In some ethical traditions (religious traditions in particular), a distinction is made between ‘bad,’ or ‘wrong,’ and ‘evil.’ Acts, in addition to people, organizations, or other entities are deemed to be evil when they are extremely immoral or destructive.
In the Christian theological tradition, a further distinction is made between moral evil and natural evil.
Natural evil is used to describe violent and destructive acts of nature, such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tsunamis, for example. It can also be used to describe human illness and disabilities, such as blindness, malaria, or AIDS. Essential to both usages of natural evil is the absence of an intentionally acting moral agent (i.e. person). Thus, natural evils occur independent of human actions and decisions.
Moral evil results from the intended actions of moral agents, that is, actions made of one’s own free will. Simple wrongdoing is not typically regarded as evil (thus the distinction between ‘wrong’ and ‘evil’). In most cases, the term evil is reserved for more egregious or reprehensible acts (or entities).« Back to Glossary Index