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Evil, Ethics and Freedom

By Sam Webster

Theodicy, the theological study of evil, is one of the stumbling blocks of religion. I have a few thoughts on the subject, which I doubt will end the matter, but perhaps shed a certain Pagan light on it. In general theodicy is trying to answer the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” “Because God wills it,” to test or to strengthen the adherent, or “Karma,” the result of past actions, are two of the more popular answers. As a Thelemite, I am not so interested in what happened but in what to do, so I tend to look at this from the other side: “How do I avoid doing evil?” This leads me to a systems-analysis approach to evil that shows how hard it is to avoid doing Evil, but there is some hope in that too.

But first, I want to eliminate some ideas about evil, so we can see where it really resides. There is an ancient idea about evil that the Catholic church preserves, but rarely teaches because of our contemporary understanding of the world: ‘Natural Evil’. Disaster and disease are the usual events called natural evil, but we can’t really see these phenomenon as evil today. We know diseases are (generally) germ-caused, not by evil demons. We understand that the avalanche and the earthquake are the result of natural forces that, if they did not function as they do, universally and automatically, other aspects of the world would not work as it does and thus support life (read: us). But we must remember that in the ancient world these events were considered manifestations of evil.

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