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Atheism and the Problem of Evil

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The problem of evil is a collection of philosophical arguments which claim that the existence of evil in the world contradicts the belief that there exists a God who is both wholly good and omnipotent. [1]

Stating the Problem of Evil

The philosopher of religion William L. Rowe states the evidential problem of evil as follows [2]:

R1) There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

R2) An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

C) There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.

Defences to the Problem of Evil

Theodicy is the branch of study in theology and philosophy that defends the goodness of God despite the existence of evil.[3] In traditional Christianity and Judaism the book of Job is used to explain the existence of evil.[4] In recent times Christian apologists often cite Alvin Plantinga's free will defense in regards to the logical problem of evil.[5][6] The work of St. Augustine is also cited in regards to theodicy.[7] Dr. Ron Rhodes of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministry states regarding this issue regarding the existence of evil: is impossible to distinguish evil from good unless one has an infinite reference point which is absolutely good. Otherwise one is like a boat at sea on a cloudy night without a compass (i.e., there would be no way to distinguish north from south without the absolute reference point of the compass needle).

The infinite reference point for distinguishing good from evil can only be found in the person of God, for God alone can exhaust the definition of "absolutely good." If God does not exist, then there are no moral absolutes by which one has the right to judge something (or someone) as being evil. More specifically, if God does not exist, there is no ultimate basis to judge the crimes of Hitler. Seen in this light, the reality of evil actually requires the existence of God, rather than disproving it.[8]

See Also


  1. J. L. Mackie, "Evil and Omnipotence," Mind, New Series, Vol. 64, No. 254. (Apr., 1955), pp. 200-212. - EVIL AND OMNIPOTENCE
  2. William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 16: 335-41 - [1]
  3. Encarta Dictionary - "theodicy"
  4. Robert M. Bowman Jr. - The Book of Job: God's Answer to the Problem of Evil
  5. Xenos Christian Fellowship - The Problem of Evil
  6. Dr. Scott H. Moore - Comments on Alvin Plantinga's "Free Will Defense"
  7. Stand to Reason - Augustine on Evil
  8. Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries - Strategies for Dialoguing with Atheists
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