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Author Topic: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?  (Read 3325 times)

Zephyrine

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Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« on: December 07, 2015, 10:02:57 pm »
I have one Wiccan friend that says that evil doesn't exist. I, however, do believe it does. Evil in the form of great misfortune, premature death, unnecessary pain, natural disaster, disease. Also, human evil comes in the form of wanton cruelty, greed, gross abuse of power etc. It is elusive because it can look ordinary (banality of evil).

Like people, I don't think all gods or spirits are wishing the best for us at all times.

Do other Pagans believe in evil?

Allaya

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2015, 07:19:44 am »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183298
I have one Wiccan friend that says that evil doesn't exist. I, however, do believe it does. Evil in the form of great misfortune, premature death, unnecessary pain, natural disaster, disease. Also, human evil comes in the form of wanton cruelty, greed, gross abuse of power etc. It is elusive because it can look ordinary (banality of evil).

Like people, I don't think all gods or spirits are wishing the best for us at all times.

Do other Pagans believe in evil?

 
I don't think natural processes like disease are evil. They help shape the course of evolution and the world would be a very, very different place (and not necessarily a better one) without them. Read up on endogenous retroviruses. They are literally part of who we are.

Likewise, I do not think 'natural disasters' are evil. They simply are. What we view as disastrous natural incidents are how the planet does remodeling. Maybe this is the geology student in me, but I can't really see an earthquake as evil...it's just what happens at plate boundaries and is as natural as the rain. Floods aren't evil, they're part of the hydrological cycle.

Natural disasters are only disasters when we are in the way of them.

I strongly object to the characterization of natural processes as evil. So in that sense, no, I do not believe in evil.

Evil is an artifact of the human experience, I think. It is something we do, not something done to us by the natural world.
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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2015, 04:22:23 pm »
Quote from: Allaya;183301
I don't think natural processes like disease are evil. They help shape the course of evolution and the world would be a very, very different place (and not necessarily a better one) without them. Read up on endogenous retroviruses. They are literally part of who we are.

Likewise, I do not think 'natural disasters' are evil. They simply are. What we view as disastrous natural incidents are how the planet does remodeling. Maybe this is the geology student in me, but I can't really see an earthquake as evil...it's just what happens at plate boundaries and is as natural as the rain. Floods aren't evil, they're part of the hydrological cycle.

Natural disasters are only disasters when we are in the way of them.

I strongly object to the characterization of natural processes as evil. So in that sense, no, I do not believe in evil.

Evil is an artifact of the human experience, I think. It is something we do, not something done to us by the natural world.

 
I have to agree with Allaya on these points. Natural phenomenon are not evil, just necessary. Often they are simply side-effects of Earth's natural processes, many of which are needed to keep Earth habitable. Without them, well then we'd have problems.

So I don't believe evil exists as a thing. Can people do evil? Sure, as a social construct evil is possible. But I don't believe that it exists as an existential force.

Zephyrine

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2015, 05:41:53 pm »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183298
I have one Wiccan friend that says that evil doesn't exist. I, however, do believe it does. Evil in the form of great misfortune, premature death, unnecessary pain, natural disaster, disease. Also, human evil comes in the form of wanton cruelty, greed, gross abuse of power etc. It is elusive because it can look ordinary (banality of evil).

Like people, I don't think all gods or spirits are wishing the best for us at all times.

Do other Pagans believe in evil?


Does Wiccan karma make the concept of evil unnecessary. I know this guy thinks that if you do something "bad" you get "bad plus plus". Actions and behaviours defined as evil don't need to exist because extremely antisocial behaviours just exist on a bad-good scale.

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2015, 07:26:55 pm »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183331
Does Wiccan karma make the concept of evil unnecessary. I know this guy thinks that if you do something "bad" you get "bad plus plus". Actions and behaviours defined as evil don't need to exist because extremely antisocial behaviours just exist on a bad-good scale.

 
For the life of me, I cannot work out what you are trying to say here. I've tried a few different ways to parse it, but it still comes out not making sense.

