How Do You Define Evil?

Do you have a one line definition for the word evil?

I think we can all think of something. The more thought I give to this, the more of a challenge I find it to be.

We all grew up with a variety of images. Anyone who went to church would have a picture of the snake in the Garden of Eden.


You would also think of false idols, betrayal, money and power as possible ideas on the nature of the beast (feel free to use a capital ‘B’ there).

In media, evil is portrayed as everything from fictional monsters to human monsters. I still remember being in my early teens up late watching Nosferatu which was an early black-and-white silent movie. Freaked me right out.


Of course vampires these days are both hero and villain. Competing with werewolves for human affection. And I have to say I often wondered why the dead needed to eat. Whether it’s sucking blood or zombies eating brains, dead is dead people!!

There are classic evil characters in film and television like Hannibal Lechter and Dexter who are a brilliant muddle of broken psyches that still manage to elicit sympathy from the crowd. Anyone who has watched Dexter could not have been anything but blown away by last season’s finale.

Human monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and a seemingly endless array of twisted humanity. Ted Bundy, Robert Pickton, Daniel Barbosa, Gilles de Rais, Ahmad Suradji, Alexander Pichushkin, Harold Shipman are just a few serial killers from around the globe. Some hide in weeds and attack. Others lead countries and abuse power to control the masses and impose will.

Religion has been used endlessly as a vehicle of power and control. I’m not even going to bother listing anything here because they’ve been well documented. We shall kill them in the name of the Lord, our loving and endlessly forgiving giver of life. Makes a whole lot of sense doesn’t it?

Even at that, these are some (and I do mean some) of the most obvious and disgusting examples out there. So is evil always this sadistic, mental illness driven, bloodthirsty and cold. Obviously not. But many of those words apply across the board. Ultimately murder is not the only game in town where evil is concerned.

Bloodlust is obvious and twisted, openly demented, easy to identify. What I find to be far more dangerous is the evil that is not so much in your face. And the people who act in this manner are, generally speaking, not out for blood but something far less predictable. Their methods are usually well thought out, crafted for maximum impact, require a certain degree of intelligence and often have goals that are years away.

I could use religion as a primary example of this (I find it interesting that over the centuries religion has gone both ways. Torture, massacre and fear on the one hand and far more subtle methods on the other. I think a quiet yet crucial example of what I mean appears to be unfolding as we speak in the US. And religion is involved but I don’t believe it is the primary force behind this.

It’s easy to see things have changed in the US over the last decade or more. We’ve seen education levels drop where they had been rising. We’ve seen the middle class all but disappear while money has concentrated into the top 1% of the populace. We’ve watch extremism come into the mainstream of religion in the US, particularly on the right. We’ve watched heroes change from people who actually accomplish amazing feats of heroism to people who do nothing other than be famous for a living.

We’ve witnessed politics grow into a clean separation of parties where suddenly a very small percentage of people end up deciding who governs. We’ve seen an amalgamation of financial forces into a very thin line of decision-making on who makes money and how. All the supposed regulations that have been implemented are mostly watered-down versions of what should have been.

And finally we have the media. And they can cry foul all they want. When a sports figure’s cheating is big news for days on end and policy decisions and discussions get bumped so we can watch Michael Jackson’s body being loaded into an ambulance, there’s some sort of disconnect. When we have media outlets that lean towards a particular political party and so news stories become spin, there’s a real problem. Journalism has been bastardized so far that much of the public, who spend little time paying attention to the facts as it is, are being fed tripe and lies. Real reporters are hard to find. Fame has become news. Lies are reported without telling anyone they’re lies. Pundits speak from both sides and that is supposed balance. Except crap is crap and crap x 2 still equals twice the crap.

You may look at all these different elements that surround us and control us to varying extents and say ‘so?’. The thing is that I believe all these things are related. And I also believe that those with the most cash are colluding to make these things happen. That may sound paranoid to you. I can’t blame you for that. But I would ask that you keep this in mind…all these various events, from turning news into entertainment to what is taught to your children in school, are controlled by one thing: money.

As I stated above, the wealth in America has been crushed into the endlessly needy pockets of the extremely rich. You and I don’t have it and we have no control on media, government (don’t kid yourself…voting people in and out doesn’t change the power structures behind the scenes), education, finances. As you may or may not be aware, corporations are now considered people in the political funding system. So when Target gives millions to a political party, don’t you think they’ll expect something in return? And when corporations hold their boot over a candidate’s throat and can pretty much guarantee they can get him/her elected or ousted, why aren’t you afraid?

So am I saying that money is evil?

No. Money is a tool. No, correct that. Money is a weapon. And because so much money is controlled by so few, that weapon can wield immense force. Money doesn’t control things but is used to control things. Power is at the heart of the matter. So here’s my attempt at simplifying evil:

Evil is the corruption and abuse of power no matter how significant or insignificant.

A single murder is the corruption and abuse of a person’s ability to subdue and kill you. The Vatican has untold billions of dollars and controls access to information they deem relevent. They claim to help the poor but there are so many poor and they have so much money. They use fear of God’s wrath to control people in poor countries where education is minimal. The uneducated are the easiest to control and cost the least to control. They corrupt and abuse the power inherent in a God who holds your afterlife in the palm of His hand.

Rupert Murdoch uses his billions to control the media flow of information to the public by slanting views towards the political right. He corrupts and abuses the integrity of journalism for his own personal gain.

So I will stand by my single sentence for now at least. Something may change my view to that. I’d be happy to discuss any and all thoughts on this subject. Please comment as you see fit!

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4 Responses to How Do You Define Evil?

  1. PerfectChristians says:

    I Strongly Disagree, With this essay. You have to consider every point of view on evil because it is subjective.

    • larrylootsteen says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’m not sure what you mean by considering every point of view. Can you expand your thoughts a little for me?

      I agree somewhat that evil is subjective but that is only when the word is used out of context. Obama is evil. George Bush is evil. My teacher is evil for giving me so much homework. I consider those subjective statements.

      Unless someone is insane and thinks willingly hurting people is a good thing, I feel that the very basic definition of evil is outside of subjectivity (and yes, trying to squeeze it into a single sentence may have been a bad idea!). I’m curious to hear what you say to that!

  2. Cliff Bechard says:

    Right on, Larry!
    I agree 100% with you on “what” defines evil. I doubt I will, for the first time not to vote in the 2012 American elections. It really doesn’t matter WHO is in charge. What happened to all the “change” we were promised by our Commander in Chief two years ago?? The goverment here in the USA is a evil enity all of it’s own. Sad, but true.

    • larrylootsteen says:

      Well, I hope you change your mind and vote. As much as evil exists throughout, I do think there’s a deeper form of it on one side. I’ll leave that as my vaguely pointed reply! Thanks for writing!

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