Published September 26, 2021
Fifteen or 20 years ago, when I was preparing to write a book on the subject of evil, I asked a variety of people whether they had ever known someone whom they considered to be evil. The overwhelming majority stared into space for a moment and then said, “No—no one I would call truly evil. There was Hitler, of course. But I didn’t know him.”
An exception to the pattern was William F. Buckley Jr. , who, without hesitation, replied, “ Gore Vidal. ” I laughed, but Mr. Buckley didn’t. I think he was serious. He stared at me with hard, enameled eyes.
In those days the word evil still carried the weight of its old significance. Evil remained a great mystery—like (at the opposite end of human experience) love. Evil inspired respect and humility, fear and awe. There is, after all, no appeal from evil. It is uncompromising, unforgivable.
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Mr. Morrow is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His latest book is “God and Mammon: Chronicles of American Money.”