Sunday, August 29, 2010

Forthcoming Book on Divine Evil

In my view, the strongest version of the problem of evil is (what David Lewis called) the problem of divine evil, i.e., evil directly caused or mandated by the God of Abrahamic faiths (according to scripture). And as many readers of this blog know, the problem of divine evil is currently a hot topic in philosophy of religion (recall, for example, the recent conference at Notre Dame that was devoted to the topic, as well as these recent journal articles).

Well, a new collection of papers on the topic is scheduled to come out in November: Bergmann, Murray, and Rea (eds) Divine Evil? The Moral Character of the God of Abraham (Oxford University Press). I imagine it will be required reading for those researching the issue. Here's the blurb:

Adherents of the Abrahamic religions have traditionally held that God is morally perfect and unconditionally deserving of devotion, obedience, love, and worship. The Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scriptures tell us that God is compassionate, merciful, and just. As is well-known, however, these same scriptures contain passages that portray God as wrathful, severely punitive, and jealous. Critics furthermore argue that the God of these scriptures commends bigotry, misogyny, and homophobia, condones slavery, and demands the adoption of unjust laws-for example, laws that mandate the death penalty for adultery and rebellion against parents, and laws institutionalizing in various ways the diverse kinds of bigotry and oppression just mentioned. In recent days, these sorts of criticisms of the Hebrew Bible have been raised in new and forceful ways by philosophers, scientists, social commentators, and others. This volume brings together eleven original essays representing the views of both critics and defenders of the character of God as portrayed in these texts. Authors represent the disciplines of philosophy, religion, and Biblical studies. Each essay is accompanied by comments from another author who takes a critical approach to the thesis defended in that essay, along with replies by the essay's author.

5 comments:

John D said...

I'm interested to hear you say that you think it is the strongest form of the problem of evil. Surely, because it only applies to the biblical God, it is of narrower significance? Evidential and logical problems seem more important to me.

I guess it's difficult for me (as someone raised in a largely non-biblical catholicism) to get too excited about the bible. I did, however, enjoy listening to Edwin Curley's paper at that Notre Dame conference last year. I felt he presented a strong case and you could tell that it upset some people.

Anyway, do you know, is that book just a collection of the papers from that conference or is it something different?

exapologist said...

Hi John,

I think it's the strongest version precisely because the scope of the argument's conclusion is so modest, restricted as it is to just biblical versions of theism. Furthermore, the types of responses available to the biblical theist are much more limited. So, for example, the free will defense is inapplicable to (e.g.) the argument from divinely mandated genocide. And the skeptical theist response is problematic because in the OT, Yahweh is depicted as offering his reasons for his actions.

Best,
EA

exapologist said...

Anyway, do you know, is that book just a collection of the papers from that conference or is it something different?

I'm not sure. The blurb says all the essays are original, but I suppose that could just mean that they will be in print for the first time.

Robert said...

I emailed Michael Rea back in March about the My Ways conference and he said that "the papers will appear in a book called "Divine Evil?", to be published by Oxford University Press later this year."

So yes, the book is a collection of the papers presented at the conference. I'm looking forward to reading it since the oral presentations were abridged.

exapologist said...

Thanks, Robert!

Site Meter