Good and Evil
[Good and Evil In Religions]
According to modern scholars, the word religion comes from the Latin religare, which means “to bind” or “to reconnect”. (Allen, 2004). Hence, following this interpretation, religion can be understood as the necessary connection between men and the sacred mysteries. Therefore, religion, like any other ethical and philosophical system has to provide answers to the dichotomy between good and evil. However, although every religion and system of beliefs have its set of rules and notions regarding the nature of these forces, each one of them concurs on the fact that they exist and interact with the humans. In this essay, we shall explain briefly the notions of good and evil in the religions studied in class to understand how the concepts of right and wrong are widespread across the cultures, becoming a fundamental part of the human ethics. However, to properly address each religion studied, we shall separate them according to the kind of belief they profess.
For instance, pantheistic religions such as the Hinduism, Jainism and Daoism believe that evil is inherently unreal and a product of our suffering and ignorance. Thus, although the universe itself contains both values of good and evil, it does not possess either evil or good within itself, as good and evil exist separated, and the deity or deities lie beyond good and evil (Mander, 2012). However, we shall include Sikhism here although it is not a pantheist religion per se, its views regarding good and evil are closer to those of Hinduism, from where it received a sizeable amount of influence.
Likewise, although nontheistic, Buddhism share a series of elements with the Hinduism, such as considering that Karma rules our lives and we, through our actions of body, speech and mind, create the situations that lead to bad situations. Therefore, instead of constantly living worrying about doing things right or wrong, Buddhists exercise their self-awareness as the only way to be able to stop doing actions that might lead to suffering and unhappiness. Likewise, evil and good are human values that depend on our actions instead of precepts set in stone.
On the other hand, Shinto is a polytheistic religion whose precepts are not based on a series of laws, but in following the will of the kami, or gods. Hence, a Shinto follower would try to live according to the kami and given the fact that these gods are not perfect; humans are not expected to be either. Overall, Shinto ethics promote harmony and purity of intentions, but disapproves moral absolutes and employ situational ethics to assess whether an action is good or bad (BBC, 2009).
Last, monotheistic religions. To Judaism, Islam and Catholicism, good and evil are two rival principles and that although God created both good and evil to make humans distinguish between the two principles, the battle is not on a heavenly ground, but in the human’s consciousness. This means that humans have free will to assess each of the principles and incorporate them into their lives as they see fit. Therefore, to reach goodness, humans have to approach God and understand themselves as part of something greater and that it is possible to them to receive forgiveness if they repent and reshape their conduct.
Ultimately, the notions of good and evil have pervaded our world, turning it into a black and white situation, which it should not be. Inequality and poverty run rampant not only in the country but the world, what makes us wonder whether good and evil exist and to which extent. For this reason, instead of thinking of a particular set of beliefs, I prefer, like the Shinto religion, consider the situation before passing judgment on the good or evil of things.
Harpur, T. (2004). The pagan Christ: Recovering the lost light. New York: Walker &.
Mander, W. (2012, October 1). Pantheism. Retrieved December 10, 2015, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/#PanRelLit
Shinto. (2009). Retrieved December 10, 2015, from http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/shinto/shintoethics/ethics.shtml
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