Photo by Tirza van Dijk on Unsplash

Let’s Clear Up Some of the Confusion About the Stories of Good and Evil

Evil is not an inherent attribute of humanity, but confusion is.

ScottCDunn
7 min readDec 2, 2023

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Not long ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu framed the struggle between Israel and Palestine as a battle between “Good” and “Evil”. He didn’t use those exact terms, but we can infer from his choice of words, that he meant to say that the other side was evil. Here are his exact words, translated from Hebrew to English:

“We are sons of light, they are sons of darkness. And the light will prevail over darkness.”

He is using a spiritual frame of reference. And he is probably using what he knows of the stories in the Torah as his frame of reference. Religious texts are often framed as a story of good versus evil. They are used as a frame of reference to understand what is good and what is evil. But they never really tell us where evil comes from.

No one ever comes out of an action movie talking amongst each other about the basis of evil in the movie. Few if ever say things like, “Huh. The villain plotted to blow up the city if he didn’t get 10 billion dollars. How in the world would he be happy with the money? Why does he even think he would be happy either way?”

This is the basic problem with every story of good and evil. No one ever explains why people who are designated as evil, are evil. Every story about a struggle between good and evil assumes that evil is an inherent attribute of the villain. Evil is not an inherent attribute of anyone. People are not born evil.

But there is one attribute that is inherent in everyone, from the day of birth: confusion. Everyone is confused to some degree. Like trust, intelligence, and strength, confusion exists on a continuum. Human attributes are not black and white, they exist as a spectrum or even simpler, shades of gray. A billion shades of gray.

So when I look at good and evil, I think of them as a continuum of confusion. If we were to put the continuum of good and evil on a scale of 1 to 10, we could say that evil is 1 with the greatest confusion and good at number 10 with much less confusion. Notice that even good people can still be confused.

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