The PROBLEM of the PROBLEM of EVIL
Outside of scripture there is no reason to assume:
Still, the monotheists (who are almost always scripturalists) and the atheists (who are rarely more than anti-scripturalists) have argued for centuries whether God (generally left undefined) can be both omnipotent and good. Despite the sloppiness of its foundation, some sense can be made of this discussion (popularly called the problem of evil).
If omnipotence is defined as power to do anything you want, then an omnipotent being could do illogical things, such as create a square circle. But nobody worth talking to defines omnipotence as power to do anything beyond the bounds of logic, so that scenario is not worth addressing.
If omnipotence is defined as power to do anything you want, within the bounds of logic, then if an omnipotent being creates a universe in which evil exists, he must want evil to exist. This argument is perfectly sound, but it ignores two relevant facts.
You might want X, but not Y, but if you can't have X without Y, then you might want X + Y more than you want not-Y. If it is logically impossible to have X without Y, and an omnipotent being wants X, but not Y, then he might still want X + Y more than he wants not-Y.
|Note that good and evil can be left undefined (beyond the general intuitive understanding of the terms) and still this argument would make sense. Defining good and evil in terms of quantities of deserved or undeserved happiness or unhappiness is possible, but unnecessary.|
Note also that defining omnipotence as power to do anything that power can do makes no difference to the argument presented here.
In practical terms, free will creatures will necessarily do evil until they learn not to. Therefore if God wants free will creatures who don't do evil, he must tolerate the existence of evil until those creatures learn to stop doing it. Does God want evil to exist? Apparently - so far. Specifically, it appears that he wants the package - free will creatures + evil - to exist. But that doesn't mean he wants evil to exist for its own sake. It means he must tolerate evil in order to get what he wants.
Still, it can be argued that what one wants is not what makes one good or evil; it's what one does. In that case, an omnipotent being who chooses to cause evil to exist must be evil regardless of what he wants. If it is evil to create any evil that one is not compelled to create, this argument is sound. But if the same acts that create evil also create a greater amount of good, then the scale is tipped in the direction of good. In that case, neither such acts nor the being who does them can be called evil.
Next, one might assert with confidence that much more evil than good has been caused by the creation of this planet. The assertion can't be proven, because we can't weigh the quantity of good against evil. But nobody within the target audience of this essay would disagree with it - assuming that there's no afterlife in which the scales are balanced out - or possibly tipped in the good direction. That's the big maybe. No matter how much evil God creates (deliberately or not), he can always compensate for it in an afterlife - possibly afterlives, since there is no limit on the number of them.
So the monotheists win the argument in the sense that the existence of evil does not disprove the existence of a good and omnipotent God. But there is still no reason to assume an omnipotent God exists - unless you believe scripture. And if a God is involved in human history, his goodness is judged too subjectively for any comment on it to have any objective value.