Religious Diversity, Evil, and a Variety of Theodicies

Michael L. Peterson

in The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195340136
Published online January 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Religious Diversity, Evil, and a Variety of Theodicies

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  • Comparative Religion
  • Philosophy of Religion



Suffering, injustice, tragedy, and death are basic to human experience. Peter Berger observes that each religion bears the burden of relating these negative phenomena—commonly called “evils”—to its understanding of ultimate reality. The problem, then, is the challenge of coherently accounting for evil while preserving and developing essential commitments about the divine, the cosmos, and the human venture. But this means that there is no single problem of evil across all religions; instead, the exact formulation of the problem is specific to the commitments of each particular tradition. Likewise, there is no one formula for response that is common to religions. Using Max Weber's broad definition of theodicy as a religious explanation for evil, this article examines religious diversity by focusing on four major religions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism—and explores key themes out of which their theodicies are typically constructed. It also examines theories of human suffering as a phenomenon that calls forth the most profound responses.

Keywords: Judaism; Christianity; Islam; Hinduism; evil; theodicy; religion; human suffering; reality

Article.  6852 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Comparative Religion ; Philosophy of Religion

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