The problem of evil, part 1: The problem with the freewill defense

One response to the problem of evil has been to say that God grants us freedom and evil is a result of sin.

The problem with this is the one of why He gives us freedom to begin with. It’s like if the cops ignored a murderer in the name of freedom. Imagine if FDR and Churchill had chosen to ignore Hitler in the name of freedom. And the idea of original sin doesn’t explain why He punishes people for the sins of their ancestors. Likewise, why He would give us freedom and then forbid us to do certain things hasn’t been explained.

So it appears that nothing they say in this argument is of any help.

5 thoughts on “The problem of evil, part 1: The problem with the freewill defense

  1. There are various ways to look at and consider “evil.” In the 2nd chapter of Genesis the story has it that both man and woman were ignorant to some extent of this question. There was a tree called the “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” And they ate from it and then their eyes were opened…

    You might say that is a strange story and perhaps we or I don’t fully understand what the story meant.

    Questions of pain and suffering in this life, don’t only apply to humans. Every living thing gets old and dies. Many living creatures eat other creatures. Yet, we don’t typically view lions eating a gazelle or zebra (or something like that) as an act of evil.

    Do you have any other thoughts on this “problem”?

    Also do you think each human has to (or should battle) evil within his or her own heart? Also, evil might be hard to define – don’t you think?

    Here is another thought. In the Christian perspective evil will be eradicated. And as time goes by and evil and suffering become no longer present or even remembered then won’t that be a solution?

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    1. “There are various ways to look at and consider “evil.” In the 2nd chapter of Genesis the story has it that both man and woman were ignorant to some extent of this question. There was a tree called the “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” And they ate from it and then their eyes were opened…

      You might say that is a strange story and perhaps we or I don’t fully understand what the story meant.”

      Yeah. What do you think?

      “Questions of pain and suffering in this life, don’t only apply to humans. Every living thing gets old and dies. Many living creatures eat other creatures. Yet, we don’t typically view lions eating a gazelle or zebra (or something like that) as an act of evil.”

      Right, but we do view wars, rape, genocide, etc as evil.

      “Do you have any other thoughts on this “problem”?”

      Yeah, I’ll probably be writing more about it.

      “Also do you think each human has to (or should battle) evil within his or her own heart?”

      I guess.

      “Also, evil might be hard to define – don’t you think?”

      Yep, but I do think we have a good enough idea to at least formulate this problem.

      “Here is another thought. In the Christian perspective evil will be eradicated. And as time goes by and evil and suffering become no longer present or even remembered then won’t that be a solution?”

      Maybe. Still begs the question of why it is allowed to exist to begin with.

      Like

  2. You asked what I think about the story of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil … but I really don’t understand for sure what the story means. Is it metaphorical, describing a rebellion? Or maybe properties of the tree altered the way they perceived events? Truth is that I’m not certain about a number of things. Was the snake metaphorical? Questions can go and on.

    I still think we are not even at the point where we are asking the right questions. Wars are evil. But then most people and even the Bible allows wars. The war to stop NAZI Germany might be thought of as a righteous cause.

    The Civil War which ended up ending the legal institution of slavery in the United States isn’t too often questioned by those who think slavery is a bad thing.

    Now Jesus did teach not to resist evil and to “turn the other cheek” but in the book of Revelation even he is pictured as coming with an army.

    In modern society we hate the thought of genocide. But in the Bible there was at least one nation (the Amalekites) that God commanded the Israelites to wipe out. That sounds bad. What if though there was or is a scientific basis? What if the incident in scripture that prompted this command (the Amalekites sneak attack on the weakest stragglers of Israelites who were leaving Egypt had a genetic component. What if this nation had a particular hereditary trait or a culture of such a type of attack and/or had a mental blindness to the miraculous and amazing events that allowed the tribes of Israel to have escaped Egypt?

    Assuming that to be true, then would wiping out those people have caused a decrease in terrorism in all future generations? Lot’s of things have genetic components.

    As for evil in our hearts you take the position of “I guess” that we should battle it. Does that mean that you are willing to battle evil to the death? Or at least battle evil to some extent?

    I was thinking today of how complex the problems in our society are today. The churches today are not a whole lot different than the churches of the time of NAZI Germany in Germany. Sure American churches are pro-Israel and aren’t widely thought of as antisemitic but neither are we questioning the rush to war in many cases.

    Sure, those in churches are deceived like the rest of us by propaganda and false flag operations, but should there come a point where we wake up and admit we’ve been conned before? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

    So, we don’t really understand what “evil” is. Despite what you say “I do think we have a good enough idea to at least formulate this problem.” I don’t think we really do. If rape happens in the animal kingdom, then should we exterminate that entire species? Commit genocide against it?

