There are few philosophical questions always confound the human mind. One of the major issues that had been especially problematic to theists has been the “problem of evil”.
Broadly stated the problem of evil consists of the supposed incompatibility and contradiction of the following 3 statements:
1.) God is all good.
2.) God is all-powerful
3.) Evil exists in a world where God is both all-powerful & all-good.
Hence, this leads to two assumptions
- God allows evil. (against our presumption that He’s all-good)
- He’s not willing to address it (against our presumption that he’s all powerful)
This is really a problem which religious men of all times have answered in various degrees. So why does evil exist at all on this marvellous wonderful creation by a benevolent God?
Why are we against our own genuine intentions of peace thrust against an evil world? Philosophers have given an explanation worth thousands of pages in an effort to answer this. Hence, we must not be discouraged if we’re unable to resolve this matter within few paragraphs.
Spinoza gives a fabulous explanation for this through a precise line: “Good and evil are human prejudice; irrelevant from the perspective of universe”.. He at length explains how a same thing can mean different things to people of different sensibilities.
Hence, when we all (humanity) can’t even reach at a consensus on what is good and evil, it is quite unjust to blame God for not controlling evil.
Leibniz goes beyond and states that we live “in the best of all worlds”. He states that the present world as it appears to us is the best possible of all living worlds. If a better world would have been possible, we would have lived in that and not present world. He says this is best possible system wherein “free-will” can be accommodated. And evil occurs because God has to provide us with “free-will”, as only then morality is of any concrete use.
Voltaire took Leibniz statement as the starting point and made a most remarkable parody of Leibniz’s philosophy through his fiction in Candide. Voltaire feels that Leibniz is naïve and one can’t look at the sufferings of humans from such a neutral perspective. He feels that world is full of problems and only through grace of Spirituality (it might be recalled that he was against dogmas of religion, he categorically differentiated them).
Schopenhauer the great pessimist philosopher feels that optimism is a bitter mockery of man’s woes. His summed up in his famous saying “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot want what he wants".
In his “will to live” philosophy he notes that often without any slightest dishonest intention we do what eventually benefits us often at the peril of others too. He notes that such a desire comes deep from the unconscious and man is not really “free” as he feels.
Evil occurs because each live in their own world and each’s will is fiercely working to preserve its life at any cost. This “will” is responsible for all evil.
From the theistic framework it appears that there are certain problems in explaining this perennial problem. I’ve often noticed that most atheists are those who gave up their belief after having gone through events which bring them face to face with the evil in world. After all, we can say with Spinoza that there is nothing good or evil by universal definition, but then, most of us are not Spinozas and we’re compelled to look at the world not from neutral perspective but from the perspective of our sufferings and desires.
But if at all you think that this problem is resolved by giving up faith then nothing can be farther from truth. You would notice that this whole problem comes in because of our faith in God. The moment you give up that faith, the argument is self-cancelling. Why? Read on.
We feel that eruption of volcanoes, death of stars in galaxies and many such events are different from human’s tragedies. Why? This is mainly because we feel that human-being is the most special living organism and we have been created for some purpose.
But giving up theistic ground implies that we’re not special beings, we’re just another “combination of chemicals” devoid of inherent goodness or speciality. This naturally implies that there is no difference between death of stars and death of humans. Both were manifest at one point of time and un-manifest again. So what is it that we have against evil? Nothing but personal perception of our supposed greatness and apparent limitations.
It’s a ridiculous argument to say that because you’re not satisfied with world as you’re not born into Gandhi clan !!! :-)