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The Problem of Evil

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jbouder
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0 posted 09-11-2000 09:21 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Thought I'd try to get a non-mathmatical/scientific discussion going so I could understand a philosophy thread for a change.     

I'm curious about your thoughts on the problem of evil.  I recently read the problem posed as a complex question:

quote:
If God is good, then He must not be powerful enough to deal with all the evil and injustice in the world since it is still going on.  If He is powerful enough to stop wrongdoing then He must be evil since He's not doing anything about it.  So which is it?  Is He a bad God or a God that's not all powerful?


What do you think?

Jim

P.S.  For those of you who would rather not approach the question from a theistic standpoint, perhaps you could offer your thoughts and ideas on how we can reach an agreeable definition of what is good and what is evil.


[This message has been edited by jbouder (edited 09-11-2000).]
Local Rebel
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1 posted 09-12-2000 01:04 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

It hardly seems fair to invite us to a worm dinner if you're not even going to open the can... lol  

you first!!  
Ron
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2 posted 09-12-2000 08:54 AM       View Profile for Ron   Email Ron   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Ron's Home Page   View IP for Ron

God could, of course, stop all evil. The only cost would be mankind's free will.

(There's probably a mathematical formula for that, Jim, but I'll spare you…   )
jbouder
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3 posted 09-12-2000 09:19 AM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Ron:

That is the gist of C. S. Lewis's answer and even the renown skeptic, Anthony Flew, admits it is a good answer.  

Why do I get the impression that you are only half-way kidding about the mathmatic formula?  *sigh*

Local Reb:

And you call yourself a Rebel!    BTW ... you don't think the question opens the can far enough?  You first ... I double-dog dare you.  

Jim
Local Rebel
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4 posted 09-12-2000 09:59 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

If I go first this will be anything but a non-mathmatecal scientific discussion... lol...so.. again I defer to the host!  lol
Trevor
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5 posted 09-12-2000 02:05 PM       View Profile for Trevor   Email Trevor   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Trevor

Damn you apes, damn you dirty apes!!!

I'll go first....cowards, the lot of you

"If God is good, then He must not be powerful enough to deal with all the evil and injustice in the world since it is still going on.  If He is powerful enough to stop wrongdoing then He must be evil since He's not doing anything about it.  So which is it?  Is He a bad God or a God that's not all powerful?"

Well I guess its important to establish first what is evil and what isn't evil (I suppose for now we can forget about the question of whether or not there is a God ) . Now I'm not much of a religious man, I think for the reason of there never being a book or good enough reference material that actually describes a higher conscious force and sooo For discussion sake, stirring the pot or what have you, I'll lead off by saying that perhaps there really is no evil or only evil, at least not if you use the Western belief system. I think in the bible, somewhere in those murky pages, it says that we can not understand God nor His actions. We don't and can't comprehend the "big picture", the master plan of it all and that everything happens for a reason. The reason being God's blue prints. If this is so then all things that we may deem evil are actually servicing the efforts of good, that is if God is good.

One question that maybe we should consider with this discussion is, could it be possible that God may be impartial?...much like a lot of humans, and maybe other animals as well, are impartial to the living things around them?

Okay so there's a start, not much of one but something that may spur some sort of discussion.

Thanks,

Trevor
brian madden
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6 posted 09-12-2000 02:20 PM       View Profile for brian madden   Email brian madden   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for brian madden

Doesn't the definition of good and evil depend on the person's moral beliefs first of all. I am not great at debates but drawing from a few references, mainly fictional novels I have read.

In American Psycho we are shown the world of a man who has no belief in God or even in life itself. He is a slave of money, consumerism and surfaces. He gives a perfectly normal outward appearance and yet he brutally tortures and murders people.   Yet through out the book all the characters are so self involved that they don't notice his psychosis. The acts he performs are of course evil, but are accepted none the less.
I could also mention De Sade's 120 days of Sodom, or even the Torture garden by Octave Mirbeau the main points of those books is that in a certain climate evil, vice and torture can been romantic and beautiful.
So I would say that evil depends on moral perspective that really there is no pure evil or pure good unless you are a fanatic. It is a gradation. To know good we must understand evil and visa versa.  
  
