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The Almighty Buck

Chacham's Journal: Do you believe in evil? (Religious) 31

Journal by Chacham

(This question is pretty much religious in nature, and as such I am only asking for "religious" responses.)

I have heard of "eastern" religions that believe the world is a fight between good and evil. There the chaos and order beliefs as well. Judaism does not believe in evil or chaos. What are your beliefs? And is it personal, or because it is a tenent of your faith?

This discussion was created by Chacham (981) for no Foes, but now has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Do you believe in evil? (Religious)

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  • I'm not really prepared to get into a discussion of religion per se, so I don't know if you care that much about by opinion on the subject. I will say that I very much believe in evil; whether you want to talk about it in the context of religion or in a more secular sense, I believe that there are forces at work in the world whose purpose is to sow discord, hatred, fear, and chaos.

    I also believe that every person has a moral obligation-- again, either for religious reasons or secular ones; I think the net result is the same-- to fight evil when and where it arises.
    • I don't know if you care that much about by opinion on the subject.

      I care to know opinions here. That's why I asked. I didn't ask to argue. It's just a topic that interests me.
  • by On Lawn (1073)

    What do you mean by evil that Jews don't believe in it?
    • by Chacham (981)
      What do you mean by evil that Jews don't believe in it?

      As in the opposite of good. I don't mean "bad" which is the opposite of good in a choice, or "wicked", which is mostly someone who chooses the wrong thing constantly. I mean evil as in the force.

      • So you don't think we feel an influence towards wrong choices? Does that mean we don't feel an influence towards good choices?
        • That's where the question turns to the spiritual/metaphysical. Does one believe in creatures/persons/beings somewhere between Man and G*d, that exist on a spiritual level, and interact with us, often without our knowing. Call them Angels, call them Spirits, call them what you will. I've never met one personally, but I'm not about to rule out the possibility their existance. I know there's more in the heavens and earth than is dreamt of in my philosophy.

          Twirlip's first post on this was very good, I think. That there are people "whose purpose is to sow discord, hatred, fear, and chaos" is beyond any doubt in my mind. I also know, from observation, that there are people in this world whose hearts have been twisted into a hatred of both G*d and man, who act on that hatred. People so corrupted are, from my experience and observations, inevitably motivated to spread their corruption to others.

          A spiritual being with a heart twisted towards hatred could well be perceived as an "evil force". Call it a demon, call it a fallen angel, call it what you will. These beings aren't a huge philosophical leap from "good" Angels. And, as they spread their own corruptions, we are tempted.

          In my view, Good and Evil are adjectives, not nouns. That doesn't mean, though, that Good and Evil are not real. There exists a set of objective standards for describing people and their motives as Good or Evil... just as there exists a set of objective rules for describing my sweater as green and the lid of my Subway cup as red.

          • Yeah, I like that. "Evil" means so many things that its easy to start talking at right angles. I can think of it like energy, its measurable, predictible, but is only a mathematical contrivance to help us understand what is really happening.

            Its easy to say it doesn't exist physically, but the mathematical understanding of it is undeniable. Evil is the same way, as a physical substance it may not exist, but it can be measured (judged) and predicted and therefore is real for our litterary and communicative purposes.
        • by Chacham (981)
          So you don't think we feel an influence towards wrong choices? Does that mean we don't feel an influence towards good choices?

          There is body and the soul. Only one is in charge at any given time, and the other can be used to help it. It is up to the person to choose which to follow. So the soul wants to be closer to G-d, and when using the body, it can reach even greater heights. The body wants to be more to itself, and can use the soul to spice its own pleasures (psycologically).

          So, instead of looking at choices as "right" and "wrong", I look at them as "towards G-d" and "towards the body". G-d called twoards Him as "good" and towards the body as "bad". That is because a person can make a "good" choice, or a "bad" choice. In general, ultimately, the soul leaves the body. If the person made the choice to rule with his soul, the person continues to "live" without the body. However, if the person chose to rule with the body, the person "dies" with the body. Thus Deuteronomy 30:15, although switch "evil" with "bad", which is a more accurate translation.

          Without the body, or at least tests, the soul could not grow. Which means they are required. The Satan is an angel created to test people. Though he wants people to pass the tests and serve G-d. From that, not only will they grow, his own purpose will be fullfilled.

