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The problem of evil in the philosophy of religion arises from three propositions God is perfectly good, God is mighty, and evil exists. One of the critical arguing points for atheism is whether God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able, or is he able to avoid evil but is unwilling. If God is perfectly good, He should be able to eliminate evil as there is no limit to what an omnipotent God would do. Using this argument, one can assume that if God exists, then there should be no evil, and if it is in the world, then it is more likely that there is no God (Descartes, 2008). In this case, evil consists of both natural evil caused by catastrophes such as floods, earthquakes and floods, and moral evil caused by the actions of human beings. The free will defense is then used to show that evil and an omnipotent God can exist together. It argues that the presence of evil is a result of humans' free will. Free will is seen as a gift from God, and it should be considered as something good. In the real sense, it is better to be in a world with free will than be in one without. However, humans do not use their free will for good as God intended hence the existence of evil. This paper will, therefore, investigate whether free will defense will help solve the problem of evil.
The Atheist's Argument from Evil for The Non-existence of God
The term theism is used to define atheism, and it is best understood as something either true or false. The belief that God exists is then used to define atheism. The word belief is used as a proposition and not the psychological state or attitude of believing. It is for this reason that atheism is considered to mean that something is either true or false. The argument from evil for the non-existence of God is an argument by atheists that purports that sin and God cannot exist together. Hume puts it, is God willing to stop evil but unable? (Peterson, 2016). In this case, then God can be said to be malevolent.
The other argument is whether God is both able and willing, in which case, there should be no evil. From this, the concept of evil is divided into two broad arguments, namely evidential and logical. The evidential argument has a weaker claim that the presence of evil is proof that God does not exist. On the other hand, logical reasoning shows that the existence of evil is logically incompatible with God's presence (Peterson, 2016). The question posed by evil is that its presence in the world is confirmation that makes the belief that God exists to be unreasonable. The argument on the problem of evil has four primary evidential forms concerning the existence of evil.
The first is called the direct inductive approach. It indicates that theism is unreal if it cannot be compared with an alternative hypothesis other than the denial that God exists. The second approach is the indirect inductive argument that argues that theism can be proven unlikely by the presence of an alternative hypothesis that cannot be compatible with theism in a logical way. The third approach is called the Bayesian approach. It does not make references to the best explanation about the existence of evil and God, nor does it give a generalization, unlike the previous approaches. The fourth approach concerns the substantive theory of inductive logic bared upon the argument from evil. It then shows that a formula can be used to show the probability that God exists relative to the number of evil deeds happening in the world.
Free Will Defense That Allows for a Perfect God and Evil to Exist
The free will defense allows for the existence of a perfect God and evil. It argues that free will is the root of evil in the world. God gave free will as something good to humans, but people have instead used it to do evil (Harris, 2012). In any case, it is better to be in a universe with free will than one without. God, however, does not have the right to make people with free will to do good with it. The free will defense is only concerned with moral evil or evil that people bring to themselves. However, natural evil is only connected to a supernatural being, such as the devil. According to the Bible, the devil was an angel of God and was endowed with free will. He then rebelled against God, and from then on, he works to cause evil to the world. Both moral evil and natural evil can be said to be caused by the devil.
According to Saint Augustine, natural evil is caused by the moral evil of human beings (Harris, 2012). He indicates that the failure of Adam and Eve to obey God led to the first fall of humans. The fall shows the relationship between nature and human beings. However, it seems unfair to make children and animals suffer from mistakes made by other people. Even though free will is so good, it does not mean that people cannot interfere with it and do evil.
Reasons People Choose to Do Wrong Acts and the Source of Evil in Humans
In many instances, good people are caught between doing what is right and what is wrong. Even when the circumstances are right, some people will still choose to do what is wrong. People often choose to do what is wrong as they are driven by simple desires such as material things, jealousy and greed. Nobody wants to be associated with evil or wishes to do harm to others for the fun of it. In many instances, people do wrong as they are forced to overcome their conscious when faced with a compromising situation. It is easy for people to realize the mistake that they have committed as they often feel guilty while others do not care as they have obtained what they wanted (Strawson, 1994). For those who feel the guilt, they have a realization that they need to amend their wrongs.