    Even the Bible touches on an issue like that. At one point some people from the tribe of Benjamin raped and abused a woman so bad that she died. The man who she was with had her body cut into pieces and sent her body parts throughout the land of Israel as evidence of the abuse that took place. The rest of the Israelites demanded justice. For some stupid reason the Benjamites would not give up the guilty men to be punished. And as war ensued against that tribe that nearly wiped out that tribe. After the war was largely successful … the story is complicated and full of sickness.

    Whenever you are talking about the Bible you need to look at it with some faith. Why do I say that? You can argue or suppose that it is not true. But then you’ve discounted whatever promises it has for the future. And so if perfection and the eradication of evil are promised and won’t even be remembered later, then you can see the problem of evil as being eradicated within the Biblical or Christian context.

    If there is not a Christian context (if God doesn’t really exist, and his word isn’t true) then all this rape, murder and genocide are just a part of nature and our claims that this or that is evil is just our subjective emotions jumping to hyperbolic language.

    Still, humans sometimes want and desire a perfect environment. My recollection is that even a leading atheist thinks that the only way to really rework the human mind is “religion.” He sees what he calls as “super-niceness” as only taking place within that context. He was known to put on an “Atheists for Jesus” shirt.

    Also what tools are their to combat evil? Few people do a better job at confronting evil than do the prophets of the Old Testament. They were persecuted for what they wrote and said. It would be a good idea to read them and learn how they communicate if you too want to confront evil.

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  3. “You asked what I think about the story of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil … but I really don’t understand for sure what the story means. Is it metaphorical, describing a rebellion? Or maybe properties of the tree altered the
    way they perceived events? Truth is that I’m not certain about a number of things.
    Was the snake metaphorical? Questions can go and on.”

    Maybe. I have no idea. Maybe because the story is a myth.

    “I still think we are not even at the point where we are asking the right questions.”

    Those being…?

    “Wars are evil. But then most people and even the Bible allows wars.”

    Yeah, and what if most people and the Bible are wrong?

    ” The war to stop NAZI Germany might be thought of as a righteous cause.”

    Yeah, but Nazism itself might be thought of as an unrighteous cause.

    “The Civil War which ended up ending the legal institution of slavery in the United States isn’t too often questioned by those who think slavery is a bad thing.”

    The question still exists of why it was allowed to exist in the first place.

    “Now Jesus did teach not to resist evil and to “turn the other cheek” but in the book of Revelation even he is pictured as coming with an army.”

    Okay… So what?

    “In modern society we hate the thought of genocide. But in the Bible there was at least one nation (the Amalekites) that God commanded the Israelites to wipe out. That sounds bad.”

    Yep, and what if that’s because it is? By the way, you might want to read this:
    https://nonalchemist.wordpress.com/2018/12/20/children-and-virgins-as-spoils-of-war/

    And maybe these:
    https://nonalchemist.wordpress.com/2019/01/18/randal-rauser-on-the-canaanite-genocide/
    https://nonalchemist.wordpress.com/2019/02/20/c-s-lewis-evangelicalisms-bad-boy/
    https://nonalchemist.wordpress.com/2019/02/27/slavery-and-the-hebrew-bible/
    https://nonalchemist.wordpress.com/2019/03/03/slavery-and-the-old-testament-part-2/

    “What if though there was or is a scientific basis? What if the incident in scripture that prompted this command (the Amalekites sneak attack on the weakest stragglers of Israelites who were leaving Egypt had a genetic component. What if this nation had a particular hereditary trait or a culture of such a type of attack and/or had a mental blindness to the miraculous and amazing events that allowed the tribes of Israel to have escaped Egypt?

    Assuming that to be true, then would wiping out those people have caused a decrease in terrorism in all future generations? Lot’s of things have genetic components.”

    First of all, what evidence is there? And that’s the same kind of stuff that white
    supremacists and anti-semites say about Jews and blacks. ( See the white supremacist talking point about blacks having criminal dispositions -“they (cities with crime) have a black problem”, “that’s just who they are”, “Dindu nuffins” (a racist slur that is short for the phrase “I didn’t do nothing” referring to blacks as criminals.))

    And how does that excuse intentionally targeting civilians, baby killing (See the above link to “Randal Rauser on the canaanite genocide”) and targeting animals?
    Not even most neo-white supremacists would go that far.

    “As for evil in our hearts you take the position of “I guess” that we should battle it. Does that mean that you are willing to battle evil to the death? Or at least battle evil to some extent?”

    Of course. On the other hand, Bertrand Russell said, “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong.” I’m not saying that I agree with him, just that it’s interesting.

    “I was thinking today of how complex the problems in our society are today. The churches today are not a whole lot different than the churches of the time of NAZI Germany in Germany. Sure American churches are pro-Israel and aren’t widely thought of as antisemitic but neither are we questioning the rush to war in many cases.”

