In some cases, the order of one's life and the world seems to be in
harmony with the sacred reality. At other times it is
extremely difficult to understand the world, especially when one is
confronted by suffering and evil. How can we make sense of the
Nazi's systematic murder of more than 6 million men, women and children
in Europe? How can religion make sense out of the deaths of
21 million people under Stalin? How can one make sense out of an
tsunami that kills hundreds of thousands of people?
A problem arises when our concepts of the sacred cannot adequately
explain the purpose or reason for suffering. The "problem of suffering"
occurs whenever people perceive a contradiction between the facts of
ordinary experience and the reality suggested by their notions of the
If religion is to make sense of these things
and bring any order out of the chaos of the world, it has a tremendous
challenge in front of it. In this unit, we come face to face with the most
difficult issues that confront religion and philosophy. It is
doubtful that we can provide answers that will be satisfactory to
everyone. We can, however, survey the answers that have been set
forth by religious groups and individuals.
Our survey of this unit will build upon the information found in
Exploring Religious Meaning. We will divide this unit into three main sections:
- What do we mean by evil?
- How can we reconcile the monotheistic concept of God to
suffering and evil?
- Other religious responses to evil.