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Old 06-23-2017, 06:39 AM   #1
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The Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil is the theological problem that is built on the following axioms:
  • If a being is Benevolent, they will try to end Evil in the world.
  • If a being is Omnipotent, they can do anything.
  • If a being is Omniscient, they know how to do anything
  • Evil exists in the world

The PoE then concludes logically that no being can exist that is simultaneously Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Benevolent, since Evil exists in the world.

“Evil” is perhaps a misleading word, because in this context it refers to specifically “suffering”. The PoE is, thus, as explained by Pawel on these forums, the simple question:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Babism View Post
why God allow innocent child to suffer?
So some try to explain it away by using a “devil”. In this model, the Devil causes suffering, and that is why there is suffering in the world. This solution doesn’t seem to me to be an actual solution. It just changes the question from “why would God allow innocent children to suffer??” to “why would God allow the Devil to cause innocent children to suffer??” The PoE is still there, the suffering allowance is simply more indirect.

So to understand this, we need to understand the nature of suffering. From this, I think it is important to look at the writings of a Prophet who focused heavily on the theme of suffering, Gautama Buddha. Gautama Buddha taught that Anatta, or Detachment, as we would understand it, is the key to ending suffering. From that we can know that Attachment is the cause of suffering.

Since “blind children” was put forth by Pawel on these forums as an example of suffering in the world, let’s use the example of blindness in the context of Attachment and Suffering. With this in mind, who suffers more from their blindness, the person blind from birth, or the person who lost their sight later in life?? I would posit that the person who is blinded later in life will suffer more. The person blinded later will have become used to relying on the sense of sight, they will have become attached to the sense, and they have thus lost something, so they will suffer more. The person blind from birth doesn’t know what it is like to have sight, so they have lost nothing, and do not have any suffering born of loss.

Or, for another example: I have a condition called synesthesia, specifically chromesthesia. This means there are some “crossed wires” in my brain that causes me to experience the sensations of color and shapes when hearing any sound. Now, while I would like to attain detachment, the truth of the matter is that if I was to ever lose this extra sense, I would experience suffering. My entire taste in music would be altered, as I’d lose a whole dimension to enjoying music. Instruments like the mouth harp and church organ, which I appreciate for their color rather than their sound would no longer interest me. However, for the vast majority of people, who do not have synesthesia, you all don’t suffer at all from lacking synesthesia.

From those two examples, we can infer that lacking a form of sensory input is not suffering in and of itself, but rather attachment to a form of sensory input, and then the loss of that sensation, is the way that one gains suffering from that sensation.

With the above observation, I feel that the Problem of Evil is logically sound, though it is built on a faulty axiom. Evil, or Suffering, does not exist in the world. Suffering only exists within a person, caused by their own attachment. Suffering can thus be ended by gaining detachment, and no longer looking at the world in terms of our judgements and attachments.

There’s a Taoist parable I like that describes this:

A Chinese farmer owns a horse. One day his horse runs away. His neighbor tells him, “Oh no, that’s bad!!”

The farmer replies “Good or bad, who’s to say??”

The next day the horse returned, with a herd of horses alongside it. His neighbor tells him, “Oh, you were right!! It was actually good!!”

The farmer replies again “Good or bad, who’s to say??”

The next day the farmer’s son tries taming one of the new horses, but is thrown from the horse’s back and breaks his leg. Once again the neighbor calls this event bad.

Once again the farmer simply shrugs and says “Good or bad, who’s to say??”

The next day the army comes along and drafts all of the able bodied young men to go off and fight in a bloody and dangerous war. The farmer’s son is not drafted due to his broken leg. Once again the neighbor calls this good. Once again the farmer refuses to call it either good or bad.

In the whole of the parable, the farmer doesn’t suffer because he doesn’t place a judgement of good or bad on every event that happens. The events simply happen, and the farmer remains detached. The neighbor, meanwhile, is in a state of confusion, trying to figure out whether or not the initial loss of the horse, and all the consequences of that event, should be classified as “good” or “bad”, and ends up having to change his mind on the subject every single day.

Another good parable of this is the Creation Story in the Bible. In this story Adam and Eve start in a state of Eden, a paradise where no suffering exists. They eat a fruit forbidden to them, and suddenly are no longer in Eden, but a world in which suffering exists.