          Evil means something that is not good. Or, something that is completely the absolute opposite of good. In Judaism's view, there is not such thing, simply because G-d didn't create it.

          Note, that, the word for "bad" in Hebrew is "rah". The word for wicked, however, is "reh'shah". "Rah" is used to denote the body, or something physical, in a bad sense. "Reh'shah" is used to denote someone who willfully makes "bad" choices.

          • I see no difference in that definition of evil and the eastern religions you are differenciating yourself from.
            • by Chacham (981)
              I see no difference in that definition of evil and the eastern religions you are differenciating yourself from.

              I have been told that their beliefs are that evil and good are always fighting for control. That there isn't one deity or force in charge. I believe that there is one deity in charge, and He is good. There is no evil force with any power whatsoever.
              • I have been told that their beliefs are that evil and good are always fighting for control.

                That simplification holds for your description too. But rest assured it's a simplification.

                That there isn't one deity or force in charge.

                There isn't in your beliefs either. You give people the ability to choose for themselves so everyone is in charge to some degree. You do mention influences that encourage bad behaviour and good behaviour.

                There is no evil force with any power whatsoever.

                That also contradicts what you said.
                • by Chacham (981)
                  >That there isn't one deity or force in charge.

                  There isn't in your beliefs either.


                  Yes, it is. G-d is in charge. Period. There is also free choice, and G-d provides the options to make it a choice.

                  In a classic good versus evil conflict, the good force delivers one option, and the evil force offers another. The person can then choose which to follow. In the Jewish view, G-d provides both options, as a test for the person. The person can then grow, or go in the wrong direction. But, all options are provided by G-d, they are equally weighted for the person, and there is no evil force providing anything.

                  >There is no evil force with any power whatsoever.

                  That also contradicts what you said.


                  How?

                  • the good force delivers one option, and the evil force offers another. The person can then choose which to follow.

                    How is that different then what you say Jews believe? I think you've got a while yet Chacham before you come to an understanding.

                    For instance in the Garden of Eden, God created the options and the snake. But that doesn't mean that the snake wasn't influencing them to evil (in this case direct disobedience). Note that it wasn't Eve's body that was influencing her therem but that the snake played off her bodily appetites. Note also that this was before she took of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil that she was being influenced by it.

                    Another good instance is Job. God didn't come up with the idea to test Job, but Satan who was his creation did. And the purpose of the opposing advocate was not to save or reward Job, but to prove to God that Job was not truely righteous, and therefore disqualify him.

                    So you get it but you don't becuase of some wierd hangup again. God does have all power, and created all things, and you get that. But in what I honestly think is some attempt at "holier then thouism" you want to differentiate from others that believe it, becuase you think they are not saying that God has all power. But that is either a given, or inconsequential to discussion the struggle. God set up the struggle, and we decide where we fit in it. I know of no major religion in the east or west that doesn't believe that basically.

                    In fact, depicted in deep India is a mural describing much of what you are trying to say is uniquely yours. Good and Evil are created by a supreme being, and they are both working together *through opposition* at a churn, both pulling their own direction. The churn is built into the milky sea of the universe creating the elixer of eternal life.

                    The symbology is different, but its saying the same thing as you said. In fact there is no contradiction that you wield against that view that can't be said about your view also *becuase its basically the same*.

                    • by Chacham (981)
                      >the good force delivers one option, and the evil force offers another. The person can then choose which to follow.

                      How is that different then what you say Jews believe?


                      Because, in the classic good versus evil, the good and the evil have no relation to one another. It just so happens that they both want people to follow them. Judaism believes that G-d is everything, and therefore, the choice given to the person are both by G-d.

                      For instance in the Garden of Eden, God created the options and the snake. But that doesn't mean that the snake wasn't influencing them to evil (in this case direct disobedience).

                      Adam and Eve needed to be tested. Had the snake not tested them, G-d would have had the test another way. But, the snake had it's reasons (Oral Tradition teaches us that the snake wanted Eve to live with him), and brought about the test. Had G-d not wanted it to happen, it wouldn't have. There was no evil involved here.

