A god (G) of an Earth-like world is benevolent. At the same time G allows free will. The problem is of course that some people will choose to harm others. This presents the god with a problem; how can G allow dreadful crimes to be perpetrated on some people who have done no wrong?

Some people suggest that evil allows good people to help others so, for example a child can die young in order that doctors and nurses can demonstrate goodness. Others say doing evil allows bad people to realise the error of their ways and repent. The problem, with this is that innocents have to suffer. For example DUIs are responsible for many deaths and remarkably often the drunk driver survives. Other, far worse and deliberate crimes of course happen.

The benevolent god decides that the suffering of innocents due to the wrongdoings of others is unfair. G decides that the solution is to introduce NPCs. This means that if, for example, an entire family is wiped out in a fatal DUI with the exception of one child (real-life examples exist), both the deceased and their survivors must be NPCs.


Given a world very like our own, what percentage of the population must be NPCs in order to ensure that no innocent PCs suffer unnecessarily? Can the scheme even be made to work?

Please ask for clarifications where necessary.


  1. Please do not appeal to personal experience in terms of, for example, being a PC who has suffered. This is an alternate world where the above rules apply - PCs do not suffer except by their own bad actions. NPCs appear to suffer when necessary but are not sentient.

  2. There is no after-life in this scenario although some PCs may believe there is.

  • $\begingroup$ If your stipulation is that there is no chance for a PC to suffer at another's hands, then there must be no more than one PC (and any number of NPCs), or the PCs must be strictly isolated from one another. Otherwise, there is some small, but measurable chance of one hurting the other, if only at random. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Mar 28, 2021 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ The premise is illogical. It is perfeclty possible in logic for people to have free will to choose between various courses of action which are good or ethically neutral, without having free will to chose evil actions. Thus it is logically possible for a powerful god to have the power to create people with free will to do good but no free will to do evil. A sufficiently powerful god does not have to choose between creating robots which can only do good but have no free will and creating people who have free will but can choose to do evil. It is not a binary choice. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 2:48
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    $\begingroup$ You need to define moral standards and God's bottom line in order for this question to become answerable. What is evil and what is not? What is unnecessary suffering? Are hurtful words evil? Are better fates (more talent, better family, higher social standing, etc.) evil? Who are innocents? $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Mar 28, 2021 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ @M. A. Golding - What you say is interesting but it does not describe the world that I am building - it describes a different possibility. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 12:11
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    $\begingroup$ If emotional harm counts, then you better have a universe with no media or even reporting or confession. I've seen police officers seriously harmed by witnessing trauma, and they would have no way to know that it was an NPC that was murdered rather than a PC. Same issue for getting upset at watching the news of war and tragedy, or witnessing a murder. Better avoid accidents, too, as these are traumatic. Easier for everyone to have an angel follow them around and actively stopping them from hurting others. Who cares if they reduce free will; mortals are essentially prisoners in the matrix. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Mar 29, 2021 at 3:52

5 Answers 5



You've stipulated "...to ensure that no innocent PCs suffer unnecessarily."

The only way for that rule to be met is for no PCs to exist. The odds of any single person living out their natural life without "suffering unnecessarily" is so close to zero that I'd bet a milkshake it can't be proven non-zero within a reasonable statistical variance.

To make a point, it could be said that one reason the Christian god offers reward after this life is to balance out the reality that bad things happen to good people. In other words, everything's evened out when consequence falls 100% under His control, but not usually before.

  • $\begingroup$ This is an alternate world. For example, if a PC decides to drink and drive, G can arrange that they only kill or injure NPCs. Your final note seems illogical. A child who loses their family in a DUI, and is the only survivor but with painful and lasting injuries will be rewarded later? Do they get a better reward than someone who had little or no suffering during their life? If they only get an equal reward, then nothing is "evened out". $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ P.S. I have now clarified that there is no afterlife in this scenario. This does not affect the percentages so it doesn't invalidate your answer. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 11:32
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    $\begingroup$ Hmmm... G is going to keep the PC from stubbing their toe? Getting a cold? Hitting a deer with their car? If you go to that extreme, the answer becomes 0% because god is going to guarantee nothing bad ever happens. If your condition is that G will allow bad things to happen by a PC but never to a PC then the answer is "as many as wanting" because that's story-based. If you want a specific non-0% and non-100% answer, you need to tell us very specifically what G is willing to let happen and not willing to let happen. Then, maybe, we can come up with some statistics. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 28, 2021 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ Good point. G allows this world to be exactly the same as ours in terms of diseases, rapes, murders, etc. So you can assume that war, sickness, accident and crime statistics will give a reasonable approximation. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 20:49


