that kind of power. "satan" cannot cause plagues or force anyone to do anything against their own will.

When philosophers discuss the "problem of evil" it is within the context of evils relationship and existence with the existence of an omnipotent, benevolent, loving "god". "How can such a "god" allow evil to exist"? There are several responses to that question, including the free will defence.
-
From my perspective, the atheist who engages in argumentation over the existence of evil must admit that evil exists. If evil exists then what is evil is a matter of opinion for the atheist. While for the theist, specifically Christian, evil exists as a matter of cause.

I do not believe there is any theistic belief which does not accept the existence of evil in some manifestation. Whether as an inherent human property, and outside force, or both.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#14  Postby Alias » April 9th, 2017, 4:34 pm

Spectrum wrote:
Alias wrote:(Nested quote removed.)

How do you interpret this
[A -- I do not believe that concept has any independent existence ]
to mean its exact opposite?

As I had stated you have defined 'evil' within the ontological and religious framework which assume 'evil' to have an independent existence, then you disagree with it.


You stated that, yes. And now you have repeated that erroneous statement.

I defined evil as the description of extreme destructive human activity, and questioned the application of "believe in".
I still don't get what your problem is.
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Re: Does belief in evil extend beyond thiesm?

Post Number:#15  Postby Eduk » April 11th, 2017, 12:37 pm

Every atheist who poses the so-called problem of evil implicitly believes in evil.

Do you truly not understand what an atheist might mean when they call something or someone evil? Let me put it this way, can you think of more than one definition of evil, and can you think of a definition which would make sense when applied to an atheist? If you really can't, then I think you only have two reasonable options.
1. Ask and then listen.
2. Go to a non philosophical site, maybe troll YouTube or something.
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