The debate on the existence of God remains a perpetual one. Philosophy, philosophy of religion, and theology continue to provide arguments both in favor of the Divine existence and the impossibility of such presence. These assertations often vary in nature and address either the metaphysical, historical, or moral improbability of the existence of a single higher being or multiple ones. Thus, the problem of evil is a popular argument employed to illustrate that the world where great suffering is allowed cannot be a creation of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent Deity. This essay will consider the problem of evil and its implementation as reasoning against God. It will be contended that evil and suffering are necessary conditions for knowing good and should not be viewed as antithetical to His existence.
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Defining the Problem of Evil
The question of evil is, in essence, the problem of incompatibility of great pain and suffering with God. It is argued that the presence and perseverance of evil in the world is the proof of the Deity’s non-existence as it cannot occur in the same realm as an omnipotent and benevolent being. However, if God exists and is the creator of this world and all beings within it, He is the author of evil and is, therefore, malevolent. If the Deity is not the creator of great suffering but allows it to persist, it can be suggested that He is wicked or incapable of overcoming it. Thus, evil is the indication that God is impotent, malevolent, or does not exist.
The definition of evil is required to understand the full extent of the problem of evil and investigate whether it is a valid antitheism argument. Evil can be divided into two broad categories: natural and moral. Both types can cause significant physical and psychical suffering to human beings. However, the first type occurs in the world naturally and has no perpetrator. For instance, a deadly disease can lead to the suffering of the affected person and those close to them and is a natural evil. Meanwhile, moral evil is the hurt human beings are capable of inflicting on each other. Overall, the existence of natural evil may prompt us to question God’s benevolence as His children are put through pain. Similarly, moral evil may raise concerns over His power as His creations can be corrupt and imperfect.
Arguing Against the Problem of Evil
The problem of evil is traditionally positioned as the problem of incompatibility with a benevolent God. Within the problem, evil is considered inherently corrupt and a concept that should not exist in the world. The argument implies that if God is omnipotent and benevolent, He could not create a world where any suffering, natural or moral, is possible. However, this reasoning assigns qualities to the Deity and asserts what He should be, not what He is and what His creation should be like rather than what it already is. Rather than using the way of remotion to understand Him, it appoints traits to Him and proceeds to argue from the perspective of those characteristics. Thus, the problem of evil asserts that the world is imperfect and could not be created by a higher being without considering whether there is a reason for evil being possible.
Moreover, the discussed problem disregards the metaphysical impossibility of a perfect universe. A perfect created world cannot exist as it would be infinite and finite at the same time. It would have the same properties as God and be omnipotent and infinite. Therefore, a perfect world would be limitless in its possibilities with the human beings in such a world never suffering, sinning, or dying as the latter is another constant limit present in human experience. As such perfection is metaphysically unfeasible, there is a possibility for the existence of evil in the world, with it being another limit in the mortal affair. Furthermore, it can be argued that humans and the world they live in were not created perfect but given the potential to learn, develop, and be brought closer to knowing God through experiencing evil. Thus, evil is the necessary condition for humanity to be and develop.
The problem of evil further denies human beings free will and raises the question of how involved a Deity should be in the everyday lives of his creations. Sin is widely considered a moral evil, with the offender choosing to commit an immoral act against another or self. However, if sin stems from the freedom of choice gifted to people by the Deity, the ability to commit evil in itself is a gift from the Divine. To ensure sin is not committed, God would have to remove free will from human beings, depriving them of the intellect that sets them apart from other beings. That act can be argued to be a greater evil compared to any mortal sin a human can commit. However, as God is good, He provides people with opportunities to discover good by knowing evil and choosing one over the other.
The existence of evil can be considered evidence of the presence of God. If God is omnibenevolent and is goodness in His essence, He is the answer to the extant evil. Evil is recognized through knowing God, and the virtue and righteousness He represents as physical pain is known through its absence. It is the presence of evil and knowing that there are also good and virtue that guides people to God. If there is no Deity and no absolute good, human beings cannot know what is evil and cannot overcome it. Thus, if evil exists, there must be a natural opposition to it, being God. Overall, it can be argued that the world without suffering that is viewed as perfect in the postulated problem would be imperfect, as good and God cannot be appreciated and comprehended without evil.
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In summary, the problem of evil is presented as the problem of incompatibility of pain and suffering with an omnipotent and omnibenevolent higher being. However, a created perfect world with infinite goodness and no evil is impossible. Evil does not exclude the existence of God, and the presence of the latter does not deny the former. Both are necessary for humanity to know what the Deity is and what is good. Evil serves a purpose and leads people to discover God, with Him allowing his creations free will to know Him better and experience love for Him.