Augustine argued that evil is a privation of the good. That does not simply mean that evil is simply a lack of the good, but rather, that the creation/creature has been deprived of the good that is part of the original intent. In humanity this may mean being formed or educated away from the good. Holding such a view of evil–that is, that it is not something independent that exerts force, but instead an absence that at a basic level results in decay and loss–means that issues such as those raised in the article below are not as difficult. The issues relating to free will (or rather, the lack thereof) however are quite a bit more difficult to deal with from any common place perspective, religious or otherwise.
Is evil over? Has science finally driven a stake through its dark heart? Or at least emptied the word of useful meaning, reduced the notion of a numinous nonmaterial malevolent force to a glitch in a tangled cluster of neurons, the brain?
Yes, according to many neuroscientists, who are emerging as the new high priests of the secrets of the psyche, explainers of human behavior in general. A phenomenon attested to by a recent torrent of pop-sci brain books with titles like Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. Not secret in most of these works is the disdain for metaphysical evil, which is regarded as an antiquated concept that’s done more harm than good. They argue that the time has come to replace such metaphysical terms with physical explanations—malfunctions or malformations in the brain.
Of course, people still commit innumerable bad actions, but the idea that people make conscious decisions to hurt or harm is no longer sustainable, say the new brain scientists. For one thing, there is no such thing as “free will” with which to decide to commit evil. (Like evil, free will is an antiquated concept for most.) Autonomous, conscious decision-making itself may well be an illusion. And thus intentional evil is impossible.