I believe that there is such a thing as absolute evil. Of late, the word has been removed from the cultural vocabulary, and I find that disturbing. Without the idea of “evil,” how are we supposed to guide our culture in a positive direction?
It’s as if people think the ideas of good and evil are becoming less relevant to modern culture. It’s sad that a society could get something that wrong. People who recognized evil for what it was toppled Hitler. Now you can’t get the word “evil” to appear as an adjective to his name – the words “madman” and “insane” have replaced it.
Insane? So the world thinks that the man who built Germany from a near third-world nation to a global power in 10 years was a madman? Hitler was anything but mad. His ideas were unquestionably, inconceivably evil, but they made logical sense to a large number of people at the time. How could a madman rally the population of an entire country to join in the madness? No. The replacement term “madman” is entirely inaccurate.
The only use these days for the word “evil” is on the lips of despots, terrorists, and their supporters. What’s worse, these thoroughly evil men use the word only to refer to their primary opposition – the United States of America. It angers me to hear my country called evil by people who think nothing of rounding up their political rivals (and sometimes innocent people) and executing them. Evil knows what it is, and does its best to disguise this – be it by calling its enemies evil, or giving itself a new name that sounds good at the time (Nazism, Communism, etc).
A clear moral compass is the only thing that will keep civilized society from straying from the straight and narrow path and into the wildernesses of oppression and despair. Without the knowledge that there is truly such a thing as evil, how are we to recognize it when it comes knocking? Will we even see the heir to the worldview that gave the world Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Jong-Il, Saddam Hussein, and Fidel Castro when he comes knocking? My guess is most people won’t. They almost didn’t when the world’s moral compass was in near-perfect working order, back in the 1930s.
If the realization that true evil can (and does) exist dies out, it’s only a matter of time before someone exploits this weakness. When that happens, the world will fall into a cycle of oppression that would make the Soviet Empire at its height (or, if you prefer, its low point) look positively charming.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.