I drive a lot for work. This gives me plenty of time to think. My thoughts have been caught up quite a bit lately with the problems in the "Problem of Evil" argument. As an aside, if you're ever on Jeopardy its also called the "Epicurean Paradox." For those unfamiliar with the argument, you can generalize it like this:
- God exists. (premise)
- God is omnipotent. (premise — or true by definition of the word 'God')
- God is all-benevolent. (premise — or true by definition)
- All-benevolent beings are opposed to all evil. (premise — or true by definition)
- All-benevolent beings who can eliminate evil will do so immediately when they become aware of it. (premise)
- God is opposed to all evil. (conclusion from 3 and 4)
- God can eliminate evil completely and immediately. (conclusion from 2)
- Whatever the end result of suffering is, God can bring it about by ways that do not include suffering. (conclusion from 2)
- God has no reason not to eliminate evil. (conclusion from 7.1)
- God has no reason not to act immediately. (conclusion from 5)
- God will eliminate evil completely and immediately. (conclusion from 6, 7.2 and 7.3)
- Evil exists, has existed, and probably will always exist. (premise)
- Items 8 and 9 are contradictory; therefore, one or more of the premises is false: either God does not exist, or he is not both omnipotent and all-benevolent or there is a reason why He does not act immediately.
Another thing present in the argument is in #5 and #10 when it states the possibility that "there is a reason why He [God] does not act immediately. It is stated last for a reason, the debater wants this to be the last alternative. However, the fact that this alternative is even acknowledged ends the debate. If there is a possibility that God's thoughts are infinitely above that of humans it is always possible that the moral weight of such things as free-will is much greater than the moral weight of suffering. Also, in #5 its states that "All-benevolent beings who can eliminate evil will do so immediately when they become aware of it." This again doesn't take into account the moral weight of free-will. If an all-knowing God thinks that free-will is better than the potential evil that could be caused, lesser-knowing humans must accept it as true just like a 5 year old has to accept that the brownies he really, really wants before dinner may not be good for him because his mommy told him so.
An interesting problem (and somewhat less noticeable by most folks) is that the argument assumes the existence of evil. Here, most people are probably like "yeah, isn't it obvious that evil exists?" It is. Therefore, God exists. You see in a world in which God does not exist the possibility of a humankind-wide standard of morality reaches nil. To paraphrase Dostoevsky "If God doesn't exist, then all things are acceptable." Without God, there is no one to punish your wrong doing (outside of human law enforcement of course). There is only subjectively relative law, and that means that to claim that evil exists is only to claim that you, as an individual, believe it exists based on your personal standards. On the other hand, if you claim that evil exists and is known objectively and not relatively based on personal belief, then God must exist and must have created a "natural-law" so to speak, of which all of mankind has knowledge.
The laptop is getting hot in my lap and my coffee is running dangerously low, so I'll continue with some more interesting (or not so interesting) thoughts on the problem of evil later.