Evil’s Not My Problem

Monotheistic believers have no convincing way to deal with this issue. Because it has been around for a long time, it has been written about, answered, explained, taught, or discussed in groups of one kind or another. But it remains a problem that can only be settled one way—ignore it. Ignorance is bliss.

problem-of-evilOr, you might end up where I did, facilitating a classroom discussion of the topic in the Adult Education program at my Catholic church. Preparation for teaching, and then leading the group discussion, led me to an enlightenment. I was not, at the time, spiritually or religiously challenged by the problem of evil, but I learned a lot.

Most of what I learned involved getting deep into a topic that I’d not seriously considered. As I was reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament, I started coming to terms with my own evolving beliefs and conclusions.

I was a believer (or wannabe) at the time. My biggest aha moment was when I realized that I had no qualms pinning evil on god. And, of course, that led to the uh-oh moment. That’s when I realized that god could not be so good after all. That disconnect was not gunna work for me. “Houston, we have a problem.”

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If you’re fuzzy on what the problem of evil is about, click here  to link with a youtube that provides a quick-n-dirty review in ten minutes. Pay attention because that guy talks fast and covers a lot of ground.

I’m intrigued when a priest, deacon, nun, or any religious person says, “I can’t understand why God allowed that to happen.” Pick any natural disaster, which some people do not consider evil, or some other moral evil such as mass murder. We have heard it said.

In the case of Islamic terrorism and other nut cases, evil is even done in the name of god, ostensibly with god’s help, followed by a hefty reward from god. (WTF does anybody want with 72 virgins anyway?). I know there are other kinds of murderers, but everyday that religion is used to justify slaughter around the world.

I know, “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” But, along with most Americans, I consider 9-11 the mass murder of innocents. My point is: there is evil—lots of it, and all kinds of it. If you believe in a god who knows, cares, and can fix it; you should radio Houston Control with your problem.

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We mere humans, when not being the perpetrators of some evil, expend energy preparing for and dealing with it in some way. We know it’s coming. So, in that way, it’s logically a problem that is often taken for granted (i.e., shit happens). Even the religious folks mentioned above devote their lives to promoting the goodness of god and fighting evil, albeit usually they focus on moral evil, as defined by them, of course. Other groups do a wonderful job of providing aid to victims, after the fact.

Since there is evil, it must ultimately be permitted by, if not created by, the god one believes exists. Depending on the religion, reconciling this with religious belief takes some doing and may call for a heavy dose of denial. Maybe a little help is in order? Enter the best scape goat ever—Satan. Next best are Adam or Eve. If someone says, “It’s god’s way,” you should be reaching for your bullshit flag because here it comes.i-dont-care4

In some way, religious folks must be working through or around this problem. Last I checked, monotheists aren’t switching to polytheism or finding another way to make it work. Or are they?

Atheists and believers seem to agree; there is evil in abundance. My definition of it is probably broader than many religious folk, but it’s close enough.

Atheists don’t have to determine why evil is permitted. We only need to acknowledge its existence, do what we can to make others aware of it, and prevent it when possible. If not, maybe we can find ways to deal with it when we must, which is more often than I like. I never have to ask why god did, or didn’t, do something. But you have every right to ask me why I don’t do something.problem-of-evil2

There is both good and evil in the world
and too often within us. Look both ways.

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9 thoughts on “Evil’s Not My Problem

  1. Yes there is evil in the world and in ourselves. Our job is to move our consciousness in the direction of the good, away from evil. Sometimes we have to fight evil in the world, but that’s full of pitfalls. Neither god nor atheism seem to help much in the discussion.

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  2. The evil that men do to each other in the name of a religion is frightening, because their “God” not only permits it, he encourages it. “God told me…” is the greatest excuse for deranged behavior there ever was.
    You see it in children with their imaginary friend. “Sarah told me it was okay to give the dog an enema”. Adults still have that imaginary friend, aided and abetted by their peers, their families, their schools. “oh what a friend we have in Jesus”. yes indeed.

    It excuses bad behavior, or–in the Catholic church–confession. Which was always taken to mean that from Sunday night to Saturday afternoon you could kick up your heels. Saturday afternoon (in the wisdom of the church, they understood human nature all too well) was Confession, you were cleansed of your sins, and managed to hold it together long enough to get to church and recieve communion Sunday morning. I sorta miss private confessions like that. The sense of lightness was amazing. =)

    Evil in the eyes of the doer is nearly always justified by religion, the handiest of scapegoats. Most wars in history were used as an excuse to rape pillage and plunder another country’s goods, animals, and women. The fact that Allah or Jehovah willed it is crucial.

    It was never so clearly and forcibly brought home to me until I found the Lego Bible, online. I have a feeling you’re ahead of me on this, but here’s the link, anyway: http://www.thebricktestament.com/

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  3. very nice post. theists often use their god to excuse their inaction, which I find reprehensible. “It’s god’s will” is a better get out of jail free card than invoking Satan. At least with that, a theist can ignore when his god is reported working with Satan, making bets, allowing the murder of humans, and the big bang up in Revelation where this god first murders everyone who doesn’t agree with it, and then, after it/its son rules earth for an aeon, intentionally allows Satan to corrupt these believers so this god can get more of its bloodlust on.

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  4. I often think of evil as an earthbound necessity. All the things that are evil, they’re based in the physical realm. Greed, wrath, lust…well you know the list. They’re earthly. Beyond that, it’s not my problem either.

    By the by, I loved that quote. That was a wow moment for me.

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  5. I’m reminded of the Lord of the Rings here. In the book The Two Towers there are two wizards. One of them has a seeing stone. The palantir shows scenes of what’s occurring in other parts of the world. Saruman the wizard had one of these stones and would look in it often. The only trouble was that Sauron- the biggest baddest villain had a stone too. He took control of what Saruman saw, showing only visions of the darkness of the might of Sauron’s power. Fire and dead earth, and ten thousand orcs, and rock trolls and whole armies of the south and Oliphants. He’d overtaken far more than the good guys even knew about. Once Sauron was ready it seemed that nothing could stop him. And so Saruman gave in. He only saw darkness and no hope of defeating it, so he decided to join it. (Of course I’m not likening you to Saruman, you’re a good guy, by the way.)
    My point is this; there you were teaching a class. Suddenly you were confronted with the most difficult question of all. There’s only one way to answer a question like that, and you must have faith in the recipe. Gandalf was the wizard who opposed Sauron. He knew the darkness was spreading too. But he had faith in his effort enough to fight until there was nothing left to stand on. If you look at only the darkness you get overwhelmed. Faith is for those moments. Trusting that good is stronger than evil and light exists even when you just broke your flashlight.
    There’s more going on than evil, pain and suffering. God is the light of the world. He is love, mercy, compassion, beauty, art and rest. I’m not anyone complicated. I don’t know why terrible things are allowed to happen. I can’t answer that question to anyone’s satisfaction.
    But I can tell you that God is here, with me. I’m not alone in the darkness. So I look up and trust. It’s beautiful when He meets me and helps me.
    Psalm 121:
    1-I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
    From whence comes my help?
    2 My help comes from the LORD,
    Who made heaven and earth.

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  6. I think the believers’ way is to say that along with free will, God gave us the faculty of reason, so allows us to choose our own path between good and evil, salvation or damnation. It’s an argument that stands up – John Locke put it quite convincingly. But it’s weird all the same – God is putting us to some sort of moral test to see if we’re worthy. OK, so it’ll be my own fault if I don’t pass the test, but it still makes him a bit perverse in my view. The whole issue is really just an expression of our own grappling with morality, couched in religious terms.

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