Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Epicurus and the "Problem of Evil"

A frequent commenter here at OutsideTheBox responded to my previous post on the existence of evil with the famous 2300 year old quadrilemma of Epicurus:
Many skeptics contend that no satisfactory answer to Epicurus has ever been forwarded. Do you agree? I am mainly interested in the response of other believers. The problem of evil, which I have addressed in a series of posts a year ago (the "Theodicy" series), continues to be one of the primary lynch pins of unbelief. It is a reasonable objection to theism which cries out for a reasonable answer. Believers, how have you resolved the problem of evil? or have you? I will give my own specific response to Epicurus in the next post, but I'd like to hear first from you. Comments?

57 comments:

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

Is "frequent commentator" a demotion from "big cuddly teddy bear" or "friend".

*sulk*

Regards,

Psi

VBM said...

My response to this has always been that that the "then God is malevolent" is where the syllogism falls apart. We define "evil" and fit it into this formula. I can tell you that my kids, when they were 3, considered shots at the doctor pure and unadulterated evil. I believe we have as much an idea of what, ultimately, will work for good than a three year old.

While I do not believe, deterministically, that God dictates every action on this planet, I do believe that God purposefully allows us to live in a world in which very bad things happen. This, ultimately, we will see, will have been for a "big picture" goal, something we can not possibly imagine right now. We just see and feel the pain that like that 3 year old getting a shot.

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi,

How about tens of thousands of kids being drowned or crushed in tsunamis in the past few years or perhaps tens of thousands more being crushed to death or being buried alive to die slowly of thirst or starvation in earthquakes?

Are you seriously claiming that they might be "good"?

If your god has the power to prevent these things (you claim he has) then I think him letting them happen is pretty evil.

BTW didn't you tell your kids about the shots being good for them? Or if they were too young didn't you try to distract them or minimise the pain for them?

Regards,

Psi

VBM said...

Yes and no. I am not saying that those particular events are "good". What I am saying is that God has decided that living in a world in which both wonderful and horrible things happen serves some greater good that we can not fully grasp. God's stepping in to remove all evil would entirely undermine that.

Consider the alternative as a possible glimpse into this greater plan: consider a world in which nothing adverse can happen to anyone, no pain, no doubt, no fear, no anxiety, everyone is always perfectly content, satisfied, joyous, peaceful, etc, etc. Not only would such a world be kind of creepy, we would not be human there at all. You can not be human and truly feel joy without an understanding of the opposite. You can not feel true peace unless you have experienced anxiety. Either we would be emotionless automatons or we would be falsely fed these positive emotions like drugged-up zombies.

So, a world in which humans can be truly human in any real sense is a world in which evil (pain, suffering, doubt, anxiety, etc) HAS to exist. And, if it has to truly exist in any meaningful way, then that means someone MUST experience or feel this evil. And if ANYONE feels/experiences it, then this theodicy issue arises. Even if what we experience is only a fraction of what *could* have happened absent God's intervening grace (entirely hypothetical), we would still see the remaining (and absolutely necessary) evil as just as much of a philosophical issue.

And, I do believe that God has given us a comforter and a means by which pain and suffering can be minimized, which is through His Holy Spirit.

Now, I have not seriously looked into this issue, nor have read much on the various theories out there, so I suppose others have come up with much better explanations, but that is what naturally comes to my mind.

Tom said...

consider a world in which nothing adverse can happen to anyone, no pain, no doubt, no fear, no anxiety, everyone is always perfectly content, satisfied, joyous, peaceful, etc, etc. Not only would such a world be kind of creepy, we would not be human there at all.

Sounds like heaven (Rev 21:4).

VBM said...

tom, in some sense, yes. I think there will definitely be some increase in peace and comfort which that verse (and others) describes with a bit of hyperbole. I think NT Wright has the best angle on what to expect in the "new heavens and new earth", and I honestly don't think it will be a sterile, unemotionally "perfect" world.

I recall one angle that was interesting. Someone described what it would be like if you knew the outcome of every sporting competition in advance, far into the future. If you knew your favorite team could not lose, exactly what the score would be, etc. Would you still experience the same joy (or any joy) at the win? What allows for the joy of the win is the real possibility of the loss. And that can only exist when loss actually happens. As humans, we can not truly have joy if only joy exists.

And NT Wright considers that there will be a new heaven AND a new earth. Not merely a new heaven. And, on that new earth we may have lives much as we have now, but (as he puts it) "set to rights" and the way that it was intended. Which may not be perfect peace, joy and happiness 24 hours a day, but a world in which real peach joy and happiness can exist for all.

There is much more there than we can truly imagine, I believe.

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi VBM,

OK welcome to switcheroony land . . .

So you can explain why God is all good but now what you say is that god is not all powerful or omniscient - he is either limited by these rules which you have worked out somehow - and is sticking to them for reasons that you can't work out? Or he can't figure out how to get rid of the evil.

So your god is not all powerful or all knowing then - which is it?

- - -

Your argument doesn't seem like an explanation to me.

How is the "holy spirit" a comfort to the dying or dead kids?

Can you even guess why earthquakes and tsunamis are necessary for us to be human? Or do we just say that anything we can't figure out is part of god's plan?

Seems to me that a simple miracle to dampen the effects on each occaision would very ably prevent huge amounts of suffering.

Why couldn't we be human without earthquakes and tsunamis? We manage it OK in Yorkshire and did for thousands of years before learning about earthquakes ot tsunamis - maybe we were not truly human then?

Another thing . . . If science can come up with a way to warn of these events and prevent the suffering then surely this would be a good thing?

But wouldn't this be going against god's design? Remember that you claim, we need this evil to be really human.

Hang on - this particular train of logic is carried through to its conclusion by "Christian Scientists" isn't it? "Don't use medicine to interfere with god's will."

Assuming you aren't one yourself then tell me what is wrong with the arguments they use that doesn't also apply to the argument you just used?

- - -

Also, remember that many of these kids will not believe in your particular god - they were told by their parents that some other god was the real one - so this means that you think they either suffered horribly and now don't exist or perhaps you think that they suffered horribly and are now being tortured by your jealous god.

Or do I have this wrong and you believe something else?

- - -

Come on guys - this god created the whole universe out of nothing - why on earth can't he create a universe were we are human and evil does not exist?

Seems to me your "explanations" stem from your pre-supposition that god exists and so logical explanations don't really matter and simple rationalisation is happening. You simply label the logical holes in your "arguments" as being "part of god's mystery".

This kind of non-logic and justification has been used by others to justify some pretty horrific things - Christian Science and Jehovah's Witnesses refusing particular types of medical treatment to their children for example.

Surely a more logical explanation is that no-one is there and we live on a natural planet in a natural universe.

Or have I made a mistake somewhere?

Regards,

Psi

Anonymous said...

psi,

For me it all comes down to a statement you made that went like this:

Also, remember that many of these kids will not believe in your particular god - they were told by their parents that some other god was the real one - so this means that you think they either suffered horribly and now don't exist or perhaps you think that they suffered horribly and are now being tortured by your jealous god.

You say that these kids suffer horribly here presumably as part of their dying proccess, and then, as if that weren't enough, God punishes them some more after they've gone through a nasty death!

So, my first question is: who gets to define "suffered horribly"? I feel I must enter the realm of the hypothetical to make my point.

