How Can We Make Sense Of Evil?

How Can We Make Sense Of Evil?

There seems to be evil all around us, but what is it really?
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Just over a month ago, 59 people were murdered in Las Vegas. And this past week, another 26 people (mostly young children) were murdered at the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in Texas. Nonetheless, less than a week before the attack in Texas, a man driving a rental truck purposefully drove into pedestrians in Lower Manhatten, killing 8.

There is Orlando, Paris, Belgium, London, Manchester, and San Bernadino. These are just a small number of evil acts that have occurred in the past two years. And with these attacks come debates on guns, immigration, and Islam. It must be said that none of these things are evil; they cannot be evil by definition. So what is evil? Let us think it out.


My dog chewed a hole in my mother’s bed sheets. I woke up to her screaming at the dog; she told her how bad she was. I attempted to explain to my mother that her efforts to scold the dog were pointless.The dog had only done what her nature had made her do. No choice was ever presented to our dog; she could only follow through on what she instinctively felt.

I then proposed that the being truly responsible for the hole in the bed sheets was, in fact, my mother. That proposal prompted her to kick me out, but I digress. The point I attempted to tell my mother was that her choice to allow our dog on the bed was the cause of the hole. My mother made the decision to allow the dog on the bed with the knowledge that the dog has chewed numerous holes in numerous bed sheets. This illustrates the overall problem of evil.

Humans, beings with rational minds, are presented with a lot of choices in which they could to give into their instincts or to choose against it. The issue arises when humans accept this freedom; they accept that both the good and bad can come from it. Without this idea of freedom, humans exist as robots, living no more than an insect lives.

So what is freedom?

In this instance, “freedom” is “free will”. So what is “free will”? There are two paths one can take when it comes to “free will”: libertarian or compatibilism. Within the concept of “libertarian free will”, all free actions are that which are “uncaused”. This libertarian point of view is very much like “the principle of alternative possibilities". The PAP formulated by Robert Kane and defined by Harry Frankfurt is that “a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise". This means a person is only morally responsible for his/her actions if there is no causal determinism.

However, the premise, that actions that have causal determination cannot be free, is false if you understand free will differently. To a libertarian, free will was the freedom to act in any way without coercion. Instead, I propose that free will is the freedom to do what one wills and to do what one could if he willed it. By defining free will as such, I am postulating that someone’s will is not necessarily his own.

It is possible for one’s will to be the culmination of past events. And yet, this does not mean that one does not have free will. Harry Frankfurt said, “A person is not morally responsible for what he has done if he did it only because he could not have done otherwise.” Thus, moral responsibility requires both the will and the liberty to follow through on that will.

So why does compatibilism hold up over libertarian free will and determinism? To paraphrase A.J. Ayer, if one’s choice is not determined, it is an accident. If this is true one’s choice only happens by chance, thus s/he cannot be morally responsible for it. If one’s choice is not an accident then there must be a cause, thus the choice was determined, and again the person cannot be held morally responsible.

In these two cases, the problem of evil cannot exist because if moral responsibility does not exist, neither can good nor evil. Compatibilism is the only logical solution. Compatibilism says one is morally responsible as long as the liberty to do otherwise is possible, even if the will to do otherwise is not possible within a person’s human behavior.

So let’s use the example of my mother and dog to imagine these possibilities. My mother chose to allow our dog on her bed. If my mother’s choice was determined by events years or millennia ago, the hole in the bed sheet is not inherently evil. If libertarian free will exists, it is possible to say that my mother is morally responsible for the hole only because she had the ability to choose not to allow our dog on the bed.

She didn’t kick our dog out because she loves our dog. However, our dog is actually required to sleep in my mother’s bed for medical reasons. So, in this case, is my mother still responsible for the hole? We can presume that she is because her will and love of our dog predated the need for the requirement for our dog to sleep in her bed.

So our will is determined or, as Schopenhauer said, “A man can do what he wills, but he cannot will what he wills.” The question that then arises is, where does this determination of will arise from, and what does this say about the problem of evil? In order for our will to be truly determined, it must predate human existence. Using the analogy of Plato’s cave, this will must be something that exists outside the cave in the form of good.

