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Did God Create Evil?

Updated on March 26, 2016
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The Theological Doctrine Cannot Be True as Long as Evil Exists

The Theological Doctrine’s core beliefs are that God is omnipotent and He is wholly good (Mackie, 1955). Omnipotence is defined as having unlimited power. Wholly good is portrayed as absent of bad. If this were true, evil could not exist. If God had unlimited power, He would prevent evil. If He were wholly good He would not create evil or permit it to exist.

Theists purport that God is both completely good and with unlimited power, however when the doctrine applied to justifying how evil can exist, as shown above, it must contradict itself to explain why evil exists.

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Evil is Necessary for the Existence of Good

An argument that good could not exist without the presence of evil is often used (Mackie, 1955). However; if God is the creator of all things, He would be the creator of evil. Thus, the doctrine belief that He is wholly good is a conflicting statement; how can a God create evil and still be wholly good?

Using a comparative argument, opponents argue something cannot exist without the opposite of that thing in existence. For instance, redness cannot exist without ‘unredness’ (Mackie, 1955). How else would we be able to name something without a comparative substance to weigh it against? That is in how we measure it. Good is not only defined as the opposite of a bad experience. It can be identified by the emotions it evokes from our internal experiences. Good can be described as laughter, happiness, and peace. The argument that we cannot feel these things without death and despair is irrational. A person can experience love and laughter without having suffered heartbreak and tears. As a consequence, some theists argue evil does not exist as an opposite, but as a means to achieving good.

Evil Exists as a Means to Good

The argument that evil exists as means to good also contradicts the theological doctrine that God is wholly good, as well as omnipotent. Theists contend that without the obstacles of good, people would not search for ways to remove evil through such measures as curing disease and researching solutions to make the world better (Mackie, 1955). What is not addressed in this argument is how murderers and rapists being present on Earth is resulting in any sort of overcoming of evil. We, as a society, are subject to these people and their evil acts with no benefit coming from their evil deeds. There may be reactive good that comes from such acts, such as harsher sentences for the perpetrators or a community coming together in support of a victim, however; arguing that the good resulting from intentional acts of evil is beneficial is akin to stating if a person breaks someone’s bone in order to care for their injury, it is a good thing. That is senseless.

A wholly good God does not need motivating factors to influence His children toward good. Nor does an all-powerful God need anything other than His own power to remove evil. If an omnipotent God wants good to exist in the world He has the power to create only good in the world. He has the ultimate power to steer people toward good, if He is, indeed, unlimited in power. However this argument limits God to causal power (Mackie, 1955). This very argument removes God’s ability to be omnipotent while evil exists. As does the argument of free will.

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Free Will Prevents God From Stopping Evil

Most often used is the argument that God granted humans free will and thus cannot interfere with human decisions to be good or evil (Mackie, 1955). This also eliminates the theological doctrine’s claims of God being omnipotent because free will also implies that God binds himself to his own laws (Mackie, 1955). A truly omnipotent being cannot bind himself to any law. He would have to freely choose it. If He is freely choosing to allow people to commit heinous acts of evil then He is either ignoring or condoning evil. Thus, he also cannot be wholly good.

Additionally, if God were to bind himself to free will to humans, such a conviction infers that free will is more important than good, and thusly God cannot be wholly good (Mackie, 1955). There is no justifiable benefit of humans having free will that is more important than eradicating evil. A God who supports free will and its power binding implications combined with a greater importance than stopping pain is neither omnipotent nor wholly good.

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Conclusion

When justifying the existence of evil while upholding a theological doctrine without exception, it is impossible to have both the explanation and the doctrine be accurate. If God is truly omnipotent He holds the power over humans and life. If He is choosing to permit evil to exist to serve as a counterpart or means to humans creating more ‘good’ then He is not wholly good. If He is permitting evil to exist due to free will, He is binding himself and cannot be omnipotent. Thus, to explain why God permits evil to exist, the Theological Doctrine must be discarded as the core of who or what God is.

Accordingly, my question to theists is this “Is your God partly bad, or limited in power?”

Can God be both WHOLLY good AND unlimited in power while evil exists?

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References

Mackie, J. L. (1955). Evil and Omnipotence. Mind, 64(254), 200–212. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2251467

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    • ValKaras profile image

      Vladimir Karas 15 months ago from Canada

      Tara - Religion is based on "belief", not "knowledge" - ergo, we cannot use logic as a tool there. "Logic" in religion is catering to intellectual favoritism stemming from rationalizing belief. It all turns into some parading with total abstractions and mind constructs that have no real value in a sound reasoning.

