Is There a Problem of Evil (Philosophy Paper)
The problem of evil is a question directed at God's omnipotence. Unhappiness, as a whole, is a challenge to the idea of a good, subjective and all-powerful God. There is a significant difference though, between the idea of God and the idea of a religious god(s). The Greek gods for example, were subjectively involved in the affairs of man. They cared about what went on, amongst themselves and in the world of men. The Judeo-Christian god is also a religious god who cares and is intrinsically involved in the history of his people. These religious gods are subjective, they have hopes and aspirations for us. They send prophets and saviours for us. They speak to us and are quite involved in our history. I am of the belief, and will apply certain arguments and postulates in proving my belief, that a subjective god does not exist and in fact, cannot exist. If that is proven then the problem of evil is not a problem at all. It is merely an existent thing, like love, or irritation, just another thing we are capable of experiencing.
It does not take away from God's existence if “he” does not care for us or love us or actively affect our daily lives. What it does take away from is the religious attachments . What happens if the idea of a subjective religious god is found false? Loss, abandonment and religion's downfall at the worst, a sense of self-dependence and power at the most. Prayer would be useless as the reasonable man would know that god cannot hear because god lacks the faculties to act within this universe. I will draw on C.S. Lewis, Aristotle and Shutte among others in my paper in order to explore whether this idea of a problem of evil exists, or whether it's not a problem at all.
C.S. Lewis(2002) has some interesting views on the problem of evil but let me articulate my arguments first before reaching to the established philosophers.
A seagull is capable of doing certain things because of it's physical structure. As far as we can tell, all the seagull's abilities depend on it's physical structure and had it been structured differently, it wouldn't be a gull anymore because it would be lacking certain abilities faculties. A budgie is quite different to a gull for example and can do certain things a gull cannot and vice versa. This does not take away from the budgie's existence or budgie powers, there are just some things it cannot do. We have little to no arguments there. Man, is the tricky thing. Man can walk, talk and swim. These things are quite dependent on our biological, physical structure. The thing that sets man apart is that man can, through certain abilities and faculties he possesses, question his own abilities and faculties. This is not something I find paticularlly strange. We have a brain and this brain gives us certain abilities. It just so happens that our brain has the ways to check on itself and its deeds. Reflexes, dreams and writing are brain dependent, a physical thing. This is how this relates to the problem of omnipotence. Lewis (2002) believes that Morality, or the Moral Law, is an inherited thing from some greater originating source, “a Director” or “Guide.”(pg. 65) This would have to infer that god either has an understanding of morality at the least or is actually is a moral being to boot at the most. He would also have to posess way of acting morally within our understanding From the readings, it seems that Lewis believes the latter. It would seem to me that this clashes with a statement by Aquinas that “we can know God but not comprehend him.”(pg 20) Also, Aquinas believes that we can know what God is by seeing what “he” is not. This is the closest we can get to understanding “him”.
To return now to my argument, I wish to state that this clash, in a sense, between a man(Lewis) who claims God carries certain qualities(morality for one) and a man who claims that we cannot comprehend God(Aquinas) has to be dealt with. Aquinas carries more weight in his arguments as they seem, through reasoning (which I will lead you through) to make more sense.
Back to faculties and abilities. Man is moral. Man is evil. These qualities we posses because we have the faculties to practice them. When we attempt to speak of god, it seems that our best chance is to look at what we are and negate that to see what really comes out. Physical form is the first negation. A far as physical forms go, from stars to slugs, they are finite. So a non-physical form would be expected to not be finite, at least in the sense of infinite in time and existence. Man as a being is existent. Anything existent, according to Shutte, depends on other existent things to exist(pg 72). According to Shutte's post-modern argument for the existence of God, God can be described as a being that is it's sole sufficient cause, fully developed and dependent on nothing for it's personal development. Notice how this post-modern argument is congruent with Aquinas' statement of us knowing God by knowing what “he” is not. This “being” called God is recognized as a god because it's faculties and abilities are nothing like our own.
