Question from Adam:
I was recently debating the problem of evil and I am stuck trying to answer this question. Solutions to the problem of evil are most often found in the form of theodicies, arguing solutions for the problem to reconcile it with religion. What exactly are the atheists’ solution to the problem of evil? Is it simply only a problem for the theist?
Answer by SmartLX:
Exactly right. Evil can of course be a problem for anyone on the receiving end of an evil act, but the existence of evil in the world is only a philosophical problem for theists.
If you believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing and loving God who cares for every one of us, the fact that horrible things happen to people all the time requires an explanation. Of course there are explanations aplenty, such as that we’re being tested, or that it’s a necessary effect of free will, or that Satan is at work. There’s no consensus on which if any is the right one, though, which means no one really has a reliable answer.
If on the other hand you don’t believe that any such being is supervising the world, then it’s only to be expected that among the countless happenings in this great wide world, some of them will be awful, and therefore the world is just as we would expect. The essential conflict is between the existence of evil and the existence of an agent who’s willing and able to prevent evil, so dismissing the idea of the latter agent solves it nicely. Deists are free of this particular conflict as well, because the gods they believe in do not intervene in human affairs.
There’s a separate philosophical discussion about whether there’s really such a thing as evil, but there are certainly acts and events that are harmful enough that we’ll happily call them evil regardless. More importantly they’re evil according to theistic moral systems, hence the conflict with theistic religions and their need for theodicy.
Question from Adam: