The Real Meaning of Evil

It's not the devil with horns and a tail but a deadly fungus

The word evil--brandished so often by George W. Bush and just as regularly scorned by those who oppose him--could use some serious parsing.

It is possible that neither side in the debate about evil quite knows what it is talking about. Philosophically and theologically, both are fighting the last war. They are talking about a world that no longer exists, or rather, they fail to see what evil lies in the world that now exists.

President Bush uses the word in an in-your-face, born-again manner that takes its resonance from a long Judeo-Christian tradition that sees radical evil embodied in...