People continue doing the wrong even after they know it is wrong depends on their realization and how much they feel that they need to correct their sinful acts. Another reason people do wrong is that they are not ready to face the consequences of doing the right thing (Strawson, 1994). In some instances, people may are not brave enough to admit they are wrong, although they may not be willing to make the same mistake again. Some people dare to do wrong as they always get away with it and do not have to face the consequences. They have lost the connection with humanity, and their inner-self and not much can be done about them.
The source of evil in human beings has been investigated for a long time by philosophers and theologians. In the 18th century, David Hume tried to explain the origin of evil (Strawson, 1994). He asked, is God willing to prevent evil but not able? Then, is he impotent? Is he able but not willing? Then is He malevolent? Evil in humans can be seen in the bible when the snake deceived Eve to disobey God. From this, the source of evil is based on the choices that people make as they aim to gratify themselves. For example, the desire for self-gratification by Eve made her disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit.
The Point, and Relevance to The Debate of The Quote from J.L. Mackie
From the quote by Mackie concerning the logical impossibility in a man's freely choosing the good on one or more occasions, there cannot be a logical impossibility of him choosing the good on every circumstance. The point in this quote is that humans have the intelligence to distinguish right from what is evil, and that is why they can choose to do good from time to time. If they can do good on one occasion, then there is nothing stopping them from choosing to do what is good all the time. It means that humans should always strive to do good at all times as they can do so. The relevance of this quote is that it teaches people always to strive to do what is acceptable at all times, as nothing is preventing them. The fact that they can do choose to do good on one occasion means that they can do it in every other situation they may encounter.
The Problem of Evil Proves There Is No Perfect God
The problem of evil and the challenges that humans face in the world has led to many people questioning the presence of God. Since God is all-knowing, then He is aware of the suffering that people are experiencing on earth. And if God is all-powerful, then He can stop evil from occurring. If God were morally perfect, then he would be obliged to do something to end suffering for human beings. It is, however, astonishing that with God, people continue to suffer all over the world due to the existence of evil. Such facts then contradict the belief that there is a God who is perfectly good. It conflicts between a perfectly good God, and the existence of evil has led to what is commonly referred to as the problem of evil (Van Inwagen, 2008). In most cases, good-hearted people are the ones who suffer from terminal illnesses, violent crimes, and other forms of evil.
The problem of evil can be seen as moral protests with many people asking how God can allow evil to happen. On many occasions, people blame God for letting bad things happen to innocent people, such as when a bull attacks a two-year-old girl. In such an instance, it is more likely that a morally perfect God does not exist as if he was perfectly good, then he would not allow such morally wrong things to happen. The problem of evil has been the basis for many atheist arguments. They argue that the following statements cannot be all true at the same time, while there is the problem of evil in the world (Jackson, 1982). They include: God is omniscient, God is omnipotent, God is perfectly good, and evil exists. Atheists argue that any three of them can be correct at the same time, but not all four of them. The set of statements seems to be logically inconsistent. A set of statements is logically inconsistent if a direct contradiction can be deduced from it. If God were omnipotent, he would prevent all the suffering and evil occurring in the world.
If God were all-knowing, he would be aware of the evil happening in the world and work to eliminate it. If God is perfectly good, he will not allow his people to suffer. The fact that evil exists then makes the statements inconsistent as if God knows about the evil in the world, knows how to stop it and has the power to prevent it but does nothing to stop it, then it implies that he is not perfectly good.
The problem of evil makes it impossible to believe about the existence of God. It poses a question of how God being powerful, all-knowing and perfectly good would allow evil to happen. God cannot be caring if he allows evil to occur in the universe. The existence of evil and God is logically incompatible hence the possibility that there is no God. However, the free will defense shows that God has allowed people to choose what they want to do. He does not interfere with the free will that he has granted them, which has led to some of the people choosing to do evil. From the free will argument, self-gratification can be considered as the cause of evil in the world. The existence of natural evil, on the other hand, shows that there is more than just free will causing evil as natural calamities such as floods are beyond the control of humans. From this, a supernatural being such as the devil can be considered to be one of the sources of evil. Humans should, however, strive to do good at all times as they can choose what is right and abandon the evil.
Descartes, R. (2008). Meditations on first philosophy: With selections from the objections and replies. Oxford University Press.
Harris, S. (2012). Free will. Simon and Schuster.
Jackson, F. (1982). Epiphenomenal qualia. The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), 32(127), 127-136.
Peterson, M. L. (Ed.). (2016). The problem of evil: Selected readings. University of Notre Dame Pess.
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