I can see I have strayed from the point, I am not even going to start getting religious or talking about original sin.  Sure we could blame God, but that would be same as some who falls of a tree and blames the ground when they break their arm. Avoiding all the religious references man has evolved and built society therefore any crimes, any injustices have been created at the hands of man. We have the power to build a utopia, to unite and live in peace and plenty but we seem to thrive on vice and on lies. That does not mean that there is not a good side to humanity, it is just that often people in power seem to serve their own interests rather than those of the general public.  We created our own sins through conditioning, through nature and through losing touch with nature and ourselves, we can't blame God for our sins, but rather take responsibility for them ourselves and try to understand what motivates to towards them.  And we have courts to deal with our major sins and to find us guilty or innocent.


"I have penned epitaphs on snow, and written my legacy in dust." self quote.



[This message has been edited by brian madden (edited 09-14-2000).]
Not A Poet
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7 posted 09-12-2000 02:23 PM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

Well, this promises to be an interesting discussion. It is, however, based upon an invalid premise. That is, your two alternatives are neither mutually exclusive nor are they exhaustive. Now we come close to the mathematical formula which Ron hinted at. Technically, you have posed a question and proposed two possible answers as the only two possiblities. In fact, it is not a black and white situation but one with infinite shades of gray.

All the time I have right now but will be back later.




Pete

Imagination is more important than knowledge
       Albert Einstein


[This message has been edited by Not A Poet (edited 09-12-2000).]
Brad
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8 posted 09-12-2000 07:26 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Ahh, hell, even Trevor's avoiding the question.   There's no such thing as evil. He has a point of course but let's throw out some definitions:

evil as self interest:

I want what I want
I do what I do
And I don't care
What happens to you.

evil as sadism:

I derive pleasure from giving or watching pain in others. I am happy when others are sad.

evil as indifference:

I see the pain in others, I can (try to) do something about it, but I don't.

evil as jealousy:

Others should not succeed (or be happy)because I have not succeeded (or am happy). I will try to bring them down to my level.

evil as power:

I am happy when I am superior to those around me, when I can exercise power over others for no other purpose than to exercise that power.

Note: a saying attributed to Chinghis Khan (I paraphrase): There is no greater joy in life than to kill another man, take and rape his wife, and steal his belongings.

One other point: is evil defined by the intent or the result?

I have to admit I was more comfortable reading the science thread (found it really interesting),but many of the same people who seemed to dispute my semantic argument when it came to science or mathematics (and then turn around and address the issue directly and eloquently), seem to wish to argue semantics here.

I was correct and they are correct here.

But it doesn't change anything, now, does it?

Let's play!

Brad
JP
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9 posted 09-12-2000 07:49 PM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

Evil and Good.  Sentient, existing forces with will and intent or merely labels placed upon behaviors and actions with comply or conflict with societal norms and expectations.

Evil, by biblical derivation has to be the opposition to good (or in its original form 'god').  Anything that is not of godly design is therefore evil, yes?  

In biblical terms, sin is evil. To sin is evil.  Violation of the ten commandments is therefore, evil.  So, if the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill"  is violated, that then is evilness.

Conseqently, can good exist without evil, or visa versa?  What is sweet without sour?  If all you ever have tasted is sweet, what is the point of tasting?  In the same vein, if all you ever experience in life is good, what is the purpose of living?  Evil is a necessary aspect of the ability to live.  If God, who is supposedly the embodiment of good, did away with evil, what then for us?  What purpose would we have?  What would urge us to believe in Him, or put our faith in Him?  Wouldn't that purposelessness lead us into damnation?  Why praise a God when everything is good and right?  Why not strive to be Gods ourselves?  

There may be more on this later....


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

"Everything is your own damn fault, if you are any good." E. Hemmingway
Honeybee
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10 posted 09-12-2000 09:44 PM       View Profile for Honeybee   Email Honeybee   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Honeybee


An excellent question Jim!

I echo what Ron has said. I am not religious, but rather spiritual and I do believe that God is completely good and can stop all evil in the world in an instant but chooses not to, not because he is cruel, but because this is his test for all humans to see which ones choose between good and evil, we are only led to believe that evil is stronger than good.  I believe that God allows all this to happen because only then will we truly find meaning in life and appreciate the good and truly strive for a relationship with God otherwise we would all take it for granted if life were perfect and free of evil.  In the end, evil will be eradicated and good will prevail.

Take care,
Melissa Honeybee


The beauty of poetry gives my soul wings to fly free within dreams


Brad
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11 posted 09-12-2000 11:15 PM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

JP said something interesting concerning no good without evil or vice versa. What about that vice versa part? Can there be evil without good -- perhaps infinite shadings of evil so that some evil is better or worse than others?

How about infinite variations of good? Is one good better than another?

Is it evil to consider that, to make that distinction?

