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The Problem of Evil and the existence of God

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/3/2016 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 928 times Debate No: 96665
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (14)
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A common argument that has been proposed repeatedly throughout history goes something like this:

Believers claim that their God is all-powerful, all-powerful, and all-loving. If God is all powerful and all-loving, then it could prevent evil from happening. Evil exists. Therefore, God is either:
Willing, but not able
Able, but not willing
Unwilling and Unable.

This is a debate around the Logical Problem Of Evil.

I am Pro and will take the position of the argument above.

Con will refute this claim.

Round 1 is for accepting and optional opening statement from Pro.


I accept.

I would like to ask Pro to define for us all, so that there is no equivocation of terms, what "evil" is, and subsequently upon what foundation he has for that definition.

Debate Round No. 1


Something that is harmful or undesirable.


Haha, well that's a vague definition of evil if there ever was one.

So is smoking a cigarette evil?
What if someone kills a home invader that was about to rape his wife? It is harmful to all parties involved (physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically) and I do not think anyone "desires" to suffer a home invasion that results in death. So is that evil?

Is that really your definition?

Look, let's just go with this. This is an age old argument. I am not going to pretend like I am the one who came up with a "theist's" response to this argument.

So just try and refute this:

"Firstly, God is all-powerful. God could eliminate evil from the world. This is true and accurate.

Secondly, God is "all-loving" or infinitely compassionate. This is true, but there is an implicit third premise in this argument " that infinitely compassionate means that He would wish to prevent "evil" acts and is prepared to take the necessary steps to do so.

Thirdly, the term "evil" is never defined in this argument " what is evil? Asking the atheist will not get a clear answer " given the fact that the only clear definition is "that which is against God" and the atheist denies the existence of God. The atheist will probably give examples of evil " the Holocaust, child rape, murder, war, starvation. All of these things are certainly unpleasant, and many of them are actively evil (some of these things are simply the natural results of evil, selfish actions, and others " like hurricanes and floods " are just natural disasters).

The unspoken premise in this argument is that an all-loving God will intervene to prevent what the atheist defines as unpleasant. This is a key issue " if God interfered prevented everything that was genuinely evil (i.e. what He saw as evil) then no-one would be able to deny His existence, no-one would be able to have premarital sex, no-one would be able to advocate or have an abortion and so forth.

This would result in the complete subjugation of free-will. This is a necessarily logical step " God cannot prevent evil without removing free-will from people (and removing it not just to a degree of coercion " i.e. "Do as I say or you will suffer" - but rather totally removing it so that humanity has no free-will whatsoever and cannot choose to do anything.)

If there is no free-will and humanity cannot choose evil, then humanity cannot choose good either. A rock has no free-will; it is not a moral thing, but neither is it amoral. It simply exists.

So, what does it mean for God to be all-loving? It means that He wants us to choose Him and choose the good. He wants us to reject evil. God's highest good is the correct exercise of free-will to choose Him. He sees death and suffering as, while very unpleasant for humanity, not evil in and of themselves. Death and suffering are often the results of evil actions, but they are not evil themselves.

God is both infinitely loving and infinitely just; in His love He gives everyone the chance to know Him and respond to Him, the chance to choose good. A person who has chosen God and who is killed by an evil man is in a better position than the evil man; he is going to Heaven. God is interested in allowing humanity to choose Him, not in trampling over their wills and turning them into inert objects who have no ability to choose good or evil."

^ From

Debate Round No. 2


Thank you Hitch for posting something from a website as your entire response. I was actually hoping to hear your own thoughts on this topic, but let's roll with it anyway.