Three Hindu boys, Ahmad, Param and Mandar are close friends on their way to school when a tsunami washes over their remote, oceanside village. In the force of the wave, Ahmad is slammed against a nearby boulder, and dies instantly of massive head trauma. Param, a great swimmer, misses the boulder only to find himself swept so far out to sea that after a few hours of futile struggling and calling for help he drowns exhausted. Mandar is the "lucky one". Somehow he is forced to the top of the wave, and is gently placed by it at the top of a hill behind the village completely unscathed. But, now he must live with the loss of his friends and much of his family. The rest of his life he feels guilty that he survived when so many were taken. (OK, he's Hindu so he probably wouldn't feel like that, but you get the point.)

Nobody escapes tragedy. Nobody. In the end, isn't tragedy, like everything else in our lives, what we make of it? We can make it into suffering or we can make it into joy. No matter what experiences I've had, I can always find someone who's had things much easier than me, but is more depressed. Likewise, I can find someone that's had a much more difficult life who is always sunny and upbeat. The point isn't evil, the point is the reaction to it. Good lord, we can't judge whether God is omnipotent or malevolent because there's evil in the world! Have you ever thought about the fact that evil exists for you, and not against you? In case your asking, yes, I've known great tragedy.

Another question I have is: Will God consign Ahmad, Param and eventually Mandar to either annihilation or endless torture?

OK. Back to our story.

Godless scenario:
Ahmad is dead, and If there is no God the story is over. Ahmad certainly doesn't care that he was part of a tragedy. He was simply selected out. Ditto for Param, but I think he made the right choice to tread water as long as he could. Hey, you never know! Then there is Mandar. In our godless scenario, Mandar rids himself of the guilt (that he doesn't have) by studying hard, becoming a doctor, and helping to eradicate waterborne diseases in his region. Then, one day he dies. He no longer cares that he was once part of a great tragedy.

For the sake of answering my second question let's say the God of the Bible exists scenario:
Ahmad's spirt, soul, essence or whatever has left his body and is now in the presence of God. What his parents taught him is now irrelevant. He has come to believe in a God he'd never even heard of.

God: Welcome, Ahmad! I have always wanted you to join me here in this place. Forever. It's so much better than where you just left that there's really no comparison. I know you didn't get much time there, and some things happened to you and your family (they're right over there) that you weren't expecting, but none of that will be important to you soon. Just wait 'til you see what I have in store for you. By the way, have you met my son?
Ahmad: No.
God: Jesus, Ahmad. Ahmad, Jesus.
Ahmad: Nice to meet you.
Jesus: Ahmad! What a pleasure to finally meet you!
etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Ditto for Param.


Did you notice how God brings up the touchy subject of the tsunami thing? It almost seems like He's trying to see how Ahmad will react to having his family wiped out. God knows that Ahmad is going to spend forever there with Him. Ahmad will enjoy all that God has as an adopted son. Even if Ahmad had to deal with 70 years of affliction on earth, he would come to count it as nothing. The nothing that it really was.

BTW, in the little convo with God and Jesus, do you think Jesus would have gotten around to asking "the question"?

Jesus: Um, Ahmad?
Ahmad: Yes, Jesus.
Jesus: Do you accept me as your personal Lord and Saviour so I can let you into Heaven?

So, it seems Ahmad and Param were cool with all that. They chose not to believe that God was against them when He allowed the tsunami. They didn't turn there backs on God, and head over to... the only other real estate available at the time.

In answer to the question about the eternal fate of people who die believing in the "wrong god" or no god. I have two suggestions:

1. Read C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce

2. If you don't have the time or inclination for that, read the following two short passages of the Bible.


“Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets.


Acts 3:17-21


Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Romans 5:18-21

Sounds to me like there is a final restoration of relationship to God for everyone. Those that want to control by fear say otherwise.

VBM said...

Psiloiordinary:

(reposted to correct some typos)

No, you seem to have missed the import of my point. I did not say that God is mandating any particular bad thing or that all bad things are really good things. What I am saying is that God has created a world in which good and bad things happen, and that such a world is the only type of world that humans can exist. If we lived in a world without any negative events, we would not be human. We would be something else entirely, something without any real joy, peace, or contentment even possible. God created humans to experience these positive emotions and so the negative experiences are absolutely necessary.

God also created the ability for us, as humans, to either increase or decrease the positive and negative events to some extent. That, again, is part of what makes us human. Without the choice to become a Hitler, the choice to become a Ghandi is meaningless. Without the disease, there is no ability to rise above and cure the disease. Without the tragedy, there is no strength.

This is tempered by the idea that our current life is just a tiny fraction of our reality as humans, I believe. All humans will exist forever in one sense or another and what happens, good or evil, in this "iteration" will be ultimately far outweighed by our overall course of events.

And who is to say that God has NOT stepped in to dampen the effects of what WOULD have happened? No matter how much God chooses to do this, it would be entirely without our knowledge (necessarily, because God chooses not to reveal Himself in a way that demands belief), and so we would still see the evil that remains and wonder why God does not dampen it, etc.

And, yes, of course this logic is starting from the presupposition that God exists. I never said that the existence of evil was somehow a means by which we could PROVE God. I don't think God allows for such proof to exist. No, the point is that the existence of evil is not, even remotely, any proof that God does NOT exist, or is not a God worth worshiping.

That would be like that three year old "logicking" in his little brain as follows:

Well, this shot is evil. It is painful, causes suffering.

So, my parents must be either sadistic in allowing me to have this shot.

Or, they must be incapable of preventing this shot.

Either way, they are not worthy to be my parents, then.

Obviously.

VBM said...

Sorry, I forgot to address the "comfort" issue. How many times have you heard people describe how their "faith" has helped them cope, or that God gave them the strength to deal with a tragedy? Do you think they were all just making it up? You can consider them delusional, but I don't think you would consider them dishonest. Many who have a deep Christian faith really do feel great comfort and peace in times of travail.

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi all,

Two quick points;

No one is claiming that parents are all powerful or all good or all knowing.

You are claiming this for your god.

---

I am completely happy to grant that vast numbers of folks get very real comfort from their beliefs.

I don't think I claimed otherwise.

--

I don't see how kids being slowly killed by the various natural disasters is necessary for us to human.

Perhaps you could explain?

Your god, if he is omnipotent, could solve this problem - by definition he could. Otherwise he is not omnipotent.

Is that what you are saying?

Perhaps you could address that actual points and questions I raised now please?

Regards,

Psi

Tom said...

Anon said,

In our godless scenario, Mandar rids himself of the guilt (that he doesn't have) by studying hard, becoming a doctor, and helping to eradicate waterborne diseases in his region. Then, one day he dies. He no longer cares that he was once part of a great tragedy.

This is a peculiar analogy. I can imagine Mandar could have guilt from living even without believing in God. It's also strange to infer that guilt only comes from God (the Holy Spirit?). It's also peculiar to note how great things can be accomplished when one is free of guilt. There are a limitless number of ways Mandar would feel, cope, and go on with his life after this tragedy -- with or without God.

Personally, I find solace in believing that there is no God directing the course of events. I can be sad over a tragedy without adding the confusion and anger that accompanies the belief that such events are part of a great design and are somehow for the greater good.

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi,

Usually I find religion fascinating and intriguing, quite often I find it to be amusing but now and again it chills me to my very bone.

I found this comment quite disturbing;

"So, my first question is: who gets to define "suffered horribly"?"

This is ridiculous on he face of it and when you examine it in more detail it is also ridiculous in its implications.

Do you really not know?

Anyway some answers to my previous questions would be good - you know the medicine stuff etc.

Or perhaps you could just ask;

"who gets to define health care?"

. . . and so avoid the whole question . . .

Seriously, if your only response to the suffering of innocent children (and don't claim they deserve it because someone ate an apple given them by a talking snake years before) is to claim that we can't define or agree on what suffering is then I am very seriously afraid of you.

