The young woman on the back row rose to ask me a question.
I had been holding forth as usual about the good that can be found in any situation and the gifts that are brought to us even through pain.
I’m sure I touched on the divine within each person and the sometimes difficult soul paths we have chosen for this human experience.
Then I asked whether anyone had questions.
The young woman didn’t raise her hand at first. She waited until I was on a roll, knocking out answers and feeling confident. This was going well.
Finally, I called on her. She asked shyly, “How do you account for pure evil?”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. This was before the terrorist attacks in Paris and the shooting in San Bernardino, but those are just recent examples. The question of evil always, always, always comes up.
Why are people so horrible? Why do they do such monstrous things to each other? Find the good and gifts in THAT, Debenport!
The thing is, the greatest philosophers and theologians of the ages have not devised an adequate explanation for those people, events and circumstances we label bad. Especially the ones that are so bad, we call them evil.
How can there be a God that is good, given what we see every night on the news? How can we even believe good has the upper hand?
The answer I offered the young woman didn’t satisfy her at all, and I’ve been cogitating ever since on how better to explain it.
HERE’S WHAT I SHOULD HAVE SAID:
Evil is entirely manmade.
There is no devil luring us to the dark side. We cross over all on our own.
There is no force of evil or a fallen angel doing battle with God for our souls.
Evil is the result of human decisions and actions.
Yes, those decisions might be made by a sick mind. But someone has to decide to fire a gun or abuse a child or detonate a bomb or kill all the Jews. No external force leads us to do those things.
Maybe our planet is an experiment in allowing free will. So far, not so good.
We choose inhumanity again and again.
Arguably, we’ve become less barbaric over the centuries, but we still have real trouble rising above our beliefs in competition, scarcity and danger.
So we fight and kill and quarrel and condemn as we try to hold onto some little piece of good that we believe is all we have available.
AND IT’S STILL GOOD
It doesn’t have to be this way.
There is nothing in God that is not good, including human beings. In the Absolute realm, there is no pain, sickness or death.
No suffering is inflicted on us as “God’s will,” nor is it part of our divine heritage. And we are divine by nature, despite the poor choices we sometimes make.
When we were given dominion over the earth, we were given the power to command reality.
That means each of us is born with the creative authority to determine exactly what happens and what kind of world we live in.
But so far, most of us wield that power as indiscriminately as if we were whirling around while slashing a sword, unmindful of what we might hit.
Even the best of us use our powers to create pain, suffering, sickness, poverty and death, often unintentionally, and largely because we believe suffering is necessary and required in our experience.
Think about it: You might be leading a benign, even productive, life, but you know that somewhere people are starving. Somewhere, atrocities are being committed. Somewhere, someone is waging war, maybe even someone you voted for.
We all know life could and should be better. We just have no idea how powerful we are.
WE’RE NOT FINISHED YET
Personally, I end up back where I started.
Yes, your life will probably include some pain and suffering, just as a toddler will fall down and get hurt while learning to walk. That’s where we are as a species.
Or maybe we have progressed to a teenage level of consciousness, and you know how reckless and dangerous that age can be! But it’s also the time we take more and more responsibility for conducting our lives.
For the foreseeable future, I believe we will continue to encounter obstacles and fight enemies – enemies that often are within us. It’s the hero’s journey.
But no, it doesn’t have to be this hard. Deep down, we know it shouldn’t be. Wielding our creative power is what we came to learn.
So why is there evil in the world?
It’s entirely up to us.