    Yeah, that’s a shame IMHO.

    “Sure, those in churches are deceived like the rest of us by propaganda and false flag operations, but should there come a point where we wake up and admit we’ve been conned before? “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.””

    Right, and what about the church leaders? When they have made many statements that don’t make sense, at what point do we stop trusting them?

    “So, we don’t really understand what “evil” is. Despite what you say “I do think we have a good enough idea to at least formulate this problem.” I don’t think we really do.”

    Okay, so Sodom, the Philistines, child sacrifice, Nero, the Inquisition, the Black plague, the Holocaust, Rwanda, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the gulags, the killing fields, slavery in the U.S., rape, 9\11, ISIS, famine, the tsunami in 2004, Yemen, Somalia, Harvey Weinstein, human trafficking, mass shootings, terrorism, FGM, burning people alive, Hamas, Gaza, Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Sandy Hook, Parkland, the mosque shooting in NZ, Flint, PG&E, environmental problems, cancer, the opioid crisis, mind control and mind rape, abuse, harassment and bullying, spying on people in their private lives for no reason, slander and defamation, driving people to the point of suicide, and a lot of other stuff that sounds like BS doesn’t count?

    “If rape happens in the animal kingdom, then should we exterminate that entire species? Commit genocide against it?”

    Well, for one thing, animals are just that – animals. They don’t have a sense of reason and morality. And of course it would simply be irrational to kill an entire species for the actions of a few. And let’s imagine that we apply the same logic to them that you did to the Amalekites, with your genetic component scenario. What if we can genetically modify them? In fact why couldn’t He do that or whatever to the Amalekites instead of just killing them all?

    “Even the Bible touches on an issue like that.”

    Ok. How so?

    “At one point some people from the tribe of Benjamin raped and abused a woman so bad that she died. The man who she was with had her body cut into pieces and sent her body parts throughout the land of Israel as evidence of the abuse that took place. The rest of the Israelites demanded justice. For some stupid reason the Benjamites would not give up the guilty men to be punished. And as war ensued against that tribe that nearly wiped out that tribe. After the war was largely successful … the story is complicated and full of sickness.”

    Yep.

    “Whenever you are talking about the Bible you need to look at it with some faith. Why do I say that? You can argue or suppose that it is not true. But then you’ve discounted whatever promises it has for the future. And so if perfection and the eradication of evil are promised and won’t even be remembered later, then you can see the problem of evil as being eradicated within the Biblical or Christian context.”

    Maybe. But, as I said, we still haven’t solved the problem of why it is allowed to exist to begin with.

    “If there is not a Christian context… ”

    Okay, what about an Islamic context? Or a Hindu, or Buddhist, or Zoroastrian, or Sikh context?

    “if God doesn’t really exist, and his word isn’t true…”

    See above.

    “then all this rape, murder and genocide are just a part of nature…”

    Naturalism and theism are *not* the only options. (See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer
    and
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel)
    (Unless, of course, you can show that they are.)

    “and our claims that this or that is evil is just our subjective emotions jumping to hyperbolic language.”

    Ok, then I suggest that you show that that’s the case and that only Christianity can account for morality.
    How is it that none of these views are defeaters for that claim?
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kantian_ethics
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pragmatism
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethical_intuitionism
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtue_ethics

    And it’s not just that. If you are saying that the only way to account for X is Y,

    “the claim of Y being a ‘necessary precondition’ for X requires that the only way X can be true is if Y is true also. If there is another way that X can be true, say by Z being true instead, then Y is not a necessary precondition for X. So part of showing that Y is a necessary precondition for X means showing that there is no Z which is a different precondition for X.”
    https://useofreason.wordpress.com/2015/11/07/the-problem-with-tag/

    In a nutshell, the burden is on you to show that all other possible accounts are lacking.

    “Still, humans sometimes want and desire a perfect environment. My recollection is that even a leading atheist thinks that the only way to really rework the human mind is “religion.” He sees what he calls as “super-niceness” as only taking place within that context. He was known to put on an “Atheists for Jesus” shirt.”

    Maybe. Or if not organized religion as such, maybe spiritualism or rational philosophy. I think it’s ironic that some atheists seem to be better followers of Jesus than many “Christians”. It is very annoying that many ppl who claim to represent Him in fact don’t really follow Him and are not very loving and kind at all.

    “Also what tools are their to combat evil? Few people do a better job at confronting evil than do the prophets of the Old Testament. They were persecuted for what they wrote and said. It would be a good idea to read them and learn how they communicate if you too want to confront evil.”

    Interesting. Good idea. There are quite a few people that would make good reading.

    Like

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