I heard once that there is no good or evil, there is only Power. Human's are born with Free Will, and born of that are the choices we make and their effects and it is said that it is our choices that determine out character. In most religions we are encouraged to choose to be good and follow a faith in order to gain our salvation, so, in accordance with this, if we make choices perceived as evil than we are choosing to be evil. So thinking along these lines it's about choice and perception that's creates good and evil, but is that true. Firstly, who decided what perception we were supposed to accept? Who decided what was evil and what wasn't? You could argue religion. You could also argue that people are born with a sense of morality, and at the same time some people aren't, which is why they do evil.
Thus far we have established that good and evil is bourn out of the choices we make, if we choose to harm things or take lives we are perceived as evil. A child, on a sunny day, with a magnifying glass and an ant hill; lives are being taken and harm is being done but would we call that evil? He is choosing to kill the ants by burning them alive but I doubt very much if it would be called evil. It could be argued that he does not realise the full implications of what he is doing. On a larger scale a serial killer who burns his victims alive would more likely be called evil, his awareness of the pain he is inflicting and the reality of his actions give weight to the argument. So is the difference awareness? Or is it Power? The child with the magnifying glass would not be able to kill hundreds of people the way he does with the ants, he does not have the strength, ability or intelligence to do it, he does not have the power, but who's to say he wouldn't? If we lived in some sort of Stephen King style universe and the child had the ability to start fires with his mind maybe he would use his pyrokinetic powers to set people alight? Would we call him evil then? Remembering that the child does not know what he is doing, they are not aware of the implications of their actions, they have a power or things but they do not understand it.
So, good and evil is not just a choice, is the awareness and understanding of that choice as well. To be evil you need to be consciously committing evil, but does that mean we forgive all those who do it unknowingly? If someone commits a crime which leads to a death but they do it unknowingly is it now evil? An accidental evil? If they repent should their ignorance be forgiven? A bank robber who handcuffs the manager to the table, in order to collect the money, then knocks over a lit cigarette onto a stack of papers as he leaves resulting in the Manager being burnt alive in the vault because he cannot escape, his actions resulted in the mans death but it was unintentional and without his knowledge. Was it an evil act? Would we forgive his ignorance? I'm sure he would be sorry, but a man would still be dead, his last few monuments spent on this earth in panic and agony, the outcome is awful enough but there was no intent. You could argue that stealing is a sin as well so the man was evil anyway but that would open up a whole new set of conditions and circumstances. The difference between Murder and Manslaughter is intent, legally without intent there is no malevolence, only an accident; which although still punishable, is less so. This lends to the conclusion, without intent there is no evil.
To be evil you need a conscious action, awareness and intent, but do you also need the power to do it. An Agoraphobia sufferer who lives alone, cannot venture outside of his abode, and shuns all human contact; but desires, with all of his black little heart to kill and murder all the people who have ever crossed him in any way. He spend his days mentally killing and maiming anyone he has every perceived as wronging him but does not have the power to do so because he cannot leave his house. He has awareness and intent but lacks the power to complete the evil, therefore is there no evil? His anger and malevolence will never harm anyone else, but it is still there, the evil in his heart. It's the proverbial tree in the forest, the evil is there but there is no one harmed from it, so is there really evil?
The final criteria are power then, there has to be the power to complete the evil, but can the level of power differentiate between an act and an evil act? The child with the magnifying glass is not evil but a fully gown man with a blow torch is because the level of power is different, the devastation is more far reaching therefore it graduates to evil. In films and science fiction books more advanced alien races often come to earth with the plot line of exterminating our race in order to live on our planet, not having one of their own. For dramatic emphasis they are usually portrayed as 'the bad guys'; the idea of killing off the human race to make room for their own inhabitation is seen by us as evil. The aliens are seen as evil because of their intentions and because they have the power to do it, it's the big guy picking on the little guy! So by that standard are we, as a race evil? Let’s face it we expand and murder thousands of species every day; cutting down rain forests, damming rivers, expanding our cities, is that not the same thing? We know what we are doing, they are conscious acts with understood intentions, but we lack the power to create the devastation that our fictional counterpart can do, we cannot wipe out an entire planet continent by continent, but does that make us any better?
Maybe awareness, intention and power have nothing to do with it at all; maybe it is all to do with perception. We justify to ourselves our actions everyday; evil, not evil; good, not good; but it's only those with power who get noticed and judged by us as a whole. Julius Caesar was perceived as a hero but he Romans when he conquered Gaul, but I'm sure they saw him as a ruthless tyrant. We remember the straight roads and the democracy that the empire created, but others might mention the wars, the murders and the debauchery. We justify the cutting down of rainforests by planting new trees, but tell that to the millions of creature who will die as a result of it, they will not benefit from the newly planted trees.
It seems that perception is the key, you have to pick a side, 'There is no Good or Evil, there is only Power.' Well I don't think that is strictly true, there is Power of varying degrees, everyone has a certain amount of Power, some less than others, and they make choices with that Power. The choices and actions resulting from it are they perceived by everyone else and categorised - Right or Wrong. Our perceptions are guided by different things, our emotions, religion, our own morale compass, our up-bringing, or our life circumstances; and it is with these things that we sort the grey into black or white. We use awareness, intent and the level of damage cause to determine the evil, but whether or not it is evil is still a decision made, a perceived idea, there is no fool proof test.
There is Good, and there is Evil but only you have the Power to choose.