Suffering and Evil: The Probability Version

In part one, we looked at the logical version of the problem of suffering and evil.This argument attempts to show that since suffering and evil exist, it is logically impossible for God to exist, and we explained why even atheist philosophers admit that this argument fails. But wait. It may still be argued

That while it’s logically possible that God and suffering both exist, is far from likely. There’s just so much pointless suffering, it seems improbable that God could have good reasons for permitting it. This is the probability version of the problem. Suffering provides empirical evidence

That God’s existence is not impossible, just highly unlikely. Is this a good argument? Consider three points. First, we are not in a position to say with any confidence that God probably lacks reasons for allowing the suffering in the world. The problem is that we’re limited in space and time, and in

Intelligence and insight. God, on the other hand, sees every detail of history from beginning to end, and orders it through people’s free decisions and actions in order to achieve his purposes. God may have to allow a great deal of suffering along the way. Suffering which appears pointless within our limited scope of

Understanding may be seen to have been justly permitted by God within his wider framework. Sometimes what we experience makes no sense until we gain a wider perspective and see the big picture designed by the Creator. Here’s the second point. Relative to the full scope of the evidence, God’s

Existence may well be probable. You see, probabilities are always relative to background information. For example, if we consider only how much this man weighs, we would say it’s highly improbable that he’s a world-class athlete. But when we’re willing to consider new information, that he’s a professional sumo wrestler and

The world champion, we quickly revise our view. In the same way, when the atheist claims that God’s existence is improbable, we should ask, improbable relative to what background information? If we consider only the suffering in the world, then God’s existence may very well appear to be improbable, but if we’re

Willing to look at the full scope of background information to take into account the powerful arguments for God’s existence, we may come to a very different conclusion. The third point is Christianity entails doctrines that increase the probability of the coexistence of God and suffering.

Consider four of these. First, the chief purpose of life is not happiness. People often assume that if God exists, his role is to create a comfortable environment for his human pets. They think the ultimate goal of our lives on earth is happiness, and therefore, God is obligated to keep us happy.

However, Christianity presents a radically different view, that the purpose of life is to know God. This alone brings true, lasting fulfillment. Suffering can bring about a deeper, more intimate knowledge of God either on the part of the one who’s suffering or those around him. The whole point of human history is

That God, having given us free will, is drawing as many people as he can into his unending Kingdom. Suffering is one of the ways God can draw people freely to himself. In fact, countries that have endured the most hardship often show the

Highest growth rate for Christianity. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Second, mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and His purpose. Terrible human evils are testimony to

Man’s depravity, a consequence of his alienation from God. The Christian isn’t surprised at moral evil in the world; on the contrary, he expects it. The third doctrine states that God’s purpose is not restricted to this life, but spills over beyond the grave into eternal life. This world is just the

Beginning, the entry way to an unimaginable, never-ending life beyond death’s door. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, underwent afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, hunger; yet he wrote, we do not lose heart, for this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for

An eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Paul understood

That life on earth, and whatever suffering it holds for each of us, is temporary. Our pain will not endure forever, but our lives with God will. Paul was not belittling the plight of those who suffer horribly in this life. Indeed,

He was one of them; but he saw that those sufferings will be overwhelmed forever by the ocean of joy that God will give to those who will freely receive it. And the fourth doctrine is this: the knowledge of God is an incomparable good. Knowing God

Is the ultimate fulfillment of human existence, an infinite good. Thus, the person who knows God, no matter how much he has suffered, can still say God is good to me. So if Christianity is true, it’s not at all improbable that suffering and evil should exist. In summary, for all these

Reasons, the probability version of the problem of evil is no more successful than the logical version. As a purely intellectual problem, then, the problem of evil does not disprove God’s existence. But even if those intellectual arguments fail, the emotional problem of suffering and evil

Remains very powerful. If you have suffered deeply, or if you’ve watched someone you love go to intense pain, you may be thinking, so what is God exists? Why would I want to respond to him or worship him? I feel cold and empty, and

Want nothing to do with him. You’re not alone. God knows your name; he knows who you are and what you’re going through. God promises to be with you through your suffering. He can give you the strength to endure. Jesus Christ also suffered;

Although he was innocent, he was tortured and sentenced to death.His suffering had a purpose: to provide you and me the life-giving connection to God. Not only does God exist, but he loves you. He seeks after you, he offers you hope, and in time, he will make all things new.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

#Suffering #Evil #Probability #Version

Does the Problem of Evil Make God Unlikely?

