Evil God and Mirror Theodicies
The problem of evil is perhaps the best-known objection to standard monotheism, that's to say, to belief in God defined as omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnibenevolent (all-good). In fact there are two problems of evil, the logical and the evidential. Here I focus on the 'evidential' problem, which is often presented as follows:
If gratuitous evil exists, then God does not exist.
Gratuitous evil exists.
Therefore, God does not exist.
'Evil', in this context comes in two varieties: (i) moral evils such as the morally bad things we do as free moral agents (we start wars, murder, steal, etc.) and (ii) natural evils such as natural diseases and disasters that cause great suffering. So-called 'gratuitous' evils are evils for which there exists no God-justifying reason. Perhaps God has good reason to allow some evils into his creation if that is the price that must be paid for greater goods (there are examples below). But surely God, as defined above, won't allow pointless, gratuitous evils: evils he lacks a good reason to allow. So it appears the first premise of our argument is true: if gratuitous evils exist, then God does not exist.
Is the second premise true? Surely it is. Consider human suffering. Take, for example, the appalling psychological suffering a parent must go through who has to watch, helpless, as their child dies slowly of starvation or an agonizing disease. The consensus among population experts is that, over the sweep of human prehistory - around two hundred thousands years - the parents of each generation have had to watch, on average, between a third and a half of their under-five children die. It's only very recently that we have managed to bring childhood mortality rates down. The appalling suffering of these preceding generations of children and their parents was not something they brought on themselves.
Then consider animal suffering. A while ago I watched a wildlife documentary about Komodo dragons poisoning, tracking for a week or so, and then, finally, when their victim became too weak to defend itself, disembowelling and eating alive, a water buffalo. The cameraman said this had been his first ever wildlife assignment, and it would probably also be his last, because he couldn’t cope with the depth of suffering he had been forced to witness. That was just one poor creature. Each day, millions of animals are similarly forced to tear each other limb from limb to survive. And this has been going on for hundreds of millions of years. This is, in many ways, a beautiful world. But it’s also a staggeringly cruel and horrific world for very many of its inhabitants.
Unspeakable horror on an almost unimaginably vast scale is built into the very fabric of the world we find ourselves forced to inhabit.
Surely, as we look back across the aeons, we witness suffering of such depth and on such a vast scale that it becomes highly implausible that there's a good, God justifying reason, not just for some of it, but for every last ounce it. And if there is any gratuitous evil at all, then there is no God.
image source: https://deforestlondon.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/the-pastoral-theodicy-of-the-good-shepherd/