Friday, August 19, 2005

The problem of evil

The argument goes

• If God can prevent evil, but doesn't, then He isn't all-loving.
• If God intends to prevent evil, but cannot, then He isn't omnipotent.
• If God both intends to prevent evil and is capable of doing so, then how can evil exist?

This is pretty bullet proof given a few unstated assumptions

Some religious groups then may argue

"This argument ignores the fact that God will get rid of evil in the future.
There is a Hell for the bad and a Heaven for the good."

This however is a very weak argument. The first flaw involves how they have ignored the timeless nature of god and worse yet the time related nature of humans.
For a "timeless god" anything that happens that is evil goes on his balance sheet as an evil event that he could have prevented it doesn’t matter if he fixes it later because from his point of view present and future are equivalent.
From a human point of view it is even worse sincere may live purely in the evil time one might also question if that is fair.

The real counters to this argument are more unsettling to many religious people.

1) We don’t understand what gods will is - i.e. he actually may wish to cause suffering. He however remains "all-loving" in a sense because despite the fact he doesn’t do what is good for us all the time he may
A) Give us heaven in the end - which may dwarf everything else he does
B) Love you despite hurting you (cold comfort of course)
C) Define his own actions as good (as the final arbiter)

It raises the question of whether we can ever do evil - but you could still never be able to disobey but still be punished for your intentions - i.e. a murder might kill another murderer but since his intent was murder not some sort of civic duty or self preservation he can still go to jail.

2) Maybe he is not omnipotent - this fits well with reality in as far as we don’t see much in the way of godly exceptions to rules - either he REALLY likes rules or he doesn’t have spare energy to go around fixing everything. He could still however be pretty powerful. It could also reflect a balance of powers between two "gods". In other words a relative but not absolute limitation.


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