This is the root of my argument. Where do we get off assuming that this “being” can emote like us or do anything like we do, in any way, if it is nothing like us? Absolute power does not mean that you can do things you cannot. It means you can do everything you can. While lack of power means that you cannot do the things you can because you lack the faculties. As Lewis said, “nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”(2002, pg 91) We have a Universe that seems to be doing fine by itself far as man has ascertained, there is no specific subjective being keeping the planets going. Aristotle's idea of a first cause is vital here. What reasonable men agree on is that there's something instead of nothing. Whatever caused this something is what we call God, this uncaused first cause. Thus the cosmological argument is an extension of St Thomas Aquinas' arguments on knowing what God is not.(pg 11)
Now to the problem of evil, or as I see it, not a problem at all, just an existent thing. Much like love is an existent thing, or joy, evil is just another thing in the universe. It can be experienced by any being conscious of it. An animal has sensory perception and these senses tell it what is wrong with its body(injury or discomfort) and the animal does the best it can to fix or adjust itself. This is all inherent in the biological, physical structure of the animal. Man is the same. We have nerves to tell us the regular goings on of the body. If the body is damaged (unless the brain is damaged too) the body will know and adjustments or treatment must be made. This, as far as we can tell, is a totally physical activity involving the brain and its relationship with the central nervous system. Emotion, as far as we have ascertained, is also a physical, biological activity involving chemicals, hormones and reactions in the body. How do we assume that God, a being completely unlike us, can produce these emotions and things limited, as far as we can tell, to physical bodies if “he” is nothing like us? Realize that I am not limiting the omnipotence of this thing we call God. I am merely saying, as C.S. Lewis said, that nonsense remains nonsense, even when we talk it about God. God may have been the thing that created this environment, so that creatures with faculties such as ours could even begin to question God. But this thing we call God cannot be like us. It may have the power to build a universe, (how, we don't know) but as far as our reasoning has told us, God cannot be and is nothing like what we think “he” is. As far as it goes, God does not care about evil in this world because God is not Evil. Neither is “he” Love. Something that we can say is that God is the cause of something because we have something (existence) over nothing(non-existence).
We have jumped to a lot of conclusions about God and God's capabilities. The problem of evil is our problem, not God's. It is not even a problem of God. The only way God is involved is that we exist to experience evil in all it's forms, while the alternative is not existing at all. We could easily ask about the problem of good for example and why it exists. Philosophers seem happy to claim good and morality as inherent values. Wouldn't it only make sense that evil would be the same? What faculties would a being need to be able to be or do good? As humans we are capable of doing either good or evil. This is not, in any way, a challenge to God's omnipotence. I believe we have selectively elevated certain qualities in ourselves and deified them. An absolutely good god, if omnipotent, could easily be absolutely evil. “He” is neither though, as “he” is nothing like us in anyway, nor is it a problem that “he” is. Evil is our problem. The fact that there is existence instead of non-existence is because of this agent we call God. That is where god's involvement ends, and that is not a small involvement in any way. If one wants to worship that idea I feel that it's definitely worth worship. The religious attachments we put on this agent are our fault, though, and have little to nothing to do with God “himself.” Our reflective self image that we have attached to this God is the reason why religion holds such sway over man. It gives us the idea that god, in some ways, is like us, just transcended a transcended version of self. Inasmuch as I am not against transcendence, I have seen that life is pretty standard. We are limited beings, always in a state of development but never fulfilled ( Shutte:pg 72). We lack certain faculties that allow us complete control of our lives and we are thus dependent on others to transcend. This sort of transcend community is the greatest expression of our Freedom, as Shutte would see it and I have no arguments against this. What I contest is that God can, in any way, alter this course of self discovery or involve “himself” in it's process in anyway. God is not in this universe because as far as we can tell, only created things are in this universe. Another inference we have made is that God is not finite nor is he existent in a way that we can perceive in this universe. From this, how do we attach such human, finite things as good or evil? These are our problems. I do not see the problem of evil as the problem of divine omnipotence as I do not find God's omnipotence in any way attached to good nor evil. God is neither and God cannot in any way alter our history. What God has done is give us an existence, so that we can make history. The causal powers that go into making a universe is something I cannot explain but giving this causal agent human qualities is something else entirely and it is this thing that I find to be many a philosopher and theist's mistake. Even Shutte defects to the Bible when speaking of something analogous to community in relation to God and the holy trinity. These attachments are what make it seem that God is unjust and limited in his powers of controlling good and evil. “He” is not limited. It is just that good or evil are not any of his qualities and he lacks the capabilities to act in a good or evil manner. If anything, praying makes no sense as God cannot act in this universe either.
“He” is, and I will say it once again, nothing like us in anyway. We cannot even begin to infer qualities from “him” except through negation and process of elimination, which are both limited to an extent that we possess them, as finite beings.
Nowhere in Me is the presence of god.
nor do i need him or want him around...