Problem of Evil (Overview)

The problem of evil refers to the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with an omnibenevolent, omniscient and omnipotent God (see theism).[1][2] An argument from evil attempts to show that the co-existence of evil and such a God is unlikely or impossible. Attempts to show the contrary have traditionally been discussed under the heading of theodicy. Besides philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is also important to the field of theology and ethics.

The problem of evil is often formulated in two forms: the logical problem of evil and the evidential problem of evil. The logical form of the argument tries to show a logical impossibility in the coexistence of God and evil,[1][3] while the evidential form tries to show that given the evil in the world, it is improbable that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good God.[2] The problem of evil has been extended to non-human life forms, to include animal suffering from natural evils and human cruelty against them.[4] Responses to various versions of the problem of evil, meanwhile, come in three forms: refutations, defenses, and theodicies. A wide range of responses have been made against these arguments. There are also many discussions of evil and associated problems in other philosophical fields, such as secular ethics,[5][6][7] and evolutionary ethics.[8][9] But as usually understood, the "problem of evil" is posed in a theological context.[1][2] The problem of evil acutely applies to monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam and Judaism that believe in a monotheistic God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent;[10][11] but it has also been studied in religions that are non-theistic or polytheistic, such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism.[12][13] The problem of evil refers to the challenge of reconciling belief in an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent God, with the existence of evil and suffering in the world.[2][12][14][note 1] The problem may be described either experientially or theoretically.[2] The experiential problem is the difficulty in believing in a concept of loving God when confronted by suffering or evil in the real world, such as from epidemics, or wars, or murder, or rape or terror attacks wherein innocent children, women, men or a loved one becomes a victim.[17][18][19] The problem of evil is also a theoretical one, usually described and studied by religion scholars in two varieties: the logical problem and the evidential problem.[2]

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