Brad

Local Rebel
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12 posted 09-13-2000 01:08 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Since this is the site for po-tree... I'll answer the question re:evil in verse:  

There is only one true evil she said
She said there is only one
The one true evil she said
The fish separated from the stream
the bird that doesn’t sing
the scorpion sans sting

one true evil she said
she said the man
disconnected the separated one
the man disconnected from
the universe the man
is the evil one

the fish out of the stream
the disconnection is the evil
she said
the disconnected is the evil
one

I am the evil she spoke of
I am the disconnected
one
I am the salmon that doesn’t swim
The sparrow without a din

I am the man the evil one
i am the evil she spoke of
the wolf that doesn’t cry
I am the evil she spoke of

The one true evil she said

I am the disconnected one
I am the one true evil

The evil she spoke of I am
I am the evil she spoke of I am
I am the evil
The one
True

She spoke to me of evil
I was the one

dis

connected

evil


I'm afraid I have to write an entire tome, however to address the Thesis.. and I shall , give me some time...
Brad
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13 posted 09-13-2000 02:04 AM       View Profile for Brad   Email Brad   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Brad

Waiting anxiously for that tome.  

Interesting and more interesting. As I read this poem, you are equating disconnection or separation with evil. JP touched on this idea but you've more or less declared it: free will is no long the ability to choose good or evil but it is evil itself.  How can one make that choice unless they are separated, disconnected from the whole (variously defined) and therefore evil?

There's a lot more to discuss here but I'll stop for the moment,
Brad
Local Rebel
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14 posted 09-13-2000 10:39 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

Probably the best way to approach this is going to be in chapters... so I begin with the introduction first:

The question:

If God is good, then He must not be powerful enough to deal with all the evil and injustice in the world since it is still going on. If He is powerful enough to stop wrongdoing then He must be evil since He's not doing anything about it. So which is it? Is He a bad God or a God that's not all powerful?

The Thesis:

The seeming paradox presented by the question is in fact no paradox at all.  It is perceived to be paradoxical because of the conflict between an ever-advancing empirical body of knowledge of the physical universe with accompanying descriptive language and the static ancient language and paradigms used to explain the un-explainable and imagined or almost perceptible spiritual universe.  The latter remains static due to a fear in fundamentalism (of all religions) of the core tenets of faith being lost to the heretical and experiential. Ironically it will ultimately be the static nature of the faith-language that will cause the demise of faith.

Dr. Joel Barker, about ten years ago, produced a videotape that was distributed widely through American industry as a tool for promoting change within organizations.  His thesis was and is that we see what we expect to see.  Our paradigms or models of reality will filter all data that we perceive so that we can protect our paradigm -- or in other words we will interpret data to agree with the answers we expect.  In fact all information that comes into our consciousness passes through this filter of expectations put there through years and years of experience and thought process.  This is why in the scientific world experiments are conducted repeatedly to ensure the data and interpretation of data because it is so easy to see what we expect or what we want.  As a demonstration Dr. Barker placed images of regular playing cards on the screen for a fraction of a second.  The viewer was then asked to identify the cards seen.  Almost anyone could get them all correct even though they were only on screen for 1/30th of a second.  Then he ran through the same sequence again... this time showing the card for a longer duration... and when the frame of one particular card came up everyone stumbled.  As the images were on screen for longer and longer periods it became clear what the card was that caused the viewers to stumble.  At a rapid speed it was interpreted as any other card.  At slow speed it was different but took several viewings to figure out why.  It was a black heart.  Everyone had interpreted it as a spade. The paradigm of the basic shape and color caused the viewer to interpret it as something it was not -- or rather to interpret it as expected data.

As constituents of Western Culture we are heavily influenced by the extremely Cartesian thought that we must remove ourselves from the macroscopic and treat ourselves only as observers if we are to understand the fundamental nature of things.   Within that context we tend to comprehend the universe around us through the models of Democritean and Newtonian mechanistic models of the universe, or classical physics, which reduces all phenomena into the motions and interactions of things -- within the confines of Euclidean three-planed, three dimensional geometry.  Within this paradigm things are or are not.  They are here or there.  It is a rigid determinism even in the face of modern physics -- because we don't think in quantum terms -- we think in the macro.  It is a determinism that still clings to a universe -- the belief of most in the western Judeo-Christian-Muslim traditions -- in which God created the matter, the energy, the forces, the fundamental laws of motion and time, and that it has all been running ever since like some colossal clock on His mantle.   Due to our 'scientific' experiential paradigm and given our religious mystical traditions of an all powerful God who made it all -- the introduction of evil into the system appears to present a paradox -- if God made it to work a certain way and it doesn't how did it break?  In short we could say evil is the singularity in the Newtonian Judeo Christian paradigm of reality.  It presents an inconsistency just as daunting as a fading horizon presented to flat earth believers.

