T Nation

The Problem of Evil

This thread may be misplaced, but those for whom it is intended are those arguing on the “…Athiest…” thread on this forum – thus its placement.

I’ve decided to make this its own thread as the other thread has grown quite large and, simply, The Problem of Evil is deserving. I mentioned it on the other thread and received a number of replies, all of which amount to a clear misunderstanding of the logical argument. So, the purpose of this post/thread is to outline the Problem of Evil in a logical form, then welcome responses and open discourse.


THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

The Judeo-Christian God is described by his followers as having a number of qualities. Among them are:

(1) OMNISCIENCE – This means God is “all-knowing.” It is believed that God knows everything, quite simply, regardless of the boundaries of space time. He knows EVERYTHING.

(2) OMNIPOTENCE – This means God is “all-powerful.” Which means he can, quite simply, do anything he wishes with no limits whatever. Scientific laws do not supercede God’s will. If He want’s it, he can do it.

(3) OMNIBENEVOLENCE – This means God is “all-good.” It means that there is nothing God does or wants that isn’t good.

The Problem of Evil can now be outlined logically:
Given Premise 1: God is all-knowing
Given Premise 2: God is all-powerful
Given Premise 3: God is all-good
Observed Premise 4: But, Evil exists

Conclusion 1: Therefore, God cannot simultaneously possess all three of the given characteristics.

For those that don’t see the deduction clearly, I’ll explain further.

If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, then he MUST know what good is at all times, he MUST be able to have good at all times and he MUST want nothing but good at all times. However, there isn’t good at all times. This means that at least one of the three aforementioned attributes is wrong to some degree. Perhaps he is two of the three. Perhaps less. Perhaps he is MOSTLY good, or SOMEWHAT powerful, or FAIRLY knowledgeable, for example, but not “OMNI…”

When I present this argument, it isn’t from a soapbox or some high horse. It isn’t my argument. It is however, a beautiful deductive argument that quite simply cannot be contended. I say “cannot” because, I assume, everyone here understands the notion of “necessity” that arises when you precede a quality with the prefix “all-”. Everyone here, I assume, also respects the logical principle of non-contradiction (that is, for example, that one cannot simultaneously hold and not hold a belief, etc)-- and that principle is inherent in this argument.

My claim is that if you believe (and truly understand why) 4 + 4 = 8 and that no right angle can be more or less than 90 degrees, you will also find this argument to be logically valid.

I welcome all responses, but request that you quote only the portion of the post with which you are replying to. For example, if you find some problem with my definition of “OMNIPOTENCE,” please quote that portion and make your reply. Quoting the entire post makes no sense and becomes confusing.

The Problem of Evil can now be outlined logically:
Given Premise 1: God is all-knowing
Given Premise 2: God is all-powerful
Given Premise 3: God is all-good
Observed Premise 4: But, Evil exists

Conclusion 1: Therefore, God cannot simultaneously possess all three of the given characteristics.

I believe you missed one important “given” premise - God gave human beings free will. According to the Bible, we humans freely chose to drift further away from God and that evil exists because we humans now rule ourselves, not God. In other words, we chose to live and to rule the world without God, and God is letting us.

I think this is really important. God could have made us perfect by his standards, free of evil, etc. But what satisfaction is there in creating something (or someone) perfectly designed to love you and to worship you? I think he prefers that we choose to love him and to worship him. He chose to give us free will, and many are exercising their free will to create the evil in the world. If anything, all the pure evil that exists reaffirms the existence of the pure good - God.

[quote]Right Side Up wrote:
(3) OMNIBENEVOLENCE – This means God is “all-good.” It means that there is nothing God does or wants that isn’t good.

Conclusion 1: Therefore, God cannot simultaneously possess all three of the given characteristics.
[/quote]

Please… Even I, being an atheist, can see that your logic is overly simplistic (a nice way of saying: flawed).

