Epicurus Quote


Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?

Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing?

Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able, and willing?

Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing?

Then why call him God?

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    I’ve loved this quote since I first saw it in the Richard Dawkins documentary “The Root of All Evil”. It shows that intelligent, cynical atheism has roots as deep and strong as any religion.




    This has ended quite a few religious debates for me rather quickly, though I always have mixed feelings about the look of doubt I see in my opponents eyes afterwards. Have I enlightened them and given them a new lease on life? or have I just ruined a perfectly comfortable and viable world view and caused suffering and misery? Or more likely, they will simply forget the conversation ever happened and continue on without a care in the world.

    The comeback I here most often though is God Wants evil to provide a contrast for good, or that without evil in the world it would be boring or something to that affect.

    Why does god care if we are bored? what does he car about contrast? Is he toying with us for his amusement? See answer #2 in the picture above. Is he an artist and we his masterpiece depicting suffering and strife? once more, I point you back to #2.


    341 BC – 270 BC

    The Matrix: Rebooted

    Why should a god need to be omnipotent or benevolent? Just because the Christian notion of god is a paradox, doesn’t mean there isn’t a higher power. Or you could take the view of Ludwig Wittgenstein: that language is an inadequate description of an omnipotent being and that the apparent contradiction is really a problem of semantics.
    Also: can anyone cite a source for this? I did a quick search Epicurus’s works and the quote doesn’t come up. Maybe I missed it, but it does seem odd that a Greek philosopher would make this argument since the Greek gods were neither omnipotent or benevolent.


    Without being a proponent to either argument:
    Without misery, pleasure is unknown. Happiness as a feeling is calibrated based off of an individuals understanding of the extremes of emotions.
    As such, one can not truly know happiness, until they have been through the depths of agony to reach it.


    Kaze – I can calibrate my feeling of happyness from a lack of happyness, a zero point. I’ve never known agony but I have known happyness.

    Jeros – I find that people tend to refute this with the argument that life is trivial, a passing stage on our way to the afterlife. A test of sorts, and that as such, suffering is unimportant. At that point I kick them in the balls.

    The Matrix: Rebooted

    You don’t need misery to “calibrate” happiness. You could calibrate kinda content with extreme happiness. If fact, that’s what most people do, since I doubt that most people ever experience “the depths of agony”. Further, the contrast argument is negated by assumptions of an omnipotent god, since such a god would be able to create happiness or good without misery or evil.


    Maybe God Just Want’s To Lick Your Balls.


    I suppose you could argue that God gave us free will, so he can’t directly affect wehther a person does a bad thing or not, and thus the consequences for the people the bad thing is done to. That doesn’t explain random shit like getting hit by a meteroite though, and the fact you were born hideously disabled and ugly, that’s just God’s way of saying he hates you.


    Was god willing and able to prevent the cancellation of Firefly?
    Then god is a dick.



    All this shows, is that you two do not have the same understanding of happiness that I do. But that’s to be expected, because no two people can feel the same things as one another.


    Kaze, you seem like nice dude but you’re talking out your ass a bit here. Happiness is what occurs when the pleasure centres of your brain get lit up. End of story.

    There’s nothing existential about it.


    I think Kaze is dead-on. Here’s a quote from the last chapter of “The Count of Monte Cristo”:

    “As for you, Morrel, this is the whole secret of my behavior towards you: there is neither happiness nor misfortune in this world, there is merely the comparison between one state and another, nothing more. Only someone who has suffered the deepest misfortune is capable of experiencing the heights of felicity. Maximilien, you must needs have wished to die, to know how good it is to live.”

    beep beep

    I thought this was a David Hume quote, since it is in “Evil Makes a Strong Case against God’s Existence.” It could be Epicurus still because Hume did mention him in the essay, but it seems odd to me that Epicurus would say “god” and not “gods.”

    Kaze= Nietzschean thought
    xcanandian= Identity theory
    I tend to agree more with Kaze since Identity theory has some glaring problems with it; unless you are talking about token-identity theory, but I doubt that anyone here besides me knows the difference or the implications of either theory.

    The Matrix: Rebooted

    After a little bit of research, it was actually Lucretius who said this, but claimed to be quoting Epicurus. He may have been, but the text he was quoting hasn’t survived.
    In the text he does say “gods”.


    The worst day of your life could be a decent day in someone else’s. I don’t know how you would define zero happiness. Are you hungry in zero happiness? I ask because there are a lot of people in this world who would consider not being hungry a pretty happy occasion. The only way zero happiness exists is to compare it to when times were not as happy, meaning you need strife to recognize joy. Whether or not God makes the world kinda crappy for this reason or not is beyond me, but I ask you to find me where in the Bible it says that God will provide you with a problem free life.


    Can Evil or Good exist without the other? Are they just relative terms, and without the other you just have existience?