                      Note that it wasn't Eve's body that was influencing her therem but that the snake played off her bodily appetites.

                      Actually, it was off of intellectual appetites. The verse plays down the physical aspect, though it was significant.

                      Note also that this was before she took of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil that she was being influenced by it.

                      I don't understand.

                      Another good instance is Job. God didn't come up with the idea to test Job, but Satan who was his creation did. And the purpose of the opposing advocate was not to save or reward Job, but to prove to God that Job was not truely righteous, and therefore disqualify him.

                      Actually, Job is mostly allegorical (some say it never happened but it was a parable written by Moses). The fact that the Satan tested Job was merely that angel doing his job. G-d knew that he was righteous. G-d knows all. Any and all tests are for us to grow, not Him to know.

                      So you get it but you don't becuase of some wierd hangup again.

                      Weird hangup? I know what Judaism holds. I am merely curious what other people believe.

                      But in what I honestly think is some attempt at "holier then thouism" you want to differentiate from others that believe it,

                      I am sorry that you feel that way. I only asked because I am curious as to what others believe. I meant nothing else.

                      God set up the struggle, and we decide where we fit in it. I know of no major religion in the east or west that doesn't believe that basically.

                      OK. But that is why I am asking. Maybe someone does. Or at least has personal beliefs to that effect.
                    • Because, in the classic good versus evil, the good and the evil have no relation to one another.

                      I have no idea where you got that notion from.

                      (Oral Tradition teaches us that the snake wanted Eve to live with him)

                      This oral tradition gets pretty fantastical sometimes.

                      There was no evil involved here.

                      And there you go off the deep end. Remember the tree was of the knowledge of good and evil? Remember the snake was trying to influence Eve to break a commandment of God? And you say there is no evil involved here?

                      Actually, Job is mostly allegorical

                      Job was not written by Moses, and did actually exist.

                      The fact that the Satan tested Job was merely that angel doing his job.

                      Your really blinded by something here, and I don't have the time or patience to figure it out. His job is opposing advocate, you know this. His job was not to test Job, but to argue that Job was not righteous. His way of proving it was to get God to test Job. It was his job, and his job was to be in opposition to God, which you defined earlier as e-v-i-l. But now you try to margionalize it as "just his job" for some really obscure and unknown purpose.

                      Any and all tests are for us to grow, not Him to know.

                      The Satan's arguement wasn't based on reliance of God's credibility any more then the snake's open accusation of God lying.

                      I know what Judaism holds.

                      Kind of, honestly. You know what a very narrow scope of Judaism holds. I'm not in a position to merit you or anyone else as being the one true Judaism to put much stock in that statement. What you know, you do know thouraghly I'll give you that.

                      I only asked because I am curious as to what others believe.

                      I'd buy that, but you spent half the time saying what you believe, and half the time saying what they believe. When it was shown that many other religions hold a simular belief system, you balked, holding on to some differentiating notion that existed only in the contrevance of conversation.

                      that is why I am asking. Maybe someone does. Or at least has personal beliefs to that effect.

                      I do not disagree with the doctrine you espouse, I feel much the same way. In fact, my scripture holds the line that God created man and put him on the earth to "test and to try them...that they may fill the measure of their creation."
                    • by Chacham (981)
                      have no idea where you got that notion from.

                      In the JE I said "I have heard". If you are saying that you know that to be incorrect, just say so.

                      This oral tradition gets pretty fantastical sometimes.

                      Yes, it is tremendously large, and fantastic. It takes (at least) a lifetime to understand.

                      Remember the tree was of the knowledge of good and evil?

                      Knowledge of good and bad, would be more accurate.

                      Remember the snake was trying to influence Eve to break a commandment of God? And you say there is no evil involved here?

                      Yes. The snake provided the bad choice for her. In effect, however, that was a good thing. Because, this was a test. Had she passed the test, she would have grown spiritually. So, even the "bad" choice being presented, was a good thing.

                      Job was not written by Moses, and did actually exist.

                      You are welcome to have your beliefs. Howeve, Judiasm does not see it so clearly like that.

                      His job was not to test Job, but to argue that Job was not righteous.

                      That is pretty much the same thing. Simply, by arguing that he was not righteous, he then could then test him. That is, with G-d's "permission".

