• TheMadFool
    4.3k
    The problem of evil (POE) is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God (see theism) — Wikipedia

    One defense I've seen against the POE is freewill. Good becomes meaningless if it weren't chosen freely and thus God gave us freewill. The bad/evil is the unfortunate side-effect of freewill being real. The POE solved!

    However, there's one small...er...two BIG problems here viz. heaven and hell. That God rewards the good more than adequately, it seems, and punishes in ways that make even Hitler look like a bunny rabbit indicates, very clearly to me, that he's rigged the whole thing to make it mandatory for us to be good and, also, avoid the bad.

    Is this real freedom? Some may think that heaven-hell are simply an incentive-disincentive scheme that serve only as a guide. That can't be. Eternal pain in hell and eternal joy in heaven, the former is unacceptable and the latter is an offer no one can refuse, reduce our options to only and exactly two. In fact the only route available is good and evil is not an option at all.

    We don't have freewill and you can't offer something that doesn't exist as an explanation for anything, let alone the problem of evil.

    Comments...
  • uncanni
    338
    Perhaps those who practice evil create their own hell: I personally scoff at the idea of a God who would condemn anyone to eternal damnation, and prefer to see it as those who commit evil acts are already dwelling in a mental/spiritual hell realm as the Buddhists might say.

    So I don't see how free will (two words) is a "defense against" POE; rather, it justifies a human's ability to practice or refrain from practicing evil.

    How can we "solve" the POE? It's a fact of human existence. If we wish to understand why humans commit evil, I would suggest psychoanalytic explanations in addition to the concept of free will. Some folks cannot or will not control their aggressive instincts; some folks enjoy sadistic acts for various and sundry reasons; some folks are just plain psychopathic and don't feel any remorse. I don't think there's a "solution" to the problems which result from evil acts. Maybe incarceration...
  • Daniel C
    73
    I agree with you: there are certainly problems with this explanation for the origin of "evil". Let's have a look at two of them: the Bible tell us that God is omniscient. If that is the case God must have known in advance, before he created anything, that the event of evil entering his creation was going to happen. He was therefore also aware of the immense suffering of all living creatures, lying ahead to take place in the centuries to come. In the light of his knowledge of these facts, I think we have a right to ask how He could justify his continuation with his creation project. Secondly, as a result of this claim, that God knew in advance of man's "free" choice in favour of evil, it can definitely be asked how "freedom of choice" can be a possibility if the outcome of the choice is known in advance. The specific outcome of a choice known in advance (for certain) implies that this outcome was determined - if it was not determined in advance, God could not have known what was going to happen implying that he cannot be omniscient. So two things about God is here at stake: (a) his justness (b) his omniscience.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    We don't have freewillTheMadFool

    Philosophy here and elsewhere though the ages doomed free will (beyond no coercion and no random) by showing that it couldn't even be defined, leaving but the supporters just to say they have it. Science now confirms it via the tracking of brain processes.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    Eternal pain in hell and eternal joy in heavenTheMadFool

    I fear not death, Heaven, or even Hell,
    For death is only life’s natural knell,
    And Heaven and Hell are within myself;
    The one thing I fear is not living well!

    The sky, a vault, spans our worn lives below;
    Jihun a course from our strained eyes aflow;
    Hell is a spark struck by our vain distress;
    Heaven but an instant when content we know.

    The world is but a belt of fading years,
    The Oxus but the trace of running tears,
    And Hell is but the spark of futile toil,
    And Paradise a flash of fleeting cheers.

    The universe’s mantle binds us worn—
    Tears feeding the river on which we’re borne.
    Hell’s but an ember of our senseless fears;
    Heaven’s the rose-breath of opening morn.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    So two things about God is here at stake: (a) his justness (b) his omniscience.Daniel C

    How long of temple-incense, mosque-lamp tell?
    How long of Heaven’s rewards or pains of Hell?
    See, from all time ‘What is to be, will be!’
    The Lord of Fate did on the Tablet spell!

