The Myth of the Battle of Good and Evil

There is a small section in the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind that discusses “The Battle of Good and Evil”. In this section the author, Yuval Noah Harari, argues that monotheistic religions struggle with the notion of evil. If there is only one God, he argues, then when humans are face to face with evil people, circumstances or things, then the only conclusion is that God must be evil.

There is another possible conclusion.

Up to this point in the book, Harari posits that all of human culture, and the thing that separates humans from all other species on earth, is the ability to believe in myths. This belief in myths is what allows us to band together in groups larger than about 150 individuals. Myth is a commonality that transcends personal connection allowing humans who do not know each other to work together toward a common end.

Harari’s inability to imagine a different conclusion about the nature of God with respect to good and evil belies his exploration of myth in every other aspect of human culture. The other possible conclusion that he fails to recognize is that the notions of good and evil are also mythological constructs. They are human creations to help understand the world around us and the competing goals of other people.

In the Jewish and Christian traditions, God is God of all things. That means that to God, there is no good and evil. This is clearly described in the Bible’s Book of Job. Humans created the myth of good and the myth of evil as a way to understand the actions of people, the circumstances and things preventing them from achieving their objectives.

The irony is delicious. The foundational premise of Harari’s book is the very thing he fails to apply to The Battle of Good and Evil and the understanding of the great monotheistic religions.