Throughout the reading provided by David Hume, the author and philosopher question the existence of a higher power and its ability to be benevolent. The reading addresses a conversation between Cleanthese, Philo, and Demea. In it, the three characters discuss the power of man and the greatness of God, all the while questioning the goodness of a higher power. These are common questions asked by many people from different beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds. It addresses basic questions of humanity as the characters bring up fundamental facts. These are the facts of life some of which relates back to religion and philosophy.
Philo admits that “thus on each hand, before and behind, above and below, every animal is surrounded with enemies, which incessantly seek his misery and destruction”, (Hume, 1779, p.1). It is clear that Philo is discussing natural enemies. However, he ties this back to the unnatural enemy- man. It is true both in life and in religion that humans have dominion over the earth. Although men have these great powers, Philo states: man’s greatest enemy is man. Men have power and influence over each other; they murder, rape, steal, and go to war with one another. This can be seen as evil. It is a concept argued throughout the piece in an effort to discover life, religion, and God through good and evil.
Philo asks readers a question: can people maintain their religious thoughts? Can we “ assert the moral attributes of the Deity, his justice, benevolence, mercy, and rectitude, to be of the same nature with these virtues in human creatures?”, (Hume, 1779, p. 2). It is an important question. Yet it can only be answered with more questions. For men to have an evil nature we have to admit that God also has an evil nature. Men are supposed to be created by God, so we must be like God and God must be like humans. If this is true, that means God has an evil nature. God cannot be good if men are born sinners i.e evil. It goes further to question the power of God and his goodness. God should be able to “prevent evil”, impose world peace, and show mercy and benevolence upon men, (Hume, 1779, p. 2). Instead, men are full of short comings. Men cannot fly, we are slow and weak compared to most animals. Despite this, men have one thing that other creatures do not. Men have mind, knowledge, and intellect. They have the ability to determine the difference between good and evil. While this can be seen as a good thing, Philo argues that this comes from boredom. “Almost all the moral as well as natural evils of human life arise from idleness”, (Hume, 1779, p. 5). The problem of evil offers fundamental questions and answers about life’s mysteries and insight into human thought. This includes God, philosophy, and religion. Being able to understand the relationships that people have with each other and their relationship with the natural world, we can begin to understand the human relationship with God and the higher power.
Hume, D. (1779). The Problem of Evil.