In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil (alternately, the problem of suffering), is the attempt to reconcile the existence of evil with that of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent deity; in simpler locution, why ‘bad’ things happen to ‘good’ people. If placed in absolute terms — as does the Christian religion — the existence of such a deity renders impossible that of evil.
Fervent theists have advanced that all evil in the world is but punishment for sin. Thus, the ‘good’ people subject to this seemingly unexplainable suffering are, in fact, sinners, and are consequently being punished by God. This, however, raises the question: what of dying infants? What of the countless children perishing at unnaturally early ages, product of some unexpected infection or disease? To this, the theist might say that their death is punishment for their parents’ sins. Inadvertently, the theist has proven his God to be immoral.
Another religious postulation is that suffering is God’s mechanism for testing faith. It with ease that we envisage a world in which God’s creations are ‘put to the test’ and must prove, in this way, their faith or lack of it. But what of immediate death? A man crosses a street, is hit by a school bus and is killed instantly. How can this man have possibly been provided the opportunity to prove his faith in God?
Others have proposed the notion that this suffering is an inevitable by-product of free-will. We are free to do as we choose, and thus, though perhaps unintentionally, bring about the consequences respective to our actions. To this we might say: and, what of natural disasters?
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716) argued that suffering is not for the good or to the detriment of the individual; instead, each instance of suffering is to establish the best balance in the world — part of God’s ‘larger plan.’
Perhaps the most appealing ‘solution’ to this problem is that of the existence of a malevolent deity. With the existence of such a deity, each instance of suffering is a personal attack, it is willed, not a mere by-product of our actions. The idea that this immensely redoubtable being would go to such lengths to make us suffer is indeed very seductive: it affirms that each of us is undeniably, absolutely important.
Expulsion from the Garden of Eden by Tommaso Cassai Masaccio. http://www.italianrenaissance.org/masaccios-expulsion-of-adam-and-eve-from-eden/