Your first point makes no sense and it falls at the first hurdle. Simply stating back to me the argument's premise that 'God is all-powerful. God could eliminate evil from the world.' and tagging on the phrase 'This is true and accurate' without any definition or evidence as to why you think this is so, is not an argument that it is so. It is just dodging the question. You use this tactic again when talking about an all-loving god. You have yet to present any substantive argument as to why you believe these things to be so. When you later respond by saying that there is an 'implicit third premise' that 'infinitely compassionate means that He would wish to prevent "evil" acts and is prepared to take the necessary steps to do so.' This is not implicit. This is part of the actual premise itself and is made EXPLICITLY clear in the original argument. So much for copy and paste. This is why it would have been good for you to take it seriously. I was under the impression that you would actually debate with me. But I, at least, will happily share my own thoughts with you.

Before I start, let me clear my throat on one thing. That is, your straw-manning of my definition of 'evil'. It was defined using a deliberately broad brush so as to elicit a healthy debate. To upbraid my use of it as a 'vague definition' and to then go on to state that the only clear definition of 'evil' is 'that which is against god' is somewhat stretching the definition of the word clear. Especially when all you've done is to structure the same meaning within your own religious framework.

But that's the boring bit done with.

With regards to god being both willing and able to to prevent evil, we see no evidence of this at all. One need only look at how the world in which we live effects us. And, yes, why not use the Holocaust, child rape, murder, war and starvation as examples? What about the person that has been subjected to rape? Are we to give relief to them by saying 'You should know that this is part of god's blessing for your life. God could have stopped it, but he let you suffer so that your reward in heaven will be great'? And what of the Holocaust survivors? Do we tell them that god was able to stop the genocide of their family tree and that he could have intervened at anytime he wished? How can we say 'Take heart! because a loving god has allowed the decimation of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in order to show us his love.'? It should be crystal clear to anyone that these are not the action of an all-loving and all-powerful deity, these are the actions of a demented and capricious psychopath. When we look to our world to find any footprint of a loving and all powerful god, all we can see are those that have been trampled beneath it.

Hitch, you later go on to say that 'if God interfered prevented everything that was genuinely evil (i.e. what He saw as evil) then no-one would be able to deny His existence'. If you want to talk about divine command theory here, then please elucidate further. What is is that god sees as evil? Are morally good acts willed by God because they are morally good, or are they morally good because they are willed by God? If we look to scripture, then we see that whatever god commands to be good is good. This includes, rape, pillaging, torture, patricide, matricide, infanticide, bride-price, slavery, genocide and human sacrifice to name but a few. We are told that without god, society can do what it likes and get away with it. It seems that the reverse is actually true; With god on your side, everything is permissible. This shows a god that has neither the will nor the ability to stem evil. This is a morally reprehensible god that is not able to do anything about the problem of evil simply because the problem of evil is the problem of his own nature.

In the matter of free will, I bow to Christopher Hitches when he says 'Of course I have free-will. I have no other choice but to have it.'

The Secret Antitheist.


Oh Pro, how poor you are at debating. Let me dissect everything you've said, piece by piece. Is this your first time?

"Thank you Hitch for posting something from a website as your entire response."

First of all, my name is not hitch. Secondly, my entire response was not from a website. The first portion was highlighting how inadequate your "Definition" of evil was. If you had maybe consulted a source, like a dictionary or another ontological argument you might not have sounded like an amateur. Furthermore, the part I did take from a website is just showing intellectual honesty. The purpose of me getting on this website, is to spread the new Evangelization. It is exposing you to new sources you probably do not go to, and yes, this debate is AGES old. There is nothing new here. Anything I am going to say on my own, is either going to be derivative of something I read, or said not as well as someone else. So why would I pretend to be original in an argument that is not? Why would I not quote someone who has already said it, or says it better than I can?

Hey, I could be like you and just an off the cuff definition of evil and look terrible.

"Simply stating back to me the argument's premise that "God is all powerful..."