Another way to look at this is to say that God himself set forth the desires of man. So the question that arises is, why would an all-powerful and all-loving God allow such evil or even set in motion this evil? This is where the theodicies come into play. In particular, two theodicies can be used to solve this problem: the Augustinian and the Irenaean theodicies.

The Irenaean, or “soul-making theodicy”, states that humans are still in a stage of moral development. God first created us in his image and then his likeness, and it is the latter part that has yet to be finished. The Augustinian theodicy states that instead of God being responsible for the incarnation of evil in the universe, it is mankind’s original, sin that was responsible for the evil. To Augustine, evil was the corruption of the good he created.

So why would God allow evil and/or why would God purposefully create evil? It's the solution that relies solely on the redemption of Jesus’ sacrifice of the crucifix. God wants to give his creation the choice of accepting redemption because of his want to create true perfection.

I believe there could be another solution to this preexistence of our will. This solution lies in the Nietzsche idea of eternal return, to “will backward” as Nietzsche said in "Thus Spoke Zarathustra". This would seem to answer how free will exists in the past. However, the issue with Nietzsche is his belief that none of this was really truly possible because he ultimately believed that natural state of the world was meaningless.

To summarize the problem of evil is this: our misuse of free will to choose to follow through on our will. Our will is not our choice, and all we can choose is either to follow our will or not to follow our will. There is no choice to do the opposite of our will, no matter how hard we try. And it is God himself that set our will into motion as his ultimate plan, as John Hick would say, “for the greater good”.

Why is this important to understand? Why not live within a delusion that free will exists? Why not believe that life is all determined and that it is meaningless? Because it is without this soft determinism, the compatibility of free will with determinism, that the world will sink into total depravity. This is because of all other solutions to evil when followed through, logically lead to the concept of moral responsibility not existing, or that they lead to life itself not existing.

I propose the only solutions to defeating this evil are thus: (1) To give up your will and decide to choose nothing, (2) accepting God’s existence and his redemption, or (3) create a morality from which we as a society can choose when and when not someone’s will is virtuous. The only logical options are the second and third; the second is actually an answer to the third. The first option, if chosen, inevitably would lead the one that chose it to the conclusion that they themselves and the world they inhabit does not exist. Inevitably, this conclusion would drive one mad.


To conclude, these evil acts have no real solution to them. We won't be able to rid the world of them without causing serious harm to the good of humanity. However, we can possibly make sure there are fewer and fewer of these acts. But it will take hard work. We must change our culture, drastically.

Cover Image Credit: Yahoo

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.
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Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school. I’ll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted. Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I’m 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?” A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?”, I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week.” I let it roll off of my back, I’ve spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back”… but I think it’s time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister. She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn’t have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her. I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn’t though. I didn’t let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization. Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn’t directed to what we, in today’s society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one’s self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 ‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 ‘You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so. This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God’s creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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The First Punic War

The First Punic War was fought to establish control over the strategic islands of Corsica and Sicily (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica).

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In 289 B.C., while Rome was overthrowing Italy, Carthage extended its empire over part of northern Africa, over Sardinia, the Balearic Islands, and two-thirds of Sicily, and covered the Mediterranean with its merchant vessels. Carthage had made conquests, no, like Rome, for the pride of command, but for the profits of victory.

It exploits harshly the vanquished, so that these, remain his enemies, while Rome, knows how to make of his subjects faithful allies and instruments of new victories. "Carthage was both a political and trade rival" (Cronin 21). Carthage carefully dismantled their cities, lest they become points of support for a revolt; but these open cities are no longer a bulwark for themselves. Finally, the Carthaginians use mercenary soldiers, believing that one can with money buy courage, loyalty and dedication. "Rome entered the war without a single battleship while Carthage had no fewer than 120" (Cronin 22).

They do not see that their mercenaries fighting for a foreign cause will fight softly, will demand a lot and will compromise all wars by their indiscipline. On the death of Agathocles of Syracuse, a large part of his mercenaries are unemployed. These mercenaries or Mamertins come from Mammertum in Bruttium (Calabria). They seize then Messina, massacre a part of the inhabitants and take control of the city. The First Punic War was fought to establish control over the strategic islands of Corsica and Sicily (The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica).

