Religion, Evil, and Days of the Week

maniSummer, and the living is supposed to be easy.

On the positive side, I am confused as to the day of the week. When I speak to distant family on the phone and ask how work went or the drive home was, they say things like, “It’s Sunday,” with an undercurrent of annoyance. Whoops.

We’ve had a lot of summer company, which disrupts any summer rhythms I want to get into. The reading has been off and onny (hey nonny, nonny), too. Fits. Starts. Stops. Maybes. Nots.

Still, I’m learning. Reading Susan Nieman’s book on the philosophy of evil, Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Philosophy. It has been instructional, if only in the early going.

For instance, the word Manichean. According to The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, it is the adjective form of the Persian prophet Manes or Mani (ca. A.D. 216-276). He “considered himself a successor to Zoroaster, Buddha, and Jesus, sent into a darkening world to restore light. Zoroastrian priests saw to it that he was banished from Persia. Wandering widely, he spread his new religion (Manicheism) throughout the Roman Empire and as far off as India. However, when he returned to Persia, he was flayed to death or crucified — history is unclear. Manicheism, however, was a major religion in the Orient for over a thousand years and remained an influence on other religions into the 13th century.”

Which makes you wonder: Why do some religions die out and others flourish? What made Jesus, Siddhartha, and Mohammed “take root and grow” and Mani of Persia (present-day Iran) flicker for a thousand years only to go up in smoke?

Nobody knows and, worse, I still have a lot to learn about evil. But the book takes concentration and company plus concentration is addition by subtraction.

Later, maybe? Meanwhile, I’ll look for good in the world, like not knowing the day of the week…


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