    The light of Heav’n did the Earth illumine,
    When He shaped human nature’s acumen.
    Temptations He then placed everywhere,
    But He’ll punish us for being human!

    The Christian God is vengeful, demands of,
    And tortures us with threats of Hellish shove.
    Well, if I were a God and ruled above,
    You could remove all my powers but love.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    Perhaps those who practice evil create their own helluncanni

    I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
    Some letter of that After-life to spell:
    And by and by my Soul return’d to me,
    And answer’d “I Myself am Heav’n and Hell:”

    Heav’n but the Vision of fulfill’d Desire,
    And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
    Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
    So late emerged from, shall so soon expire.

    — FitzOmar (from FitzGerald’s ‘Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam’)
  • uncanni
    338
    Heav’n but the Vision of fulfill’d Desire,
    And Hell the Shadow from a Soul on fire,
    Cast on the Darkness into which Ourselves,
    So late emerged from, shall so soon expire
    PoeticUniverse


    Or a singular peace, existing here on Earth,
    No shadows on the wall delude the view,
    In Nature we are always born anew
    Death nourishes the journey of rebirth.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    We don't have freewill and you can't offer something that doesn't exist as an explanation for anything, let alone the problem of evil.TheMadFool

    The finding of free will leads to what was ever suspected, that each person's fixed will is true to itself as reflecting what the person has become up the moment, after which learning and experience contribute to a wider and better fixed will, and so forth.

    This is monumental, in that it dooms 'God', blame, credit, and punishment, but it fosters compassion for those whose wills are stuck in a bad mode, as well as providing a great insight into the human condition.

    In Nature we are always born anew
    Death nourishes the journey of rebirth.
    uncanni

    Sound like an 'eternal return' of at least our atoms continuing on to constitute something.

    it can definitely be asked how "freedom of choice" can be a possibility if the outcome of the choice is known in advance.Daniel C

    The Biblical 'God' contradicts Himself away again, as ever.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Buddhistsuncanni

    As far as the POE is concerned Buddhism differs significantly from the Abrahamic religions. The shared concept of a reward-punishment schema in morality unites all these religions. Abrahamic religions have their virtue-sin and Buddhism has karma.


    What is significantly different about Buddhism is that karma plays out, like in Abrahamic religions, in heaven and hell BUT also on earth. As you can see Buddhism, by including this world in its karmic sphere, explains the evil and pain people experience as retribution for past sinful deeds. So Buddhism has a very good explanation for why there's evil in this world. This isn't possible for Abrahanic religions because in them reward/punishment for our actions occur in heaven/hell and not in this world.

    I think omniscience doesn't affect free will. If you think it does then you're assuming that omniscience depends on determinism and it results from knowing the state of the world and the laws that it must obey - much like a physicist who can predict the path of a rocket.

    What if god's omniscience works differently than what we suppose it is. Yes, human knowledge works because of our grasp of causality and, if you notice, all our knowledge has a causal flavor to it - in a logical argument premises "cause" the conclusion to be true. We even use "because" in both logical argumentation AND causal explanations.

    However, I think assuming god's omniscience must be causality-based (determinism) is more a sign of our limited imagination than real knowledge. An analogy might help to make my case. Imagine a movie. In the good old days movies consisted of individual frames of pictures that when displayed at the right speed gives the illusion of motion. It could be that god has access to each frame in the movie (our lives) and hence he's omniscient but it's not that god calculated our positions in advance a la determinism.

    The Christian God is vengeful, demands of,
    And tortures us with threats of Hellish shove.
    Well, if I were a God and ruled above,
    You could remove all my powers but love.
    PoeticUniverse

    This is beautiful.

    In my humble opinion love is the one property or "power" you can't subtract from god without destroying god.

    power infinite
    Satan may have it

    knowledge infinite
    Satan may befit

    With love alone
    Satan can be undone

    ___________________

    remove power
    god shall still tower

    remove knowledge
    faith I pledge

    remove love
    worthless trove
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    With love alone
    Satan can be undone
    TheMadFool

    (Good poem, TheMadFool! And the part above even uses a sight rhyme.)


