In creating the human raceI did achieve perfection;a perfection of balancebetween the forces driving it toward good, and those driving it toward evil.+Last Testament: A Memoir by GOD
Though this was meant as a humorous statement, most Christian doctrine would agree. Or worse, that man was created entirely evil, seeped in sin, as it were. The only way to achieve even an ounce of goodness is through God's most gracious gesture, the murder of his son.
I would argue that it is unfair for god to expect us to be good little boys and girls when he created us balanced between good and evil. It's like saying, "Here, I've created you with only one leg, but if you really want to please me, I need you to learn to run really fast."
Not that I really believe in "good" and "evil" as concepts. It's one of the big religious paradoxes I have never been able to put on blinders to: "Here's all these enjoyable things I created and I've given you a body capable of enjoying them. But if you really love me (meaning: God), if you really want to be a worthwhile (read: holy) person, then I want you to not enjoy them." What?! Might as well ask "evil" lions to stop eating prey, or beavers to stop building dams, etc. Alright, I think I've beaten this dead horse ..
A friend of mine argued that being overly attached to ego or the physical world can make someone evil, and I used to agree. But lately I've come to see these individuals (those who embody "separateness") as more lost than anything else. Like they can't really help themselves. Of course they can, but sometimes you can be so down deep in a hole, buried under so many false ideas and information about yourself and the world, that it's too difficult to overcome on your own.
Working from a base of false information (for example a religious paradigm), you can come to some pretty "evil" seeming conclusions about what you "should" or "must" do. I remember very clearly what it's like to be down in the bottom of that hole (everyone's is unique of course), feeling like there is no possible solution, etc. So, that being said, I see so called evil people, or people who do evil things, as severely deluded about the reality of ... um ... reality.
I feel sorry for them. They can control their actions, and they still need to be held accountable for them (especially criminals and such), but until they have a paradigm shift, they won't really be motivated (not quite the right word) to act differently. They won't understand why it's the right way to act. They might simply act that way to avoid further punishment. And you really need someone (even if it's through the written word) to help you through that shift. We can't all be little Buddhas and come to enlightenment on our own. Like I said, I don't really believe in good and evil, except for when you're talking about archetypal cartoon characters. (Too much Power Rangers for me today.)
Those who are severely deluded about the nature of reality can almost be seen as acting on instinct. They are more animal that cerebral human. Simply reacting, instead of thinking. Heavy doses of religious (and other forms) of conditioning can also have this effect. Does this visceral or conditioned state of mind make someone evil? Are they ever beyond all hope? Or is knowledge -- about the universe, the self, reality -- the cure for evil, as Plato suggested?