Introduction to the Problem of Evil


Natural Evil

Natural Evil refers to the suffering of sentient beings that occur independantly of human actions.

e.g. On the morning of all saints day in  1755 the city of Libson was hit by an earthquake which wrenched the city apart. Soon afterwards a tsunami swept the city and then a fire broke out which lasted for days. Around a third of all inhabitants were killed- 90,000 people. 

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Moral evil

Moral evil refers to those acts of cruelty, viciousness and injustice carried out by humans upon fellow humans and other creatures and this, for theologians, includes the concept of sin. 

e.g. according to american scientist and writer Jared Diamond, since the murderous genocides of Hitler and Stalin in the 1930's and 40's, in which tens of millions were killed, there have been a further 17 known genocides across the world. 

eg. Humans in 1994 excuted by knife and machete around 800,000 people in Rwanda in a few weeks.

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The logical problem of evil

The logical problem of evil argues the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of evil in the world. The argument is most clearly presented by J.L. Mackie in his paper ‘Evil and omnipotence' but is considered by many philosophers including Hume and Mackie, but first presented by Epicurus.The problem is often illustrated in the form of an inconsistent triad giving three propositions; God is all powerful, God is all loving and evil exists in the world. The logical problem claims that these are inconsistent as an all loving God would want to eradicate suffering and an all powerful God would have the power to do so. In theory, as we know there is evil in the world, a theist must sacrifice their idea of an all powerful, all loving God.

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The evidential problem of evil

The evidential problem of evil argues that given the evidence of the amount of evil in the world the existence of God is extremely unlikely. William Rowe (The Problem of Evil and some varieties of Atheism) argues that particular accounts of seemingly pointless suffering act as evidence against an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God. He gives the example of a fawn who is trapped and horribly burnt in a forest fire,  lying in agony for days before it eventually dies. This example is used to combat the idea that evil could be required for a greater good.

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The consequence of evil is often mental suffering and physical pain. These effects can be long lasting  with many participants in world war two unable to recover from the mental and physical ordeals.  

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Overlap between Natural and Moral evil

The distinction between natural and moral evil may be blurred in cases where intentional human actions exacerbate the effects of natural disasers.

e.g. The effects of CO2 car emissions on the the gradual heating of the earth which causes climate change. 

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