What is the point of this debate if we cannot agree upon a premise? YOU started the debate and gave us that premise, I am agreeing with it. This is DEBATING 101. You set the premise, I accepted the challenge, and we move on. Any other kind of clarifications I thought we needed (e.g. define evil, which you totally sucked at) I asked for, and we moved on. You gave the premise that God Is all powerful, and are trying to make it seem like I am wrong for agreeing with the premise you proposed for this argument? I do not have to prove the premise you proposed for the real issue of "the logical problem of evil" GIVEN an all-powerful, all loving, God.

Seriously, do you not see how silly of a complaint that is for you to make? You've totally shot yourself in the foot. You're arguing with what YOU wrote in Round 1. The question of this debate is: Given that God is all-powerful and all-loving, why is there evil in this world?

The answer I give for that is that to not allow evil and free will would defeat man's capacity to not only commit evil, but to actually do good and love. My answer should actually have little to do with proving that God is all-powerful, because that is not what the debate is about. I was simply agreeing with your premise.

"To upbraid my use of it as a 'vague definition' and to then go on and state that the only clear definition of 'evil' is..."

OK. Again going back to DEBATE 101. Having clear, concise, and narrow definitions of the terms essential to your arguments and premise is paramount in having a good debate. Having vague terms is the opposite of that. Here is something for you to think do you seriously know if something is evil? How can you, as an atheist, prove to the rest of humanity that human life is unique, and that there is such a thing as morality? How can you really objectively call something evil? If there is nothing beyond the material world in which we live, how can you say one system of thought is really better than another, or this action is moral and this action is not moral?

Do you think maybe, in a debate about "Evil", you would really want to know what it is you are really talking about?

"If you want to talk about divine command theory here, then please elucidate further. What is it that God sees as evil?"

Well, you already got upset that I gave a definition of Evil "in my own religious framework", but now you're asking for me to give you a definition of my own religious framework. You're just...really bad at this.

This comment of yours, and this one...

"If we look to scripture, then we see that whatever god commands is good...rape, pillaging..."

Are good questions to ask, but they require me to start quoting the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and seriously taking at length about in depth topics that would stray from the original argument. And if I quoted those sources, you would just dismiss them as rubbish, because you're an atheist, and do not subscribe to the Bible. So we would end up talking a lot about something you're not going to pay attention to anyways.

But since we are talking about scripture, the Book of Job and Ecclesiastes, which are almost 3000 years old, address the very issue of "Why does Evil happen to good people" at length. This is not a new topic for people of faith, just for you apparently.

And finally, you ask if we should comfort people who suffer by telling them that this is all part of a larger plan. Well, lots of people who go through suffering end up feeling that way. It's called providence. Do you really think you can see the greater good for all people and all creatures on earth? One way Christians comfort people when tragedy strikes, is to carry out the corporal works of mercy and spiritual works of mercy...we do not just walk by a rape victim and say, "Well, God wanted this...see ya."

Here is a short video on Providence:

I'm sure you won't watch it though, because atheists hardly actually look at the sources presented to them.

Thanks for debating, hope you get better at it.

Things you failed to counter or explain with regard to this argument:

1. That free will would be destroyed, if God allowed us to make no evil choices
2. That true love and true faith would also be destroyed
3. You have not given an actual definition of what you think evil is, even though you presented this argument
Debate Round No. 3
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
>Reported vote: Pigney// Mod action: Removed<

6 points to Con (Arguments, Sources). Reasons for voting decision: Pro poorly presents his opposition to God, and Con soundly refutes Pro's opposition. Pro's definitions are vague, thus the conduct points go to Con. Con had resources, and Pro's resource was only his own mind, thus Con's resources were better.