Nobody can define what is “Good”. Christians will quickly argue that the existance of Evil is necessary because if there was no Evil people would not value Good and God, and would not grow and Love Him. That’s what the whole “Being thrown out of Paradise” thing is about, and, for a more recent example, that’s what the whole Matrix Trilogy is about.

Monotheists generally believe having to deal with Evil is Good for you as a person. So the existance of Evil is Good.

If you find that absurd and illogical, it’s not, even if you’re an atheist - after all, even if we are here as a product of Evolution and Natural Selection (as I personally believe we are), our Human duality and ability of being incredibly Evil some times and incredibily Good at others can in some light be considered “Good” because it allowed us to prevail.

So, again, the key here is that you cannot define Good. Nor Evil, for that matter… These are extremely subjective…

Even if you could define Good, something can be a Good Thing in the short run and an Evil Thing in the long run (or vice-versa!). So, which one to pick?

And then there’s the old adage:

The Good of the Many outweighs the Good of the few (or the One)

Need I go on? :slight_smile:

You asked a similar question before so I will repost that same response to that other question. I am not sure why you skipped my response before, but I am sure you read what I asked you to by now.


[quote]
Right Side Up wrote:

So what you’re trying to say is that evil exists in the world outside of God. For example, as god is the power of pure good, satan is the power of pure evil. Is this right? [/quote]

Yes, that is right.

[quote]
If so, than you are rejecting God’s omnipotence. [/quote]

Wrong, because even in the bible, satan doesn’t act out of control of God. There are things that are allowed to happen but not forced by the hand of God. As I stated before, that is the reality we live in. That is the “test”. If we lived in paradise, there would be no need for faith. As humans, we created this human condition by our own actions at the beginning of time. The reality that we face as a result requires good to be balanced by evil.

[quote]
You are declaring he is not all-powerful, as you have said Satan can create things that God cannot control. Since God has no bearing on that which Satan can (sometimes?) accomplish, he isn’t ALL POWERFUL. Isn’t this so? [/quote]

Read above. You wish this were so and you wish that christians thought this way so you could easily explain it away. As others have stated, you are not smarter than anyone else in this forum. Why would you assume that these questions you are asking are original? You have chosen to not believe. I can continue to answer any questions you ask within the understanding of my own faith, but that won’t do any good if your goal is to simply degrade my religion. If your goal is understanding, ask away.

[quote]
{by the way, I don’t have to “degrade what I receive” – whoever devised “the problem of evil” has covered that – there IS NO valid response to it, which is what makes it such a great argument.} [/quote]

How is the response I gave NOT valid? Because you say so? PROVE it is not valid.

Oh, and before you continue this, read about Job in the bible and then tell me what you get from that. Please don’t go forward until you do…even though I am sure you will.


I actually haven’t read all of your new post so if you want to go further and feel you have not been directed to an answer, then I will read it and respond. I must also ask, whether you are looking for answers to your questions, or whether your questions are simply your way of making fun of something you don’t understand. Your questions have answers. It will be completely up to you whether you accept them or not.

[quote]ssong2 wrote:

I believe you missed one important “given” premise - God gave human beings free will. According to the Bible, we humans freely chose to drift further away from God and that evil exists because we humans now rule ourselves, not God. In other words, we chose to live and to rule the world without God, and God is letting us.[/quote]

This seems to be the knee-jerk reaction to the argument I’ve layed out. So you say that God has given human’s the ability to act freely. As I’ve stated to others, free will is an assumption that cannot be made soundly. It is far from clear that we human’s (or anything else, for that matter) operates totally freely. What does it even mean, to operate freely?

Beyond that, let us assume that we are indeed free. To be truly free would mean that we act from no boundaries, including the power of god. If God has no power over our decisions (if our decision is indeed FREE, he can have NO power over it), he cannot be all-powerful. This must be the quality you are rejecting, and so the argument stands as previously outlined.

