Religion as an Aid for Coping with Evil?: Confronting the Coping Thesis with Barth’s Reflections on Nothingness

in Wrestling with God and with Evil
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The idea that religion provides ideas and practices that help people cope with evil is widespread. It may be used in a neutral way to define the function of religion but can also be used by both adversaries and advocates of religion. Thus religion may be criticized for “easy coping,” for providing cheap, comforting theories. Religion may also be appreciated for giving an anchor or focus to life in hard times. In this paper, the coping thesis and the presuppositions behind it are confronted with the example of Karl Barth’s view of evil and Christian belief. Barth deals with evil under the term das Nichtige and aims to understand God’s relation to it. He criticizes the idea that human beings by themselves can know what evil is and how they should cope with it. Thus, Barth’s view seems to differ on important points from the coping thesis. What does this mean for the value of this thesis?

Wrestling with God and with Evil

Philosophical Reflections


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