This fruit, we are told, is symbolic of the “knowledge of good and evil”. In other words, examining the order of events, we have mankind in a state of paradise, then mankind embracing the “knowledge of good and evil”, in other words, mankind separating the world into terms of “good” and “bad”, and then after that mankind is in a state of suffering. Perhaps the “Knowledge of Good and Evil” was forbidden to man because it is not a true “Knowledge”, but is the source of suffering.

The act of attaching the labels of “good” or “bad” to different aspects of the world is what causes suffering to happen. Suffering is not a quality of this world, it is a quality we give ourselves by trying to divide the world into terms of “good things” and “bad things”.

We can also see this in the Seven Valleys, in a way. In it, we are told seven stages of spiritual advancement. The fourth stage, Unity leads to the fifth stage Contentment. Why does Unity lead to Contentment?? Perhaps because if you can unify, within yourself and your own worldview, the concepts of “good” and “bad” into a single whole, you will logically cease to suffer, and achieve a state of contentment. Much like the Taoist parable’s farmer, who has no conception of good or bad in his life, and is completely content in all things.

So if you rely on sight and grow attached to the sense, you call that sight “good”, which makes blindness “bad” by default. Thus if you have that view, if you experience blindness, you Suffer. If you are, on the other hand, detached from that sense, then whether you remain clear-sighted or lose your eyes, you will not suffer regardless.

As such, suffering is not a quality of the world. Suffering, or evil, does not exist in the world. Suffering is a quality we bring about on ourselves because of our attachment.

Last edited by Walrus; 06-23-2017 at 06:42 AM.
 
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Old 06-23-2017, 10:04 AM   #2
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Thank you, Walrus, for opening this thread and for your very interesting post.
I love the way you present your reflections. God bless you for that.

I believe that, just as you have pointed out, the "Problem of Evil" and the "Problem of Suffering" are different issues. They are closely related, but still different.

The Chinese parable you mentioned is perfect as an example of these two different problems.I will come later to this.

For now, let me say that the concept of "good" and "evil" is fundamental to human life. Isn't this why we act to obtain or maintain certain things and avoid or destroy other things? You suppose that the farmer was "content in all things" but if we were indifferent to good or evil, we would sit without motion or action, awaiting the decay of our bodies. The truth is that we strive for food, shelter, a secure home for our children, the discovery of a vaccine for malaria, or saving money to make a Pilgrimage to Haifa. We do all of this because those things are good.... meaning, they keep us moving in the path of development.

We are not "content in all things". There are things you and I are definitely not content with, which prompt us to movement.

The essence of human life is movement: Movement towards the Light ("good" and God) and not away from the Light ("evil"). This requires detachment from whatever hinders us from keep moving (and causes suffering), but also implies an active search for the Light (an active pursuit of what is good).

So, in the Taoist parable, one thing is for the farmer to feel calm, because he is detached from the horse and even detached from his son, and a different thing to know what the farmer was willing to do to bring back the horse, or to keep and tame the new horses, or to heal his son broken leg.

If you ask me, the farmer should have done things to recover his horse and his son's health. This would mean he values his horse and his son. This would mean he would consider having the horse and having a healthy son as something good, which deserves an effort to be preserved, obtained, or recovered.

Bringing back the horse or getting a doctor and paying the treatment comes with effort: a dose of physical and mental discomfort. Depending on the degree of effort, sometimes that discomfort becomes sheer pain. But pain does not equal "suffering". When you value something as "good", pain is a a fair price, or even an investment.

I don't know if this adds to your thinking. Please keep posting!

Last edited by camachoe; 06-23-2017 at 10:39 AM.
 
Old 06-23-2017, 02:21 PM   #3
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The problem with evil is that I have to live with my own self

Regards Tony
 
Old 06-24-2017, 10:53 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
If you are, on the other hand, detached from that sense, then whether you remain clear-sighted or lose your eyes, you will not suffer regardless.
Hey Walrus,

Kinda reminds me of of a famous NT passage: "Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread" (Luke 12.27). It continues: "Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these!" Well, that's a strange comment, because it turns our usual values upside down: how can wildflowers surpass Solomon's fabric? Seems to be about the wildflower's obedience to the universe (God's will) and detachment from our faulty perceptions. In other words, this passage from the NT seems to be on the same page as the Taoist parable. Difficult sayings to digest.

I would like to know how others view this passage. Luke 12.27.
 