                      It was his job, and his job was to be in opposition to God,

                      That is not a Jewish belief. Judaism holds that the Satan is there to test people because G-d created him to do just that.

                      But now you try to margionalize it as "just his job" for some really obscure and unknown purpose.

                      It is a fine point, but no less important.

                      I'd buy that, but you spent half the time saying what you believe, and half the time saying what they believe.

                      Ah, maybe here's the fine point that we disagree on.

                      I heard of what other religions held, and I was cutious about it. So, I stated what I had heard, and said what I believed. I also asked for other people's beliefs. I did not mean to say what anyone else believed. I meant to say what I had heard, which is why I was so curious about it.

                      When it was shown that many other religions hold a simular belief system, you balked,

                      Where did I do that? I believe you asked in disbelief about what I said, so I explained by contrasting it with the classic cases of good versus evil (though I have only heard of them). I apologize if I gave off any other impression.

                    • In the JE I said "I have heard". If you are saying that you know that to be incorrect, just say so.

                      Where have you been? I assume you've read thest posts since you reply and quote them.

                      Yes, it is tremendously large, and fantastic. It takes (at least) a lifetime to understand.

                      Nice attempt, it reminds me of Marge talking to Homer...

                      Marge: Why can't you listen? You always hear what you want to hear, instead of what I'm saying!!!

                      Homer: Why yes honey, I'd love for you to make me an omelette.

                      Knowledge of good and bad, would be more accurate.

                      It wouldn't be any different at all in this context.

                      Yes. The snake provided the bad choice for her.

                      Wrong, the law says God placed the tree there.

                      In effect, however, that was a good thing. Because, this was a test. Had she passed the test, she would have grown spiritually.

                      Yeah? So if she didn't eat the fruit she would have spiritualy grown in some unreferenced or spoken way? Definately no spiritual growth like becoming as God, knowing good and evil, right?

                      Judaism holds that the Satan is there to test people because G-d created him to do just that.

                      A good attempt at margionalization, but you know Satan does not mean "tester". Neither does "snake".

                      And here is where I get real sick and tired of your "I speak for Judaism" attitude. In the Talmud says

                      (Baba Batra 16:a), tells us regarding the satan: "He is satan, he is the evil inclination (yatzer hara) and he is the angel of death."


                      But you say he doesn't represent the evil inclination. It hasn't taken me long to develop a large pile of salt to take with your commentary.

                      I did not mean to say what anyone else believed. I meant to say what I had heard

                      Correction, you say what you interpreted them as saying, and rigourously defended that judgement.

                      Where did I do that?

                      Almost every single post, now that I look back on it.
                    • by Chacham (981)
                      So if she didn't eat the fruit she would have spiritualy grown in some unreferenced or spoken way?

                      Absolutely. Anytime anyone passes a test, they grow.

                      but you know Satan does not mean "tester".

                      That is correct. It means "prosecutor". The general idea is that the angel that tests you, also prosecutes you.

                      In the Talmud says
                      (Baba Batra 16:a), tells us regarding the satan: "He is satan, he is the evil inclination (yatzer hara) and he is the angel of death."

                      But you say he doesn't represent the evil inclination.


                      Where did I say that? Raysh Lakish was of the opinion, that the inclination had an angel as its leader (as nations, mountains, and just about everything does) and that in the case of this inclination it was the same angel known as the Satan.

                      Correction, you say what you interpreted them as saying, and rigourously defended that judgement.

                      That is sillyness. I said what I had heard, not my interpretation of what I heard, but actually what I had heard. And the only defense I provided was the difference between Jewish beliefs and that which I had heard about those other religions.

                      --

                      It is very likely that my posts are incorrect, stupid, and offensive, and as such, your replies are appropriate. However, if that is the case, I would like to notify you that I do not see it that way. I see it as, I said what I had heard, and what Judaism held. Being that I see it that way, instead of viewing your responses as helpful, I see you as having a vendetta against me. Which means, that instead of providing your beliefs as requested, you challenged me on what Judaism held, and then ultimately accused me. I find that discomforting.

                      If you find my JE and comments here offensive, please say so, and show me, so I can apologize, and in the future either change my style, or warn people of how offensive I may be.

