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What is the origin of evil?
Comparing the viewpoint of twelve religions


According to the Bible, evil streams from four main sources:

1.) The ‘Original Sin’ passed down from Adam to all his offspring, which results in a sin nature resident in our human flesh (Psalm 51:5, Romans 5:12, Ephesians 2:3);

2.) Sinful choices that we, as human beings, make (John 5:14, James 1:13–14);

3.) The world system; the societies and cultures, created by fallen human beings, and influenced by Satan and his demonic underlings, that become strongholds of evil (1 John 2:15-17);

4.) Satan and his demonic powers that are constantly tempting the inhabitants of this planet, seducing them to commit evil. Satan was originally a cherub in the heavenly realm (cherubim are probably a high order of angels). Evil spirits were originally righteous angels until they joined Satan in his rebellion against God in the beginning. (See Isaiah 14:12–19, Ezekiel 28:12–19, Matthew 25:41,  1 Thessalonians 3:5, Revelation 12:1–9.)

Events that result from demonic influence cannot be attributed to God, since evil spirits do not work in submission to his will. The Bible clearly states that God is so holy that he “cannot be tempted by evil nor does he Himself tempt anyone.” (James 1:13) Logic dictates that if God does not “tempt” human beings, he did not “tempt” the angels to turn against him in the beginning. Neither did God purposefully create demons with an evil nature. The true Creator would never influence demonic beings to do evil. Instead, their evil nature is a result of their original free-will choice to oppose the Creator and his laws.


In Hinduism, in the Advaita Vedantic interpretation of the nature of this world, evil is primarily the product of illusion or maya. It is considered essentially unreal. Liberation consists, not so much in conquering evil, as it does in conquering ignorance. Experiencing Ultimate Reality (the realization that everything is a manifestation of God) enables one to be free from the domination of that which is unreal, including the evil that abounds in this world. Years ago I met Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, a well-known leader in Hinduism. He explained this Far Eastern view, “There is no intrinsic evil. All is good. All is God. No force in the world or in man opposes God, though the veiling instinctive-intellectual mind keeps us from knowledge of Him.”1 Strangely in one Hindu myth, Brahma, the Creator god in Hinduism, is identified as the Source of both good and evil:

“Formerly, all creatures were virtuous, and by themselves they obtained divinity. Therefore the gods became worried, so Brahma created women in order to delude men. Then women, who had been virtuous, became wicked witches, and Brahma filled them with wanton desires, which they in turn inspired in men. He created anger, and henceforth all creatures were born in the power of desire and anger.” (Mahabharata 13.40.5–12)

The New Age Movement has inherited this mindset from Hinduism, its spiritual parent. An avid New Ager, Shirley MacLaine, quotes her spirit guide as instructing, “Until mankind realizes that there is, in truth, no good and there is, in truth, no evil, there will be no peace.”2

Buddhism especially emphasizes that to experience Nirvana, a person must ignore evil and suffering, because these things are alien to the consciousness of true existence.

Taoism’s perspective, with its yin-yang theory, also maintains that evil is a manifestation of the Tao (the Universal Force). Both evil and good stream from the same Source, the primal Cause of all causes. Evil flows from the yin aspect (the negative principle) of the Absolute, while good flows from the yang (the positive principle). Because the Tao is eternal and ultimate, the harmonizing aspects of yin and yang are eternal and ultimate as well, necessary for spiritual equilibrium in the universe.

Islam and Judaism, though accepting the story of the fall of Adam and Eve, does promote the concept of the “Original Sin” being passed on to the offspring of these parents of humanity. In these two religions, man is intrinsically good, and able to live a righteous life if he so chooses. Only Christianity reveals this inherited spiritual dilemma facing the inhabitants of this planet. One scripture warns, “through one man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through sin.” (Romans 5:12)3

Kabbala, the esoteric offshoot of Judaism, proposes something altogether different. In the Zohar (the “Book of Splendor”—one of the two main sources of Kabbalistic doctrine), it is “implied that the evil in the universe originated from the leftovers of worlds that were destroyed.”4

In Scientology, evil originates in the “reactive mind.”


