The Problem with The Problem of Evil

I have informally studied human nature through my exposure to 2–5 year olds over the last decade. There is this odd phenomenon that occurs right when a child is about to become potty trained: they invariably become little shits, or pricks, or assholes (I use these terms deliberately, because it became obvious to me that they are explicitly related to the lower functions). The defiant child will give you this knowing look as they intentionally violate some line or rule—screaming at nap, pulling someone’s hair with impunity—throwing a fit exactly when it’s most inconvenient for you. Even the sweet child contracts a spark of rebelliousness during this period, and I think it is directly related to self control: they are filled with joy that they have power—something they had ignorantly assumed, but now can exercise by choice.

Now, I was raised in the James Dobson “dare to discipline” days. So I got a sound spanking when it was reported, by mom to dad, that I has been overly defiant. My parents were by no means abusive or all that hard line, but my dad had a BIG issue with what he called “the rebellious nature of man.” This attitude toward Sin, while correct in a literally Biblical sense, had the effect of planting in me a fear of authority (I recall, in highschool, seeing a “Question Authority” sticker and growing physically nauseous). I also grew to distrust of my own self direction, and this lead to an overreaction on my part once I reached adulthood. I had to break every rule with vicious aptitude, to test what was in me, through my own experience. In a word, it made me very, very angry, for a spell, and I wound up derailing my progress as a human for a few years, as what I wound up breaking wasn’t The Law, but my own person, which I subsequently had to rebuild.

Now, I am a theist—and a monotheist at that. I believe there is an up and a down, and there is significant pressure on us to fall, and we need inner guidance to travel upward. (Furthermore, I can’t imagine that hell and heaven are binary states—life is plotted on a spectrum, from lowest slug to highest heavenly sphere, so how could the spiritual realm be either “Godly” or “Hellish”?) That being said—the biblical language regarding sin, evil and rebellion was written at an early stage of society’s development. And just as a child sees things—or, rather, gravitates towards the Allegorical and the Cartoonish, biblical language paints the world in thick lines and with primary colors. But once we mature, there is a need to view shades of grey, and subtler distinctions between courses of action, and the question arises: what is the intent behind an action?

For a rebellious child, a large part of their difficult or deplorable behavior has to do with exerting their sense of power—and in that instant, it is wise of the adult to be unemotional when countering and redirecting them. When I have responded in anger to such displays, that anger has stuck with me, and makes me feel bad. But there have been instances when using my own dominance—physical or audible—quickly, severely, and without spite—have seemed appropriate, especially when violence is occurring.

There are many more issues to suss out here, about human and subhuman nature, but I wanted to highlight this point: such charged words as damnation and hell need to be translated into more grownup language. Subtlety and an appreciation of hyperbole and irony, context and culture must be employed in this day and age, if this issue is to be made useful for us who live complex and multifaceted lives.

About Benjamin

I mostly write. Songs, too: View all posts by Benjamin

3 responses to “The Problem with The Problem of Evil

  • Leanne

    That was a good read for me and I can relate to much of that and particularly the times and generations you were raised in. I too had my confidence and self esteems severely shaken by the old style upbringing of corporal punishment and children should be seen and not heard. But also not being raised in any particular religioun I found myself overly influenced by some religious discussions of heaven and hell and good and evil.

    Thank God I’ve grown up since then and rebelled along the way. I’m a much better person for having done that despite my numerous mistakes. I’m a free spirit who can think for myself and have an accute sense of integrity. I love life because of the freedom to think and feel for myself that I have chosen.

  • Leanne

    Just an after thought here, having read M Scott Pecks books A Road Less Travelled and People of the Lie……I’m repeatedly reminded of his simple description of what it means to be evil or what it represents in our society. He says the fundamental causes of evil is fear and laziness. In his two books he has many examples and case studies of how this works. Fear can mean many things such as fear of change, the unknown, loss of prestige and peer approval etc; and the laziness is about the unwillingness to do the work needed, as well as suffer the discomfort or take the time to allow real change to occur……that would benefit oneself and others. Reading these two books opened my eyes to the nature of evil on the human level and helped me deal with the dramatic process that it took for me to break free from a highly dysfunctional cultural and family system as well as my own programming. Of course the latihan was the tool I needed that made all the difference……..praise God!

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