The concept of an evil protagonist is a long-standing issue for those with a belief system based on mythological dualism. This raises several 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.
The Creation of Evil
The problem of evil is a 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). This theological issue exposes its origins and critical inconsistencies. The main problems that 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.
Tools to Investigate Belief Systems
When we undertake this exercise, most people would assert that their current spiritual “position” is based on sound information. So, when we dig into the facts that support their beliefs, this can be quite an emotional challenge exercise. As we unearth and investigate their “sacred ground” we use the practice of sound logical reasoning and “emotional checks.” It’s important to be pro-facts not just anti-religious.
One of the best processes for this investigation we call a comparative analysis. This is a scientific model for conducting comparative research. It is a process similar to a comparative religious study. We use the above term because it reflects the six steps of the scientific process. These steps guide our study, which provides consistent and accurate results.
A methodical approach like this helps us stay on track and minimize our bias. This begins with understanding assumptions, bias, and prejudice. As we conduct the research, these elements will surface. So, this process helps us to make an honest appraisal of our worldview.
Any time 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 creation of evil as a persona creates a bigger problem when trying 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. How and why would an omniscient Being create an adversary having the foreknowledge of this evil Being’s actions? The problem of evil exposes some logical inconsistencies with these mythologies. Why would an omniscient Supreme Being create their own adversary?
Crazy isn’t it. This is what happens when you borrow and rebrand illogical and contradictory mythologies.
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 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 Creation 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.
Using Circular Logic to Explain Evil
One of the favorite arguments around this paradox using circular logic. This is not logical at all, but to substantiate an illogical position. This usually ends with something like it’s beyond your ability to understand… You simply 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 as an Agent for the Supreme Being
Another popular argument is that Evil Being is allowed to exist 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 his hands morally free of Evil deeds. 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.
But, this means also delegating power to the Evil Being. The concept of delegation undermines the god is love assertion. When you hire an Evil Being, to acts as an agent on your behalf we call the conspiracy to commit a crime. So, the belief system sets up an endless list of potential violations that assure that “we” are guilty of something, even if we do not know we violated the law.
Misuse of Free Will
Here evil comes from a misuse of free will. That means God gives you free will but makes us imperfect so we are apt to make mistakes in judgment. Then, he punishes you if you don’t make the right decision. This is something an omniscient Being could easily prevent since he knows the future. It’s like God sets up a game he knows we are going to lose and punishes us when we do. Because after we cannot know the mind of God.
Origins of Dualistic Philosophy
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 Ideology
The first main construct of the evil adversary’s works hand-in-hand with blood sacrifice.
Devils and Sacrifice
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 Mopeds in India, where priests carry portable altars. ― The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 13 (1907).
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. ― The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 13 (1907)
Admission to Usurping Everything Pagan
The above two points are only examples of the theology that becomes the bedrock of these paradigms.
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 Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 13 (1907)
Theological Antidote for the Problem of Evil
The creation of a Devil created a theological opportunity. The antidote for the Devil was to become a protected believer. You do this by supporting 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 cost.
The Opportunity of Evil
The problem of evil 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.
“Eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions God’s, infinite love.” ― Bill Hicks
Back to 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 evil. The creation of evil also creates the “us against them” attitude.
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 intentional tactics included the forced relocation and submission of tribal lands to sterilization and mass murder. Some unintentional consequences included mass epidemics like Measles which were brought by the settlers. This affected an estimated 90 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 path of truth and discovery.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their path.
Abrahamic Religions, Wikipedia
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 13 (1907)