[Anderson] Evil and suffering is a big one,  and I’d be interested in your perspectives on   that. You hear people say that particularly the  Abrahamic God, who’s all-powerful and all-knowing   and all good, and you’ve just made a reference  to that yourself, the locus of all good things,

[yes] now there’s the atheistic argument from  evil. And it basically runs that if there   is such a God, and look I don’t want to sound  unsympathetic about this; it’s a big challenge   evil is a big problem, just as I described exists,  then, there’d be no evil or or suffering. But  

There is a lot of evil and suffering in the world,  therefore there can’t be a God, or certainly not   a Christian God. So where do philosophers in  general come out on that question of suffering, and where do you land? [Craig] Well historically  for centuries atheistic philosophers have defended  

The view that the existence of the suffering and  evil in the world is logically incompatible with   the existence of God. And now on the contemporary  scene, this has really changed; virtually no one   defends the logical version of the problem of  evil anymore, and the reason is that it lays upon  

The shoulders of the atheist a burden of proof  that is so heavy that no one has been able to   sustain it. The atheist would have to  prove that there is no logically possible   reason that God could have for permitting  the evil and suffering in the world,  

And no one can prove such a thing. So those who  do defend the problem of evil today have retreated   from the logical version of the problem to the  so-called probabilistic version of the problem,   where the claim is that given the evil and  suffering in the world, it’s improbable that  

God exists, if not impossible. And the difficulty  with this version of the problem is that it makes   probability judgments that are simply beyond  our ability. There is no basis for thinking   that if God has morally sufficient reasons for  permitting the evil and suffering in the world  

That these should be evident to me. For example,  every event that occurs in human history sends a   ripple effect through history, such that God’s  morally sufficient reasons for permitting it   might not emerge until centuries from now, perhaps  in another country. An illustration of this would  

Be the so-called butterfly effect in contemporary  physics. It’s been shown that the fluttering of   a butterfly’s wings on a twig in West Africa can  set in motion forces that will eventually produce   a hurricane over the Atlantic Ocean, and yet no  one watching that little butterfly on the branch  

Could possibly predict such an outcome. These  kinds of probability judgments are just beyond   our capacity. And similarly, when we see some  instance of suffering and evil in the world,   we are simply not in a position to say with any  sort of confidence God probably doesn’t have  

A morally sufficient reason for permitting that to  occur. A second point that needs to be made here   is that when one’s talking about probabilities,  then you’ve also got to consider on the other   side of the scale, what is the probability  that God does exist? And here I would offer  

A multiple considerations that I think make  it quite probable that there is in fact a   transcendent creator and designer of the universe,  despite any improbability that the suffering in   the world might throw upon the existence of  God. [Anderson] Interestingly, I’ve never  

Forgotten the story, a true story, about a young  university student in Scotland not long after well   probably I suspect during the Depression years,  things were grim, and he knocked on the door,   of a small cottage that was opened, there was  a returned serviceman from the first World War,  

And when he realized the young man wanted to  talk to him about God he said go away, he said   I was in the trenches in France and  I stopped believing in God when I saw   all that evil. And the young man said to him  I respect that that must have been terrible,  

And I certainly won’t pester you, but  can I just make the observation that   I wonder if I’d been there I might  not have stopped believing in man   rather than stop believing in God. And the old  man looked at him, tears welled up near his eyes,  

And he said you better come in; we need to talk  about this. It’s an interesting take on evil. I   sometimes think that one of our problems is we’re  not self-reflective enough. [Craig] Yes one of the   major developments in philosophy with respect to  this problem is the so-called free will defense,  

