The most serious contemporary problem for a rational belief in God is also the oldest. The essence of positive evidence for the existence of God is the occurrence of many experiences that are not understandable unless God exists. Conversely, the essence of the negative evidence leading to the atheist’s conclusion is the occurrence of many experiences that are not understandable if God exists. The chief negative evidences have to do with the problem of evil.
The problem of evil is acute for those who hold to the traditional view that God is an all loving, all knowing, and all powerful being. A world in which there is evil seems to contradict the idea of a world created by the benevolent God.
J. L. Mackie, in “Evil and Omnipotence,” defines the problem in this way:
God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these three positions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false. But at the same time all three are essential parts of most theological positions: The theologian, it seems, at once must adhere and cannot adhere to all three! [Mind, Vol. 64 (1966), p. 200].
According to Mackie, the problem becomes more evident if we employ some quasi-logical rules connecting the terms good, evil, and omnipotent. These rules are that good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good thing eliminates evil as far as it can, and that there are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do. From these it follows that a good omnipotent thing eliminates evil completely, and then the propositions (1) that a good omnipotent thing exists and (2) that evil exists are incompatible.
In the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume presented Philo’s challenge as follows:
1. The ...1
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