                    • Anytime anyone passes a test, they grow.

                      You missed the point, they did eat the fruit and thus spiritually grew to know good and evil (becoming like the gods).

                      and show me

                      You know, there was a time that I had to ask people the same thing. The answer I got back was "just listen", "just realize you're not talking to a computer about philosophy, you're talking to a person who might well be more interesting then philosphy."

                      The wisest repeated to me over and over again how I just needed to learn how to love people. I don't know if these are the same answers for you, I suspect from some of your journal entries discussion how much you like to discuss your opinions that they might.

                      I said before, that you're an interesting person to discuss things with. You've got things fleshed out pretty well, but that is why sometimes it is even more aggravating that you chose not to rely on the depth of your understanding, and instead rely on shallow quips to re-enforce or patronize who you are talking to.
                    • by Chacham (981)
                      You missed the point, they did eat the fruit and thus spiritually grew to know good and evil (becoming like the gods).

                      Oh, that what you meant. I didn't realize that.

                      Just as a note, this is a discussed topic. One recent explanation I just read was interesting (at least to me). Simply, that being able to differenciate between good and bad was a notch down. Until then their test was differentiating between true and false. Thus, according to this line of explanation, by eating the fruit, they moved down in life, and were on a lower level of testing. In a sense, if they chose only good and never bad until it was no longer a test, they would be able to move on (back) to the next level of true and false. The reasoning behind this is that knowledge between good and bad is pitting the physical against the spiritual, whereas knowledge betweeen true and false is pitting spiritual against spiritual, and thus there is no need to bother with the "lowly" physical world at all.

                      that you chose not to rely on the depth of your understanding, and instead rely on shallow quips to re-enforce or patronize who you are talking to.

                      I do not mean the next statements to antagonize, rather to state my feelings so you understand why I disagree with you.

                      <Feelings>
                      I do not see any quips. We have had this argument before, and when I asked for examples, I found none. I also believed that I explained the things very well. However, you don't seem to see it that way. Which can be understood as that we're not arguing on common ground. So, even if you are correct, and I am using quips, I don't see that. And without seeing it I cannot better myself. But, remember, I actually actively think that I am explaining it well, and that your claim that I am using quips is your way of escaping my "proofs".

                      </Feelings>

                      As such, the way I see it your future actions regarding me should be the following. Again, I do not mean the next statements to antagonize, rather to state my feelings so you understand why I disagree with you.

                      <Feelings>
                      So, now that you know my stance on the matter, you can make a choice. Either choose that I am helpable, or that I am beyond help. If I am beyond help, don't waste your energies arguing with me. If I am helpable, show me in a manner to which I agree, that I am using quips or evading questions.

                      </Feelings>

                      Thank you for listening.

                      The wisest repeated to me over and over again how I just needed to learn how to love people.

                      True. Leviticus 19:18 metions it, and the Toras Kohanim on that verse writes, "Says Rabbi Akiva, this is a great principle in the Bible." Although, it can also be translated as "this is the encompassing grouping in the Bible", meaning that all 613 commandments could be understood from this verse.

              • i generally try to avoid this subject because it gets into nasty things that cause strife where sometimes people have very similar views. but then again, people can have vastly different views and still get along, and you did ask. so here it is.

                i believe in evil the same way i believe in darkness. darkness is made by removing light, but is destroyed at the appearance of light. i believe that on a meta-level it is the same with good and evil. on a human level it sometimes works itself out in a messier way, but evil diminishes as enlightenment increases. (in that last sentence, enlightenment can mean many different things, but is distinct from raw knowledge.) i do believe in God. i do not believe in a devil of any sort.
  • by glh (14273)
    I believe there are certainly absolutes. Therefore, I believe in such things as "evil" and "good". Without an absolute it is hard to logically believe these things. And in order to have an absolute, you need to have an authority to tell you what is absolute (and an unchanging one at that). In my case, that authority is the Bible (both Old and New testament).

