Challenges to Religious Belief - Evil and Suffering


The Nature of Evil

Moral Evil

This results from human actions that are morally reproachable. The Holocaust which resulted in a combination of cruelty and mistaken ideals is a classic example.

Natural Evil

This results form the malfunctioning of the natural world, which produces famine and disease. A recent example would be the Asian Tsunami. 

Suffering often seems unjust, it does not discriminate as to whom it strikes, those who have done nothing wrong, such as newborn babies, are often its victims.

The Problem of Evil for Believers

This is the problem of how an all-powerful, all-loving God can allow His creation to suffer without coming to its rescue and putting an end to its torment.


As God alone created the universe out of nothing, he is responsible for everything in it. If He is omnipotent, then He should be able to do anything that is logically possible. This means that He could have created a world free from evil and suffering and free from the possibility of it ever going wrong. It also means that should He ever allow it to come about, He could end all evil and suffering. 

If God is all-loving He would wish to end all evil and suffering. Any loving being, as we understand the term, would wish to stop the many horrors heaped upon millions of innocent people all over the world. No all- loving God would allow His creation to suffer for no reason and to no avail. As God is omnipotent He could step in and stop the suffering.


God has complete knowledge of everything in the universe including evil and suffering. He also knows how to stop it. 

David Hume

Hume argued that either God is not omnipotent, or God is not all-loving, or evil does not exist. Hume, considered that the effects of evil, therefore, accepting that evil exists, he concluded that God must either be impotent or malicious. Either way this puts an end to the God of classical theism. Hume therefore concluded that God does not exist. 

St. Thomas Aquinas

He suggests that God’s existence in the face of evil is logically impossible; the concept of infinite goodness is an essential part of God’s nature, therefore any proof against God’s goodness being infinite will constitute proof that God does not exist. As we are witnesses to evil in the world we are therefore also witnesses to proof against the existence of God.  However....

Aquinas went on to reject it. The challenge only works if we accept two premises;

The concept of infinite goodness is part of the definition of God.

In talking about Goodness we are referring to the same thing as human goodness

It can be argued that God’s goodness is a very different concept to human goodness. His goodness might allow Him to tolerate the existence of what we consider to be evil as a temporary part of His plan. If this is the case there can be no logical contradiction


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