At the beginning of the third century, two independent Greek colonies oppose the Strait of Messina: Messina (present-day Messina) in Sicily and Rhegium at the tip of the Italian boot. Since the 5th century B.C., Syracuse fought against Carthage in a long conflict or neither of the two belligerents could take over the other. In 315 B.C., Tyran Agathocles of Syracuse starts a new war against Carthage.

In 309 B.C, he landed in Africa, seized Tynes the white and ravage the surrounding countryside. He won several important battles against the Punic troops, rallied cities subject to Carthage in his camp and took the opportunity to descend to the south. In 307 B.C., he is defeated and must go back to Sicily.

This defeat allows Carthage to assert its presence in the western part of Sicily. Shortly after, the Romans intervene on the Greek cities of the south coast of Italy, with Rhegium, with Thurii and face Tarente which requests in 280 B.C., the military aid of Pyrrhus. His intervention in Italy then in Sicily puts him in conflict with the Romans then the Carthaginians. The latter agree by treaty in 279 B.C. against their common opponent. This treaty excludes any separate peace with Pyrrhus, and provides for assistance from the Carthaginian fleet, however none of these clauses will be respected.

On leaving Sicily, Pyrrhus exclaimed: "What a beautiful battlefield we are leaving to the Romans and Carthaginians!" Neither Rome nor Carthage can in fact abandon to a rival power this great island situated in the center of the Mediterranean, which touches Italy and from which Africa can be seen. After his departure, the powers resume their positions: The Carthaginians recover west of Sicily, the Romans seize Taranto in 272 B.C. then Rhegium in 270 B.C. This capture of Rhegium deprives the Mamertini of Messina of their ally.

In 269 B.C., Hieron II, the new Syracusan tyrant (Syracuse) manages to defeat them and take part of their territory. The Mamertins appeal to Carthage and Rome. The Carthaginians who are in nearby Lipari intervene immediately and install a garrison in Messina, forcing Hieron to give up submitting this city.

Rome hesitates to intervene. This delay is put to good use by the Carthaginian general Hannon the Great, son of Annibal Barca: he lands with an army in Sicily, strengthens the Carthaginian positions and agrees with Hieron of Syracuse against Messina who managed to get rid of his Carthaginian garrison. Rome ends up sending in 264 B.C. Appius Claudius Caudex consul to Rhegium, from where he manages to land in Messina.

The military escalation reached its fatal point: Hannon and Hieron besieged Messina, Appius Claudius enjoined them to raise the siege. Hieron refuses, replying that he is exercising just reprisals against the aggression of the Mamertins. The war was declared. After some successes on the ground against the Carthaginians and the surrender of several cities, the Romans impose on Hieron of Syracuse a truce of 15 years, and return to him his prisoners for ransom. Syracuse retains its territory, and leaves the Carthaginians alone in front of the Romans.

Despite this setback, Carthage began to regroup troops in Agrigento, but the Romans led by Appius Claudius and Marcus Valerius Messalla take the cities of Segesta and Agrigento in 261 B.C. after a seat of 7 months. The city is ransacked and the population reduced to slavery.

In order to catch up with the Carthaginian navy, Rome is revitalizing its navy. In 260 B.C., in two months the wood is cut, shaped and the Romans launch on the seas 140 ships of wars, built on the model of a captured Carthaginian ship. The military genius of the Romans made them find a way to defeat the Carthaginians on their own element: they invented a war machine the raven, a sort of footbridge of fangs or a bridge which, falling on the galley enemy, seized with crampons of iron, holds it motionless and delivers passage to the soldiers. Henceforth it is no longer, so to speak; that a land battle where the legionnaire finds all its advantages.

The Roman troops are led by the consul Gaius Duilius who commands the infantry and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio (the uncle of African Scipio), the Navy. Unfortunately, Scipion is captured with 17 ships near the island of Lipari. At the same time, off Mylae on the northern coast of Sicily, 125 Carthaginian boats confront the Roman fleet commanded by Duilius. The Carthaginians are defeated and lose 45 boats. It is the first naval victory of Rome.

