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The Immorality of Theodicies

by Volker Dittman & Francois Tremblay



The following article has been written by a person having the nickname of Volker Dittman on IIDB. He has accepted its publication on this web site, so here it is. In this, Mr. Dittman shows that even if theists could present a valid theodicy refuting the Problem of Evil, such theodicy would be unacceptable because it would nullify the possibility of morality.


The Problem of Evil (POE) is so well known, that I don’t think I have to explain it again. The best definition of the problem is – as far as I know – from Drange, Theodore M.: 1998, Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God, Prometheus Books, New York. Let’s define a few things:

  • POE = The Problem of Evil.
  • Evil = Unjustified suffering or suffering without a reason.
  • EOG = The Existence of (the Christian) God.

    Lets grant to the theist that suffering is compatible with EOG. Suffering alone is no evidence against the EOG, as far as it is justified. For example, going to the dentist can cause a lot of pain (suffering), but it is far more worse to die because of a focus of inflammation. Sometimes, we have to suffer for a higher good. This is justified suffering. And than there is evil, suffering for no good, for no higher reason – and that is what god should prevent, if we can call him good.

    A good person (or god) is someone who tries to save other people from Evil, if it is in his might. If god is omnipotent, it is possible for him to prevent other people from evil, but it is not possible to prevent everyone from suffering, because this could involve a logical contradiction. That is, in the case that the suffering of A could only be prevented by making B suffer, it would be logical impossible to prevent suffering completely. Either A or B has to suffer.

    Of course, this implies the following definition of omnipotence:

  • Omnipotence = the ability to do everything that is logically possible.

    What is if omnipotence ist the ability to do everything, even if it is logical impossible? In this case, the POE is tighten up. Because in our example above, it would be possible to prevent A and B from suffering, though it is a logical contradiction. In this case, suffering itself would be evidence against the EOG. Every logical solution for the POE would fail. Say, one solution to the POE would be that the “higher good” of the free will would involve suffering. That is, if A exercises his free will, he would make B suffer. If God could act in a way that he could do the logical impossible, than there would be no necessity that A’s free will would inflict suffering on B.

    So if there is a solution to the POE, it has to show that all suffering is justified, and this is only possible when God has to act according to the laws of logic.

    Perfect solution to the POE = a logical solution that proves that God could not prevent suffering and that all suffering is necessary. That is, no evil exists.

    Now let’s grant to the theist that he has this perfect solution for the POE, a solution, that can explain all suffering. The normal approach for the atheist would be tho show that this solution is not perfect, but fails to explain some evil, and this evil would be evidence against the EOG.

    The new approach is: It is superfluous f?r the atheist to attack the solution of the theist! He does not have to prove that the solution fails. He can grant to the theist that his solution is perfect – and this would show that there is no God or that theistic moral fails, or both. And it would show that the christian religion is false. How?

    The crucial point is, that when we accept the perfect solution for the POE, than there will be no evil, because every suffering could be justified. Worse: It would be impossible to act evil. I could torture and murder a young child, but this would be justified for a higher good (whatever the perfect solution is, it could be something else than free will). This would be the end of all moral, which clearly is absurd. The theist could’nt point to the ten commandments and claim that they are necessary, because one goal of morals – to prevent evil – would be granted no matter how I behave, if he is right with his perfect solution to the POE.

    If he isn’t right, of course, evil would be evidence against his god. If he is right, he would have destroyed every form of moral. This would be evidence against his God, the founder of his moral assumptions, because it would prove that moral isn’t necessary, everything goes.

    And even worse: If the perfect solution does exist, the theist has proven that even god cannot actualize a world without suffering. That is, there is no heaven or we will suffer in heaven – eternally, which means, heaven is another word for hell. If God could is able to create heaven, he should have done this from the start. Either, he didn’t want this (than he cannot be called good), or, he wasn’t able – in this case he is not omnipotent.

    The “Fall” (= original sin) is simple no explanation for this, because God was either not able to prevent the fall from happening (which means, in heaven this could happen any day again), or, he did want this to happen, in which case he couldn’t be called “good”.

    To make it short: Either, the solution to the POE fails, than there is no reason to assume that the christian god exists, or it succeeds, than there will be no heaven (and therefore, christianity is a false religion). The solution will fail if god is not bound by logic, but if he is bound by logic, it does not matter if a logical solution to the POE is possible or not, the outcome does not matter, because either the christian god does not exist, or heaven does not exist, or both.


    This is the end of Mr. Dittman article. I would like to add a formalization of his argument.

    1. There is evil/suffering.
    2. A god is morally righteous/omnibenevolent.
    3. Either:
      1. A god can create a universe without evil/suffering.
      2. There is an explanation for all evil/suffering. (With a theodicy.)
      1. There is no explanation for some evil/suffering.
    4. If 3a. or 3c. is true, then there is no god. This point represents the usual Problems of Evil.
    5. If 3b. is true, then all evil/suffering is justified.
    6. If 3b. is true, then all human evil is justified. (from 5)
    7. If all our actions can be justified, then there is no more morality. We can rationalize the worst crimes.
  1. If 3b. is true, then there is no morality. (from 6 and 7)

    If this is true, then any action, including mass murder and torture, can be justified by the believer. Furthermore, his own moral system is revealed to be a farce. Whether the believer has a theodicy or not, his belief is contradicted.

    Last updated: November 10, 2004