Evil and Suffering

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Definition of Evil and Suffering

Evil - a negative force seen as destructive or against God. It is the opposite of good.

Suffering - often the result of evil, when someone has to live with or face unpleasant circumstances.

Man-Made Suffering - caused by people acting in a way that hurts themselves or others. It can be accidental or deliberate.

Natural Suffering - caused by natural events such as earthquakes, hurricanes and droughts.

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Three Key Problems

1. If God is omnipotent, why does he allow suffering? If he had ultimate power, surely he could stop people's pain.

2. If God is omniscient, why does he allow suffering? If he knows everything, surely he would know that someone is in pain and how to stop it.

3. If God is benevolent, why does he allow suffering? If he is all-loving, surely he would care about his creation and if it was in pain.

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Origins of Evil - The Fall

When Adam and Eve ate fruit from the tree of knowledge, they were thrown out of Eden. They then had to take care of themselves. The fact that they could see the difference between good and evil meant that evil existed as a reality. God made evil possible by giving free will but humans created real evil by making the wrong choices.


1. Why did God create the tree of knowledge in the first place?

2. God is supposed to be omniscient so he should have known what would happen when he made the tree.

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Origins of Evil - Personal Being (Satan)

In the Bible, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all describe Satan as trying to tempt Jesus. St. Thomas Aquinas suggested that this figure was actually a fallen angel (Lucifer) that had become too powerful and challenged God. God threw him out of heaven and he has opposed God on Earth ever since. He does this by tricking people into doing the wrong thing.


1. God is supposed to be omnipotent, so if he wanted to, he could get rid of Satan forever.

2. If God is benevolent, why does he allow the devil to hurt his creation that he is meant to love?

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Origins of Evil - Impersonal Force

Some people say that evil is a part of nature and cannot be controlled or organised. It is a negative force, which generates pain on a completely random basis. Evil is not a person but rather a part of nature (just like gravity).


1. Why did God create the force of nature in the creation that he is supposed to love?

2. If it was accidental, then he isn't omniscient as he is made out to be.

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Origins of Evil - Psychological Phenomena (All in

Many people say that evil is within us all, as a hidden force - we don't all show it in the same way. It can be triggered or affected by a number of things including: unpleasant upbringing, terrible experiences, negative friendship group (peer pressure).


1. Why did God create the gene of evil inside of us in the first place?

2. Why do evil people exist that have had a perfectly normal upbringing and life?

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Is God to Blame for Evil and Suffering?


If God is omnipotent, he would be able to stop suffering.

If God is omniscient, he would know about all the suffering in the world and how to stop it.

If God is benevolent, he would care about his creation and what happens to it.


Our actions can be influenced by people around us.

If we were not given free will, then we would live a choice-free life.

Evil is within everyone and it takes something to trigger it (e.g. upbringing).

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Religious Responses - Judaism

Jews are encouraged to help people who suffer, however they encourage the poor to help themselves.

An example of a Jewish charity is Chizuk. Their services include art and drama therapy.

The prophet Amos was one of the 12 minor prophets who encouraged everyone to not be greedy and leave some of the harvest for the poor.

Jews believe that God created everything including evil. However, God is benevolent so he must have created evil for a good purpose.

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Religious Responses - Sikhism

Some Sikhs believe that God doesn't cause suffering but allows it to occur as a test of faith.

Samsara - the eternal cycle of death, birth suffering and reincarnation.

Another explanation is that humans are the ones to cause suffering, not God.

Sikhs help to heal evil and suffering by praying or donating to their chosen charity.

An example of a Sikh charity is Khalca Aid.

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Religious Responses - Islam

According to the Qu'arn, Allah gave Adam the world to look after by also gave him free will, meaning humans had the choice to sin.

Muslims show compassion to those who suffer.

Muslims believe that Allah created a perfect world.

Allah is compassionate so those who truly repent will be forgiven.

Muslims will be judged on the day of judgement.

People have free will to choose between right (Allah's way) and wrong (Devil's way).

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Religious Responses - Buddhism

Many Buddhists are vegetarian. However, they accept any food prepared for them so they do not seem wasteful.

Buddhists say that suffering can be traced back to three roots: desire, ignorance and hatred.

Buddha also said that to stop suffering, you need to stop craving.

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Religious Explanations and General Religious Respo


Theodicies - arguments used to defend God against problems involving evil and suffering.

Test of faith - Story of Job

Karma (Hinduism)

The Origins of Evil


Charity work e.g. Salvation Army.


Practical responses - feeding, clothing, offering shelter (love thy neighbour - Matthew 22).

Life and works of Jesus - ultimate sacrifice was dying on the cross

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