[quote]
I think this is really important. God could have made us perfect by his standards, free of evil, etc. But what satisfaction is there in creating something (or someone) perfectly designed to love you and to worship you? I think he prefers that we choose to love him and to worship him. [/quote]

This is an interesting approach, and certainly one I find much to argue with. But, it is beyond the scope of this thread. Your statements deal less with the structure, validity and meaning of the argument and more with overall personal belief and religion.

Your speculation of what you “think” holds no value here. The only speculation that has been admitted are the three attributes of God previously outlined. These three cannot be simultaneously maintained.

[quote]
He chose to give us free will, and many are exercising their free will to create the evil in the world. [/quote]

One can surely see injustice, bad, pain, “evil,” etc. in the world without having to look at actions that result from the will of humans. The 150,000 + that have already died from the tsunamis might serve as an example. Any other natural disaster or accident serves the same purpose here.

[quote]
If anything, all the pure evil that exists reaffirms the existence of the pure good - God. [/quote]

Puzzling statement. You are declaring God to be pure Good, but also declaring that pure evil exists. So, for the second time in your post you have denied god’s omnipotence – he can’t be all good and all powerful if evil exists.

[quote]hspder wrote:
Right Side Up wrote:
(3) OMNIBENEVOLENCE – This means God is “all-good.” It means that there is nothing God does or wants that isn’t good.

Conclusion 1: Therefore, God cannot simultaneously possess all three of the given characteristics.

Please… Even I, being an atheist, can see that your logic is overly simplistic (a nice way of saying: flawed).[/quote]

The Problem of Evil is rather simple, yes, which is why it baffles me that people are having trouble with it. If you wish to declare it “flawed,” I believe you have your work cut out for you.

[quote]
Nobody can define what is “Good”. [/quote]

Great point. But, it has been assumed by the Christians that whatever “good” is, God wants it and is it. That’s what matters here.

[quote]
Christians will quickly argue that the existance of Evil is necessary because if there was no Evil people would not value Good and God, and would not grow and Love Him. [/quote]

Then it seems like you (or the Christians you are referring to) are rejecting God’s omnibenevolence.

Well I’d prefer you not to “go on” rambling, but instead go on by trying to make points that matter toward the subject of the thread. The thread is about a logical argument with a simple outline of deduction. Citing The Matrix, getting into Darwin, then making some obscure reference to utilitarianism sounds more like you’re reading your syllibus to your Intro to Philosophy course rather than thinking through the argument.

Further, you opened by blaming me for presenting “flawed” logic, but said nothing of logic in your post.

So, yes, please - go on if you can be more concise.

[quote]Right Side Up wrote:

Great point. But, it has been assumed by the Christians that whatever “good” is, God wants it and is it. That’s what matters here.[/quote]

If that is what matters here, then it would follow that you would accept what Christians define it as and also accept the concept of Evil and the part it plays in our existance. This is a clear case of you ignoring what is being told to you just so you can degrade something you don’t even want to understand. Save it. Why make this post if you refuse to accept the explanation? A fellow atheist doesn’t even agree with how you are presenting the issue.

…[quote]If so, than you are rejecting God’s omnipotence.

Wrong, because even in the bible, satan doesn’t act out of control of God.[/quote]
I’ll bite, in spite of the reference to the Bible which is completely irrelevant to the subject of the thread…um…did you just say God is responsible for Satan’s actions? Yessir, you did. That seems to be the most blatant rejection of God’s omnibenevolence available!

Professor X, I was about to go bit by bit through your response, but for God’s sake, did you read the initial post? I mean, we only need to talk about the few elements that are within the argument, all-goodness, all-knowledgeable, and all-powerful and their common sense relationship to evil. We don’t need to discuss Adam and Eve, etc.

[quote]
I actually haven’t read all of your new post[/quote]

Ahha! Please do.

