Richard Swinburne's "The Problem of Evil": God's Existence

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Richard Swinburne's "The Problem of Evil": God's Existence

Philosophers have looked for ways to explain God's existence for centuries. One such argment that the believer must justify in order to maintain the possibility of God's existence is the problem of evil. In his essay, "The Problem of Evil," by Richard Swinburne, the author attempts to explain how evil can exist in a world created by an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Being, namely God. Swinburne uses to free-will defense and says that God gave us a choice between doing good and doing evil. If someone chooses to do good over evil, then that Good is greater than if one had no choice at all but to do good. This is a weak argument and in order to clarify those weaknesses one can look at Steven M. Cahn's essay entitled "Cacodaemony." This essay parallels Swineburne's, but states that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnimalevolent Demon created the world. By looking at how weak the argument for cacodaemony is, one can see how unlikely it is that the Demon exists and then can see that the existence of God is just as unlikely.

In "The Problem of Evil", Swinburne says that an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent Being created the world. If this were true, how can evil exist in this world? If God consciously knew He was creating a world in which there is evil, then He would not be omnibenevolent. If God did not know He was creating a world in which evil exists, then He would not be omniscient. If God is omnipotent then He would be able to stop any evil from occurring. Either way, God would not be what Christianity makes him out to be. Swinburne argues that the theodicist, one who believes that it is not wrong for God to create a world in which there is evil, can logically explain the existence of evil in the world.

The main argument that the theodicist uses is the free-will defense, which claims that God gave humans the freedom to choose between doing acts of good and acts of evil. The theodicist argues that the good person could do is greater if it is chosen instead of doing evil. It is better to choose to walk an elderly person across the road instead of deciding to push the elderly person in front of an oncoming car. The theodicist believes that it is better for a person to have that choice, though nearly everyone would naturally choose to help the person across the street, than to have no choice at all and be forced to help that person. Swinburne writes that giving people a moral responsibility to do the right thing is good. "But if He did so by imposing a full character on a humanly free creature, this would be giving him a character which he had not in any way chosen or adopted for himself" (9). Swinburne believes that the freedom to choose and develop ones own character is a very important thing and each person deserves to have the ability to choose between Good and evil. This, however, does not justify the amount of pain and suffering in the world. If someone were to consciously choose to do an evil act over a good one, the suffering caused to the innocent people involved would not be right. There are some people with mental disorders or those born with retardation that do not have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, or who sometimes suffer from lack of proper judgement. These people cannot make a choice between good and evil, so sometimes they do evil acts, and sometimes they do good ones. Would it not be better for these people not to have the choice, a choice that they may not be fit to make? For example, a man who is schizophrenic may hear voices that tell him to do something that he knows is morally wrong, such as kill somebody. Would it not be better for God to intervene and make this person's judgement better? It most certainly would be better for God to intervene and give this person a proper sense of right and wrong and the ability to do the right thing. It would have been a better world...
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