Religion is one of the most difficult concepts to describe, but one truth about it is that it exists as a bond between man and God or between man and his belief in the presence or non-existence of the supreme being. The view of good and bad is one category of the world view map that is essential to understanding theology. The idea of good and bad is part of human life and is heavily contingent on the existence of human beings. That is why the connection between evil and good remains interesting to people of all religions all over the world. Willet, (2015) argues that sometimes when a person or a group of people are not interested in a topic or practice, they brand it ‘evil’ so that they distance themselves from it. At the same time, the issue or practice may be called ‘good’ by another person or group of individuals. Overall, religion plays a significant role in guiding followers onto the two concepts (Dougan, 2005). In this paper, I will discuss the different religious views of good and evil because the modern world has many theories that attempt to approve of acts that traditionally were considered bad. The concepts of evil and good have also become too confusing for many people regardless of the religions they subscribe.
The problems of defining religion also come up when trying to understand evil and good. There are two approaches to understanding evil which include the narrow concept and the broad concept. The narrow concept of evil only refers to the most morally vile kinds of events, characters, and actions (Calder, 2013). The broad concept looks at any wrongful actions, character flaw and an unfortunate state of affairs (Calder, 2013). Based on the descriptions, it is notable that the two categories of evil fall on either a natural occurrence or intentional acts and good can be understood as the opposite of the natural and moral evil. That means, morally acceptable actions and natural behaviors that do not qualify as evil are automatically good.
Religions have different ways of defining good and evil. Christianity views evil as unnatural, sinful and should be conquered by the good which is derived from the intrinsic character of God (Willet, 2015). The Christian view is also the most popular in the United States. There are two ways in which Christianity supports its view of evil. One is the origin of evil which is based on a Biblical story of the snake and Eve. According to Christianity, evil was not created by God but caused by a creature, therefore, is it unnatural and should be fought for it corrupts God’s creation (Willet, 2015). Second is the concept of heaven and hell whereby people who fail to defeat evil in life go to hell while those who overpower evil end up in heaven. Therefore, the biggest significance of evil and good in Christianity is the promise of good life in heaven for those who do good and punishment in hell for those who embrace evil. And those consequences of doing either good or bad shape Christian’s ways of doing things on a daily basis while also forms the basis upon which they make judgments.
The understanding of good and evil in Hinduism does not use either of the concepts to describe the other. According to the Hindu creation myth, evil was created when other things in the universe were being created and is, therefore, a natural phenomenon (Willet, 2015). The Hindu definition of evil does not call for its subjugation because it is part of the universe. That is why the Hindu theology concentrates on keeping a balance between chaos (adharma) and order (dharma). The importance of good and evil in Hinduism can be connected to the efforts exerted by followers to avoid chaos and uphold law.
On its part, Islam leaves the definition of good and evil to God as stated in the Quran. Therefore, the meanings given to either good or bad by humans may not be accurate because they lack similar authority as God (Dougan, 2005). Islam looks at good as anything that leads one to know God, believe in God, worship God and love God (Dougan, 2005). Consequently, any action that moves a person closer to God is good while that which takes him/her away from God is evil. The Islamic understanding of good and bad causes believers to follow only what will keep them closer to God and help them to have a good life with God after leaving the earth.
For the Buddhist, good and evil are inborn aspects of life that cannot be separated (“Good and Evil,” 2017). Thus, all humans are capable of doing good and doing evil, and the two ideas are understood based on the effects they have on human life. That is why Buddhists strive to connect with other people and nature while avoiding selfish acts that disconnect a person from the others in the human societies.
An example of how the good and evil category exists is the sermon themes adopted by many U.S televangelists. There is a tendency to remind believers that when one chooses to do evil, they should be ready for God’s correction and the bad things that happen to people are probably punishment for not doing well. The evangelists like encouraging their congregations to repent if they want God to do something good in their lives. The process of repentance includes asking God for forgiveness for not having enough faith that he can do what he has been asked to do. I consider the view of good and evil as the primary basis upon which the prayers of Christians are built. That is, one should always repent to become clean and once clean, the goodness of God will overflow in that person’s life.
Calder, T. (2013). The Concept of Evil. Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved 9 September 2017, from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/concept-evil/
Dougan, A. (2005). The Fountain Magazine – Issue – Good and Evil in Islam. Fountainmagazine.com. Retrieved 9 September 2017, from http://www.fountainmagazine.com/Issue/detail/Good-and-Evil-in-Islam
Willet, S. (2015). Evil and Theodicy in Hinduism; by Sunder Willett, ’15 – The Denison Journal of Religion. The Denison Journal of Religion. Retrieved 9 September 2017, from https://journals.denison.edu/religion/2015/04/17/evil-and-theodicy-in-hinduism-by-sunder-willett-15/
Good and Evil | Soka Gakkai International (SGI). (2017). Sgi.org. Retrieved 9 September 2017, from http://www.sgi.org/about-us/buddhism-in-daily-life/good-and-evil.html