In which philosophers I think have been able to  show that it’s neither improbable nor impossible   that every world that God would create that  would involve this much good, this much moral   goodness, would also involve this much moral  evil freely perpetrated by human free agents,  

So that ultimately the blame lies  at man’s threshold and not at God’s. oh

#Problem #Evil #God

Suffering and Evil: The Logical Problem

We are all well aware of the suffering and evil in the world: horrific suffering, unthinkable evil. How then can anyone believe in the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God? And if God does exist, why would anyone want to worship Him? Epicurus framed the logical problem of suffering and evil like this:

If God is willing to prevent evil but not able, then he’s not all-powerful. If he is able to prevent evil but not willing, he is not good. But if he is both willing and able, how can evil exist? And if he is neither

Able nor willing, then why call him God? In other words, it’s logically impossible for God and suffering to both exist, but we know full well that suffering exists. Therefore, God does not. Is this a good argument? Let’s look at it more closely.

Are these two statements logically inconsistent? No; here is an example of two logically inconsistent statements. David can’t be both married and a bachelor, but there is no explicit contradiction between these two statements, so there must be hidden assumptions behind this argument that

Would bring out the alleged contradiction. Here they are. If God is all-powerful, he can create any world he wants, and if God is all-loving, he prefers a world without suffering. So if an all-powerful, all-loving God exists, it follows that suffering does not exist. Since suffering

Obviously does exist, the atheist concludes that God must not exist. But are the atheist’s two hidden assumptions necessarily true? Consider the first assumption. Can God create any world he wants? What if he want a world populated by people who have free will? It’s logically impossible for God to force

Someone to freely choose to do good. Forcing free choices is like making a square circle; it’s not logically possible. It’s not that God lacks the power to perform the task; it is that the supposed task itself is just nonsense. So

It may not be feasible to create a world populated by people who always freely choose to do what is morally good, so the first assumption is not necessarily true. Therefore, the argument fails, and what about the second assumption? Is it necessarily true that God would prefer a world without suffering? How could we

Possibly know this? We all know of cases where we permit suffering in order to bring about a greater good. If it’s even possible that God allows suffering in order to achieve a greater good, then we cannot say this assumption is necessarily true. For the logical problem of suffering to succeed, the atheist

Would have to show that it’s logically impossible that free will exists, and that it’s logically impossible that God has good reasons for permitting suffering. This burden of proof is too heavy to bear. It’s quite possible that God and suffering both exist. This is why philosophers, even atheist philosophers,

Have given up on the logical problem of evil. We can concede that the problem of evil does not after all show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another. Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically

Inconsistent with the existence of a theistic God. No one I think has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim. It’s now acknowledged on almost all sides that the logical argument is bankrupt. But this is hardly the end of the discussion. We still need to explore the probability version of the problem of evil.

#Suffering #Evil #Logical #Problem

The Problem of Evil (Aquinas 101)

What is evil, and why does God permit it in his creation? St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that in a general sense, evil is an absence or lack of what should be there. Technically speaking, we call this a privation, so evil is not a being or in nature. It’s the absence of something.

Suppose I say I’m going to draw a circle, and then I don’t finish it. You might say, “Hey, that’s a bad circle. Part of it’s missing.” You’re pointing out a privation. Notice though that I haven’t directly caused something that is bad in itself. The circle is good as far as it goes.

It just doesn’t go all the way. But wouldn’t it have been better if I had caused the whole circle to exist? Well, in general, yes, but perhaps there was a good reason why I didn’t. Maybe I was trying to illustrate what a privation is.

In that case, this defective circle would be an essential part of some larger project, some higher good–like bringing you to understand the problem of evil. This is how Aquinas approaches the problem of evil. God has created a changeable world of material things, and in order for such a world to exist,

It’s necessary that things grow, die, and decay. Aquinas calls these things natural evils. Gazelles eat grass, and lions eat gazelles. He sets this idea of natural evil in a larger context. It’s a necessary feature of the good of the whole ecosystem of the whole universe.