Psi

VBM said...

Psiloiodinary:

The parent analogy holds up perfectly without claiming omnipotence or perfect goodness. The point is that from the perspective of a three year old, ANY worthy parent COULD and WOULD prevent those shots. But, we as adults, know that the parents are worthy even though that CAN and DON'T prevent the shots.

Again, it is not a matter of a given horrific event being "allowed" by God which is the defining issue here, as you would like, in your sophist manner, to make it. God does not say "this horrible event will make things better for humanity, so I will make it, or allow it, to happen".

I will explain my point again, which I don't mind you disagreeing with, but so far, you don't seem to have grasped it. The point is that there must be bad for there to be any real good. There must be some degree of suffering for there to be any real joy, for all of the reasons I have described. I would assume you would agree with this point at least.

Now, if we agree that some degree of negative experience is essential for the true human condition, then it is a matter of degree.

What I posit is that God simply created a world in which humans can experience both good and evil, and can create both good and evil. If God fixed 99.9% of the evil that can and would happen in an entirely uncontrolled world, then we would still look at that tiny fraction of the evil that is left and you would make the EXACT same argument about the horrific things that are remaining, having no clue what God has done to relieve that suffering.

And, how are we to know God has not done just that?

The bottom line is that there can be no human virtue, no true humanity, without the existence of evil and suffering as a true possibility and actual reality in our world.

Isaac Gouy said...

VBM > The point is that there must be bad for there to be any real good. There must be some degree of suffering for there to be any real joy, for all of the reasons I have described. I would assume you would agree with this point at least.

"bad" and "real good" are moral judgments.

"suffering" and "real joy" are not moral judgments they are experiential states - people who have not suffered seem to have no difficulty experiencing very real joy.

VBM said...

Isaac, first of all, everyone has suffered to some extent. We have all shared in a range of emotions from joy to sorrow, even if some have had much more severely painful experiences. My point is that what makes joy, by definition, is the ability for their to be the absence of joy.

And, if you are not experiencing joy, peace and contentment 24 hours a day, then you are experiencing something OTHER than that, which (again by definition) is a flavor of "evil", all being a matter of degree. If you have stubbed your toe, or experienced frustration, you have experienced a very mild form of "evil".

It is all a matter of a spectrum from "not joy" all the way to horrendous pain and suffering. And to claim that there should be no evil in a world controlled by a loving God is to claim that all we should ever experience is pure, unadulterated peace, happiness and joy. And this would mean a completely "un-human" existence. My gosh, they make horror movies precisely about the idea of such a utopian world being imposed on us, turning humans into mere automatons.

Anonymous said...

psi,

Of course it's a ridiculous question! If you ask 100 people of varying lifestyles and cultures you'll get 100 different answers.

As for innocence in children, well...
Don't get me wrong I love kids; had a bunch of them. But, innocence? Have you ever seen anything more self-centered than a baby? Put two toddlers in a room full of toy blocks, and very soon out right theft will be taking place. Sorry, there are no innocents, and we are a doomed race because of it. You can become bitter about it, or you can accept the offered intervention. One thing you can't do is change it.

Does life hurt? Yes. Go ahead and scream and yell and rant, but once you've come to your senses take God's hand, man. Tell Him you trust Him to handle the details. I'll tell ya, there's no place like home.

Tom,

It was a joke/commentary about the role of guilt in Christianity.

Anonymous said...

Hey Cliff.

I don't actually consider this to be a reasonable objection to theism, but your mileage may vary.

For me, the PoE is no longer really a problem. For a number of reasons, too many to get into in the comments section of your fine blog. VBM and the other anonymous have touched on some great 'problems' with this problem (the problem of defining 'evil' to begin with, the problem of judging a God who is typically perceived of as omnipotent and omniscient, which places Him in the unique position of being able to deliver an ultimate justice and mercy to any 'evil', etc). I'll offer something different.

Here's a central issue for me: A God who allowed no evil, no imperfection, no pain, nothing less than pure and utter bliss ever... would be a God who would never permit the existence of anyone I love, or even myself. He would be the Divine Eugenicist, creating nothing but ubermensches. I would not make the cut. None of us would.

No matter if you are a materialist, an idealist, a dualist or otherwise, a person's experiences are an essential part of their being. To permit only a world with no pain not only means that any person causing pain is deemed unworthy of life from the perspective of God, but any person who has endured pain is /just as unworthy/. Again, ubermensches, now and forever.

Contrast this with the God Christianity (and to be fair, some other faiths) speaks of. A God who allows the imperfect, the evil, the - quite frankly - wretched and fallen, to improve. To be saved. A man who once caused misery and pain and evil can become saved. A man who once /experienced/ misery and pain and evil can become saved. They have a chance - maybe a great chance, even a destiny, depending on your theological perspective.

Keep in mind the choices here. When it's demanded 'Why kind of benevolent God would create a world where people suffer?', realize what's actually being pleaded here. The theist is able to respond, 'Because even their lives are ultimately worthwhile' and remain utterly consistent with their belief. Meanwhile, the objection leads the atheist to a conclusion that often goes unspoken - 'No benevolent God would allow suffering people to come into existence.' Please take note at the sleight of hand that often goes on here: There is no way to have 'the same person' exist if you remove suffering from their past. Not without equivocating on what makes them 'the same person', to the point where Prince may as well be 'the same person' as Frank Sinatra.

So no, the Problem of Evil gets nowhere with me. God is in the unique position of being able to justify permitting pain and suffering, based on His capabilities, justice, and mercy.

On the flipside: If any atheist truly believes that the world is filled with too much 'evil' to justify, that no omnibenevolent God would ever allow life in a world like our own... then said atheist has the duty to never reproduce. Because if they mean what they say, bringing a new person in to this world becomes an act of pure malice. Bringing about a person whom you know is destined for suffering, injustice, and death (and most likely causing the first two to some degree, possibly the third) while you are in no position to certainly protect against those things (You're not God, after all) and believe there is no hope for these things to be overcome?

Hard to get much more wicked than that.

-- Nullasalus

Cliff Martin said...

Nullasalus,

Thank you for your comments. Excellent. I do hope my skeptic friends respond. But before they do, I want to jump in with a couple of my own.

While I appreciate your perspective (perhaps more than that of any other theist I've read on the PoE), I find it difficult to dismiss the problem as readily as you do. And while I appreciate the thoughtful perspective of VBM (which closely mirrors that of many thoughtful theists I've read) I am unable to imagine that all the suffering we observe is planned and/or permit purposefully for some "higher good". I understand the argument, and it is not without merit, but my objections to it are pretty much the same as Psi's.

So I do take a completely different tack. And I hope you will stick around (or check back here) as I develop that tack over the next post or two. I would be honored to read any comments you may have, and the same goes for VBM. And of course, I will welcome the comments of Psi, Tom, and Isaac.

If you've read my Theodicy series from a year ago, you have a rough outline of my ideas. If you have not, I promise an approach to the PoE that is unlike any you've read before (at least, I have not encountered it anywhere else). So stick around.

Psiloiordinary said...

VBM,

The topic of this discussion is based around the claims that your god is all powerfull, all knowing and all loving - an analogy which does not include these is completely irrelevant by definition.

Sophistry?

Look around you man - the world is soaked in suffering. It's all over the place and has been for billions of years.

Making claims that god could have got rid of 99.5% of it seems ridiculous on the face of it.

How are earthquakes and tsunamis necessary for good to be in the world?

