What are some good books on the problem of evil?

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What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#1  Postby murshid » Sep 29, 2022 5:49 pm

What are some good books on the logical and/or the evidential problem of evil?
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#2  Postby tattoosue » May 01, 2023 7:20 am

Hi murshid, Hope this response doesn't come too late. Best book I ever read on a subject that fascinates me:
The Reproduction of Evil by Sue Grand which examines how severe trauma often turns the victim into a perpetrator. An absolutely fascinating and well-grounded investigation of the psychodynamics of evil.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#3  Postby murshid » May 01, 2023 2:06 pm

tattoosue wrote:Hi murshid, Hope this response doesn't come too late. Best book I ever read on a subject that fascinates me:
The Reproduction of Evil by Sue Grand which examines how severe trauma often turns the victim into a perpetrator. An absolutely fascinating and well-grounded investigation of the psychodynamics of evil.

I was looking for books on this topic: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#4  Postby THWOTH » May 01, 2023 8:24 pm

I guess because the 'problem of evil' is so straightforward and succinct in negating claim for an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving diety, then books on it are probably going to be written by appologists explaining how evil can actually be a 'good thing' etc.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#5  Postby Spearthrower » May 02, 2023 3:40 am

Really, it's just Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: but that's already listed in the Wiki page.

Essentially, the problem of evil mostly concerns religious apologists because, as Thwoth says, it's otherwise a fairly straight-forward point that can be unpacked only a little further. Accordingly, most treatments of it tend to be from apologists trying to find defenses against it, i.e. theodicies, like contending that suffering is necessary to grow spiritually, or that it's all the mortal meatbags fault anyway.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#6  Postby murshid » May 02, 2023 5:15 pm

Spearthrower wrote:most treatments of it tend to be from apologists trying to find defenses against it, i.e. theodicies, like contending that suffering is necessary to grow spiritually, or that it's all the mortal meatbags fault anyway.

Are there any books that discuss different theodicies and their refutations?
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#7  Postby Spearthrower » May 02, 2023 7:57 pm

I've never seen a book treating the topic comprehensively like that.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#8  Postby tattedup » May 03, 2023 9:47 am

Seems to me that claiming that suffering is necessary doesn't have much to say about the problem of evil. Sue Grand's book looks at it from a psychodynamic perspective: how trauma inflicted turns into another version of same behavior in the victim. This makes a lot of sense to me, but I would never claim that all evil behavior is the result of previous trauma; it couldn't ever be proved that all psychopaths had suffered childhood trauma.

I can't go looking for complicated metaphysical explanations for evil: to me, it's an exclusively human issue that has nothing to do with any god or gods. For that matter, they are also human problems...

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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#9  Postby Spearthrower » May 03, 2023 11:47 am

http://www.rationalskepticism.org/gener ... 57216.html

Here's a relatively recent thread about evil more generally.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#10  Postby THWOTH » May 03, 2023 12:17 pm

Spearthrower wrote:Really, it's just Hume's Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion: but that's already listed in the Wiki page.

Essentially, the problem of evil mostly concerns religious apologists because, as Thwoth says, it's otherwise a fairly straight-forward point that can be unpacked only a little further. Accordingly, most treatments of it tend to be from apologists trying to find defenses against it, i.e. theodicies, like contending that suffering is necessary to grow spiritually, or that it's all the mortal meatbags fault anyway.

Depends what we mean by suffering I guess. One could say that we suffer doing the Couch to 5K - undertaking the training is painful and exhausting, but we deem that suffering a 'good thing' because it leads to improved fitness etc. So, in a sense, one could say that suffering can be a good thing if it leads to a desired and beneficial outcome, or a future state of reduced or less suffering, or enhanced well-being, or whatever. But not all 'suffering' is the same is it?

Theodicies, on the other hand, have to argue for something of a completely different order to sore muscles and tiredness; things like, say, that the Israelites being commanded to eradicate the Canaanites (and the concomitant suffering associated with a genocide: the dashing out of the brains of babies and the chasing down and slitting of the throats of screaming children, bludgeoning the old and infirm to death in their homes, the trauma inflicted upon those ordered to carry out mass killing etc), a clear act of 'evil' as commonly understood, is necessarily a 'good thing' because .... reasons.

I seem to remember William Lane Craig arguing that the genocide of the Canaanites was a good thing because it removed a temptation to barbarous idolatry and rescued innocent children from heathenism by bringing them into the joyful presence of God in Heaven - or some such similar shitbaggery.

Ah yes:

William Lane Craig wrote:... If we believe, as I do, that God’s grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven’s incomparable joy. Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives.

So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgement. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalizing effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.

