There are two commonly accepted types of evil: first, the cosmic or natural evils such as fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane or epidemic, the sort discussed in the Biblical Book of Job. Secondly, there is interpersonal evil, man’s inhumanity to man, on an individual or a large scale, murder or genocide. The first sort has a metaphysical cause and blame cannot be ascribed: these things happen and one must accept them. The second has connotations of innate malignancy and is bound up with theology and psychology and is the one under discussion.
Evil has an archetypal quality: theistic religions have an inherent dichotomy between good and evil. Loki’s malice brought down the Norse gods; Lucifer’s hubris brought about his expulsion from heaven and man’s expulsion from Eden. What characterizes the religious explanation of evil is that the agent chooses the course of action that leads to whatever undesirable result awaits. Evil requires deliberate choice and action, whereas accidents are...
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