A common argument against the existence of god.

It goes essentially like this:

  1. God is omnipotent.
  2. God doesn't like evil.
  3. God could and would eliminate evil.
  4. Evil is still here.
  5. Therefore, God does not exist.

The most common defense agaisnt this argument is the free will defense.

The Argument from Evil as Saige phrases it is as follows:
  1. God is omnipotent.
  2. God doesn't like evil.
  3. God could and would eliminate evil.
  4. Evil is still here.
  5. Therefore, God does not exist.

This is not a proof. The logical fallacy lies squarely in statement #3: that God would utterly eliminate all evil from the world if such a thing were possible.

As Saige points out, the free will argument comes into play here:

  • Assume God wants to eliminate all evil.
  • If all evil is eliminated, then all free will must be eliminated.
  • But God refuses to eliminate free will.
  • Therefore, God does not want to eliminate all evil.
Once again I return to the Theodicy by Leibnitz, to address the problem of evil and free will.

First off, lets rephrase the argument to use the more common terms from philosophy:

  1. God is omnipotent
  2. God is omnibenevolent
  3. God could and would eliminate evil
  4. Evil is here
  5. Therefore God does not exist
#5 means there is no being that is omnipotent and omnibenvolent. I have previously addressed this in Omnibenevolence and Omnipotence showing that Omnibenevolence and Omnipotence are not contradictory. The problem of evil is at the core of this argument and centers around #3 as mentioned above.

Does omnibenevolence mean that there should be no evil? Is evil part of a larger plan for the universe?

To overthrow this objection, therefore, it is sufficient to show that a world with evil might be better than a world without evil
Without day, there is no night. Without a wrong way there is no right way. Without evil, there is no good. Without sin, there can be no salvation. If it is the case that salvation is more good than evil is bad, then it is necessary to have a world with evil in it. There can be no choices made on a road with no forks.

All this has been gone over in many other nodes:
Problem of Evil,
Omniscience and free will are contradictory,
God can't be all good and all powerful at the same time,
Beyond Belief: Why God Cannot Exist
Free will defense,
God has no free will,
to name a few.

There's always something more to add on to the debate. None of the write-ups here are decisive. Many philosophers have built careers writing about the argument from evil, both for and against, and will continue to do so until God appears to us, each and every one, and proves beyond a doubt that He really does exist, thus making our attempts at disproving Him fruitless.

My favorite spanner to throw into the works is "Okay, so maybe we need evil. How to you figure that we need so much of it, and why do some people have to experience (through no fault of their own) more evil than others?"

So there.

Because I can never stop arguing, here's a little more:

Without day, there is only night. Without a wrong way there is only the right way. Without evil, there is only good.

Is this true? Beats me. But it sounds at least as reasonable as m_turner's statement. Beware of metaphor.

Not to throw fuel on the fire, but...

Once, while reading Aquinas, someone suggested that evil existed in God's world -- that is, he allowed it to exist, since he is good and could not have created it -- he does "more" good by bringing good out of evil, such as using a natural disaster to bring humanity closer together. Thus it is perhaps better to "allow" evil to exist so that good might be brought forth from it than to annihilate it outright and gain no benefit from its presence.

Twisted, yes, but God can do whatever the hell he wants, and we have to cope.

The problem with this argument is that all four of its premises are assumptions: They are based on a specific idea of what god is presumed to be. None of them are necessary for a god to exist.

That means that rather than saying god is omnipotent, god doesn't like evil, god could and would eliminate evil, evil is still here, therefore, god does not exist, we can only say if god is omnipotent, and god doesn't like evil, and god could and would eliminate evil, and evil is still here, then, god does not exist.

If any one of the four premises is invalid, then the whole argument is a logical fallacy.

Is god omnipotent?

That depends on your definition of god. What do you mean by the word god?

Perhaps an all-encompassing definition that would cover the various images and ideas of different belief systems is something (or some things) or someone (or a group of persons) that is (are) outside our own universe and has/have somehow caused this universe.

Sure, Judeo-Christian-Islam religions tend to think of a single person (or a trinity) that simply wished this universe to be and it was. This person (or trinity) is generally considered omnipotent. So, the first premise will hold true for the JCI tradition.

But there are other traditions as well as modern views. It is, for example, perfectly possible, and believed by many, that our universe is a game in virtual reality. A game we have played for so long we have completely forgotten it is a game. A variation is the belief that this was an experiment in virtual reality, an experiment that got out of hand.

In this view, this reality was built by a person, or rather a group of persons, who is/are definitely not omnipotent.

Others view god as a force, as something impersonal. In that case, not just omnipotence but the entire argument is moot.

Doesn't god like evil?

This, again, is mostly a JCI issue. They tend to believe that god is good and hates evil. But the concept of god does not require the god to dislike evil.

It is perfectly conceivable that there is a god and that this god not only does not dislike evil, but this god is evil. This god may have created us to be its slaves, or just a source of its amusement.