If we are to find the undiscovered continent then, we too, must be ready to venture to the very edge of existence and risk that our faith paradigms might fall off.  On this journey we should explore the cavernous nooks and crannies of the quantum and the journey of our faith-language through the Zoroastrian, the ancient Hebrew mysticism or Kabballah, the Hebrew texts of the Yahwists, Elohwists, Deutoronomist, and Preists, the Greek and Roman thought that greatly influenced the roots of the Christian texts,  cross the Atlantic into the thought processes of Mormonism, and continue west until we hit the Zen and the Tao.

It's going to be a bumpy ride so please fasten your seatbelts.  
Local Rebel
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15 posted 09-13-2000 11:36 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

it will obviously take time -- a course that will probably span well into the fall for the entire tome to unfold --

so if anyone wants to jumpstart I'd heartily reccomend the following bibliography

This Hebrew Lord -- John Shelby Spong

Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism -- Spong

The Bible as History -- Werner Keller

The Tao of Physics -- Fritjof Capra

9-1/2 Mystics - The Kabbala Today -- Herbert Weiner

The American Religion, The emergence of the Post-Christian Nation -- Harold Bloom

Any reference on world religions....

Ta Ta for now
Local Rebel
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16 posted 09-13-2000 11:38 AM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

and lest I forget

A Brief History of Time -- Stephen Hawkings
jbouder
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17 posted 09-13-2000 03:06 PM       View Profile for jbouder   Email jbouder   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for jbouder

Hello everyone.  It looks like this one is exploding out of the starting gate.  

Trevor:

The reference I think you are looking for in those "murky little pages" is something of the effect of, "[God's] ways are not our ways".  That particular reference is often taken to extremes (in my opinion) but, in the OT, Habakkuk asks the hard questions of God (why send the evil Assyrians, Babylonians, etc.) and God answered the prophet in turn by pointing out that these conquerers were all part of His greater plan.  

Similar observations have been made by Christians ... in the NT, Christ, as a result of betrayal, corruption and murder, was accomplishing God's plan.

As far as God being impartial, I'm not sure He has to be but, if He is a good God, I would expect Him to judge all people by the same standard.

Brian:

You're being too careful.  Take some risks, man!    

Pete:

You are right, I think, that there are several logical problems with the line of questioning I quoted (I think begging the question is one of the fallacies committed).  Look forward to seeing what else you have to say.

Brad:

I think all of your illustrative statements are common ways we sort out right from wrong and I think they are, for the most part, valid.

I am of the opinion that evil (or wrongdoing) can be defined by the intent and the result. Firing a gun up into the air and inadvertantly popping the Goodyear blimp, causing it to crash and kill everyone inside, is a negligent act ... there may have been no general or specific intent to kill those on board but there certainly was a breach of a duty of care owed by the gunman to the blimp passengers and crew.  The law punishes such acts accordingly.

Unless I misinterpreted what you meant by "intent" (the law is more specific in defining "intent" than most laypeople are).

JP:

I agree with Brad that yours is an interesting question.  To muddy the waters further (as an alternative to your dualistic model), what if evil is the parasite of good rather than its equal and opposite?

Melissa:

I'm not sure I understand your religious/spiritual distinction but, to a degree, I think I agree with some of what you are saying.  I might not go so far as saying "crap happens because God wants us to appreciate the good things" ... but I may be willing to say "God may allow some crap to happen toward the end of accomplishing His greater plan".  Getting into divine providence here and may be getting off track.

Brad (again):

Again, you raise a good point.  By a "perfect" standard, I suppose even the "goodest" good would only be imperfectly good (we are mortal, after all -- Trevor obviously excluded).

Lone Reb:

I'm gonna have to come back to you later.  I do find it interesting that we share many of the same books in our respective libraries.  I also think it is interesting that you spit Keller and Bloom out in the same breath ... Bloom is a JEPD theorist and much of the substance of Keller's book tends to harm, rather than help, the redaction critic.

At any rate, I'm thrilled to see someone else interested in the subject.

Be back later.