You keep claiming this as your bottom line - but we have yet to hear a single coherent reason why.

Be specific - why are earthquakes and tsunamis necessary for there to be good in the world?

The topic of this thread is entirely about what you claim your gods powers to be.

If he is capable of getting rid of earthquakes then why doesn't he? Either he is evil or there is a reason why this is necessary for human good - what is it?

If you don't know then please just say so.

If you think he hasn't got the power to stop them then why call him god?

You still haven't addressed any of the other specific points I brought up.

Please at least make an attempt to address them specifically.

Psi the sophist.

VBM said...

Psi, your post does not address, in any substantive way, the points I have been raising. You are falling victim to the fallacy of argument by incredulity.

Of course we don't know exactly why God chooses to do what He does and does not do in any given circumstance. What I have laid out, and you have not substantively shown to be impossible, is a means by which the theodicy issue could be solved.

Remember, the point of this post was to use the theodicy argument to ESTABLISH, as a matter of inexorable logic, that God was either not all powerful, not all good, or non-existent. I have provided a viable explanation how this syllogism could be false. And, that is all that is needed. Theodicy, in and of itself, can not prove God is either false, impotent or unloving.

Now, the fact that you don't find the argument satisfying is besides the point. I am not trying to convince you that, as a conclusion, that God DOES exist, or that God IS omnipotent, or that He IS loving. I am only showing that your theodicy claims don't conclusively prove otherwise. There is a possible explanation, so your conclusion is only an argument with greater or lesser degrees of persuasiveness.

Keep in mind, that if we are the equivalent of that three year old, then we can not possibly understand God's bigger picture, and our own human logic will not be able to comprehend otherwise. It is this relative ignorance and inability to grasp the things of God that are *part of* (and a core part of) the argument. So, to ask for explanations of specific events makes no sense within the framework of my argument. If what I am saying is true, then there is no way we could possibly know the "why".

But, I will say one bit over again since you don't seem to be grasping it. I am not saying that earthquakes and tsunamis, in and of themselves, have a direct and specific "good" purpose. In fact, I think they usually only have bad results. BUT, and this is the part you do not seem to be getting, they are part of a world in which bad things MUST happen. If not that bad thing, then some other bad thing.

Evil MUST exist in some form or another, or we are not human. If God took away the earthquakes and tsunamis, you would simply point to disease and famine. If God took away all those major catastrophes, you would point to sorrow and loss upon death. If God took that away, you would point to physical pain or emotional stresses and traumas. Etc.

If we accept that, to be human, evil must exist (a point which avoid either rejecting or accepting, I notice), then it gets a bit silly to start categorizing the types or levels of evil that God should and should not allow.

Isaac Gouy said...

VBM > My point is that what makes joy, by definition, is the ability for their to be the absence of joy.

I'm happy to accept the fact that you define joy in that way, and simply say that your definition is not a sensible description of my experience.

Bliss is not relational - it isn't joy about something, it is the experience of pure unadulterated singular joy.

I last experienced bliss in the summer while walking a few miles in the local countryside (not high altitude, not drugs, not the oneness of "runners high") - pure joy unrelated to will.

That experiential state was not about anything else, it wasn't about prior absence of bliss - it simply was bliss.

Perpetual bliss would indeed require a loving God to care for us :-)


VBM > Evil MUST exist in some form or another, or we are not human.

Which is to say, a world without evil would be radically different.

Duke of Earl said...

Can the existence of a moral righteous God be reconciled with a world in which death and suffering occur.

In other words could there be a reason for allowing something distasteful.

In this world there are two sources of evil. Human moral choices, moral evil, and natural processes bringing about destruction to people, natural evil.

Moral evil needs no explanation. If we accept the Christian position that human beings have sufficient free will to make right and wrong choices (and a predisposition to make the latter kind) then moral evil becomes not only possible, but inevitable.

If Christians claimed that this was a perfect world then natural evil would be a problem, but we don't. Indeed the Christian claim is that this is a cursed world, made so because of our moral rebellion against our creator. In other words this world is under judgment.

If people don't want to accept the Biblical basis for this judgment, our first father rebelling against the only command he received, then look around the world we live in and ask themselves if perhaps the world deserves judgment.

As for the innocent suffering alongside the guilty, well first who is innocent? Secondly, under the collective world view seen in the Bible, and the majority of cultures around the world, the leader represents the people and the people are responsible for the crimes of the leader. Christians killed in the fire-bombing of Germany were not themselves responsible for the concentration camps, but they were still part of that group.

The problem of evil is popular with a certain class of people because it's an appeal to emotions and people prefer emotions to rational thought. However if we accept the atheistic position we just have to accept that biological units die, there is no rhyme or reason, they appear, they disappear. Life and death is just one of those things and there's no point in getting upset about it. You could say that the atheistic appeal to the "problem of evil" is itself an argument against the validity of atheism.

Psiloiordinary said...

I find your patronising tone exasperating.

Seeing as you don't seem to be grasping my point or indeed the very quote at the top of this versimilitudinously challenged thread then please let me revisit it in a slightly more patronizing way, all the better to help you grasp it ;-)

Put your presuppositions to one side and get your head around the fact that I don't think your god exists.

Next try to answer the actual question of why there are earthquakes and tsunamis if your god does exist with these three attributes.

Now don't tell me that I can't ask for an answer because of the situation was different then I could ask you another question.

Stop claiming that kids being crushed to death or dying of thirst or starvation is a question of relativism and so can't be categorically claimed to be a bad thing and try to answer the question.

While you are about it please stop repeating the empty claim that we could not be human with such earthquakes or tsunamis and tell I'd why ape ifivally this is so.

Looking toward to an honest answer,

Psi

Psiloiordinary said...

Oops

Stop repeating the claim that we could not be human without such earthquakes or tsunamis . . .

VBM said...

OK, all three questions:

First, why do earthquakes exist when God is all-powerful and loving? Because He wanted to create humans who can experience the full range of emotions that make us human, and so created a world that allows for that. This means a world in which evil exists. One form of that evil is earthquakes and tsunamis. Why that evil and not some others, I have no idea whatsoever.

Second, I am not saying that such evils are not evils. I am not using any relativism to say that bad is good. Bad is bad. Children dying is very bad. What I am saying is that bad MUST exist or we are not human. Why God chooses one type of bad to exist over another, I have no idea whatsoever.

Third, I am not saying that we would not be human without earthquakes and tsunamis in particular, God could wave those away if He liked and we would still be human. What I am saying is that evil must exist in some form for us to be human in any real sense, for all the reasons explained above, which you have not refuted in the least.

Keep in mind, I am not in the least trying to convince you that God exists. You are trying to convince me that the theodicy problem establishes that God does not exist, is not omnipotent or is not good. I think my arguments show that you can not bear that burden of proof.

Tom said...

Orgasms.

Now that's a blissful state! Do I need to make my life awful to appreciate that joy?

Like Isaac says, "suffering" and "real joy" are not moral judgments they are experiential states - people who have not suffered seem to have no difficulty experiencing very real joy.

So why would not God give perpetual joy?

Other animals experience pain, death, death of children and loved ones, a good meal, yearning, and orgasms. The argument that this dynamical life is a gift falls short in the light of other biological systems.

What makes us somewhat uniquely human is our ability to empathize with other humans and other animals, as well as our ability to communicate.

Is it evil to have tsunamis wipe out the trees of an island? What about it's ability to wipe out the termites living in those trees?

The definition of evil is directly associated with the definition of God. A tsunami that kills children is conceivably evil when the God is defined as one who created life, loves life, and knows pain while also being the master of the natural universe.

