So this whole "evil" thing has been weighing on me rather more than the results of a dopey online quiz have any right to do. Especially because my "angelic" dearly-beloved keeps giving me weird sidelong glances and getting all huffy when I tease him about fantasizing about entertainment. (I mean, really... spending valuable daydreaming time thinking about Jonny Greenwood and Chan Marshall... with their clothes on? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, my friends?)
And naturally, one thought leads to another and then one finds oneself musing about the nature of evil and its varying definitions by varying interest groups, from the Genitally Obsessed to the Environmentally Conscious to the Wiccan Threefolders. Is sex evil? What about premarital sex? Homosexuality? Prostitution? Is it evil to drive a car? To buy an imported-from-China unnecessary but highly enjoyable electronic gizmo? To use birth control pills, knowing full well that traces of the hormones they contain are accumulating in waterways and possibly wreaking havoc on innocent previously-non-gender-confused fish*? Is it evil to go merrily about one's business, knowing full well that billions around the world (probably including many of one's own friends and relatives) are, according to a particular read of a particular set of beliefs, destined to roast forever in the pits of Hell? Heck, does evil even exist, or do bad things just happen?
For a cranky old heathen freethinker like myself, the idea of "evil" poses a special problem--it seems that evil is often identified as an external force, intrinsic to the the universe and opposed to an equally externalized "good." The Force and the Dark Side o' the Force; Ahura Mazda and Ahriman; Jehovah and Lucifer; Batman and the Joker; Meatwad and Shake.
But if one considers evil to be not a specific force, but rather a choice and its consequences, then Big Scary Evil immediately loses its power--both its fearsomeness and its lethal attractiveness. Evil doesn't need the trappings of the black-spired castle, the fab black cloak, the sinister laugh.
Evil is as banal as the sweet-faced old Hutu grandfather who points out his Tutsi neighbors to the mob; as omnipresent as the legions of basement-bound keyboard warriors spewing their anonymous hate onto the Internet; as local as the alienated teenager who sits in his bedroom and strokes his rifle's stock and waits.
Evil consists as much of omission as of commission. Evil sees suffering in the world and passes by on the other side.
Evil is charging rape victims for the forensic tests performed on their broken bodies.
Evil insists that Christians have a duty to slaughter babies if it is God's will but that if God were to order "a man to lie down with a man," he would be no longer good and no longer God.
Evil is swindling an elderly woman out of $1 million for home repairs you claimed she needed, cleaning out her savings and sending her into foreclosure.
Evil is killing an Amur tiger to grind its bones into powder that some misguided idiot will swallow in the hope of enlarging his tiny penis.
Evil is sending troops into battle so ill-equipped that they are forced to capture enemy weapons just to make sure there are enough guns to go around.
Evil is selfishness writ large. But selfishness writ small is just survival.
Evil does not consist of thoughts; it consists of thoughts carried out. You can think whatever insane psychotic shit you want, but once it crosses the brain-body barrier, you have gone from Just a Little Twisted to Seriously Messed Up. And if you can't keep your thoughts from turning into actions, you have problems above and beyond understanding the philosophical definition of evil and should probably check into some nice inpatient program somewhere.
Evil causes harm, and where there's no harm there is no foul. Where there is no choice but to cause some harm, evil fails to minimize the damage. When it comes time to pay the piper, evil shrugs and says "Don't look at me."
Evil is not cognate with "sin." There is a difference between evil and trashy, ill-considered or even self-destructive behavior. Lust? Gluttony? Sloth? Have at it, y'all... you know I'll be right there next to you partying like a snowboarder, or sitting there like a particularly recalcitrant bump on a log, or whatever the occasion calls for.
But, y'know, don't listen to me. I'm evil myself. Some quiz on the Internet said so.
*On a skeptical Science Fridayish note, it should probably be made clear that this "study" consisted of dumping vast amounts of estrogen into a "small lake in Canada" to see what happened to the fish and was not based on any observations made in nature. Also, before you succumb to the siren song of the concern-troll anti-contraception nutjobs who are certain to leap onto this particular hobbyhorse, please note that it's apparently not a big deal to retrofit sewage treatment plants to filter out estrogen.
**One more song for you on an evil theme: Reggie and the Full Effect's truly weird cover of Slayer's "Raining Blood."