Help?
Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.  — Shirley Chisholm
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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2015, 09:14:37 pm »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183298
I have one Wiccan friend that says that evil doesn't exist. I, however, do believe it does. Evil in the form of great misfortune, premature death, unnecessary pain, natural disaster, disease. Also, human evil comes in the form of wanton cruelty, greed, gross abuse of power etc. It is elusive because it can look ordinary (banality of evil).

Like people, I don't think all gods or spirits are wishing the best for us at all times.
Do other Pagans believe in evil?

 
I do think that evil exists. I don't think it manifests itself in nature, however. I think that evil, on this plane of existence at least, is very much a human thing. I mean, a plague can hardly be *evil*- the disease is just doing what it needs to do in order to survive. On the other hand, a human serial killer is, most likely, evil- rarely does a person need to murder other people in order to keep living.

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2015, 12:44:20 am »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183298
Do other Pagans believe in evil?

 
First, define "evil".  (Possibly also 'believe in'.)

You've got three different apparent places where you might find something to call evil in your original post here: "bad things that happen", "human misbehaviour", and "entities that don't have your best interests in mind".  These are of course wildly different things, and any concept broad enough to encompass all of them is very likely to be vague enough to be useless.

Do bad things happen?  Yes.
Do people do things that are cruel, thoughtless, exploitative? Yes.
Are some beings malevolent?  Yes.
Do some beings just not give a shit about entities that aren't closely related to them?  Yes.
Are some of those beings humans?  Yes.

There are all kinds of things that I can answer "yes" to, but I can't answer "Do you believe in evil?" unless someone first goes into some detail to explain what it is that they're asking.

Because some of those things that I say yes to, if asked "Is that evil?" I would say "Of course not" to, or "It depends", or "That depends on what you mean by evil," or any of a number of other things.

(Mostly I use "evil" sparingly because too often its use mostly means "this is something about which I will not accept nuanced thought!  It is EVIL!")
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we rise and fall
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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #7 on: December 10, 2015, 06:22:34 pm »
Quote from: Allaya;183334
For the life of me, I cannot work out what you are trying to say here. I've tried a few different ways to parse it, but it still comes out not making sense.

Help?


I think Zephyrine is talking about the Threefold Law of Return.

As to an answer, I'm with Darkhawk on this one: it depends on how you define "evil".

RecycledBenedict

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2015, 07:05:02 am »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183298

Like people, I don't think all gods or spirits are wishing the best for us at all times.

Do other Pagans believe in evil?


Paganism is not a monolithic religion, now or in the past. It is hard or impossible to generalise.

In ancient Egyptian religion (at least since the New Kingdom) the behaviour of human beings during life, affected their existence in Afterlife (the famous judgment scene before Osiris, Thoth weighing the soul in a pair of scales). Evil (and good) caused by human beings were certainly a part of the ancient Egyptian world-view.
 
It is more difficult to apply the category of evil on the Egyptian deities. The popular image of Set as an 'evil' god is a distortion of what Egyptians actually believed about Set (some worshippers loved him): Although he murdered Osiris, he also assists Horus in the protection of the Sun against the Apophis snake. If we have to find some sort of cosmic evil at all in Egyptian religion, the Apophis snake is likely the closest equivalent, since it threaten to eat the Sun. This is, however, something of the character of natural disaster, rather than 'evil' in a moral sense.

Major and minor deities associated with suffering are more frequent in ancient myths than deities associated with moral evil. Sumerian and later Mesopotamian religion is ripe of dangerous deities causing suffering. Nergal, Namtar, Erra, Asag/asakku, and edimmu are just a few examples of this.

