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Definition: Evil is that which
diminishes, interferes with
The Argument of Evil Against God
There have been a lot of arguments that the existence of God and the existence of evil are incompatible, and many arguments that attempt to reconcile the two. One solution that has been proposed is that evil doesn't exist. All of this is very shallow, since the arguments take place within the arena of the traditional paradigm of god, and wherein an adequate definition of evil is not even provided.
To me, denying evil is to be FUNDAMENTALLY in denial! So, let's deal with the argument that evil does not exist, that it is only an illusion. It seems to be difficult to dismiss all evil as illusory because, if it appears to me that I am racked with disease but that appearance is merely illusory, then it is nevertheless a painful and troubling illusion. Even if the disease is not evil because it does not exist, the appearance and experience of the disease remains an evil. Objective suffering may, perhaps, coherently be dismissed as illusory, but subjective suffering cannot be. So then, if evil does not exist, the illusion of evil still exists and is just as bad.
If the illusion of evil is just as bad as the real thing, what's the difference? Well, the difference may be significant! If evil is real, in and outside of myself, then that is a multi-faceted concern that would involve others. But if it is just a personal illusion, then all I have to do is get rid of the illusion within myself. Sounds simple and straightforward since others need not be involved. However, what can I say except that I pity you if you think that evil is just your own personal illusion!
Not only does this site offer a Jesus-based paradigm of god, but it accepts that real evil is afoot in our world and raises the question as to who gets to define it and who is to blame for it. Who else but you and I should do this?
When people that I talk to happen to object to something or bemoan some really bad stuff like, say, child molestation, I often ask, "What's wrong with that?" When the shock wears off and they realize I am asking a philosophical question, they respond with answers like, "It hurts the children!" They are then further shocked when my response is, "So, what's wrong with that?", and they offer further answers, always to be met with the same response, "What's wrong with that?" After some iterations and prompting they begin to realize that they did not design reality, weren't even there when it happened, and have no legitimate basis for saying anything much more than, "I don't like it!" or "It demoralizes ME!"
And so we come to the ultimate and only definition of evil that can be valid. A personal one that is choice based. Every other definition presupposes something that we cannot proclaim with absolute certainty. The development of philosophy and theology must be personalized because we have a personal stake in the game, namely the sustenance and enhancement of OUR lives. Evil is that to which we are intrinsically and constitutionally opposed, that which is less than ideal, that is life detracting, that which we cannot ultimately ever like or agree with.
Far more promising than the dismissal of evil as illusory is the Augustinian and Thomist view that it is nothing more than a privation of good or goodness. According to this view, evil is not a positive thing that is out there in the world, but merely an absence of goodness. God therefore cannot be blamed for bringing evil into existence; evil is not a thing and so was not brought into existence. The idea that the world contains evil (i.e. certain privations of good) can thus be reconciled with the idea that it was not created by a God who would create evil; it is only the good in the world that was created, the bad is merely an absence of good.
Even if this account of evil were accepted, however, it would not completely resolve the problem of evil. For it may still be asked why God neglected to create those good things that are needed and found to be lacking in the world. Why doesn't the Creator fill the vacuum? Even if evil is simply an absence of good things, there is a tension between this absence of goodness and the existence of a Creator that knows how to, is able to, and wants to create all needed good things. No, evil is the opposite of good or goodness.
Another argument is the apologetic one: Since everything needs a contrast to be experienced as real, evil is necessary to make good good! However, if this be true—and it is not—it simply defends evil itself as necessary and thereby good.
All of the above definitions and descriptions fall woefully short of being satisfactory. The problem of evil, then, in some form at least persists, and we need to come to an understanding of what it is and is not, and how it came to be.