    — The Voices in the Sky —

    Good and Evil sprang from Wrong and Right,
    When from naught twin Genii split day and night.
    “Oh, fear not that black’s might can vanquish white;
    Darkest night can’t e’en quench the smallest light!”

    “I’m the darkest,” boasts the Shadow to the Night.
    “No,” gloats Midnight, “compared to me you’re bright.”
    “You floodlights!” crows Starless Space, “Stop your fight.
    The darkest plight is the lack of Love’s delight!”

    Reason moons to Passion, with logic cool,
    “Quench thy inner fire, lest it burn us, fool.”
    Blazes Venus, “I know What I feel, not Why;
    ‘Tis better you take heed of me—I Rule!”

    A 2 minute video of the above:
  • uncanni
    338
    This isn't possible for Abrahanic religions because in them reward/punishment for our actions occur in heaven/hell and not in this world.TheMadFool

    That isn't an accurate description of how Judaism operates (and I don't know what the other Abrahamic religions are). That sounds like Christianity to me--not Judaism.

    Judaism puts all the emphasis on this life, not the world to come, which is why the most important holy day is the Day of Atonement. There's no earning brownie points towards heaven; Judaism is about doing the right thing in this life.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Indeed I was wrong but not completely wrong about Judaism:

    [quote=Wikipedia[/i]The story is told of Zusha, the great Chassidic master, who lay crying on his deathbed. His students asked him, "Rebbe, why are you so sad? After all the mitzvahs and good deeds you have done, you will surely get a great reward in heaven!". "I'm afraid!" said Zusha. "Because when I get to heaven, I know God's not going to ask me 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't you more like King David?' But I'm afraid that God will ask 'Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?' And then what will I say?!"[/quote]

    Judaism does not have a specific doctrine about the afterlife, but it does have a mystical/Orthodox tradition of describing Gehinnom. Gehinnom is not Hell, but originally a grave and in later times a sort of Purgatory where one is judged based on one's life's deeds, or rather, where one becomes fully aware of one's own shortcomings and negative actions during one's life. The Kabbalah explains it as a "waiting room" (commonly translated as an "entry way") for all souls (not just the wicked). — Wikpedia

    As you can see the reward/punishemnt is awarded/meted out in the afterlife. Justice, if you'll allow me to use the term, does not happen in this world.

    That aside, I think the POE and free will have more to do with Christianity. Thanks again.
  • uncanni
    338
    'Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?'TheMadFool

    The whole point of that story is about how one lives his life. Zusha recognizes the shortcomings that prevented him from living his life as fruitfully as he might have had he not wasted time.

    You know why the Yahrzeit is so much more important than the birth date, right? That's when one can really see the measure of the woman or man. Zusha knows he fell a little short. He doesn't fear punishmeht, but he regrets.

    Jews really aren't interested in the afterlife.
  • Daniel C
    73
    There is another that is bothering me about this major event which took place in the garden of Eden. In my mind I hear the conversation taking place between the woman and the "snake". On the one hand, the "snake": no junior in the land of evil, but the very King of Evil himself. On the other hand, the woman: a being in total "innocence" (and ignorance). This must have been one of the biggest power "imbalances" which ever occurred in history. All the odds were against the woman and in her desperate hour no-one appearing from the "positive side" to give at least some guidance. Can we really find it strange that she couldn't stand her ground against this overwhelming force? Therefore: was God fair / just to test her "like this" fully realising in his omniscience the importance of the outcome of the test? I find it impossible to accept this.
  • Terrapin Station
    13.8k
    As I pointed out in another recent thread about this, God could have given us free will while still making it the case that one is not free to choose to do "evil." He could have made it so that evil deeds were simply not physically possible to do, just like it's not possible to simply choose/will oneself to be invisible or massless.
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Thank you so much :up:

    I think there are many ways to rectify any inconsistencies with respect to free will and god's omniscience and love. However, it involves so much mental gymnastics that after sometime we don't know up from down.

