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The Problem of Evil

6. Evil as Illusion

  1. Theodicy 4: Evil, pain and suffering have no real existence. They are but the lack of unity with God, just as darkness has no separate existence but is the lack of light.

The idea that evil is not real was introduced by Spinoza [1677] and taken up in a confused fashion much later by Mary Baker Eddy [1890], the founder of Christian Science. This theodicy is unique in that it denies one of the premises of the problem of evil argument; that evil, pain and suffering exist.

Book cover: Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza
  1. Response 1: If the illusion of evil, pain and suffering is simply separateness from God, the existence of happy, pain-free and contented non-believers requires explanation. This uneven distribution of the apparent evil of pain and suffering does not appear correlated with the degree of people's proximity to God. Also, on this account, animals are considered not to have souls. This raises the question of why it is that they labour under the same illusion.

  2. Response 2: If the belief that evil, pain and suffering are real is mistaken, then it is pertinent to ask why an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being allows such a false belief to arise and persist. The problem of evil is not solved, but simply moved to another level.

To summarize, this theodicy attempts a global solution to the problem of evil through denying one of its premises; the premise that evil exists. However, it fails to account for the illusion of pain and suffering experienced in the animal kingdom, the distribution of the illusion of evil within human populations and the existence of the illusion per se.

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