In his Far Journeys, Robert Monroe claims we have been created by some advanced race living in a different realm of existence (thus, fitting into the above definition of god). They created us as the source of energy for themselves. Worst of all, the more we suffer, the better the energy we produce. Dang!

Could and would god eliminate evil?

Again, that depends. The JCI god could. But not necessarily would (the JCI believe in free will).

The virtual reality god either might but cannot (the experiment gone haywire), or can but would not (the game theory, in which evil makes the game more challenging/interesting).

And the Monroe race? Whether they could or not, why would they want to? The more we suffer, the better for them!

Is evil still here?

Many years ago, I heard a story. It was a very long story, but I only remember its beginning:

A young man lost his arm. The loss was an evil thing: Unlike his friends, he could not get a decent job and make a nice living.

Then his country was invaded by another country. All young men were drafted and had to go fight the war. Luckily for this young man, he was missing an arm and not suitable for military service. All of his friends were then killed in the war. The loss of his arm was a good thing—it saved his life!

I do not remember the rest of the story, but it alternates examples of why the loss of his arm was evil at one point, good at another.

This makes the concept of good and evil quite relative: It is how we perceive matters that makes them good or evil.

Even should we accept the JCI concept of a personal god who is absolute, omnipotent, etc, then we would have to admit that we could never understand what goes on in the mind of such a being. Just because we, in our relative world, consider something to be evil, we could not say that this absolute god thinks of it as evil.


I am not saying that god exists. Nor am I saying that god does not exist. I am only trying to show that the existence of what we call evil does not constitute a proof of god's non-existence.

Seeing is believing in this postmodern world, yet it is not necessary. For if physical evidence provided a sufficient basis for belief, all the human institutions would crumble. Deduction has faith in its premises and formulated principles. Induction has faith in its observed patterns and probable conclusions. All facets of life require faith, yet theism is judged as flimsy for this. From a purely empirical view point, it seems absurd to expend so much on matters with no physical certainty, but something else drives humanity to worship God. Those who embrace empiricism for these spiritual matters propose that it is irrational to believe in God, yet they neglect to realize how intellect and perception are slave to emotion. Scientific breakthroughs and progress do not motivate humanity to cure diseases; they are only the means. What drives medical science is the fact those we care for are still vulnerable to physical pain, suffering, and death. Seeing our loved ones suffer and die, however, also causes humanity to stray from spiritual faith, as well. Perhaps the greatest objection offered by atheists is not that it is irrational to believe in a god you cannot see, but that it is irrational to believe in God when He does not prevent evil. How can we believe rationally that God, who is omnipotent, omniscient, and completely benevolent, exists, when there is evil in the world? To understand the answer to this question, one must first analyze the argument to see the emptiness inherent within. Then, one must understand that Love knows pain and suffering, yet forgives.

In the same manner that emotion motivates medical science, emotion motivates the atheist position. Some correlation exists between bad experiences within a religion and atheism, yet the deepest and most intellectually convincing reason for atheism does not rest within that realm. By strict definition, atheists do not believe a devil exists, but surely they do not deny evil does. In defining God as a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and completely benevolent, it follows He wants to prevent evil and is able to do anything possible. Combining these defining attributes and the fact that evil does exists, atheists declare that God does not. A very convincing argument has developed, though motivated by pain and suffering and the need for justification. When pain and suffering inspires the medical scientist it becomes constructive, the atheist ends, however, with the destruction of religion and truth.

By saying one ought not to believe in God by virtue of the existence of evil, one fails to realize the nature of God and Love. At first glance, it appears none of the attributes of God can be seriously denied with blasphemy, though if one were false, the argument completely fails. Perhaps God does not know there is evil, so He does not prevent it. Perhaps God cannot do anything about evil, so He does not prevent. Perhaps God does not want to prevent evil, so He does not prevent it. By virtue of being heretical, the first two suppositions can be cast out; but what of the third? If God did not want to prevent evil, would that necessarily negate His complete benevolence? Taking this into account the atheist argument should be rephrased. One ought not to believe in God, by virtue of the existence of evil, unless He has a good reason for justifying it, which as an atheist would proclaim He does not. Is that actually true, though? Is there any reason which could justify God allowing evil to exist?

By virtue of William Rowe’s No-see-um Inference, an atheist might simply reply to this by stating he knows not a reason which would justify God’s permitting evil, so therefore no reason exists. When put it to that context, the atheist seems arrogant for assuming there is no explanation simply because he does not know it. But what if one looked into a box and saw no Jack? He would be safe to assume there is not Jack in the box. Everyday, every human uses this sort of faulty logic, yet it does not change the fact it is faulty. Most of the time, we have nothing else to go on, and we are justified in using induction, but in the case of discussing an topic theism further thought is needed.

Reflecting back on the argument, one can see how it progressed to incorporate a new premise that God has no justification for permitting evil. Interestingly, progression is based on current shortcomings. If humanity is to progress, it must have some current flaw. Perhaps this is God’s reason allowing evil. Maybe it is that God wants us to become greater, so He makes us overcome obstacles, which we call evil. This is not what we should expect of an omnipotent, omniscient being though. Why should we progress when God could create us as great as we could be? So, progression is not the key to God’s permitting evil, and again the theist is stuck with irrationality.

