The world contains a lot of evil ranging from war, famine, animal suffering and moral evil. The problem of evil is the problem of reconciling the existence of the evil in the world with the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect God.
If God were all-powerful, he would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. The evidence about evil and suffering seem to conflict with the standard theist claim that there exists a perfectly good God. This ideal comes from the Christianity viewpoint of God who created the world and sustains it, where he also wants what is best for his creations. The goodness of a creator is comparative to the goodness of that which he creates.
But if these statements are true, than why would this perfectly good God allow the evil in the world to exist? These statements don’t necessarily mean that God does not exist, but that this deity isn’t as good as he has been portrayed to be. God could very much so exist but not be so worried about the quality of the lives he has created. There is conflict between what is seen in the world and what is spoken about Gods character. There is so much unnecessary evil in the world that simply has no purpose or reasoning. He is said to be omnipotent which would mean that he could end all evil in the world and yet he does not.
When thinking of all the evils of the world one could conclude that there is also many good things the world provides. But even if there is mostly good things in the world there is still an infinite amount of evil that seems to be more prevalent. With God being able to end evil and even prevent it he must either be limited in power or not be all-good. Cleanthes suggests that humans can still think of God as finite, in the sense that his goodness may be limited by necessity.
This means that natural and moral evil toward phenomenon can be explained and adjusted. A lesser evil may be chosen in order to reach a desirable end and benevolence regulated by wisdom and limited by necessity could produce the world as it is now (Hume p.67). But this statement still does not go with the ideal of God and his benevolence, he should be able to make the universe infinitely perfect like himself which supposedly lacks evil. Even this sort of finitely perfect God cannot be a possibility based on the lack of evidence. There is a chance that the world we have now is the best God could have made, but with how evil the world is we cannot see it.
Philo uses an analogy to describe our universe as an ugly palace in which God is the architect. The architect may be very skilled and built the absolute best palace possible with what he had, but all we see is a very poorly constructed palace. By only seeing what we know, we have no grounds to base what the universe could be like if other decisions would have been made (Hume p.68). There are several evil circumstances that show how ill built our universe is along with how unnecessary they are. The first being the existence of physical pain, which is supposed to motivate us to avoid certain situations.
But God could have just arranged the universe so that good actions enact pleasure and actions that were bad cause a reduced feeling of pleasure. The second evil circumstance is the world being controlled by general laws. Philo states that if God could manipulate the laws of nature and exterminate all ill, wherever it was found, it would be better for us (Hume p.70).The third circumstance is the lack of abilities of every species, God gave each species the basic necessities to survive but not everything that they need to truly be safe and happy. Humans who were given excellent reasoning and knowledge are nothing without the basics such as clothes, arms, food and shelter.
A perfect God would have given a large stock in order to guard against accidents, and secure happiness and welfare of the creatures he created. The final and fourth circumstance is the fragile nature of the universe and the need for balance. If there is too little or too much of something it could cause a disaster such as rain, it is necessary for all plants and animals but often times there is not enough or too much. There are many instances where the balance of nature is off center and cause catastrophic disasters. After going through these four evil circumstances Philo comes to the conclusion that the world gives no evidence of God being good and evil.
Philo’s conclusion comes from four possible hypotheses about the moral nature of the first cause of the universe, and all but one of them can be eliminated. The first hypothesis is that God is perfectly good which cannot be a possibility because evil exists. The second hypothesis is that God is perfectly malicious, which cannot be true for the same reason as the first, good exists. The third is that God is both good and contains malice.
This hypothesis can’t be possible because there are no visible signs of a struggle between good and evil. Instead we see the effects of the laws of nature that have both good and bad consequences. The fourth hypothesis being that God is neither good nor malicious. The fourth hypothesis leads Philo concludes that the original source of the universe is completely indifferent to all of the principles, and has no regard to good above ill than to heat above cold, or to drought above moisture, or to light above heavy (Hume p.75).
The only time the problem of evil really becomes a problem, he states, is when we try to claim that God is similar in thinking to a human being. If God is anything like a human being, and can be judged by human standards then he cannot be all good.