    In general, many other Christians claim this- but unfortunately, it is not always easy to understand God's word (at least on our own, which is often how we read the Bible) so we don't always interpret it correctly. That's one of the reasons why you have different churches and denomiations.
    • by glh (14273)
      PS- I forgot to mention.. The reason for my belief is both personal and because of my faith-- hopefully that makes sense. I have made my faith something that is a part of my daily, personal life as I believe a relationship with God is. Since the Bible is a tenant of my faith I choose to read it and believe it. So I guess that's kind of a "circular reference" type question-- the answer is simply "yes" :)
  • so I don't know if you care for my answer. I usually associate good with humanism (that the respect for individuals is the benchmark). Of course all religions and most philosophies hit this point. I see this as important as a purely selfish philosophy is much like repeated non-perfect information games and Nash proved that by continually choosing selfish responses results in a sub-optimal equilibrium.

    And so evil? I see evil as that belief which strips someone of their humanity. That "God is compassionate" but since these people started it first or that they are evil themselves or that we are so righteous that we can ignore the fact that all human life is meaningful.

    I always think of the Palestinian freedom figher v. terrorist question. I would full heartedly support the Palestinian militants if they maintained a respect for the Israelis: if they bombed empty settlements, if they destroyed roads, hell I'd even be so leniant as to accept attacks on pure military targets.

    But the point that they decided that killing people intentionally was a Good and Just thing to do (because they were Jews or because they were a part of the larger problem or whatever). At that point they stripped away the victims humanity for the name of their cause. And I couldn't tolerate that. Hell, I'd even be forgiving if they accidentally killed non-combatants. But no. Their entire purpose was to kill these folks. It was nothing more than bloodlust. And that, shrouded in righteous morality, that's Evil.
    • that the respect for individuals is the benchmark

      Interesting thought. I disagree, because I translate it differently, but that is still an interesting thought.
      • It's like all philosophical, ethical, or moral questions: it is all rule of thumb. The instance, the specifics of a situation reveal more than just Word as Law ideals.
  • Life is made up of opposites and attractions. Light and dark. Positive and negative. And yes good and evil. Does that mean there is a red-skinned, goat-hoofed guy with a pitchfork running around a fire and brimstone filled cavern tempting us with seductive and lavish cons? I don't think so.

    I believe that the human spirit is capable of amazingly, beautiful achievements and at the same time capable of grossly "evil" actions. But I don't believe there is some "puppet master" seducing and conning people into acting "evilly."

    I believe in the Chaos theory, but not chaos. I do believe the Earth and our solar system will end one day, but not the Universe. And to be honest, it doesn't really matter to me if the Universe ends or goes on infinitely, because I won't be around long enough for it to matter. I am more interested in the here and now and enjoying what precious time I have with family, friends, and yes... /.

    But that is me. :)
  • by lpret (570480)
    I've been brought up in a fairly conservative Christian home, and I've been taught that the Bible teaches (especially in the New Testament) that good and evil both exist and they are always trying to get our attention, perhaps shown in extreme form by the angel and demon on each shoulder.

    However, as I've been studying the Bible, I've found that the Jewish people never made reference to Satan or any type of evil (as mentioned in someone else's post) until after the Exile when they returned. The Exile was the time when the synagogues were started and the proliferation of writings. Apparently they had a lot of influence from Zoroastrianism at that time, and if one looks at the belief system of the Zoroastrianists, you'll find that it is from there that Jews recieved the idea of evil and even angelology and demonology.

    This kind of puts Christianity in a wierd place, because, at least for me, it seems that you've just melded a couple of religions that sounded cool and made it your own. Now how does that influence my idea of the existence of evil? Well, it means that I tend to stick more with my own gut feeling instead. Kind of a long intro...

    If there is only good, then that means that nothing you do can be evil. If evil does not exist (much less an evil being) then I can run over a pedestrian if I'm in a hurry. Murder could be a past time, because it would not be evil, nor be perceived as evil. However, we do have that perception of evil, a gut instinct if you like, or even conscience. Now my Christian upbringing will note that this conscience is from God, but does this mean that the evil is from God or that only the knowledge of good and evil is from God? Now, that statement rings a bell, because it is exactly what is said in Genesis in regards to the tree in the middle of the garden which ultimately was the downfall of "paradise". So is that conscience actually from God, or is it more of a curse that is placed on people? And if it is that curse, where does it originate from? I mean, is the tree in the middle of the garden from God? So perhaps God has given us the perception of evil, but then to what end? To draw us more to Him? And is that even fair? It's being able to tell a person what is good and bad, and setting it up so that what is good leads straight to yourself. Is that it then? Kind of a depressing thought that God would just manipulate our reality so that He looks good in the end. I've actually been struggling with this issue myself, so let me know what you think...

