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06 June, 2010

Arguing the Problem of Evil

The problem of evil was compelling in pushing me from an honest, agnostic search to an atheist because the basic concept of God that I had chosen to believe in for so many years after having stripped him of the dogmatic Christian traits I had grown up with, were the same as stated by J.L. Mackie in "Evil and Omnipotence." After having given up Christianity in my teens, I had still held the belief that there was a God who was omnipotent, benevolent, and omniscient. God would then be required to do the utmost possible good in the world.

To be short, "Evil and Omnipotence," which I recommend atheist and theist alike to read, addresses the theistic responses to the problem that if an omnipotent, benevolent, omniscient God exists, than evil cannot exist because God, being all good, would do everything possible to eliminate it. His argument against the "free will created evil" is particularly damaging to the theist's argument because it points out , among other things, that there is no logical impossibility to giving someone free will and allowing them to have only choices that would create good. The acceptable arguments he states either change the nature of God or change the nature of evil, which theists are reluctant to do.

In arguing this with a theist, however, I fell into the trap of redundantly refuting the definition of good, of love, and of free will. 

I've come to the conclusion then, that this argument, while a great reason to question the nature of God as it is laid out by theists, is no smoking gun against the existence of a God. It is sufficient to question the Western conception of God, but is not useful in debating whether or not God exists. 

Having seen the breakdown of my own conception of the nature of God, and then seeing that there was no evidence for God led me to atheism. The former does not stand on its own and reach the same position, it is merely a ruling out of the nature of God as it is declared by the Western religions.