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This page is a partial answer to an extended letter on another page, Difficult Questions:  Free Will and the Problem of Evil  The reader may wish to refer to that page for a better understanding of the background of this one.  This is the sixth page of answers.

God is seen as the source of all things; for some, that includes all that we call "evil".


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  "Also, your point about the necessity of duality in order for meaningful living is popular concept in Western Philosophy.  However, the concept of absolute non-dualism as advocated by the Hindu saint Adi Shankracharya provides an alternative explanation.  According to him, different schools of religion exemplify an evolution in thinking.  All of these stages are valid and none can be decried as 'false.'  It is a bit like looking at the sun from different distances, it simply grows larger as you approach it.  The first level of thought was dualism, a state where the mind could not see God and man as the same, therefore we have expressions like "Father in heaven" and such.  Hinduism expresses this through polytheism as well as various monotheistic schools of thinking.  In the second stage, Shankara thought that men used qualified non-dualism.  In this case, while they thought that man and God were one, they also felt that individuals souls "made up" God.  Finally, absolute non-dualism states that God is a single, indivisible entity, he is the Knower and that which is Known.  Any perceived differences are illusory and a product of impure thinking.  This state of thinking is termed samadhi in Sanskrit and nirvana in Pali.  In Hinduism, both evil and good are caused by God, a Satan-like entity is not included.  A popular verse in the Bhagavad Gita is, 'He who rooted in Wisdom casts of the shackles of both good and evil deeds in this very life.'"

  I have a problem with the notion that "good" and "evil" are both from God.  The heart of my concern is that they lose their distinctions.  Why do we call some things good, and others evil?  If all things come from God, we are faced with a dilemma.  Is it that our concepts of good and evil have no meaning?  Or is God an amoral being who fails to understand good and evil, concepts greater than He?  If our concepts of good and evil are invalid, we lose the right to make moral judgments--morality ceases to exist.  That which we call good is a personal preference of ours, and has no intrinsic value--the work of Albert Schweitzer, Mother Theresa, and Doctor Livingstone cannot be praised.  That which we call evil is also a personal preference.  Adolf Hitler, Jeffry Dahmer, and Ghengis Kahn cannot be condemned for their actions.  Judges and juries can no longer condemn criminals, for that which is criminal is merely our preference, and evildoers are merely following their own legitimate views of how to live.  Any action we take to stop them is arbitrary, and unfair by the very standards upon which we would base that action.  No, if God is not intrinsically good in all ways, then we are caught between a theology in which good and evil are greater than God and one in which good and evil are meaningless and we can make no moral judgments whatsoever.

  I find this one of the best arguments for the existence of God; and it intrinsically argues for ethical monotheism.  If our concepts of good and evil are to have any meaning at all, they must be based on some ultimate reality.  The best alternative to this is a social contract theory, a notion that we've all agreed to be governed by a set of rules which make society possible.  The problem with this is that there is no justification to punish those who do not agree to our rules--the rules are entirely arbitrary, based on our own preferences.  The best we can do is arrange to allow them to leave; and in a place like the United States, it would seem that our rules would require us to provide a place for them to go.  "Thou shalt not kill", "Thou shalt not steal"--the entire list of our moral values equal no more than Emily Post's guide to table manners, and are indefensible as the basis for a system of law and punishment.  Without a supernatural foundation for our moral codes, they are without meaning.

  Justice seems to be an essential concept to life as we know it.  But perhaps you're ready to tell me that I'm mistaken, that there is no real morality.  If by your religion the actions of Adolph Hitler and others who have done so much we would call "evil" are not morally reprehensible, and cannot be condemned as wrong in some real and absolute sense, then your concept of God as source of both good and evil is appropriate to that view.  But I would never accept a world so constituted.  If good and evil are not distinct in an absolute way, then God is not good in an ultimate sense, and then there is no God at all.  Since I believe that morality is genuine, I am forced to believe in a good God.

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