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Is Evil ‘Real’ or Just the Sum Total of the Endlessly

Varied Things & States of Affair we Agree to Call ‘Evils’?

The effects which follow too constant and intense a concentration upon evil are always disastrous. Those who crusade not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes even perceptibly worse than it was before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself.

Aldous Huxley

Strangely enough, evil people are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is that they fail to see where evil is situated. Instead of destroying others they should be destroying the sickness within themselves.

M. Scott Peck

The great purges were just beginning and [the American philosopher Sidney] Hook, raising the cases of Zinoviev and Kamenev, asked [Bertolt] Brecht how he could bear to work with the American communists, who were trumpeting their guilt. Brecht said that the US communists were no good—nor were the Germans either—and that the only body which mattered was the Soviet Party. Hook pointed out that they were all part of the same movement, responsible for the arrests and imprisonment of innocent former comrades. Brecht: “As for them, the more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot.” Hook: “What are you saying?” Brecht: “The more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot.” Hook: “Why? Why?” He repeated the question but Brecht did not answer. Hook got up, went into the next room and brought Brecht’s hat and coat. ‘When I returned he was still sitting in his chair, holding a drink in his hand. When he saw me with his hat and coat, he looked surprised. He put his glass down, rose and with a sickly smile took his hat and coat and left.’

Paul Johnson (from Intellectuals)

[Shortly after the Srebenica massacre in 1992, American investigative reporter Randall Sullivan left Yugoslavia where he had been looking into the reported Marian apparitions in the small town of Medjugorje. On his way home he stopped off in Rome where, as he recounts in the resulting book, The Miracle Detective, he and the devil crossed paths in the Piazza Navona.]

I left the newspaper on a café table with the dregs of my seven-dollar beer and circled the Fountain of Four Rivers, weaving through throngs of tourists, T-shirt vendors, and street performers, stopping finally to perch on the back of a bench by the lesser fountain at the piazza’s south end. I had been sitting for perhaps five minutes when an elegantly dressed man with silver hair came walking in my direction out of the narrow street nearby. He wore a beautifully cut blue blazer with cream linen trousers, a bright yellow cravat, and sharp-toed shoes polished to a high gloss. “Quite the gent,” I thought, then saw the man’s face and drew a quick breath. His expression was one of the strangest I had ever seen, a sort of malevolent drollery that did not entirely conceal the suffocating rage beneath it. Though all by himself, the man began to speak in a loud voice as he drew near me, in a language that was not Italian. My heart was pounding. I looked around at the tourists nearby, baffled by the fact that not one of them seemed to notice this oddity. It was as if, in some way, the silver-haired man and I were isolated from the scene surrounding us. Suddenly, he let loose with a mad cackle and turned his head to fix me with one eye.

In that moment, I knew he wasn’t human. An unearthly calm came over me almost immediately. I clutched the scapular medal that was still around my neck and stared back at him, thinking, “You can’t touch me.”

He responded with the most obscene leer I had ever seen, and this time I understood exactly what he said: “I’ll catch you later.”

Some evils, indeed, are ministerial to higher forms of good; but it may be that there are forms of evil so extreme as to enter into no good system whatsoever, and that, in respect of such evil, dumb submission or neglect to notice is the only practical resource.

William James

Because I made friends among the locals, I heard a story every few days that reminded me how proximate to the horror [of the war in Yugoslavia] I was... One of the priest confided that he had nearly suffered a nervous breakdown after hearing the confessions of more than a dozen nuns who had been gang-raped by the Serbs, held in captivity until they were impregnated, then released with three choices: Give birth to a bastard child fathered by a Serbian rapist, get an abortion, or commit suicide; nearly every one of these women had pleaded for permission to kill herself, the priest said.

Randall Sullivan

I have seen cases in which an individual made an evil choice for no apparent reason other than the pure desire to exercise the freedom of his or her will. It is as if such people say to themselves, “Were I to do the good thing, it would be because it is good. But if I do the bad thing, it will be solely because I want to. Therefore I shall do the bad, because it is my freedom to do so.”

M. Scott Peck

It may be doubted if any man ever really said, ‘Evil, be thou my good.’

Thomas Henry Huxley

Thoughts about Evil & Wickedness

Evil always has something to do with lies.

M. Scott Peck

As for truth, [the devil] has never taken his stand upon that; there is no truth in him. When he utters falsehood, he is only uttering what is natural to him; he is all false, and it was he who gave falsehood its birth.

Jesus of Nazareth

Evil deeds do not an evil person make. Otherwise we should all be evil, because we all do evil things.

M. Scott Peck

It is common knowledge that the good and the wicked do not constitute two distinct human categories. Rather, good and evil are inextricably commingled in our hearts.

Ignace Lepp

Evil has no capital of its own. It is a parasite on goodness.

Fulton Sheen

Few men are sufficiently discerning to appreciate all the evil they do.

La Rochefoucauld

Generally speaking those who carry most guilt will acknowledge least.

I came to carry out the struggle, not to kill people. Even now, and you can look at me: Am I a savage person? My conscience is clear.

Pol Pot (Interview, Oct 1997)

Hinduism as a religion does not have the theological doctrine of evil, and is satisfied with relegating it to the domain of ethics.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

According to Eastern philosophies evil is not in man’s will, but is essentially bound up with the existence of the body and the material universe.

Christopher Dawson

Human nature is corrupt at the source because it has grown out of material nature.

Northrop Frye

If all evil were prevented, much good would be absent from the universe.


Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it.

C. S. Lewis

It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.

H. L. Mencken

The matter with mankind is not incorrigible natural depravity but just ignorance—flat earth ignorance.

George Bernard Shaw

Men do not differ much about what things they will call evil; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.

G. K. Chesterton

Men in association are capable of wickedness from which each individually would shrink.

Evelyn Waugh

Two starving men cannot be twice as hungry as one; but two rascals can be ten times as vicious as one.

George Bernard Shaw

One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.

Hamlet (Hamlet)

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.

Joseph Conrad

It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.

Albert Einstein

The central defect of evil is not sin but the refusal to acknowledge sin.

M. Scott Peck

It is not sin per se that characterizes those who are evil, rather it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their sin.

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

Merchant of Venice (Antonio)

Oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray
In deepest consequence.

Macbeth (Banquo)

The spirit of evil is one of unreality, but it itself is real. It really exists.

M. Scott Peck

Christian doctrine holds that evil is real. Eastern religions do not consider it to be real. They consider it to be illusion or false knowledge, what they call maya.

The wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts.

Carl Jung

It was my first glimpse of authentic evil, and—as always happens with evil—infected me, evil being the most infectious, and even contagious, of all sicknesses.

Malcolm Muggeridge

There is no wicked side [of life]: life is all one.

George Bernard Shaw (from Major Barbara)

Shaw believed that what we have learned to call evil is technically an error in the experimental process of trial and error by which evolution must advance.

Michael Holroyd (biographer)

We must give up the simple notion that we can effectively conquer evil by destroying it.

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils of this world can be cured by legislation.

Thomas Reed

While the evil seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their “goodness” is all on a level of pretense. It is, in effect, a lie.

M. Scott Peck

I was completely enchanted by Stalin, by his foresight, his attentiveness, his concern for me. Everything that I saw and heard from Stalin wove a spell over me.

Nikita Kruschev

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