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Assess whether the problem of moral evil casts doubt on the existence of God

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Introduction

Assess whether the problem of moral evil casts doubt on the existence of God St. Augustine once defined evil as that "which we fear, or the act of fearing itself". He and Aquinas (1225-74) both deny the existence of evil as a thing in itself, but rather as an absence of good. This is linked to Aristotle (390-323 BC) and Plato's (428-348 BC) definition of good as the complete fulfilment of a being's natural telos. "[Evil is] nothing but the corruption of natural measure, form and order."-Augustine. More specifically however there are two sorts of evil; natural and moral. Natural evil is that over which humans have no control e.g. natural disasters. Moral evil is that which is caused by humans e.g. the holocaust. The problem of evil affects all theistic religions, whose followers must each respond to John Hick's (1922-) question: "Can the presence of evil in the world be reconciled with the existence of a God who is unlimited both in goodness and power?" The logical problem of evil proposes that the idea of world full of suffering created by an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God is a logically inconsistent one. David Hume (1711-76) stated that one of these three propositions must be false. It is impossible to deny that there is evil and suffering in the world, so he claimed that God must be limited either in His power or in His love. ...read more.

Middle

For instance, the concept of an uphill slope can exist only alongside the concept of a downhill slope. Without evil, we could not recognise good just as if we lived in world with no darkness, we would not recognise light. However, this isn't a theodicy, but rather process theology. It denies God's ability to create a world of pure goodness which humans could still recognise, and thus qualifies his omnipotent nature. Furthermore, it could be claimed that good and evil are not opposites in the same way that up and down are, and so to compare them would be a disanalogy. Hick points out that causes and physiology of pleasure and pain are work in entirely different ways, and so it is illogical to think of them as opposites. In addition, what is Heaven if not a place devoid of evil? Its inhabitants experience no suffering, and yet still experience pleasure. Leibniz's (1646-1716) theodicy is founded on faith alone. He maintains that due to God's omnipotence and omnibenevolence, this must be the best possible world. The fact that we understand why yet is just part of God's plan. Swinburne (1934-) argues that evil is a means to a greater good. For example, courage and charity couldn't exist without danger and need. He views the balance between good and evil as a moral dimension in which our actions have meaning. He goes so far as even to include the Holocaust in this. In reply to Leibniz and Swinburne, Voltaire (1694-1778) ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the logical and evidential problems of evil attempt to show atheism as either deductively or inductively rational. Vardy's free will defence responds by claiming that evil is instead a logically necessary. It is a side effect of God allowing us the greatest possible good i.e. the ability to have a genuinely loving relationship with Him. Determinism in turn denies the existence of free will altogether and so points towards atheism. Leibniz however side-steps the logical and evidential problems by maintaining his faith beyond any reason certain to him. This is in keeping with the principle that religion is to an extent, detached from reason. What is certain however, is that all theists must respond to the problem of evil in their own way. Some align with Voltaire in that they cannot reconcile the brutality of their experiences with their faith, finding Augustine's theodicy of a "balance of moral beauty" inadequate. There are many who on the basis of experience alone would refute Swinburne's claim that good and evil are in balance as evil is means to a greater good. Swinburne studied at and conforms to the the school of the Ivory Towers of Oxford. His experiences of evil seem pathetically muted in comparison to Holocaust victims, and so it appears naive for him to make this judgement. However, there are also many in the world who in the face of evil, embrace God all the more. In the grim experience of reality, what use is a critical analysis in comparison the comfort provided by religion? ...read more.

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