First, "evil" doesn't truly exist. It is not a force in the universe. It is a valuation of behavior and phenomena. In the absence of subjective experience that valuation does not exist. It may also be that a subjective concept of fairness cannot exist in the absence of social drives. (I suspect this is true but I'm not prepared to make such a claim in absolute terms. Comments are welcomed.) As a result, what we perceive as 'wrong-doing' wouldn't be perceived as wrong without social instincts or culturally learned social norms (which stem from social instincts). If somehow we managed to be social creatures in a world where harm were not possible we probably couldn't conceive of wrong-doing or evil as no action could result in consequences worse than lost opportunity. Evil is merely a shorthand for behavior and phenomena that offend our desires for fairness and freedom from harm.
Second, in a theological god model, we
need to separately consider (a) the creation of a world which allows evil (harm and
unfairness) from (b) other actions by that god that we might perceive as
unfair or harmful.
a. Should we hold the god accountable for harm that
results from creation of a harm-enabled environment? For example, if
someone were to put broken glass in a playpen and also put a baby in the
playpen can we blame them for the cuts the baby will almost inevitably
receive? It may seem a straw man argument in that the baby lacks awareness
necessary for alleged free will, but (1) real babies are really harmed
in our real world and (2) and even as aware adults our awareness is
never complete; thus we are susceptible to harm we can't be adequately aware of.
b. Additionally, a theological god is 'at work' in people's lives. And if
in our material world wherein we cooperate and compete for resources,
is it possible for such a god to tip the scales in any one person's
favor without tipping in a less favorable way for other people? There
may be exceptions but generally the answer is: no. If we are to assume
God had a hand in David's victory over Goliath it shouldn't be hard to
see that from Goliath's perspective (and that of the Philistines) God's intervention was evil (unfair and harmful). Who created that evil?
let's not overlook natural evil. I think we can generally agree that
animals are capable of experiencing pain. (They have nervous systems.
If they didn't they would suffer the same consequences as congenital
analgesia patients.) Most animals die painfully... to predation,
disease, trauma. Natural disasters produce massive concentrations of
suffering to humans and other animals. And, "Most accidents happen in
the home." Were we placed in a world created for us yet is obviously
out to get us? It might be argued that harm has benefits. And it's
somewhat true, in a tautological way. When we get hurt we learn to
value freedom from harm. But if the world weren't harmful we wouldn't
need this lesson.
Fourth, did the god create the animals? With
varying degrees of denial of a natural bio-genesis and evolution we have
to consider where these animals came from?
(from: God's Parasites )
does (or will) evil 'exist' in Heaven? If not then how can all the
reasons evil is necessary on Earth suddenly become unnecessary in that
change of venue? There are arguments (rationalizations actually) for why we might 'need' to
experience a temporary world of suffering before we experience an
eternal world without suffering. But these postulates really don't hold
water, especially considering the vast range in both duration and
quality of life we experience. How long does a baby, child or young
adult need to live before they've met the heavenly prerequisite? How
much must they suffer first? The whole concept of this life being
a necessary evil as a stepping stone to a perfect afterlife is intellectually
bankrupt. And if it is true that good is not possible without the presence or potential for bad, it doesn't bode well for the ultimate good of Heaven. (I half expect someone to claim that the "bad" of Hell allows for the "good" of Heaven, or some special case pleading for Heaven/God. Feel free to preemptively counter one of these claims in comments.)
argument that the possibility of evil is necessary for the existence of
freewill is largely meaningless unless you can make a decent case for
the existence of freewill. Arguments that are made for the existence of
freewill are unconvincing on an objective level. Arguments that
freewill is in illusion are increasingly consistent with demonstrable
facts as science continues to improve our understanding of
neurophysiology. It would be irresponsible of me to claim this matter
has been resolved. But as our knowledge increases,
the presupposition of freewill unravels.
Some believe that good vs. evil is about picking sides, choosing to be on the side of good. In the
sense that behavior that is 'good' is behavior that is beneficial to
something (perhaps humanity or some part of it) and behavior that is
'evil' is harmful to something (perhaps humanity, perhaps a fly that has
just had it's wings removed) you're either acting in our (humanity's) favor or
against it. (I would argue that even in the example of torturing flies, humanity is harmed even if it's only morally, philosophically or on some academic level.) But no one is going 'pick a side' and strive to do 'evil'
at every possible opportunity. Likewise, those who consciously choose
to pick the good side are going to make choices along the way that will
do more harm than good, knowingly or otherwise. Sure, you can pick a
side, but it's merely an abstract and unrealizable ideal. It might be
better to realize that as humanity, and life in general, are going to
outlast you, your greater responsibility is to them, rather than
Did God create the "evil"? If a god can take any
credit for the creation of this world and the good things that exist in
it, then it must also be accountable for the world it created and the evil
things in it. Just as we would hold accountable any human creator that
knowingly unleashes harm into the world.