The problem of evil brings to mind the idea that the argument of a perfectly good and just God that is “all–powerful, all-knowing, and all-good is logically incoherent, given the existence of evil in our world” (Mackie, 28) There are a good many arguments against God’s existence when the consideration of all that has gone wrong in this world is brought to light. Problems such as disease, murder, theft, and abuse in all its forms make a very strong counter to the idea that this world does in fact bow to the whims of a loving deity. Such arguments proclaim that if God was perfect these ills of humanity would not exist.
B.C. Johnson states that God could have easily created a world that lived without misery if He were in fact the perfect deity so many believe (Johnson, 28). A very common defense is that this world exists as it is by the consequence of God bestowing free will upon His creations. Therefore He willingly gave up control and refused to impose perfection upon His world. But such an argument is too dismissive and as a result, God cannot be blamed for the mess this world is in. While He did give mankind freedom to choose, human beings are the ones who make their own choices over how to behave. As such humans need to own up to their own inequities and admit to their mistakes.
Many a religious theist would undoubtedly argue that the misery that is so rampant in this
world is due largely to the sins of mankind. Those very sins give every reason that God might
have to punish his children, and while some innocents would be and have been affected by the
impact of such punishments, such moments are quite useful in opening the eyes of those who have yet to discover the consequences of their action, allowing them a chance to better themselves. Van Inwagen offers the same idea when he states that:
“God is a just and loving god, for He cared enough about us to endow us with something of very great value-free will. Being free, we sometimes make mistakes. The misery in this world is properly charged to our misdeeds, rather than God’s culpability. A world with free will, and the suffering it sometimes engenders, is a better world than one in which human beings are mere automata.”
Van Inwagen makes a very good point. One cannot have a perfect world with the presence of free will. If there was no free will the world might be closer to attaining perfection but would also mean that human beings were more akin to machines that could survive and operate without emotion or deviation from normal routines. As humans it is possible to feel loved, but that love also leads to suffering at times. Humans experience a vast range of emotions that lead to happiness, suffering, and many other outcomes that help to shape the human condition.
Loving another is a part of free will, as is lying, feeling anger, and even feeling anxious or irritated. While several emotions are typically the responsibility of the individual, there are those which are capable of being the fault of an individual and must be addressed. In any case, every human emotion requires some form of free will. In many cases such emotions are either learning experiences that either break an individual or make them stronger. Free will both guides human beings to the emotions that are felt so deeply and keeps them aware of the more negative feelings in order to serve as a reminder of what the consequences can be for becoming mired in such ill thoughts and gestures.
Aside from the idea that there is no real example of a God who is perfect and just, the
problem of evil also negates the idea by arguing the existence of continued suffering. Of course
this would be countered by the same argument that humans are responsible for their own wrong-
doings and therefore the suffering they cause. In contrast to the suffering that exists in the world
there is also evidence for a great amount of good as well. That begs the question of: If God wasn’t a good and just deity, how could such a thing possibly exist?
Such things as happiness, love, and equality do in fact exist throughout the world. For anyone to state that God is in no way good thanks to the amount of suffering that goes on is not a justifiable or valid statement. The premise of the problem of evil is that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, and as such should be able to stop any and all suffering within the world. What is virtually ignored however is the fact that in order for the good to shine through the suffering and the pain must at times endure. In order to see the good in the world, sometimes people have to see the absolute worst to realize how precious the good really is.
There is evil in the world that is never in doubt but in order to believe in evil there must be a reasonable assumption that there must be good, and in so thinking, there must be a God that set both forces into motion. Evil on its own could just as well be the lack of belief in God, though there is nothing to substantiate this either. Some think that if there is no faith in God that they might be punished or endure suffering of the worst sort for the sin of disbelief. While God is caring and nurturing, He is also demanding and desires the prayers and devotion of His children.
Just as in the relationship between a parent and a child, the devotion of human beings to God is a two-sided communication. If there is no belief in God then such a bond becomes entirely one-sided, and there can be no real connection. Then the suffering and pain that comes is endured alone, and the belief of evil becomes even stronger as the belief in good wanes. If there is no communication with God, no worship or devotion, then there is obligation by the Almighty to help when those who refuse Him are in need.
God and evil can and do co-exist for the simple reason that one cannot be without the other. They are akin to the separate sides of a coin, needing one another to thrive. If evil did not exist, too many would take the good in life for granted, thinking it to be the only way of life and therefore not as important to revere. If only evil existed, then all hope would soon die, and the world would be a bleak, dark place. Free will goes a long way towards the decision between good and evil, and choosing which path to walk. Sometimes a little evil and suffering is needed to teach people what path they are meant to take throughout their life.
Without suffering there would be no basis for evil, as even the good could begin to fill such a role. God in all His wisdom and benevolence is above reproach, but those who follow His word are human, and thus capable of error. If there were indeed an absence of evil, then a void would exist in the world as human beings know it, and something else would have to take its place. Considering the ills that have been committed in the name of any and all religions it stands to reason that evil would not be absent for very long.
To conclude, there may or may not be any definitive, physical evidence that God truly
exists, but thinking that He does not exist because of the persistence of evil is a faulty premise.
The supposed absence of one force does not justify negating the mere thought of its existence.
There aren’t a great many arguments that can prove or disprove such an idea, but the mere
thought that evil exists so that good has a purpose is one that does resonate with many people,
and makes a great deal of sense. In other words, evil and good are bound together in a
struggle that has existed since long before mankind came to be, contest of wills that continues
today and both astound and inspires many upon many theological debates over the existence of
God and the primacy of evil. Because of free will humans have the opportunity to make such
Hick, John. Philosophy of Religion (4th Ed.) Ed. Beardsley, Elizabeth & Beauchamp, Tom. New
York: Pearson, 1989. Print.