Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Oh Epicurus...

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?"  
-Riddle of Epicurus 

David Hume first posed these questions, in reference to an Epicurus citation (which may have been wrongly attributed to him in the first place), and it has become known as the Riddle of Epicurus. It is just as true today as in the times of Epicurus and in some might claim that today's world examples this argument against god even more so.

The evils of today stand out against our everyday society like black on white, and yet (and perhaps as a result) faith continues to grow. (At least the hateful and intolerant parts of it seem to) Against the backdrop of our day to day lives, evil exists on a level that many can't comprehend. On a level that riddles the mind with its ferociousness and tenacity for inflicting suffering on those who oppose it.

So how do we reconcile the concept of an all loving god, with the presence of vile and disgusting evils that should be far below his ability to stop?

Maybe it seem less convincing in David Hume's words, so lets break these words down ourselves.

Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to.

If this is true, then he is either evil, impotent, or non-existent.

There is no other answer.

Many theists will claim that he is trying to teach us life lessons with the worlds evil, or that evil is OUR creation, but if it is a life lesson then he falls well below any moral standard that has ever been set by any culture in history. NO one would allow genocides, infanticide, genital mutilations, and senseless murder just to teach us a lesson.
What about the claim that evil is OUR creation made possible by the gift of free will? That still doesn't explain why he would create us with that ability. He knew what we would do in the world that he created from the moment he thought of creating us, but he did it anyway. So if he created us knowing that we would be this way, and did it anyway, then he did it purposefully. By purposefully I mean that since he designed us, and he knew that design would make us this way, that he actually designed us to be this way and to create the world we have now.

Making him evil once more.

This leaves only the last part...

If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?

Oh Epicurus.....

good question


  1. but you have NO ANSWER TO DEATH... therefore you FAIL...







  2. Not to take the side of religion, but just as an example of how it was answered by someone before, it's using the example of the skateboard. Would you let your son go skateboarding? The answer is generally yes. Even if it means that he might hurt himself? The answer from parents generally is still a yes. So that he can learn from it. Again, just a potential answer to that. As you know, i'm pretty anti-religion.

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  4. There is no answer to death, it hits us all. That is the reality of it.

    William, letting your son do something that MIGHT hurt him so that he can learn a skill is one thing, but think of it this way. There are two men outside the door that will rape, beat, torture and then murder your son and you know it. If you STILL let him go outside, then you are evil. We are not talking about little life lessons, we are talking about dark, murderous evil.

  5. Ummm....I wasn't really aware that "death" was a question.

    I'm really confused as to why you posted the link to the FaceOff debate. Do you really think Deepak furthered your cause?? He and his counterpart provided no compelling evidence...for anything. In fact they were quite adept at evading most questions put to them, choosing instead to throw out "fuzzy" words and fuzzier theories...casting a mist of mystery and pixie dust over the concepts of creation and God...transmutating them into things so very far removed from the roots of religious theory as to be unrecognizable...and therefore wildly appealing to the searching mind. They remind me of the snake oil salesmen of old.

  6. If we look at the dead cells on the sons knee at look at individual human beings as just cells in the human race, in that context, it would be quite similar, being that if there is a god, he would want the human race to learn lessons from its mistakes. Again, playing the devils advocate.

  7. William, if what you say is true and he is killing us in order to teach the rest a lesson, then he fails in every test of morality that we have and he ends up in the very scenario that I said in the beginning. Evil. If he, as an omnipotent god can't teach us lessons without killing us, then he is either not omnipotent, or he is evil because he chooses that course of instruction.

    DM- We don't have to "solve" the question of death. It isn't a question, nor is it something to solve. We die. That is the way that reality works. What you are doing is making something up to satisfy your need to escape death, and a way to absolve yourself of worry about it. Sadly making things up without evidence doesn't answer anything, it merely covers your eyes in false dogma.

    Sorry DM, if you are looking to religion to explain death, you are looking at the wrong group of people. Ask a biologist. If you are asking me to repent, then I would ask you "for what?"
    I can't repent for not loving or believing in him, because he has given me no reason to. Shouldn't an all powerful god be able to do that?

    God fail.

  8. It is a simple premise, I am amazed that no one seems to get there on their own.

    If I am given free will by the creator to choose to worship him and do good, or choose not to, and do evil, theeeennnn I must be allowed to be good or evil, if I am not allowed to be evil, then I had no choice did I, I had no free will to choose! Yes the evil people of the world cause suffering and good people help in anyway they can. Without the darkness what is light? Without storms what would a sunny day mean? What would good mean if there was no evil to compare it to? Freedom of choice, to be who you want to be good or evil, yes you have that choice with out the presence of God in your life, the difference? It's called HELL.

  9. Of course, you can always point to Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version):

    "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

    That is fairly reasonable, actually. If the source of all things is truly the Source of All Things, then both good and evil as we would experience would emanate from it, as least as potentials if not as actualities.

    That's just a side note, really. I do see some problems with Hume's argument.

    First, why is omnipotence a prerequisite for deity? A deity could simply be defined as an immortal being with powers of creation and destruction. Also, omnipotence doesn't necessarily include omnipresence.

    Second, why does deity have to be good? In fact, why would a deity have to conform to an apparently ever-shifting, mortal definition of "good?" In fact, by current 21st century Western standards the Universal Deity could be profoundly evil.

    Third, why would we necessarily be the center of attention for a deity that created the Universe? Perhaps we're nothing more than an experiment, allowed to run its course over the eons. That would certainly account for the inclusion of free will; free will makes for a more interesting experiment.

    Thank goodness I worship Dread Cthulhu! After all, when He arises, I shall be among those who are eaten first! Ia Ia Ftaghn!

  10. Duncan, (except for your Cthulhu comment) I can't disagree with anything you have said.

    The fact is that Islam, Christianity, and Judiasm all claim that god is omnipotent, good, and with us as the center of the universe.

    A god wouldn't have to be those things, but they claim that he is. Good thing there is no evidence for ANY god.

    @wc2810 You miss the point entirely. If God is there to protect us, and yet does nothing, then he either allows evil to happen or he can't do anything about it. Immoral or impotent.

    So many theists give apology to a god who would CHOOSE not to protect his "flock".
    How about the millions of abortions that he performs each week?
    How about the natural disasters?
    How about the animals created ONLY to live off the suffering of others?
    How about the lack of a real easily distinguishable moral code?

    And finally, I find it reprehensible that theists throw about Hell.

    By doing so you are agreeing with a policy of torture and infinite pain for the crime of simply not loving your god enough.
    What a terrible, immoral, evil and despicable thing to support.