Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Problem of Evil Revisited

Jesus tempted by the devil
The problem of evil has had serious logical implications for the existence of God. The argument that if God is good and all-powerful, how come He allows evil to exist is a pointed and powerful attack on monotheistic religions in general. The free will response is often used, but it presupposes that humans indeed do have free will, that we are able to make choices on a completely independent and voluntary basis. However, considering the combined influences of genetic make-up, karmic cycles, behaviorism, evolutionary psychology and personal experience make this idea seem rather far-fetched and a fairy tale we try hard to believe in or hold onto.

I am proposing a compromise for the existence of God and a possible solution to the problem of evil. The emphasis lies on the word compromise, which in our case means that we have to part with or rather redefine some of the cherished characteristics of the traditional Western God. Curiously enough, my data may seem unsubstantial and weak, not to mention unscientific in the eyes of most people, as I am basing my ideas not on research or flashes of inspiration but a series of dreams I have had recently. So all the psychoanalytically-minded people will be thrilled to read on, the scientific mind will flip the page, or in our case, close the link, the stodgy religious will have stopped reading after the first paragraph, the spiritually open-minded might browse through the article out of curiosity and the atheist will read on with restrained pleasure.

In my dreams, evil was something real and tangible, personified in what is generally given various names, the “devil” being the most common one. I must disagree with those hopelessly optimistic people who claim that evil is like the night or the dark, merely the absence of light and goodness, rather I believe that Evil is an actual and real manifestation or force and not just ignorance of what is generally deemed good.

The reason that horrible atrocities continue around the world is that the dark nature of humanity actually connects with this entity, which then takes over both mind and body like a dangerous virus. Yes, evil is like a disease and that might explain that there is mass madness in times of turmoil and distress as each person feeds on others and the dark forces begin to win the upper hand. Only the ethically strongest will have the power to resist and fight against the manifested evil.

So does that mean that God is not powerful or that there is a balance, or if you will imbalance of powers between good and evil? Since I still claim for the existence of God here and despite my compromising thoughts I still believe that God's powers are superior, yet that the Evil One is still quite strong. As in Christianity, it is a fallen angel nemesis we are dealing with here, perhaps even the ex-right hand man of God Himself. So he is acquainted with the tricks and powers of the Almighty, which makes him almost equal as is believed in the Zoroastrian tradition. However, God is superior in His powers and can order his arch-enemy to sit like a puppy. So where is our compromise? That God cannot be everywhere at the same time, a concept of wishful thinking on our part.

Think about it. God is a busy man, that is, if he is male at all, so why in God's name are we so humanly arrogant to think that God is always preoccupied with each individual on this planet of billions? First off, we may not be the only humans in the universe; secondly, there may be other beings, such as angels and the dead that the Almighty has to deal with on a regular basis, in addition to all the animals, insects and plants all around us. So since He is busy, he might put in charge angels, and they are then as equally powerful as the fallen angel, so good cannot always prevail.

Only in some circumstances, whether by personal request of the afflicted, through the prayer of individuals or because of a divine interest in that person's fate and circumstances will God appear and set things straight. In my dream, Jesus appeared in the form of a squirrel / hamster and told the powerful foaming demon to lay off his hands and let go of my feet, and reluctantly the Evil One obeyed. And no, I am not making this up for argument's sake.

Therefore, we can state that evil is as tangible as good. There are seen and unseen power struggles in the world. It is not that God does not care, He is still omni-benevolent, nor does it limit His powers; He is still, at least technically, omnipotent, but He may not be as ubiquitous or omniscient as we may have believed. Or maybe He is omniscient, but He has his own sets of priorities and maybe our lives or a little problem here and there is not worthy of His full and undivided attention. Yes, we humans can be so demanding that even God cannot keep up with all our wishes and desires.


John Myste said...

From my perspective, there is a simple answer to the problem of evil, and then there is a more real one. Lastly, there is a more acceptable one. I will list all three.