    • The Exile was the time when the synagogues were started

      You raise an interesting point. I wonder when the first synagogue was built. IIRC, there was a synagogue in Alexandria since the times of the first temple period, so, I'd guess ~500 BCE. Though, before the first temple was built there was a proliferation of alters, and if they qualify as synagogues, it would place the first synagogue at well before ~830 BCE, which was when the first temple was built.

      and the proliferation of writings.

      What do you mean by "wiritings" and what do you mean by "proliferation"?

      Apparently they had a lot of influence from Zoroastrianism at that time,

      Can you give years here? IIRC, this happened close to the end of the second of the second temple period, and only dealt with a part of the Jewish settlements, which would give them little to no influence on the entire Jewish outlook. I don't remember dates though. It has been a bit since I listened to history tapes of this era.

      and if one looks at the belief system of the Zoroastrianists, you'll find that it is from there that Jews recieved the idea of evil and even angelology and demonology.

      We'll disagree on that. Angels are mentioned in many writings that have been around for many thousands of years. And, it depends what you define as "demons". Generally, the only "demons" mentions in Judaism are known as "shaydim", but they have no influence on anyone unless they involve them (or do something like travel alone in dangerous areas). But they are more like another species than the general connotation of "demon".

      ---

      I've actually been struggling with this issue myself, so let me know what you think...

      OK.

      If there is only good, then that means that nothing you do can be evil. If evil does not exist (much less an evil being) then I can run over a pedestrian if I'm in a hurry. Murder could be a past time, because it would not be evil, nor be perceived as evil.

      So, you equate evil with choice? I am not sure I understand what you are saying. Please explain, it sounds interesting.

      However, we do have that perception of evil, a gut instinct if you like, or even conscience.

      Isn't that made up? Aren't we taught that? I don't know.

      Now my Christian upbringing will note that this conscience is from God, but does this mean that the evil is from God or that only the knowledge of good and evil is from God?

      Good question. I do not know what Christian doctrines hold here. I too am curious.

      So perhaps God has given us the perception of evil, but then to what end? To draw us more to Him? And is that even fair?

      Good questions. You may consider looking at Deuteronomy 30:15, and the verses around it.

      Kind of a depressing thought that God would just manipulate our reality so that He looks good in the end.

      Yeah, that would be depressing.
      • First off, I have no formal background in this area, I simply was faced with these things as I took a required Old Testament course at Baylor University [baylor.edu] so I'm not too sure about what I'm saying -- it's stuff that I somewhat recall from studying for the final :) I've been trying to get a hold of my former prof, but he's not teaching this semester.

        I believe my prof had said that during the Exile, of which I'm not sure the time period, was the first time synagogues were used, places of teaching and further study of the law as well as a place of worship. IIRC, this dedication to the study of the law is the basis for the extreme passion later jews have had for following the law to the t. Also, you can see that after the Exile we don't have any documented times in which the Jews "turned away from God" as they had done quite frequently before the Exile -- I guess the Exile kinda beat it into them that they needed to stay straight with God. Again, I have no dates for you, though I'll try and get some of that...

        What I meant about the proliferation of writings was that at this point you really saw the law being written down, I believe it's from this time period that we find most of the writings that make up the Old Testament.

        As for the Zoroastrianism angle, I'm pretty sure I remember my prof mentioning that there is no mention of Satan until after the Exile, and then demons come into play with New Testament, again, I could be wrong, but I think that's what I remember. Good point about the little or no influence on the entire Jewish outlook, I'll look into that myself...

        About my own thoughts then...