      People should be allowed to "believe" whatever makes them feel good, but their feeling is not a "proof" to anything. Belief is only one of our mental abilities, and the very fact that we can also "disbelief" is pointing at its nonsensical mental acrobatics which allows us to believe "partially", or to believe "excessively", or to "convert", it's all up for grabs. Mathematics is the same in the United States and in Iran, which makes it "knowledge". Religions being different makes them stories that picked up a lot of followers.

      The fact that a whole paradigm has grown out of a belief with its specific terminology and scholars of all kinds wrestling with it - doesn't make it any more believable. Take communism - books and books have been written and nations tailored their way of life according to it, and for what? It turned out to be a nonsense and a fixation of some "believing" originators. So, multitude does not suggest provability of anything. And sounding smart about a belief doesn't make it smart or more true.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 17 months ago

      Prasanna, I believe you made my conclusion very valid. If man is limited in thought, then the man made doctrine is limited by his logic and declarations. I think you should re-read the article to see you and I do not think differently. I simply reached the same point by taking a different route .

    • Prasanna Seshadri profile image

      Prasanna Seshadri 17 months ago

      Tara Mapes,

      I have spent some time of my life on this quest of God. Vedanta philosophy says that God is not an object to be comprehended by the thinking faculty called intellect, but the very "SUBTLEST" source, cause and enlivening principle that is enabling us to live, perceive, feel and think. Moreover, God being wholly good and evil existing simultaneously are all limitations of our thinking. No single pointer can define God fully but can only help us in the direction of gaining better wisdom about God and His / Her relation to Life. There are very many suppositions in our thinking that we are not able to think beyond them. Josh billings says that "the trouble with most folks is not so much their ignorance, but of knowing many things which ain't so". First of all there must be an acceptance of one's own limitations in life to even imagine about the existence of a supreme being. Why do theists believe in the existence of God? Theists see that the laws of nature are immaculately and unfailingly functioning as if there is a higher being controlling our universe. Not only that, the main point is the difference in quality of thinking. The true theists (certainly not the self proclaimed Gurus or those misusing religion by terrorizing the world in the name of God) clearly discern that egoism, selfishness and egocentric desires of the Mind (Desires like materialism and sensuality) are the source of misery and problems in the human life. God Realization is giving up our selfishness, egoism and desires, and seeking liberation from the bondages of worldly living. I can guarantee that if you spend more time in the quest of God with sincerity and dedication, patience and receptivity, you would certainly understand that your conclusion is not true and no where nearer to Reality. You may read some spiritual poems by western poets like John Milton, William Wordsworth and William Cowper to see the point about God or Divinity. SHEN is one such website for promotion of spiritual ideas, not religion. Evil doesn't exist but we think evil exists out of our limitations in thinking. You may even take it as Good and Evil are mere God's creation and is just a part of the God's play to give us a direction in life. The blunt Truth is that we are all living all our lives on flimsy grounds and fail to recognize the underlying Reality. The grosser our existence is, more we fail to recognize the illusory nature of life. The subtler truths of life cannot be known with a very gross outlook and approach to life like materialism and sensuality.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 17 months ago

      If that is all you see from the hub is a nonexistent judgment on stereotypes, you're holding your own mind back.

      This very type of question was explored by Socrates with his interlocutors. It lead to the birth of philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. The mind was made to think, question, seek....if others use the forum as a platform to judge and close off their minds, they are missing out....no one else. I don't see in my hub any judgment...maybe in the comments, but don't let that derail a train of thought that has no limits of fuel or an itinerary. This is the heart of seeking truth- exploring through reflection.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 17 months ago from Australia

      Tara

      but the door is like a tiny mouse hole door from Alice in Wonderland. It's really time certain hubbers got away from the same dumb stereotype of religion as "right wing back woods Christian".

      This is not taking umbrage but puts the honest intellectual seeker firmly on the road to proper education.

      Emotion is not involved at all.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 17 months ago

      Oztinato, I don't think that's the case at all. It's merely a door to open dialogue and ponder on beliefs that are written amd followed today. It's the core of philosophy and can lead to enlightening discovery. Those who interject their own emotions or take umbrage where unjustified merely stunt their own learning and knowing.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 17 months ago from Australia

      Tara

      by limiting info to one sliver of antiquated religious thought a person is tarring all religions with the same brush (stereotyping). Look at Bhuddism for example where "desires" are said to create "evils". Hinduism also claims only people create "evils" etc.

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      Jeff 17 months ago

      God is God. Now whether you believe He is omnipotent or not or created evil or not is really a mental exercise that is pretty useless. Probably fun for those that want to try to prove who is the most logical or smartest or most god like, but pretty useless. As an engineer when creating something, I can choose to run it through all kinds of things, but I can be good and not evil no matter what I choose to run the creation through. Bad example, but it is my creation. Our little minds cannot by our limited information understand. We lose sight that God is unlimited basically dimensionless of time, space, capacity, etc., our reality is only what He chooses or allows us to know. He said all things can work to the good, hmm. Believing God is wholly good and all powerful is not wrong doctrine... just because our minds can't logic it, is ludicrous! If you don't believe in God, then it doesn't matter and I suppose tremendous brain exercises trying to disprove one and figuring out what happens when you die are in order. If you do believe in a God, then it is a matter of faith and trying to figure out what He wants us to do with 0ur situation in this life is of utmost importance. There is The Word, that was in the beginning, passed down and available for people of faith!

