Moral Dilemma #2: The Problem of Evil

And the Lord spake unto the philosopher, ‘I am the Lord thy God, all-loving, all-powerful and all-knowing.’

‘Surely not,’ replied the philosopher.  ‘I look at this world and I see horrible disease, hunger, starvation, mental illness.  Yet you don’t stop it.  Is it that you can’t?  In which case, you are not all-powerful.  Is it because you don’t know about it?  In which case you are not all-knowing.  Or perhaps you don’t want to?  In which case you are not all-loving.’

‘Such impudence!’ replied the Lord.  ‘It is better for you if I don’t stop all this evil.  You need to grow morally and spiritually.  For that you need the freedom to do evil as well as good, and to confront the chance occurrence of suffering.  How could I possibly have made the world better without taking away your freedom to grow?’

‘Easy’, replied the philosopher.  ‘First, you could have designed us so that we felt less pain.  Second, you could have made sure we had more empathy, to prevent us doing evil to others.  Third, you could have made use better learners, so we didn’t have to suffer so much to grow.  Fourth, you could have made nature less cruel.  Do you want me to go on?’

Discussion points:

  • Could God have made a world in which there was less suffering but in which we had the same opportunities to exercise our free will?
  • Some have characterized the answers to this question as being either that atheists claim to know better than God or that believers claim to know better than reason.  Why?  Which, in your view, is the more serious charge?



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