Morally wrong; immoral; wicked - a lack of concern or an outright defiant disregard for right conduct or its principles. Evil is a term we use to describe a person or act that is more than just bad or a wrongful deed. It prescribes a state of inherent badness or wrongdoing.

Evil is also a tool that is often used to set a diametrically opposed alignment of the hero and the villain, the saint and the sinner. Look at our president, "the axis of evil," "Bin Laden is evil," "Saddam Hussein is evil," as if by labeling things, people, and countries as "evil" is enough justification to annihilate them. But, what about Bin Laden's or Al Qaeda's claims that the western world or more explicitly the United States are "evil"? Evil is a tool to ostracize or alienate someone from there humanity, to make them less human, therefore easier to discredit and in extreme cases kill. So how does one become evil? Can someone be inherently evil?

As UUs, we focus on the inherent dignity and worth of each and every person, in other words, the inherent good of humanity. We sometimes refer to this as the divine spark within us all. It is the understanding of our first principle that compels us to do social justice work, to strive to right all the injustices or "evils" of the world. Although goodwill is behind these beliefs and actions, it is these same beliefs and lines of thought that can lead us to the same dichotomy of "good and evil" used by the "right," the conservatives, the Christian Coalition, the fundamentalists, our president.

Rarely do UUs consider the issue of inherent evil. Some would say that there is no possibility for inherent evil if you believe that all are inherently good. Some others would say that you cannot have inherent good without inherent evil - that one defines the other, sets the parameters of the other's space. To know good is to know evil.

One of the age old questions is "Did Hitler have inherent dignity and worth?" Some would say that he was "evil" and leave it at that. Others would show a form of intellectual compassion by suggesting that there was something about his upbringing or abnormal brain chemistry that lead the way to such atrocities of humanity. But rarely do I hear UUs questioning: "Is there some part of me that has the potential for such inhumane acts? Is there some part of me that is inherently evil?"

For us to truly do good things in this world, to better this world, we need to move beyond our intellectual compassion and gain compassion from our core being by asking these difficult questions of ourselves. We must find potential for evil within us all. Own it. Understand it, and consider the potential for evil within us all IS part of the human condition. Without this understanding, I feel that UUs will always have one remaining barrier to a true understanding of dignity and worth.

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