But then, again, we’re thinking of this from a Christianized, Western standpoint. For people in the ancient world, life was already brutal. Violence and war were a fact of life for people living in the ancient Near East. Evidence of this fact is that the people who told these stories apparently thought nothing of what the Israeli soldiers were commanded to do (especially if these are founding legends of the nation). No one was wringing his hands over the soldiers’ having to kill the Canaanites; those who did so were national heroes...

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writing ... canaanites

A compelling case for casual genocide?

Craig of course is a proponent of Divine Command Ethics: God, being morally correct in every aspect and in all things, cannot perform an act or issue a command that is immoral. Therefore, the moral obligation falls to us to obey God's commands whatever they are, even a command that would be morally repugnant in the absence of such a command, and in fact it would be immoral of us not to do anything, even a genocide, if/when God commanded it.

This is a nice, tidy, and entirely circular way to completely sidestep the problem of evil, as well as a convenient means of outsourcing personal moral responsibility, and in so doing of negating any need to engage in individual moral reasoning and/or justification.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#11  Postby Evolving » May 03, 2023 1:01 pm

What an extraordinary read. (I've just read the entire article to which you linked, THWOTH.)

The whole repugnant argument rests on a single basic assumption: that everything the bible says about "God" is true. In other words: as long as I am completely convinced that my own particular faith is true, I can justify literally anything that I believe "God" demands of me; and the actions that I so justify are justified not only for me, but also for the victims of those actions, whether they share my beliefs or not.

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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#12  Postby NamelessFaceless » May 03, 2023 1:41 pm

Bart Ehrman has a pretty good book about this called God’s Problem. IIRC he explains this issue is how he lost his faith.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#13  Postby Spearthrower » May 03, 2023 1:57 pm

THWOTH wrote:
Craig of course is a proponent of Divine Command Ethics: God, being morally correct in every aspect and in all things, cannot perform an act or issue a command that is immoral.


Yes, truly an intellectual and moral sycophancy that should see him mocked for being a clueless and delusional fuckwimple, not held as some glorious example of a modern Christian apologist.

If God says to take the babes by their ankles and smash their heads in against the walls, then it's immoral NOT to do it. Despicable mind virus.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#14  Postby murshid » May 03, 2023 5:04 pm

NamelessFaceless wrote:Bart Ehrman has a pretty good book about this called God’s Problem. IIRC he explains this issue is how he lost his faith.

Thanks a lot. I'll check it out.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#15  Postby THWOTH » May 04, 2023 9:46 am

Evolving wrote:What an extraordinary read. (I've just read the entire article to which you linked, THWOTH.)

The whole repugnant argument rests on a single basic assumption: that everything the bible says about "God" is true. In other words: as long as I am completely convinced that my own particular faith is true, I can justify literally anything that I believe "God" demands of me; and the actions that I so justify are justified not only for me, but also for the victims of those actions, whether they share my beliefs or not.

Craig's views, erm, evolved, apparently. Perhaps not entirely happy with his previous efforts in genocide apology, a few years later he answered another question on a similar theme, and in his eagerness to excuse Biblical genocide indulged in a spot of blatant nest feathering and victim blaming...

William Lane Craig wrote:...I have come to appreciate as a result of a closer reading of the biblical text that God’s command to Israel was not primarily to exterminate the Canaanites but to drive them out of the land. It was the land that was (and remains today!) paramount in the minds of these Ancient Near Eastern peoples. The Canaanite tribal kingdoms which occupied the land were to be destroyed as nation states, not as individuals. The judgment of God upon these tribal groups, which had become so incredibly debauched by that time, is that they were being divested of their land. Canaan was being given over to Israel, whom God had now brought out of Egypt. If the Canaanite tribes, seeing the armies of Israel, had simply chosen to flee, no one would have been killed at all. There was no command to pursue and hunt down the Canaanite peoples.

It is therefore completely misleading to characterize God’s command to Israel as a command to commit genocide. Rather it was first and foremost a command to drive the tribes out of the land and to occupy it. Only those who remained behind were to be utterly exterminated. There may have been no non-combatants killed at all. That makes sense of why there is no record of the killing of women and children, such as I had vividly imagined. Such scenes may have never taken place, since it was the soldiers who remained to fight. It is also why there were plenty of Canaanite people around after the conquest of the land, as the biblical record attests.

No one had to die in this whole affair. Of course, that fact doesn’t affect the moral question concerning the command that God gave, as explained above. But I stand by my previous answer of how God could have commanded the killing of any Canaanites who attempted to remain behind in the land.

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writing ... re-visited
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#16  Postby murshid » May 04, 2023 1:08 pm

If only those 6 million Jews fled from Germany, none of them would have been killed (according to Craig's logic).
Last edited by murshid on May 04, 2023 4:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What are some good books on the problem of evil?

#17  Postby THWOTH » May 04, 2023 3:21 pm

I'm sure it was a great comfort to the Canaanites that they were only being ethnically cleansed rather than genocided.
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