The argument by Earnest Nagel

Earnest Nagel said that it is impossible for a benevolent God to exist in an evil universe. He was a philosopher and atheist who rejected all theism as logical. He didn't want to believe in God in a world filled with so many ills, even though most of his friends were believers. Nagel also considered atheism to be a religion since it holds beliefs about the origin and nature of the universe. However, Richard Swinburne provides an answer to the problem of evil by claiming that God grants people free will. Swinburne argues that people have been given free will and God distances himself for people to practice it. He goes on to divide evil into two kinds, moral evil and natural evil.

Attempting to fathom Nagel’s arguments without taking into account his epistemology would be ineffective. It is important to consider where he gets his knowledge from. His views are founded on a scientific approach. He does not feel it mandatory to go into metaphysics to provide an account of the natural world. Nagel actively proposes that to fathom the universe regarding its nature and origin one needs to consider practical science. He acknowledges the imperfection and failure to guarantee conclusiveness in scientific deductions. However, through advanced investigation and improvement science will keep growing. This will also assist in better understanding of the universe. Therefore, Nagel argues that only through science can we gain knowledge on all issues concerning the world. According to Nagel, atheism is a review and a rejection of the central claims of theism. He not only rejects to believe in theism but also makes an intellectual critique of it. His critique is his foundation for the contradiction to theism. He defines atheism as a social and political dispute against theistic doctrines and religions. After understanding his definition of atheism, it is also essential to know how he describes theism. Nagel describes atheism as the belief that the universe and everything in it owe its existence to a supreme being. The Supreme Being is regarded as all powerful, all knowing, benevolent and righteous. He is also distinct and unconstrained by his creations.

Nagel bases his argument on the scientific method. He believes that evil is more than a right kind but also includes any event that poses harm to the welfare of people. The existence of evil makes it hard for Nagel to come to terms with the thought of an omnipotent and benevolent God. He has a utilitarian view of the morality of man. Man can do what he wants if it benefits him. However, if he does something that does not help him, he is morally wrong. For example, if a person decides to commit murder it will not benefit him if the same thing is done to him. On the other hand, if he chooses to offer assistance and the same is reciprocated it helps him. If what you want to do brings you self-respect and merit, then it is morally correct, and you endeavor always to do right. Therefore, the individual himself determines morality. Morality is a standard set by man. Thus, evil is defined by a similar technique.

Swinburne’s response

Richard Swinburne has been praised as an icon of rational theism. He is also a philosopher of religion, and his views are on theism are highly valued to provide a reasonable basis for the existence of God. He is often held as an extremely rational example to respond to beliefs that God does not exist. Swinburne offers a response to the problem of evil through creating an account of why God would permit evil to happen. He does this by separating evil into two categories: moral evil and natural evil and handles each independently. He debates of moral evil as evil initiated intentionally. It involves people doing what they are not supposed to do. People have the freedom to choose their character. It also includes evil founded by premeditated actions or negligence. He argues that people have been given the authority to act at their discretion. This brings about the likelihood of moral evil to occur. He explains that it is not rational for God to give such authority and then control it by ensuring that people do the right thing. However, his explanation provides a restriction to the omnipotent and benevolent nature of God. He also gives a limitation on the infinite nature of God by saying he cannot attend future events of evil by man.

Swinburne describes natural evil as one which is not permitted by people to happen as an outcome of their carelessness. He also reasons that authority to act on people’s discretion plays a role in natural evil. This, however, is not direct as in the case of moral evil. Natural practices on their own give people information on the consequences of their deeds without hindering their freedom. Also, if evil is a probability, they must be aware of how to permit its occurrence. Moreover, natural evil works to provide people with the freedom of choice by offering situations such as physical pain. A person has a decision to give in to the pain or be strong and persist. Swinburne appears to view evil as a good thing. In the light that the more the evil, the more chances for human beings to do good in return. This brings justification to all forms of evil where individuals simply do evil believing they are performing the blameless deed. He also implies that there is no solution in reducing the evil in the world. He also lacks evidence to support the presence of events which not only occur upon quick scrutiny to be natural evils but also, scientific research concludes that there is no basis for assuming anything past merely physical happenings as the root of happenings.

Parents provide their children with basic needs and love to protect them from suffering. God is the parent of human beings and has more power than human parents. Therefore, he lets people experience suffering for a greater good that he allows natural evil. This is because he has created human beings in a way that they can cope with such situations. Besides, he has made man mortal with the promise of a better afterlife. Swinburne provides a solid case for the response to evil. Nevertheless, he lacks to answer the question that Nagel poses completely. He also requires sufficient evidence to support his argument. He says that God must keep his distance so that people can practice their free-will and that he does not control their actions. These oppose that God is omnipotent and benevolent. He seems to view evil as a positive thing for people to learn from. He says that natural evil occurs so that people can predict what happens in the world.

However, I do not believe that we gain knowledge of everything through scientific methods. There is enough proof to believe in a higher being considering the existence of the world, since there must be a source of everything that is. Science has many theories, like the big bang, but there too has to be a source of the bang. I therefore believe that God is the source of life and knowledge. I, however, concur with Nagel that there is no scientific evidence to show that God exists, and this is because God is not subject to science or logic. According to Christianity, God is the creator of everything. During the period of creation, he knew everything around him and is the source of knowledge and when Eve decided to seek knowledge elsewhere, it marked the beginning of sin. Then when Adam followed her, the generation of human beings was cursed. This makes it hard for human beings to perceive God’s creation as He requires. The disobedience by man introduced the moral evil, and God cursed humankind letting them encounter suffering. He was, however, very loving as he gave human beings another chance by sending Jesus Christ to the world, and offering a redemption. He still provides a choice for people to do or not to do as he requires and a chance to ask for forgiveness after sin.

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