Epicurus on God: An Unflinching Critique – Part I

A Philosophical/Theological Commentary

They are just eight terse, unassuming lines of text, yet his words stand among the most withering critiques regarding every-man’s conception of “God” that any mortal has conceived of to date.

epicurus_on god 309 x 207

The Greek philosopher, Epicurus (341-270 BCE), has here whittled two principal attributes said by theists to be possessed of Godomnipotence and moral perfectiondown to what amounts to self-negation of that God; a God theists have carefully formulated, nurtured and “sold” to mankind as genuinely real, but which reality, and here Epicurus, combine to render false.

The common conception of God is that “He” is perfect; in fact, perfection personified. More than a few God-believers even hold God to be goodness and love incarnate. So Epicurus’ biting and penetrating question: From whence cometh evil?

Given that evilthe ultimate imperfectionexists, and in a world claimed to be created perfect by a perfect Creator, theists are duty-bound to explain how and from where this greatest imperfection in the universe could have possibly originated. And do so without resorting to banal explanations such as “It’s a mystery” or “God works in mysterious ways”. Theists need to ask themselves: “Who or what could possibly be more evil than the Creator of “Evil?” and then take things to their logical conclusion.

(Students of the bible need only turn to Isaiah 45:7; John 3:1; and Colossians 1:16 to see who Scripture ascribes the creation of evil to. But we are looking beyond the bible here.)

This is not to say theists haven’t tried to account for the origin of evil. Many such efforts have been made. In fact, the accompanying video provides four such exegetical arguments; along with several corresponding counter rebuttals.

Notice: This video has been flagged as being unsuitable for minors. Viewer discretion is thus advised.


The four arguments employed by theists to account for the existence of evil in the video above are:

1) That God could not have created a world without evil; that ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ are the antithesis of one another; that the eradication of one would mean the eradication of the other.

First, a theist saying God, “could not” anything flies in the face of theist belief that God is omnipotent and thus endowed with the power to do whatever he so pleases. Even create a rock he can’t lift, according to more rabid believers!

But more to the point: If one were to somehow remove every single evil person living on planet earth, would it really follow that every single good person on the planet would somehow ‘disappear’ as well? As the video’s author and narrator* asks: If you made all the murderers not exist, would that correspondingly make all the Boy Scouts that help little old ladies cross the street not exist too?                         *cdk007

The argument is a failed one.

2) That the world with evil is better than without it because of the ‘good’ that arises out of overcoming evil.

The reasoning here is that evil somehow makes mankind “better’ for experiencing the depravity of evil. As the video’s narrator states the theist case: “Without danger, there is no heroism; without hardship, there is no charity; and without suffering, there is no salvation.” Therefore, evil is integral to the existence of good. But as the narrator stresses, this would mean that this world is better than heaven insofar as bible-believing, God-believers are concerned! He pointedly asks: Wouldn’t God, in effect, be punishing us by sending us to heaven if that were truly the case?

This argument too is a failed one.

3) That evil is simply the absence of God.

This follows the same line of reasoning that stresses dark is the absence of light. But darkness, in and of itself, is not inherently a “bad” thing. Evil is. In fact, there is no greater imperfection in all of existence except, as I’ve suggested, the Creator of evil—assuming such a creature were to exist.

A secondary feature of this argument, one brought out in the video, is that this argument precludes God from being omnipresent; that if there is a region of existence that is absent God, then God cannot truly be “everywhere”. Consequently, those employing this argument can no longer justifiably claim God to be omnipresent.

Once more, a failed argument.

At this point it would seem that the term “God” needs a bit of re-defining. And based on what is “real” instead of mere conjecture resting solely on speculation.

4) Man’s “Free-Will”.

This is perhaps the most popular theist explanation accounting for the existence of evil in the world. It conveys a spirit of ‘fair-play’. It has God giving man the freedom to do good, or else, have individuals prove themselves morally deficient by opting to do evil; both options being based entirely on one’s own personal “nature”.

This explanation, however, fails to account for the origin of evil.It argues that man is endowed with the free will to do good and option to do evil. But it points, too, to evil being already pre-existent. Moreover, this explanation presents theists with a second thorny question: Would not a being perfect in goodness and love instantly eradicate evil upon recognizing this greatest of imperfections for what it truly is: even if somehow created by mistake or accident?

Greywolf’s Dictum: There can be no greater evil in all of existence than the Creator of evil. (That would be “God.” Or is the bible wrong?)

Greywolf’s Dictum #2: If it happened, God wanted it to. If He didn’t, it would never have happened. That would include every ill to befall man. End of story. (Assuming that there is such a Creature, of course.)

End of Part I

[Part II will address the origin of ‘Evil’. Stay tuned!]

Part II: http://theatheistobserver.wordpress.com/2009/06/14/


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