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Redefining the Problem of Evil in the Context of a Predeterministic World: New Conversations with the Traditional African Worldview

Aribiah David Attoe


Merciful, holy, all-powerful, all-knowing, spirit, unchanging, the first cause, unknowable. These are just some of the properties that some scholars of African religions have attributed to the being they call God. Setting aside accusations that some of these properties reflect the colonially imposed religions, it is almost taken as a given that these properties really do belong to some of the various versions of the African God. This, then, raises the question: how is it ever the case that the present world, filled with various forms of evil and terror, emanates from a God possessing these same properties? Thus, the African God joins the formidable list of deities for which the problem of evil is relevant. In this essay, I argue that the power of the problem of evil lies in the belief, in many major African traditional religions, that God is a personalized entity. This, in turn, ensures a blind misattribution of the properties (mentioned above) to God. To buttress this point, I begin by presenting a materialistic and de-personalised notion of God that sheds away those properties that are imperceptible and/or are not logically necessary. Next, drawing from this new vision of God, and from religious traditions such as the Luba and Bantu traditions, I provide an account of some properties that can be ascribed to God (such as: genderless, eternal, first cause, material and unconscious), and show how this notion of God enables a predeterministic world. Finally, I show that what we refer to as evil is compatible with the idea of a material, depersonalized and unconscious God, and with the context of a predeterministic world that is indifferent to human experience.