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|Books about positive values, spirituality, and counseling
Problem of Evil"
problem of evil is built on our limited evolution as a species,
though we have come some distance in the last 3000 years. The
problem of evil is built on our freedom to treat others and ourselves
well or badly. At the same time we resist changing even in a direction
we define as positive, since it upsets the biologically based
homeostasis that has made it possible to survive as a species.
It is important
to not do hurtful things in the name of what is positive. We can
easily agree with this idea when we think of Western culture and
the ideals to which we are generally committed.
But we have
difficulty understanding and dealing with gross evil, such as rape
and murder, and now terrorist acts such as the September 11 attacks
on the Trade Towers and Pentagon. Thousands died in those events,
while millions died in World War II. Evil abounds, and it seems
often to be a force in the universe that has a life of its own.
Evil sometimes seems to have a kind of subjective power over us,
so that we objectify and humanize evil by calling evil the work
of the devil.
an alternate view, that people by their commitment to certain values
commit acts that are evil and destructive. In that view, people
create evil by their destructive decisions and actions, and there
is no devil. Or, if you please, the devil is us.
that evil is generated by people and not "satan" is built on the
belief that we are all free to manage our lives in whatever way
we wish. As a result, we are free to pollute or sanctify the environment
in which we all live, a spiritual environment.
would anyone pollute his or her own space? The only motive I can
think of that is powerful enough is the desire to survive. That
may seem to be a preposterous idea, that polluting one's own environment
could be a means of survival.
moment to follow along this chain of thinking and logic. Suppose
a terrorist grew up in abject poverty, as many did in Afganistan
(and parts of the USA). Suppose he believed he didn't matter to
anyone, was just another unwanted child who was used and abused
by anyone physically stronger.
Such a child
can easily come to the conclusion that since he has no value to
anyone, he will survive by his wits with little consideration for
anyone else, grabbing what he can whenever and wherever he can get
it, manipulating others to survive. This is the foundation of a
lifelong struggle for survival.
that child continued to struggle and endure much physical and emotional
pain as he grew up. He would understand the meaning of "jihad" in
its original and actual meaning of "struggle." His whole life could
be summed up as a struggle to survive by someone of no importance
It is easy
to understand that our hypothetical person would want revenge upon
those who oppressed him and be ready to place blame to focus his
rage. We can empathize with the pain and desperation that such a
person would feel attempting to survive in a world in which he has
no options for anything better.
time this person is an adolescent, he is ready to be recruited into
a system that promises to value him as an important person. That
system can offer him a way to get the revenge he seeks by targeting
an enemy defined as his oppressor and the oppressor of all mankind:
"family" he joins helps him understand that his lifelong struggle
to survive, his jihad, can now become his opportunity to finally
be vindicated and valued by his family and by Allah through destruction
of the enemy who would destroy him. His struggle then becomes a
holy struggle to kill the enemy, a "holy Jihad." That he may give
his life in the struggle is more affirmation of his personal value
and guarantees eternal affirmation with Allah.
traditional Islamic meaning of jihad is perverted into a rallying
flag for destruction, a triumph over evil, from his point of view.
how this can happen does not endorse it, but does give us a perspective
on the long term solution. As we eradicate hunger, pain, and suffering,
and help every human to have the opportunities we take for granted
in the USA, we eradicate the breeding ground for those who create
have used the example of the evolution of a terrorist, the emotional
process is similar for an American murderer, abuser of women or
children, or rapist, etc. The soil for growing people who commit
evil acts is a grounding in poverty and pain. Some emerge from that
crucible as saints. Others come to personify evil.
we do? In the long term we can raise to a high priority our cultural
commitment to eradicate poverty wherever it exists in our world,
just as we eradicated smallpox. This is the long term war against
evil that is not likely to be fully won in our lifetime.
we protect ourselves and others from those who would destroy anyone's
basic rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The
pursuit of happiness does not endorse the right of for anyone to
attempt to destroy those rights for others.
the same basic values I have described as affirming the value of
each individual (life), the autonomy that allows each person to
make his or her own decisions (liberty), and to live life his or
her own way (the pursuit of happiness). Those are ironically the
very rights, when lived out, that relieve the suffering of those
who would destroy them for others.
may seem a far cry from matters of loving relationships and spirituality,
but they are not. The application of values that would erase poverty
are the same values that create intimacy in relationships and allow
us to be connected to all people in a loving way. They are the values
that create love in the spiritual dimension of life.
out of fundamental values affirming the importance of every life
and the right of each of us to manage our own lives let us sanctify
the spiritual dimension of life and experience a serenity that is
© 2001 by Benjamin B. Conley, All Rights Reserved