    I don’t think of good and evil as a binary state, phantasm. I think of it more as a spectrum (or like relative terms as you said) Only instead of a spectrum of shades of gray, think of a spectrum of all the colors in existence.
    Probably an accurate description, but not really something you can logically organize without having an opinion about the colors themselves.
    Like having a favorite color. Everyone has one, and I’ll bet everyone has a color that they completely despise. And I’ll also bet most of those people have no reason to initially like that color other than it’s simply a preference. Only now people tend to then organize all the colors in relation to their favorite ones. It’s no longer about preference of black over white, but preference of deep purple over lime green over teal over fuchsia.
    But then there are a precious few people who don’t have a favorite color, but rather have an appreciation for the fact that there are so many colors.
    These people are regarded by all as pussies who are too spineless to make a simple commitment.
    But still, it doesn’t matter what color your favorite is, it’s just proof that you view the world in a way that few other people do.

    I hope that metaphor was clear enough.


    I saw a turtle!


    xcanadian, your post intrigues me. I don’t want to be contrary or insulting, but here are the first three things that popped into my mind:

    1) Epicurus was an agnostic, not an atheist. He argued that the gods (referred to singularly as a collective in ancient greek), if they existed, were indifferent to man. That quote is taken *way* out of context. The idea was that we should be indifferent to an indifferent God. The idea of there not being a creator of some sort, however, was a pretty difficult concept for people without concepts of modern science.

    2) In spite of his accent, Richard Dawkins is not intellectual. I can’t believe you mentioned him and intellectual in the same breath. He’s just the atheist equivalent of the ultra-extremist Christians that piss me off equally as much. One’s right to *demand* someone believe something begins where sanity ends. The most alarming thing about Dawkins is the fact that he considers religion “dangerous” and attacks Freedom of Conscience. Mao, Pol Pot and Stalin had something in common with the Santo Ofício and the Muslim extremists, and it ain’t religion. Here’s a hint: None of them believe in *F*R*E*E*D*O*M*O*F*C*O*N*S*C*I*E*N*C*E* It’s not any particular -ism that causes great tragedies, it is the idea that you can force people to believe what you do.

    3) Does it really matter if atheism has a historical precedent? I’m not up on my logic, but if your premise is strong, should it matter who believed it or when? If you want some real Greek philosophy, try reading the Apology: it doesn’t matter what other people know to be true so long as you know it to be true.


    Ciao, afaik Dawkins doesn’t want religion to be outlawed, just doesn’t think it should be forced upon people.

    Foinlavin – I accept that happiness is comparative, I don’t think it’s necessary for someone to experience starvation, genital mutilation, torture or otherwise delve into the depths of misery and suffering in order for us to feel happy in comparison.


    Misery is conditional, as all people do not feel the same emotions. Mutilation, as such, while most people would be horrified by the concept, not all of them would be.

    Some people would rather be ripped to shreds, before they had a mouse crawl on them, or a spider, or even water.

    The point is, after meeting that, and surviving it, and moving on, when they smile, you’d never of seen such a grand smile on someone in the history of the world.

    That is euphoria, incarnate.


    Why does god care if we have evil to compare goodness to? No one has adequately addressed this question in my mind. Does he need it for his own reference? If so then how did he create it in the first place? Does he like seeing us suffer? Then he is malevolent.


    I have a hard time believing that, Ando. Although he doesn’t come right out and say it, he uses the language of those who have opposed freedom of conscience historically. He supports attacking moderates, for one. I suppose by attack he means “debate”, but his intention is very much revealed by the words he uses.

    He also accuses religion of being untouchable by criticism. Is it? Maybe things are different in the states, but I can think of *very* few examples of atheists being persecuted by governments in the last thirty years in the developed nations, save a bit of censorship here and there, all of which has come under intense fire openly and publicly. Dawkins has, by tricky rhetoric alone, created a fiction which distorts the lines between past and present, the developed world and countries like Afghanistan.

    Infact, the only thing Dawkins wishes to change that doesn’t already exist in the developed world is that he doesn’t want children raised religious. What a load of crap. Of course, children can be raised atheist because there isn’t a burden of proof. He doesn’t propose *how* we do this, but I’d like to ask you if there is a way to control what parents *say* to their children that is humane. Build residential school? Keep an eye out for Ateus-Novos, as it were? I’m a history student in Canada of Brazilian-Portuguese background, and I could list off examples of terrible violent atrocities in all those countries which has sought to change the beliefs of children or prevent parents from sharing their beliefs with their own children. And none of the ideologues justifying that madness said ‘kill em all’, they used very tricky and persuasive propaganda which sounds to me exactly like the sort of rhetoric Dawkins is using. It’s a slippery slope, man. Maybe that’s overblowing it a bit, but I’ll say this: It’s ironic that he doesn’t want the beliefs of others forced on him, when he wants to eliminate the very *language* (christian child, muslim child) used to suggest a belief based background eliminated. I’ll remind you that belief – theist or no – is inevitably tied with culture. In fact, it is culture. Scary stuff.


