My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate before the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours alone, but also for the sins of the whole world.
By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. If anyone says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone keeps His word, the love of God has been truly perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him: Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.
Beloved, I am not writing you a new commandment, but an old one, which you have had from the beginning. This commandment is the message you have heard. Then again, I am also writing you a new commandment, which is true in Him and also in you. For the darkness is fading and the true light is already shining.
If anyone claims to be in the light but hates his brother, he is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause of stumbling in him. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness. He does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
— 1 John 2: 1-11
Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe only in the God idea, not in God Himself.
— Miguel de Unamuno from Tragic Sense of Life
The innocuous mental belief systems of much religion are probably the major cause of atheism in the world today, because people see that religion has not generally created people who are that different, more caring, or less prejudiced than other people. In fact, they are often worse because they think they have God on their small side. I wish I did not have to say this, but religion either produces the very best people or the very worst. Jesus makes this point in many settings and stories. Mere mental belief systems split people apart, whereas actual faith puts all our parts (body, heart, and head) on notice and on call. Honestly, it takes major surgery and much of one’s life to get head, heart, and body to put down their defenses, their false programs for happiness, and their many forms of resistance to what is right in front of them. This is the meat and muscle of the whole conversion process.
As hard as it is to believe, many formally religious people do not believe in the reality of Spirit in any active or effective way. They think it is their job to somehow teach, introduce, or “win” Spirit, and they never get around to enjoying what is already and always there – and actively on their side. Walter Wink, a professor of biblical interpretation, calls it the mere “theological” worldview as opposed to the incarnational worldview, which is authentic Christianity. When all of you is there, you will know. When all of you is present, the banquet will begin.
But as Jesus said in his many banquet stories, we all find our very proper excuses why not to come to anything so free, so spacious, and so available to all. “There is still more room!” he says at the end. (Luke 14:15-24) Many seem to be put off by the fact that the invitation list includes “both good and bad alike” (Matthew 22:10). The ego, or the “flesh,” would prefer to join a private country club or a gated community, whereas Peter will say, “God has made it clear to me that I must not call anyone profane or unclean” (Acts 10:28), although it took him a while to get there himself.
― Richard Rohr from Breathing Under Water
The Opposite of Goodness
When I say that evil has to do with killing, I do not mean to restrict myself to corporeal murder. Evil is that which kills spirit. There are various essential attributes of life — particularly human life — such as sentience, mobility, awareness, growth, autonomy, will. It is possible to kill or attempt to kill one of these attributes without actually destroying the body. Thus we may “break” a horse or even a child without harming a hair on its head.
Erich Fromm was acutely sensitive to this fact when he broadened the definition of necrophilia to include the desire of certain people to control others-to make them controllable, to foster their dependency, to discourage their capacity to think for themselves, to diminish their unpredectibility and originalty, to keep them in line. Distinguishing it from a “biophilic” person, one who appreciates and fosters the variety of life forms and the uniqueness of the individual, he demonstrated a “necrophilic character type,” whose aim it is to avoid the inconvenience of life by transforming others into obedient automatons, robbing them of their humanity.
Evil then, for the moment, is the force, residing either inside or outside of human beings, that seeks to kill life or liveliness. And goodness is its opposite. Goodness is that which promotes life and liveliness.
― M. Scott Peck from People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil
But thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful! They are people of bad race and lineage; out of their countenances peer the hangman and the sleuth-hound. Distrust all those who talk much of their justice! Verily, in their souls not only honey is lacking. And when they call themselves ‘the good and just,’ forget not, that for them to be Pharisees, nothing is lacking but — power!
— Friedrich Nietzsche from Thus Spoke Zarathustra