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Explain the Problem of Evil

A) Explain the problem of evil. The fact that it is evil in the world is a problem for theists as they claim to worship a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful and completely good; the problem arises because surely such a being would be aware of evil and suffering in the world as they are all-knowing, would have the power to prevent it from happening as he is all-powerful and as he is supposedly perfect. He would not allow for such evil ever even to occur, as Christians believe him to bear all three of these divine attributes; the allowance of evil to persist daily throughout the world surely disproves the existence of God.

Two separate types of evil affect the world; firstly, there is a moral evil. Moral evil defines the bad actions of us as humans, such as rape, theft and murder. In contrast, Natural evil refers to the natural processes of the world such as volcanoes, earthquakes and forest fires; it is said that as humans commit such atrocities as murder through moral evil, natural evil occurs as punishment. The logical problem of evil is defined by Epicurus “If he is willing and is unable, he is feeble, which is not following the character of God, if he is able and unwilling, he is envious… if he is neither willing nor able, he is both envious and feeble…if he is both willing and able… from what source then are evils?

Or why does He not remove them?” here Epicurus explores the problem of the inconsistent triad, which is as follows: 1)God is omniscient, omnipotent and wholly good, 2)there is evil in the world, 3)a being who is holy goodwill eliminate evil as far as it can. J.L Mackie stated that all three in the triad could not be true simultaneously and therefore, believers must give up one of the three; some believers do this by stating that evil does not exist, this, however, is simply absurd due to the prominence of suffering and evil that confronts humans daily.

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The contradiction of the triad would disappear if God did not behold each of the three divine attributes; the question thereafter, however, is that if God does not possess omnipotence, omniscience and wholly goodness, how could he be God? The highest being requires each attribute combined with being the almighty creator and the necessary being that creates all the contingent beings who cannot possess all of these attributes. Charles Darwin explores the evidential problem of evil. He noted that he witnessed the daily suffering of so many animals daily during his research; he concluded that the sheer amount of evil in the world must weigh against god holding all of the divine attributes.

Example of the problems of evil in the world includes the spread of viruses such as HIV which affect those in under developed countries so often that they must suffer until they die, surely such a great theistic God would not have allowed such viruses to exist and control the lives of so many. The holocaust is an example of genocide amongst many other genocides such as those imposed by Idi Amin, the cruel dictator of Uganda for several years; the holocaust having led to the deaths of millions of innocent Jews on the grounds of one man (Hitler’s) terrible jealousy, surely is evidence of suffering enough to discard any belief that God is omnipotent or omniscient.

Darwin discussed that given evil exists, we must choose between two hypotheses, either that there is an infinitely powerful, perfect God who created the world or … that there is no such God. Lastly, William Rowe stated how pointless evil is evidence that a theistic God cannot exist at all; he described a fawn being trapped and slowly dying in a forest fire, and in agony, the agony the fawn endures is pointless. Yet, it is nature; surely a wholly good God would end this suffering quickly as it is pointless.

To conclude, the problem of evil lies in that devoted theists such as Christians and Muslims believe in a God who possesses all of the divine attributes and yet suffering is so prominent, they believe in such a God regardless of what evil may strike them in their lifetimes yet surely their God would protect the devotee from having to experience such pain. However, the problem of evil is only a challenge for the religious; for atheists, this is not an issue as they do not believe in a God who should be responsible for it; the existence of evil is the biggest destroyer of the belief in God.

B) Are the theodicies’ attempts to deal with moral and natural evil and suffering doomed in the face of so much evil and suffering? Each of the theodicies opposes atheism and attempt to prove that God holds all of the divine attributes he supposedly has, regardless of the evil in the world. Firstly is Augustine’s theodicy. Augustine argued that God is good and powerful and as he is, he created the perfect world; the only reason evil came into the world is because some of his creatures turned away from him, such as the fallen angel Satan who chose to do wrong, and Adam and Eve’s failures to resist temptation in the garden of Eden.

Augustine’s theodicy places all blame for the evil in the world (both natural and moral) caused by the freely chosen acts of God’s creatures; herein lies the freewill defence. Augustine also argued that evil is part of the natural balance of the universe. Although pain and suffering may seem to outweigh the good and appear to go unpunished in this life, justice is restored in the next life as those who have done wrong on earth are sentenced to life in Hell.

A criticism against Augustine’s theodicy is that Augustine justifies suffering in this life by suggesting people go to hell to make up for it in the next; this raises a question as to why such a benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient creator allow suffering to continue eternally in Hell. Iraneus’s theodicy differs from Augustine’s as he did not believe the free-will of humans to be the reason for evil in the world; Araneus thought that humans should use their free will to achieve perfection in the next life; in this way, he believes evil being around is a challenge and to overcome it means that perfection will come in the next life.

John Hick supports Iraneus by naming the world ” the vale of soul-making,” He points out that the struggles in this life strengthen our souls and that God must keep a distance to keep the purpose of our lives a mystery. Hence, we as humans continue to strive to reach a state of holiness and, ultimately, God. Criticism to the Iranian theodicy is that the theodicy views evil as a means to an end; humans can then ask,” is the end worth it?” how can God possibly justify, for example, creating a world in which children can be tortured to reach an ultimate goal?

Gottfried Leibniz’s theodicy states that God is the all-powerful and good beings had the task to select from amongst all possible universes he could create, the one which was the best, as God is aware of what may have happened in other universes, he must have selected the best. As this universe is the best, pain and suffering must be essential ingredients for the best world, and evil must be for the better regardless of its form. Leibniz argues that although we as humans cannot see why suffering is necessary for the divine plan, this is simply because we cannot comprehend God’s perspective. We cannot understand what another universe might be like.

A criticism of Leibniz’s theodicy comes from Voltaire, a French writer. Voltaire published a novel named ‘Candide’; in the novel, a character named Dr. Pangloss regularly announces that this is the best world possible, eventually Candid witnesses the hanging of Dr. Pangloss and states, ” If this is the best possible world, what can the others be like?”, Voltaire contrasts the horrific pain and suffering in the world against Leibniz’s theodicy.

To conclude, the theodicies’ attempts to deal with moral and natural evil in the face of so much evil and suffering are doomed, as each of the criticisms against them brings into question how a God who holds each of the divine attributes can justify such suffering in the world as a means to an end in the next life.  In my opinion, the existence of Hell alone blows the theistic ideal of a God out of the water as it simply connotes that some humans will have to experience large amounts of pain infinitely to God’s approval. Thus God cannot justify suffering in this life as he has the power to inflict it on mortals forever should they rebel against the system in their life previous to the afterlife.

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