How about a column on your take on an atheist (or jewish atheist) view on evil, its existence, cause, and cure.
First, I'm going to avoid any discussion of subjective vs. objective morality since, regardless of which may be preferable, I've seen no evidence that an objective form of morality exists, let alone whether any person knows what it is. I explained previously that my own sense of morality is founded on empathy and sympathy. You may object that these are emotions and hardly a basis for morality, but I can find no better place from which to start. Additionally, I cannot imagine the world would be worse off if everybody else also based their morality on empathy and sympathy (as opposed to basing it on, for example, religious texts, religious teachers, Marx, or voices from God.)
My definition of evil is therefore this:
Evil is overly selfish action.
This will of course not be precise enough for my absolutist readers, because of the word "overly." However, I see no non-arbitrary means of drawing a line between an action which is reasonably selfish and one which is "overly" selfish. I see that not as a flaw in my perspective on morality, but as a strength: I understand that reasonable people may disagree on what's moral in a borderline case. Moreover, it implies that evil is a continuum, not a binary proposition. Murder is worse than stealing a car and stealing a car is worse than stealing a sandwich.
The religious reader will no doubt have noticed that my understanding of evil is more or less the same as the Golden rule as attributed to Moses:
Love your neighbor as yourself.
The cause of evil is therefore obvious: selfishness. The most evil acts -- say, mass murder -- are evil because they place more value on one's own enjoyment or advancement than on other people's lives. The borderline cases -- for example, drinking the last canteen of water when lost in a desert with another person -- come about when reasonable people may disagree whether one is valuing himself or herself significantly more than another person. Again, I'd prefer not to debate borderline cases.
Why, then, are some people more selfish than others? Some answers are obvious. Evolutionarily speaking, of course, men who went around raping and pillaging would have had more surviving children than those who only had sex with women who were willing. Similarly, there are some evolutionary explanations for altruism. Having loving feelings towards one's own children is obviously beneficial from an evolutionary standpoint and the same goes for loyalty to kin, decreasing proportionately as the genetic relationship diminishes.
Then there are cultural reasons. The human brain has a remarkable capacity for learning social norms, and such norms are often enforced by the group. Speaking evolutionarily again, being ostracized from the group would have been deadly almost anywhere on Earth until very recently in the West, when one may join another group relatively easily. People who are raised to be selfless will likely be less selfish than those raised without such concerns. Someone growing up in a Taliban training camp, for example, will learn to hate Jews and Americans and glorify killing us. It's much easier to teach someone to hate people from a different group than to hate one's own group, for obvious reasons. Tribalism is just the selfishness of a group rather than an individual.
So what's the "cure" for evil? Ultimately, I don't think we can cure evil. It's as much a part of the human experience as love. However, we can work to reduce it. Ultimately, it comes down to culture. We can exploit people's natural tendencies towards in-group loyalty by enlarging the size of the group. Small groups can remain while becoming part of a larger group, just as America has Catholics and Jews who are both American. Nations are good tools for creating larger groups, although they can be much more dangerous to those not in the group than a bunch of small, divided groups can be, as the history of warfare, ethnic cleansing, and genocide shows.
I don't know if it's possible to get the entire human race (minus rebels, who will always exist) to identify as a single group. The ascendancy of Democracy and secularism (not atheism, per se) are surely steps in the right direction. Secular democracies do not go to war against each other. Most of the non-nation wars in the world today are warring religious sects, whether it's Sunnis and Shiites, Muslims and Hindus, or, well, mostly Muslims and anybody.
Within America, there are the "culture wars," which are a result of religious or idealogical groups clashing, usually orchestrated by powerful people with something to gain. Luckily, they rarely have resulted in violence, and aren't close to civil war. I think this is because our founders successfully created a system in which people of different ethnicities and religious could identify as Americans in addition to their smaller allegiances. The war in Iraq, for example, can only be won if Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds manage to identify themselves as Iraqis as well as members of their tribes.
Those of us who would reduce the amount of evil in the world should work to, to paraphrase our president, be uniters, not dividers. It won't be done on the battlefield, short of extreme genocide, which is so evil it wouldn't be worth it. Rather, if it is to be accomplished, it will be by winning the hearts and minds.
Maybe Lennon said it best:
Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Except we don't need to get rid of countries and religions, just subsume them into something greater, so "the world will be as one." Osama bin Ladin would have gotten nowhere if middle-eastern Islam had merged with the rest of the world. Hitler would have been a nobody if he couldn't convince his countrymen that "Aryans" were a super-race and Jews, pygmies, and gays were vermin. There will always be crime and there will always be criminals. But maybe, we can cut back on war and genocide.