Natural evil

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Natural evil is evil for which "no non-divine agent can be held morally responsible for its occurrence." [1] Others reject this definition; for example, Christian theologians argue that natural evil is the indirect result of original sin just as moral evils are, though moral evil is “caused by human activity” directly. [2] Atheists argue that the existence of natural evil challenges belief in the existence, omnibenevolence, or omnipotence of God or any deity. [3]

Evil The opposite or absence of good; also known as Abiah Alvi

Evil, in a general sense, is the opposite or absence of good. It can be an extremely broad concept, though in everyday usage is often used more narrowly to denote profound wickedness. It is generally seen as taking multiple possible forms, such as the form of personal moral evil commonly associated with the word, or impersonal natural evil, and in religious thought, the form of the demonic or supernatural/eternal.

Original sin Christian belief in the state of sin in which humanity has existed since the fall of man

Original sin, also called ancestral sin, is a Christian belief in the state of sin in which humanity has existed since the fall of man, stemming from Adam and Eve's rebellion in Eden, namely the sin of disobedience in consuming the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred to as a "sin nature", to something as drastic as total depravity or automatic guilt of all humans through collective guilt.

Moral evil is any morally negative event caused by the intentional action or inaction of an agent, such as a person. An example of a moral evil might be murder, or any other evil event for which someone can be held responsible or culpable.


Nature of natural evil

Moral evil results from a perpetrator, or one who acts intentionally and in so doing has flouted some duty or engaged in some vice. Natural evil has only victims, and is generally taken to be the result of natural processes. The "evil" thus identified is evil only from the perspective of those affected and who perceive it as an affliction. Examples include cancer, birth defects, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, acts of God, and other phenomena which inflict suffering with apparently no accompanying mitigating good. Such phenomena inflict "evil" on victims with no perpetrator to blame.

Act of God usually-natural disaster for which no person is at fault

In legal usage throughout the English-speaking world, an act of God is a natural hazard outside human control, such as an earthquake or tsunami, for which no person can be held responsible. An act of God may amount to an exception to liability in contracts ; or it may be an "insured peril" in an insurance policy.

In the Bible, God is portrayed as both the ultimate creator and perpetrator, since the “sun, moon and stars, celestial activity, clouds, dew, frost, hail, lightning, rain, snow, thunder, and wind are all subject to God's command.” [4] Examples of natural evils ascribed to God follow:

Bible Collection of religious texts in Judaism and Christianity

The Bible is a collection of sacred texts or scriptures. Varying parts of the Bible are considered to be a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between God and humans by Christians, Jews, Samaritans, and Rastafarians.

Gustave Dore: Dore's English Bible "Job Hears of His Misfortunes" (Job 1:1-22) 118.Job Hears of His Misfortunes.jpg
Gustave Doré: Doré's English Bible "Job Hears of His Misfortunes" (Job 1:1-22)
  • Floods: God brought “a flood of waters on the earth” (Genesis 6:17).
  • Thunder, hail, lightning: God “sent thunder and hail, and fire came down” (Exodus 9:23).
  • Destructive Wind: God sent a “great wind” that destroyed Job’s house and killed his family (Job 1:19).
  • Earthquake: By the Lord “the earth will be shaken” (Isaiah 13:13).
  • Drought and Famine: God will shut off rains, so neither land nor trees yield produce (Leviticus 26:19-20).
  • Forest fires: God says, “Say to the southern forest, 'I will kindle a fire in you, and it shall devour every green tree in you and every dry tree'” (Ezekiel 20:47).
Book of Job book of the Bible

The Book of Job is a book in the Ketuvim ("Writings") section of the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh), and the first poetic book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Addressing the problem of theodicy – the vindication of the justice of God in the light of humanity's suffering – it is a rich theological work setting out a variety of perspectives. It has been widely praised for its literary qualities, with Alfred Lord Tennyson calling it "the greatest poem of ancient and modern times".

