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The problem of religious evil: Co-winner of the 2014 Religious Studies Postgraduate Essay Prize


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.

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Allen, Diogenes (1980) ‘Natural evil and the love of God’, Religious Studies, 16, 439456.
Allen, S. J. & Amt, Emilie (eds) (2003) The Crusades: A Reader (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press).
Alston, William P. (1991) ‘The inductive argument from evil and the human cognitive condition’, Philosophical Perspectives, 5, 2967.
Bergmann, Michael (2001) ‘Skeptical theism and Rowe's new evidential argument from evil’, Noûs, 35, 278296.
Hick, John (1966) Evil and the God of Love (London: Macmillan).
Howard-Snyder, Daniel & Howard-Snyder, Frances (1999) ‘Is theism compatible with gratuitous evil?’, American Philosophical Quarterly, 36, 115130.
Kors, Alan C. & Peters, Edward (eds) (1972) Witchcraft in Europe, 1100–1700: A Documentary History (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).
Levack, Brian P. (2006) The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, 3rd edn (London: Routledge).
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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.
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Stump, Eleonore (1985) ‘The problem of evil’, Faith and Philosophy, 2, 392423.
Stump, Eleonore (1997) ‘Saadia Gaon on the problem of evil’, Faith and Philosophy, 14, 523549.
Stump, Eleonore (2001) ‘Second-person accounts and the problem of evil’, Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia, 57, 745771.
Swinburne, Richard (1998) Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford: Clarendon Press).
van Inwagen, Peter (1988) ‘The magnitude, duration, and distribution of evil: a theodicy’, Philosophical Topics, 14, 161187.
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Wykstra, Stephen J. (1984) ‘The Humean obstacle to evidential arguments from suffering’, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 16, 7393.
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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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