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 18 months ago

      Indeed, there are no simple answers because of how the Doctrine is written. For example. You state there is a difference between creating evil and permitting it.

      The Doctrine states God created all things. So if evil exists..he created it. Thus, he is not wholly good.

      Or... let's look at your next line: evil is a product of free will.

      If that is so, then God bestowed free will, and thus gave up being all powerful by binding himself from intervening to protect his children and be wholly good. Thus, the Doctrine's claim that God is all powerful, cannot be true.

      It's not that it is an attack on God. It's a questioning of the Theological Doctrine that religion refuses to answer because they cannot without admitting there is error in the doctrine or error in their god.....

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 18 months ago from Tualatin, OR

      You understand there's a difference between creating evil and permitting it. And you know that much of the evil mankind generates is a product of free will. Mankind has been given considerable latitude, often abused it, and (at our best) withstood the temptation to misuse the choices before us. There are no simple answers to this.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 18 months ago

      It would be easier to add the ingredient of faith to the Doctrine along with less absolute descriptions of power and goodness...don't you think?

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 18 months ago

      Re: your last sentence above. No one has explained it because it isn't explainable. That's why they take it on "faith."

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 18 months ago

      LoliHey,

      I think the issue with the responses to this question is that believers tend to try to explain what God is about rather than answering the question.

      The Theological Doctrine states that God is BOTH wholly good and unlimited in power.

      You explain God created free-will which actually removes part of his power, so to the Doctrine's point of omnipotence. He cannot be.

      You state he killed humans to teach them a lesson, but inflicting fear, pain and death is not good. Thus, the Doctrine's claim of being wholly good, he cannot be.

      To the point of saying if God removed evil then there would be no free will-How? I believe a slippery slope argument is created with that statement. If God is all powerful he could have made a world without evil and humans would then not KNOW evil and thus wouldn't choose it, therefore free will could exist.

      But let's say for the sake of argument it' couldn't exist". God is still choosing teaching lessons or giving options as a greater benefit than preventing pain and suffering...Thus he cannot be wholly good.

      You also state he is wholly good because he gave up his 'son'. Sorry but I would never sacrifice my child, Ever for anything. It is detestable. And evil. Not wholly good in any sense. If he were all powerful, he could easily have prevented the NEED for a sacrifice of his 'son' by not having created evil.

      To your last point, the fact that a suicide bomber can have the choice and thoughts of inflicting pain and death is also the existence of evil. Thus, the Theological Doctrine cannot be true.

      I'm not stating your beliefs are incorrect in any way. I am merely saying the Doctrine that governs your religion cannot and is not correct. God can be all the things you state, but the Doctrine needs a little work.

      No one thus far has explained how evil can exist while the Theological Doctrine is claimed to be absolute and without exception.

    • LoliHey profile image

      Lolita Monroe 19 months ago

      A lot of people view God as evil because he has killed in the past, allows bad things to happen, and created hell. People tend to hold God to human standards and view Him as another human, because they don't fully understand that He is a God--a higher and supreme being. They don't understand that God is not equal to us. The reason evil exists is because God gave everyone free will. He did that because He wants people to choose to love Him, not love Him because they are programed to. The difference between God killing and people killing is different. When God flooded the world and spared Noah, He was righteously judging the actions and mentality of the people on earth. He wasn't being mean, and having a tantrum. He simply cannot abide sin at all because He is holy. When the majority of the human race turned away from Him, He could not look favorably on them. Jesus dying on the cross was the only way for humans to be able to enter heaven after death, because otherwise, we would go directly to hell. God could have changed everything so that there would be no evil, but then there'd be no free will. Finally, one misconception people make is that God is ONLY love. He is not. He is also a judge who will hand out punishment. In our case, all sin must be punished. Only the sin-free can enter His presence, and as I stated, no one is sin-free, because we choose to sin. He is wholly good because He gave up His son as a living sacrifice to atone for our sins so that we could be worthy of heaven, and all we have to do is accept this gift of grace and have faith that Jesus will forgive us our sin. As a side note, a suicide bomber who wishes to murder people and thinks he'd be saved just because he believes that Jesus died for his sin is abusing the gift of grace, because he is sinning deliberately and would not be repentant, rather, he would justify his murders, and therefore, would go to hell anyway. You have to be repentant.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
      Author

      Tara Mapes 19 months ago

      Edward, yes I think we have power. To choose. The choices are ours. That would be free will....which again negates omnipotence. This isn't an argument about blindly believing...that's why there are the contradictions there are. It's about being logical and open with thought enough to question...in particular, regarding the Theological Doctrine purporting God to be both all powerful, the creator of ALL things, and wholly good. As long as evil exists, the doctrine cannot be correct.