The Invention

I believe that humans invented the label "evil" and the concept it connotes, and then struggled to understand their invention from that point forward. "Evil" has no meaning, other than how we define it, and that is the answer.

We made it up as an abstract thing, because we could not produce enough logical consistency to do otherwise. Then, seeing it as a thing, not an abstract concept, we struggle to understand it. We are mistaking the image in the clay for the intellect that inspired it.

It is like an artist who paints random brushstrokes, then tries to figure out what entity it represents. “Random brushstrokes” is the answer, but that does not suffice for him, because to acknowledge this cheapens the whole thing, and makes it appear worthless (unless abstract art is his point, which is often the case, but does not work for my example).

The Contradiction

If God were omnipotent, we would have no means of knowing it. If God were omniscient, we would have no means of knowing it. If God were all-good, we would have no means of knowing it.

Nevertheless, we invented an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good, and devoid of evil God. We then found the four inventions to be contradictory. Introducing yet another label, we called this a troubling problem. The scientist would say our hypothesis is disproved with the contradiction. Our hypothesis that God contains the first three attributes and not the fourth is self-refuting, and so there is no problem. However, we have faith that any reasonable analysis is wrong. We renounce science and look elsewhere for a solution we can emotionally abide.

[To Be Continued …]

John Myste said...

The Acceptable Religious Answer

Lastly, my favorite answer, Pope's Essay on Man

A few snippets:

V. Ask for what end the heav'nly bodies shine,
Earth for whose use? Pride answers, "Tis for mine:
For me kind Nature wakes her genial pow'r,
Suckles each herb, and spreads out ev'ry flow'r;
Annual for me, the grape, the rose renew
The juice nectareous, and the balmy dew;
For me, the mine a thousand treasures brings;
For me, health gushes from a thousand springs;
Seas roll to waft me, suns to light me rise;
My foot-stool earth, my canopy the skies."

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of Mankind is Man.
Plac'd on this isthmus of a middle state,(28)
A being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic's pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest,
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his Mind or Body to prefer,
Born but to die, and reas'ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much:
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus'd;
Still by himself abus'd, or disabus'd;
Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of Truth, in endless Error hurl'd:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

IV. Go, wiser thou! and in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy Opinion against Providence;
Call Imperfection what thou fancy'st such,
Say, here he gives too little, there too much;
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,(9)
Yet cry, If Man's unhappy, God's unjust;
If Man alone ingross not Heav'n's high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there:
Snatch from his hand the balance(10) and the rod,
Re-judge his justice, be the GOD of GOD!
In Pride, in reas'ning Pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the blest abodes,
Men would be Angels, Angels would be Gods.
Aspiring to be Gods, if Angels fell,
Aspiring to be Angels, Men rebel;
And who but wishes to invert the laws
Of ORDER, sins against th' Eternal Cause.

Cease then, nor ORDER Imperfection name:
Our proper bliss depends on what we blame.
Know thy own point: This kind, this due degree
Of blindness, weakness, Heav'n bestows on thee.
Submit -- In this, or any other sphere,
Secure to be as blest as thou canst bear:
Safe in the hand of one disposing Pow'r,
Or in the natal, or the mortal hour.
All Nature is but Art, unknown to thee;
All Chance, Direction, which thou canst not see;
All Discord, Harmony, not understood;
All partial Evil, universal Good:
And, spite of Pride, in erring Reason's spite,
One truth is clear, "Whatever IS, is RIGHT."

Arash Farzaneh said...

Thank you for consistently adding substantial weight and depth to my articles!

As a great mind once stated through the mouth of some guy called Hamlet:

"for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

The Buddhist in me agrees with you fully when it comes to "The Invention" segment.

The theist in me is struggling with the contradiction, hence the article and those recurring dreams.

And well, Pope sums it all up. The shout of existence is not "I think, therefore I am," but rather
"I am, therefore I am!"

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