How do you define 'evil' within the context of atheism?

Views: 362

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

I'd say that evil implies an intention and knowledge of doing wrong.  Anything else could be "negligence", "stupidity", "selfishness" etc. 

'Evil' is that word I use when I want a little dramatic flair.

It's also the word I apply proactively when discussing Hitler so other people are clear I am not a Nazi. For example, "Hitler was evil without question, but he sure had a snazzy moustache." Now it is perfectly clear that I am not, in my statement, advocating the Holocaust, but rather I simply have bad taste in men's facial hair stylings.

Apart from that, I fit in with the camp which avoids the word due to its unfortunate associations with over-sensationalized moralizing. It's difficult to wield. If I think a practice or ideology is beneficial, I will try to make an argument for it. If I think it harmful, I will argue against it. Rather than thinking I am on the side of good or the side of evil, I'd hope instead that my arguments are viewed as compelling or not compelling based on reason (ideally).

I'm totally ok with people viewing my arguments as compelling because they are on the side of good. 

Wouldn't that be redundant at best? 

"Punishment" means to deliberately inflict harm on someone in return for bad behaviour.  When does punishment become evil?  It must be, when it is disproportionate.  And some forms of punishment - for example, capital punishment - are seen as too severe even though they are proportionate.  An ideal would be to inflict a shock and teach a lesson, with a view to that person changing their behaviour and being given another chance. 

How do you define 'evil' within the context of atheism?


I would not want to accept that humans created words and their meaning after they have created gods, religions and dogmas. Therefore evil and its meaning originally had originated  from humans being able to seperate socially acceptable behaviours from the otherwise not. With that conclusion one can therefore say eveil can be defined in any manner in a particular human community setup.

Evil is willfully doing harm to other feeling organisms (people and animals).

As others have suggested the use of the word can have supernatural connotations, similar to the adjective "saintly." I can't readily make an association to evil within the context of atheism. Lack of belief in the supernatural realm would seem to have little bearing on one's perception of what represents the state of being evil. Unfortunately many theists feel compelled to label atheists as evil. It's an amazing association and totally unwarranted.

To the gazelle, the lion is evil.  To the lion, the gazelle is lunch.

Remember, EVIL is LIVE spelled backwards!

Art is what someone says is art. What I call art, you may call trash. Do you believe there's an objective standard of beauty?

I ask because aesthetics and ethics are fraternal twins. They're both under the philosophical heading "value theory." 

Now, I wager most people here believe beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that beauty is culture-bound.

But you can't have it both ways. Whatever your attitude toward beauty, that should be your attitude toward ethics.

So, evil is what someone says is evil, and different people will say different things.

They may both be types of value judgements, but surely, morality/ethics relates to physical benefit and harm (at least at one end of its spectrum), while aesthetics relates to how pretty or ugly we find something.  So the two domains are very different in degree of effect. 


Support T|A

Think Atheist is 100% member supported

All proceeds go to keeping Think Atheist online.

Donate with Dogecoin



Things you hate.

Started by Devlin Cuite in Small Talk. Last reply by Unseen 2 minutes ago. 127 Replies


  • Add Videos
  • View All

Services we love

We are in love with our Amazon

Book Store!

Gadget Nerd? Check out Giz Gad!

Into life hacks? Check out

Advertise with

© 2014   Created by Dan.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service