The Problem of Evil arises when you start asking right the questions. For example, Why does God allow evil to exist? Or, why would God create an evil god-like adversary? It’s a problem that opens up many issues.
A Touchy Subject – The Problem of Evil
The problem of evil is an extremely sensitive subject for those with a dualistic, good versus evil belief religious system. And, so it is a particularly sensitive issue to those in the Abrahamic Traditions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). The problem of evil exposes some critical inconsistencies in these belief systems. Because these belief systems hinge upon a benevolent and loving Supreme Being, who is in opposition with a “nearly” equal Evil protagonist, the Devil.
Not coincidently, these are common themes that also come from the Persian, Babylonian and Egyptian mythology. In these systems, an evil, god-like, third-party is the real cause. But, this problem also provides an opportunity. We’ll discuss this later. But, before we get into the details, let’s discuss a strategy to help you in the investigation of any religious subject matter.
Using Logical Reasoning to Investigate Religion
When we undertake this exercise most people would assert that their current spiritual “position” is based on sound information. So, when we start digging into the facts that support their beliefs this can be quite an emotional challenge exercise. As we unearth and investigate their “sacred ground” we employ the practice of sound logical reasoning and “emotional checks.” It’s important to be pro-facts not just anti-religious.
Use Emotional Checks
Anytime you engage in spiritual research we recommend the use of emotional checks. This is a process to help you stay as unbiased as possible.
Emotional checks will reduce stress and increase the accuracy of our research. So, think of it as a safety net. It will catch us when we fall into emotional distress. This is because when we face ideas conflicting with our current opinion it creates a dilemma. We instinctively react to protect our sacred ground. You don’t want to conduct research while in a state of distress.
God and the Anti-God
The problem of evil arises when one attempts to reconcile the co-existence of a Supreme Being (with attributes of omniscience and omnipresence), along with the existence of an evil adversary with equally, or nearly equal, god-like attributes. This is a problem, simply because logically it would be inconceivable for an omniscient Supreme Being to create such an opponent in the first place. How and why would a truly omniscient Being create an adversary having the foreknowledge of this evil Being’s actions? So, why would a truly omniscient Supreme Being create their own adversary? Crazy isn’t it.
Attributes of a Supreme Being
This leads us to the review of seven essential attributes of a Supreme Being:
- Eternal Existence—No beginning and no end; existence is outside of the confines of the common three dimensions of time, height, and width.
- Self-Existence—Self-sustaining, self-reliant, inexhaustible and boundless and independent of any other cause.
- Omnipotence—Almighty, possessing unlimited power and authority having no equal.
- Omnipresence—Present in all physical points of reference and in all places at all times simultaneously and continuously without end.
- Omniscience—The quality or state of complete universal knowledge of all things and events.
- Immutability—The state or quality of being unchangeable, unalterable or invariable.
- Perfect—The state of being complete in all aspects and without defect or fault; a condition of excellence and faultlessness that can create no disharmony or defect.
The bottom line here is simple.
“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 nor willing? Then why call him God?” ― Epicurus
As you can imagine this creates quite a mental conflict for those in these paradigms. Cognitive dissonance is the mental distress you experience when attempting to reconcile two or more mutually exclusive and contradictory ideas. Attempts at rationalizing this contradiction are known as theodicy. That is an argument in defense of God’s goodness despite the existence of evil. But, maintaining this paradox necessitates a range of theological arguments. One needs a way provides a way to explain, compartmentalize or minimize this paradox. Thinking about it leads back to conclusions of Epicurus. And, this is unacceptable, but a logical conclusion, which is incompatible with Western Organized Religion’s theology.
For more about this paradox, you’ll probably also want to check out approaching the subject of a higher power.
Explaining away the Problem of Evil
First, and most prominent is the argument that as mere humans we weren’t meant to fathom the reasoning. Or, is simply put, “we can’t explain it so I guess you weren’t meant to understand.” Basically, trust us, you are too stupid to understand… so I won’t try to explain.
Use of Circular Logic
By in large, all of the arguments around this paradox use circular logic, (which is not logical at all) in an attempt to provide something beyond “you weren’t meant to understand.” Circular reasoning is providing evidence for the validity of an assertion, which assumes the validity of the assertion.
The general form of circular logic is “A is true because A is true” or “A is true because B is true, and B is true because A is true”. This is often used as a mechanism to prevent an assertion from being challenged or questioned or to “win” a debate by sending it round and round in circles. An example is “I’m right because I’m right.” (because I know I’m right, right?). For help with this see our reference on logical reasoning. This enables the intentional misrepresentation of mythology as fact.
Evil conducted as an Agent for the Supreme Being
Another popular argument is the Evil Being is allowed to exist in order to execute the Supreme Being’s judgment in the world. This is the tough love process where the Supreme Being delegates the authority to execute Evil thus keeping the “hands morally free of Evil deeds and proving they have power, omniscience, and benevolence over the Evil Being, who acts as an agent on behalf of the Supreme Being. In this way, the Supreme Being can still be viewed as loving because he/she doesn’t do the Evil Deeds. And, the reason he/she can do this is to execute “divine judgment” because of some broken law or tenet (either know or unknown) to the person who commits them. So, the belief system sets up an endless list of potential violations that assure that “we” are guilty of something, even if we have no knowledge of law violated.
Misuse of free will
Other explanations include evil as nothing more than the result of the misuse of “free will.” But, the idea that evil comes from a misuse of free will, which in turn is incompatible with the attributes of a Supreme Being who should know all future events thereby eliminating the capacity for the misuse of free will.
Where does this Dualistic Philosophy come from?
