Thursday, July 24, 2008

Elevating Evil: An Empty 'Doctrine'

One thing I never quite understood about the Catholic Church was its handling of the subject of evil. It was made very clear to me during my childhood indoctrination that good and evil - God and the devil - were locked in an epic battle for the hearts, minds, and souls of everyone for all time.

The practical effect of this teaching was the elevation of evil to a status comparable to that of good. In the mind of the Catholic believer, the devil was as much to be feared as God was to be worshiped. For all intents and purposes, the devil was every bit as powerful as God, commanding an army just as mighty. They were co-equals in the power structure of the universe.

To my way of thinking, this concept was simply insane! It was a little too much like devil worship. Even in my younger days, while I was still grappling with this nonsense, my take on the devil was that he was much more of a non-life form, an entity void of substance, more like death than anything else. Not some living, breathing, intelligent creature obsessed with commandeering people's souls. For me, evil was not some devil creature's doing, but rather man's doing, and it usually flourished where the influence of love could not be found.

It was not even beyond my parents to constantly remind their own children of the reality of evil whenever we strayed. It was more important that we be made to understand the magnitude and immorality of our offenses whenever we did something wrong than it was to be made to simply understand that we all make mistakes growing up and to learn from them.

Believing that evil doesn't exist is, of course, the great trap of many religious people. They set it out like rat bait waiting for us godless heathens of the world to bite, figuring if we do we'll be devoured by our own deviant philosophy. Well, if it will make some of them feel any better: Of course there is evil in the world. I simply choose not to glorify or worship it, and instead prefer to emphasize the power goodness and love have over the grand negativities of evil.


  1. Excellent post. It really got me thinking about my own beliefs on the matter.

    My thoughts are that everything has it's opposite. Good and evil, yin and yang, etc. But what I like about my religious belief is that it teaches that it is easy for good to triumph evil if that is what one wants.

    I think that just as the world moves towards chaos without something acting upon it (I read that in a science book in college), man will naturally start drifting towards selfish desires without taking it upon him/herself to have direction or principles/values/goals. I think love is a concious decision.

  2. I responded to your comment on my blog and just thought that you might not see it there so I'm pasting it below (I know it's long):

    Dear William,

    I love the way you write! You gave me respect before and while making an inaccurate assumption that I’m pleased to correct. You sound interested in my thoughts and seem willing to try to understand what I have to say. How do you do that? I would really like to have that skill. (I’m also very impressed with how you said so much in only a few short paragraphs – no doubt I’ll need much room to reply).

    Alittle background: I used to live in a city where over 50% of the residents were of my same religion. I used to be very cautious to not offend those that were not. Which is a good thing but I overdid it. I would even get offended by religious talk even if no one not of another faith was around. Weird. But now I realize that although I am open to other’s beliefs and opinions, I am free to express mine. I feel especially open and honest on my blog for it is my place to explore my feelings.

    Another interesting fact about me: my husband doesn’t believe in Christ (agnostic) and my best friend is recovering from once being religious as a Baptist (and hates God and all religion). We are very respectful of one another’s views, don’t try to force our opinions to be adopted by others and yet are still able to share freely. With that experience and others, I have formulated an opinion similar to yours: that respect is the common denominator essential for good and productive conversing. Along those lines, I often quote the Beatles singing “All you need is love” since I believe that love is what motivates you to be respectful and kind. Without respect, one can be offended by in almost anything. That’s a great quote on respect that you shared.

    I also agree with you that it is best to seek for that which you have in common with others rather than point out the differences. Diversity should be celebrated not condemned. Even among those with the same principles, the way they live those principles looks very differently from one person to the next. Social conformity has always seemed kinda twilight-zony to me. But even in trying to live my own way and not do things just because everyone else does I have noticed myself overdoing it (especially when I was growing up). On occasion, I have done just opposite of society just to be different rather than determining what was best for me and following that route.

    To answer your first question, I don’t see you as a lost soul. To be blunt about my beliefs, however self-righteous they sound (so please don’t be offended), I believe we came to earth in order to progress. We do this by our life experiences (and by getting a body). I don’t think anyone needs to belong to my religion or any other religion in order to be moving forward, learning, loving, experiencing, go to heaven, live after they die, receive Heavenly Father’s love, etc. The reason why my religion is so important to me personally (and for me to teach my children about and for me to be a good example to others) is because I actually believe it provides truthful direction and makes it easier to move forward. I know it sounds incredibly self-righteous for me to state that I actually believe that I belong to Jesus’ only true church (He is guiding it and set it up) but I do. It doesn’t mean that I think that I’m somehow smarter than others or more loved by God, though. It just means that it was my time to learn about it (God’s eternal plan). I believe that everyone will have that opportunity as some point (even if it means after they die) and that everyone gets to live after they die in a place much more wonderful than here (without so much conflict, imperfections, and chaos). Anyway, thanks for being interested in my frankness.

    As far as the “love buckets” goes, it is a visual aid I took from a book. When I said that Christ should fill up your love bucket, perhaps how that should be interpreted by someone without a religious reference is that one should fill up their own “love bucket” or self-esteem, not rely on other people to do so. We should need others because we love them not love them because we need them.

    And finally, what do we have in common. Certainly, first of all there’s respect. No doubt present because of your respectful initial comments. Also, from reading your recent post on Elevating Evil, I see that we both think it is important to learn from our mistakes, forgive ourselves for them and move forward. I hope although I’m very religious and believe in Satan and the natural tenancies of man (that both are enemies to our progression), that I will not use religion or the idea of evil to manipulate my children into doing what I think is best for them. Even though I’m sure your mother was trying her best to teach you correctly as I’m sure mine was for me, we come away with our crazy issues we have to overcome and learn from, hopefully not perpetuating the problem in the future.

    Although religious concepts can be used unwisely (from manipulating a child to starting a war) or taught incorrectly thus causing more damage than good, my own belief is that there is a place in this world for religions that uplift and help others.

    I’m glad you commented on my blog. I am honored you spent the time to read it. Your thoughts have been valuable to me.

    Sincerely, Asia