I recently read about the Epicurean paradox. It is a philosophical argument asking the question ‘If there is a God, why does evil exist?’. It claims that an omnipotent, omniscient, and caring God cannot create a universe with evil in it. In other words, if evil exists, then God cannot be all-powerful(omnipotent), all-knowing(omniscient), and all-loving(benevolent) at the same time. One of these qualities has to be absent in him.
Assertion: If there is an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God, evil cannot exist.
Suppose God (if he exists) is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. This forms the premise of the argument. Most religions today (at least the ones with a large fan following) believe in an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving being. In such a system, we can argue that evil should not exist. To arrive at this conclusion, we ask a series of questions one by one. They are as follows -
Question 1: Is God incapable of destroying evil?
Argument: If he is, then he isn’t all-powerful. By definition, an all-powerful God should be able to do whatever he wants to. This includes his ability to destroy evil. So an all-powerful God should be able to defeat evil but doesn’t. Why?
Question 2: Does God not know that evil exists?
Argument: If he doesn’t, he isn’t all-knowing. So he knows about evil, can destroy it but chooses not to destroy it. Why?
Question 3: Does God not want to destroy evil?
Argument: If he doesn’t want to, he isn’t all-loving. An all-loving God would not be content with evil. He would do whatever he can (which is literally anything since he’s deemed to be all-powerful) to destroy it. So if an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God created the universe, evil would not exist. But it does, doesn’t it?
A lot of religions skirt around this question by saying one of these things -
- God created evil to test us - A similar line of argument can dismantle such a fallacious idea. If God is all-knowing, he would know the result of the test beforehand. He would know how we would respond to a particular situation, apriori. What is the need then for such a test?
- God cannot create a world with free will that is bereft of evil - Well, then there exists something he cannot do. Therefore he isn’t all-powerful.
Given that evil exists, we need to do away with one of these three qualities, which raise a few serious questions -
- God is not all-powerful - Then what is the extent of his power? If he is weak, what is the point of praying to such a being? How do we know that he can even fulfill our prayers?
- God is not all-knowing - Then what is the extent of his knowledge?
- God is not all-loving - This would mean God is like a despotic ruler. He commands over us but not benevolently. Does such a creature deserve to be worshipped?
Or maybe such a creature just doesn’t exist!