The Problem of Evil is an important aspect of philosophy in regard to theism, especially Christianity, and one that shows up often in innumerable anime. Below are two revised articles regarding A Certain Magical Index’s depiction of The Problem of Evil originally posted to my personal blog, edited into one more complete article. Warning, spoilers abound.
A Certain Magical Index is not one of my favorite anime. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it is rather mediocre in a number of ways. Despite this, however, it touches on many facets of religion and philosophy, to the point that someone like myself (not much of a fan of the series) can even appreciate some of the writing. This is particularly true in episode fourteen.
At the end of the episode, Misaka and Touma have a brief discussion in Touma’s recovery room at the hospital about Misaka’s 20,000 clones. Over the course of the past few episodes, it was explained that over 10,000 of them were killed in an experiment to try to create the strongest Esper, and Misaka blamed herself for their deaths. Here is a bit of the conversation that occurred:
Touma: “Even though that experiment was wrong in many ways, the fact that they were born… was, I think, something you should be proud of…”
Misaka: “But more than 10,000 Sisters have died because of me…”
Touma: “Even so… I’m sure they don’t hate you. Had they never been born, they wouldn’t have been able to experience happiness or sadness.”
Now before I go on anymore, I would like to stress that I am NOT going to make a strict analogy of God to Misaka in order to talk about the problem of evil, because that analogy would fail in so many ways (ie: Misaka is not omniscient nor omnipresent, Misaka did not WANT the experiment to happen, etc.). What I WOULD like to do, is briefly discuss the basic topic at hand.
In case you are unaware, “the problem of evil” is the issue debated among atheists and theists about how a good God could allow evil in the world. This topic is much too complex for me to discuss fully in such a brief post (especially about such a brief moment in an anime), and I am also unqualified to present it in full (though I have read a decent amount of material concerning it). Nonetheless, this short dialogue presented an idea that I hold to.
“Had they never been born, that wouldn’t have been able to experience happiness or sadness.”
From the theist perspective, had we not been created, we would not have been able to experience happiness or sadness. There would be no evil… but there would also be no us to experience the good that exists opposite the evil. While, according to the Judeo-Christian creation story, good first existed independent of evil, for good to have existed at all, the possibility of evil is a necessity in order to ensure a true free will.
Whether you are an atheist OR a theist, it is rather apparent that bad things happen to good people. However, that does not disprove the existence of a good God.
Much to my surprise, Index did not end its applicable themes in the first season, and while watching through Index’s second season, I felt the need to add just a little bit more.
Perhaps someone can point out something that I am missing, but I found a number of Index’s plot arcs to be rather weak. I had a difficult time truly understanding the motivation of a number of characters as they did what they did. One example of this was the Croce di Pietro (Cross of Peter) arc.
To give a quick summary, the “villains” wanted to use the Cross of Peter and its “magical powers” (ugh) to essentially convert the entire world to Roman Catholicism. They never really explained exactly how this would work (they only explained how to cast the spell, not how the conversion itself would work), but they did at least try to give some motivation for the “villains.” One of the two of these characters was assisting simply because she wanted to stop all of the war and suffering, and if everyone was forcibly converted to the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no more of such. The other character was doing it only because, as far as I can tell, she is a crazy maniacal nun.
What struck me here in regard to The Problem of Evil was not the motivation, but the outcome of the use of the Cross of Peter. They wanted to forcibly convert the entire world to Christianity. Well one basic argument concerning The Problem of Evil is that skeptics claim that if God was a loving God, then why would he allow us to disobey him and enter a sinful state? Such theological matters are difficult to completely process, but the situation here is similar. I’m sure most would say that Touma stopping the use of the Cross was a goal worth pursuing. Why, though? Because forcing a worldwide conversion based on magic rather than based on free will defeats the entire purpose of free will. If we all believe the same thing simply because we have to, even if it means world peace, is that truly a good action?*
If God had created us like that, we would be nothing but enslaved automata.
Disappointingly, though, Index did not get into this in the slightest. Instead, Touma’s motivation to stop the Cross was because it was ruining the Daihaseisai (festival) that everyone had worked so hard to put together. Perhaps I am missing something, but I was disappointed with what had the potential to be a compelling philosophical struggle.**
On another note, although I overall enjoyed both Index seasons as works of fiction, I still can’t help but be annoyed at their depiction of Christianity. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England feel like completely secular organizations mixed with magic and rites and rituals. But I digress.
*Plus, according to Scripture, Christianity doesn’t even believe it will ever convert the entire world. The closest thing there is is the Great Commission in Matthew in which the Church is called to evangelize the entire world (i.e. make the entire world aware of the Gospel and offer it). This does not mean conversion. It simply means that Christians are to make the Christian definition of salvation available to the world to choose to either accept or reject.
**Yes, let’s not stop a forcible conversion of the entire world because it is fundamentally wrong, or that it will take away the free will of all mankind, but because it is ruining a festival. Really…
- 12 Days of Christmas Anime, Day 1: Cardcaptor Sakura - 12.14.2018
- 12 Days of Otaku Christmas, Day 12: Merry Christmas from Hatsune Miku - 12.25.2016
- Secret Santa 2016: Tsuritama - 12.24.2016