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What do religious believers mean by the 'problem of suffering?' Select any two theodicies and consider how far they offer solutions to this problem.

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Introduction

What do religious believers mean by the 'problem of suffering?' Select any two theodicies and consider how far they offer solutions to this problem. The problem of suffering concerns the evil in the world and the difficulties surrounding how an all-powerful and all-loving God can allow his creation to suffer. Brian Davies considers a three pointed triangle which poses no moralistic problems if any one of the three is removed. For religious believers, God exists as omnipotent and omnibenevolent, however, evil exists. The problem arises especially for believers in the traditional God of Classical Theism, other religious outlooks, which accept the presence of a variety of gods do not have this problem since the evil can be attributed to the tensions between the different Gods. The Hindu religion is based on the Trimurti, here there is one God, Brahman, but people relate to him through Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer. For Hindus suffering is a way your soul pays for past mistakes and lets you move up the caste system to achieve Moksha, the release of the soul. David Hume summarised this problem in his 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion.' He concluded that either God is not omnipotent, or God is not omnibenevolent, or evil does not exist. ...read more.

Middle

God does not intervene because he is not responsible for the evil. However, God did show his mercy through Jesus when he gave us a second chance through sending down his son from heaven. The free will defence deals with the problem of natural evil by again laying blame on the Fall in Genesis, he claims the loss of order within nature occurred when the first human sin destroyed the delicate balance of the world and also caused the world to become remote from God. F.D.E Schleirmacher argued against Augustine's theodicy and pointed out a logical error, how could the perfect world God had created have gone wrong? Whether evil is a real feature or an absence of one it has been created and therefore must be attributed to God eventually. Another logical problem is posed in the idea of a perfect creation having a potential for evil as for angels and humans to disobey God they must have had a knowledge of evil in the first place. There are also scientific discoveries since Augustine's death, namely evolution, which contradict certain aspects of the theory. We are not all seminally present in Adam which means we are not in fact guilty for Adam's sin. This could mean that God is making us pay for other people's sins unjustly. ...read more.

Conclusion

God therefore keeps a distance so people do not feel obligated to believe in him, but want to. Although there are fewer discrepancies in this theory compared to Augustine's, many remain. God's justice is put into question with the introduction of the concept of heaven. It contradicts religious texts which state that the unrighteous will be punished. And also leaves us with little incentive for moral development, possibly causing us to question the point of moral behaviour if we will be rewarded in heaven regardless. Another main problem with this theory is the severity of suffering with wars and starvation killing billions throughout the ages. Wouldn't a lesser form of evil have allowed us to learn from our failings? We could also begin to question how God's love was demonstrated in events such as the holocaust. The free will defence seems the most likely explanation for evil. There would be little point in a world without the potentiality of improvement. It explains God's distance from the human race and the reasons why some people are able to have complete faith in God at the same time that someone else refuses that he exists. Evil to a certain extent seems necessary for us to learn. However, as D.Z. Phillips argues, the extent of suffering seems unjustifiable in many situations. This therefore does not completely solve the problem why a omnipotent and omnibenevolent God would allow such pain to be inflicted through thousands of years. Hannah Fleming Philosophy 7.12.03 ...read more.

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