Good & Evil Essay

2908 words - 12 pages

The most unfortunate belief to evolve in religion is that evil is caused by some diabolical entity, or entities, with supernatural powers. This concept allows people who knowingly commit antisocial acts to attribute their actions to an outside force, thereby absolving themselves of accountability; it permits an easy escape from one's own conscience and enables an individual to continue with their negative behaviour.Various religions have approached the subject of evil in different ways. The Abrahamic (Western) beliefs use Satan, created in the late writings of the Old Testament, as the personification of evil. Originally the ancient Hebrew religion maintained that evil came from God, as punishment for man's evil misdeeds; but a crisis in the Hebrew faith made it necessary to change the doctrine. In 597 BCE Jerusalem surrendered to the Babylonians, and the city was subsequently destroyed in 586 BCE; this began half a century of Jewish captivity and exile. By the end of this period it was beginning to look like Yahweh (the god of Abraham) was unjustly tormenting the Hebrew people.Reading the books of the Old Testament from the period encompassing the exile demonstrates the doctrinal problems the religion was experiencing. The followers began to assume a "doomsday" attitude, and concluded that God had broken his covenant due to the disobedience of his people. After decades of trying to appease Yahweh without success it became apparent that the religion, in its present form, provided no hope to the believers.In 539 BCE King Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylonia, and freed the Jews in 538 BCE; earning himself a messiah reference in the Bible. The Persian duality concept of good (ormazd) and evil (ahriman) led the Old Testament writers to develop a similar doctrine; and between 538 BCE and 518 BCE, the contemporary characterization of Satan was first introduced. The Ha-satan of old was actually God's assistant who, while Yahweh was asleep or preoccupied, spied on mankind: reporting people's sins to God, who would then bring evil upon these transgressors. Changing Ha-satan, God's friend; into Satan, a god-like enemy, allowed the religion to blame what was previously perceived as punishment from God on a new and opposing figure, creating an Abrahamic form of duality.Although the name Satan only appears in four books of the Old Testament, and is prominent in only one (Job: a folktale written between 500 and 250 BCE), by the time Christianity appeared, this representative adaptation of Persian duality had become widely accepted in Judaism. Christians expanded the role of Satan, and brought him almost to the same level as their god. The New Testament books removed much of the "free will" that was present in the ancient doctrine by suggesting that ormazd and ahriman were manifest in Yeshua ben Joseph and Satan, respectively; with each having the ability to control a person's mind (or soul). This now meant that God was only connected with good, Satan...

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