The Problem of Evil
Apparently, the topic of evil never seems to get old for some people. There have been a number of posts recently with the same old issues, with no real answers. So let’s try and break it down.
The arguments about evil usually center around why evil exists. After all, Christianity says that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Atheists usually surface this issue in an attempt to disprove God, as if you could ever prove a negative. Deists, on the other hand, occasionally dip their toes into these treacherous waters in attempt to silence the skeptics, of which I am certainly one. For example, one Christian website had this to say about evil: “Some day God will ultimately and finally overcome evil entirely.” Wow, is about all I can say.
The use of logic is typically in the forefront in trying to resolve this issue one way or another. The concern with logic is that one has to use their brain to solve this riddle. Problem is, the brain is hardly an ingenious work of creation, especially since man’s DNA has been genetically manipulated to produce a dumbed-down species. This is the meaning behind the story in Genesis 2 whereby God restricts man’s access to the Tree of Life (which symbolically is the double-helix structure of our DNA).
The bottom line is that man doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Just ask Socrates. Intellectuals are sometimes their own worst enemy in this regard. For example, because they are smarter than the vast majority of people, they mistake this for actually being intelligent. Unlike Socrates, they don’t realize how little they really know. Case in point is world-renown physicist Stephen Hawking who said that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.”
So this time, the Wow Award goes to Hawking. You see, Hawking, an atheist, admits that one can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. Actually, props for that although he took a certain amount of flak from some of his peers for making such a statement. Then the zinger – science makes God unnecessary. From a somewhat uninterested third party, I’m stunned that Hawking would make such a statement. For sure, Hawking understands that science cannot observe what exists outside space and time. What the world is then left with, if we were to follow Hawking’s line of thinking, is that man should abandon any belief in a Creator despite the limitations of science in that regard. Actually, I think what Hawking is really suggesting is that we should make him God, instead. Who does he think he is anyway, a celebrity? Well, yes, now that they’ve turned his life story into a movie which was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
This whole problem of evil is a red herring to some extent. It presupposes that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent and it also assumes that evil is always a bad thing. Perhaps, worst of all, the problem of evil hinges on the many assumptions concerning any definition of God. After all, how could we ever know what God is like?
To you theists, please don’t say the Bible because in the Old Testament God walks, talks, is seen by various people, wrestles with Jacob and physically kills people. Totally contrary to that, the God of the New Testament is invisible, is spirit and, as John says, no one has ever seen God! Under those circumstances, any biblical definitions are rendered meaningless, especially the concepts of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence.
To you atheists, please don’t say that science can tell us because science, by definition, requires observation and measurement. So observation and measurement of Intelligent Design are out of the question. Therefore, the atheists opposition to intelligent design is not scientific, rather it’s a form of religion.
It’s interesting that the focal point of the theists vs atheists debates centers on Christianity. So, for example, why don’t the atheists attack another religion, say Buddhism, similarly? The answer is that Epicurus’ logic problem won’t work on Buddhism. So it’s expedient, even necessary, to single out Christianity in order to try and win the debate. I’d give them a Wow Award right here except for one thing – it’s a brilliant strategy. However, I defy anyone to prove to me what evil is. Who’s to say that evil isn’t really a necessity of Creation. In other words, how would you know what good is without also experiencing evil?
So the discussion about evil has to, at some point, also encompass morality. This one is kind of a sticky wicket, so to speak. What is good and what is evil, and how do you define either? There are all sorts of opinions concerning the question of morality, but two that I’ve always liked are as follows:
- Jean Paul Sartre, an atheist, said that since there was no God, man has no standard of human behavior (moral values) and without any such values man’s actions cannot be judged to be either right or wrong. For example in Existentialism is a Humanism, Sartre agreed with Dostoevsky that “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” (fromThe Brothers Karamazov)
- Douglas Wilson, a Christian theologian, said that, “If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality….”
One of the reasons that I picked those two opinions is that they are from totally contrary belief systems and yet they have a certain commonality between them. However, they are, after all, only two opinions.
Of course, the public debate over the concept of evil is only possible because of what I call the morass of Christian theology. I say morass because I’m not exactly sure what Christianity is. If you were to ask a Catholic, a Mormon and a Fundamentalist, I suspect that you might get three totally different answers; even their holy books are different. However, since the debate over evil includes a Christian definition of God, as being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, I will likewise dip my toes into those same treacherous waters.
So at the risk of offending many of my Christian friends, I’ll try to explain the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent conundrum, as follows:
If God is an infinite being, then he could not be omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent. Those are attributes of a finite being (like man). In any event, even if God had the capability of somehow being omniscient, there are many things stated in the Bible which indicate otherwise (e.g. see Genesis 3:8-13, Genesis 11:5, Genesis 18:20-21, Genesis 32:22-30, Job 1:7, 2:2). However, the most obvious reason is the Genesis creation story where God saw that everything he created was good. However, later in Genesis 6:5-7, God repented when he realized that man was not good so he decided to destroy him. Obviously, an omniscient God would have no reason to repent for he would have known in advance how his creation would turn out. Further, with that foreknowledge, God would not have created man in the first place.
So the Christian god of the Bible was not “omni” anything. Actually, he wasn’t even God. He was simply one of “The Gods That Never Were,” which is posted a few articles back. The gods of Genesis do have one claim to fame, though, in that they have genetically passed on to man a predisposition for evil. So, if you’re an atheist, it’s probably okay to blame “God” for evil. Of course, you wouldn’t be talking about a Prime Creator/First Cause since the debate over evil really only concerns the Christian god.
The following comment from a forum on this topic kind of sums it up rather well, at least for me: “… Atheists in general require some proof or logical set of reasoning…whereas theists don’t – they simply ‘believe’. Arguments boil down to people shouting ‘I need proof or I don’t believe’ at people shouting ‘I have faith, I don’t need proof.'” While it’s true that any conversation about God has to be governed, to some degree, by logic, it doesn’t mean that we could ever use logic to comprehend such a god. Just ask Blaise Pascal. Since the laws of physics don’t apply beyond space and time, why do we arrogantly believe that logic in our world can determine what lies beyond space and time?
Obviously, you don’t have to agree with my take on this subject. I’m just trying to be a mirror to let you see what Socrates saw. Simply, that man must begin any quest for knowledge by admitting his own ignorance. In the final analysis, “faith” and “logic” are simply buzz words for not having to admit to one’s ignorance.