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Arash Naraghi Faculty Luncheon: God's Justice and the Problem of Gratuitous Evil

How Evil Are You?

Arash Naraghi, associate professor of religion and philosophy, discusses how tragic dilemma and moral obligation dictate action

Evil exists across our world in many forms. Whether by choice or circumstance, we encounter evils of varying degrees everyday in our lives and the lives of others. The most disconcerting evils of all are pointless however, act or events that seemingly exist for their own sake. These pointless evils are what Arash Naraghi, associate professor of religion and philosophy, is concerned with most. 

In his faculty luncheon presentation, “God, Tragic Dilemmas and the Problem of Gratuitous Evil,” Naraghi discusses how gratuitous evil affects our perception of a theistic God and how evil acts pose problems to both our free will and logic. Naraghi raised huge moral questions and illuminated religious and ethical issues. 

The problem of gratuitous evil, and how God’s existence can be put into question by the existence of pointless evils, has been the source of Naraghi’s most recent research. He brings up this premise: If an all powerful, all knowing, and perfectly good God exists, then gratuitous evils do not exist in the world. Since we have gratuitous evil in our world, one might conclude that an all powerful, all knowing, perfectly good God does not exist. In his research, Naraghi argues for God’s existence through the presence of logic.

“Sometimes evils are simply a bad state of affairs, you call them bad evils,” says Naraghi, “but there are different cases of evils that are actions we call morally wrong.”

Confused? It comes down to two types of dilemmas: moral dilemmas and tragic dilemmas. Naraghi defines moral dilemma as a situation where you ought to do Option A and you ought to do Option B, but you cannot do both. Whichever Option you choose will create good, and evil befalls upon the option you do not choose.

You’d think, if God is all powerful and knowing, he could prevent these kinds of dilemmas. But, “as long as God has a morally sufficient reason for the existence of wrong actions evils, wrong evils, he is still morally good,” says Naraghi. “If God doesn’t have [a reason], then we are facing a problem.” 

A tragic dilemma, on the other hand, is a situation in which both options cause evil. Choosing Option A or B will lead to evil, but the necessity of choice leads to wrong evil. As a result, the moral obligation is to do one and you are not held morally responsible for the evil that is created.  

“A young man wants to go to war to defend his country and on the other hand he is obligated to care for his sick mother,” explains Naraghi. “He ought to defend his country and he ought to care for his mother, but he cannot do both. Regardless of what decision he make he has done something wrong.” 

“Is it possible for God to face tragic dilemma?” asked Naraghi to an audience of faculty.

When God created the world with free will, he committed to the possibility of evil. He cannot create a world with free will, and then dictate the actions of free agents. Removing a tragic dilemma or preventing a moral dilemma would mean he is ignoring the free will that he creatic. It is through this logic Naraghi builds his argument. 

Evil is everywhere, and examining evil in our world raises even more questions than it answers. Better understanding the moral compass of our society requires complex thought and detailed discussion. Arash Naraghi has spent a great deal of his professional career examining the facets of evil. What is your definition? 

—Chris Hassay ‘17