    Yes, there's a power imbalance but Eve had free will. God knew what would happen but he couldn't intervene because that would rob Eve of free will and so on. There's always a "but" which leads to some fancy mental gymnastics and we're no better off than when we started.

    :up:
  • god must be atheist
    1.1k
    The problem of Evil and FreeWill has been likened in my bicycling group (we do 2 Km of bicycling every other day) to the problem of E-Wheel and Free Wheel. Especially among the members who, like I, have immigrated from Eastern Europe, and V and W are wholly interchangeable vowels by pronunciation for us folks.

    But seriously speaking, Evil is a concept which does not exist outside of religious considerations, and Free Will has been proven to be non-existent by the secular and also by the religious, so there is not much to prouduce here. Doing bad things is not evil if there is no divine judgement. The term does not exist in the psychiatry movement or in the justice system (in the Western Democracies), both of which have more than their share of looking at horrible and inhuman experiences and behaviour by humans.
  • god must be atheist
    1.1k
    There's always a "butt" which leads to some fancy gymnastics...TheMadFool


    Sadly, this seems to be the case every time philosophers drag the duality of gender into consideration in their discourses. (Editing of the original quote above was done by yours truly.)
  • god must be atheist
    1.1k
    As I pointed out in another recent thread about this, God could have given us free will while still making it the case that one is not free to choose to do "evil." He could have made it so that evil deeds were simply not physically possible to do, just like it's not possible to simply choose/will oneself to be invisible or massless.Terrapin Station

    Luckily, God in Its omnipotence, can erase history and restart the whole thing from point zero, with some changes implemented that differ from the present model of "world", keeping your advice in mind.

    You may think I'm joking, but theoretically this is conceivable. Therefore very likely, if not perfectly true.
  • Daniel C
    73
    TheMadFool. Yes, my friend, it has always been like this when trying to solve this problem - all explanations leading to "new" problems. My attitude: let us not retreat and confirm with TS Elliot that, "we shall not cease from exploration …." My next question in Eve's context is how free is "free"? It has always seemed to me that "freedom" is never absolute, because we always feel the impact of "influences" when making choices. A truly free choice between two options can only exist if, in my situation of having to make a choice, the impact of the opposing "influences" is equal to each other. The heavier the impact of influences become on the one side in relation to the other side, the less free I become in having to make my choice. Isn't this exactly what happened to Eve?
    But, of course there are other options also to try understand and make sense of this problem. One of them is that Eve was far from being a perfect being. Having to do with an imperfect being makes it so much easier to understand why she made the "wrong" choice. The implication of this assumption is that not being responsible for her own "imperfect" creation, she cannot be held responsible for her choice. Therefore, her punishment can in no way be justified. So, was all creation perfect in the beginning as the Bible wants us to believe? Or was this "mythical account" the result of searching philosophical minds trying to find a sensible explanation for all suffering in this world?
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    A truly free choice between two options can only exist if, in my situation of having to make a choice, the impact of the opposing "influences" is equal to each other.Daniel C

    And thus for those the outcome would not matter.

    Eve was far from being a perfect beingDaniel C

    Because Adam only donated a rib, not wanting her to cost him an arm and a leg.
  • Daniel C
    73
    PoeticUniverse. But, the outcome would matter, because this is the moment of determining who the scapegoat is - if there is one. And, what is applicable to Eve here is also applicable to Adam.
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    I think the POE and free will have more to do with Christianity.TheMadFool

    I thought that the problem only existed in relation to an ALL knowing, ALL powerful, and ALL good god. The POE is that it seems to make such a god impossible.

