Stephen Fry’s inflammatory comments regarding the existence of God in the face of gratuitous evil have rekindled popular interest in what philosopher’s call the problem of evil.
Although his remarks were informal–an intense emotional reaction to the horror of natural evil–and not a rigorous philosophical argument, they obviously resinate with many people.
As well they should.
The fact is, the overwhelming amount of gratuitous evil in the world should cause us all to feel uneasy; it should elicit doubt in the heart of any religious believer, and incite moral outrage. In short, evil should have a profound emotional impact on all of us.
Be that as it may, the problem of evil is not merely an emotional subjective experience. It is not something we must only react to impulsively (although in times of great pain and suffering this is what certainly happens).
In times of leisure and quite reflection, it is a problem we can engage with our minds; that we can think about critically and make sound judgements on. For thousands of years, philosopher’s have done just that.
In fact, the existence of gratuitous natural evil, which has elicited such a strong reaction in Stephen Fry, has been leveled against Theism in the form of a powerful argument known in the literature as the Evidential Problem of Evil.
It is not my intention, at this time, to discuss this argument in any detail; but, rather, to point you to those philosopher’s who do. To that end, I’ve compiled a short list of classic and contemporary works on this profound topic:
The Brother’s Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky:
The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis
The Problem of Evil: A Reader compiled by Mark Larrimore.
The Evidential Argument from Evil compiled by Daniel Howard-Snyder
God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain compiled by Chad Meister and James K. Drew Jr.