Criticism on God [Existence of Evil and Free Will]

One of the major arguments proposed against the existence of God in contemporary western philosophy is the problem of evil. It is based upon the inability to reconcile the magnitude of evil in the world with the all-loving nature of God.  John Hick describes the problem from the perspective of its proponent, “If God perfectly loves, God must wish to abolish all evil; and if God is all-powerful, God must be able to abolish all evil. But evil exists; therefore God cannot be both omnipotent and perfectly loving.”

This thus causes difficulty for the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God who possess both qualities of being all-loving and omnipotent. David Hume(1711-1776 C.E, the British philosopher and historian who argued that human knowledge arises only from sense experience) is a proponent of this view and argues that the sheer amount of evil, which may outweigh the good, in the world makes dubious that a deity exists.

The main response to this kind of an argument is known as the Free-Will Defense. It is based on the premise that for God to create self-directly and independent agents like humans, he had to grant a certain amount of freedom to them, and this freedom would inevitably result in human-to-human evil.   It has been proposed that there need not be a contradiction between God creating morally free agents and making it the case that all their actions turn out to be good. But it can be argued that in that case, are the beings really as free as humans?   If all our actions were predestined in this way, there would be a sense in which we would not be free and only an allusion be created thereof. Although God could have created beings of this sort, they would have amounted to mere puppets and not vibrant beings as envisioned by God.

Free Will Defence: 
The primary difficulty with the problem of evil is resolving the apparent conflict between the reality of evil in the world and the claim that God is: Omniscient-All knowing, Omnipotent-All powerful and Wholly Good. One version of the free will defense is to compare the current state of the world with a world in which all actions were good and no evil was possible. It is important here to point out that the good that is being referred to is ‘moral good.’ That is, it is good that is a result of the conscious actions of people. This is distinct from ‘natural good’ or ‘natural evil’ which maybe result from non-human causes. The free will defense (FWD) theorist points out that in order for man to be in a position to do ‘moral good’ he must be ‘significantly free.’  That is, he must be in a position to make a choice between making a morally good or evil action.  Given that in the current world (World-1) human agents are given this freedom, a certain level of moral evil is unavoidable. This world would still be more preferable to a possible World-2 in which there were no free actions (thus no freedom) but all actions performed were entirely good.

A critic of this defense will point out that if God is all-powerful (Omnipotent) then it ought to be in His capacity to create a World-3 in which humans had freedom, yet all their actions turned out to be good.  Thus their actions would be predetermined to be good, yet they would still have the free option of choosing between morally good or bad actions. The agent would have the freedom to choose any action they like; it would just be that whatever choice they made it would turn out to be good. This would entirely be within God’s power since He is omnipotent and is only limited by logical impossibilities.

The challenge for the FWD theorist is to show that Freedom and Causal Determinism are both mutually inconsistent. It can’t both be the case that humans are free agents, and that their actions are causally predetermined. The crucial question is, can God can create any world? Alvin Plantinga attempts to answer this question.  First, he points out that Leibniz was mistaken in thinking that God would have to, and thus did, create the best possible world. Plantinga argues that there can be no such thing as the best possible world, since to any world one more unit of pleasure or goodness can be added to make it even better. Thus it seems implausible to think of the best possible world as existing. This then is one instance when God cannot create any world.

Secondly, he argues that God cannot create a world in which Man is both significantly free, yet his actions are already determined. His proof on this premise has to do with a thought experiment. We can imagine a case in the present world in which we know given certain conditions a person would hypothetically engage in a morally evil action. It would not be impossible for God to create a world that were almost identical the present world, except that the person would then not engage in the evil. Since, to do so would deny him the freedom of individuality and his personality. That is, for God to ensure that he not engage in the evil would deny his freedom. The only other solution is for God to not create the world at all. He argues that for any world God could create, which included freedom, there is at least one action on which Man would go wrong, or else he could not create any world at all, this phenomenon he calls ‘Transworld Depravity’. Therefore, for God to create a world in which humans had moral freedom, the existence of both Good and Evil is necessary.

