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Categorized | Religion

Problem of Evil

Here is another article I wrote back when I still considered myself a liberal theist. I am now practically a deist.

Here’s an African child, about three to five years old, maybe eight or nine (it’s hard to tell the age of this little girl because starvation and disease have distorted her body and disrupted her growth). Possibly born with AIDS contracted from her mother and definitely undernourished, she has a major leg defect that causes her severe difficulty walking. But she duck walks and crawls to a UN relief camp about five miles away. Somewhere halfway her frail body starts to give up. She stops crawling, kneels, and bows down to rest her weary head on the ground, probably having the last few moments of her life.

A vulture lands nearby and patiently waits behind her, drooling in anticipation of a meal. As the child breathes her last breath, the vulture’s sharp eyes notice that all movements have stopped including the rising and falling of her abdomen as her damaged lungs desperately try to grab at thin dry air.

Now to those who believe that their religion is the only way to heaven, this child has probably never been baptized, and so her soul burns in hell even as the vulture feasts on her still-warm body, starting off with her soft entrails, then moving on to other soft parts – her eyes, her mouth, her cheeks, – and then finally tearing at her emaciated muscles until all that is left are her hair and bones.

The Problem of Evil has long been pondered and discussed by many theologians and philosophers, but it is so simple that ironically it has no simple answer, a satisfactory simple answer, that is. In simple terms, the problem of evil is summarized into the following:

If God is all-powerful and all-good, why is there gratuitous or unnecessary suffering and evil in this world? Either he doesn’t want to stop it (which makes Him not all-good), or he can’t (which makes Him not all-powerful). Logically, if there is gratuitous suffering in this world, then God cannot be all-powerful and all-good at the same time. Or, as the atheists would openly conclude, God does not exist.

But the faithful offer another explanation: God has a plan that we humans simply cannot yet understand because our minds are too finite for God’s infinite wisdom. Well that’s an answer, but I doubt if everyone finds it satisfactory. Just think of the African child. All her sufferings would be useless and extremely unnecessary if her soul would eventually just burn in hell for all eternity.

I’ve always prided myself as a man who gives paramount value to logic, science, and reason. And being a Christian, the problem of evil has been an eternal bug up my theist ass. Fortunately, I also pride myself as someone who thrives in mystery, who is quite comfortable with not knowing but nevertheless continues to seek answers only to question these answers in turn. For I don’t believe that the same God who gave us intellect would demand for us to relinquish it. And so the problem of evil, though it continually hovers just above my conscious mind and occasionally manages to land and provoke my thoughts, will just be a constant shadow which will keep me on my toes as I try to shed light into it.

Yeah, I think I am getting there.

Care to share your thoughts?

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.