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torporchair
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Satan & Evil
« on: Mar 4th, 2008, 7:15pm »
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The myth regarding Satan (or is the name Mister Jehossifer R. Toe-wax?) is a pretty cool myth. The idea is sort of derived from physics, it seems. The highest and best angel fell, and since he was the highest and the best, he fell all the way. So that’s why Satan is so darn clever and all, is because he was the most cleverest angel and so forth. He was such a sweet little boy, but he turned bad. Daddy tried, but this Satan fella’ just kept turning to the bad, and now he has the universal headquarters and monopoly on evil. And this is convenient, because it takes the heat off of us mortals. Sure, we are responsible for our deeds, and we are supposed to try and be good, but this problem we have, this ability to be cruel or to do something bad, is not from us. It’s the devil trying to use us to his dastardly ends. At least I guess the devil could be used this way. I have no idea if any religions use Satan as an escape goat or not.
 
Me, I don’t believe in Satan or in hell, but that’s my problem.  
 
However, there are times when I feel that there is something in the universe that could be called evil. ‘Pure evil’ as a form, like pure truth, is something over there in the imponderables. And as much as people like to sometimes use the phrase ‘pure evil’, I’m not talking about that here. Just the idea of evil itself seems powerful enough, quite enough, thank you. Powerfully nasty, to my mind.  
 
I’d say that evil moves around and touches people, but not ‘pure’ evil. Just gray degrees of evil. If I’m out in the parking lot and see someone hassling a three legged one-eyed dog and laughing about it, being cruel for kicks, that is, I am suddenly faced with a degree of evil. I also find that I have a choice of whether to intervene and, if I do intervene, how to approach that intervention and how far I am willing to go to defend a dog I never met who may not be a dog I would want to be friends with anyway if I got to know the dog. Maybe the dog eats children?  
 
Or else we have the commute. Someone cuts in front of me after using the right lane, knowing the right lane ends and that they are being rude and thus, behold, here is a very gray shade of evil. I come to an intersection and cut someone off because heck, everyone seems to be doing it right? (No, it’s just that the one person who did it to you instilled a gray degree of evil in your heart…) So evil can move around and inflict itself on people through people, and it seems to be always on the move somewhere, many places at once, in fact. Evil gives us choices, whether to participate and further the evil’s prospects, or to what degree and how to oppose. Or to ignore if possible.  
 
But there are some pretty heavy shades of evil. I read about the houses which the Saddam Hussein regime used to torture their enemies. Torture used to try and get information is evil enough. Torture used to instill the Rule Of Terror, where everyone obeys because they are scared not to, since the ruler will torture the disobeyer’s family, is a totally wretched and reprehensible practice. Torture for fun seems like pure evil. The person who takes part in this may well saunter down the street on their break time and sit in the café and order tea. This person would then come into casual contact with others in society. This idea is certainly a creepy one. Evil walks around, just like the Satan myth says. Strange, the same person who tortures for fun may actually care about their offspring, and feel tender thoughts for their family. So are they purely evil? Evil seems like one of those myriad of weird phenomena that are perhaps impossible to define in an exact way, but evil has the distinction of being some kind of absolute, and also a form that has potential for doing, and currently does and has done, great harm.  
 
Evil is counter-productive. What place does evil have in the bettering of people? Education, playing cards and having fun, learning to play a new card game, laughing, what does evil have to offer in these realms? What is evil good for? There is enough trouble in the world without evil. We’ve got earthquakes and hunger and tidal waves and floods… who needs evil?
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mitakeet
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Re: Satan & Evil
« Reply #1 on: Mar 4th, 2008, 7:38pm »
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Personally, if I were to go with the Christian Satan-thrown-out-of-heaven bit, I would figure that it is more likely that God was bored and needed an adversary, so spent some time with his best and brightest and convinced them that a world without evil left no room for acts of courage and self-sacrifice.  Now we wind up with a very noble deed indeed where some of God's best and brightest volunteers to snuggle up to humanities worst side in order to smoke out individuals with humanities best characteristics.  
 
However, I don't believe any of that nuts; humans are just a sucky species with the profound capability to do nasty things to its fellow members.  
 
As for evil is as evil does, is a cat that is toying with a mouse (letting it go only to catch it again, for instance) evil or just bored and 'torturing' the mouse to get a few moments of pleasure.  Sometimes they eat the mouse, but I have seen many times where once the mouse either dies of a burst heart or is so worn out that it just lies still, the cat just wanders away.  So if a human tortures another human, perhaps the first is just bored and needs to find some socially acceptable method of entertaining himself (it is mostly 'hims', but not always).
 
Of course, some people are very good citizens, but get caught up in an eye-for-an-eye revenge spiral.  Sometimes it is ‘justified’; sometimes it is all a mistake that gets out of hand.  Sometimes humans seem just like Tolkien’s orcs:  endlessly battling amongst themselves until a common enemy arises, then, once the common enemy is vanquished, back to the endless bickering.
 
