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

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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. 

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. 

The only difference is in subject matter. But not in how such judgments are made. Consider...

Maya priests retrieving still-beating hearts out of living human sacrifices to secure the favor of the gods and ensure a good harvest.
Cows are sacred in India, whereas we barbecue them.
In parts of the Islamic world, clitorectomies are performed for what that culture perceives as noble reasons.

I'm sure most of us could list quite a few more. In fact, we wouldn't even need to go outside our own culture. I'm referring to the abortion debate, meat eating vs vegetarianism/veganism, capital punishment, etc.

All of this seems to show that ethics and morals are a personal thing and/or a cultural thing, like aesthetics, and not something objective and factual.

I disagree. Beauty is both objective (symmetrical faces) and culturally subjective (facial tats). Good/evil is objective, located by evaluating circumstances, and it is not maleable across cultures.

Yes, what is good/evil has to be individual to each situation. But, the same action done twice in an identical set of circumstances doesn't become good in one culture and evil in another culture.

Slavery in antibellum America is not good while slavery in industrial America is at the same time evil. Slavery is evil no matter what side of the Mason-Dixon line you're on.

We try to tell ourselves good and evil can be relative to culture because it's fashionable to be tolerant of cultural diversity, but cultural relativism is a delusion. 

Comparing beauty and evil/good is an apples to oranges comparison.

The definition is the same, just without a supernatural element and the personification of evil in Gods/Demi-gods/Devils.

But the "divine" element is really the essence of morality anyway, however we choose to define morality.  If we can define it precisely, we have a precise definition of "the divine". 

No matter how humdrum it may seem when we achieve it. 


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