Evil does not exist.
“What?!?!” you say. “How could a conservative Catholic ever truly believe such a thing?”
Good question. Glad you asked!
When I say that evil does not exist, I do not mean that it doesn’t exist in some progressive morally relativistic way. I mean that evil, in and of itself, does not exist. It is not the equal and opposite of good. In fact, evil requires good in order to define itself, whereas good does not. You see, evil is actually the absence of good, whereas good is not the absence of evil. Evil is something contrary to God. It is an absence of God, who is goodness itself.
“T. Paine, what have you been smoking? I thought you were against illegal drugs!”
Hold on, a minute. Let me explain. And yes, I am strongly against illegal drugs, but that is a topic for another post.
Let me use an analogy. Let’s take light and dark. Dark only exists in the absence of light. Its very dependence counts upon there being no light. If you light a single candle in a massive warehouse, it is no longer completely dark. Light and dark are not equal and dualistic opposites. Light actually exists in the world. Dark does not. Without darkness, we could still scientifically analyze light. We know its speed, its wavelength, and its particle-like properties. What is the speed or wavelength of dark? We cannot tell you because it does not exist.
Still not buying this? How about another analogy then?
The same is true for hot and cold. Cold is merely the relative or perhaps complete absence of heat. It does not exist unto itself. Heat actually exists. We can measure heat’s temperature, which is a function of its molecular energy. When molecular motion ceases completely, that is what we call “absolute zero”. There is, however, no maximum temperature where “cold particles” no longer exist. There is no “smoking hot” converse to absolute zero, with the possible exception of my beautiful wife.
The same concept can be applied for evil. As I said previously, evil is metaphysically dependent upon good. It, like dark and cold, does not actually exist itself. Evil is an absence of good. Indeed we cannot understand the very concept of evil without understanding good. The reverse of this is not true, however. We do not do good things because we seek evil. Conversely, we do not need to understand the concept of evil to understand and do good in the world. Evil is not the opposite of good, any more than light is the opposite of dark.
“Whoa, T. Paine! That is heavy, man!”
Lightness is not the opposite of heaviness; it is a lack thereof.
“Stop that, dude!”
Okay, sorry. Back to our discussion on evil not existing.
As I was saying, evil is an absence of good… an absence of God. As a “thing” in and of itself, it does not exist. We can see the actions, the results, of this lack of good in the world though, just as we can see the darkening results as we extinguish more lamps in a room. We can see what happens when we remove ourselves from goodness. It is through that drawing away from good that we become selfish, greedy, and narcissistic.
Ironically, evil actually pays homage to good, not only in its very definition, but in the actions of it. Evil is always perpetrated in the pursuit of some real or perceived good. Someone may commit an act of evil in pursuit of a good such as pleasure, honor, love, etc., that they think will come from that act. For that person, the ends justify the means.
Let me give you some examples. Abortion is an evil that is unfortunately chosen for the perceived good of the mother sometimes. The destruction of God’s creation in the environment is often done under the perceived good of economic development. ISIS and other similar Islamic terrorist organizations see their acts of evil as necessary in order to convert the world to their perverted brand of Islam. All of these acts of evil are paying homage to perceived goods.
And while evil actions and unspeakable atrocities occur daily throughout the world, the fact of the matter is that evil only exists in the world because of a consciously chosen decision to turn away from goodness. It is through the misuse of our God-given free wills to turn away from Him… to turn away from good… that allows evil to exist. It does not exist on its own.