    I never thought the POE was asking "why is there evil" which seems to be implied by some of the posts in this thread...I thought it raised the question of "why is there evil when there is an all good, all knowing, all powerful being out there?" If I am right (wikipedia agrees with me), then you are right to assume the POE applies more (only?) to the abrahamic religions (with even Judaism being questionable).
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    The POE is real enough to discourage/disabuse people from belief in god. It's quite odd actually why this is the case. The reason it's odd/madness, depending on <insert the most relevant concept here>, is that people seem to turn to god when they face misery which comes in "devilish" variety. Yet, some (the more rational ones???) consider the miseries of life as powerful evidence against god's existence. How could an all-loving god allow the sadistically exquisite variety in means of death?

    This is part of the tragedy of humanity - our hopes of boundless love in god are invariably dashed to pieces against the hard fact of real suffering.
  • Daniel C
    73
    TheMadFool. I agree with what you are stating in your last post. But there's one thing that remains baffling and amazing to me. It is the way Christians view this state affairs. When misery / tragedy strikes, they argue that they deserve nothing better - this is what they truly always deserve. When they, on the other hand, manage to avoid negative events in their lives, it is always the result of God's "mercy". In other words, even our best efforts / deeds in live are only worthy of God's punishment / damnation if based on merit. "Mercy" is something which can never be deserved - something to be bestowed upon us only, and only if God "wills" it. What the condition is for God "willing" this is always unknown!
  • ZhouBoTong
    584
    How could an all-loving god allow the sadistically exquisite variety in means of death?TheMadFool

    Yes, assuming sufficient power and knowledge, this creates a serious problem for a loving god.

    When misery / tragedy strikes, they argue that they deserve nothing better - this is what they truly always deserve. When they, on the other hand, manage to avoid negative events in their lives, it is always the result of God's "mercy".Daniel C

    Indeed, it is a constant admission of inferiority, and yet many of them seem to have a constant prideful moral superiority when they compare themselves to other humans...I am not sure they learned the lesson.
  • Teaisnice
    9

    It looks like your argument goes as follows:
    1. If we have free will, then we have the free choice to do good or to do bad.
    2. We do not have the free choice to do good or to do bad.
    3. Therefore, we do not have freewill.

    Premise 2 is obviously the one to question. You believe God “rigged” the system because God rewards the good more than adequately but he hardly punishes the bad as much as he should. You believe the heaven-hell incentive scheme makes the option of doing good and avoiding the bad an option that cannot be refused because heaven is so good and hell is so bad.

    I do not think that supports the claim that we do not have free will. Firstly, it seems that if eternal joy in heaven really was an offer no one can refuse, then nobody would choose to do bad. But, clearly we see people choosing to do bad all the time. This is not the strongest objection, but it is something to consider nonetheless. It seems that the only way for heaven to be an offer we cannot refuse is if God exists. If one does not believe that God exists, then the offer of heaven does not seem nearly as appealing, if it all, and the threat of hell would not seem as formidable, if at all.

    But even if it is granted that God exists, there is at least one problem with saying that we do not have free will. If we lacked the ability to choose between doing good and doing bad, then our characters don’t have moral significance; we would simply act the way we’re programmed to act. We would not be praiseworthy, or earn our way into heaven, for doing good if we did not have the free choice to do so. In other words, the option of heaven seems to go away entirely if we say we do not have the free choice to do good or bad. That is why it is important that we have characters that have moral significance. Thus, premise 2 seems to be false and we could be able to claim that we have (and need) free will if God exists.
  • Gnostic Christian Bishop
    836
    TheMadFoolTheMadFool

    I do not have a POE problem.

    I think the little bit of evil we do to each other is overshadowed by our need to continue evolving.

    Let me give a slightly longer version that I wrote for Christians.
    They tend to run from it.
    I am not always sure if it is because they are such poor apologists or that they just cannot break the logic trail and give up on me.

    Perhaps you can tell me why Christians run from it.

    ===========
    Can you help but do evil? I do not see how. Do you?
    And if you cannot, why would God punish you?

