The dualistic godhead is the cornerstone concept for Western religion. But, this kind of theology creates several issues that require circular logic and misdirection to compensate. See if you can sort out the problem of evil philosophy in Abrahamic religions.
The Creation of Evil
This particular issue is a tough subject for those with a dualistic, good versus evil belief religious system. It is a sensitive issue to those in the Abrahamic Traditions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (1). Everything they are selling depends upon you buying into this illogical and contradictory concept.
This dilemma raises several interesting questions. For example, why did God create evil? If God is all-powerful and loving, why does God allow evil to exist? It’s a problem that exposes the root issues of their religions.
Worldviews and The Problem of Evil
The Abrahamic religions are not new. They are the result of a rebranding effort combining the religions of the Mediterranian region into one “Universal Religion.” The origins of these systems are copies of the “ancient mystery religions” of Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and Persia. All of these systems use the dualistic framework of mythology and superstition. We’ll get to the proofs for this in a moment.
The major dilemma for these belief systems hinges upon a benevolent and loving Supreme Being, in opposition with a nearly equal Evil protagonist, the Devil.
Not coincidently, these are common themes that also come from Persian, Babylonian, and Egyptian mythology. An evil, god-like third party is the actual cause in these systems. 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 investigate any religious subject.
Tools to Investigate Belief Systems
When we undertake this exercise, most people will assert that their current position has a factual basis. So, when we dig into the facts that support their beliefs, this can be an emotional nightmare. As we unearth and investigate their sacred ground, we use sound logical reasoning and “emotional checks.” It’s vital to be pro facts, not just anti-religious.
One of the best processes for this investigation we call a comparative analysis. This system is a scientific model for conducting comparative research. It is a process similar to a comparative religious study. It’s a process to guide our study, which provides consistent and accurate results.
A systematic approach helps us stay on track and minimize our bias. This method begins with understanding assumptions, discrimination, and prejudice. As we conduct the research, these elements will surface. So, this process helps us make an honest appraisal of our worldview.
Any time you engage in spiritual research, we recommend using emotional checks. This process will 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. 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 research while in a state of distress.
The Problem of Evil Philosophy God and the Anti-God
When someone tells you they have the knowledge, ability, and power to make something perfectly you believe them. But, when they can’t or don’t make it right and can’t fix the problems with it, you doubt they are telling you the truth. That’s what happens when you have a God that is supposed to be all-powerful and loving but fails to act on either promise.
How do you reconcile the co-existence of two gods? You have a god with the attributes of omniscience and omnipresence. It should make them all-powerful. Yet we also have the existence of an evil adversary with equally, or nearly equal, god-like qualities. Why doesn’t the Good God defeat or convert the lesser God?
Learning to live with worldviews and the problem of evil is challenging. It brings all these kinds of issues to the surface.
This dilemma is a huge problem because it would be inconceivable for an omniscient Supreme Being to create such an opponent. How and why would an omniscient Being create an adversary with foreknowledge of this evil Being’s actions?
And, if God can’t fix this obvious problem, what about all the other things he’s supposed to be able to do? What about that afterlife he promised? The problem of evil philosophy exposes some logical inconsistencies with these mythologies.
Why would an all-knowing Supreme Being create an adversary in the first place? They should have known what was going to happen. If it did create the lesser God, knowing it would rebel, why could they not forgive and re-covert the lesser God? These are questions that children ask. And, it’s these kinds of questions that convenience Sunday School teachers that their religion doesn’t make sense.
Crazy, isn’t it. This kind of dilemma occurs when you borrow and rebrand illogical and contradictory mythologies.
Attributes of a Supreme Being
Time to review the seven essential attributes of a Supreme Being:
1) Eternal Existence — No beginning and no end; existence is outside of the confines of the dimensions of time, height, and width.
2) Self-Existence — self-sufficient, self-reliant, inexhaustible, boundless, and independent of any other cause.
3) Omnipotence — Almighty, possessing unlimited power and authority having no equal.
4) Omnipresence — Present in all physical points of reference and in all places at all times simultaneously and continuously without end.
5) Omniscience — The quality or state of complete universal knowledge of all things and events.
6) Immutability — The state or quality of being unchangeable, unalterable, or invariable.
7) Perfect — The state of being complete in all aspects and without defect or fault; a condition of excellence and faultlessness can create no disharmony or imperfection.
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 (2)
As you can imagine, this creates a mental conflict for those in these paradigms. Cognitive dissonance is the mental distress you experience when reconciling two or more mutually exclusive and contradictory ideas.
We know attempts at rationalizing this contradiction as theodicy. That is an argument in defense of God’s goodness despite the existence of evil. But, maintaining this paradox requires a range of additional theological propositions. First, one needs a way to explain or minimize this paradox. Thinking about it leads back to the conclusions of Epicurus. He explained how the superstitions of a supreme being fall apart when exposed to logic.
For more about this paradox, you’ll probably also want to check out approaching the subject of a higher power.
