Since the tsunami has everyone in a theodicic frame of mind, and perhaps because I'm reading this book, I have maltheism on the mind today. It's a possibility one oughtn't discount out of hand: God exists, and is evil. For a brief introduction to the idea, wander over to the Maltheism blog, which I stumbled onto today. Start at the bottom and scroll up. There's a sad sweet story embedded there, and I offer my condolences to Craig. To frame the issue from the top, we begin with whether there is a divine presence. Supposing one decides that there is (whether from miracle, first cause, design, etc.), one next faces the questions of whether God is one or many, and the ethical alignment of those god(s). In a class on the problem of evil that I took from Mark Larrimore, I remember we discussed dualist beliefs such as Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism, i.e. that there are opposed good and evil supernatural influences in the world. Polytheist religions often have gods of a mixed character; one need only inspire the wrath of Juno once to understand that the divinities are fickle. And of course, some versions of Christianity place more emphasis on the existence of Satan, a divine but not omnipotent figure who works for evil. All of these systems capture a feeling of dynamic struggle that resonates with me, and apparently with many others throughout history. Against the "struggle" view are the twin possibilities of a single beneficent God, and a single malevolent God. The former seems to me to compel a Panglossian hypothesis that we live in the best of all possible worlds. To maintain that this the best of all possible worlds, one must undertake a series of contortions to explain how just this much suffering is required, lest we live in a still worse world. Such lines of argument strain my imagination to its limit, and don't particularly resolve the emotional problem of evil. Instead, they feel like a theological neat trick that seems more designed to defend God than to help the human. Or, we consider the (historically rare) maltheist position: there is a malevolent God. An omnipotent, malevolent God immediately poses a complementary "problem of good": how does any good exist in the world? As we discussed in Larrimore's class, most definitions of evil take the form of evil as a privation of good, i.e. a deficit of a good. So the existence of at least some good seems to be required. Now, is this really the worst of all possible worlds? Do we have a malevolent, omnipotent God coaxing things along to be just good enough to keep the wheels of life turning around, so as to permit the next generation's catastrophe? I admit this strains credulity. Surely there could be worse possible worlds, ones of unmitigated suffering (perhaps punctuated by 30 minute stretch breaks to remind us how bad we have it). But framing this problem against its converse suggests the outline of an antinomy to weigh with the others. This leaves me with the possibility of a malevolent God that is not omnipotent. Rather, there simply exists some dark being out there, throwing us curveballs and tidal waves. What I like about this proposition is that it that restores the focus on human action. Rather than wondering whether we're pleasing God, and how best to avoid his wrath, we simply assume he's out to get us, and so must strive in every way possible to ward Him off. We may just be ant underfoot, but we've got a bit of maneuvering room, and so must get busy to keep our fragile way of life together.