2 IntroductionThis problem of evil remains one of the most contentious and unsettling areas in the philosophy of religion.The problem is important to both non-believers and believers alike: believers because they have to reconcile their belief in God with their day-to-day encounter with pain and suffering in the world; non-beliveers because the existence of evil is often cited as evidence against the existence of God.The problem of evil is generated through our experience of life, and not just through intellectual investigation.
3 The Nature of EvilWhen we describe something as evil we are saying that it is morally wrong.The consequence of evil is suffering – suffering can involve mental anguish and depression as well as physical pain. It is often unjust and does not discriminate who it strikes and as such innocent victims are often caught in it’s path
4 TaskWrite down a list of 10 things that have happened in the world in the last 100 years that you consider to be evilWhat do these things have in common – what makes them evil?
5 Natural and moral evilWe can distinguish between two types of evil in the world: these are natural evil and moral evil.Natural evil is evil that is causedby nature and cannot be attributeddirectly to mankind. Thingssuch as weather disasters can beconsidered natural evil.Moral evil is evil caused bymankind. The sufferingcaused by human actionssuch as war would beconsidered a moral evil.
6 Task Discuss evils with the person next to you to come up with a few examplesof both natural and moral evils.
7 Natural and Moral Evils So evils can fall easily into 2 types:Pain and suffering caused by humansPain and suffering caused by nature
8 What is the Problem of Evil? The problem of evil is thatthere is evil in the world andthis conflicts with the ideasreligious believers haveabout God’s nature.Evils in the world, particularly natural evils present a problem for religious believers.If a God is both omnipotent (all powerful) and omni-benevolent (all loving) then how can he allow evils in the world that produce an extreme amount of suffering for mankind.
9 The Problem of EvilSo the problem of evil affects all theistic religions which have a God who is the all-powerful creator of the world, and who cares deeply for his creation as their object of worship.
10 The effect this has on religion It is often argued that the problem of evil leads to the conclusion that either God cannot exist or if He does he is not a God worthy of our worship and does not posses the attributes He is believed to.It is easy to answer the problem of moral evil with the concept of free will. But what about natural evil? If God created the world and is both omnipotent and omni-benevolent then surely he would have created a world free from evil and suffering.
11 Epicurus The problem is demonstrated by this quote from Epicurus: “God either wishes to take away evils and is unable; or he is able and unwilling; or he is neither willing nor able; or he is both willing and able. If he is willing and unable he is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if he is able and unwilling, he is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if he is neither willing nor able, he is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if he is both willing and able from what source then are evils? Or why does he not remove them?
12 What do you think? Mini debate – Do you think that the problem of evil poses a problem for religious belief?Do you think it can be answered?Can natural evil be explained to still allow for an omnipotent and omni-benevolent God?
13 Religious Responses to the Problem of Evil Evil did not come from God, it came from elsewhereEvil is a test for mankindEvil is a punishment for sinGod gave humans free will so they cause the evil themselves – even in the case of natural evil: the disasters are caused by human actions e.g. Global warming
14 Resolving the Problem of Evil Since the problem of evil was first posed, theists have sought to resolve it without abandoning their belief in an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving God.There have been many proposed solutions to the problem of evil, but we can group the main ones into 4 types:Evil is necessary for goodEvil needs to be seen in a wider context (life after death)Evil is a means to a greater good (soul making, the best of all possible worlds)Evil is the responsibility of humans (the free will defence)