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Endless discussions on the problem of evil have been convincing to neither the theologian nor the scientist. Briefly, the problem can be stated thus.

How can evil exist in a world governed by an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present god? If such a god is all-good then he must desire to prevent or to eliminate evil, but since he does not then he is either unable to foresee its emergence and so is not omniscient, unable to eliminate it and so is not omnipotent, uncaring of its existence and so is transcendent rather than omnipresent. If however, such a god is in fact omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent then he cannot be all good.

Theologians have advanced many explanations for this paradox, ranging from injunctions to accept on faith what one cannot understand because God’s ways are inscrutable to mortals to cephalalgiogenic sophistries — when all the while atheists have snickered at its inherent contradiction. The big assumption all have missed, however, is in fact the actual reality of whether evil does in fact exist.

In point of fact, the concept of “evil” is a relatively recent innovation, that first appeared in the teachings of Zoroaster. There is no reference to evil in the familiar mythologies of Egypt, Greece, the Norse — nor is there evil in religions of China, India, Japan or the Americas. Even in the Bible it first appears only in very late editions. Pre-dualist Hebrews not less than all non-dualists relied on the divine as bulwark against harm, when properly propitiated. However, harm to one group often mean a boon its assailants, and so no concept of an evil absolute made sense. In our enlightened age we appear to have lost this sensible perspective, even as we pray to the same God from both sides of a football match. Perhaps it is high time, however, to return to the understanding that evil — and good, defined as its opposite — is no more absolute than our morality.