Now when Aquinas talks about the evil that human beings experience, he no longer speaks of natural evil. Rather, there are two unique types of evil that pertain to rational and free creatures. The evil of poena in Latin that’s translated typically as the evil of pain or penalty or

Punishment, and the evil of culpa in Latin translated as the evil of fault or of guilt. So, an example: Suppose Billy the Kid wakes up late for work. He doesn’t have a horse, so he steals his neighbor’s.

This is bad, of course, for his neighbor, but even more for Billy who has willfully refused to do what right reason tells him and has committed a serious injustice, an act unworthy of a human person.

This is what Aquinas calls the evil of fault or of guilt, and it is a kind of moral suicide. Arrested by the sheriff, Billy is sentenced to prison. This too is an evil for him because he’s now deprived of his freedom of movement.

But this second evil–being in prison–is not the same kind as the first. It’s an evil Billy suffers in response to an evil that he committed, and it’s called a penalty or punishment. How should we compare these two evils?

Well, the evil of fault is worse. By sinning Billy has freely chosen to make himself a bad man. By contrast, Billy’s punishment, while an evil for him in one sense is good and just, and it can even help Billy become good.

Especially if he accepts it and offers it in reparation for his fault. God never wills the evil of sin or of fault. Sin is our fault, not God’s. We choose some partial good contrary to the order of right reason, not caring about the

Damage that will result, and God permits us to do this, but he in no way is its cause. But God does will the punishment that follows from this moral evil both in order to restore the right ordering of justice and also to correct the wrongdoer,

Much like a judge and other honest citizens rightly desire a thief to be arrested and given a just punishment. Just like Billy can offer up his punishment in reparation for the evil he did, so we too can offer up all the evils we suffer in reparation for the sins we and others have

Committed. Let’s pose a harder question. Why does God permit the suffering of the innocent? We’re entering deep waters here, and we can only sketch a very brief answer. Human suffering, bodily death, undergoing persecution and injustice– these are very real and terrible evils, and they were not part of God’s original plan for us.

He created our first parents in grace with the special privilege of being free from illness, suffering, and death. Those evils only entered the world because of the sin of our first parents and we inherit the terrible consequences of this original sin: suffering, death, and even an inclination to sin.

It’s a lot like a baby born to a mother who’s a heroin addict. That baby inherits the terrible consequences of the mother’s addiction. In those who suffer them, they are the evils of pain or penalty. They can be the occasion for great moral nobility and goodness, like when a person offers his

Life to God in the midst of illness or when someone perseveres in the truth and even forgives an unjust persecutor. The hardest question is why does sin exist? Because every sin involves a privation, a lack of what should be there, we’re dealing with non-being and non-being is strictly speaking unintelligible.

So we can explain how a sin is possible. The creature focuses its attention and directs its will to some limited good disregarding the defect or disorder that that choice will cause, but we cannot explain why the creature does this. Because evil is incoherent in itself. It’s always stupid and self-defeating.

Why then does God permit it? Some have answered this question by using the so-called free will defense, saying that if there’s freedom, it’s impossible for God to prevent evil. This is not Aquinas’s answer, and he thinks it has serious philosophical problems. As we explained in the video on predestination and freedom,

God as our creator is the origin of our freedom and implants in us our desires for good, and so he can act within our will, moving it to good. So in any particular case, God could move us to freely choose the right thing. Why then doesn’t he always do so?

Here we’ve reached a mystery too deep for our minds, why God has created this world and not another. Aquinas doesn’t think we can say much more than this, but he does offer two quasi explanations that help us glimpse the deep wisdom of God’s providence.

First, we can be sure that God only permits evil for the sake of some much better and higher good, including not only our individual good, but the good of the whole creation. This is very mysterious, because we can’t see this whole, and we can’t conceive how permitting sin might lead to good.

But we know it’s true. God is infinitely powerful and infinitely good. Able to bring an even greater good out of every evil. We also know that we are very limited, especially in our understanding of the whole.

We’re kind of like a baby with a soiled diaper who screams because his father makes him take a bath. He doesn’t understand the good that his father is accomplishing for him through what seems to the baby like pointless suffering, but in reality, it’s for the baby’s good.