If we ask humans to be compassionate, where to draw the line?  Clearly most would say that compassion for fellow humans is important, but what about fellow species that have clear intelligence?  Elephants, dolphins and whales all have very large and well developed brains as well as (at least) rudimentary communications skills and in some cases tool usage, so for many it would seem that compassion should include these animals.  What about cows and lab rats?  Neither are particularly cuddly or endearing (to most people), yet they clearly feel pain and show affection for their offspring, so what about them?  While there has been no proof that plants have brains or feelings, it is fairly clear scientifically that trees can communicate via pheromones and if one tree is 'attacked' by an insect or something, the other trees can pick up on this and will alter their chemistry to discourage the predation.  How about single celled organisms?  If you look at them under the microscope when you are 'torturing' them with acid/heat/etc. they sure look like they are having a bad time and wanting to get the hell out.  Shall we have compassion for them?  At some point we don't have anything left to eat, no where to walk and our species shuffles off to never never land.  Thus compassion has to be on a scale and it might just be better for each individual to have a sliding scale of compassion so when really nasty people are needed they are available.
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Re: Satan & Evil
« Reply #2 on: Mar 5th, 2008, 5:13am »
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on Mar 4th, 2008, 7:38pm, mitakeet wrote:
 Sometimes humans seem just like Tolkien’s orcs:  endlessly battling amongst themselves until a common enemy arises, then, once the common enemy is vanquished, back to the endless bickering.

Yes, that just about says it right there. Plato (or was it Socrates?) wrote scrolls toward the end of his life called "The Laws" or something like that. He laid out a plan for a city state that was as close to ideal as possible. He had some great intentions and some great ideas, but the city state he describes includes such invasions of privacy that it would be a hell on earth. But it would be orderly and stable.  
 
In order to make a city state that was stable and so forth Plato (Socrates?) had to make the laws so over-weening as to make everyone sort of a very well-intentioned robot.
 
But I am enthused that, even though an ideal society is probably impossible, we as a species are evolving. We are more civilized than we used to be. Give us a few more tens of thousands of years and who knows what kind of sublime evolution we may acheive?
« Last Edit: Mar 5th, 2008, 5:15am by torporchair » IP Logged

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Re: Satan & Evil
« Reply #3 on: Mar 19th, 2008, 3:56am »
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...or maybe, evil (like cold) doesn't really exist at all. Cold, after all, is nothing more than a reduced concentration of heat. It is heat (molecular motion) that "flows" from one place to another, after all. It feels to us as if cold air is flowing, and indeed, cold air is flowing, but _cold_ itself is not flowing. Heat energy is being displaced by the cold air, and the absence of that heat is what we interpret as a flow of cold, even though that is only an illusion.
 
Electrons do not actually flow through wires. It is electrical potential that moves from one spot to another. And in semiconductors, people speak of "holes" moving, but that is an illusion akin to the movement of chaser lights on an old Holiday Inn sign.
 
Perhaps evil is nothing more than the absence of good.
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Re: Satan & Evil
« Reply #4 on: Mar 19th, 2008, 4:17am »
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Hmmm. Now that I like. I have always felt that good is more powerful than bad simply because benevolence seems to be the force that organizes and allows life to evolve. Of course, since I admire the Tao I often wonder if I am just being wishful and blind- how could the one be anything but equal to the other? Good and bad must be equal?
 
But I have never been comfortable with that. Instinct tells me good has an edge. This theory about evil being the absence of good intrigues me and I want to think on it quite a bit.  
 
The movement is there even if the absence of the form is what is moving. Interesting point!
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Re: Satan & Evil
« Reply #5 on: Mar 19th, 2008, 11:51am »
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If nature abhors a vacuum, why is there so bloody much of it?  Also, most of the universe is cold (near absolute zero), so you could easily argue that the natural course of events is an ice cold vacuum.  In comparison, perhaps evil is the 'rest state' of the human organism and it is only through contact with non-evil that there is any opportunity for change.  Of course, since I am a misanthropist, naturally I tend to think ill of the species.  However, let's take a moment from the headlines.  The Dali Lama is being forced into a position to repudiate the very people he is estranged from because of their violent actions in Tibet.  Is this because he has been away too long to allow his goodness to flow toward his people?  Perhaps, unlike Gandhi, circumstances were not favorable for a non-violent protest (the British being 'ready' to let go, while the Chinese are just warming up).  Perhaps only violent protest has a chance and the actions are not actually evil, but are simply the result of circumstances.  However, when you torch your neighbor's house because of the ethnicity of that person, I don't feel there is anything good in that, even if that person is a neighbor simply because of the occupation by a political entity of the same ethnicity.
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The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
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