The Problem of Evil
The Judaeo/Christian tradition is founded upon the belief that there exists a supernatural personal being who is the ultimate creator and to which all other beings owe their existence. Three major characteristics are ascribed to this being (God?), that of being wholly good (omnibenevolent), wholly powerful (omnipotent) and all knowing (omniscient). This is the foundation of western religious thought and it is these characteristics and their relationship with evil which comprise the theme of this essay. I intend to show that the existence of evil is not a sufficient justification for the non-existence of God. I will argue that a wholly good, wholly powerful, God can co-exist with Evil. This does not mean that, as a consequence, I will argue that a wholly good, wholly powerful, God exists; I simply intend to argue that the presence of Evil itself is not a sufficient reason for denying the existence of a God.
Evil can conveniently be thought as being split into two general classifications:
1. Human evil, such as when a person or even a state treats someone badly.
2. Natural evil, for example volcanic eruptions, famine and floods.
Of course whilst convenient, the two broad categories of evil cannot be mutually exclusive incorporating as they do, what might be thought of as a 'crossover effect'. For instance, suppose a farmer's indolence contributes towards a local famine. If we know only of the famine we might perceive it as a natural disaster but, on the other hand, if we recognised the farmer's indolence, we could reasonably conclude that we are suffering from a human evil.
Many are inclined to remove humanity from the equation altogether, holding that Descartes was correct to imply that God is all-powerful, omnipotent and able to do everything and, by extension, they argue that an omnipotent God is able to prevent any and all evil. An omnipotent, all-powerful, God could be seen as the answer to many problems of Faith, for example explaining the resurrection in Christianity as well as the virgin birth and the miracles. But omnipotence has its logical problems, as does the idea of a 'wholly good' (omnibenevolent) God.
The dilemma, put simply, is why should a God, who has a wholly good, moral character and is the creator of all things, allow the existence of evil? Reconciling an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God with the existence of evil (for we know from empirical evidence that evil undoubtedly exists) can leave us on the horns of a dilemma. Consider the two conclusions below:
Premise 1: God is omnibenevolent (all good).
Premise 2: Goodness and evil are logical opposites.
1st conclusion: An omnipotent and omnibenevolent God exists and evil does not.
2nd conclusion: An omnipotent and omnibenevolent God does not exist but evil does.
Recalling the definitions of omnipotence and omnibenevolence, we may be inclined to feel God exists and not evil or...