With regard to demonic spirits, most religions admit their existence, but they differ greatly concerning the origin of these dark entities. According to the United Church of Religious Science (Ernest Holmes), the “devil” is not an actual entity; “the only devil we shall ever know will be that which appears as the result of our negative thinking.”5 It is “anything which denies the unity of good, the allness of Truth, or our oneness with Spirit.”6 In Ernest Holmes’ belief system, evil spirits are reduced to “discordant and chaotic thought patterns consciously retained which tend to influence the conscious faculties negatively.”7 In a similar way, the Bahá’í faith dismisses the idea of Satan and evil spirits, dubbing those concepts as mere superstition. Any reference to something being ‘satanic’ is metaphorical, not literal.

According to Hinduism, evil spirits came forth from Brahma’s side, created with an evil nature, or they could be human beings who lived evil lives or failed to follow their dharma.

Zoroastrianism teaches that their existence is traceable to Ahriman, the god of evil, who possesses the power to create.

Taoism teaches that evil spirits (kuei) may actually be disembodied human spirits: those who suffered violent deaths, or those who were buried without the necessary, prescribed rituals.

Islam distinguishes between jinn and demons, though both can have a negative influence on humans. Jinn are invisible beings, made from smokeless fire, who are similar to humans in that they eat and drink, have children and die, are subject to judgment and will either be sent to heaven or hell. They supposedly roamed the earth before Adam and are created good, but many succumb to wicked influences, become evil and affect human beings in evil ways. Some are benevolent and helpful to humans. The lines between jinn and evil spirits are often blurred in Islamic thinking. The devil is referred to as Iblis who was either an angel or a jinn who refused to prostrate himself before Adam when God commanded it in the beginning because, being made of fire, he felt he was superior. Demons are shayatin who are incapable of good and limited to evil, some believe created out of hell-fire.

Only Christianity and the Bible relate the origin and nature of evil spirits correctly. Much of the ministry of Jesus involved casting out evil spirits and delivering people from their diabolical influence. So, it should be still in the ministry of a true man or woman of God. We have authority over demons through the blood of the Lord Jesus, the power of His name, the declaration of the written Word of God—and all of this hinging on submitting our lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. All of these are clearly shown in Scripture. Thankfully, it is also foretold in Scripture that Satan and his subordinate devils will ultimately be exiled from the presence of God forever, confined to the lake of fire. (For verification, see Matthew 4:1-11; 8:28–29; 25:41, Luke 10:17, 2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6, Revelation 12:7-11; 20:1-3, 10, 14.)


1.) Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, How to Become a Hindu (Himalayan Academy, sec. ed., 2000) p. 243

2.) Martin Gardner, “Issues is Her Business,” New York Review, 1987 (quoted in Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult, Wheaton, Illionois: Victor Books, 1990, from Shirley MacLaine, Dancing in the Light.

3.) See information in Mike Shreve’s book In Search of the True Light in the category called “The Origin and Nature of Man”—check “Christianity” page 68-69.

4.) “Kabbalah,” Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem, Israel: Keter Publishing House, Ltd., 1971) Vol. 10, column 583.

5.) Ernest Holmes, The Science of Mind (New York: R.M. McBride and Co., 1938: New York, Penguin Putnam, Inc., rev. and enl. Ed., 1966) p. 359.

6.) Ernest Holmes, A Dictionary of New Thought Terms (Marina del Rey, California: De Vorss Publications, 1991) p. 34.

7.) Ibid., p. 41.



Leave a reply

  • interesting Roy always said evil didn’t exist…i wasn’t raised in a family that ever talked about evil. everyone made mistakes and g=had ups and downs, persons were responsible for the success or failure of their lives.

    • Yes that is the traditional “eastern” or “new age” way of viewing evil. Of course, Randi – we know each other and the “Roy” you are referring to is Roy Davis of Kriya Yoga, protege of Yogananda (for the sake of those who read this comment).

Written by Mike Shreve