        If there is only good, then it is neither good nor evil, for it is the only possible choice. It could be evil, but since it's the only choice it is also good. So, if you believe that there are no choices, then in fact, you have proven that there is no evil -- or so goes my logic :) Good can only exist if there is something to measure it against. You say that a Boy Scout does a good deed because he helps an old lady across the street. Now, it is only a good deed because it is also possible for him to do nothing (not doing a deed) or also to push the old lady into oncoming traffic (an evil deed). However if the Boy Scout will be shot if he doesn't help the old lady (sort of equating not having a choice) then you can't say it's a good deed. Now I think you could have a skewed sense of good, whereas one person may believe that it is good that they have fun by skinning a cat, and others would see it as evil; perhaps the only way that there cannot be evil is if one person believes it is good, but then you get into the idea of relative truths: If it's good for me, then can it be evil to you?

        Now on to percieved evil. We all have a similar view of basic good and evil. Saving someone's life is good, but killing someone is bad. Obviously there are grey areas, such as, should you save a murderers life, or should you kill a murderer, but those are the grey edges. We all think it's good to tell the truth and bad to tell a lie. Grey areas still exist. -- These are all basic moral beliefs that we all have embedded in our core being, which is commonly labeled our conscience. Now, as I mentioned, my belief system says that our conscience is from God, that He is the one who programmed into us the general way that we should think. However, God gave us free choice. We can do many things. Right now, I could go rape a random co-ed, or buy a gun and rob a store, or sit here and do homework. These are the choices that I have, however my conscience would be hard pressed to not struggle doing the first two. You could even say my conscience wouldn't allow me to do the first two. And, it is people who have no problem doing the first two that we as a society label "evil" and "evil-doers".

        Now, here's where it gets into the issue of: "Ok, God gave us this conscience, but why and to what end?" Christian doctrine would hold that ever since the Garden of Eden, and the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, people have known the difference between the two. I guess that wold mean that before that point, Adam and Eve were ignorant, ignorance is bliss I recall...it interesting the first thing that Adam and Eve notice is that they are naked. So perhaps it is that even good can be corrupted to become evil. Kind of a random thought.

        So maybe we brought the perception of evil on ourselves as humans, and it's kind of our curse: Genesis 3:22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

        So maybe God didn't want us to be able to see evil, but only after we'd gone against Him were we able to see how good He actually is. And that makes it a better ending: He didn't want to brag, but in the end, He really is the epitome of all that is good.
        I'd used the first half of what I said to explain why I felt I needed to look on my own, but perhaps it is actually all right there once you start looking at it.

        Again, let me know your thoughts.

        • I believe my prof had said that during the Exile, of which I'm not sure the time period, was the first time synagogues were used, places of teaching and further study of the law as well as a place of worship.

          That is incorrect. During Talmudic times, the synagogue and the study hall were two different buildings. I believe mixing them is a very recent phenomina.

          IIRC, this dedication to the study of the law is the basis for the extreme passion later jews have had for following the law to the t.

          Yep. G-d said to do it, and we do.

          Also, you can see that after the Exile we don't have any documented times in which the Jews "turned away from God" as they had done quite frequently before the Exile -- I guess the Exile kinda beat it into them that they needed to stay straight with God.

          Actually, after the exile, and the beggining of the Second Temple, the "Men of the Great Assembly" got together and codified the OT.

          What I meant about the proliferation of writings was that at this point you really saw the law being written down, I believe it's from this time period that we find most of the writings that make up the Old Testament.

          The writings were always there, but the 24 books that make up ther OT were codified at around ~350 BCE.

          The Talmud, howver, was written (not just codified) much later, probably ~600-800 CE.

          As for the Zoroastrianism angle, I'm pretty sure I remember my prof mentioning that there is no mention of Satan until after the Exile,

          That depends on what you consider mentioned. The Oral Tradition mentions it, and is as old as the OT.

          ----

          If there is only good, then it is neither good nor evil, for it is the only possible choice.

          So you are saying that good is a choice, not something that stands on its own?

          You could even say my conscience wouldn't allow me to do the first two

          Interesting. Here's my take on that comment: In your current state. People usually do not go "evil" in one shot. They go little by little. First the white lie, then the real lie, then the lie that effects others, then not caring about others, then stealing from others, then ...... You can't do the first to because of the choices you have made until now. But, if you would start doing things in that directions, eventually your "concience" would mean nothing to you.

Science and religion are in full accord but science and faith are in complete discord.

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