If we believe in God then the question of why there is evil is bound to come up. There are several justifications for evil. Various ideas based and various belief systems try to justify God. First, there is the defense that God is all powerful, and that as humans we cannot hope to understand his power. Let us ignore this possibility for the sake of argument, for there is no counter argument for such a statement. In his essay “Evil and Omnipotence” J.L. Mackie posits that God is either not omnipotent, or not wholly good, or neither, because if he was both, he would not allow for evil to exist.(232) Mackie also talks about what he calls “Fallacious Solutions”, or half-hearted reasoning for evil. He explains that the argument that there must be evil for there to be good implies that God is limited in his power to our logic and reason; he is therefore not omnipotent. We can draw the same conclusion if we say that God cannot create good without creating evil in tow. Mackie also believes that the “free will defense” is in this category. Though for the most part I agree with Mackie, I disagree where free will is concerned.
Lets define free will as our ability to make a choice at any moment. Even if the choice is only internal, not something we can physically act upon. Evil stems from our free will. There is the argument that a truly “good and loving” God would not test and play with us, however if we were not presented with the option to do evil, the temptation to stray from our path, then we would not truly have free will. Though one may argue God could give us free will to choose from infinite choices of good, if God does not give us the option to choose from evil as well, we would not be wholly free, but are limited to only what is “God-approved”. Moreover, our achievements would not fulfill us, as we would have nothing to overcome. The cliched “you must first conquer yourself” would not be applicable, since there are no faults in us to begin with. Having free will lets us have satisfaction and fulfilment from our achievements. Unfortunately the price we must pay for this is our notion of evil.
A common manifestation of free will that can easily be interpreted as evil is our tendency to procrastinate. A closer examination of this phenomena leads me to believe that perhaps there is something outside (or inside but separate from) ourselves that tempts us to do certain “evil” things. Procrastination occurs when there is something that we should or want to do, but instead of doing it we instead do something less important, perhaps even meaningless. It is by my free will that I am in school studying, yet it really seems like every time I sit to study there is a separate voice telling me that perhaps I should check Facebook, and catch up on my TV shows first. This voice is great at rationalizing doing the meaningless task. It assures me that the task will somehow benefit me, and that once it is done I will perform the task that I initially wanted to do better. In Judaism there is the concept of Satan. It is quite different than the Christian idea of a horny red man who likes fire, instead Satan is a force in the world that tempts us to do evil. He serves to give us free will, by showing us the option to do bad, even when according to God we are “supposed” to do good. Satan, or that voice that tempts us to do things that we consider evil, is there as a test from God, it is also there to allow us to have free will. By overcoming Satan we are able to be good.
Though I mentioned earlier that there is an “internal” evil I do not think that there is a force “evil” or a force “good” externally, however that is not to say that certain things are not “evil for you” or “good for you” in the sense that evil is relative to the person who is committing/receiving it. It is not evil that there is a tornado ripping through the land, or that rivers flood, or that a lion eats a zebra. Though to be fair, the zebra has every right to be displeased with the lion, and even fight him off if he has the ability, as we don’t have to stand and wait for a tornado to scoop us up if there happens to be a tornado moving towards us. In my mind good and evil are relative to the person in question. To the millions of people who were tortured and killed in the holocaust Hitler was surely an evil man, but I doubt that he thought himself evil. In fact he probably thought that he was doing good through his actions. True evil is internal in every person, it is the force that tries to stop us from reaching our potential and tries to lure us down a path that we don’t want to be on.
Do you guys (if anyone actually reads this) think that I am being too much of a relativist? Is evil an force of its own right, not just something in relation to us?
Readings in the Philosophy of Religion. J.L.Mackie. Evil and Omnipotence