The problem of evil


The topics of this post (all related): evil, pain, suffering, death.

When considering "bad" things (evil, pain, suffering, sin, death), the essential item in the list is "suffering". Without resultant suffering (to oneself or others) evil is not bad, because it's not evil until inflicting the suffering.

(The thoughts in a mass murderer's mind cause them suffering even before deciding to commit the dastardly deed.)

Therefore, only the word "suffering" is needed for badness because it includes:

  1. Physical pain (bodily, from the senses).
  2. Mental suffering (emotional, psychological). Sometimes caused from within by the brain.
  3. Sin (violating God's law causes suffering).
  4. Evil (evil is not evil if no one suffers, and this includes the one who is evil who suffers extreme psychological anguish — but does a psychopath or sociopath suffer this?)
  5. Death.

Ultimately, suffering requires conscious creatures capable of feeling pain: physical, emotional, mental, or psychological. So, therefore, the source of evil ultimately consists in the creating of these kinds of creatures in a universe outside of God's direct control. (Christians want to believe God is in control over every tiniest detail, but this makes him bad or neglectful.)

Suffering can only occur to a conscious creature who is conscious at the time of the suffering. (Can the unconscious mind suffer? Do non-conscious creatures suffer?)

A rock hit with a hammer doesn't suffer. A corpse doesn't suffer. As we travel backwards down the tree of life from humans toward bacteria, I suppose there is a point at which the creatures no longer suffer because their conscious experience no longer includes the ability to suffer (even though they might experience something, such as "being", and even though they respond to the stimuli of being roughly banged around).

So the question is, how can a good God create conscious creatures that suffer?

God is good and beautiful, but there exist conscious creatures who suffer. Therefore, God either: (1) created the universe having these, or (2) created an entity having the power to create these. In either case, God is responsible for the evil and suffering.

Views people have about the problem of evil (how can a good God create, or allow, evil?):

  1. We misinterpret it as evil, but to God it is good (because whatever God does is, by definition, good). An absurd view which I reject!
  2. God is both good and evil, creating both good and evil.
  3. Two gods: one good, one evil.

Various explanations proposed for the existence of evil:

  1. It's ignored: evil doesn't really exist; it's an illusion.
  2. God is evil (and good).
  3. Evil just sort of happens on its own (through God's neglect?)
  4. Evil is actually good.
  5. Evil is created by choices of free-will creatures; these creatures being created by God. (The Christian view.)

Perhaps suffering is a result of a benign super-powerful creator entity who wants to share the utopia of the spiritual realm with created conscious creatures via creating a physical universe. This, without realizing that suffering is inherently built-in to this physical universe — an oops moment. But why would God not educate these super-powerful creator creatures about the side-effects of creating universes having conscious creatures?

The aspects of this universe which cause it to not be a utopia:

  1. Limited resources.
  2. Extreme life and death competition for limited resources.
  3. The need for creatures to continually replenish their bodies with food and oxygen and energy.
  4. The ability of our bodies to feel pain, and the need for our bodies to feel pain.
  5. The possibility that our bodies can become damaged by accidents, or radiation, or etc.
  6. The decay of our bodies over time. The decay and destruction of all our cherished possessions over time.

This universe seems designed to guarantee pain and suffering, with its limited resources and constant need for living organisms to recharge by killing and eating each other.

People who believe in a good creator God must find a way that he is not responsible for evil and suffering.

Did God create pain, suffering, and evil? Some views:

  1. What we think of as evil is merely our own assessment. God created everything including what we call evil; but it's not really evil because God is good and everything he creates is good. But this view fails when considering animals eating each other alive and people torturing others to death.
  2. There are two Gods; one good, and one evil.
  3. At the fall of Adam, all pain, suffering, and evil originated. This is pure nonsense, because the universe designed to allow for suffering already existed.
  4. God created a powerful free-will archangel (Lucifer), who chose to be evil (and was renamed Satan), and who either influenced or created all the pain, suffering, and evil of this universe.
  5. Something like #4 above except: replace Satan with a spiritual entity who created the universe having the potential for pain and suffering, without realizing there would be conscious creatures who would develop pain receptors to experience the pain and suffering.
  6. Evil is of human origin, when someone willfully premeditates to inflict pain and suffering on someone and enjoys their suffering. Again, the spiritual entity who created the universe did not realize conscious free-will creatures would appear capable of true evil.

The standard Christian view is that evil originates in the heart and mind of evil humans having free will. God created the possibility of free-will creatures but has nothing to do with evil itself.

In their desperate attempt to exonerate God, some Christians say that we need suffering because good comes from it; it makes stronger somehow to cope with and survive suffering. But it is horrific to think we need to be tortured to death for some good purpose. And how can we grow and learn if we are tortured to death? And what about animals who get eaten alive?

None of these "explanations" are satisfying. Some would say that the reality of evil destroys any possibility of theism.