Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Problem with Evil and Free-will

So, it’s no secret that we live in an incredibly inhospitable world. We have natural catastrophes around every corner; many that are well beyond humankind’s control. They are beyond humankind’s control and therefore must be under the omnipotent control of god(s), if you endorse supernatural explanations. Many persistent diseases, that doctors have not found a viable cure for, are a seemingly never ending reminder of the intense suffering that persists around the globe on a daily basis. A Christian might say that this presents itself as a sort of “obstacle course” which we must carefully traverse through and gain a stronger faith in the process. It’s hard to imagine that an all-loving god would decide to put a two year old child through a severe hardship, which ultimately ends in their untimely death, as a means of testing others or providing a lesson. If any human being had similar power over a small child’s life and made the decision to cause great suffering upon a child to teach others a lesson, we would immediately label him or her a tyrant.

Besides these inconvenient truths, we have xenophobic countries invading other countries, countrymen drawing arms against each other, and family members killing other family members. We’re told that this is humankind exercising their freewill, and god provides this so that humankind is self-autonomous and at liberty to make the choices they see fit. Ultimately, those who have made a habit of making destructive choices will meet a fiery end. The problem with free-will is that god, being omniscient, can already foresee what a person will do before the winning sperm even enters the egg. Yet, he allows the person to come into the world already knowing that he or she will commit unspeakable crimes that ultimately lead to an early grave and eternity in hell. He doesn’t do anything to alter the person’s future before he or she is born, or we wouldn’t have any evil in the world to begin with. He loves him or her but not enough to keep them from living in a tormented state for all eternity. Could he not resist the urge to create them in the first place? I think the greater act of love would be to forget creating anyone who is incapable of being good. As Epicurus coined long ago:
If an all-powerful and perfectly good god exists, then evil does not.
There is evil in the world.
Therefore, an all-powerful and perfectly good god does not exist.

Listen in as we pick up on part 3 of a conversation with British philosopher Colin McGinn. He discusses his thoughts often echoed in the above paragraphs on evil and free-will.

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