Finally, Aquinas says that God allows the defect of sin so that he can manifest his goodness in an even greater way as our savior. This is a beautiful and high truth, and it reaches its pinnacle in the cross.

There God himself takes upon his human shoulders the whole weight of our sins and bears them through terrible suffering, even unto death. He does this precisely so that his redeeming mercy and love for us sinners would shine out more clearly. So that we might be brought from sin unto forgiveness and eternal life.

For readings, podcasts, and more videos like this, go to While you’re there, be sure to sign up for one of our free video courses on Aquinas. And don’t forget to like and share with your friends, because it matters what you think!

#Problem #Evil #Aquinas

PHILOSOPHY – Religion: The Problem of Evil [HD]

My name is Sally Haslanger, and I’m a professor of philosophy at MIT. Today, we’re going to discuss an argument in favor of atheism, in favor of the belief that God doesn’t exist. Let’s start with some definitions. “Theism” – that’s “the belief that God exists.” So, “atheism”: “the belief that God doesn’t exist.”

Rational theism is one form of theism. It’s the belief that there are evidential reasons to believe that God exists. Now, arational theism is the belief in God without evidence. There are plenty of people who are arational theists, because they believe in God based on faith. Faith is often thought to be believing something

In spite of the fact that you don’t have evidence for it, and it’s completely common for people to believe things without evidence, right? We believe things all the time based on wishful thinking. We believe it because it’s just in the air, or it’s convenient for us to believe it.

It makes us happy for us to believe it. All those sorts of things. But we’re talking here about evidence, where “evidence” is “some information “that lends credibility to the claim, “in the sense that it’s more likely to be true “if you have the evidence.” Okay, so arational theism, as I said,

Is a common position, but we’re not really gonna talk very much about it today. Irrational theism is the belief in God in spite of evidential reasons supporting atheism. Notice that this is quite different from arational theism. The belief in God without evidence, as mentioned,

Could be just on the basis of a lack of evidence. But irrational theism is when you hold belief in God, that is, when you hold theism, but there are clear supporting reasons for the opposing view, that is, for atheism. Now, that’s problematic, and we’re gonna look

A little bit further into why it’s problematic. Let’s move on to a few more definitions so that we’re clear what we’re talking about. “Contradiction” – what is a contradiction? A contradiction is when you have a set of beliefs that are not possibly true together.

So a set of beliefs is contradictory if and only if it’s not possible for all of them to be true. Here’s a simple example: “Today is Monday. It’s not the case that today is Monday.” Those can’t both be true together. Now, we’re making an assumption: mainly,

That we’re talking about right here right now. We’re not talking about something on the other side of the dateline. Considering “today is Monday,” and “it’s not today is Monday,” that’s a contradiction. Both of them can’t be true. So if you believe both of them, then you’re believing a contradiction.

Now, it’s not necessarily the case that a contradiction needs to involve only two statements. It can involve three statements. So “all birds can fly,” “penguins are birds,” “penguins can’t fly.” Not all of them can be true together, right? If you hold what it is to fly stable,

If you hold what it is to be a bird stable, then you can’t hold all these together and have just true beliefs. One of them has got to be false. Now you could say, “Well, maybe it’s not the case that all birds can fly,”

Or, “Maybe it’s not the case that all penguins are birds,” or maybe you could come up with a modification of what it is to fly so that penguins can fly. They’re really good underwater, for example. You watch them under water, they look like they’re flying. But that’s not really flying.

So you can’t hold all of these beliefs. You have to figure out which one you’re going to give up. Likewise, “today is Monday” and “it’s not the case that today is Monday” – you need to give one up. Okay, now why do you have to give one up? Some people say,

“Wait, we believe in contradictions all the time. “It’s just not obvious that we believe in contradictions.” Well, that’s true. We probably do have contradictory beliefs, but it’s not good to have contradictory beliefs. We want to get rid of our contradictory beliefs. Now there are a couple of reasons why.

First of all, it’s really good to have true beliefs. You don’t want to go around the world having false beliefs, cause it gets you into trouble. So if I believe that there’s no wall here, and I go walking into the wall, then that’s not so good.