Old 06-25-2017, 12:02 PM   #5
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Hi, Ahanu

I get three insights when I read the passage you are referring to:

1. "DO NOT BE WORRIED"

When you read the whole passage, Jesus is asking us not to make our desire for things a source of fear, worry, distress, suffering. Look at the words I have put in bold.
"Then Jesus told his disciples, “That’s why I’m telling you to stop worrying about your life—what you will eat—or about your body—what you will wear, because life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the crows. They don’t plant or harvest, they don’t even have a storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than birds! Can any of you add an hour to the length of your life by worrying? So if you can’t do a small thing like that, why worry about other things? Consider how the lilies grow. They don’t work or spin yarn, but I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. Now if that’s the way God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and thrown into an oven tomorrow, how much more will he clothe you—you who have little faith?

“So stop concerning yourselves about what you will eat or what you will drink, and stop being distressed, because it is the unbelievers who are concerned about all these things. Surely your Father knows that you need them! Instead, be concerned about his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you as well. Stop being afraid, little flock, because your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom."
When we treat things that will fade away as if they were eternal.... when we love things that can give us transient pleasure as if they were a source of true happiness... when we take things in isolation, instead of integrating them as part of the whole system of things (The Ultimate Reality, God)... then we suffer. So Jesus is inviting to get connected to God as our first and main concern, so that all other material blessings can appear in our lives.

2. SOLOMON ACTING AGAINST HIS NATURE

Wildflowers live as they are intended to live, (e.g. they grow leaves with chloroplasts that can make sugar out of sun and water) so they get from God what they need.
When we humans live as we are intended to live, and then we also get from God what we need. Our life, though, has a different nature, different purpose, and different needs than the life of wildflowers.
So the question is How should I live as the human I am, so that I can get from God what I need?
Abddu'l Bahá is eloquent in how the rational soul is what put us apart from wildflowers:
"The first condition of perception in the world of nature is the perception of the rational soul. In this perception and in this power all men are sharers, whether they be neglectful or vigilant, believers or deniers. This human rational soul is God’s creation; it encompasses and excels other creatures; as it is more noble and distinguished, it encompasses things"
We cannot make our food from photosynthesis as the plants do, but if we act according to our true nature (exercising or rational faculty) we will work, produce, exchange, collaborate with others, love, pursuit knowledge... the meaning of our lives. Just as a sunflower, we will turn towards the Sun of Truth... and God will then provide.

Let's remember that, at the peak of his power, King Solomon rejected God and rendered himself to temporal pleasures, and idolatry. He accumulated wealth as any other king of his time, through taxing, threats, war or looting. In other words, he disconnected from the Sun of Truth, acting against his nature as a rational creature, while the wildflowers kept behaving according to their nature and growing beautifully. At that time, all Solomon's wealth (represented in things like his garments) were not helping him in any way... on the contrary, they were working against him. Wildflowers' delicate petals, on the other hand, worked perfectly in favour of them.

3. IS HUMAN CIVILIZATION MORE SPLENDOROUS THAN WILDFLOWERS?

In one sense, wildflowers, as live beings, are far more complex than any of the garments of Solomon. A single bacteria is more complex than a skyscraper of iron, glass and cement.
In other sense, though, our current garments, skyscrapers, aircraft and genetic engineering demonstrate an impressive command over nature. A command that comes from the very gift of God to man: their rational soul.

My personal conclusion is that, inasmuch as we disconnect from God and act against our rational nature, our possessions or "achivements" are a source of suffering, evil and spiritual death. They are worth much less than wildflowers.
Now, in as much as we connect to God and act according to our rational nature, our possessions and achievements drive our development and bring us joy.

Last edited by camachoe; 06-25-2017 at 12:20 PM.
 
Old 06-25-2017, 06:04 PM   #6
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.

