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This lesson will discuss how evil is dealt with by a variety of religious traditions.

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Welcome to this tutorial on evil. Evil is especially a problem for the monotheistic religions which have to deal with the goodness of God in the face of the apparent evil in the world. This isn't so much a problem for dualism as in Zoroastrianism where there's a good and a bad god.

As long as you have a bad god, you can just say that well after all that bad god is responsible for the bad things in the world. But for monotheism, the problem of evil arises.

Another term for the problem of evil or for attempts at solving it is theodicy. Theodicy comes from two Greek words theos, god and dikaios, righteousness. So a theodicy is an attempt at reconciling the goodness of God with the reality of evil.

Or literally an attempt at preserving the righteousness of God. The problem really begins with the omnis, these terms that are drawn from medieval philosophy and theology. The idea that God is omnibenevolent or all good, omnipotent or all powerful, omniscient or all knowing.

Note that these terms are not found anywhere in scripture but arise from a subsequent reflection on the Abrahamic religions. We can describe the problem of theodicy as a three-legged stool. And it was my teacher, Walt Lowe who presented it this way.

So as long as we affirm these three things, the problem of evil is going to remain intact. First of all, evil is real. If we affirm that evil is real, we're going to have the problem of evil. If we don't think that evil is real, the problem goes away.

So many Eastern religions attempt to tackle the problem by chopping off this leg and saying that evil is not real. It's just an appearance. As we're going to see in just a second, St. Augustine espoused something along these lines. Next, the idea that God is good. If God is not good, then no problem. Some gnostic sects at the time of early Christianity maintained that there is a bad god and a good god. And we saw that with Zoroastrianism.

Next, god is all-powerful. If God just can't do anything about evil, then the problem goes away. But if we want a powerful god and a good god, and we believe that evil is real, the problem remains.

So let's take a look at some solutions. Perhaps creation and judgment are the same act. Perhaps judgment is somehow already contained within creation. We can see that people who do bad end up suffering for their actions. We know that there are many hell's on Earth, like drug addiction. That person is already living through hell, so in effect, they're already judged.

God just lets the person carry out the consequences of their actions, and that's judgment. Next, well, maybe there's a Judgment Day at the end of time. And yeah, things are bad now, but God is going to sort it all out. Or the next one, well, God gave us free will. And part of that free will means the freedom to do bad things.

A version of this was espoused by St. Augustine. It's also an important idea in Islam. And next the idea that evil is an illusion. This is prominent in Hinduism and Buddhism that evil is part of the Veil of Maya. And that if we could just see through the contingencies of this existence, we would see beyond that evil or what we think is evil the face of God.

And St. Augustine says something like this that because God is identified with being, evil literally has no being and therefore can't exist. And what we think about as evil is really just a conflict of interest. This is very similar to what is maintained in Eastern religions.

So let's take a look at two other Eastern traditions, Taoism and Confucianism. Taoism regards evil as a disruption of the uncarved block. Which is to say, the state of my mind that we would have if we were in a state of nature. So basically, society interrupts the state of nature and causes evil.

And then, Confucianism quite the other way around says that evil is a disruption of society and that if we just have more benevolence, then we can make evil go away. So these two philosophies are sort of the twin poles of Chinese thought. They contribute to one another. They play off of one another. And they generate Chinese religion and culture.

Many of the Taoist ideas have their roots in Confucianism. And these were very much mutually influential schools of thought. So we've talked about the ways that various religions approach the problem of evil and the ways that they try to reconcile the goodness of God with the apparent evil in the world. This problem has only become more pressing in the 20th Century in philosophy of religion after two world wars and the Holocaust and the need to preserve belief in very dark times.

Thanks for watching this tutorial on evil. We said that theodicy is a philosophical attempt to justify God's goodness despite the reality of evil. And a Judgment Day is necessary for some theodicies because you need for there to be a justice at the end of time to deal with the badness that we see in the world now.

Free will is another option. This was one that Augustine explored. The idea that, well, God gave us free will and really it's our fault that the evil is in the world. And next, the uncarved block in Taoism. This is the original state of the human mind before an independent of experience. If we want to get rid of evil, we just need to get back to this original natural state. Thanks for watching.

Terms to Know
Free Will

The ability to choose between good and evil, prominent in the religious philosophy of Augustine.

Judgment Day

The day on which God will call all human beings to account for their sins and other misdeeds.


A philosophical attempt to justify God's goodness despite the reality of evil.

Uncarved Block

In Taoism, the original state of the human mind, before and independent of experience.