This naval victory will have a great impact. Rome will be very proud of it and will reward as much as she can for her general by unusual honors. In addition to the ordinary triumph, he will be given the right to be sent home at night by candlelight and the sound of flutes; moreover, a column will be erected in his honor at the Forum, bearing his name and victory engraved.

This success was almost offset by a setback. A Roman army was enveloped in Sicily in a parade. It could only be made from this bad step if one occupied a hill that covered the road. A legionary tribune, Marcus Calpurnius Flamma, offered himself to settle there. It was walking to certain death, because all the effort of the enemy was going to concentrate against this post. He found, however, three hundred brave men to die with him.

The Carthaginians were only so sure of this handful of brave men, that the Roman army, saved by this sacrifice, had left the defile. They took revenge on them: all perished. However, the Romans, returning the next day to the hill, found there Calpurnius Flamma still living under a heap of corpses. He received a crown of grass from the consul, says Pliny, "the most noble reward;" for this simple crown meant that he to whom it was given had saved the lives of Roman citizens. In order to catch up with the Carthaginian navy, Rome is revitalizing its navy. In 260 B.C., in two months the wood is cut, shaped and the Romans launch on the seas 140 ships of wars, built on the model of a captured Carthaginian ship.

The military genius of the Romans made them find a way to defeat the Carthaginians on their own element: they invented a war machine the raven, a sort of footbridge of fangs or a bridge which, falling on the galley enemy, seized with crampons of iron, holds it motionless and delivers passage to the soldiers. Henceforth it is no longer, so to speak; that a land battle where the legionnaire finds all its advantages.

The Roman troops are led by the consul Gaius Duilius who commands the infantry and Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio (the uncle of African Scipio), the Navy. Unfortunately, Scipion is captured with 17 ships near the island of Lipari. At the same time, off Mylae on the northern coast of Sicily, 125 Carthaginian boats confront the Roman fleet commanded by Duilius. The Carthaginians are defeated and lose 45 boats. It is the first naval victory of Rome. This naval victory will have a great impact. Rome will be very proud of it and will reward as much as she can for her general by unusual honors. In addition to the ordinary triumph, he will be given the right to be sent home at night by candlelight and the sound of flutes; moreover, a column will be erected in his honor at the Forum, bearing his name and victory engraved.

This success was almost offset by a setback. A Roman army was enveloped in Sicily in a parade. It could only be made from this bad step if one occupied a hill that covered the road. A legionary tribune, Marcus Calpurnius Flamma, offered himself to settle there. It was walking to certain death, because all the effort of the enemy was going to concentrate against this post. He found, however, three hundred brave men to die with him. The Carthaginians were only so sure of this handful of brave men, that the Roman army, saved by this sacrifice, had left the defile.

They took revenge on them: all perished. However, the Romans, returning the next day to the hill, found there Calpurnius Flamma still living under a heap of corpses. He received a crown of grass from the consul, says Pliny, "the most noble reward;" for this simple crown meant that he to whom it was given had saved the lives of Roman citizens.

With his success at Cape Ecnome, Marcus Atilius Regulus tries to repeat the strategy of Agathocles of Syracuse landing with 15,000 men near Carthage in Africa to divert the Punic troops of Sicily. Regulus meets a Punic army in Adys and easily wins. Carthage wants to negotiate with Regulus.

The terms of surrender issued by Regulus are so restrictive that the Punic finally decide to fight whatever the cost! A group of Greek mercenaries under the command of Spartan commander Xanthippe arrives in Carthage. Xanthippe took command of the Carthaginian army (12000 men, 4000 horsemen and 100 elephants). In a short time, he changed the face of affairs, tired Regulus by a crowd of small fights. At the battle of Utica, the Roman troops are cut in pieces, 500 Romans are captured including the consul himself.

Meanwhile, the Roman fleet under the command of Marcus Aemilius Paullus runs aground near the Sicilian coast of Camarina.The loss of this army, the destruction by storms of several Roman fleets forced Rome to renounce Africa and postpone the war in Sicily, where hostilities languished for several years.

