I have been seeing the argument lately that God did not create evil, because evil does not really exist, but is instead the absence of good. This is used to argue against things like the problem of evil. While sometimes this argument is said to have been made to an atheist teacher by Albert Einstein, that is instead an urban myth, and seems to have never happened. Even if Einstein did make the argument, it doesn’t make it true.
The way that the argument goes is that things such as cold and darkness do not actually exist. Cold is the absence of measurable heat and darkness is the absence of measurable light. Evil is the same, where evil is the absence of good.
When we say that something is cold, it is merely our perception of a lack of measurable heat. Heat is the thing that is measurable. Heat is actually the movement of matter at a subatomic level. If there is no movement, we don’t have really have cold, we have a lack of heat. The same works for darkness. The same doesn’t work for evil though.
Now, let’s see how evil would have to work in this type of situation where evil doesn’t really exist, but it is merely the lack of good. Most of us would say that the act of murder is evil. If evil is the absence of good, either the act of murder does not exist, or the act of murder is not evil. Well, if you consider murder to be evil, that must mean that the act of murder does not happen. The act of murder does happen though. The act of murder is a measurable thing that can be shown to exist. So, if you are to hold that evil is the absence of good, and that the act of murder happens, the act of murder must not be evil.
This is the problem with the statement that evil is the absence of good. If you hold that to be true, you can’t condemn any action as evil because if evil is merely the absence of good, evil does not exist. If we were to condemn things that are the absence of good, we would be stuck condemning all those things that are neither evil nor good, since there is no necessity of good for acts like moving my keys from one hand to the other for example.
Good and evil are totally separate concepts. Good acts are those acts that are beneficial, while evil acts are those acts that are detrimental. Absence of beneficial acts does not necessitate evil any more than absence of evil acts necessitates good. That is why we can have an untold number of benign acts.