False beliefs can get you into trouble in that way. They can lead you into problematic circumstances that you’d probably best not be in. So holding beliefs that are false is problematic, and if you hold contradictory beliefs, you know one of them has got to be false, and that’s bad.

Another thing is coherent action. Having contradictory beliefs makes it difficult to act coherently. Look at this one: “Today is Monday, and it’s not the case that today is Monday.” Suppose you have a dentist appointment on Monday. What do you do? Do you go or not?

You both believe that it is and it isn’t Monday, so what are you gonna do? It’s hard to act coherently and act in a sensible way to fulfill your obligations, etcetera. Since one of the beliefs you hold has got to be false, and you can’t act on two contradictory beliefs,

You can’t really act coherently. So we’re talking about whether God exists, and evidence for and against the existence of God. Now, there are many different conceptions of God or gods. I’m not trying to adjudicate what’s the right or best conception of God. But there’s a particular standard definition in the West,

That God is an all-perfect being, a being at least who has these three features: a god is all-knowing (which is to be omniscient), all-powerful (which is to be omnipotent), and to be wholly good (or omnibenevolent). So this being is perfect, is omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good, (or omnibenevolent).

We’re gonna call the combination of these features “OOO” (“O-O-O”) because they’re pretty good ooo features. Let’s go ahead and now look at the argument that suggests that atheism is the rational view to hold, the one that there’s the greatest evidence to believe. Here’s the first premise:

If God exists, he, she, or it would be OOO. Now I use “he, she, or it” because, of course, I don’t know whether there’s a God, and if there is, whether it’s a he, she, or it, or at least for the purposes of the discussion, we’re not gonna assume anything like that.

Okay, so that’s the first premise. Second: if an OOO god exits, there would be no evil. Well, why’s that? Well, if a god were all-knowing, then that god would know when evil was going to occur (or that it occurred), would have the power to make it not occur,

And is wholly good, so would also have the motivation to make it not occur. So this combination of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence suggests that if a god were truly OOO, there would be no evil. We assume for the purposes of argument that God exists. And we conclude, then, there is no evil.

So if God exists, he, she, or it would be OOO. If an OOO god exists, there would be no evil. God exists, so there is no evil. The problem is, there is evil. Well, at least, it seems there’s evil. That might be one of the questions that comes up

When we consider objections to the argument. It appears, certainly appears, that there’s evil: lynching, terrorism, the death of innocent babies. So for the moment, we’re gonna say there is evil. But look: “there is no evil,” “there is evil” – this is a contradiction. And so we have to reject one of these premises.

Well, this one, that God is OOO, that one is hard to reject because that’s just how we’ve defined what God is. This one – it seems straightforward. And so once we assume God exists, and we assume that there is evil in the world, which is hard to deny, we get a contradiction.

So we have to reject something. And so the thing that’s most likely to be false, according to the argument, is number (3), that God exists. So we conclude that God does not exist. Now this argument is a little bit truncated, as any argument is. It relies on two further assumptions.

First, a wholly good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can. And second, that there are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do. But these just seem to be part of the definition of all-knowing, all-powerful, and wholly good. It’s just true by definition.

So here’s a way to think about it. If we assume a certain kind of God, an OOO God, and we really take seriously the perfection of that God Then once we assume that kind of God, and that there exists some evil in the world, then we’ve got a contradiction. So the theist is left with this position: either the theist has to say there is no evil in the world, or the theist has to give up

One of these features of their God. Those are your two options. Neither of them look very appealing. And so now we’re in a position to say, “If you don’t want to do that, “you are an irrational theist,” that there is compelling evidence that God does not exist,

God of this OOO kind does not exist, and yet, you believe anyway. That is to say, you believe a contradiction. You believe that there is evil, and there is no evil. You believe that there is this kind of god, there isn’t this kind of god.

We saw before that belief in contradictions is a bad thing, and you ought to avoid it wherever you can. And so this is the argument that you should not be a theist, because irrational theism is not an acceptable form of theism. Subtitles by the community

#PHILOSOPHY #Religion #Problem #Evil