Carthage sends Regulus to Rome to ask for peace in his name (250 B.C.) subject to his word of honor to return to Carthage if his mission fails. This general had nobly supported his captivity. When he arrived near Rome, he did not want to enter the city. "I am no longer a citizen," he said; and, as he was also charged with proposing the exchange of prisoners, instead of pleading a cause which was his, he dissuaded the senators from accepting it.

They wanted to pity him on himself: "My days are numbered," he answered, "they gave me a slow poison;"and he left, notwithstanding the entreaties of his friends and the prayers of the whole senate, in spite of the tears of his wife Marcia and his children. He had given his word. True to his oath, he returns to Carthage where he is tortured before being put to death.At the end of the year 252 B.C., Carthage, after having mulled a revolt in Africa sends a new army in Sicily under the command of Hasdrubal.

The Carthaginians decide to attack the Roman army commanded by Consul Lucius Caecilius Metellus near the city of Panormus. The Romans rout Hasdrubal's army, capture his fighting elephants and send them to the circuses in Rome. Hasdrubal is recalled to Carthage to be executed. This defeat ends the land campaigns of Carthage in Sicily. There are no longer in Sicily, in the Carthaginians, but Drepane and Lilybee.

The war is concentrated around these two cities. In 249 B.C., the Appius consul Claudius Pulcher wants to surprise a Carthaginian fleet in the port of Drépane. But omens are sinister: the sacred chickens refuse to eat! "They do not want to eat,"said the consul, "well, let them drink!" and he has them thrown into the sea. The Romans are defeated in advance by this impiety, which makes the soldiers fear the anger of the gods, and that Claudius cannot repair by clever maneuvers. The attack is a disaster, 93 Roman ships are captured, only 30 ships manage to escape. A few days after this defeat, another large Roman fleet commanded by Consul Iunius Pullus carrying new reinforcements for the siege of Lilybaeum was wiped out in a storm.

In 247 B.C., Carthage sends to Sicily a great general, Hamilcar Barca, the father of Annibal (Hannibal). Cantoned in Eryx, in an impregnable post, he held for six years the Romans in check. The war could have lasted so long, for Rome had renounced the sea, the storms having destroyed more than seven hundred galleys. Roman patriotism will give the senate a new fleet. All the citizens took their treasure money to waste.

One gave arms, the other slaves to serve as rowers; still others gave ships. Rome will have another fleet of 200 ships with its 60,000 sailors. The consul Lutatius Catulus orders them. He surprised, near the Egate Islands, a Carthaginian fleet (March 10, 241 B.C.). The battle is short and at the first shock, Carthage loses 50 ships, 70 ships and 10,000 prisoners are captured. This victory makes the Romans masters of the sea.

Carthage resigns itself to put an end to this ruinous war. Rome, master of the sea, Sicily is no longer tenable for Carthage with its empty treasure. Peace is signed under the following conditions: Carthage will not attack Hieron of Syracuse, ally of Rome; it will abandon Sicily and the neighboring islands, render all the prisoners without ransom, and pay in ten years three thousand and two hundred euochic talents. In 241 B.C., Carthaginian Sicily is reduced to Roman province and the first Punic war was over. "The battle for Sicily resumed in 254 but was largely stalemated until 241, when a fleet of 200 warships gave the Romans undisputed control of the sea-lanes and assured the collapse of the Punic stronghold in Sicily" ((The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica). Both cities after 20 years of conflict are bloodless and impoverished. Hamilcar Barca agrees to leave Sicily and the Lipari Islands.

On the other hand, he obtained the recognition of the entire Carthaginian territory. Both cities undertake not to make war and not to raise soldiers. "The surprise of the war was that the Romans, who knew nothing of seamanship before it, won six of the seven naval battles" (Cronin 24). Romans captives will have to be returned without ransom and a contribution of 3200 talents over 10 years is imposed on the vanquished. Carthage undertakes not to make war in Syracuse. Apart from the territory of Syracuse, allied with Rome, all Sicily will become the first Roman province.

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