Assuming that being intelligent and possessing instrumental reasoning makes a human being happy, perhaps God’s reason for allowing evil is so we can learn these things. When I attempt to hammer a nail and miss, hitting my thumb and causing me to have a temporary case of Turret's Syndrome, I learn to be more careful while nailing. By creating natural laws, cause and effect, and physical pain, God allowed us to learn how to manipulate nearly all of nature, conforming it to our will, searching for comfort. Perhaps this is the reason why God allows evil. But, I have learned many lessons without unpleasant experiences. Again, with all His might, God could have created a better system of natural education rather than pain, thus this cannot be the reason.

Beauty, however, is something beyond the realm of science. Every human has the capacity to judge aesthetics, yet no machine can. Typically, those more well versed in arts tend to favor more complex pieces. To everyone one except my Aunt, Picasso is considered a better painter than my six year-old cousin. And to everyone, including my Aunt, Mozart is considered a better composer than my six year-old cousin. Picasso and Mozart, though possibly only temporarily, have a better sense of beauty and their creations are more complex. Perhaps, God made the universe so beautiful and complex that our human minds cannot comprehend why evil exists, except to know there is a good reason for it. However, complexity does not necessitate evil. And, God with His wisdom could also have created us with the ability to make sense of his artwork. Again, this cannot be the justifying reason.

Another reason some offer is that perhaps God allowed evil so we may know a higher good. And, like the other explanations, this accepts that God cannot do anything possible, but this idea brings up another interesting point. Perhaps God allows evil so we may simply know good. This idea can be taken in a variety of ways. First, is the idea everything must have an opposite, so for good to exist, evil must as well. But this cannot be, for not all properties have opposites, like three-sided or neutral. A straight line can be bent an infinite number of ways causing it to not be straight, yet these are not opposites. Just because there is good, there can exist things which are not good, but not necessarily evil. But this is assuming we define good and evil separately. However, old order Christianity, being Catholicism and the various types of Orthodoxy, as well as as few other denominations consider evil to be anything that is not good. A restated explanation should be as follows: God allows evil, for evil is the void of good, and for everything that exists, there must exist the void of it. However this too is heretical, as God may shield humanity with his powers from knowing emptiness. If theists are to maintain rationality, a reason must be presented.

Breaking down the atheist argument down again, God cannot exist because he would block evil entirely, and yet evil exists. This is drawn from the ideas that God can do anything possible, knows all, and is completely benevolent or all good. A slight jump is made though. For being completely benevolent does not necessarily mean to block evil; it only means to only do good. So, now a definition of what it means to do good is needed in order for theists to remain rational. If God exists and is all good, the only way humanity can understand him is by understanding Love.

If God were to allow us to freely make our own decisions, this would be just cause for allowing evil and maintaining His divine attributes; though, new problems emerge. Take into account the Holocaust. Six million Jews died by the free choices of Hitler and the Nazi Party. God could have prevented it, assuming His glory, yet allowed evil because being good is granting freedom. God’s loving nature permitted hatred to brew not only in the Germans but in all those who took part in the war. Freewill fully escapes the problem of evil as presented previously, but the nagging question of how God can permit evil still remains emotionally. As taught by theists, God loves every human personally, yet He consciously allows great injustice. For most, it is nearly impossible to imagine a loving parent who is fully able to stop their child’s suffering yet does nothing, and this is what the freewill-based solution offers - no redemption, just more suffering with only ourselves to blame. God in all his wisdom thought that if offered freedom or happiness, every human would choose freedom. This may or may not be the case, but when analyzing this new emotional problem, redemption can be had.

Intuitively, no human can be expected to forgive evil by the simple knowledge that they have been granted free choice by virtue of God’s love. It seems that if God were to really love us, he would simply make us happy, yet He did not. Happiness can be had along with freewill though. If one were to always do what made them and everyone affected by them happy, and did so freely, happiness could be had along with freewill. This seems a bit absurd though, and of course is a problem.

A famous proverb states that if you truly love a pet, set it free, and if it comes back to you, it is truly yours. With theism in mind, humans are to be God’s creation who He loves. He granted us freewill and on Earth we encounter evil of all sorts. Ideally, God would create us as creatures who are free and always do the right thing, meaning following God’s will, yet this is impossible without undermining omnipotency. To love, one must forgive, and the only way to forgive all the evils of the world, would for a being without sin to freely choose to die from sin. Jesus Christ, the son of man, is said to be God’s human manifestation, who suffered, die, was buried, and in fulfillment of the Jewish prophecies rose from the dead. This sacrafice of Himself, His son, destroyed all sin, and for those who realize it all, evil can be forgiven, totally eliminating both the intellectual and emotion problem of evil. Like the original problem set forth by the atheists, this comes from the emotional drive, but when atheism is cynical and destructive, this constructively solves the problem.

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