Suffering, Evil and the Existence of God (Stanley Fish)

November 6, 2007

Professor Stanley Fish writes about two new books addressing the question of the existence of evil in his NY Times article Suffering, Evil and the Existence of God. It is a useful review of two works that present an intriguing counterpoint to each other. Not surprisingly there is quite a bit of debate in the comments, most of it anti-religious.

As Karen Armstrong so ably demonstrates in her History of God, the English word "God" applies to numerous different historical conceptions of a being "greater than which nothing else can be imagined." And yet we keep arguing in ways that ignore these differences. At least a few commenters have noted this.

So what do we mean by "God?" What do we mean by "evil?" Is evil a force in itself — or, like darkness, merely the absence of something else? Hand in hand with these questions: why is the popular argument nearly always based solely in Biblical tradition?

Paganism, with its emphasis on the dual feminine/masculine natures of deity, offers an interesting modern perspective. Personally, I find solace and ability to operate in an "evil" world through the Bahá'í Faith. I commend to you two books in particular: Some Answered Questions by 'Abdu'l-Baha and The Purpose of Physical Reality by John Hatcher.