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Evil: A Primer: A History of a Bad Idea from Beelzebub to Bin Laden by William Hart

Smith, and Bruce Lincoln; ethnographic examples will be drawn from Cantonese funerals, Maori cosmology, and Protestant purity debates U. Myths and Mythmaking provides an overview of myth and mythmaking drawing on the work of Russell McCutcheon and Bruce Lincoln; examples will be drawn the UFO incident at Roswell, and narratives of supernatural assault Australia , Sati tradition in Rajasthan, and possibly the novel Dracula.

Strong Emotions provides an overview of the relevance of emotions to culture and cognition; ethnographic examples focus on disgusting in relation to horrific representations of the feminine in Buddhist hagiography and shame in relation to rural Turkish conceptions of sexuality and procreation. Morality provides an overview of the difference between moral philosophy and moral psychology; a methodological objection to moral psychology; outline of the difference between moral philosophy and the aforementioned proposals regarding the study of dangers and aversions versus moral evil mainly focusing on the difference between first person and third person perspectives.

Conclusion discusses future prospects for the study of evil and religion. ISBN Hardback.


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A Primer on Evil

What makes Biblio different? Facebook Instagram Twitter. Sign In Register Help Basket. Basket items. The second question is easier, I think. If we had good answers there would be more discussion about the POE. Everyone would like simplicity and certainty in a confusing world.

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But when we do not get quick resolution to our dilemmas and doubts we have some difficult choices. In practice I think people choose a varying mixture of both. But denominations exist in part because they claim to have superior theology to the competition. And this type of allure demands that its apologists proclaim the denominational version of the God story with confidence. This can have the unfortunate unintended consequence of papering over difficulties so as not to confuse seekers and possibly prevent them from making an important decision for God.

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The trouble is, this simplifying move, while perhaps appropriate for novices i. Be that as it may. So let me now turn to the Philosophical POE. The best exposition I have found of the issues and answers is a book by philosopher Peter van Ingwagen , entitled surprise! It is concise, dense — yet surprisingly readable, and unfortunately expensive. In the space remaining I will be implicitly referencing van Inwagen in trying to peel back the complexity. The most helpful to me, anyway beginning is to recognize the assertions and rebuttals ought to be structured as a formal argument — which is quite different from the idea of tuxedoed people getting into a verbal fight when they disagree.

Conceptually a formal argument begins with some disputed statement of position-as-truth, made by its proponent, and is responded to with an initial push-back by the opponent, who gives reasons against the opening position-statement. This is followed by a series of alternating rebuttal attempts from each side, intending to show why the previous rebuttal is, itself, problematic. A useful analogy for this back-and-forth process is a baseball game, where first one team bats then the other — each trying to score.

One can somewhat naturally fit the arguments found in the whole POE discussion into this form. What then is a quality counter-argument? And, since created beings thus can and have sinned, it is their abuse of this freedom that is the root cause of evil. And the need for a love-based universe trumps and legitimates any risk.

As an aside, let me note here that IMO this is a powerful counter-argument to the initial POE statement, and has been viewed so historically. Further, when on the rare occasions I have witnessed church-based conversation on the POE, where tentative answers are actually proposed, they have invariably centered on the FWD.


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Unfortunately the response almost always stops here, usually with the tacit assumption that a FWD is sufficient. That is where I personally get frustrated because it seems like such a move tries to justify avoidance of harder, deeper aspects and tries to reduce the POE to a more satisfying over-simplification. And at this point the issue of Natural Evil gets introduced.

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The POE position says: what about earthquakes, birth defects, famine, etc.? These natural evils seem to be rooted outside a perversion of creaturely will, i. The FWD is therefore inadequate for this type of evil. This would include allowing nature to decay — producing not just death but disease and violent planetary events, like earthquakes or tornadoes. It would also cover unintended physical consequences from sin-mingled human activity, like Global Warming, STDs, building collapses due to design flaws or code violations, agricultural failures rooted in corrupt political choices, etc.