In order to ensure no harm occurs you need to ensure that no PC can ever come into contact with another. This is actually possible, There are more than 100 uncontacted peoples in the word currently who have no chance of ever meeting each other (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncontacted_peoples). The only chance they have to meet each other is if outsiders move the tribes next to each other, which if the government is controlled by NPCs won't happen. So you can have at total of about 100 of these people, one per tribe.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes. G can use NPCs (such as governments or just randoms) to make sure there is no unpleasant contact between good and bad PCs. I'm not sure that uncontacted peoples will help though. Given free will, one member of a tribe could decide to cause suffering to others so, for a small isolated population, maybe all but one must be NPC. This raises an interesting question about how the size of a population may affect the percentage of NPCs that it must sustain.. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 10:36
  • $\begingroup$ The people from the tribes can't meet each other because to do so they need to invent and perfect advanced sea travel or advanced long distance travel techniques that are not feasible at their level of technology. An New Guinea islander is not going to travel to Brazil in their lifetime. $\endgroup$
    – user64888
    Mar 29, 2021 at 0:47
  • $\begingroup$ Also, so long as any person in a population can chose to meet any other person in that population, population size is not a factor in any group, only groups that are kept apart matter. $\endgroup$
    – user64888
    Mar 29, 2021 at 0:56

This answer is based on these clarifications made by @chasly-supportsMonica in the comments:

It is difficult to define evil. My requirement is that PCs do not cause any kind of suffering to other PCs. They can murder, rape, torture, bully, spew hatred, etc. but only NPCs will be affected.

Yes, toe-stepping that causes pain is not allowed.

With such harsh restrictions I can see only 2 solutions:

  1. the entire world comprises only 1 PC and it is a solipsistic universe (no NPCs);
  2. the world has only 1 PC and the rest are NPCs who are catering to all PC's needs and desires.

A solipsistic universe makes it impossible for anyone or anything to inflict suffering on PC, all harm is self-inflicted. This allows for free will and there are no innocent victims.

All-NPC but one PC world satisfies all stated requirements at any level of world complexity and technological development. Lower complexity and technologically undeveloped worlds where fully isolated regions can exist can have one PC per isolation zone.

These are the only solutions because even toe-stepping is not allowed. Thus, any communication with other PCs is potentially hurtful: Simple words or gestures can cause suffering in humans given the right conditions. The only way to fully protect PCs is to fully isolate them from all other PCs. Full isolation is not possible in a world with highly developed technology and complex interdependencies: Even the smallest decision of other PCs can have unintended harmful consequences for other PCs.

Unfortunately, there is a possibility that all-NPC but one PC world will not work out, especially if it has highly developed technologies. Industrial development, for example, leads to environmental contamination that harms all humans. I am not sure if this can be solved in any way. Even clean and sustainable technologies affect the environment and potentially can have a detrimental effect on humans. Perhaps, you can introduce magic that NPCs use to satisfy your PC.

I think that the question of God's benevolence is actually more interesting in the proposed scenario. Will God remain benevolent if all PC suffering is eliminated and PCs are given the freedom to murder, rape, torture, bully, spew hatred, etc.?

It seems that the PCs will end up being spoiled little brats as the best outcome. The creation of completely evil beings with no shred of humanity in them is a much more likely scenario, though. Can a god who breeds evil still be seen as benevolent?

If you are going to ask why evil beings are the most likely outcome, it is because it is not possible to know what pain is without ever experiencing pain. It is not possible to relate to the struggles of others if one never struggled before. If there are no consequences for bad behaviour there is no reason to stop. Moreover, NPCs will be reinforcing bad behaviour as they are prohibited from inflicting harm on PCs.

Additional thoughts and remarks (because comments are too limiting)

  1. Pain and suffering are not necessarily physical. Emotional pain and suffering can be much worse.

Failure to meet expectations, for example, may ruin one's life to a greater extent than a slow-progressing incurable disease. The pain of losing loved ones is greater than the pain of losing one's limbs.

To be frank, I am not sure if people can grow up and mature as persons if they do not experience any struggles in their lives. Can someone who has never experienced any setbacks and failures deal with the everchanging nature of the world or uncertainties it is full of? Can someone cherish something if they have never experienced losing something?

  1. What is a wrongdoing? What is good and evil? And, most importantly, who makes these determinations?

IMO, one of the implications of free will is that people themselves have the power of determination when it comes to good and evil. Moreover, moral definitions can change over time and differ across cultures.

Of course, some things are more or less clearcut: There is, probably, no culture in Earth history that would allow arbitrary murders of innocent bystanders. But most things are not that simple. For example, some cultures demand total obedience of children from early ages. A child of 2-3 years old is not allowed temper tantrums and prohibited from demanding anything. Other cultures do not say 'no' to children until they reach a certain age and parents comply with any demands of their offsprings to the best of their ability. Which of these approaches is wrong? Would not parents of both cultures accuse each other of wrongdoings toward children?

If God is the only one who has a say in matters of good and bad does it mean that people still have free will? Is free will limited to compliance with God's understanding of good and evil? It may be the case in your universe, but I am not sure if it is truly free will.

