“It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand,” said Ivan Karamazov, one of Fyodor Dostoevsky novel’s characters in The Brothers Karamazov, to his younger brother, Alyosha, “it’s the world created by Him I don’t and cannot accept.”(Dostoevsky 2007, 257) The world created by God is overflowing with horrifying and repugnant evils. Ivan vividly captured some of the moral evil committed by the Turks and Circassians in Bulgaria:
They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to the fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them — all sorts of things you can’t imagine. People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, too; cutting the unborn child from the mothers womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mothers’ eyes. Doing it before the mothers’ eyes was what gave zest to the amusement. (2007, 260)
Evils such as these are morally abhorrent. It is painful to imagine that humans are capable of inflicting such inhumane deeds that are far worse than those of mindless beasts. Arising in any morally sane person is an intuitively repulsive attitude towards such evils.
From such revulsion, atheists have argued that the existence of such evils is the problem for theists. Atheists have looked into the problem of evil’s abyss for far too long. Our intuitive revulsion toward such evils is the abyss looking back at them. The queerness of our intuitive revulsion of such evils from a naturalistic perspective is a problem for atheists.
In a naturalistic worldview, our intuitive revulsion toward such evils is nothing but social instincts acquired to aid the survivability of our species. The deeds Ivan mentioned, for example, are neither good nor evil because our species could have acquired different instincts to which such deeds were not intuitively repulsive (Darwin 1877, 99-100).
Repulsive Ivan’s Turks artistically deeds may sound, Richard Dawkins rightly argued from a naturalistic perspective that,
“nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”(Dawkins 1995: 112)
Nature just is. “[Y]ou won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice” Dawkins correctly explained, since there is “at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”(149) We are intuitively revolted by such acts because it is of biological worth. Our intuitive revulsion to such evils, in naturalistic worldview, is illusory.
Darwin, Charles (1877) The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Part One (Second edition 1989, revised and augmented ed) New York: New York University Press.
Dawkins, Richard (1995). River Out of Eden: A Darwin View of Life. Weidenfeld & Nicolson The Orion Publishing Group
Dostoevsky, Fyodor (2007) The Karamazov Brothers. Wordsworth Editions Ltd. (First published in 1880)