Blocking the problem of evil with arguments for God’s existence

Obviously, the problem of evil is one of the greatest challenges to traditional theism. If suffering exists, how can an all-powerful and all-good God exist? Doesn’t evil make God’s existence unlikely?

One response to (this version of) the argument from evil says something like the following:

“Okay, let’s grant that God’s existence is unlikely relative to the existence of horrific evil in the world. However, it doesn’t follow that God’s existence is unlikely, all things considered. In other words, relative to all that we know about the world, God’s existence is not unlikely. There are also arguments FOR the existence of God.”

One problem with this response is that many arguments for a god are not actually arguments for an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God; omni-theism is the target of the argument from evil.

The second problem with this response is that it sort of ignores the fact that there are also other arguments against God’s existence, which means the argument from evil is NOT the only argument against God. So, we can’t just look at arguments for God’s existence and ask whether, cumulatively, they outweigh ONLY the argument from evil. Even if they did outweigh the argument from evil, the other arguments against God’s existence might very well tip the scales back in favor of non-theism.


12 thoughts on “Blocking the problem of evil with arguments for God’s existence

  1. I never understand how “evil” is somehow a “problem” in atheism.

    Evil is another way to say bad people doing bad things, how does that interfere with atheism?

    1. Philosophy of Religion blog (Does God Exist?)

      Or just “suffering”. It’s true that we all suffer, which stinks. But, as you said, the problem of evil is about theism.

  2. I have a list of over 20 arguments against the existence of gods. Many of them are variations on the typical proofs of the existence of said gods. I created the list out of curiosity, not because I wanted to prove something. It is axiomatic that one cannot “prove” anything via a philosophical argument, so why do they keep trying? Is it all the ammunition they have, so they shoot it anyway?

    Arguably the most successful aspect of philosophy is natural philosophy, aka science. Science makes no claim to prove anything, instead looking for utility of knowledge. If something works, we go along with it, provisionally, even if we find the ideas unattractive. But nothing is certain, so we can keep examining things, hoping to find a more enlightening answer to our questions. Somethings have survived so many test that we no longer look at them to disprove them. The atomic theory, the theory of evolution, etc. are such. were either of these to fall, scientists would be shocked to the core as thousands of tests of their veracity have been passed. But we do not think them “true,” just “good enough for now.”

    I repeat: philosophical arguments cannot prove anything.

    1. Philosophy of Religion blog (Does God Exist?)

      I tend to think the only things that are “proved” ‘a priori’ are things that are just true by definition. ha

    2. Philosophy of Religion blog (Does God Exist?)

      With philosophical arguments, nowadays, one is often trying to persuade another person. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sophistry. Rather, one can, for example, appeal to premises the other person already implicitly accepts!

  3. The problem with all such arguments, pro or con, is that we cannot state their conclusions coherently. A transcendent God, almost by definition, transcends our understanding. We are thus arguing for or against the existence of “Something” to which we attribute all kinds of positive attributes that we don’t understand either when we apply them to God (the “Something”).

    I think that the most we can get out of such beliefs is that the physical world is not all that exists, and that (another metaphor) beyond it lies a Mind that creates it with a moral order based on love. To hold such beliefs is to commit ourselves to act consistently with our understanding of such a moral order. Anthropomorphic versions of the beliefs are intellectual shortcuts (what Jason Slone calls “theological incorrectness”) that we use to apply the beliefs in everyday life.

    1. Philosophy of Religion blog (Does God Exist?)

      One is free to use that strategy, as long as one is consistent in their position.

      Apart from consistency, there is the issue of whether such an Entity is falsifiable.

  4. I have just joined this bog and I am most impressed with the arguments presented. The problem of evil in the world is admirably explained as a challenging one for theists. I am also in sympathy with N.S. Palmer’s view of the intellectual shortcuts that we use in applying beliefs to our daily lives. As a philosopher I have written a book titled “God: Challenges from Philosophy and Science”. I suggest that the existence or nonexistence of the deity cannot be established by reason or evidence, but that the inner dimension of our being is the place where personal truth is found. For some individuals this will involve belief in a divine, all-powerful Creator, while for others it may be the awareness that we are one with the whole of reality. The book is freely available online, and I would be happy to send it to people who may wish to read it.

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