The myth about the establishment of cosmic order repeats itself in several mythologies. In a sense, it is a matter of warfare between good and evil, but it is probably better to describe it as a struggle between order and disorder. The texts from the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit describe how the storm god Baal have to defeat several opponents against himself and against his liege, the sky father El – Atar, Yam (the sea) and Mot (Death). The Hittites, who once lived in the central and eastern part of present day Turkey, had a myth about how the storm god Tarhunt had to defeat several opponents in order to ensure cosmic order: Kumarbi, who was one of his fathers (complicated story), Illuyanka, who was a cosmic snake or eel, and Ullikummi, a stone giant. Similarly, Zeus had to defeat his father Kronus, the serpentine Typhon and the Giants before establishing his power over Mt. Olympus and the world.

The deities of ancient Greek religion are described as fallible beings in the myths – something later generations of Greeks (and, when Roman religion became hellenised, the Romans) became increasingly uncomfortable with. Quintus Mucius Scaevola, who officiated as Pontifex Maximus 89-82 BCE, made a distinction between Theologia fabularis (about the deities as described in myths), Theologia civilis (about the deities as they are worshipped in the public cult of the government), and Theologia naturalis (about the deities as they may be known by the help of philosophy and the contemplative application of philosophy). While the deities of Theologia fabularis are fallible, the deities of public cult are infallible and inherently good beings. This view was maintained in On the Gods and the World by Sallustius in the 4th century CE (not to be confused with his relative Sallust, who lived four centuries earlier). A century earlier the Greek philosopher Plotinus () defended the traditional Hellenic high regard of Cosmos and it's Demiurge in his treatise against the Gnostic Christians. For Plotinus the deities are good.

Anyone interested may read Sallustius here:

http://www.goddess-athena.org/Encyclopedia/Friends/Sallustius/index.htm

And Plotinus here:

http://thriceholy.net/Texts/Plotinus5.html

In Greek religion, evil generally doesn't have a separate, inherent existence. It is just a insufficiency of good.

Persian religion, however, evolved into Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism describes the world as a struggle between the good god, Ahura Mazda (later: Ormuzd), and the evil god, Angra Mainyu (later: Ahriman). When Alexander the Great conquered Persia in the 330's BCE, former Persian provinces came under Greek cultural influence, mixing indigenous religions, Persian religion and Greek religion, especially in the small kingdoms at the southern coast of the Black Sea.

The mystery cult of Mithras emerged in the Roman Empire about 80 or 90 CE, by mixing Greek, Persian, Roman (and possibly other) elements. Since it wasn't a public religion open for anyone (all adherents were men) its worldview can't have influenced the general worldview of the Roman Empire. The evil Persian god Ahriman is mentioned in a sacred meeting-place for the Mithras cult, but under a hellenised name: Areimanios. Something to remember is, that the Mithras cult probably wasn't doctrinally homogenous. We can't know for sure, if Areimanios was a part of the Mithraic worldview at all mithraea during the entire history of Mithraism.

Merin

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2015, 12:40:19 pm »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183298


Do other Pagans believe in evil?


I love all of your questions - I can see you as having a strong background in philosophy. :)  That's really great.

Does true evil exist?  Yes, and we don't need anything supernatural to prove it.  We as humans have the potential to be both good and evil.  Gods and spirits have agendas - might not work out the best for us - it sucks, but it happens.  

It seems to me that a common theme in Wiccan ideology is that there is no true good or evil - everything is based on intention.  That's not necessarily the case.  Meaning, we can have all of the best intentions in the world, but our actions can still have negative consequences.  Seems like a cop-out to me - I didnt do anything wrong because my intentions were good.  Nope, you still have to suffer your karma, your retribution, your responsibility for what you put into this world at the expense of another.

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2015, 03:31:25 pm »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183298
I have one Wiccan friend that says that evil doesn't exist. I, however, do believe it does. Evil in the form of great misfortune, premature death, unnecessary pain, natural disaster, disease. Also, human evil comes in the form of wanton cruelty, greed, gross abuse of power etc. It is elusive because it can look ordinary (banality of evil).

Like people, I don't think all gods or spirits are wishing the best for us at all times.

Do other Pagans believe in evil?


