The question of creation has baffled countless generations throughout history. Wars have been fought to advance religious convictions often at remarkable cost of human life. Great empires have ascended and descended in the name of God and enlightenment, but no one to this day was able to uphold the existence of God beyond reasonable doubt. Humanity is boundlessly curious and we are wired to persistently pursue facts and rationalizations to better explain mysteries that are not intentionally obvious or cannot be neatly compartmentalized in our soul. I often contemplated if there is an all-powerful Creator who lays out a blueprint for our existence, or are we merely responsible for our choices? Bruce Russell examines the existence of God through the prism of appalling cruelty that exists in the world, and how our inability to justify it leads to a cloudy conviction of the existence of higher being who orchestrates these events to help humanity from leaping into a greater chaos. God doesn’t exist and whatever happens is just luck. Evil things shouldn’t be happening with an all-powerful, all knowing being.
Russell’s argument that unjustifiable, senseless and unprovoked cruelty “of that sort” is a catalyst to reasonably conclude that God doesn’t exist. God would not permit so much terrible suffering. Russell points out an example that demonstrates to us the terrible suffering of two-year-old Ariana Swinson. “The couple killed Ariana after throwing her to the floor for not eating properly and “then pouring water into the mouth of the unconscious child, causing her to drown.” The parents waited nearly an hour after Ariana’s death to call police, using the time to coach their other two young children to take the fall for Ariana’s death” (Fieser 230). The author describes how this was undeserved, unjustified and this is pointless suffering, because anyone who knew that this was going on, could have prevented it and Ariana would still be alive. Paling’s sister and brother in law should have never returned Ariana to her parents knowing what they are capable of. And even though they brought her back, they should have been checking up on Ariana to somehow counteract what had happened to her. According to Russell, this is a source of unspeakable cruelty towards children and many can agree with his argument because of this horrifying example and the extreme suffering this girl went through. God allowed this to happen so that we can learn and prevent greater suffering from happening.
Another cruel example towards children, is when a premature baby or young child dies unexpectedly or is suffering for a long time fighting for life. God knows when it’s the end of life for people. And the reason for it, is to help everyone surrounding with the passing. Like it was meant to happen at this time not just for the baby or child themselves, but for the family and community as well. This may seem cruel to some because if God did exist he would want them to make a full recovery and live, but he’s doing the exact opposite and taking them away from everyone. Usually, we don’t seem to open ourselves and think if there is a reason for it, but God knows that he is doing it for the best and better things will occur sooner rather than later. God is intervening because if he wouldn’t, there would be much worse suffering for the children. He wants some suffering to occur to then bring happiness into the world. It’s all done to balance the good and bad, we just don’t get his reasoning behind it.
There are innumerable versions of the argument given by numerous philosophers. William Rowe gives an argument about evil against the existence of God. His version is the same as Russell’s, because their belief that a “perfectly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering he could, unless he could not do so without thereby losing some greater good of permitting some evil equally bad or worse” (Fieser 231) is correspondingly the same. William Rowe’s rationalization seems most plausible, because this is what Russell concludes and I agree that intense suffering is not needed and in some cases, and can be prevented.
One philosopher who has a different interpretation of Russell’s argument is Peter van Inwagen. He believes that a good being could cause more evil to bring some good because we don’t know how much evil will bring good. One example that stood out to me by Inwagen was the parking fine that will deter people from parking illegally. Now a day, a fine of $50-$55 is expensive and people get frustrated over it. Once people get annoyed they stop parking illegally. But, if the person would get a $1,000 fine for illegally parking, then that just goes overboard and isn’t fair, which people would say is evil and it might not get the effect that it would have gotten with the lowest fine. But, Inwagen realizes that someone like God would not allow “much more” evil than is needed. Everyone has their own opinion on how much evil is permissible, but God would know the exact amount if he existed.
Russell doesn’t just bluntly accept the argument that since there is unspeakable evil in the world, then God must not exist, but instead questions this logic with opposing views, making his conclusion more valid and sensible. He disputes Peter van Inwagen about the amount of evil in the world. He says “But contra van Inwagen, I believe that we are justified in believing that there is an extreme amount of suffering, way more than is needed to bring about any relevant good or to prevent some comparable evil” (Fieser 232). The excessive evil that God brings about in these examples is way too extreme for Russell and he believes that because he isn’t here to stop it and allows this to happen, God therefore doesn’t exist. The reason why the suffering is happening is because God sees things we don’t see. For example, there might be a wheelchair in the background, but we wouldn’t pay attention to it or see it because we don’t hear anything and have no intention of seeing what else is in the room. The reason why we don’t see it is because we are simple minded and don’t look outside the box for more details. If you see it then it’s there; simplicity is the key. It’s either we believe that something is there for us to see or we don’t believe it and therefore it isn’t seen just like it is with God. We can be reasonable in considering that God doesn’t exist even though we don’t have reason to consider that if he did exist we would see him.
The problem of evil is a belief that, how can an omnipotent, omniscient and an omnibenevolent God exist when there is evil in the world. Only God can distinguish what is good or what is evil because he’s omniscient. If everything good was happening, then we wouldn’t be able to distinguish the good from the bad. God makes these bad things happen for a reason and we can’t question him on it because worse things may happen. God doesn’t exist due to unspeakable evil, and the extreme suffering that people go through. God’s existence is an endless debate that will go on forever, but Russell’s argument reaffirmed my convictions. God can allow evil and suffering, but it all should be to an extent and can’t be extreme.