[Home]History of TheProblemOfEvil

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Revision 12 . . (edit) February 14, 2001 2:28 pm by LarrySanger
Revision 11 . . (edit) February 14, 2001 2:28 pm by LarrySanger
Revision 10 . . (edit) February 14, 2001 5:18 am by LarrySanger
Revision 9 . . February 14, 2001 5:17 am by LarrySanger [* Finished wikifying for now]
Revision 8 . . (edit) February 14, 2001 5:01 am by LarrySanger
Revision 7 . . (edit) February 14, 2001 4:45 am by LarrySanger
Revision 6 . . (edit) February 14, 2001 4:37 am by LarrySanger
Revision 5 . . February 13, 2001 9:56 pm by RaviDesai
Revision 4 . . (edit) February 2, 2001 12:07 pm by PhillipHankins
Revision 3 . . February 2, 2001 11:18 am by JoshuaGrosse [Edited statement 4, as suggested on LarrysText]
Revision 2 . . February 2, 2001 10:33 am by JoshuaGrosse [Criticism of statement 4]
Revision 1 . . February 2, 2001 10:27 am by LarrySanger
  

Difference (from prior major revision) (minor diff, author diff)

Changed: 1c1
<the following is a portion (partly edited) of LarrysText, wikification is encouraged>
<The following is a wikified portion of LarrysText; further development is encouraged; see also TheoDicy.>

Changed: 3c3
The so-called argument from evil has, as its conclusion, "GoD does not exist." This is also called the problem of evil.
The so-called argument from evil has as its conclusion "GoD does not exist." The argument expresses something called the Problem of Evil. This entry will outline the argument and some responses to it.

Changed: 5c5
Much ink has been spilled over the questions regarding rationality of theism (see FaithAndRationality)--about whether arguments are needed in order to be rational in believing in God, for example. But we could just as well question the <a>TheRationalityOfAtheism</i>.
Much ink has been spilled over the questions regarding rationality of theism (see FaithAndRationality)--about whether arguments are needed in order to be rational in believing in God, for example. But we could just as well question the TheRationalityOfAtheism.

Changed: 21c21
Consider now the premises in turn.
One might find The Problem of Evil in the fact that the premises of this argument seem compelling, but the conclusion is (to theists) unacceptable. Consider now the premises in turn.

Changed: 45c45
But how? How could a God that is all-loving allow evil not only to exist, but to flourish in the world? That is the project of giving a TheoDicy.
But how? How could a God that is all-loving allow evil not only to exist, but to flourish in the world? That is the project of giving a TheoDicy (q.v.).

Changed: 47c47
I should insert here that some people think that all they have to prove is that a loving God can have some purpose in permitting evil to exist. These people deny that they have to state Godís purposes. What would be the point of that? Godís purposes are not our purposes; the nature of God is mysterious. So if you are a mystic this view should be attractive to you. All you have to do is to argue that a loving God might have some reason for allowing the existence of evil; you donít have to state what the reason is. I think this is an extremely popular view among Christians. For two reasons, no doubt: first, it is extremely pious not to try to guess at Godís thoughts; and second, it gives us a justification for not making an actual attempt to explain evil, which promises to be a very difficult task indeed.
Some theologians--of a mystical bent--believe that all they have to prove is that a loving God can have some purpose in permitting evil to exist. These people deny that they have to state Godís purposes. There would be little point in doing that. Godís purposes are not our purposes, they say; the nature of God is mysterious. All one has to do is to argue that a loving God might have some reason for allowing the existence of evil; one need not state what the reason is. This is an extremely popular view among ordinary theistic nontheologians, for two reasons, no doubt: first, it seems extremely pious not to try to guess at Godís thoughts (indeed, some religions enjoin us from doing so); and second, it gives us a reason for not making an actual attempt to explain evil, which promises to be a difficult task.

Changed: 49c49
But letís review a few actual attempts to explain evil. The first is to point to the existence of free will. God gave us free will; and so we are able to bring evil upon ourselves. We are to blame for the evils which we inflict and suffer. This is an unfortunate consequence of our status as free beings; but it is far better that we are free, and hence that we suffer evil, than it would be if we were merely unfree pawns in a perfect game that God played by himself.
Let us review a few actual attempts to explain evil (without necessarily endorsing any of them).