If I throw my hands up in the air and say that it's beyond my feeble human capacities to understand, then my definition of God as "love" would also have to be changed, for if I do not understand the God of malice or his interaction with malice, then I cannot contrast this, truly, with love.

So back to what is humanly unique. If we have the capacity to share our joys and sufferings, and appropriate sharing is "good" and inappropriate sharing is "evil", then nature's bad stuff is not really "evil" except that positive and negative things befall us and it is our response to those things that determine if it was good or evil. It might be evil to win a billion dollars, for example.

Now, if you want to define good and evil in these terms, however, you have to ask yourself how and why God (who is defined as omnipotent, omniscient, love, and "I am") would test humans (or simply give these creatures their humanly experience) in this way. The fallback to faith that it's beyond our human faculties that VBM uses (Why God chooses one type of bad to exist over another, I have no idea whatsoever.) is not a foundation I'd want to build an ideology on.

Anonymous said...

Heya Cliff,

Thanks for the compliment and the invite - I'll have to dig through your archives to see how you handle these things.

I should qualify - I'm not saying that anyone who raises the PoE objection is foolish. Only that, based on my understanding, the PoE is no longer works as an objection to a benevolent God. Not logically, not evidentially. And I think the argument as commonly formulated tends to sneak in a number of unwarranted assumptions and false perspectives.

Either way, now I'm going to dig through your archives and look forward to your coming posts on this subject.

-- Nullasalus

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi,

Nice assertion. Like to back it up with a clear and simple argument?

Regards,

Psi

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi,

A slight contradiction in your own thoughts here;

"On the flipside: If any atheist truly believes that the world is filled with too much 'evil' to justify, that no omnibenevolent God would ever allow life in a world like our own... then said atheist has the duty to never reproduce. Because if they mean what they say, bringing a new person in to this world becomes an act of pure malice. Bringing about a person whom you know is destined for suffering, injustice, and death (and most likely causing the first two to some degree, possibly the third) while you are in no position to certainly protect against those things (You're not God, after all) and believe there is no hope for these things to be overcome?

Hard to get much more wicked than that."

I am certainly not god - why do you assert that I think that there is "no hope for these things to be overcome."

The very fact that I think they are part of the natural world and can and should be overcome - like disease and other causes of pain and suffering - springs from the fact that I don't see any evidence that there is an all powerful god out there.

Or have I recently changed my mind and not noticed.

So don't accuse me of doing something wicked which you have invented out of thin air.

Charming!

Regards,

Psi

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi VBM,

You now finally admit this;

"Why that evil and not some others, I have no idea whatsoever."

Well I am pointing out that one possible reason is that either your god doesn't exist and such events are a result of a natural world or your definition of god is wrong.

Now that you admit you don't have an alternative explanation then can you tell me why either of mine should be dismissed?

I am saying that one of the reasons why your counter claim of holy mystery should be dismissed is because this answers any question about anything ever - and so ceases to be a satisfactory answer to anything.

- - -

You went on to say this;

"Second, I am not saying that such evils are not evils. I am not using any relativism to say that bad is good."

But earlier you said this;

"I believe we have as much an idea of what, ultimately, will work for good than a three year old. "

Re your third point - since when I have I claimed that the existence of any amount of "evil" disproves god?

I haven't. I have kept you to very specific examples of gross suffering - you have finally admitted you have no idea why your god would allow them.

I agree with you - I can't think of a reason either.

I have explained why I find your un-satisfying.

You have presuppositions that your god exists - and so you use the old logic of the gaps to keep his existence a possibility despite this evidence which you now admit you can't reconcile with your definition of your god. It must be part of a mysterious plan you say.

This kind of response, as well as being deeply un-satisfying for the reasons given above is also generally known as ad hoc rationalisation.

Of course if you have other evidence for why your god exists in the first place then you can start to build a case. Do you?

- - -

In the end you state my case for me;

"Third, I am not saying that we would not be human without earthquakes and tsunamis in particular, God could wave those away if He liked and we would still be human."

Yes I agree - and so in my mind this makes the existence of your all loving all powerful and all knowing god less likely.

- - -

Its rather amusing/exasperating that you keep asserting that we can't be human without evil when you think that this is exactly what we are all headed for - excuse me - those who know the correct ritual and dogma are heading for.

On this front you also keep beating this drum;

"What I am saying is that evil must exist in some form for us to be human in any real sense, for all the reasons explained above, which you have not refuted in the least. "

I don't need to refute any such thing - my only claim is that we appear to be in a natural world - good and evil do exist and so do we. I am not claiming that anyone had to create something in a certain way - you are.

It's interesting that you need to keep inventing arguments like this that I "need to refute" even when you now agree with me that we have no idea why a good and powerful god would allow such egregious suffering (in the specific examples I have pointed out) that he could wipe away effortlessly.

Other than to say that "There might be such a reason but lets just call it a holy mystery shall we?".

That god makes no effort to explain this to us, even as a parent does to a child enduring the mild discomfort of an injection, speaks further to his absence.

You have yet to address my points about healthcare BTW.

Regards,

Psi

Anonymous said...

psi et al

If there were no evil:

1. No one could die; dying's pretty evil. But, wait, no death means overpopulation; that's an evil too.

2. No one could think what they wanted to; bad thoughts are evil. Then again, taking away our free will would be evil too.

3. The physical universe couldn't exist because gravity is the ultimate force behind many of the natural disasters listed. No gravity, no universe.

Stop being silly.

It's like telling someone God can't exist because He can't turn red into blue, or show you a three sided square. It's all word games.

Thank you. I win.

Psiloiordinary said...

Thank you,

Perhaps you could address the actual thread?

Thanks again

Psi the silly

Psiloiordinary said...

Seeing as this recent episode of disappearing up ones own logical trouser leg seems to be catching. Let's just clarify.

Saying my claim that god can't be all powerful all good and all loving because if he solved the problem of evil (which he obviously could with a flick of his fingers - duh) because he could not solve the problem of x y z (add insult to silly atheist of your own choosing) simply means that you now have the problem of x y z which seems to be beyond his limitless powers hence making him rather less than all powerful.

Waits for rather large penny to drop.

I am doing my best to give you guts a chance and have focussed on just a couple of aspects of the topic; natural disasters and the issue of healthcare interfering with gods plans.

One contributor has been honest enough to admit they have no clue why an all powerful god would allow natural disasters, I await any response to the second issue.

Thanks,

Psi

Psiloiordinary said...

I am not asking for dictionary mangling such red being blue, but of course god could create infinite land area to solve the population problem and could of course create us so that we have free will and don't freely will to have evil thoughts, making tsunamis and earthquakes fizzle out would be a piece of cake.

Perhaps you feel that he must be mysteriously bound to make it appear that world runs based on "natural" rules and he can't appear - does this mean that god is trying to fool you into thinking that I am right and he doesn't exist afterall;-)

Then again the simpler explanation is that he doesn't.

Btw dictionary type word play reminds me of three being one - pot and kettle anyone?

Regards

Psi

Excuse the odd typo - iPod touch

Anonymous said...

psi,

Just what does all powerful mean to you? If it means that God should be able to make a universe that can't be made then I concede. When does it get to the point of ridiculousness? Because God can't make a stone He can't lift He's not omnipotent. Again, I claim silliness.

My logic is flawless, and you need to say uncle (to God, of course.)

Anonymous said...

Then again, if you do mean that omnipotence is the ability to do anything then God should be able to make evil into good. Precisely what He claims He's doing.

Anonymous said...

Heya Psi,

"I am certainly not god - why do you assert that I think that there is "no hope for these things to be overcome.""