Traditional theism (e.g. Thomas Aquinas) distinguishes between God's will and God's permission, claiming that while God permits evil, he does not will it. [5] This distinction is echoed by some modern open theists, e.g. Gregory A. Boyd, who writes, "Divine goodness does not completely control or in any sense will evil." [6] Aquinas partly explained this in terms of primary and secondary causality, whereby God is the primary (or transcendent) cause of the world, but not the secondary (or immanent) cause of everything that occurs in it. Such accounts explain the presence of natural evil through the story of the Fall of man, which affected not only human beings, but nature as well (Genesis 3:16–19).

Thomas Aquinas Dominican scholastic philosopher of the Catholic Church

Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, he is also known within the latter as the Doctor Angelicus and the Doctor Communis. The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism; of which he argued that reason is found in God. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law, metaphysics, and political theory.

Open theism, also known as openness theology and free will theism, is a theological movement that has developed within evangelical and post-evangelical Protestant Christianity as a response to ideas related to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology. It is typically advanced as a biblically motivated and philosophically consistent theology of human and divine freedom, with an emphasis on what this means for the content of God's foreknowledge and exercise of God's power. Roger E. Olson said that open theism triggered the "most significant controversy about the doctrine of God in evangelical thought" in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Causality is efficacy, by which one process or state, a cause, contributes to the production of another process or state, an effect, where the cause is partly responsible for the effect, and the effect is partly dependent on the cause. In general, a process has many causes, which are also said to be causal factors for it, and all lie in its past. An effect can in turn be a cause of, or causal factor for, many other effects, which all lie in its future. Some writers have held that causality is metaphysically prior to notions of time and space.

Especially since the Reformation the distinction between God's will and God's permission, and between primary and secondary causality, has been disputed, notably by John Calvin. Among modern inheritors of this tradition, Mark R. Talbot ascribes evil to God: “God’s foreordination is the ultimate reason why everything comes about, including the existence of all evil persons and things and the occurrence of any evil acts or events.” [7] Such models of God's complete foreordination and direct willing of everything that happens lead to the doctrines of double predestination and limited atonement. [8]

John Calvin French Protestant reformer

John Calvin was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, aspects of which include the doctrines of predestination and of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation, in which doctrines Calvin was influenced by and elaborated upon the Augustinian and other Christian traditions. Various Congregational, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, which look to Calvin as the chief expositor of their beliefs, have spread throughout the world.

Limited atonement Calvinist doctrine that Jesus’s substitutionary atonement was definite and certain in its purpose and in what it accomplished, so that only the sins of the elect were atoned for by Jesuss death

Limited atonement is a doctrine accepted in some Christian theological traditions. It is particularly associated with the Reformed tradition and is one of the five points of Calvinism. The doctrine states that though the death of Jesus Christ is sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world, it was the intention of God the Father that the atonement of Christ's death would work itself out in the elect only, thereby leading them without fail to salvation. According to Limited Atonement, Christ died for the sins of the elect alone, and no atonement was provided for the reprobate. This is in contrast to a belief that God's prevenient grace enables all to respond to the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ Acts 2:21 so that it is each person's decision and response to God's grace that determines whether Christ's atonement will be effective to that individual.

Natural versus moral evil

Jean Jacques Rousseau responded to Voltaire's criticism of the optimists by pointing out that the value judgement required in order to declare the 1755 Lisbon earthquake a natural evil ignored the fact that the human endeavour of the construction and organization of the city of Lisbon was also to blame for the horrors recounted as they had contributed to the level of suffering. It was, after all, the collapsing buildings, the fires, and the close human confinement that led to much of the death.

The question of whether natural disasters such as hurricanes might be natural or moral evil is complicated by new understandings of the effects, such as global warming, of our collective actions on events that were previously considered to be out of our control. Nonetheless, even before the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (which many believe was the beginning point of global warming), natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, flooding, fires, disease, etc.) occurred regularly, and cannot be ascribed to the actions of humans. However, human actions exacerbate the evil effects of natural disasters. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says human activity is a key factor that turns “extreme weather events into greater natural disasters.” For example, “deforestation and floodplain development” by humans turn high rainfall into “devastating floods and mudslides." When humans damage coastal reefs, remove mangroves, destroy dune systems, or clear coastal forests, "extreme coastal events cause much more loss of life and damage.” Damage by tsunamis varied “according to the extent of reef protection and remaining mangrove coverage.” [9]

In Europe, human development has “contributed to more frequent and regular floods.” [10] In earthquakes, people often suffer injury or death because of “poorly designed and constructed buildings.” [11]

In the United States, wildfires that destroy lives and property aren't "entirely natural.” Some fires are caused by human action and the damage inflicted is sometimes magnified by building “in remote, fire-prone areas.” [12] Dusty conditions in the West that “can cause significant human health problems” have been shown to be “a direct result of human activity and not part of the natural system." [13]

In sum, there is evidence that some "natural" evil results from human activity and, therefore, contains an element of moral evil.