    Responding to Jeros’ post: In Catholic School, we were taught about free will. The modern Catholic line of thinking is that evil on earth is caused by humanity, and that God’s interference is subtle and minimal. Life, following this view, is a test.

    I don’t buy that line of thinking. I’m religious in the sense that I believe in a universal order that goes beyond our understanding of physics and that I believe that ethics can’t be captured by pure reason. But I don’t believe in a personal God whose white blue eyed son whispers into americans’ to kill sand niggers and spics. However, the idea that all religious people are theological determinists is silly crap.


    What drives god to test us? in these catholic school mythos?


    Jeros: It is not that God is giving us evil to compare with good, it is that there is no good without the reference point that is evil. I don’t think its an issue of religion or faith but simply one of logic. I have been told that in much the same way that dark is only the absence of light and not an entity onto itself, so is evil the absence of good and not a separate force fighting against it.
    Here is some religious banter to try on for size though: our ability to understand why God would tests us is most likely akin to a infant dealing with a booster shot. It may seem like needless pain and suffering, but what do we know? We are just a bunch of stupid babies.

    The Matrix: Rebooted

    Here’s some things to think about: even if evil is some sort of logical complement to good (and I don’t see why it should be) then why should God be bound by logic? Didn’t God make logic? If so isn’t he still responsible for suffering?
    You can’t make excuses for God by some “lesser of two evils argument” because an omnipotent God doesn’t have to make those choices. He should always be able to good without causing suffering.
    Let’s consider your own flawed analogy. The doctor giving a shot doesn’t want to cause pain. If she could give the shot without causing pain she almost certainly would. God should be able to give any metaphorical “shot” without causing pain because he is omnipotent. So what’s God’s excuse?
    There are only three possibilities:
    1)God doesn’t exist
    2)God doesn’t like us
    3)God is insane
    Atheism is optimistic.


    Personally, I find the quite antiquated ideas of “good and evil” to be ridiculous. What’s “good” to one, could be considered heinous or “evil” to another.

    I don’t believe in black and white, polar opposite, only ONE “good” and only ONE “evil” (I’m simplifying of course, there are numerous “goods” and numerous “evils.”

    This is the mindset that gets people killed for nothing. Take Catholics and the Dark Ages… Science was “evil” and people were burned alive (or worse) for practicing it. Where are we now?


    Please don’t misunderstand me. I was not trying to say that someone’s mom dying of ovarian cancer is akin to a booster shot for life. I was saying that our ability to comprehend why bad things happen might be as stunted as a baby’s understanding of a booster shot. As you said, God is not bound by logic, however, humans and their language are. For instance, the English words “good” and “evil” are bound by logic. Is an apple good or evil? How about a canyon? Bacteria? Abortion? Without context and comparison these questions are unanswerable. I won’t pretend to understand why God conducts himself in one way or another, but it seems to me that “evil” comes in two forms.
    1. Things that humans do to each other, i.e. rape.

    2. Things that nature does to humans, i.e. hurricanes.

    It is said that God gave us free will, so a person can chose to worship God or not without being forced. However, it also gives them a choice to act in a “good” way and/or an “evil” way. If a man chooses to rape a women and God prevents that from happening, then he is taking away the free will of that man. In regards to nature and man, the world seems to run on a self supporting scientific system that uses biology and physics. Hurricanes are a byproduct of this system and so is disease it would seem. Could God have designed it differently so these things didn’t have to happen? Maybe, I have no way of knowing and neither does anyone else. If that unknowing causes you to believe that God is either non-existent or just a dick, I don’t think that any person has any additional information that would convince you otherwise. Here comes the same tired overused argument….. I guess it’s just a matter of faith.
    If a hammer falls on your head is that “evil” or is that just a little free will, as in leaving the hammer unsecured, and a little nature, as in gravity?

    Question: Is is more likely that there is no God, or that there is and he is not a loving God? Explain?

    Common Sense

    We were given the Gift of FREE WILL. This Hell on earth is caused by Man and when man can no longer bear the evil he has created, he looks on to God as an excuse to Blame his miserable life on!

    Very much like a child, (don’t you think?) who is given a beautiful room where in he can play safely but in so doing, creates a horrible mess that caused him to stumble and hurt himself, then tearfully blames his mom (who is cuddling and band-aiding his boo-boo)for not tidying up his mess!

    God is both omnipotent and malevolent! He created Good as well as evil. And if you can’t fathom this, the more reason why HE is GOD and you are simply man. Try FAITH instead. GOD sacrificed His ONLY son to save us from ourselves, from the death of our sins… (We are) the child who does not listen to reason, who throws tantrums solely for want of wanting what he wants, headstrong on his folly, oblivious of the consequences , hurting himself ( and others) in the process then blames the parents for not preventing it!

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