The Problem of Evil

If God is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent then there should be no evil in the world. The problem of evil is a philosophy that points this out, and refutes the western idea of God. God is described by many as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, but in this post I will only address the words omnipotent and omnibenevolent to be succinct.

Some respond that God allows evil as the means to an end, and that this end will be good. But this is still contradictory. In ethical terms, the thing that does the least bad and the most good is the best option. If God is omnipotent, he can do anything, and if he is omnibenevolent then he will want the best thing. If he is both then he will do the best thing.

But the problem of evil says nothing about the existence of a creator. It only shows belief in an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god to be irrational. This could mean that we were created by a omnimalevolent god, which I find unsettling, but I doubt this because we still have the opposite contradiction, the problem of good.

So the possibilities after accepting the problem of evil are this:

There is no God

God is omnipotent but neither omnibenevolent or omnimalevolent

God is omnibenevolent but not omnipotent

God is omnimalevolent but not omnipotent

We lack the language to describe God’s nature




  27 comments for “The Problem of Evil

  1. July 30, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    I’ll put $10 on the first option.

  2. July 31, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Again it is an empty argument. For your argument to be valid, your assumptions would have to be correct and complete, neither of which can be proven or even universally agreed to. Therefor the argument holds only in the extremely limited theoretical world you propose. In the real world, the closest you come to a supportable argument is the last point (although it still requires modification). “We lack the language to describe God’s nature [or to determine whether or not God exists].” Yours is the same type of logical misstep used to disprove the existence of God as demonstrated by Descartes when he tried to prove the existence of God. I liked his writings too, but neither one of you successfully proved your points. He accomplished a lot of good anyway, particularly in the field of mathematics; at least you’re in good company!

    • July 31, 2014 at 5:12 pm

      This post was about how one cannot conclude there is no creator after accepting the problem of evil. The problem of evil is not my own philosophy

      Thank you for reading!

      • July 31, 2014 at 6:07 pm

        Ah but to address such weighty issues with any meaning one must use a hollistic approach. To artificially limit the argument or rely on faulty assumptions as you did here is idle chatter. Better to confine such debate to much simpler topics.

  3. July 31, 2014 at 3:52 am

    I’m still liking option 1. Also, I want to bring up a corollary to the problem of evil: the Problem of Youtube. You’d think any omnipotent deity would be able to put at least one video out there. Or maybe there is a deity, and she is telling us she likes cats because of all the cat videos out there…

    Mind. Blown.

  4. July 31, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Reblogged this on Standard Of Reason and commented:
    I knew I would re-blog after the first few sentences, but I read on anyway 🙂

  5. July 31, 2014 at 1:00 pm

    I liken your comments on the problem of evil to those of the early philosopher Epicurus,of whom I’m sure you know. He stated; Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able or willing? Then why call him God? No wonder Greek knowledge was so suppressed by the early church!

    • July 31, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      I love that quote! Thank you for reading!

  6. July 31, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Two things:
    First, the ability to know anything (falling under omnipotence) is quite different from the property of knowing all things (omniscience). In dealing with knowledge, one is a potential ability and the other is a necessary property–so their is already a misunderstanding if you’re confounding these two terms.

    Second, there is not contradiction. This post seems to be based of of Epicurus’ problem of evil and omnipotence. I’d recommend you check out philosopher J. L. Mackie’s much more thorough version of the argument.

    You can read Mackie’s paper titled “Evil and Omnipotence” along with my commentary of where the charge of contradiction fails here:

    • July 31, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      The problem of evil is not my own idea.

      I have not confounded the two terms, for the sake of this post I addressed only 2 of the attributes of God. And omnipotence would include omniscience by definition. If you can do anything, you can find out anything, meaning you can know anything

      • July 31, 2014 at 8:17 pm

        …right…so you’re saying that the ability to know anything is synonymous with the necessity of knowing everything? “in this post I will assume omniscient and omnipotent are the same thing” –This is bad logic.

        But all that isn’t even my main point. My main point is that no contradiction exists between an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being and the existence of evil. Check that link I gave you for more info on my position there.

      • July 31, 2014 at 8:39 pm

        Good point. If you are omnipotent you are omniscient, but if you are omniscient you are not necessarily omnipotent. I agree, they are only synonymous one way.

        I will look at your post soon

      • July 31, 2014 at 8:54 pm

        Omnipotence doesn’t necessitate omniscience either though–it only necessitates the ABILITY to be omniscient.

        I have the ABILITY to be able to recite Act I of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but that doesn’t necessitate that I’ve chosen to utilize that ability in that certain way.

        In the same way, omnipotence doesn’t necessitate how that being utilizes their ability. Think about the etymology of the word “omni-potent” literally meaning “all potential.” Potential should not be confused with actual necessity.

      • July 31, 2014 at 9:00 pm

        You know what I agree and I’m about to edit the post. Thank you my friend

      • July 31, 2014 at 9:29 pm

        I wouldn’t have insisted if I’d thought that you were an unreasonable person. Blog on!

  7. July 31, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    This post touches upon a perennial paradox within Christian theology, and although people have raised this same question a number of times, I still think that your post is valuable insofar as it keeps the debate going.

    Here is why I disagree that the problem of evil means that there is no God. Simply put, God gave us free will. You are right to say that God is omnipotent, but by your own definition, this means that God “can” do everything, not that he necessarily “will” do everything. God probably “could” stomp out all evil and sin with several targeted lightening bolts (the first of which should be aimed at Justin Ross Harris for purposely baking his son in a hot vehicle), but he doesn’t. Does this mean that he is neither omnibenevolent or omnimalevolent? I don’t think so. I think God can be omnibenevolent while his creations (i.e. humans) can betray his will.

    So while there is much I still don’t understand about religion or God or Christianity, I would have to say that the most likely possibility to explain evil is to agree with your last point – that we lack the language to describe, and at times to even understand or believe God’s nature. At least I know that I don’t get it.

    • July 31, 2014 at 5:09 pm

      Thank you for reading and the comment!

      I don’t believe in free will

      • July 31, 2014 at 7:10 pm

        So if there isn’t free will, then God intends for everything that happens to happen? If that is the case, then he is definitely not omnibenevolent. Also, if God controls every action committed by human beings, then why would Jesus have needed to die for our sins, since God would have the control to prevent us from sinning if he didn’t give us free will?

      • July 31, 2014 at 8:43 pm

        I do not think Jesus needed to die for our sins, I am an atheist.

      • July 31, 2014 at 10:21 pm

        okay, so you would agree more with your first conclusion: that there is no God. Fair enough. But if there is no God, then how is there no free will? It seems like there would have to be an abundance of free will absent any supernatural being.

      • July 31, 2014 at 11:09 pm

        My coauthor on this blog just posted a short post on the subject.

        I am a determinist, I believe choices are ultimately up to nature and not dictated by us. I know that sounds like mumbo jumbo if you are not already a determinist haha

      • August 1, 2014 at 12:06 am

        So then answer me this…what is nature? how does it dictate human behavior? If you have to be a determinist to believe what you are saying, then how would you ever convince a non-determinist to adhere to your viewpoint? In my view, you need a much better defense of atheistic determinism before you can use if as a justification for not believing in God or Free Will.

      • August 1, 2014 at 1:31 am

        Human behavior can be explained by nature. Even human processes like thinking and consciousness can be monitored and shown to follow natural law. The brain is made up of atoms, and all these atoms follow the laws of physics (as far as we know, but I have yet to see evidence that could convince me otherwise).

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