respond in the class forum to the question posed at the end of this page
The classical "problem of evil" is one that has been
around for millennia. In one way it can be seen as purely a philosophical
or academic quandary that could somehow be solved with an appropriate
philosophical insight and argument.
In another sense, though, it is a more-than-academic question.
When the problem is encountered in one's personal life experience
it often becomes an existential problem, i.e., a problem that
affects one's whole life.
When our life is still in the
age of innocence and we still believe that everything that
happens in the world is just and right, we see no appearance
of contradiction between the Ways of Justice and our experience
in the world. Nothing that we experience in the world radically
violates our sense of how things ought to be.
But at some point it may happen in a life that someone you love
deeply and someone you know to be a good person (perhaps this
person might even be you) has the tragic misfortune of having
to undergo a great and undeserved suffering. When you see that
happen, when you watch that good person undergoing such enormous
undeserved evil, it violates every sense of justice we have understood
up to that point.
We feel outrage, perhaps
even anger, and we feel deeply incensed that any just universe
could allow such an unjust and evil thing to happen. If we have
grown up believing in God or in some great Order operating in
the universe, we are liable at that point to feel great anger
at God, and deeply outraged that he (or she) is not the just
and righteous being we originally believed.
Sometimes that anger can be so deep and severe that, in the heat
of this outrage, one turns their back on any belief in God or
justice or order in the universe.
(Someone may believe, if they think only superficially about
this problem, that it is a problem only for those who have grown
up with a belief in the traditional Judeo-Christian-Islamic God.
Deeper reflection will disclose, however, that the problem exists
for anyone who believes -- or has believed -- that there is some
great just order in the universe, i.e., for anyone who believes
in a larger moral order in things, who believes that things ultimately
happen as they ought to, and that nothing in the universe is
fundamentally out of its rightful place. Even for those non-religious
people who believe in such an over-arching cosmic order, the
problem of evil is a real one.)
Sometimes when a person gets very angry at another person, they
will literally turn their back on them, or walk out of the room,
out of their presence, or perhaps even refuse to speak or listen
to the person at whom they are so angry. It is almost as if they
are in some sense trying to act as if that other person does
not even exist.
In a similar way, it can also happen that when someone gets very
angry at God for such a perceived violation of all the principles
of justice, fairness, and good order in the universe, they can
also furiously turn their back on God. They might no longer speak
or listen to that God, and may even in their own mind come to
act as if that God no longer exists in any form at all.
The problem of evil then becomes existential, and not just academic.
This happens when one directly experiences the seeming contradiction
between what they have believed about God (just, fair, kind,
loving, good, powerful, etc) and what they have just seen happening
in their experienced world to a good person whom they love deeply.
This is the problem of evil.
In philosophical terms it can be
"problem of evil" consists in the apparent contradiction
between the nature of God and the nature of evil and suffering
in the world