Challenge to religious belief

Natural evil (also non-moral or surd evil) is a term generally used in discussions of the problem of evil and theodicy that refers to states of affairs which, considered in themselves, are those that are part of the natural world, and so are independent of the intervention of a human agent. Both natural and moral evil are a challenge to religious believers. Many atheists claim that natural evil is proof that there is no God, at least not an omnipotent, omnibenevolent one, as such a being would not allow such evil to happen to his/her creation. However, the deist position states that intervention by God to prevent such actions (or any intervention) is not an attribute of God.

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Disaster An event or combination of events resulting in major damage, destruction or death

A disaster is a serious disruption occurring over a relatively short period of time that causes widespread human, material, economic or environmental loss which exceeds the ability of the affected community or society to cope on a timely basis using its own resources. Developing countries suffer the greatest costs when a disaster hits – more than 95 percent of all deaths caused by hazards occur in developing countries, and losses due to natural hazards are 20 times greater in developing countries than in industrialized countries.

Theodicy Theological attempt to resolve the problem of evil

Theodicy means vindication of God. It is to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil, thus resolving the issue of the problem of evil. Some theodicies also address the evidential problem of evil by attempting "to make the existence of an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good or omnibenevolent God consistent with the existence of evil or suffering in the world." Unlike a defense, which tries to demonstrate that God's existence is logically possible in the light of evil, a theodicy attempts to provide a framework wherein God's existence is also plausible. The German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Leibniz coined the term "theodicy" in 1710 in his work Théodicée, though various responses to the problem of evil had been previously proposed. The British philosopher John Hick traced the history of moral theodicy in his 1966 work, Evil and the God of Love, identifying three major traditions:

  1. the Plotinian theodicy, named after Plotinus
  2. the Augustinian theodicy, which Hick based on the writings of Augustine of Hippo
  3. the Irenaean theodicy, which Hick developed, based on the thinking of St. Irenaeus
<i>Tsunami</i> Series of water waves caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water

A tsunami or tidal wave is a series of waves in a water body caused by the displacement of a large volume of water, generally in an ocean or a large lake. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other underwater explosions above or below water all have the potential to generate a tsunami. Unlike normal ocean waves, which are generated by wind, or tides, which are generated by the gravitational pull of the Moon and the Sun, a tsunami is generated by the displacement of water.

Natural disaster Major adverse event resulting from natural processes of the Earth

A natural disaster is a major adverse event resulting from natural processes of the Earth; examples are floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other geologic processes. A natural disaster can cause loss of life or damage property, and typically leaves some economic damage in its wake, the severity of which depends on the affected population's resilience and also on the infrastructure available.

A humanitarian crisis is defined as a singular event or a series of events that are threatening in terms of health, safety or well being of a community or large group of people. It may be an internal or external conflict and usually occurs throughout a large land area. Local, national and international responses are necessary in such events.

Music for Relief was founded by the band Linkin Park in response to the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Throughout its first twelve years, thanks to incredible artist partners, donors and supporters, Music for Relief responded to more than 30 natural disasters across four continents providing immediate relief and funding long-term recovery with a focus on sustainability. Always thinking about collaboration, in March 2018, Music for Relief announced it would join forces with Entertainment Industry Foundation to amplify the results of its disaster relief and recovery work.

Anthropogenic hazards are hazards caused by human action or inaction. They are contrasted with natural hazards. Anthropogenic hazards may adversely affect humans, other organisms, biomes and ecosystems. The frequency and severity of hazards are key elements in some risk analysis methodologies. Hazards may also be described in relation to the impact that they have. A hazard only exists if there is a pathway to exposure. As an example, the center of the earth consists of molten material at very high temperatures which would be a severe hazard if contact was made with the core. However, there is no feasible way of making contact with the core, therefore the center of the earth currently poses no hazard.