So, you think death will be overcome - we're all going to have eternal life, and the dead raised?

You think suffering/injustice will ultimately come to an end? Mind you, not 'a particular suffering/injustice will end' but 'these things will end for all time'? Especially in the lifetime of your child, if you don't believe in the ultimate overcoming of death?

"The very fact that I think they are part of the natural world and can and should be overcome - like disease and other causes of pain and suffering - springs from the fact that I don't see any evidence that there is an all powerful god out there."

If you believe death, injustice, and suffering can and will be ultimately and permanently overcome, then you may as well say you believe that all of the promises of Christianity are true, but that there is no God nevertheless.

Take that tact if you like.

"Or have I recently changed my mind and not noticed.

So don't accuse me of doing something wicked which you have invented out of thin air.

Charming!"

Yes, I'm very charming - thank you for noticing.

My claim stands. Your response is that you believe these things will be overcome - I'm asking for clarification. If you merely believe that things may get marginally better and that average life expectancy may increase, you would still be willfully bringing a child into what you know is a world filled with pain, suffering, and death. Arguing that you're somewhat optimistic about the near future and therefore it's okay to expose a child to the world you'd condemn a God for making would be akin to a fire-and-brimstone old-school Calvinist defending his doctrine of hell on the grounds that the fires are several degrees cooler than many claim.

-- Nullasalus

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Folks,

Well we have another problem with the claims about god now;

"Just what does all powerful mean to you? If it means that God should be able to make a universe that can't be made then I concede. "

Well it seems to me that we now have the "problem of all powerfulness"

I don't think god exists. So I'm not going to tell you what you think this means.

You tell me how you know where you draw the line.

But hang on we are back to truing to argue about word definitions. Why not stick to specific examples. Natural disasters and illness will do for me.

Null,

"So, you think death will be overcome - we're all going to have eternal life, and the dead raised?"

See above and stop putting more words in my mouth.

As it happens then, I do think ageing could be overcome. But anyway stick to the two specific challenges why don't you?

I think that we can design tsunami early warning systems and rescue kits to prevent much of the suffering caused by them and earthquakes. I think we can design better earthquake proofing.

On you wider points, I think that evil/suffering simply exists as natural facets of a natural world. I am determined to make the best of it and to leave the world a better place than I found it.

Naturally evolved innate altruism and morals give me this view.

Yes I believe that people are capable of improving and gradually improving things out of the hell of natural selection and ignorance that we find ourselves in.

"If you believe death, injustice, and suffering can and will be ultimately and permanently overcome, then you may as well say you believe that all of the promises of Christianity are true, but that there is no God nevertheless."

Well the difference with my claims are that I actually have hard evidence to support them - read a bit of history of science.

"If you merely believe that things may get marginally better and that average life expectancy may increase, you would still be willfully bringing a child into what you know is a world filled with pain, suffering, and death. Arguing that you're somewhat optimistic about the near future and therefore it's okay to expose a child to the world you'd condemn a God for making would be akin to a fire-and-brimstone old-school Calvinist defending his doctrine of hell on the grounds that the fires are several degrees cooler than many claim."

I give to charity, I work to improve the world around me and get my children off to the best start in life that I can.

I am active politically and socially and try to improve the world as best I can in accordance with science and ratinional thought and within a representative democracy. I base my opinions on evidnce and not dogma and I am open to change my mind about things.

I thought long and hard before bringing a child into the world.

Anyway - why don't you address the actual points I have made.

Regards,

Psi

PS Null,

I see you make another claim with no supporting evidence re how charming you are - feel free to offer evidence of this - anecdotes don't count.

Anonymous said...

Psi,

"See above and stop putting more words in my mouth."

Kindly spare me the forced indignation. Or don't. I really do not care.

I spelled out why atheists, if they make certain claims about the world (and certainly about the absent 'benevolence' of any God who introduces agents to a world such as ours), have something to answer for when they themselves introduce agents to the same perceived world. You responded that all those things could be overcome - I asked for clarification. Still waiting for that.

I don't need to put words in your mouth. The ones you're spitting out are problematic enough.

"As it happens then, I do think ageing could be overcome. But anyway stick to the two specific challenges why don't you?"

First - ageing? Ageing is related to death, but it's only one of many different ways to it. I'm sure you don't need me to point out the many, many alternative pathways to death.

Second, 'challenges'? You haven't challenged me at all. You're responding to my own claims.

"On you wider points, I think that evil/suffering simply exists as natural facets of a natural world. I am determined to make the best of it and to leave the world a better place than I found it.

Naturally evolved innate altruism and morals give me this view."

The particular failings of justified morality in an atheist worldview are another discussion. So too are your declarations to personally 'leave the world a better place than you found it'. My claim hinges on bringing children into a world you think no benevolent creator could ever be responsible for, one filled with widespread suffering, injustice, and death - and lacking any hope for the ultimate deliverance from all three. I sense some serious inconsistency, maybe even outright contradiction, on your part. Somehow God introducing agents to such a world is anything but benevolence - but when atheists do it, it's another story.

"Well the difference with my claims are that I actually have hard evidence to support them - read a bit of history of science."

Insofar as technology has been developed and used for alleviating pain, suffering, and death, there is no difference. That data supports the theistic case just as easily.

Well, actually there is a difference. As a theist, my fundamental beliefs give me reason to be optimistic come hell or high-water. So I can view scientific and technological advances as a very small taste of what is to come. As an atheist, the same 'science' you praise for providing beneficial advancements has also been helping develop ever more powerful, cheap, and devastating weapons, diseases, and more. 'Science', if it can be considered to be the source of help, may damn well kill us by the same token.

"I thought long and hard before bringing a child into the world."

Then why are you providing such poorly considered and frankly evasive answers to my questions? Do you think 'I donate to charity and I'm active politically!' answers what I've asked? Do you think those claims are even related to what I've said?

If you think I'm going to drop my claims just because you've decided to make the discussion very personal, think again. But I will note that I never went gunning for anyone's personal details here - I made a very calm, reasonable claim about atheists as a general case holding one opinion about the world yet acting in a way that seems to conflict with that opinion.

"I see you make another claim with no supporting evidence re how charming you are - feel free to offer evidence of this - anecdotes don't count."

Lighten up, Francis.

-- Nullasalus

David McMaster said...

From the biblical record it seems obvious that God is willing to directly and indirectly cause mass suffering and death. With all due respect, doesn't it follow that the problem of evil being discussed here has little or no meaning?

How could anyone possibly hope to defend God's actions. Either you accept God's deeds as necessary or you don't. If you don't then you'll either say he doesn't exist, or you'll hold Him in utter contempt.

Wouldn't it be true that if God exists, then by definition any action He takes would be necessary?

By the way, I really would like to know the answers to these questions.

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Null,

You are really not being very polite. (Hint - I am being very polite in putting it this way)

I guess you knew that already?

Are you always like this or are atheists just not worthy of the respect you would give believers? Is it my like of faith that means you really don't care what I think?

Please answer - I am genuinely curious.

BTW I don't spit and think it is a disgusting habit as it happens.

I will address the actual content of your post in a while, despite your attitude.

Psi

Psiloiordinary said...

Here we go then Null,

"I spelled out why atheists, if they make certain claims about the world (and certainly about the absent 'benevolence' of any God who introduces agents to a world such as ours), have something to answer for when they themselves introduce agents to the same perceived world. You responded that all those things could be overcome - I asked for clarification. Still waiting for that."

I never made such claims, perhaps you can give us evidence that atheists do make such claims?

