The problem of evil is an intractable and pesky philosophical problem for any believer in theism. The problem of evil is posed as a dilemma that is the consequence of a definition of God and a set of facts about the world. The definition of God according to the theist is a being all-good (omni-benevolent), all-powerful (omnipotent), and all knowing (omniscient). Some thinkers add the characteristic of omnipresence, but this attribute is irrelevant to the attempted solution of the problem.
The British philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) thought God’s alleged goodness and omnipotence could not be reconciled with evil in the world. In Three Essays on Religion, he wrote, “Not even on the most distorted and contracted theory of good which ever was framed by religious or philosophical fanaticism, can the government of Nature be made to resemble the work of a being at once good and omnipotent.”
Following the theist’s set of the attributes that belong to God, there is a statement of facts about the world. There are evils in the world that can be better understood divided into two categories. First, the physical world is riddled with calamities. There are earthquakes, mudslides, tidal waves, hurricanes, and other events that lay waste to human and animal habitats. In addition, disease and pestilence are maladies affecting man and nature that must be placed in the physical category.
In addition to these physical maladies, there are “willed evils,” i.e., those evils that result from man’s free will. These include warfare, murder, treachery, libel, and a collection of other events, actions, and intentions that come not from a breakdown in the workings of nature, but of man’s incomprehensible cruelty and general ill-will toward his fellow man.