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 19 months ago from Tualatin, OR

      Tara, God does not micromanage. He offers us choices. Ultimately, He is in control because we're a brief moment in time and we will ultimately answer for those choices, whether we embrace or reject him. The exercise of our free will does not affect God's power, but it does affect our condition in this life. As you look at the universe, do you really think we have "power" , even with the exercise of our free will? We have responsibilities and capabilities to affect each other, but we do not have God's authority, longevity and ultimate control.

    • emge profile image

      Madan 19 months ago from Abu Dhabi

      Evil is just a word, practically evil is in the mind conditioned by the scenario. Evil is a concept and is something negative. In the universe everything is balanced with an opposite so evil balances good. Again what is good and what is bad cannot be defined. God is just a concept.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
      Author

      Tara Mapes 19 months ago

      Edward, then you state he provides free will? Thus, he is not omnipotent?

    • Edward J. Palumbo profile image

      Ed Palumbo 19 months ago from Tualatin, OR

      God does not impose Himself upon us. There has to be an alternative. We may choose to be in His will and follow Him, or rebel and turn away. The consequences or turning away have manifested themselves through history and on the front page of every newspaper.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 19 months ago

      Oztinato, please let me know where I have stereotyped anyone? I've merely shed light on an inconsistent doctrine which governs religion. That has absolutely nothing to do which stereotypes. It has to do with logical reasoning and pointing out the obvious. Does it open up doors of dialogue? Sure, unless you lock them with a narrow mind.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 19 months ago from Australia

      Who said anything about criticizing other religions?? Not me.

      This hub takes aim at a religious stereotype, not me. Of course if a religion or part of a religion tries to stereotype another religion yes they are making the same bigoted errors as many unamed atheists on HP.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 19 months ago

      As always MizBejabbers, your insight is an oasis in a desert :)

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 19 months ago

      The proponents of the One-God theory do paint themselves into a corner, don't they? But they always escape by saying that it has to be taken on faith, then they go on to quote the scripture about having faith as the size of a grain of mustard seed. When their own God expresses doubts about his own decisions, it is a little difficult for the intelligent person to take him as perfect. (NIV 1 Samuel 15:10-11). Therefore, if God isn’t perfect, then you have to accept the possibility that he created evil, or that it is a fairy tale.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 19 months ago

      I don't disagree there are stereotypes, however if a religious doctrine claims to be absolute, and that religion's followers believe it, they are the blind. The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled-Plutarch.

    • Oztinato profile image

      Oztinato 19 months ago from Australia

      Once again we see certain obsessed unamed persons stereotyping all religion as right wing back woods fundamentalists. Stereotypes are the foundation of bigotry. Stop it before you go blind. ☺

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 19 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      What they say is "God is good.... on the conditions that you beg for forgiveness every day and call him your Lord and Master and you are following the CORRECT sect of the CORRECT religion!" You can never question or doubt god because you can't for one minute think for yourself.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 19 months ago

      Indeed Austinstar, all Holy books were created and translated hundreds of thousands of times by man. Rewritten and edited for orchestrated agendas.

      Link, to your point if God created Satan, which per the Theological Doctrine He created all things, then he cannot be wholly good. I think organized religion followers should consider saying God is kinda good ;)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 19 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Link, you know it takes FAITH to believe in god. Faith that you aren't being lied to by an old book written by people who didn't even understand that snakes can't talk!

    • Link10103 profile image

      Link10103 19 months ago

      If good cannot exist without evil, I imagine the same logic can be applied to the concept of Satan. If God is wholly good with unlimited power, then Satan/the devil would be wholly evil with the same amount of power.

      That, or God created Satan, who according to most is ultimately responsible for evil or at the very least plays a large role. Either way, the theological doctrine gets screwed over under the most basic of scrutiny...

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 19 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Most won't understand it. The indoctrinated mind is very resistant to change. Once the memorized thought processes are in place, "God is good", for instance, that is all the brain will refer to for confirmation.

      Very few people have the physical or emotional capability of overwriting the old pathways of thought. People like you are the exception, not the rule.

      Change comes slowly, like evolution. But it IS coming! That's the good news.

    • Tara Mapes profile image
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      Tara Mapes 19 months ago

      Oh I think they'll read it, most won't agree :)

    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 19 months ago from Somewhere in the universe

      Good explanation. Now if only people would read it.