"Second, 'challenges'? You haven't challenged me at all. You're responding to my own claims."

I see. I was under the mistaken view that you were in the position of actually having read this thread.

Here you go then;

1 - Why does an all powerful, all loving and all knowing god allow earthquakes and tsunamis?

2 - We had comments about god's plan and how suffering might be for a greater good - I asked then why medicine and healthcare would not be viewed as thwarting gods plans for the greater good.

I await your answer with interest.

- - -

Yes I think that my kids can have a good life - that is why I decided I could indulge myself and have them. Do you really not get that from my previous comments?

Why on earth you think I need to believe we can become immortal and live a life with no pain before I can decide to have kids is utterly beyond me,

Unless, of course, you are making the incredibly facile mistake of thinking that I am the one claiming to be all powerful all knowing and all good.

I'm not - you are - about your god.

So the remaining questions are
1 - Why does he allow natural disasters?
2 - If natural diseases are part of a plan for greater good why isn't modern medicine viewed as being against god?

"Somehow God introducing agents to such a world is anything but benevolence - but when atheists do it, it's another story."

Are you seriously saying you see no difference between the powers of human beings (yes even that includes atheists) and the claims you make about your god?

After all it is the three specific claims made about god which are the very topic of this thread.

You are the one saying that by being atheist and then by having my children that I am committing an act of "pure malice", and then you accuse me of getting personal.

You seem to be mistaking atheist for nihilist.

The two questions remain unanswered.

Psi

Anonymous said...

Psi,

I sense I've offended Cliff here, so this will be my last response on these topics. His site, his rules.

"You are really not being very polite. (Hint - I am being very polite in putting it this way)"

No, I don't think you've been polite. In fact I'd call your behavior alternately smug and frantic, and not just where I'm concerned.

"Are you always like this or are atheists just not worthy of the respect you would give believers? Is it my like of faith that means you really don't care what I think?"

You receive special treatment, psi, because of how I see you acting and responding. And I think even with that in mind, my responses have been tremendously tame.

"I never made such claims, perhaps you can give us evidence that atheists do make such claims?"

These claims are built into the problem of evil when cited by atheists for a reason to not believe in God, psi. If it's argued that the world is in so horrid a state that no 'benevolent' God could possibly be the creator of it, then the difficulties I cite follow. If you're not claiming that the world's state amounts to a reason to believe in a benevolent God, then the argument does not apply - but then you're giving up the PoE as an objection to God.

"1 - Why does an all powerful, all loving and all knowing god allow earthquakes and tsunamis?

2 - We had comments about god's plan and how suffering might be for a greater good - I asked then why medicine and healthcare would not be viewed as thwarting gods plans for the greater good."

I already answered 1 in the body of my first post in this thread.

As for 2, the objection doesn't work under the rationale I've offered, particularly within the context of Christianity. Christians are told to be charitable, to minister to the sick, to love, etc. If God intends for those commands to be countermanded, he's certainly keeping quiet about it - and if God intends to allow the death of someone a Christian intends to minister to, I doubt said Christian needs to worry. God will get what He wants, 'interference' or no.

"Are you seriously saying you see no difference between the powers of human beings (yes even that includes atheists) and the claims you make about your god?"

The difference in power is precisely why the atheist who does believe those things about the world has no justification for bringing children into the world, psi. If they had the power to dispel that suffering, injustice and death - even just for their child alone - they might be justified. They do not. So if they really believe the world is in such a state, bringing a child into it is an act of selfishness. Of cruelty.

"You are the one saying that by being atheist and then by having my children that I am committing an act of "pure malice", and then you accuse me of getting personal.

You seem to be mistaking atheist for nihilist."

Psi, read what I said again. Meditate on it. It's conditional on what the atheist believes about the world. One more time: If the state of the world is so horrid, so full of pain and suffering, so full of injustice and death, that God cannot be considered benevolent for letting people live in it - even a God with the power and promise to ultimately make all right, and eradicate evil - then what justification can an atheist possibly have for willfully, knowingly adding a new person to that same world? Can the act be called benevolent? Can the person committing it?

Note that their lack of power compared to God is of no excuse if they hold these beliefs. If anything, it furthers condemns them - they're introducing that person to a world they think no benevolent creator could ever be excused for making (and possibly could never be excused for -no matter what they did in the future-), utterly lacking the power to right these wrongs themselves, while being entirely capable of not adding that additional person. In essence they're saying, 'This world is so horrible that no benevolent God would ever be responsible for it. But hey, let's add one more body to the pile.'

As for taking it personally - I didn't single you, or anyone else out. I spoke generally and conditionally, about atheists who certainly believe one thing and certainly do another. You jumped to that all-too-common righteous indignation, as if I was declaring what you personally believe, and what you're personally guilty of. I'm not a mindreader, nor do I know you or even if you do have children. What's more, I do not care. If you cannot have discussions about the moral repercussions regarding acts you may commit and beliefs you hold without becoming very personally offended, there are better hobbies than internet arguments.

-- Nullasalus

Psiloiordinary said...

In light of Cliff's recent post I will simply note two things;

You insist upon making vile accusations against people simply because they do not share your faith.

You continue to ignore the questions that I have raised regarding the theme of this thread.

Good day to you

Psi

Pete said...

I only read half the comments, forgive me if I repeat something said earlier.

As a Christian, I must admit I find the problem of evil very troubling. We always make a big deal about not just saying you love someone, or would do something, but actually doing it. If a child was sick with a curable disease, and there was a doctor present, and he had the needed pill in his pocket, but instead decided to watch the child suffer great pain and then die, no one on earth would not claim this man was evil. And yet, in a very real sense, that is exactly what God does, he can cure ANY disease yet doesn't. WWJD? When you see a starving man on the side of the road, and you have some food, what should you do, what would Jesus do? Nothing. Jesus would do nothing. How do we know this? Because He IS doing nothing, right at that very moment. Isn't Jesus present, doesn't he have the ability to make food from stones (or out of nothing) and yet presumably He just watches.

We have two quick answers for this. For the dying child, well, most people we care about and strongly intercede for our close family or friends, making it highly likely they are also in our religious community. Ergo, when they do die we claim that God truly healed them now, in heaven. This is a very peaceful answer.

As for the starving man, well didn't I just say that I saw him from afar. Well Jesus does want to help the man, THROUGH ME, using me as His body on earth. It wasn't Jesus fault, it was mine, because instead of rounding up some food I was contemplating philosophy and the problem of evil.

The first answer has two problems. For one, I wonder if the "evil" doctor gave the same answer if that would be acceptable to us (or to the parents). "Hey, I could sort of heal him now, or I could let God heal him completly in heaven, I choose the latter". Not sure that will fly. But even worse, and more troubling, is that hardly anyone goes to heaven after suffering. They go to much much worse suffering. Pretty much everyone. In times past, all of Eygpt, India, China, Europe, Australia. Every person of every family of countless generations in the New World until the last 500 or so years when missionaries arrived with their Bibles (and guns). Everyone. It is very easy to forget this in our Christianized modern nation (and in the Bible belt to boot) but I reckon that the vast majority of people who ever lived will never have heard the words Jesus, Yahweh, etc.

My pastor was once discussing the holocaust. He said many find it unbelievable that God could just watch while this was taking place (normal PoE statement). He then asserted that it called out for Thesim so that justice could finally be served. It wasn't enough for Hitler and his goons simply to die, then need to be judged by God himself. I suppose it is comforting to think of it in those terms, for Hitler. But in other ways it just makes the holocaust worst. And why, because now not only did those 6 million Jews get rounded up, tortured, and exterminated, but now they will all be thrown into hell for eternity. What? Did we think these Jews were all Messianic Jews...were any of them? I don't see how that makes the holocaust more comforting.