Free Will- Islamic Perspective: 
Basing on the basic doctrine of Islam, the Muslims scholars have deduced a balanced view about free will. According to the great Spanish Muslim philosopher Averroës (Ibn Rushd); ‘The human actions depend partly on his own free will and partly on causes outside his control. Man is free to wish and to act in a particular manner, but his will is always restrained and determined by exterior causes. These causes spring from the general laws of nature; God alone knows their sequence.’

Shah Wali Allah (1702-1762 C.E):
Shah Wali Allah of Delhi reinterpreted the concept of Taqdir (Determinism: The philosophical doctrine that every event, act, and decision is the inevitable consequence of antecedents that are independent of the human will) and condemned its popularization, qismat (narrow fatalism, or absolute predetermination: The doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore unalterable.). Shah Wali Allah held that man could achieve his full potential by his own exertion in a universe that was determined by God.  God has granted power and limited free will to human by which they can performs certain actions by use of their wisdom i.e. to choose between right and wrong. It is mentioned in Qur’an: “Say “The Truth is from your Lord”: let him who will believe and let him who will reject (it): for the wrongdoers We have prepared a Fire…(Qur’an;18:29). However it is not with in power of human to do what ever they desire, their choice of Free Will is limited.

The limited Free-will granted to human involves a corresponding personal responsibility. Although every action is already in the knowledge of Allah and nothing can happen unless He approves or desires but it does not necessarily imply that He is happy with what ever man does due to freedom provided. Every doer of actions feels that he does or does not do a thing without any coercion. He stands up and sits, comes in and goes out, travels and stays by his own free will without feeling anybody forcing him to do any of these actions. In fact, he clearly distinguishes between doing something of his own free will and someone else forcing him to do that action. The Islamic law also wisely distinguishes between these states of affairs. It does not punish a wrongdoer for an action done under compulsion: It is mentioned in Qur’an: “Allah does not charge a soul beyond its capacity” (Qur’an;2:286). “There shall be no coercion in matters of faith. Distinct has now become the right way from the (way of ) error: hence, he who rejects the powers of evil and believes in God has indeed taken hold of support most unfailing, which shall never give way: for God is all-hearing, all-knowing.”(Qur’an;2:256). “An so (O Prophet) exhort them, thy task is only to exhort: Thou canst not compel them to (believe). As for those who turn their backs and disbelieve, Allah will punish them with the mighty punishment.”(Qur’an;88:21-24).
“Notwithstanding that no human being can ever attain to faith otherwise than by God’s leave, and (that) it is He who lays the loathsome evil (of disbelief) upon those who will not use their reason?”(Qur’an;10:100);“to you be your religion (Din), and to me mine.”(Qur’an;109:6). If the action is not done by the individual’s free will, then praising the virtuous is a joke and punishing the evildoer is an injustice, and Allah is, of course, far from joking and being unjust. Allah has sent messengers who are “bearing good tidings, and warning, so that mankind might have no argument against Allah after the messengers.”(Qur’an;4:165);“Verily this (Qur’an) is no less than a Message to (all) the Worlds: (With profit) to whoever among you wills to go straight” (Qur’an;81:27-28). If the individual’s action is not performed by his free will, his argument is not invalidated by the sending of messengers and scriptures. Qur’an says; “This is Paradise; you have inherited it by virtue of your past deeds.”(Qur’an;43:72).

Existence of God Prerequisite in Islam:
Islamic philosophers of the middle ages did not address the problem of existence of God in any direct fashion. This maybe because in the context of Muslim thought, the existence of God was a prerequisite. In fact, the aim of the philosophers was to prove the existence of God using Aristotelian logic.  So we do not find Muslim philosophers arguing against the existence of God, on the contrary they are attempting to justify the qualities of God from a philosophical perspective. The Muslim philosophers did, however, tackle a different but somewhat similar issue concerning the unity of God. The central problem facing them was how to reconcile the absolute unity and perfection of God with the fact that there exists in the world such great amounts of imperfections. If God is all perfect and the world is a result of divine will, we are then faced with the problem of duality between God and His will. Yet it is this very difference (i.e. the imperfection of the world) that sets it apart from God (who is perfect). How is this consistent with the absolute unity (Tawheed) of God which is so central to Islamic doctrine? This issue had been one of the major issues of Muslim thought, and was a subject of great debate between Al-Ghazzali, and other neo-platonic Muslim thinkers.