How will these resources help you?

Many religions and worldviews hold the belief that there is some form of all-powerful, all-loving being or force in existence in the universe. The existence of suffering on this Earth therefore poses a challenge, as there must be a reason why a being that is all-loving allows suffering to happen. Epicurus raised this 2300 years ago in Ancient Greece, when he asked if God is not able to stop suffering, and not willing to, then 'Why call him God?'. As one of the biggest challenges to belief in God, this is an essential philosophical question to discuss and evaluate in the classroom. This list includes introductory resources that could be used from KS3 onwards, and case studies that explain and explore 'the Problem' for older students.

What is the problem of evil?

The Problem of Evil

published by True Tube, (2013)

In this engaging short video, the problem of evil is explored with a focus on the key terms and concepts for unpacking this issue. The distinction between moral and natural evil is explained, followed by an exploration of various theodicies that are used within religions. The video outlines the classical Christian theodicies of free will and original sin and explanations for suffering given within the Dharmic traditions, with the law of Karma linked to reincarnation. This thought-provoking video will serve as a great introduction to the issue for KS3 and KS4 students, as well as a refresher for older students returning to the nature of God and the problem of evil in their A-level studies.

Christian theodicies explored

The One Where God Is Evil

by Louisa Jane Smith, published by The RE Podcast, (2020)

This episode delves into the problem of evil and suffering with a focus on evaluation throughout. The presenter explores the Inconsistent Triad in a way that will be accessible to students. The main idea of 'God' is the Christian idea, and the theodicies given are very much based on classical Christian thoughts. A discussion around the Garden of Eden and human development may be particularly interesting to students who have covered the Genesis creation story in class, as well as the presenter’s evaluative comments on the 'soul making' theodicy of Irenaeus. Finally, the 'evil God challenge' is alluded to, which could be a fruitful activity to explore as an extension task after listening to the episode.

Evil and suffering: the Holocaust


by Elie Wiesel, published by Penguin, (2008), 9780141038995

Seen by many as the most extreme manifestation of moral evil, the Holocaust is often discussed in the RE classroom. In this autobiography we follow a pious teenage Jew who was taken to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II. Themes around the question of faith in the face of such inhumane treatments are explored throughout the book as the boy eventually loses his faith and becomes an agnostic, cultural Jew. Chapter 4, where Wiesel is forced to watch the murder of a young boy on the gallows, is a particularly powerful way to discuss the problem of evil. As the boy is dying, someone in the crowd asks 'Where is God?' and Elie responds in his heart that God is being murdered in front of him, too: 'Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God.' Later in life, Elie stated had he had retained some faith in a God but that it was a wounded faith (with 6 million reasons he could give for why God does not exist). As well as the problem of evil, discussions around the persecution of minorities, the development of human rights, the nature of faith and Jewish identity post-Holocaust can be explored through using this resource. 

Evil and suffering: the suffering of children

A Question of Faith: Suffering

published by BBC Two, (2014)

In this clip, children from various faiths discuss the problem of evil and suffering – in particular what is known as 'natural evil’ or suffering caused by nature rather than human choices. The suffering of children with incurable diseases is often given as a challenge to the idea of an all-loving, all-powerful God – this clip will help students see the variety of justifications given in religions for why God allows this to happen. The start of the clip shows an atheist, Muslim and Christian child visiting a children’s hospice where they see the strength of the human spirit in the face of such pain. The studio discussion following this would allow students to evaluate and debate further. Beyond the problem of evil, discussions around medical ethics, our duty to care for one another and the role of the family could be explored. 

Further materials

Tsunami – Where was God? pt1 by Mark Dowd, published by philosophyteacher, (2012) Watch this video
Stephen Fry on God: The Meaning of Life, published by RTE One, (2015) Watch this video
The “Evil God Challenge” by Stephen Law, published by Center for Inquiry UK, (2016) Watch this video
Evil and Suffering in the Bible by Stephen J. Vicchio, published by Wisdom Editions, (2023), 9781960250698 Find this book
Ruth Marx teaches Religion and Worldviews, is a Consultant for Religious Studies and PSHE, a Farmington Fellowship Scholar and a published blogger on Re:Online.

Text © Ruth Marx, 2023.