"Still more ideal than this life is the life of the bird. A bird, on the summit of a mountain, on the high, waving branches, has built for itself a nest more beautiful than the palaces of the kings! The air is in the utmost purity, the water cool and clear as crystal, the panorama charming and enchanting. In such glorious surroundings, he expends his numbered days. All the harvests of the plain are his possessions, having earned all this wealth without the least labor. Hence, no matter how much man may advance in this world, he shall not attain to the station of this bird! Thus it becomes evident that in the matters of this world, however much man may strive and work to the point of death, he will be unable to earn the abundance, the freedom and the independent life of a small bird. This proves and establishes the fact that man is not created for the life of this ephemeral world—nay, rather, is he created for the acquirement of infinite perfections, for the attainment to the sublimity of the world of humanity, to be drawn nigh unto the divine threshold, and to sit on the throne of everlasting sovereignty!" - Abdu'l-Baha


Bahá'í Reference Library - Tablets of the Divine Plan, Pages 39-46


Kam
 
Old 06-26-2017, 05:01 AM   #7
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I've been thinking about the original post, and a thought struck me. No human child can ever reach a true state of maturity without experiencing struggle. Without it, one does not truly "grow up" and cannot be called mature.

Likewise, humanity will never reach maturity without experiencing evil. Without knowledge of it, we will never really "grow up" as a human race. Yes, this means we are denied the state of paradise so many people think we are entitled to, but over time we will truly reach our potential through struggle.

Besides, most things we consider evil are really the results of human decisions, not God. "Every good thing is of God, and every evil thing is from yourselves." (Gleanings From the Writings of Baha'u'llah, Section 77) This is actually self-evident if you look at it from the perspective that humanity should take responsibility for its own actions. God, like a good parent, never stops providing for us, His children, in many ways. But His ultimate gift is wisdom, not indulgence. That doesn't sit well with those who have a sense of entitlement, but I think it to be true.

I think, too, it is important to remember that this life is temporary, and that the point of it is to make progress toward God. Whatever evil we experience in this life will pass, but our journey toward God does not end. "Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter." (GWB, Section 81) When bad things happen in this life, they seem very final. But that is simply not the case.

Last edited by Scribe; 06-26-2017 at 05:19 AM.
 
Old 06-26-2017, 05:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scribe View Post
I've been thinking about the original post, and a thought struck me. No human child can ever reach a true state of maturity without experiencing struggle. Without it, one does not truly "grow up" and cannot be called mature.

Likewise, humanity will never reach maturity without experiencing evil. Without knowledge of it, we will never really "grow up" as a human race. Yes, this means we are denied the state of paradise so many people think we are entitled to, but over time we will truly reach our potential through struggle.

Besides, most things we consider evil are really the results of human decisions, not God. "Every good thing is of God, and every evil thing is from yourselves." (Gleanings From the Writings of Baha'u'llah, Section 77) This is actually self-evident if you look at it from the perspective that humanity should take responsibility for its own actions. God, like a good parent, never stops providing for us, His children, in many ways. But His ultimate gift is wisdom, not indulgence. That doesn't sit well with those who have a sense of entitlement, but I think it to be true.

I think, too, it is important to remember that this life is temporary, and that the point of it is to make progress toward God. Whatever evil we experience in this life will pass, but our journey toward God does not end. "Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter." (GWB, Section 81) When bad things happen in this life, they seem very final. But that is simply not the case.
Thank you, Scribe. Right on point!
Loving regards,
Becky
 
Old 06-27-2017, 08:04 PM   #9
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Let me a reflection about natural disasters that kill or damage innocent people.
They pose a powerful incentive for human progress.

For example, earthquakes and floods spur humans to engineer better structures. Diseases spur human to find cures and understand biological processes. All natural accidents and disasters are triggers for new understanding of how God manifests in nature, which in turn helps to create the technology and the social systems mankind needs to advance.

In other words, the scale in which the "good" can be appreciated is the big scale of humankind over eternity, even when at the individual scale over hours or days some events look tragic.
 
Old 06-27-2017, 09:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by camachoe View Post
Let me a reflection about natural disasters that kill or damage innocent people.
They pose a powerful incentive for human progress.

For example, earthquakes and floods spur humans to engineer better structures. Diseases spur human to find cures and understand biological processes. All natural accidents and disasters are triggers for new understanding of how God manifests in nature, which in turn helps to create the technology and the social systems mankind needs to advance.

In other words, the scale in which the "good" can be appreciated is the big scale of humankind over eternity, even when at the individual scale over hours or days some events look tragic.
I like this perspective very much. Do you mind if I borrow it?

A large part of the reason why I like the Baha'i faith is it helps provide a whole new way of looking at things that I have never seen in any other theological system... at least as a unified whole. This discussion about evil is a case in point. There seems to be much less room for blaming outside forces for evil in the Baha'i faith, and much more room for meaningful growth in the face of it--not only as individuals, but as a whole human race. When evil and disasters are not only endured, but overcome and learned from, there is true potential for human progress. It seems like this is how Baha'u'llah taught us to respond, if I understand things correctly.

