What is evil? What are the specific problems caused by the different types of suffering?

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Introduction & Definition of Evil

Evil, as agreed upon by most major philosophers, is any act or being which actively brings suffering against other beings. There are two main types of evil, moral evil and natural evil; moral evil is an evil committed by one person against another, such as murder. Natural evil on the other hand is an evil committed against a person or animal by nature, such as earthquakes, tsunamis or the tortures that come from living in a world that is, according to Tennyson, ‘red in tooth and claw’ Whilst many philosophers have found ways of getting around the definition of evil, with some, such as Augustine, arguing that evil is in the world not because God put it there, but because the perfect angels chose to behave in an evil way over good. Irenaeus on the other hand argues that evil and suffering is the tool of an omni-benevolent God, used to develop us and shape our spirits from the image of God to the likeness.

Innocent Suffering

Innocent suffering is one of the key problems for theists, as it is suffering brought upon people that have done nothing wrong, such as Jewish children placed in concentration camps by the Nazis, or the millions of starving children going hungry in places like Ethiopia. Augustine explains innocent suffering in the light of an all-loving, omnipotent God by saying that all sin was seminally present in the loins of Adam, and that it’s been passed down from generation to generation, and that this ‘original sin’ as he put it, is what the innocent child is being punished for. However this causes serious problems regardless, why should a small child be punished for sins that he had no idea about, let alone knew existed. Irenaeus on the…


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