[*Reason for removal*] (1) Arguments are insufficiently explained. The voter is required to specifically assess arguments made by both debaters. Generalizing about what each debater managed to do or not do overall is not sufficient. (2) Conduct is insufficiently explained. Unless the debater either insults someone or forfeits a round, this point may not be awarded. (3) Sources are insufficiently explained. The voter is required to assess reliability of sources as well, not just their number.
Posted by Pigney 2 years ago
Okay, this time i think i voted within the guidelines. But i do have a suggestion for the votes. We are not supposed to vote on grammar unless one person has like 20 errors. This defeats the purpose of the comparison. If i say Con had better because Pro mis-addressed him, and i found no errors in Con's arguments, then i would be forced by logic to say that the one with better spelling had better spelling rather than leave them even because they are within 20 errors of each other. That seems a bit contradictory.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
I'm really not sure what you mean, hutch. This isn't a presidential election - casting a ballot on a debate is not the same as casting a ballot in an election. Debaters should reasonably expect voters to put in a modicum of effort when it comes to casting votes on their debates. This doesn't require writing a novel. The standards allow for a vote to be cast and kept up without expanding beyond the 1,000 character limit of the RFD box. But simply pushing buttons and stating that you pushed the buttons on the screen should not and does not suffice. Putting up a generalized RFD that contains no information even showing that the voter read through the debate does not suffice.

This isn't censorship; anyone is allowed to post a comment on any debate providing whatever feedback they like, and every vote we remove is posted to those same comments so that it's clear what was removed and why. There are rules in debate, and those rules apply to voting as well as to debating. You're welcome to disagree with them, but they are what they are.
Posted by Heirio 2 years ago
Posted by hutch976 2 years ago
Dude white flame, can people just vote and not have to write a novel explaining why? You don't require such specific criteria for explaining your vote when people
Actually cast their votes. The point system inherently explains their detailed views. I feel like you re censoring this site.
Posted by whiteflame 2 years ago
>Reported vote: Pigney// Mod action: Removed<

7 points to Con. Reasons for voting decision: Before i agreed with Con, and Pro was unable to provide proof otherwise, therefore, afterwards i agreed with Con. Con followed proper debate rules, and kept his definitions and arguments on subject, pro did not. Pro mis-addressed his opponent (in the first line of his response). Con had convincing arguments, while pro was more rambling. And con provided good sources, pro did not.

[*Reason for removal*] (1) The voter doesn"t explain S&G. (2) Conduct is insufficiently explained. If the voter feels that one of the debaters did not follow the rules, it must be made clear what rules they disobeyed and how they disobeyed them. "Mis-addressing" an opponent is not a clear violation of any rule. (3) Sources are insufficiently explained. The voter is required to do more than state that one side"s sources were "good" while the other side didn"t present any. It must be clear that those sources were relevant in order to award these points. (4) Arguments are insufficiently explained. The voter is required to specifically assess arguments made by both sides, and does so for neither. Merely stating that one side had "convincing arguments" and the other was "rambling" is not specific.
Posted by Heirio 2 years ago
"I'm sure you won't watch it though, because atheists hardly actually look at the sources presented to them."

Bit of a projection but oh well.
Posted by alimr313 2 years ago
A super hero always needs a villain or some sort of bad happening in order to actually be a hero. Also, God knows way more about the world than us. He knows that by having evil in this world, He is able to test us and see who deserves heaven. Any young student could say homework is bad, but the teachers would say otherwise. How will the student succeed if he isn't tested? It may look bad from an angle, but from above, all is clear. Without having tests and passing them, there is no way to reach perfection.
Posted by skipsaweirdo 2 years ago
Spex is correct. Good cannot exist without bad. The point though is one must learn the wisdom necessary to know both good and evil to an extent to where evil is inconsequentially apart from the outward behavior that may result from the evil thought. Nobody can know the consequences of an outward manifestation of evil without actually seeing, feeling, hearing, experiencing it..etc. Thus we are spirits trapped in the material world to learn what evil manifested outward results in to gain the wisdom to never to allow evil that power over us which is the ultimate lesson and our eternal existence that we will all eventually realize will be free from external examples of evil.
Posted by hutch976 2 years ago
So, you would then disagree with someone who would argue that child sacrifice is wrong?
No votes have been placed for this debate.