…[quote] so if you want to go further and feel you have not been directed to an answer[/quote]

I’ve asked no questions, so I’m not looking for an answer, I’ve presented an argument that makes a claim – a strong claim – and am welcoming challenges from believers who are certainly inclined to dispute the claim.

Yes, please do.

What questions have I asked? You should make it a rule to read posts before you reply. It will only take a moment, please read it entirely and stick to the topic in your reply.

Sorry if I appear hostile – I am! It’s rather late and your post misses the point that allows us to even begin the discussion. Apologies.

[quote]Right Side Up wrote:

Professor X, I was about to go bit by bit through your response, but for God’s sake, did you read the initial post? I mean, we only need to talk about the few elements that are within the argument, all-goodness, all-knowledgeable, and all-powerful and their common sense relationship to evil. We don’t need to discuss Adam and Eve, etc.[/quote]

Wrong. To understand the answer, you need to understand our existance. You can’t do that by ignoring the Christian view of our beginnings no more than you can understand who you really are without having any concept of how you were raised or the circumstances you were born into. I asked you to read something that would help you understand. You refuse to do so. That means there is no point in going any further. You have made the choice to ignore any points made and any explanations. That means it matters none at all what I type in response to you. Until you are willing to open your mind to another possibility than what you think you have closed the deal on, please explain to me what the point would be of any further explanations.

[quote]Right Side Up wrote:
(1) OMNISCIENCE – This means God is “all-knowing.” It is believed that God knows everything, quite simply, regardless of the boundaries of space time. He knows EVERYTHING.
[/quote]
Foreknowledge does not equal forordained. So if He knew ahead of time that does not mean he forces men’s decisions upon them.

Within that God has also put Himself under certain laws for our existance. Example being God said He would never cover the face of the earth with water again to destroy mankind. He also has given us free will, which you state is under subjection. I have to ask why? If you are bringing these attributes that are claimed by Christians why can we not bring the other part of the argument that God gaves us free will? It seems you are kicking the wheels off the cart and then asking the believers to push.

God is all good. Lets say as I pointed out in the other thread God chooses to remove all evil. Who would be left? Technically God has banished all sin/evil from Him. When you die would be eternally seperated from God. God is currently in a stage of giving us mercy. When God does remove all evil He closes the door for anyone who is outside of His grace. No more mercy would be available, and all sinners would perish. You seem to exclude mercy, and justice from being part of God also. I think you also misunderstand the menaing that Christians use for this. God is Righteousness, Blameless, and with out error.

Agreed God wants nothing but good all the time. That is why If you are not in His grace your punishment would be eternal seperation from God.

You seem to want to pick and choose parts of the belief system to pick apart. You must take a look at the whole picture. You are also trying to define GOd’s Soveriegnty, something every Christain that I know would tell you is not easily defined.

You have to take into account that maybe God contends with our evil at present so that He may show mercy to as many as possible. It is said that Christ would of come and died for even one sinner that would accept Him. So God would contend with our evil for only one.

So God would

  1. Know who the one redeemed soul would be. (remember foreknowledge does not equal foreordained by God.)
  2. Be able to control all things until the destruction of time.
  3. Be Good in the sense of Righteousness, and mercy towards that one sinner.
  4. Contend with that evil until the His will is fulfilled.

As You said earlier God would be above the laws of science, which would mean your logic may not define God very well.

Also as Prof X pointed out with the Job argument which I think you kind of took out of context.

1.God is in charge of all beings.
2. God allows Satan dominion over the earth for a certain time.
3. God could stop it.
4. It is because of our fall that has allowed evil, death, and pain into the world.

I am sure you will see problems with that because God allowed us to choose evil. At that point though we would become robots, and no longer be created in His image. It is free will that makes us created in His image.