Jim  

Not A Poet
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18 posted 09-13-2000 03:34 PM       View Profile for Not A Poet   Email Not A Poet   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Not A Poet's Home Page   View IP for Not A Poet

Just wanted to add that I don't in any way intend to belittle the subject or the question, as posed. Although slightly flawed, it is still a valid and important question. I think mankind has been trying to answer this one for millenia and probably will continue until doomsday. Anyway, got to get back to work now but will try to return later. Not sure though that I will be able to contribute significantly as I see there are several of you with knowledge far surpassing mine. But, I will enjoy the discussion all the same. I tend to accept that God is good purly on faith and admittedly have little hard evidence to back up that opinion. But is that not the definition of faith, believing something without proof or provability?

Thanks,
Pete


[This message has been edited by Not A Poet (edited 09-13-2000).]
Local Rebel
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19 posted 09-13-2000 03:54 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

lol @ mr. bouder...

surprised? my dear boy?  that I listen to all sides of an argument?  lol

I said it was going to be a bumpy ride..

and Pete --

this is not a realm of knowledge but of opinion and seeking -- therefore -- please do not recuse yourself
serenity blaze
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20 posted 09-13-2000 04:59 PM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

sigh, sigh, sigh....(beating my head with my mouse)  all I keep thinking is that it goes back to perceptive reality, as we have to have a clear definition of good and evil to start with as a reference point--and I do not think that has been established.  But, if for a moment, we can equate evil with darkness, and darkness being the absence of light--then evil being the absence of good--and further to take it to the theological slant, if God is omnipotent, and omniscient, then, can we conclude, that evil, would be the deliberate shunning of the natural "good"?  Or, is this just an effect of the pendulum, which will swing out as far as it is pulled back?  

(serenity sighs, putting her head back on her desk and feigns sleep...)
Local Rebel
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21 posted 09-13-2000 06:02 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

oh my dearest serenity...

humanity has been beating mice against our collectve heads throughout our entire history and haven't agreed upon the definition yet...

but your term -- perceptive reality -- will play a big part in my tome on the subject..
Local Rebel
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22 posted 09-13-2000 10:21 PM       View Profile for Local Rebel   Email Local Rebel   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for Local Rebel

while we await chapter one...

I have a question... everyone seems to be quick to want to define evil -- as if we have the capacity to do it.

Why hasn't anyone leapt to the task of defining god?
serenity blaze
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23 posted 09-14-2000 12:55 AM       View Profile for serenity blaze   Email serenity blaze   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for serenity blaze

Okay...what's the famous story?  (Wish I could buy more memory for my brain...) but anyhow...to the best of my ability I relate this story:

Three blind men are brought to an elephant each asked to describe what they think that an elephant is.  The first feels the trunk, and says that an elephant is tubular, and flexible.  The second feels the body, and says that an elephant is massive with prickly hairs.  The third feels the tail and states that an elephant is thin and wiry, weaker than a snake.

Now none were wrong, but each perceived a different reality--from the stance of their personal limitations-- I say it is so with God.
Keep in mind that none were wrong.  They were just incomplete in their knowledge.

(serenity plunks head back on desk.  Ouch.)  
JP
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24 posted 09-14-2000 02:22 AM       View Profile for JP   Email JP   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit JP's Home Page   View IP for JP

We seem to want to separate good and evil, as if they are two different things, and then ask that "if God is good, why doesn't he do away with evil?  Obviously he is either not good or he is weak."

I believe good and evil are two sides of the same coin, one cannot exist without the other, there is not one, and not the other.  Futhermore, if the "God" we so reverently refer to were omnipotent would he not by definition encompass both good and evil?  Is not evil then an aspect of that deity?

But wait!  Isn't that blasphemy to say that God embodies evil?  I suppose that depends on what we define as evil.  Is the cycle of life evil?  Death, disease, accidents... are these evil or just part of our human existence?  Are the actions of our fellow humans evil, if they are delitorious to others?  Is this evil or an act of free will?

Do we define evil as a violation of God's law?  If so, isn't it God who gave us the ability to choose to defy that law?

I feel the discussion becomes more of the age old question "Why does God allow suffering in the world?"  That question only becomes relevant if one chooses to believe that God takes an active role in the lives and events of humanity.  If God does in fact actively participate in our lives then what of free will?  What purpose then to let us live our lives if we are to be rewarded, or punished by the choices we make?  Fate it seems would be inevitable, and live would then have little meaning.  And a God, who is omnipotent would have no purpose to let us play along in this game other to amuse himself - that would indeed be evil...


Yesterday is ash, tomorrow is smoke; only today does the fire burn.
JP

"Everything is your own damn fault, if you are any good." E. Hemmingway
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