The United Nations General Assembly designated the 1990s as the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR).

Natural disasters in China

China is one of the countries most affected by natural disasters. It had five of the world's top 10 deadliest natural disasters; the top three occurred in China: the 1931 China floods, death toll 3 million to 4 million, the 1887 Yellow River flood, death toll 0.9 million to 2 million, and the 1556 Shaanxi earthquake, death toll 0.83 million.

Natural hazards in Colombia

Natural disasters in Colombia are the result of several different natural hazards that affect the country according to its particular geographic and geologic features. Human vulnerability, exacerbated by the lack of planning or lack of appropriate emergency management, and the fragility of the economy and infrastructure contribute to a high rate of financial, structural, and human losses.

A natural hazard is a natural phenomenon that might have a negative effect on humans or the environment. Natural hazard events can be classified into two broad categories: geophysical and biological. Geophysical hazards encompass geologic

Lists of disasters Wikimedia list article

The following are lists of disasters.

Tsunamis affecting the British Isles are extremely uncommon, and there have only been two confirmed cases in recorded history. Meteotsunamis are somewhat more common, especially on the southern coasts of England around the English and Bristol Channels.

A hazard is an agent which has the potential to cause harm to a vulnerable target. The terms "hazard" and "risk" are often used interchangeably. However, in terms of risk assessment, they are two very distinct terms. A hazard is any agent that can cause harm or damage to humans, property, or the environment. Risk is defined as the probability that exposure to a hazard will lead to a negative consequence, or more simply, a hazard poses no risk if there is no exposure to that hazard.

1964 Niigata earthquake June 1964 earthquake in Japan

The 1964 Niigata earthquake struck at 13:01 local time on 16 June with a magnitude of either 7.5 or 7.6. The epicenter was on the continental shelf off the northwest coast of Honshu, Japan in Niigata Prefecture, about 50 kilometres (31 mi) north of the city of Niigata. The earthquake caused liquefaction over large parts of the city.

Japan is one of the countries most affected by natural disasters, mainly due to it being in the Ring of Fire. Two out of the five most expensive natural disasters in recent history have occurred in Japan, in 1995 and 2011, costing $181 billion. Japan has also been the site of some of the 10 worst natural disasters of the 21st century. Many types of natural disasters occur in Japan such as tsunamis, floods, typhoons, earthquakes, cyclones, and even volcanic eruptions. The country has gone through thousands of years of natural disasters, affecting its economy, development, and social life. Some other major disasters in Japan were more recent, such as the January 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake and the March 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.

262 Southwest Anatolia earthquake

The 262 Southwest Anatolia earthquake devastated the Roman city of Ephesus along with cities along the west and south coasts of Anatolia in year 262, or possibly 261. The epicenter was likely located in the southern Aegean Sea. Reports note that many cities were flooded by the sea, presumably due to a tsunami.


  1. Trakakis, Nick. "The Evidential Problem of Evil". The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (IEP).
  2. "The Problem of Evil".
  3. Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification (Temple University Press, 1992), 412.
  4. Baker's Evangelical Dictionary, s.v. “Providence of God.”
  5. David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? (William B. Eerdmans, 2005), pp. 82–89.
  6. Gregory A. Boyd, God at War: the Bible and Spiritual Conflict (InterVarsity Press,1997) 20.
  7. Mark R. Talbot, “All the Good That Is Ours in Christ,” in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor, 43-44 (Crossway Books, 2006). Available online at
  8. David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? (William B. Eerdmans, 2005), pp. 89–91.
  9. "Natural disasters made worse by human activity". Retrieved August 30, 2014.
  10. “Natural Disasters Made Worse by Human Activity” (May 20, 2008),, accessed December 2, 2009.
  11. “UN Says Poor Construction to Blame for Earthquake Deaths — May 19, 2008,”, accessed December 2, 2009.
  12. “Southern California Forest Fires,”, accessed December 2, 2009.
  13. “Dust in West up 500 Percent in Past 2 Centuries, says CU-Boulder Study,”, accessed December 2, 2009.