Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-x24gv Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-24T06:52:56.928Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

The problem of religious evil

Co-winner of the 2014 Religious Studies Postgraduate Essay Prize

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 April 2014

Central European University, Department of Philosophy, 1051 Budapest, Nador u 9, Hungary e-mail:


The article argues that evils perpetrated in the name of God (‘religious evils') generate a special version of the problem of evil, and a concomitant evidential argument, that cannot be solved by any of the current defences and theodicies. The article draws on historical examples to clarify the concept of religious evil, it shows that religious evil is a candidate defeater of theism, and it claims that the resulting evidential argument cannot be defused by defences and theodicies currently on offer. The last section outlines a solution.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adams, Robert (1977) ‘Middle knowledge and the problem of evil’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 14, 109117.Google Scholar
Allen, Diogenes (1980) ‘Natural evil and the love of God’, Religious Studies, 16, 439456.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Allen, S. J. & Amt, Emilie (eds) (2003) The Crusades: A Reader (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press).Google Scholar
Alston, William P. (1991) ‘The inductive argument from evil and the human cognitive condition’, Philosophical Perspectives, 5, 2967.Google Scholar
Bergmann, Michael (2001) ‘Skeptical theism and Rowe's new evidential argument from evil’, Noûs, 35, 278296.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hick, John (1966) Evil and the God of Love (London: Macmillan).Google Scholar
Howard-Snyder, Daniel & Howard-Snyder, Frances (1999) ‘Is theism compatible with gratuitous evil?’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 36, 115130.Google Scholar
Kors, Alan C. & Peters, Edward (eds) (1972) Witchcraft in Europe, 1100–1700: A Documentary History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).Google Scholar
Levack, Brian P. (2006) The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 3rd edn (London: Routledge).Google Scholar
Levack, Brian P. (ed.) (2013) The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
Mackie, J. L. (1955) ‘Evil and omnipotence’, Mind, 64, 200212.Google Scholar
McCord Adams, Marilyn (1990) ‘Horrendous evils and the goodness of God’, in Adams, Robert & McCord Adams, Marilyn (eds) The Problem of Evil (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 209221.Google Scholar
McCord Adams, Marilyn (1999) Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press).Google Scholar
Peterson, Michael (2003) ‘The problem of evil: the case against God's existence’, in Peterson, Michael, Hasker, William, Reichenbach, Bruce, & Basinger, David (eds) Reason and Religious Belief, 3rd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 128153.Google Scholar
Plantinga, Alvin (1974) The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Clarendon Press).Google Scholar
Rowe, William L. (1979) ‘The problem of evil and some varieties of atheism’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 16, 335341.Google Scholar
Stump, Eleonore (1985) ‘The problem of evil’, Faith and Philosophy, 2, 392423.Google Scholar
Stump, Eleonore (1997) ‘Saadia Gaon on the problem of evil’, Faith and Philosophy, 14, 523549.Google Scholar
Stump, Eleonore (2001) ‘Second-person accounts and the problem of evil’, Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia, 57, 745771.Google Scholar
Swinburne, Richard (1998) Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford: Clarendon Press).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
van Inwagen, Peter (1988) ‘The magnitude, duration, and distribution of evil: a theodicy’, Philosophical Topics, 14, 161187.Google Scholar
van Inwagen, Peter (2006) The Problem of Evil (Oxford: Clarendon Press).Google Scholar
Wykstra, Stephen J. (1984) ‘The Humean obstacle to evidential arguments from suffering’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 16, 7393.Google Scholar