  1. Does inherently bad or inherently good exist?

I am not a supporter of the entire notion of 'inherently' anything. I think that our experiences matter more than our genes. There are people who are more prone to aggression due to their genetics, however, it does not mean that all of them will become unruly thugs. Aggression can be channelled in many different ways. It takes experience to learn them. The same goes for kindness and consideration. Even kind people can become criminals.

I would also say that it takes experience and knowledge of people to be truly kind and considerate. Otherwise, it is nothing more than politeness. Politeness does not require the ability to relate to others and their struggles, kindness does. Harsh words and actions can be manifestations of kindness when used in the correct situation. It is out of kindness and consideration a parent is strict with their child and punishes child's bad actions.

P.S. We probably have very different notions of morality (moral relativism makes the most sense to me), so take my words with a grain of salt.

  • $\begingroup$ Your final paragraph is a compelling one. I'm not sure that everyone will turn into a spoiled brat though. Some people are actually kind and considerate by nature. At least, I think so. Food for thought there. Actually, now I think about it there are a few people in the world who have no sense of pain. I haven't heard of any of them being criminals. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 20:53
  • $\begingroup$ The whole premise is about evil being unfairly inflicted by others, so it's still possible for the PCs of this world to experience pain and suffering from the environment. Famine, disease, accidental death/injury would all be instructive in pain and suffering even for PCs who are never harmed by another. So it's at least reasonable to believe they could imagine the harm they could inflict on others by extrapolating from such "natural" experiences. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @chasly-supportsMonica People with no sense of pain do not feel physical pain, they are not immune to other forms of pain or emotional suffering. You are trying to build a world where PCs do not experience any kind of suffering caused by other sentient beings. This will lead to very different psychological consequences than a lack of pain receptors. Moreover, your NPCs will not be able to teach PC about pain and suffering since these topics are potentially hurtful on their own. Innate kindness does not mean much when your points of reference are all wrong and they will be in your world. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Mar 29, 2021 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ This reads very much like the Buddha origin story, where his family tried to shield him from ever seeing suffering. Nice grasp of philosophy $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Mar 29, 2021 at 3:38
  • $\begingroup$ @OutrageousBacon Most of the pain and suffering from the environment, especially in a modern world, can be seen either as unnecessary or as a result of wrongdoings of other PCs. If resources were shared more equally there would be no or almost no famine. If medical services were equally accessible there would be fewer avoidable deaths. I am also not sure if 'natural' experiences can substitute for personal experiences. Seeing hungry people is not the same as being hungry. Also, every PC would be shielded from bad things to avoid suffering from jealousy and envy (no bad fate for PC). $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Mar 29, 2021 at 3:53

However many people are affected by evil acts.

For example, if a PC decides to drink and drive, G can arrange that they only kill or injure NPCs.

In that case, your "G" can use his middle knowledge (the range of all possible eventualities) to arrange for the creation and exact placement of however many NPCs are needed to absorb all the sin.

This brings us to a problem. Regardless of whether or not you are a Christian, I think we can agree that "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God" (i.e. His perfect sinlessness). Everybody commits evil at some point in their life, so this means that everybody is also harmed by evil acts if they are around other evil-committing people.

Therefore, your "G" has two possible courses of action presented before him: either arrange for no "real" people to ever meet each other (a possible violation of free will), prevent them from ever hurting each other (a definite violation), or else take the Judeo-Christian approach ("You're doing this to yourselves; I'll sort things out later.")

G cannot serve two masters; it is impossible for him to both prevent people from being affected by sin and uphold free will.

  • $\begingroup$ That is an interesting argument. However I don't agree that everyone sins - not in the world I am designing. People have a choice about whether to be nice to each other or not, that is all. The "two possible courses" that you mention are in fact exactly what I'm talking about. G uses the NPCs to separate the 'bad' PCs from other PCs. They are allowed complete free will to do harm within the NPC environment they find themselves in. That is the percentage I'm trying to work out. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ @chasly-supportsMonica So no original sin? In that case, 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999%. $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2021 at 19:10
  • $\begingroup$ @TheDaleks your answer is inaccurate, one person on earth represents about 0.00000001 percent of the world, so your comment means less than one person per world can exist. $\endgroup$
    – user64888
    Mar 29, 2021 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ @CharlieHershberger I'm aware. I was trying to make my point that you'd need an incredibly small population of "real" people. $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2021 at 13:41

As others have said, you can have only 1 PC.

However, how about a variation on free will? Free will exists, but only with regard to actions against NPCs.

  • $\begingroup$ That is a very interesting idea. Could you perhaps expand on it? For example, would the PC notice when their free will stopped working? $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2021 at 9:23
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    $\begingroup$ @chasly-supportsMonica Of course they don't realize it, they just don't "choose" to do something bad to the PC. $\endgroup$ Mar 29, 2021 at 23:14

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