I believe the point RSU is trying to make is that assuming humans have “free will” they sometimes choose to do the good thing. This does not make them automatons, as they freely choose to this good thing. If humans can do it sometimes, why not all the time? His point (I think) is that it is within God’s power to have given us free will and the strength to always freely choose the good. That is, we would see and feel temptation and after considering it, we would choose good. Mere robots would choose good without consideration or temptation.
In summation: It is within God’s power to make humans with free will and to have the strength to always freely choose the good, but He did not. Which makes Him either not omnipotent or not omnibenevolent. Is this about right RSU?

[quote]haney wrote:
So God would
2. Be able to control all things until the destruction of time.

[/quote]

That’s not true haney. If we do have free will, then God cannot control us. Which implies non-omnipotence. If he can control us, but chooses not to, then God values freedom above all else, including love, joy, redemption, faith, chastity, honesty, etc.

[quote]ToShinDo wrote:

In summation: It is within God’s power to make humans with free will and to have the strength to always freely choose the good, but He did not. Which makes Him either not omnipotent or not omnibenevolent. Is this about right RSU?[/quote]

What you just wrote contradicts itself. If we have free will, it makes no sense that we would be created to ALWAYS choose good. That would take away free will. As a result, we have a choice to choose to do good or bad. What you wrote to Haney is also not correct. If we were created to have free will, that does show God’s omnipotence…by simply setting up the chess board in the first place.

“The Problem of Evil can now be outlined logically:
Given Premise 1: God is all-knowing
Given Premise 2: God is all-powerful
Given Premise 3: God is all-good
Observed Premise 4: But, Evil exists”

I think I have discussed or identified my ideas on this before but here goes… Evil is a perception, so is good. What we humans are here for is to gain knowledge and experience and communicate it back to the source. Bla Bla Bla… so in our views we have a finite existance with things that can control and hurt us or destroy us or our loved ones, we view this as evil. Since god already knows what will happen, and knows that nothing is truly destroyd, it is not evil in his view. he really. To be overly simplistic as RSU seems to like to view things, if I am playing a video game, and I kill some bad guys but they kill me a bit later in the game because I went to get a soda and let my guy sit there, unprotected. Does this make me evil? no I restart my game. Sorry dude your just a little video game guy I can bring you right back and we can go conquer the dungeon yet again. I’m sure in all of gods might and power, he looks at us in much the same way… certainly he has more complex games running at the same time? as well as simpler games, the life of a groundhog to god may be like playing dig dug on atari, while human life is like the online final fantasy game, way way more complex and iteractive. Yet a new game will come out and it will look cooler, and be more realistic.

ok so evil is a man made term, it basically is anything that wants to kill us or deosn’t care if we die. Or maybe take our possesions. but maybe not as well. The Devil may or may not be real… I doubt it because if the devil were real, why the heck would he sit around and not mess shit up royally, why does he play by gods rules and not show himself, or rain brimstone and fire upon the earth? it just doesn’t make sense. maybe a black hole is the ultimate form of a devil it devours everything with no discrimination or care. it is pure destruction.

[quote]Vegita wrote:
I doubt it because if the devil were real, why the heck would he sit around and not mess shit up royally, why does he play by gods rules and not show himself, or rain brimstone and fire upon the earth?

[/quote]

Because he has no control outside of what he is allowed to do. He was created by God. He was an angel. His end is already fortold. The goal seems to be to add as many souls to his own end as possible before his last ditch effort in the form of the Anti-Christ.

[quote]ssong2 wrote:

I think this is really important. God could have made us perfect by his standards, free of evil, etc. But what satisfaction is there in creating something (or someone) perfectly designed to love you and to worship you? I think he prefers that we choose to love him and to worship him. He chose to give us free will, and many are exercising their free will to create the evil in the world. If anything, all the pure evil that exists reaffirms the existence of the pure good - God. [/quote]

If God is all-knowing, didn’t he know when he was making us how we would turn out? He set up all of the variables in the world. He had to know which of us would love him and which wouldn’t. If he is good, why bother making those of us who wouldn’t love him only to punish us in hell for it later?

