11 May 2007

Good and Evil

Philosophers talk about the "Problem of Evil." I'd never heard of it back in my teens when I decided Christianity made no sense to me. And I consider that name to be misleading. The problem is not evil (or perception of evil, more accurately). The problem is with a Single, Absolutely Good God.

I'm not sure when I first started thinking about this, but I do know what ultimately crystallized my thoughts: The Wheel of Time. In it, there is an absolutely good Creator and an absolutely evil Dark One. Because of this, the world itself (the Pattern) is neutral. There are good people and bad people, good events and bad events, etc. This makes perfect sense. Any formulation with an absolutely good god that lacks an equally powerful evil god (or some equivalent) is completely incompatible with reality as we know it.

Here was my formulation of the problem. A perfectly good god can only create a perfectly good world. The world is not perfectly good. Ergo, a perfectly good god did not create it. Of course, the usual suspects will scream, "It was the Fall! The Fall! The Fall!" But that makes no sense either. A perfectly good god creates a human being. The human being, then, is perfectly good, and therefore incapable of evil. Here the screams will be of "Free Will!" But in order for there to be free will, the choice must already exist. So this god had to create that choice, or the choice had to exist independently of god. In other words, either god created evil or evil existed independently of god from some other source. If god created evil, god is not perfectly good. If evil exists independently of god, then god is not the supreme creator. QED.

It was at this point that I reluctantly decided I was an atheist. I no longer consider myself an atheist. I think that all the gods that people have ever believed in are equally real, and a reflection of something deeper underlying reality. Emphasis on all the gods. Good, evil, ridiculous, boring, insane... All of them. I don't know enough about Carl Jung's theory of Universal Archetypes to know if I agree with all of it, but the bare-bones idea would fit how I view the gods. And as Granny Weatherwax says (paraphrased), "Just 'cause they exist is no reason to go around believin' in them."

Incidentally, another book that influenced my thinking was Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories. Beautiful, but disturbing, collection. If nothing else, read "The Deathbird."


John said...

You are absolutely right. Evil is not the problem. The concept of an ininitely compassionate, omnipotent god is.

Just read the Old Testament. Ol' Yahweh has no problem with suffering.

Snark said...

I realize I'm getting in on this conversation a bit late, but, yeah, even my boy Arlo said, "You can't have a light without a dark to put it in." Everything's relative. And, boy, does God do a 180 when he moves from the Old to the New Testament. Jack Miles' God: A Biography makes that point thoroughly. Of course, you gotta read the whole Bible at a pretty fair blow to get it. Anyway, I'm a Christian agnostic (well, I don't know) who figures she'll find out something after death. Or she'll stop wondering. Either way, I won't have questions.