Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Causes of evil - What various religions believe

Published:Saturday | April 22, 2017 | 4:00 AMCarl Gilchrist

It is estimated that there are over 4,000 different religions in the world, although in terms of the main ones, the list could be reduced drastically to about a dozen or so.

This shortened list would include Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Confucianism, Sikhism, and Taoism, among others.

One common thread among these religions is that there is a distinct separation between good and evil, with each of them stressing the importance of doing good.

On the other hand, there are various beliefs among these religion when it comes to the causes of evil among mankind.

Christianity, Islam, and Judaism share some core beliefs, mainly that Satan is to be blamed for the evil in the world.

However, according to Christianity, the world's largest religion with over 2.2 billion followers, Satan is not the only reason for evil in the world. Another main reason cited is the fall of man, which is the transition of Adam and Eve from being innocent and obedient people to God to being disobedient when they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Another reason put forward by Christians is that of the imperfection of creation. Then there is egocentricity, which is a philosophy that describes when people ignore social causes and have little or no regard for anything but themselves. Simply put, they are self-centred.

Alienation from God is also another reason that Christians blame for evil in the world.

Followers of Islam, the world's second-largest religion with around one billion followers, also believe that not submitting to the will of Allah causes evil in the world, and they believe that Allah is beyond human questioning.

Apart from believing that Satan is the cause of evil on Earth, those who practise Judaism (around 13 million) also believe unfaithfulness to the will of God is a contributing factor. Like Christians, they also believe that egocentricity is a cause. Additionally, the worship of false gods is also seen as a reason for the existence of evil.

Taoism, followed by about 2.7 million people, is another religion where it is believed that egocentricity is the source of evil and suffering.

Persons who practise Buddhism (approximately 490 million) believe, simply, that the insatiable desires of man are the cause of evil and suffering across the world.

Hinduism, practised by over one billion people, puts the blame for the existence of evil squarely on the fact that people are too busy pursuing pleasure, wealth, and worldly success, which it claims are just illusions.

In terms of Confucianism, the belief is that while man is basically good, the root of evil lies in the lack of filial piety, filial piety being respect for one's parents, elders, and ancestors. Over six million people follow Confucianism.

Where Sikhism is concerned, "the illusion that matter is real" is the source of evil. The religion, with over 20 million followers, believes that man is helpless and is dependent on divine action.

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