If I set up a line of dominos that I created, on a flat surface that I created, in a room that I created, in a universe that I created, wouldn’t I know how they would fall when pushed? Sure I can say that each domino had a chance to fall over or not, but didn’t I already determine how they would fall when I created all of the variables? It just seems cruel and narcissistic to create humans just burn those that don’t love him.

To me, it seems worse for God to punish men (since he controls all of the variables) than it would be for me to kill my ungrateful daughter. She had a choice to love me, but she didn’t. Therefore she should burn.

[quote]Right Side Up wrote:
This seems to be the knee-jerk reaction to the argument I’ve layed out. So you say that God has given human’s the ability to act freely. As I’ve stated to others, free will is an assumption that cannot be made soundly. It is far from clear that we human’s (or anything else, for that matter) operates totally freely. What does it even mean, to operate freely?
[/quote]

Yes, God has given human’s the ability to act freely. Why can this assumption no be made soundly. I have free will right now whether I want to live or die. I can choose to quit my job and leave the country. Where’s the confusion?

I’m not following your logic here either. I do have free will but it does not supercede God’s will should he decide to intervene. God CHOOSES not to have power over our decisions, it’s no that he couldn’t intervene if he wanted to so conclusion: God is all powerful and I still have free will.

[quote]
You are declaring God to be pure Good, but also declaring that pure evil exists. So, for the second time in your post you have denied god’s omnipotence – he can’t be all good and all powerful if evil exists. [/quote]

Correct. God made Satan. Therefore evil exists. God ALLOWS evil to exist. So therefore God is still omnipotent in the presence of evil. Dude, I don’t care if you don’t believe but the logic your using is pretty weak.

[quote]Right Side Up wrote:
did you just say God is responsible for Satan’s actions? Yessir, you did. That seems to be the most blatant rejection of God’s omnibenevolence available!
[/quote]

God created Satan. Satan has free will just like the rest of us. Satan decided he wanted to become a God himself and deny the one true God. Am I responsible for my son’s actions any more that God is responsible for Satan’s? No, my son has free will just as Satan. Therefore, God is still omnibenevolent.

I’m sorry your logic cracks me up and it’s the way you do it. “Aha, see I told you purple = apple!” WTF?

[quote]Professor X wrote:
ToShinDo wrote:

In summation: It is within God’s power to make humans with free will and to have the strength to always freely choose the good, but He did not. Which makes Him either not omnipotent or not omnibenevolent. Is this about right RSU?

What you just wrote contradicts itself. If we have free will, it makes no sense that we would be created to ALWAYS choose good. That would take away free will. As a result, we have a choice to choose to do good or bad. What you wrote to Haney is also not correct. If we were created to have free will, that does show God’s omnipotence…by simply setting up the chess board in the first place. [/quote]

You only think it contradicts itself. If it is logically consistent that you choose good on several occasions, why is it not logically consistent that you choose good on all occasions? Notice I say choose. Free will is about free choice. Whether or not anyone takes the “bad” choice is immaterial. For example I can have you choose to drink from a cup of Surge, or a cup of cat urine. If you always choose Surge does that mean you do not have free will in this decision? Are you saying it is impossible for someone to always choose good? If God created us with free will and the strength to always resist temptation, we still have free will.

As for haney, what I wrote was correct. He said God controls all things, that would include us. If God controls us, we don’t have free will. If He cannot control us, He is not omnipotent. If He can but does not, then He values freedom above all else. I would think you would lean toward the third option.

[quote]randman wrote:
You are declaring God to be pure Good, but also declaring that pure evil exists. So, for the second time in your post you have denied god’s omnipotence – he can’t be all good and all powerful if evil exists.

Correct. God made Satan. Therefore evil exists. God ALLOWS evil to exist. So therefore God is still omnipotent in the presence of evil. Dude, I don’t care if you don’t believe but the logic your using is pretty weak.[/quote]

I believe his point is that God is not all good if he allows evil to exist.