The Problem of Evil

HideShow resource information

A Definition

Epicurus made the most famous definition which was : Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able to? Then he is not omnipotent. Is God able to prevent evil, but not willing to? Then he is malevolent. Is God able to prevent evil and willing to? Then why is there evil? This definition highlights the problem raised by religious believers of why there is still evil in the world. It questions God's omni qualities. 

Why the Existence of Evil Challenges Belief in God

  • For many, the evil and suffering in the world are the greatest challenges to belief in the existence of God; Mackie and Flew have set out the case.
  • First, if God is all-powerful why does God not prevent evil?
  • This is sometimes called the 'logical problem' by Mackie, this is because theists have to clarify their beliefs. Mackie argues that if God really is omnipotent that must mean God has power over 'causal laws' - this refers to the physical laws of the universe. In turn it raises the challenge that: why does God not stop evil events happening if God has the power to stop evil and it costs God no effort to stop it?
  • Second, the sheer amount of evil in the world appears to challenge the goodness of creation.
  • Dawkins pointed out that without human beings, suffering in the animal kingdom is immense; which should surely outweigh the value of good in the world?
  • Believers have a problem defending the goodness of the world in the face of the existence of evil and suffering.
  • Man has a capacity to inflict great evil and suffering on one another; eg holocaust. The amount of suffering this kind of even caused seems to challenge the belief in the existence of God.
  • Dostoevsky wrote a book in which one of his characters put forward three arguments against God that focus on the problem of evil and some of which were based on incidents recorded in the nineteenth sentury. One of the arguments questioned soldiers throwing babies in the air and killing them - how can free will be worth the price of innocent people suffering, and if God really is omnipotent and all-loving how does he let this happen.
  • Mackie argues that the price of having free will is that sometimes humans seriously misuse it. Yet if God has did give humans free will, he should of made sure they would choose what is good?
  • Theists have replied to this by saying: what sort of free choice do you have if you are incapable of choosing what is bad? Your answer depends on how you define free will.
  • Suffering in nature also happens on an enormous scale; biologists argue that nature is indifferent to suggering. It is not good nor evil; all that matters is the passing on of genetics. Therefore suffering being passed down is not the fault of nature.
  • People may argue that a child learns by making mistakes which sometimes cause suffering…


No comments have yet been made

Similar Religious Studies resources:

See all Religious Studies resources »See all Philosophy resources »