I think you are right, camachoe... Even though we may not be around to see it ourselves, I think God has some great long term plans in store for humanity. That is why the messages of the Manifestations are so important. They will help guide us along the way, even if we are not ready for complete information about the whole plan yet.
 
Old 06-27-2017, 09:28 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
Or, for another example: I have a condition called synesthesia, specifically chromesthesia. This means there are some “crossed wires” in my brain that causes me to experience the sensations of color and shapes when hearing any sound.
And at the risk of hijacking the thread a bit:

Walrus, have you ever read any of the books by Allyson K. Abbott (a pen name of Beth Amos)? She writes mysteries in which the main character has synesthesia. Since you live in Wisconsin, you might also be interested in noting that they take place in Milwaukee.
 
Old 06-28-2017, 03:47 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scribe View Post
I like this perspective very much. Do you mind if I borrow it?

A large part of the reason why I like the Baha'i faith is it helps provide a whole new way of looking at things that I have never seen in any other theological system... at least as a unified whole. This discussion about evil is a case in point. There seems to be much less room for blaming outside forces for evil in the Baha'i faith, and much more room for meaningful growth in the face of it--not only as individuals, but as a whole human race. When evil and disasters are not only endured, but overcome and learned from, there is true potential for human progress. It seems like this is how Baha'u'llah taught us to respond, if I understand things correctly.

I think you are right, camachoe... Even though we may not be around to see it ourselves, I think God has some great long term plans in store for humanity. That is why the messages of the Manifestations are so important. They will help guide us along the way, even if we are not ready for complete information about the whole plan yet.
I'm glad you found it useful, Scribe.

Let's consider the toddler who is learning to walk and run.
Doesn't the child learn from tripping, falling and raising again?
And when stumbling, tripping and falling repeatedly, doesn't the kid shows at times signs of pain, despair, and even hesitance to keep on trying?
From the point of view of an observer who didn't know the whole purpose of learning, those falls, and bruises, and tears could be considered as "evil".
From the point of view of a loving Mother, though, those would not be evil whatsoever. She will consider those things as necessary and will encourage her kid to keep on trying. Mankind is that child. God, our All-Knowing Mother.

Perfection, in our human sphere, is not a static station. It is movement towards God.
All movement presupposes space. In this case, space between God and us. Some would consider that space, that gap or distance, as "evil" because it separates us from God.
But indeed, were it not for that space or gap, we could not move towards God... we could not exist a humans.
Evil (in the sense of an unintended collection of challenges and tribulations) is indeed part of the goodness and perfection of our state.

"Now let us consider the soul... Its only movement is towards perfection; growth and progress alone constitute the motion of the soul. Divine perfection is infinite, therefore the progress of the soul is also infinite" Abdu'l Bahá, The Evolution of the Spirit
.

Last edited by camachoe; 06-28-2017 at 04:48 PM.
 
Old 07-13-2017, 06:52 PM   #13
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The premise does not apply;

An omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent GOD would allow IT's creation to be free which is what we have and why evil can come from the hands of greedy men.



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Old 07-13-2017, 07:37 PM   #14
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I think the problem of evil is in actuality a problem of perspective and a faulty assumption.

I can imagine how it would be if we were all flowers in a garden (as I have heard it said that we are) and one flower said to another, "But if there really were a Benevolent Gardener, wherefore is there pruning? Wherefore the separation of our seedlings? Wherefore the hoeing and burning of our bodies?"

From the limited perspective of the garden flower, these seem reasonable complaints, because in the heart of the flower may be the desire to live in a wild and natural state, uncultivated and going to seed. As humans, however, we are also able to identify with the perspective and goal of the gardener and understand the wisdom of pruning, transplanting, and composting, even if they might be alien to the mind of the flower, and constitute part of the problem of evil for that realm.

For us, there is an added feature, which is the assumption of perishability and extinction at death. But if death is more of a detachment and a transitioning, rather than the utter loss it appears to be to those who live, then there is nothing actually lost at all. If we can cast doubt on the assumption of death, and consider the limitations of our perspective, then, it seems to me, the problem of evil ceasing being a true problem at all.

Cheers
 
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