Define Evil

Suppose a stranger starts beating you with a stick for no reason other than his own entertainment. He’s got you cornered, and no one is around to help. Luckily for you, he loses his grip on the stick, and drops it. You grab his stick, and without it the stranger can’t stop you from escaping.

Are you evil for ruining his fun and stealing his stick for your own selfish happiness?

It seems like a stupid question, but based on the comments to yesterday’s blog, many of you think the stick stealer is evil and has oppressed the assailant who was minding his own business beating you to death.

For example, several people said cigarette smokers are being oppressed by non-smokers, presumably for banning smoking in public places, and that this oppression qualifies as evil. Clearly the non-smokers are taking away rights from smokers, for their own selfish purposes, just like the guy who stole the stick. But is protecting your health evil?

Even if you believe that exposure to second-hand smoke isn’t dangerous, banning it for health reasons wouldn’t be evil, just scientifically unjustified. To qualify as evil, I think you need some evil intent.

Polygamy was a good answer to yesterday’s question. The majority does oppress the minority’s right to multiple spouses. One could argue that given the roughly equal number of young men and women, polygamy denies many men the option of marriage and reproduction. So banning it increases fairness in society. Even if the reasons for banning polygamy seem ridiculous to you, the net effect on society is more fairness. That doesn’t seem evil to me.

Atheists were often mentioned as a minority that is oppressed by the majority. But that oppression is not government sponsored, so it doesn’t count in the context of my question about setting public policy by majority opinion.

Gay marriage was mentioned often. The majority of Americans support gay civil unions, with all the rights of marriage. But the majority is against calling it marriage. To many of you, that seems evil.

To the majority of Americans, the issue boils down to “Please don’t take our special word for God’s holy bond between a man and a woman.” Religions are supposed to discriminate between what they consider right and wrong. To deny that right, within reason, is to deny freedom of religion.

Personally, I favor gay marriage because I think the law should be gender neutral whenever it is practical. And I’m not superstitious; to me, a word is just a word. But is it evil for the majority to protect certain combinations of letters that have deep meaning to them? It seems more silly than evil.

I understand how gays would gain something intangible and important by use of the word marriage. But if the majority of religious people feel they would be losing something just as important to them, then letting the majority win is the fairest solution for society, and therefore not evil.

I might be missing the nuances of the gay marriage debate. If so, let me know what I’m missing.

Keep an eye on the comment count today. This should be interesting.

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