    Christians are always trying to absolve God of moral culpability in the fall by putting forward their free will argument and placing all the blame on mankind.
    That usually sounds like ----God gave us free will and it was our free willed choices that caused our fall. Hence God is not blameworthy. Such statements simply avoid God's culpability as the author and creator of human nature.

    Free will is only the ability to choose. It is not an explanation why anyone would want to choose "A" or "B" (bad or good action). An explanation for why Eve would even have the nature of "being vulnerable to being easily swayed by a serpent" and "desiring to eat a forbidden fruit" must lie in the nature God gave Eve in the first place. Hence God is culpable for deliberately making humans with a nature-inclined-to-fall, and "free will" means nothing as a response to this problem.

    If all do evil/sin by nature then, the evil/sin nature is dominant. If not, we would have at least some who would not do evil/sin. Can we then help but do evil? I do not see how. Do you?

    Having said the above for the God that I do not believe in, I am a Gnostic Christian naturalist, let me tell you that evil and sin is all human generated and in this sense, I agree with Christians, but for completely different reasons. Evil is mankind’s responsibility and not some imaginary God’s. Free will is something that can only be taken. Free will cannot be given not even by a God unless it has been forcibly withheld.

    Much has been written to explain evil and sin but I see as a natural part of evolution.

    Consider.
    First, let us eliminate what some see as evil. Natural disasters. These are unthinking occurrences and are neither good nor evil. There is no intent to do evil even as victims are created. Without intent to do evil, no act should be called evil.
    In secular courts, this is called mens rea. Latin for an evil mind or intent and without it, the court will not find someone guilty even if they know that they are the perpetrator of the act.

    Evil then is only human to human when they know they are doing evil and intend harm.

    As evolving creatures, all we ever do, and ever can do, is compete or cooperate.
    Cooperation we would see as good as there are no victims created. Competition would be seen as evil as it creates a victim. We all are either cooperating, doing good, or competing, doing evil, at all times.

    Without us doing some of both, we would likely go extinct.

    This, to me, explains why there is evil in the world quite well.

    Be you a believer in nature, evolution or God, you should see that what Christians see as something to blame, evil, we should see that what we have, competition, deserves a huge thanks for being available to us. Wherever it came from, God or nature, without evolution we would go extinct. We must do good and evil.

    There is no conflict between nature and God on this issue. This is how things are and should be. We all must do what some will think is evil as we compete and create losers to this competition.

    This link speak to theistic evolution.

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/pope-would-you-accept-evolution-and-big-bang-180953166/?no-ist

    If theistic evolution is true, then the myth of Eden should be read as a myth and there is not really any original sin.

    Doing evil then is actually forced on us by evolution and the need to survive. Our default position is to cooperate or to do good. I offer this clip as proof of this. You will note that we default to good as it is better for survival.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBW5vdhr_PA

    Can you help but do evil? I do not see how. Do you?
    And if you cannot, why would God punish you?

    Regards
    DL
  • TheMadFool
    4.3k
    Are you contradicting yourself?

    You say "Christians are always trying to absolve God of moral culpability" then claim that "Without us doing some of both [good AND evil], we would likely go extinct.". This is clearly self-refuting isn't it? On one hand God is culpable and on the other hand you say evil is necessary for evolution which is letting god off the hook.

    Thanks for the video link
  • Pfhorrest
    590
    Free will theodicies depend entirely upon an incompatibilist conception of free will. On a compatibilist conception of free will, it's entirely possible that God (if he existed) could have created beings that would always freely choose to do good, so the existence of free will could be no excuse for the evils that are in the world. (To say nothing of the "natural evils" that are not the consequence of any human's decisions).

    On my personal compatibilist conception of free will (which is very similar to those of philosophers like Harry Frankfurt and Susan Wolf), free will is actually equivalent to the efficacy of moral judgement on behavior -- your will is free when you judging something to be the best course of action causes you to do that action, in contrast to when something else causes you to do something that you don't think you should do despite you thinking that -- so God making people more moral would actually be making them more free, not less.
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