How did this dualistic approach make it into Western theology? To answer this we provide some quotes from the authority on Christianity, The Catholic Church via their Encyclopedia. We refer to the 1907 version of the Catholic Encyclopedia. So, copies are limited. However, the information in this version is quite revealing. Clearly stated, they admit appropriating the beliefs, and practices from earlier ‘Pagan’ tradition in their entirety.
Identification of pagan theology
The first main construct of the evil adversary s works hand-in-hand with blood sacrifice.
Devils and Sacrifice
The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 13 (1907). Sacrifice among the Iranians or Persians—the kindred religion of the ancient Iranians centered, especially after its reform by Zoroaster, in the service of the true God Ormuzd or Ahura Mazda. This religion promoted a life of purity, the conscientious fulfillment of all liturgical and moral precepts, and the positive renunciation of the Devias, Devils and all demonical powers. It was essentially a religion of sacrifice in as much as, in the old Avesta, the sacred Scriptures of the Persians, the war between the good god Ormuzd and the Devil ended eschatologically with the complete victory of the good Deity. Sacrifice and prayer played an important role in paralyzing the diabolical machinations of Ahriman (the great adversary) and his demons. The central feature of worship was of fire, worship not dissimilar to the modern Mobeds in India, where priests carry portable altars.
Communion through sacrifice
Then we see the idea of communion and ritual as a means of countering the evil deeds of man.
The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 13 (1907). The sacrifice of flesh (myazda) and cakes made from prepared holy water and grain (darun) were offered to the good god(s) and then shared with the congregation in a type of pre-Christian unholy communion. To a still greater extent were sacrifices a part of the religion of the Romans than even the Greeks before them. The Romans readily adopted Mithraism from the Persians, including the sacrificial aspects.
As always, the object of sacrifice was to the win the favor of the gods and ward off their sinister or diabolical schemes of calamity. The fact that human sacrifice and human blood were a part of the sacrificial systems of the secret sects was easily derived from the historical records recently made available. These loathsome ceremonies primarily used age- old methods of torture to extract the victim’s blood for use by the elect cult members in their blood drinking rituals. For the public, the so-called “taurobolium” was frequently used. This Mithraic soul-cleansing ceremony prescribed that the cult members run through a trench under a just-killed bull. As its blood was extracted, the cult members ran beneath to be sanctified by its warm blood.
Admission of the use of pagan theology
The above two points are only examples of the theology that becomes the bedrock of these paradigms.
The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 14 (1907). Symbolism in a greater or lesser degree is essential to every kind of external worship, and we need not shrink from the conclusion that in the matter of baptisms and washings, of genuflection’s and other acts of reverence, of lights and sweet smelling incense, of flowers and white vestures, of spiritual unction’s and the imposing of hands, of sacrifice and the rite of the Communion banquet, the Church has borrowed without hesitation from the common stock of significant actions known to all periods and to all nations. In such matters as these, Christianity claims no monopoly or originality.
The theological antidote for the problem of evil
The problem of evil created a theological opportunity. The antidote to the problem was through belief in and support of the religious construct. This requires the individual to give up any spiritual exploration outside of the designated paradigm. This keeps them from encountering any ideas that would threaten your beliefs. More importantly, it mandates the believer to provide financial support while submitting to control of other personal rights. In some cases, this control includes the arrangement of marriages, how many children to have, etc. And, this control reaches into the culture itself. Thus, creating a self-policing practice. This helps maintain control at the least amount of cost.
The opportunity provided by the problem of evil
The problem of evil really centers on its excellent opportunity for financial gain. First, you create a problem. Then you provide the exclusive solution to that problem at a substantial cost. Because you are the only place where you can get the antidote for the problem which you created. You have a 100% market share.
This leads to another rabbit trail to the idea of original sin. Because if we are all born evil then we must obtain absolution via whatever means set by creators of the theology. This is another example of circular logic. However, it is an effective one. The solution is payment for atonement. This includes ideas like indulgences and other money-making mechanisms.
All of these are income-generating mechanisms which play upon the fear of the unknown. It’s an exchange for money which then entitles you to rewards in the Afterlife. You see God loves and there is eternal life in heaven for those who believe. BUT just in case you don’t believe, there is also a Hell where you will be tortured for eternity. It is the classic example of the carrot and the stick. You get the carrot if you “believe” and pay your way. Otherwise, you get the eternal stick.
Back to the original question the problem of evil
The original questions, why does God allow evil to exist? Or, why would God allow an evil god-like adversary to exist?
The answer is evil is attributing cultural values to certain human actions. Simple as that.
For example, in certain cultures some beliefs are good and some are evil. To one person pagan beliefs are a heritage. To another person they are evil. And, in some cultures killing anyone is considered evil.
So, it goes on and on. Everything we “think” is evil is a judgment. And, what is right and wrong changes over time. For example, whole ethnic groups can be considered inferior and evil. Thus, subject to systematic persecution even death. Perhaps the largest genocide in modern history occurred in North America. It is estimated that over 90% of all indigenous people were killed. Some of the tactics were intentional from mass murder to forced relocation. Some unintentional like mass epidemics as a result of diseases brought by the “settlers”. This was anywhere affected as many as 80 million people.
Then there is nature. It is unpredictable and powerful. People lose their lives and property in storms, earthquakes, and tidal waves. Are these the acts of a capricious Supreme Being or simply the weather, climate, and geological changes? The latter is more plausible. Are these evil acts or outcomes? Again the latter is more plausible.
We welcome your comments and debate on the problem of evil. Everyone comes from a different background. And, everyone is in a different place on their own path of truth and discovery.
If this article resonates, there are more on our blog. Also, you may be interested in learning about our blended learning process. This is our curriculum which we use to teach several mind-expanding tools. It also aligns the Hero’s Journey. This is the term Joseph Campbell gave the pattern of consciousness development. Our learning process is available in two forms. You can take part in the virtual learning module or in our workshops.
Image by Unsplash.