One of the major functions of religious belief has been to give human beings a structure and a set of codes to help them minimize their exposure to this evil, by concentrating on God and keeping themselves pure and well away from temptations and sins. This paper traces some of the main arguments that have been used throughout history to explain the problem of evil and concludes that it can never be fully explained due to the difference between human and divine ability to understand things.
In the simplest terms there is a basic contradiction in the fact that both God and evil exist. We can accept that it is not possible to know where God came from, since he is eternal, having existed always, existing now, and going on to exist for ever into the future. But what about evil? It seems unlikely that a God who is absolutely good would actually create evil. Similarly, if he came across evil arising out of what he created, then it seems logical that a God who is good would eliminate evil from the world, or would prevent it from occurring in the first place. How can a good God stand by and watch terrible injustices, suffering of innocents, or indeed be the cause of these evils? This is a big moral and logical problem which has been tacked from several different angles.
From an atheist perspective the answer is quite straightforward: the absence of intervention to stop evil from happening proves that there is no such thing as an absolutely powerful and absolutely good God, as defined in the Judaeo Christian tradition. One solution to the apparent contradiction between the existence of evil and the existence of God, is to argue that God and evil are two separate and different things, and that evil is in some mysterious way the “opposite” of God. This line of reasoning preserves the absolute goodness of God, and means he is not contaminated by the bad things that happen in the world. From this position it can be argued that that evil is a necessary thing because without it, we would not be able to understand the goodness of God. An analogy from the physical world would be the relationship between light and darkness. It is possible to conceive of absolute light, and absolute darkness, but in these two extreme situations we would be blind, and not able to appreciate anything in the middle of them properly. This is quite a promising line of argument, because it places the problem in the limited, physical nature of man, rather than the realm of logic or ideas. The physical world, unlike the world of pure ideas, is not an absolute situation, and it exists between the extremes of good and evil, in such a way that they set up a contrast, allowing us to operate in the grey area in the middle, an by implication make choices to orient ourselves towards the one or the other extreme. In the history of Christianity this kind of thinking was put forward as a suggestion but quickly condemned, and it is since known as the “Manichean heresy.” The problem with this line of argument is that it waters down the essential nature of the divine being, in order to explain away the problem of evil. This solution also implies either that evil was co-existent with God from the beginning, so that good and evil define the nature of God, or that God in some way relinquished some of his omnipotence when he created the earth, and allowed evil to take on existence