I don't know about other pagans, but I certainly believe that evil does exist. Mostly, because I actually came up against a person that was genuinely evil.  Destroying lives just because he could. It's a long story, but yeah evil exists. I also believe that there are such things such as demons exist or rather really old and dark spirits.

Lana288

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2015, 05:17:00 pm »
Quote from: Merin;183418
It seems to me that a common theme in Wiccan ideology is that there is no true good or evil - everything is based on intention.  That's not necessarily the case.  Meaning, we can have all of the best intentions in the world, but our actions can still have negative consequences.  Seems like a cop-out to me - I didnt do anything wrong because my intentions were good.  Nope, you still have to suffer your karma, your retribution, your responsibility for what you put into this world at the expense of another.

 
I agree. I'm not sure if I believe in Karma or not, but I do think that if it does exist, it's probably a lot like cooking. You can *intend* to be baking a tray of tasty cookies, but if you use salt instead of sugar, you'll end up with something really nasty- regardless of your intentions.

...But that's because I think that if Karma exists, it's probably more of a natural law than anything else.

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #12 on: December 12, 2015, 10:46:46 am »
Quote from: Merin;183418
It seems to me that a common theme in Wiccan ideology is that there is no true good or evil - everything is based on intention.  That's not necessarily the case.  Meaning, we can have all of the best intentions in the world, but our actions can still have negative consequences.  Seems like a cop-out to me - I didnt do anything wrong because my intentions were good.  Nope, you still have to suffer your karma, your retribution, your responsibility for what you put into this world at the expense of another.

 
While I don't know a great deal about British Traditional Wicca's take on good/evil, I can state quite definitely that this is not how BTW folks view 'intention' - likewise, a good many old-school Eclectic Wiccans. This is much more a feature of NeoWicca (and even there is more 'common' in the sense of 'frequent, not unusual' than in the sense of 'thing practitioners have in common').

While I'm not all that sympathetic to BTW folks who try to restrict 'Wicca' to refer only to BTW, it's utterly nonsensical to use 'Wicca' in a way that excludes BTW, or if it includes them, grossly misrepresents them.

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Juniperberry

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2015, 02:22:23 pm »
Quote from: Zephyrine;183298
I have one Wiccan friend that says that evil doesn't exist. I, however, do believe it does. Evil in the form of great misfortune, premature death, unnecessary pain, natural disaster, disease. Also, human evil comes in the form of wanton cruelty, greed, gross abuse of power etc. It is elusive because it can look ordinary (banality of evil).

Like people, I don't think all gods or spirits are wishing the best for us at all times.

Do other Pagans believe in evil?

I think evil exists, not as a fixed point, but as a value system. The best explanation I have seen is that evil represents the negative spectrum (-), while good represents the positive spectrum (+).

In this sense, there can never be an fixed absolute maximum of good or evil because the scale is infinite, nor can there ever be pure good or pure evil.

It also allows us to weigh an action's positive value against it's negative value.

More importantly, instead of defining good and evil as fixed entities, we start defining the value system of our own needs, desires, and actions according to a naturally lawful scale.
« Last Edit: December 12, 2015, 02:22:58 pm by Juniperberry »
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Merin

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Re: Pagan belief systems - does evil exist?
« Reply #14 on: December 13, 2015, 01:34:34 am »
Quote from: SunflowerP;183449
While I don't know a great deal about British Traditional Wicca's take on good/evil, I can state quite definitely that this is not how BTW folks view 'intention' - likewise, a good many old-school Eclectic Wiccans. This is much more a feature of NeoWicca (and even there is more 'common' in the sense of 'frequent, not unusual' than in the sense of 'thing practitioners have in common').

While I'm not all that sympathetic to BTW folks who try to restrict 'Wicca' to refer only to BTW, it's utterly nonsensical to use 'Wicca' in a way that excludes BTW, or if it includes them, grossly misrepresents them.

Sunflower


Might be the hour - but this makes no sense to me.  I was speaking generally about Wiccans in my experience.  I was not picking out any particular tradition - BTW or otherwise.

Maybe you can enlighten me on how BTW intention works. :)

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