Monday, June 28, 2010

The question of evil

When it comes to belief in a perfect creator, one has to inevitably answer the question of "why, then, is there evil?"

To summarize, Epicurus is claimed to have said: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

That quote, alone, will leave many "believers" with little to say.  We must, however, go a bit further - expand on the claims of the "believer" to show that what they claim to believe is, well, hardly thought out.

Most often it is claimed that evil comes from "free will" - something that is "god given".  Humans have the ability to make their own choices and it is through this that evil is created.  The "necessity" of "free will" is never really explained - why must we have free will if the ultimate consequences appear to be far worse than any potential benefits?

Free will, it is argued, provides the ability for empathy through our own suffering, courage through our own situations of danger/fear and happiness from our own periods of sadness.  The arguments are weak and fail to mention "natural evil" - why does "god" allow (cause?) earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, mudslides, plagues, viruses, disease, cancers (the list goes on)?

We have to remember (at least for the Abrahamic religions) that "god" supposedly had created a "good" world - prior to (let's ignore the misogyny for this posting) Eve eating the forbidden fruit.  We must consider, though, what is promised by this "loving" "god" - heaven. 

Heaven is not well defined - when you ask a Christian what heaven is, you are almost certainly not going to receive a standard response.  To each Christian, it seems, heaven has its own meaning.  Some universal claims about heaven include "eternity", "eternal happiness", "joy", "peace", "no sickness", etc.  The bible, itself, refers to peaceful conditions on a new earth and bodily perfection (no hunger, illness, thirst, death, etc.).

If we accept the idea (for the sake of discussion) that heaven is an ideal place - with no suffering and eternal happiness, the question that "believers" would have to answer is "why did god have to create anything less on earth?"  If free will isn't necessary for eternal happiness in heaven, it wasn't necessary on earth.  If humans could live forever in heaven, why couldn't they do so on earth? 

(Never mind the question of at what stage in development we'd be in heaven (what age, what shape, etc.) Do people who die at 15 live in heaven as 15 year olds?  If that is the case, wouldn't they all rather die young?  What about a baby who dies shortly after baptism?  Do they live in heaven as babies?  If not, how would anyone recognize them?)

Evil then exists because god does not.  Or, as Epicurus stated, any "god" that does exist is not worthy of being called "god".

Do you "believe"? How would you define heaven?  How do you explain evil in the world?


Ryan Hulshof said...

One of the things that started to get my wheels turning in my religious days about heaven is this.

Even as a christian, the vast majority of people have likes that would not fit in heaven. There are many examples, but the one that i think is most universal is sex.

Now when i think of heaven i have a hard time believing that sex is going to be going on up there. God seems to have ( pun intendeD) a bit of a hard on against sex for anything other than procreation.

So what happens then?


A) every christian gets thier own heaven based on what they like. Now this would end up being very weird in the case of people who are christian and don't commit evil acts, but want to.


B) These urges are spiritually removed from a person. Now the problem arises that if my likes and dislikes are being tampered with, am i really me? This option seems to indicate that in heaven ones personality is stripped and they are essentially a robot.

The concept of being a cosmic yes man for god for eternity is scarier than being tortured for the same amount of time in my opinion.

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Gauldar said...

I knew I heard that word somewhere before!

NathanColquhoun said...

The way I've looked at the biblical story as of late is that the world started in a garden (genesis) and ends in a city (revelation calls is new jerusalem).

The bible speaks mostly of redemption, reconciliation and restoration in terms of whatever heaven might be. The bible also speaks to the believers of Christ to participate with Christ in the redemption of all things. This is a faith I can land safely in.

I understand the arguments against God and evil both co-existing, and I don't fully buy most of them, but I also don't buy your limited breakdown. It still leaves us with too many questions. Like why must evil be removed? Should it be removed with force? Can love and free will exist without the possibility of evil? Why does all evil, or the potential of all evil be eliminated have to be out of the picture in heaven? There are just too many questions to land solidly on either side and be without a doubt.

So why not land on a side, or closer to a side that helps make you and the world a better place? What side would that be? For most people it would be different. I would say following a story that says that our role in humanity is to work alongside of the creator in redemption and restoring. That doesn't seem all that harmful or bad to me?

Gauldar said...


This secular side on seems just as good to me as any, and it’s great to be without feels of guilt, irrational belief, or 10% of my income going to an institution.