Changed: 51c51
This is very persuasive to many people. But there is a very serious problem with it: very much of the evil that we suffer is not due, in any direct way, to any choices that human beings make. When the Black Death rode in the late Middle Ages, and wiped out millions upon millions of Europeans, that certainly was not due to any act of any human being. Or take any natural disaster at all: human beings do not cause, and cannot prevent, devastating earthquakes. So we should distinguish between moral evil and natural evil, a distinction Iíve been blurring up until now. Moral evil is any bad thing that humans are responsible for; natural evil is any bad thing, such as an earthquake or flood, that humans are not responsible for. Human beings are to blame for moral evil; but they are not to blame for natural evil.
We might explain evil by pointing to the existence of free will. God gave us free will; so we are able to bring evil upon ourselves. We are to blame for the evils which we inflict and suffer. This is an unfortunate consequence of our status as free beings. But it is far better that we are free, and hence that we suffer evil, than it would be if we were merely unfree pawns in a perfect game that God played by himself.

Changed: 53c53
"Ah," you may say, "but we are. Adam and Eve freely committed the Original Sin, of eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and we have been paying for that great sin ever since." Now, I donít want to get into any specific issues of Biblical exegesis and Church doctrine. But suffice it to say that it would be harsh, to say the least, that absolutely every member of the human race who came after Adam and Eve should have to pay, throughout their lives, with all manner of suffering, for that Original Sin of Adam and Eve. I hope youíll forgive me if I say that does not sound like something that a loving God would do. There may be a way to explain how a loving God can permit evil; but I doubt that the best way to explain it is to say that we all deserve all the evil we get, because Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin.
This is very persuasive to many people. But there is a very serious problem with it: very much of the evil--the misfortune--that we suffer is not due, in any direct way, to any choices that human beings make. When the Black Death rode in the late Middle Ages, and wiped out millions upon millions of Europeans, that certainly was not due to any act of any human being. Or take any natural disaster at all: human beings do not cause, and cannot prevent, devastating earthquakes. So we should distinguish between moral evil and natural evil, a distinction we have been blurring up until now. Moral evil is any bad thing that for which humans are responsible; natural evil is any bad thing, such as an earthquake or flood, for which humans are not responsible. Human beings are to blame for moral evil, but they are not to blame for natural evil.

Changed: 55c55
So hereís another answer, a more plausible answer, I think. A universe in which we are tested and improved by having to face evils, is far better than a universe in which we might complacently live in blissful ignorance of evil. The souls who will inhabit heaven will be far better and stronger if they live in a world beset with all sorts of evils. Evil improves us. And so God has allowed Satan to come to the power that he now has. Satan tempts us and if we resist, we are better for it. Satan also tests our will and resolve with all sorts of natural evils, earthquakes, floods, and whatnot; and if we pass the test we are better for it.
"Ah," one may say, "but we are. Adam and Eve freely committed the Original Sin, of eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and we have been paying for that great sin ever since." We could get into specific issues of Biblical exegesis and Church doctrine at this point. Suffice it for now to say that it would seem to be rather harsh, to say the least, that absolutely every member of the human race who came after Adam and Eve should have to pay, throughout their lives, with all manner of suffering, for that Original Sin of Adam and Eve. This, according to many, is something that a loving God would do.

Changed: 57c57
Now if I wanted to, I could bring a lot of objections to this. Surely the absolute horrors that humanity has faced, especially in the twentieth century, are unnecessary to improve our moral mettle. I could, if I wanted to, insist on such objections at length. But I think we have come to the point where you can see the outlines of the major issues involved in the problem. So I will leave it to you to hash out the details and to answer any further objections, that might come to you, yourselves.
Here is another answer. A universe in which we are tested and improved by having to face evils is far better than a universe in which we might complacently live in blissful ignorance of evil. The souls who will inhabit heaven will be far better and stronger if they live in a world beset with all sorts of evils. Evil improves us. So God has allowed Satan to come to the power that he now has. Satan tempts us and if we resist, we are better for it. Satan also tests our will and resolve with all sorts of natural evils, earthquakes, floods, and whatnot; if we pass the test we are better for it.

Added: 58a59
If one wanted to, one could bring a lot of objections to this. Surely the absolute horrors that humanity has faced, especially in the twentieth century, are unnecessary to improve our moral mettle. We could insist on such objections at length. But then we are engaging the project of TheoDicy in detail, a topic for TheOlogy? more than for PhilosophyOfReligion.

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