Micah Redding — humanity, technology & the future

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(A Few) More Thoughts on The Problem of Evil

It's been a few days since I published my answer to The Problem of Evil, and I've gotten some interesting responses. I didn't realize when I set out to write it how much it would affect me. Thanks to Kevin, and his pointing out the significance of Isaiah and "God creating evil", I realized that not only does a proper solution to The Problem of Evil serve to show that God is not a logical contradiction, but it also points us towards a much much bigger view of God than that typically allowed by contemporary churches.

God is paradoxically the unambiguous source of good and evil, pain, suffering, and joy; and yet manages to be uncompromisingly all-loving and all-good.

The real Christian view of God has always been that God is not just omnipresent, but SO omnipresent, that EVERYTHING that happens is the work of God. The grass grows by his direct operation, the rain falls by his command. Of course, this points us towards a new understanding of what God is...but I'll deal with that later.

Since I laid out my solution to The Problem over three pages (I wanted it to be understood), let me sum it up right here:

1. God is Love
2. Love wants the loved one to not suffer
3. But Love wants the loved one to LIVE even more
4. God allows all beings to live, even beings that are hurt, or psychologically damaged, or just have had bad experiences. These beings may ask God, "why did you make me suffer?" And God's answer would be, "Because I loved you and wanted you to live."

This line of argument makes sense if we accept a few things:

1. Existence is better than non-existence.
2. An individual is a collection of thoughts, feelings, experiences, and memories.

Some have argued that #1 is not the case, that for some individuals, it would have been better to have never existed. But what does Love mean? Love means that we want the best for the one we love. It is nonsensical to think that Love could ever want the object of its love to not exist.

And it is nonsensical to think that ANY entity could wish itself not to come into existence. I would even argue that it is nonsensical for any entity which exists to wish to stop existing.

People who are suicidal (and I have been), seem to picture death as either some kind of heaven, or some kind of rest. But non-existence is not rest. It is not anything. One can't logically say "I would be happier if I didn't exist". Happiness is not a property of non-existent beings.

Neither can one logically say "I would be less depressed if I didn't exist". Degrees of anything don't apply to non-existent beings. Trying to compare existence to non-existence in this way is the philosophical equivalent of dividing by zero - it makes no sense.

Saying something is better off (when it doesn't even exist) is not even false - it just has no meaning.

In my own personal value system, the worst evil of all is non-existence. Even death is not as bad as non-existence, because the person who died DID exist.

Maybe I haven't made as strong a case for this as I would like. What do you think?

-micah


Next: What is Identity?

thewalrus:

My apologies for the deleted comment above. I needed to edit something.<br/><br/>I believe you have accomplished a displacement of the problem of evil rather than a solution. Making a statement that someone cannot question whether existence is superior to non-existence (because, as you say, that is contradictory logic) is, regardless of its potential accuracy, a clear hedge to your argument.<br/><br/>Keep in mind that your theory is merely an attempt to explain away the so-called problem of evil. There is no "solution" or "answer" to the problem of evil. I'm still confused as to why your theory is a proposed solution to the problem of evil, as opposed to being merely a proposed solution to the problem of suffering. What is evil? Non-existence? <br/><br/>Those who are suffering will likely find little solace in your theory because a theoretical explanation has limited import. You also have many unanswered questions to address before you should claim any solutions. How can God be both just and loving? Should we throw out the value of fairness? Why should I care whether there are an infinite number of possibilities of me that are actually in existence? Does that not devalue my suffering? If God values existence over suffering, why does God supposedly limit the suffering of some and not that of others in this possible world (at least according to the standard to which you adhere - the Christian tradition)? <br/><br/>While I respect your attempt to engage an important question, I will also say that your claim of a solution is profoundly naive and presumptuous.