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An atheist looks at faith and the problem of evil... and finds faith wanting

The problem of evil is one of the great debating points in philosophy about the existance and worship of God(s). One of the earliest philosophers to state the problem was the greek, Epicurus (341-270 BCE). He put it thus (translation by David Hume):

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

Then why call him God?"

And while Epicurus's version has been reframed and updated by later thinkers, the argument remains essentially the same.

There's been a lot of thought given to defending God(s) against this argument and Christians, for instance, have produced a variety of answers over the centuries. This type of defense is called a theodicy (a term the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as an "explanation of why a perfectly good, almighty, and all-knowing God permits evil"). One of the more modern Christian arguments is Alvin Plantinga's (CE 1932-?) version of the "free will defense." Chad Meister, author of Introducing Philosophy of Religion summarizes it thusly:

"It is possible that God, even being omnipotent, could not create a world with free creatures who never choose evil. Furthermore, it is possible that God, even being omnibenevolent, would desire to create a world which contains evil if moral goodness requires free moral creatures."

That argument addresses human evil but not natural evils like earthquakes, floods, disease, etc. Plantinga's reply is a suggestion that it is at least logically possible that perhaps free, nonhuman persons are responsible for natural evils (e.g. rebellious spirits or fallen angels).

Philosophers may look for logical flaws in arguments like this but most atheists are pragmatists that look for evidentiary support for hypotheses. One look at all the "it is possibles" that Plantinga peppers his argument with and right away, we suspect we're dealing with a castle built on air.

Here's a typical atheist look at a religious claim tangental to the problem of evil. It's a video about divine protection. It not only questions whether such a thing exists, but whether the faith-based really even believe in it. And it offers evidentiary arguments against both positions. It's by someone who goes by the Youtube name, TheThinkingAtheist and he describes himself as:

A former Christian of 30 years, I ultimately found that religion, faith and scripture lacked any true answers, especially in the (bright) light of scientific discovery and the truth of Evolution by Natural Selection.

Having an insiders perspective of Christianity, I use my skills as a producer to stir the pot of debate and, hopefully, make it uncomfortable for anyone to be a mere spectator in the arena of ideas.

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