Existence of Evil Proves That God Essay

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Problem of Evil

One of the oldest arguments against the existence of a supposedly omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent god proposes that this god is logically inconsistent with the "evil" observed in actual reality, because there is no way that an omnipotent, omni-benevolent god could allow such evil to exist. There are variations to the "argument from evil" meant to refute certain counter arguments, and when taken as a whole the "problem of evil" is sufficient evidence to accept the impossibility of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent god. While the problem of evil is not sufficient to disprove the existence of every definition of god, it can at least demonstrate how the version of god proposed by some of the world's largest religions is logically impossible. Furthermore, by examining the various flavors of the argument from evil alongside theist rebuttals, it will be possible to see how the question of proving or disproving god is itself twisted in order to make logically impossible claims appear valid.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Existence of Evil Proves That God Does Not Exist Assignment

The problem of evil is a longstanding issue in philosophy and religious thought, and David Hume identifies one its earliest formulations in the work of Epicurus, an ancient Greek philosopher who viewed the absence of pain as the highest goal (Hume, 2009, p. 279). Hume himself provided the world with arguably the most widely discussed presentation of the argument from evil in his Dialogues, and the questions he ascribes to Epicurus regarding the logical impossibility of an omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent god will offer a succinct introduction into the topic at hand. Hume asks about god "is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?" (Hume, 2007, p. 279). Unlike certain definitions of god that are impossible to prove or disprove, the notion of an omnipotent, omni-benevolent god can be disproved, because there are reasonable things one might expect to not see in a universe governed by such a god, with evil being one of them. Hume's questions and answers succinctly demonstrate the logical impossibility of this kind of god, because they show that evil is inconsistent with an omnipotent, omniscient god. However, one cannot simply take Hume's word for it, and indeed, understanding exactly what is going on in the argument from evil and precisely how the argument disproves a god requires that one examine the presuppositions and definitions used more closely, in order to avoid any unnecessary obfuscation or confusion.

Firstly, one must acknowledge that the particular god disproved by the argument from evil does not encompass all the possible formulations and definitions of "god," but rather specifically concerns a god proposed to be all-knowing (omniscient), all-powerful (omnipotent), and all good (omni-benevolent). While omniscience is sometimes considered an element of omnipotence, it is worthwhile listing it separately here if only to acknowledge others' distinctions; for all intents and purposes, omnipotence seems impossible without omniscience. As J.L. Mackie notes, this "is a problem only for someone who believes that there is a God who is both omnipotent and wholly good;" the problem of evil does not concern an indifferent or actively malevolent god, because in both cases the presence of evil would not be inconsistent with their nature (Mackie, 2009, p. 263). While this specific category of god limits the argument to a relatively smaller category of god claims, the argument from evil remains just as important, because an omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent god is definition proposed by many of the world's major religions, and particularly Christianity. In fact, one can go so far as to say that the argument from evil is largely an argument against the Christian god, if only because the Christian god has historically been the most popular Western conception of god.

At this point it is worthwhile to also discuss the use of the term "evil," because although it works as a kind of argumentative shorthand, it carries certain moralizing connotations that serve to cloud the issue. In particular, the word "evil" suggests a kind of universal or objective standard of morality by which events and behaviors could be categorized as good or evil. The question of whether any such objective standard exists is actually another area in which theists and atheists tend to disagree, but it is beyond the scope of this study to take up this question here. Instead, it must suffice to say that the argument from evil is not contingent on there being any universal, objective moral standard, because one can quite easily replace "evil" with something less dependent on moral universals, such as "suffering." Suffering would be similarly incompatible with an omnipotent and omni-benevolent god, because by any reasonable definition of benevolence, the permitting of suffering would be inexcusable.

It is further necessary to point out that the identifiable, immediate causes of evil or suffering make no difference to the problems they present for the idea of an omnipotent, omni-benevolent god. At various times thinkers on both sides of the argument have attempted to delineate between different kinds of evil based on whether or not the evil in question was the work of a conscious agent. In "The Evidential Argument from Evil," William Rowe demonstrates these two different kinds of evil in dramatic fashion by proposing two hypotheticals: "[the first] is the case of a fawn trapped in a forest fire and undergoing several days of terribly agony before dying. [the second] is the cape of the rape, beating, and murder by strangulation of a five-year-old girl" (Rowe, 2009, p. 315). The goal of using these two dramatic hypotheticals is to point out the potential distinction between evil or suffering inflicted as a result of human action and evil or suffering as a result of natural processes, and although this distinction is a popular one on both sides, it is ultimate illusory, because in the end it is not the intention, motivation, or physical chain of events behind the evil that matters, but rather its existence as such. As will be seen, however, certain counter arguments depend on maintaining the distinction between these types of evil. For those making the argument from the evil, the purpose of distinguishing between these types of evil is largely rhetorical, as a means of precluding rebuttals that depend on the notion that an omnipotent and omni-benevolent god could allow certain kinds of evil but not others. Thus, while some scholars making the argument from evil (such as Rowe) include the supposed distinction between "human" and "natural" evil, the argument remains valid even when one recognizes that this distinction is ultimately illusory.

Rowe takes a slightly different position than Hume, positing an evidential argument against the existence of god rather than a purely logical one, but both use the presence of evil as a means of disproving god or at least demonstrating that this god is highly improbably and that belief in it is irrational. Hume and others argue that evil is logically incompatible with an omnipotent, omni-benevolent god, which it is when using any standard definition of the terms. Rowe's argument, on the other hand, is essentially a response to critics of the logical argument, because it includes in itself a rebuttal of some of the more common theist explanations for the existence of evil. Before showing how Rowe's argument contributes to the larger argument from evil, then, it will be useful to first examine some of the more common theistic attempts to justify evil the face of the argument from evil.

The most common responses to the argument from evil are either an attempt to redefine evil such that it is no longer inconsistent with an omnipotent, omni-benevolent god, or else propose that the nature, and thus actions and inactions, of god are beyond the scope of human comprehension, and thus cannot be determined according to logic. John Hick attempts the first category of response when he discusses his theory of "soul-making" (Hick, 2009, p. 301). In short, Hick proposes that evil as humans perceive it is not inconsistent with an omnipotent, omni-benevolent because this evil is actually part of the process by which human souls are shaped and matured. In this light, suffering is not actual "evil," but rather is simply part of a larger good that is not fully grasped by humanity. This is a specific example of a more general trend, wherein the problem of evil is explained away by arguing that this evil is in the service of an unknown, greater good. It is true that if this were the case then one might reasonably propose that the evil observed in the world is not inconsistent with a perfectly good god, but it is here that Rowe's argument applies, because even if evil in the service of an unknown greater good were not incompatible with an omnipotent, omni-benevolent god, the lack of evidence for either the god or the possible hidden good makes the god hypothesis less likely that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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