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The anti-theistic argument from Evil. The Deductive argument from evil. If there is a God, then this God would prevent Evil But there is Evil Therefore there is no God.

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The anti-theistic argument from Evil

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the deductive argument from evil
The Deductive argument from evil

If there is a God, then this God would prevent Evil

But there is Evil

Therefore there is no God.

The argument has an a priori assumption—that it follows from the nature of God that God would want to prevent evil and that God would be able to prevent evil.
  • The argument has an empirical premise—there is Evil
a problem with the deductive argument
A problem with the Deductive Argument
  • The Deductive argument claims that Evil is incompatible with the existence of God.
  • But this is not necessarily the case. If something very good is necessarily connected with something evil, God might have to create the evil, in order to create the good.
  • What would such a great good be?
free will
Free will
  • By saying human beings (at least) have free will, we mean that some of the choices and decisions human beings make are not determined (by natural causality, God, or anything else). They are “up to us,” not up to God or nature.
  • Such free will seems to involve the possibility of evil (since nothing us from making evil choices)
the free will defense
The Free will defense
  • It is good that God create free creatures
  • If God creates free creatures, God must also creates the possibility of evil
  • The existence of free creatures is a good that outweighs the evil that comes from free choices
  • Therefore God is justified creating a world with evil in it and evil is not incompatible with the existence of God.
the inductive argument from evil
The inductive argument from evil
  • The failure of the deductive argument forces us to focus on the question of gratuitous evil
  • Gratuitous evil is evil that is not required for any greater good. It is pointless.
another argument from evil
Another argument from evil
  • If God exists, God would not allow for gratuitous evil
  • There is gratuitous evil
  • Therefore God does not exist
  • This argument requires that we support the claim that some evils are not themselves required for some greater good.
kinds of evil
Kinds of Evil
  • Physical evil (suffering)
  • Mental evil (depression, grief)
  • State evil ( hatred, envy, ugliness)
  • Moral evil (actions leading to evil consequences, actions that are bad in themselves if there are any (e.g. lying).

The universe appears to be full of many evils of these kinds

swinburne these evils are not really gratuitous
Swinburne: these evils are not really gratuitous

The possibility of evil actions is a pre-requisite for free will

Evil actions must have real consequences if people are to have real responsibility

what of natural evil
What of natural evil?
  • Natural evil is evil that is not the result of free choices
  • Natural disasters, disease, the suffering of humans and other animals due to natural phenomena
swinburne s response
Swinburne’s response
  • An imperfect world is better than a perfect world because it allows for creatures to improve through their free actions. It gives creatures “the privledge of making their own universe.”


soul making
Soul making
  • God could create a world with morally perfect people, but it is better that we be created imperfectly. This allows us to grow and develop our own character through our free choices.
  • Natural evils provide an enviroment in which character development can occur
  • (a world in which everything is fine would not provide much opportunity for courage or compassion, for example)
gratuitous evil again
Gratuitous evil again
  • Do these general arguments show that all examples of evil are not gratuitous. Consider these two examples
  • A child is raped and killed by her father
  • A fawn dies a slow painful death as a result of being caught in a fire

Evils such as these are not at all rare—are they all necessary for some greater good?