What is evil?

One of my friends has a fascinating post today. (It’s time to think) I was just going to share it but it got me to thinking. But I’m not sure I went down the rabbit hole Cookie intended.


What is evil? It’s easy to say, and we usually can point at something, or someone, and say that’s evil.  But what do we mean?  What do you think of when you say it’s evil?  Do you think of the cartoon image of Satan or the demons that Disney used in Night on Bald Mountain?  I think of Hitler and Stalin.  But that is too easy.

What is it?


Webster says it is:

a : morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked ·an evil impulse

b : arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct ·a person of evil reputation


a : causing harm : pernicious ·the evil institution of slavery

b : marked by misfortune : unlucky


New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia says: Evil, in a large sense, may be described as the sum of the opposition, which experience shows to exist in the universe, to the desires and needs of individuals;

New World Encyclopedia says: Evil is a term used to describe something that brings about harmful, painful, and unpleasant effects.


So, based on these, evil is causing harm to another; Sin is evil.

Stealing is wrong, it is a sin, you are depriving someone of their money or property – it causes harm. But is it evil?  What if you steal a loaf of bread to feed a child?  It is still a sin, but is it evil?  At what point does stealing become evil?

A friend says that she does not think that Evil exists. She points out that what we call evil are acts of man.  Rational animals seem to be incapable of committing evil.  She asks is evil exists outside of humans or is it a human construct.  A good question for a philosophical debate, but my answer is “yes” it exists.  Animals did not taste of the fruit that Eve and Adam did, they do not know right from wrong.  They can act in what might seem evil ways, but we do not ascribe evil intents to those actions.  I have seen footage of animals attacking each other for no logical reason.  In a human we would say that person was evil, so why not the animal?

Most of us think that there is wrong and then there is evil: Stealing is wrong.  Hitler, Stalin, Manson were evil.   But I submit that it is too easy to say “I know evil when I see it” because maybe we don’t.  Maybe it can be as simple as persuading others to do wrong, to turn away from God.  After all, isn’t that what Lucifer does?  That person/voice isn’t doing the harm, they are just “egging you on”, double daring you.  But isn’t not evil?

I believe that evil does exist. I also believe that I know evil when I see it (casting a wary eye towards DC) but I’m thinking that maybe I don’t always see it. Evil isn’t always ugly; it doesn’t always cause immediate harm.  Sometimes it just whispers in your ear:  “Do it, no one will get hurt”.

I am but a simple person wrestling with complex questions. I’m afraid that I can offer no answers.   What do you think?  How do you define evil?


(thanks for sending me down the rabbit hole, Cookie. It is good to ponder things such as this from time to time.)

One thought on “What is evil?

  1. your rabbit hole is as good as any other as evil has a myriad of holes and tunnels, twists and turns—obviously I had gotten thinking about it after being prompted elsewhere….
    And as I said—we have a myriad of “evils” and usually a scale for each one and where it should sit on the scale of bad and really really bad—but when it’s all said and done—I think
    evil is just that—sinfulness and the turning away from God and His word…
    Thank you for sharing your take on it all!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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