From Norwich, it's the bishop of the week, Flamboyantly Reverend Graham James, Lord Bishop of Norwich  
Tuesday, 3 May, 2011, 08:40 AM - Evil, James
Rating 3 out of 5 (Fairly platitudinous)

After 10 years, several hundred thousand lives lost, several trillion dollars spent, Osama Bin Laden is finally dead. Many people have been out partying and generally having a good time celebrating his death, something which I find in very poor taste.

It's not very fashionable to talk about "sin" these days, so I won't. The last thing I want to do is appear unfashionable. So let's talk about "evil" instead. It seems to be perfectly acceptable to describe people as evil these days and not at all unfashionable. Newspapers often refer to murderers or paedophiles as "pure evil." This is a theological claim, so I presume these headlines are drawn up by the papers' resident theologians, illustrating once again the vital importance of theology in everyday life.

This brings us to the important question: was Osama Bin Laden the personification of pure evil? Note that being the personification of pure evil is more than just being bad. On the scale of badness, being the personification of pure evil is as bad as you can get. This is more than forgetting your anniversary bad. It's more than not going to church on Sunday bad. It really is very bad indeed. It's so bad, that as soon as you get out of bed in the morning, you start looking for evil things to do, because you're just so bad.

To answer this question we turn to Saint Augustine, everyone's favourite 5th century Carthaginian theologian. Through his detailed theological investigations, Saint Augustine was able to discover that evil is caused by people being free to be evil. It's not a tangible thing. You can't go down to the shops and ask for half a pound of the best pure evil. Evil is caused by people doing evil things. That's what evil is.

If Osama Bin Laden was the personification of pure evil, then he just couldn't help doing evil things. So we shouldn't think of Osama Bin Laden as being the personification of pure evil. He was secretly a little bit good, but occasionally decided to do something that was pure evil.

Let us not gloat over Osama Bin Laden's death. Instead, let us pray to the Invisible Magic Friend, that some good will come from the death of this occasionally pure evil man.

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