It is troubling that many people in our society want to disregard all notions of evil and simply focus on the good in humanity. That may seem like a nice sentiment to some. However, it’s just not realistic.
Many people would consider the problem of evil one of life’s most essential questions, but moral relativists would have you believe evil does not exist at all.
On July 29, American bicyclists Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, both 29, were cycling through Tajikistan with a group when they were run over by a car then stabbed to death by members of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
This tragedy occurred three months after Austin declared on his blog that evil is not real.
“Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own—it’s easier to dismiss an opinion as abhorrent than strive to understand it,” he wrote on his blog simplycycling.org.
It’s a complex statement to unpack because while I agree that it is important to strive to understand people who are different from you, it’s equally, if not more important, to be aware of the reality of evil while doing so.
Calling the 9/11 terrorist attacks evil, for instance, is not an attempt to categorize a culture we don’t understand. We understand the terrorist culture just fine — it’s evil.
Get to know your neighbors, but don’t assume they’re all nice people with good intentions. That may be generally true about many people, but it doesn’t override the necessity to call evil what it is.
You can have a million wonderful interactions in your lifetime but have all of those experiences tainted by one encounter with evil, as displayed by the tragic death of Austin and Geoghegan.
The couple spent over a year bicycling around the world, living a minimalist lifestyle, blogging their journey along the way. They quit their jobs to live life as described in their blog, on “simpler, more meaningful terms.”
For the most part, their journey was marked by generosity and kindness from strangers in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Central Asia.
Just 10 days before the attack, two young girls greeted them with a bouquet of flowers, according to the New York Times, which reported on other similar acts of kindness the couple experienced.
It’s all good and well to appreciate the love and care of decent people around the world but to take a stance as radical as declaring evil a fairytale, then knowingly bicycle through ISIS territory is naive at best.
Sometimes the form of evil is classified as a misunderstanding, but that does not hold.
The molestation of children by priests within the Catholic Church, for example, are not misunderstood — they are absolutely evil.
The Pope attempted to say the uncovering of these atrocities was simply an act of Satan to “divide the faithful.” But from a biblical standpoint, there is a problem with this claim.
Satan is referred to as the accuser because he falsely accuses, such as with Job, not because he uncovers the truth, such as with these Catholic leaders.
Rather, it is God who brings to light things hidden in darkness and exposes the motives of men’s hearts (1 Corinthians 4:5). I would argue that the Pope’s attempt to sweep the truth under the rug by disguising it as an attack of Satan is also evil.
However, historically speaking, the worst acts of evil — or, violations of human rights — have occurred when evil is swept under the rug.
Consider Nazi Germany where millions of people turned a blind eye to the horrific persecution of their neighbors. The persecution was evil, and so was the cowardly inaction by those who witnessed it.
Failing to call evil as evil is not only cowardly but an act of evil itself.
Taylor Walding is the Variety Editor for the Tropolitan. She is a senior communication major and multimedia journalism minor. Taylor blogs at digdeepertheology.blogspot.com.