The Problem of Evil

[Written June 2020]

The world is falling apart. The ones who swore to protect us have turned their guns in our direction, leaving us alienated from ourselves. This makes me think of evil and why it exists. Let’s consider two dimensions of evil—logical and evidential. 

The Logical Problem of Evil

Why does evil exist at all? If there is some divine omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevolent Being in the universe, would He, She, or They not have made sure there was no evil in it? It is omnibenevolent, meaning perfectly good, meaning does no harm to anyone or anything. This leads to a contradiction when we consider why evil exists at all because our belief in an omnibenevolent God is inconsistent with our knowledge, usually first-hand, of evil. This has led to various rebuttals by religious folk to justify the world’s evil.

Some say God’s evil is a test. It is a necessary part of our world as a means for God to find those who truly belong in Heaven. Ones who resist temptation, vice, and sin at every turn will surely be more heaven-worthy than those who do not. 

Others say evil follows necessarily from the fact that humans have free will. God cannot make a universe without evil unless he takes away our free will. Since we are better off with free will, God chose to give it to us, despite the fact that we would perform evil acts.

This is all well and good, perhaps, but the second facet of evil—the evidential problem—cannot be explained away as easily.

The Evidential Problem of Evil

Why is there so much evil? It’s one thing to admit the existence of evil plain and simple; it’s another to consider the amount of evil that exists. For the sake of explanation, natural evil—tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, pandemics, disease—can be excluded from consideration. Even after taking out such multifarious evils, there’s a lot left. Human trafficking, extreme poverty, homelessness, racism, etc., etc., etc. Having free will is not enough to justify such evil. Unlike the logical problem of evil, the evidential one is much harder to explain. 

Think of weeds. There are weeds and flowers growing wherever there’s grass. Flowers are better than weeds, but it’s clear that there are more weeds than flowers. The fact that there are both weeds and flowers might show some relationship between them. Nonetheless, the existence of a few flowers does not explain why there are so many weeds. Look at your lawns, backyards, parks… where are all the flowers? Chances are the grass you see most often is covered with weeds. Why is this? Aside from a biological explanation, is there an proper reason for the sheer amount of weeds suffocating our precious pastures? 

The answer to that question is largely up to you. So think about it. Why is our world covered with weeds? What can you do about it?

Evil sucks, which is an understatement. More often than not, I sink into a state of mind where evil has its place necessarily in the universe. That is, “The world has to be this way because there’s no other option.” Other times I tell myself, “Go with the flow.” But how am I supposed to go with the flow when the water supply runs dry and my friends are dying? 

Maybe there’s no right answer. While evil might never be justified, sameness for sameness’s sake sucks. Change is good. Change is necessary. Change. 

Meditation of a Privileged Youth

[Written June 6, 2020]

Sitting down to meditate, I inhale deeply three times, sensing my body for tension. “In,” I tell myself … “Out.” Usually my hips or knees are tense, but nowadays my entire body is. It’s hard to say given the current state of affairs, but there isn’t much I feel like doing, or capable of doing. My morning meditation is maybe the only moment of peace I’ll have the entire day. 20 minutes of serenity before a whirlwind of news, social media, and whatever horrors the world throws at me today. Of course, I bear the least of the world’s problems, today.

It’s common knowledge that the world crumbles as I write, as you read, and there isn’t any explanation for people to turn to for comfort anymore. Our explanation—the white, straight, patriarchal, Judeo-Christian one—no longer fits into the jigsaw puzzle of culture. Good! It’s about time. 

Nonetheless, for the privileged like myself, it can be an uncomfortable realization, for good reason. Cultural minorities face such discomfort their entire lives, in silence, in horror, and in darkness. Perhaps it’s time the darkness reveals itself to me.

Systemic issues probably exist in every system. They are problems that exist in relation to a system but are not part of the system itself. 

Here is a systemic issue sometimes referred to as the Project of Whiteness: Whether you think it does or not, the socioeconomic systems in place in North America benefit White people more than People of Colour. White people have more opportunity, face less discrimination, and achieve higher standards of living. This does not mean that White people are not poor, do not face discrimination, or necessarily live among the 1%. White people come in all flavours, and everyone faces problems, big and small, regardless of the colour of their skin. But People of Colour face more problems than White people could ever imagine. 

Recently, my stepdad complained that he was discriminated against in his early years living in Saskatchewan looking for a job. Unless you were a Native American or a woman, he said, there were no positions available for you. Nonetheless, despite this period of “discrimination” we now live in a six-figure home, own five cars, and swim in our very own swimming pool. I don’t necessarily think the same can be said for the Native American or the single mom who “took his spot.” That is a systemic issue—and it cannot be solved by simply giving women and PoCs jobs instead of White people. Nowadays opportunity matters most. White people occupy positions of power. Whites elect other Whites into positions of power. White = Might = Right. 

The most important aspect of the Project of Whiteness is that it is nobody’s fault. I am no sociologist, anthropologist, historian, or expert in any field, but I think it’s fair to say Whiteness dominated Western culture through a series of seemingly innocuous though often culturally detrimental ideas. Or, better, these ideas were advertised politically as innocuous and “right” (cf. Residential schools in Canada), while being used to dismantle previously empowered systems. 

Culture is a strong force. With enough people behind it, there’s no stopping a cultural wheel rolling down a hill. No amount of policing, policy, or politics can stop a burning building from crashing down. Only the people can put out the fire.

The story we tell ourselves as white people is wrong. Great-grandma and -grandpa could’ve been wonderful people with a fascinating history, but most of us are tied to racism and oppression whether we like it or not. White history sought and destroyed every other history, religion, and culture in order to present itself as the only option. Being white, we are tied to the worst historical events excluding natural disasters. There are some good stories here and there, sure, but was it worth it? 

What I find most disturbing about the Project of Whiteness is our own inability to see it. It is a lens we cannot see the world without. But the Project of Whiteness is more than just a pair of glasses. It’s a pistol with a flashlight attached to it, except the flashlight is so bright we can’t see in front of us, but, instead of calmly retreating and being still, we fire blindly into the Grand Whiteness, killing all and any who come near. 

Systemic racism is a white problem. It is evil created by the walls, ceilings, and contracts of the system we created for everyone while it indirectly benefits us more than everyone else. This needs to change. We need to change.

Meditation has been my only solace in 2020. It is a panacea for all of my problems. But some people can’t meditate. How are you supposed to meditate if you can’t breathe? It’s literally the first thing you learn to focus on. Breathe. In. Out. The breath is a tool connecting you to the eternal present. Without it, what’s left? I’m privileged enough not to have to know the answer to that question, but I stand with any and all who’ve had to answer it.