The second answer seems a bit ad hoc, and irreverent anyway. The vast majority of people who are starving and/or in distress will never been seen by living Christ-followers.

I guess the back and forth got a bit heated. I don't mean to contribute to that. Nor do I mean to convince the theists there is not God (I certainly am not convinced of that myself), I am just putting out there my own struggles. I have begun to change my thinking on suffering, prayer, and faith. For everything I just said might be valid and yet still the God as described in the Bible exists and is reigning. Might just be a mystery. Or maybe God feels no need to explain himself to me, fair enough. But I do want to live in reality. So if God does not answer prayer for healing, not statistically above and beyond non-believers, and never regrowing amputee arms, well them I am going to stop asking.

Cliff Martin said...

Pete,

I appreciate your honesty, and the vulnerability of your faith. I could have written your entire comment from my own heart. Our standard, traditional Christian theology paints us into corners that are very difficult to maneuver out of ... at least for believers like you and me. You close by saying that you are rethinking prayer, suffering, and faith. Good! My own strongly held conviction is that the evangelical church needs to engage in such difficult rethinking. In the posts I am currently writing, I will lay some groundwork for rethinking. I hope you check back. I will be interested in your comments.

Isaac Gouy said...

Nullasalus > If any atheist truly believes that the world is filled with too much 'evil' to justify, that no omnibenevolent God would ever allow life in a world like our own... then said atheist has the duty to never reproduce. Because if they mean what they say, bringing a new person in to this world becomes an act of pure malice.

Seems like that strong conclusion needs a stronger premise - If any atheist truly believes that the world is purely evil...

Anonymous said...

Like many enigmas there are no easy answers. It is not a case of finding the winner of a dual conflict, because you are all right and you are all wrong. ‘The Problem with Evil’ is in its own statement, with the definition of ‘problem’ and ‘evil’. These are culturally constructed dimension specific sound bites. We are stuck in a paradigmatic specific way of thinking. It’s like this: we base ‘morality’ on our capitalistic model of human behavior. Slow to react-slow to respond to ‘financial opportunities’ we (western thinkers) equate to a form of laziness.
And of course the ideation of evil depends on One’s perspective. For example, our capitalistic heroes are someone else’s villains. The heroes of the industrial revolution, (which by-the-way the ‘morality’ of the Victorian era was built on) the Du Ponts, the Carnegies, ...the fill-in-the-blanks, exploited, killed and maimed to build their empires (which built our railroads, which built our beloved American infrastructures). The latter-huge child slave labor villian, the former the biggest air, water, and earth toxic destroyer in human history. The Carnegie Foundation dollars, which are spent today, were made off the maimed bodies of children, women and immigrants from the industrial revolution. What of the air, water, earth (plants and animals) if they could talk of evil-what would they say?

The ‘Problem with Evil’-Theodicy, is a conundrum because we are human, we think in terms of clear winners and losers. It will always be problematic-like the second law of thermodynamics: it just is. When I say it just is, I mean cause and effect just is.Kinda of reminds me of circular reasoning-there is no way this one can be linear. Contextual yes-cause and effect always has contex because of the second law of thermodynamics.What is considered 'living' is space-time specific.
TDC

Dardani said...

God willing, here is the answer:

The question is tricky, but if ones considers the depth of it and answers with equal depth, such answer to Epicurus reveals a riddle inside the riddle.

God is manifest and hidden as revealed by Him in holy scripture. Intervention is only to the degree that does not violate free will in humans and its effect on nature.

Consider the two scenarios:

1. Manifest God:

Man lacks free will. In the Presence of God we have no say, nor could Epicurus ask such a question. Man does as is bound to do by the very logic that God is there and does not allow him to think, feel or act of his own will. This has an immediate affect on nature. When God controls man completely and openly, He controls his perception and controls what he perceives of nature (includes man himself): nature's laws are malleable before the Lawmaker. This is a reality where God's benevolence prevails, because man has no choice (free will).

2. Hidden God

Our reality. Means free will in humans. This freedom of will granted to humans by God, necessitates the reality where God remains hidden. This also means that nature's laws remain un-amended precisely to allow man his free will. Otherwise, if God's interference in nature's laws (that He created and sustains) becomes apparent, there is no reason why man should continue to exercise his free will. As is revealed in holy scripture, where God granted "miracles" (bending of nature's laws) to chosen Prophets after which humans had no choice but to believe. If this were constant than also man would lose his free will and with it the opportunity to have faith (faith is not possible without free will).

Therefore, evil comes from man's primordial desire to have free will, of which God granted him as revealed in holy scripture. Thus, man should be obedient to God to work his way (of his own free will) in the opposite direction from this desire. This means to submit or to surrender to God.

Thus the question of Epicurus is a violation of the free will that God granted him.

Keep in mind:

- God is Omnipotent, therefore He tells you how to worship him. Revelation is from God to man and not vice-versa, which is no different from the fact that our birth precedes our knowledge of it. This means everything we have, everything there is, is God's.

- Epicurus's question reveals him as a man who would only accept God, if he is subjected to him without free will. This is the opposite of faith which is possible through free will. Faith means, an intellectual being having feelings of love toward his Creator. Epicurus' hidden offer is, to accept God only when your mind does not allow you otherwise (when God is there and your mind cannot deny it). Why would a creature with intellect lose the opportunity of having love for his Creator?

- Faith like love is not a matter of calculations but of feelings. Therefore, don't argue about such matters and leave those who wish to argue.

God forgive us for the evil we utter due to our limited knowledge and due to our ignorance!

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Dardani,

I'm not sure where you have cut and pasted this from but it doesn't address the points I raised at all;

"1 - Why does an all powerful, all loving and all knowing god allow earthquakes and tsunamis?

2 - We had comments about god's plan and how suffering might be for a greater good - I asked then why medicine and healthcare would not be viewed as thwarting gods plans for the greater good."

Can I also be generous and assume that you are not referring to my ignorance or evil just because I don't agree with you? Down that road lies prejudice and hatred.

Regards,

Psi

Cliff Martin said...

Dardani,

Thank you for stopping by, and for your comments.

I think you will find that many, perhaps most theistic philosophers have abandoned the Free Will defense. Most all Atheists as well as many theists (count me) do not consider free will alone to adequately account for evil, particularly the types of natural evil Psiloiordinary references, or the many instances of animal pain, much of which predates mankind by millions of years. I think this is why C.S. Lewis spends so much of his theodicy (The Problem of Pain) dealing with animal pain.

However, in the larger view of how God relates to his creation, I find much to agree with in your descriptions of a "Hidden God".

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

An awful lot of folks don't think free will exists either (including me).

But I am happy with the illusion.

Regards,

Psi

Cliff Martin said...

Pretty good illusion, I'd say.

Psiloiordinary said...

Yes excellent.

Very surprised that you agree.

Maybe that was sarcasm from you?

Psi

Cliff Martin said...

I was neither agreeing with you nor offering sarcasm. I meant only, "if indeed free will is an illusion, God (or the universe) is a pretty good illusionist."

But I still puzzle over your vision of determinism. How can it be, in your view, that a universe sans ultimate purpose or overriding supernatural influence would have all outcomes locked in?

Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Cliff,

I don't start with any "have to"s or any "can't possibly"s - I just go with the evidence.

The illusionist(s) (if such be true) is/are each and every one of us - it requires no external magician.

Cheers,

Psi