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This page is a partial answer to an extended letter on another page, Difficult Questions:  Free Will and the Problem of Evil  The reader may wish to refer to that page for a better understanding of the background of this one.  This is the eighth page of answers.

Good is compared to dreamless sleep--but is that really all that good requires?

  "In response to your comment that evil must co-exist with good, consider NREM ('deep') sleep.  In such a state, men are in a perfect state of peace, they forget all of their sorrows and have (temporarily) gone beyond passion, fear, and anger.  Such a condition could be termed completely good, where evil is absent."

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  Your example of NREM sleep is challenging.  However, I don't view "good" as the absence of evil.  Good involves affirmative action.  For example, in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™, characters must declare an alignment; they must choose Good or Evil, Law or Chaos (or declare themselves "neutral" in those areas).  One of my "good" characters on one occasion chose to use his money to feed the hungry.  He could have done nothing, but doing nothing would not have been "good".

  By your definition of good, the man who lives a quiet life, gets a job as a banker, makes a lot of money, never helps nor hurts anyone, but stays to himself, is a good man deserving of great recognition.  I don't see this.  The good man is the one who makes better the lives of others, who enriches their lives.  This idea doesn't require that there be evil to oppose.  Certainly it was easy for my character to do good by feeding the poor, because there was a need to be met.  Yet without meeting any need, you have enriched my life by allowing me to think about your ideas, and to present my thoughts in response.  The world does not have to contain any evil in order for us to do good; but at the heart of good is the need to be expressed in doing, in deeds which benefit another.  In NREM sleep, I benefit no one and contribute nothing, and although I may be free from evil in that I am neither an agent of it nor affected by it, that does not mean that I have achieved anything good.

  Pushed one step further, it appears that the NREM definition of good suggests that the best we can achieve is to cease to exist.  If that is true, then our existence itself is a mistake.  Let's understand this:  life and existence itself is evil.  But what is true for us must also be true for God:  if existence is evil, then the existence of God must also be evil, and all that is is at best a mistake, and at worst evil.  In that case, we're all wasting our time, and should become dead as quickly as we can manage, in the hope that death might be the end.

  No, good has to be active to have any meaning at all.

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