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March 19, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Philosoraptor Considers Evil

Let’s face it. We live in an age of great evils: global warming, terrorism, rampant corporate greed, Facebook, T20 Cricket and poetry that doesn’t rhyme. There is no escaping the fact that evil exists. But why do we have to contend with these evils every day? Why do good people continue to die in terrible ways? Why, when I want to go out for a quiet pint of stout at 2AM, is there a significant chance that I will hear a Katy Perry song on the way? St. Thomas Aquinas, Italian theologian of the Middle Ages and starting loosehead prop for the all-time Philosopher’s XV, had a pretty decent answer.

In his attempts to prove the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God, he felt that one of the biggest hurdles was the problem of evil. If such a God did exist, then why would he allow evil to exist in His world? If He was all-good and all-powerful, surely He could and would want to stamp evil out entirely.

This problem is often used today to argue against the existence of God. Aquinas’ answer was that there must be some good arising from each evil that there is in the world. While he was aware that in many individual cases the evil committed will horribly outweigh any conceivable good that may come of it, Aquinas felt that the existence of evil as a whole can be justified by the good it brings with it. This position was used to conclude that, although we cannot possibly know the mind of God, in His infinite wisdom He can see the goodness to come out of every instance of evil and, thus, evil can be reconciled with His omnipotence and benevolence.

These days it isn’t such a pressing concern to prove the existence of the kind of God that Aquinas was defending, but his central message remains the same. Evil events can sometimes bring out goodness in people that we wouldn’t have the chance to see if there was no evil. The Christchurch earthquake is an example of this. The terrible destruction and loss of life immediately brought out a nationwide flood of compassion and empathy for those affected by the earthquake. In the longer term, since the quake, the people of Christchurch have shown resilience and strength of character in the face of adversity. Although this goodness by no means makes up for the evil, the qualities we have observed would have remained hidden if it were not for evil.

So next time you are beset by the evil in the world consider the goodness that may be lurking right behind. Sometimes, accidentally hearing a few bars of ‘Teenage Dream’ may make the beer that little bit more necessary and so taste that little bit better when you finally get it.

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