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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1 thought on “Moral Dilemma #2: The Problem of Evil

  1. In a world where technological advancements and scientific discoveries are prolific, religion seems harder and harder for atheists to accept, as well as the layers and layers of discrimination, environmental damage, starvation, disease, and wars that plague this contaminated land. The points the philosopher raised have all been thought of, questioned, and debated over. Why does the world have problems even if there is a holy being to save and fix everything?

    To have God create a world with less suffering but opportunities of free will, God would then have created a utopia. The first thing that comes to mind after hearing ‘utopia’ would be doubt, as our world has never seen a successful utopia without it dissolving into a more commonplace dystopia. But I can only come to that particular conclusion because the world’s citizens and environment does not allow for complete perfection, as almost no man can be completely kind, benevolent, generous, and intellectual. To have no suffering and still have the same opportunities to exercise free will sounds too good to be true, as history had exemplified so many failed attempts at achieving this perfection. For example, communism was intended to achieve utopia, though government involvement would be extensive, therefore taking away the aspect of free will. If a holy and powerful being were to intervene and recreate society or the nature of humans, a utopia would then be plausible.

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