Explaining Obsolete Worldviews and Problem of Evil Philosophy
The first and most prominent argument is that ordinary people don’t have the mental capacity to fathom God’s reasoning. Only the clergy, obviously selected by God, understand it, even though they cannot articulate it. They can’t explain it is because the reasons are illogical and don’t make any sense. Or, simply put, we can’t explain it, so 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 is using circular logic. Of course, circular reasoning is not logical at all. However, this is the tactic used to substantiate an illogical position.
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 tactic religion uses to prevent an assertion from being challenged or questioned.
An example is “I’m right because I know I’m right.” Another example: I know I’m right because the Bible says it’s right. The Bible is right because it came from God. And my proof of God in the Bible. This tactic provides for the intentional misrepresentation of mythology as fact.
If you see through their circular argument, they fall back on “it’s beyond your ability to understand”—circular logic provides reasoning which does not exist.
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. God’s judgment is the “tough love” process where the Supreme Being delegates the authority to the Evil entity, thus keeping his hands morally free of Evil deeds. In this way, the Supreme Being can still be portrayed as loving because they don’t do the Evil Deeds. They delegate the bad stuff.
When God gives the power to execute his judgment, it also means delegating authority to the Evil Being. The concept of delegation undermines the assertion that “God is love.” When you hire an agent to perpetrate evil acts on your behalf, it’s a conspiracy to commit a crime. So, the belief system sets up an endless list of potential violations that assure us 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 us free will but makes us imperfect, so we are apt to make mistakes in judgment. So then, he punishes you if you don’t make the right decision. Why doesn’t the omniscient Being prevent this from happening since he knows the future? It’s like God sets up a game we cannot win and punishes us when we fail because we cannot know God’s mind.
The Creation of Evil and Dualistic Philosophy
How did this dualistic approach make it into Western theology? To answer this, we provide 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 (3). 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 primary construct of the evil adversary 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). (3)
Communion through sacrifice
We see how they use rituals to counter the evil deeds of man.
“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 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 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) (3)
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 vestitures, 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) (3)
Theological Antidote for the Problem of Evil Philosophy
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. When you do this, you never go outside of the designated paradigm. In this way, you won’t encounter any ideas that threaten your beliefs. It keeps you a paying customer for life.
More importantly, it mandates the believer to provide financial support while controlling other personal rights. In some cases, this control includes arranged marriages, how many children to have, etc. And, this control reaches into the culture itself. Thus, creating a self-policing practice helps maintain control at the least cost.
The Problem of Evil Philosophy Creates An Opportunity
The problem also creates an excellent opportunity for financial gain. First, you create a problem. Then you provide the only solution to that problem at a substantial cost. Now you are the only place to get the antidote for the issue you created. You have a 100% market share.
Another rabbit trail to the idea of original sin. Because if we are all born evil, we must obtain absolution via whatever means set by those who created the theology. By the way, this is another example of circular logic. However, it is an effective one. The solution is payment for atonement and includes indulgences and other money-making mechanisms.
These are income-generating mechanisms that play upon the fear of the unknown. It’s an exchange for money, which then entitles you to the Afterlife rewards. You see, God loves, and there is eternal life in heaven for those who believe. But, just if you decide not to become an acolyte, there is also a Hell to suffer torture for eternity. It is a 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
Demonizing people, places, and practices, while assimilating them into the paradigm is their overriding strategy. Take terms like magic and “the craft,” for instance. These rituals are appropriated and rebranded simultaneously, demonizing the sources.
Fact is the primary tool for salvation is “mystical, mental appropriation.” You reach out mystically with the mind (magically) using a specific formula (the name of Jesus) and obtain (appropriate) salvation. This process is the essence of magic and “craftwork.”
Back Worldviews and the Problem of Evil Philosophy
The original question is, why does God allow evil to exist? Or, why would God create an evil god-like adversary he couldn’t control in the first place?
The answer is evil is attributing cultural values to specific human actions. Simple as that.
For example, some beliefs are acceptable in certain cultures, and some are unacceptable, which means they have an evil source. To one person, pagan beliefs are a heritage. To another person, they are “evil.” In some cultures, killing anyone is evil a good thing. As long as you kill in the name of your imaginary friend, it’s okay. The creation of evil also creates The “us against them” attitude.
It goes on and on. Everything we think is evil is a judgment, and what is right and wrong changes over time. Thus, for example, whole ethnic groups can be considered inferior and evil. Therefore, subject to systematic persecution, even death.
Perhaps the largest genocide in modern history occurred in North America. Some historians estimate this genocide killed 90 million indigenous people. Some 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 the settlers brought.
Then there is nature. It is unpredictable and powerful. In storms, earthquakes, and tidal waves, people lose their lives and property. Are these the acts of a capricious Supreme Being or merely the weather, climate, and geological changes? The latter is more plausible. Are these evil acts or outcomes? Again, the latter is more reasonable.
We welcome your comments and debate on the problem of evil philosophy in Western theology. We hope that this discussion provides food for thought.
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(1) Abrahamic Religions, Wikipedia
(2) Epicurus, Wikipedia
(3) The Catholic Encyclopedia and International Work, Vol. 13 (1907)
(4) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia