Bobby Pruitt on the Problem of Evil

by Luke Muehlhauser on July 12, 2010 in General Atheism,Problem of Evil

hutto

Earlier, Hill Country Bible Church in Hutto, Texas, put up a website asking:

If you could ask a pastor anything, what would you ask?

What are the questions which stop your faith in its tracks?

The pastor, Bobby Pruitt, is doing a sermon series in response to the questions that were submitted to this website. In his latest sermon, Mr. Pruitt tackles the big one: The Problem of Evil.

How could a good God allow suffering?

The “Roadblock” question for April 16th was:

How could a good God allow suffering?

Pruitt correctly notes:

Everybody is asking this question… Christians and atheists. People in the West and the people in the East. Everybody is asking this question.

To his credit, Pruitt quotes both Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins offering the argument from evil against the existence of God. He also plays a scene from House (the TV show) in which the famous atheist doctor launches a whole barrage of atheistic arguments at a coworker. He even basically outlines a version of the logical argument from evil, roughly paraphrasing Hume’s paraphrase of Epicurus.

He then responds with… Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense! He explains the defense – even playing a video clip that quotes Plantinga verbatim – and then concludes that it is (intellectually) satisfactory but not at all (emotionally) satisfying.

He also hints toward John Hick’s character-building theodicy, but closes with a theodicy he says addresses the heart, not just the intellect. What this theodicy was, I’m not sure. Something like Wykstra’s skeptical theism, but wed with a leap of faith that though we don’t understand God’s reasons, they must be good reasons, because God chose to suffer evil with us, by way of Jesus on the cross. Or something.

In a world so obviously indifferent to our pain or pleasure, Christians must embrace an incredible double standard to believe a God of the universe is perfectly good. They must say that many good things happen because they understand God’s ways and he wanted those things to happen, but they must also say that all bad things happen for reasons we can’t know because we don’t understand God’s ways.

This does not impress me.

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{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Hendy July 12, 2010 at 6:57 am

“…They must say that many good things happen because they understand God’s ways and he wanted those things to happen, but they must also say that all bad things happen for reasons we can’t know because we don’t understand God’s ways.”

Love this and have thought about it often. These types of disconnect happen frequently, with a quick case in point from my ongoing ‘quest’:

- When bringing up my general frustration with defenses of god in this process, I’m told that this is not a purely knowledge-based endeavor, but about ‘faith.’ It’s about faith seeking understanding (which I’ve always translated ‘believe that you may believe more…) and ‘listening to the hunger within’. It’s about reveling in the mystery and accepting it.

- When I bring up specific issues I have, though, everyone is more than happy to cast any and all apologetics works on the subject onto the pile, telling me that I can’t reject Christianity without ‘really understanding it’ and knowing the answers contained in these books.

So do I know too much… or not enough?

Trying to do both of these at the same time kind of feels like having one foot on each side of the stereotypical earthquake scene where a crack starts opening up wider and wider below you. You either pick a side or get your legs bent up over your head and pretzelized as you fall to oblivion.

I wrote about this to Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism who pointed out wonderfully (via email):

Have you ever noticed that no one needs this level of expertise to join a religion? No one walking in the doors of a church is barred by a priest who says, “Hold it! Until you’ve completed a rigorous Th.D program and read books by a dozen famous apologists, you don’t have enough evidence to decide for yourself whether you really believe this”…No, this impossible level of expertise is never demanded of anyone seeking to join a religion – it’s only ever demanded of people who are considering the idea of leaving.

Anyway, I resonated very much with your closing and agree that this is a double standard. So many words seem to be, in a sense, wasted on possible solutions only to, in the end, simply make a plea to blindly trust ones presupposed belief that god is, indeed… perfect and good.

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Hermes July 12, 2010 at 7:01 am

I don’t think the POE is a show stopper for all Christians, and it should not be devastating to any Christians (though it could be disappointing).

If they want to keep their deity somewhat credible, they do have to admit that their deity is not all good, all knowing, or all powerful.

Their religious texts support that it is limited on all three axes, so why drag in some mercurial deist-style beast on steroids that is not supported in their religious texts let alone when reality is referenced?

The omnimax style deity is really just an example of schoolyard rule changing that was made up to ‘win’ a game by asserting a playful absurdity and should be treated as such.

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Márcio July 12, 2010 at 8:22 am

The real problem is that people want to be happy is this life. They don’t see the whole picture. We are not God’s pet. God want us to gain salvation and be happy for eternity. Happiness is this life is good, but is nothing compared to eternity.

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Hermes July 12, 2010 at 8:36 am

Márcio: Happiness is this life is good, but is nothing compared to eternity.

Close. Happiness is this life is good, as nothing lasts an eternity.

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Leah July 12, 2010 at 8:40 am

@Hendy, great point, that expertise double standard is absurd.

I want to read the whole sermon later, but, regardless of whether I find the explanation compelling, I’m pretty pleased by this initiative. It speaks well of the church that they’re engaging with their critics.

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sestark19 July 12, 2010 at 8:49 am

I am by NOOOO means a conservative Christian. But I think the point about the Incarnation makes some sense within that context.

Even if there is mystery as to suffering in the world, the God of Christianity came down to earth and suffered it with us.

True or not, it’s a pretty cool idea – at least in theory, not necessarily how it is explained in the Bible or anything.

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Eneasz July 12, 2010 at 8:51 am

..the POE … should not be devastating to any Christians

I dunno. It was pretty devastating for me, and I didn’t even know it as “The Problem Of Evil”, I just knew it as “why doesn’t God just stop the Bad Guys?” I think how devastating it turns out to be is directly related to how strong a sense of justice one has and how literally one believes in God. IMHO, for someone who truly believes in Right and Wrong (and all that entails) and who honestly embraces the existence of an All-Powerful Good God, the PoE is a slow death sentence.

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Jon Hanson July 12, 2010 at 9:05 am

I was never bothered by the POE by itself, since I could always say God would make up for today’s troubles in the afterlife. But in conjunction with the doctrine of hell it became much more problematic. It means all the suffering that exists is for most just a warm up for an eternity of unimaginable suffering.

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RedKing July 12, 2010 at 9:22 am

“Their religious texts support that it is limited on all three axes”

If the Bible is an accurate representation of God’s character, then God is not omnibenevolent. POE solved. ;)

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Hermes July 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

Eneasz, I agree that it is often devastating to many people and I did not intend to take away anything from you or others who struggled with the problem of evil.

To me, Christianity is not credible for a variety of reasons even before the POE is addressed. The POE, to me, mainly shows that there are textual and cultural conflicts and that the stories are myths in the finest tradition of mythology; they have cultural truths that aren’t logical or rational and that are locked into the time that the culture existed. Thus, the whole condoning of slavery when slavery was considered (I would say in error) as a part of a well structured society. Attempting to reconcile those differences and then looking at reality itself leads to a distortion field of illogical nonsense in the best theodicies.

My comment was only to point out that there is little justification for the premises in the POE (primarily, being an omnimax deity) except that Christians often demand that those premises be true.

To me this is strange as other believers in different deities don’t require theirs to be an omnimax. Reading the Bible it is clear to me that it is not one. The deity in that book is claimed to be and omnimax, but in other passages it is clearly not. The insistence on it being an omnimax seems to be based on one upping other deities.

As a singlular god, it can’t fall back on the internal politicking that pantheons could rely on. All the glory and blame are squarely on it’s shoulders. Yet, a Christian could easily look at their book and decide that there is only one god, that it learns somewhat from failure, has emotions and impulses, is vain, and is limited in what it can see or do. That one act would clean up quite a few problems and make their deity claims less abstract (though I contend still mythological and thus tribal; the heavy hand of the social training felt by the writers from those ancient cultures).

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Hermes July 12, 2010 at 9:30 am

RedKing, yep. It also lacks perfect foresight or insight, knocking out the other two legs of the omnimax table.

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Alex July 12, 2010 at 9:56 am

I can see how it could be psychologically possible for someone to be convinced of something like skeptical theism, but I think that the cost for that is basically giving up any claim to rationality in explaining how you come to your beliefs in the first place. I.e. nobody dispassionately looking at the world could come up with the idea that an omnipotent being created it. Once you believe the story very strongly, it’s perfectly possible to convince yourself of a skeptical theist response to PoE, though. (As a naturalist/atheist, I’ve managed to persuade myself for some time that the fine-tuning of the universe is due to chance. I had to give this up once I realized that I had no right to be so utterly convinced of my naturalism as to just accept wild improbabilities. I don’t think any theist has that right either with regard to the PoE.)

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Hendy July 12, 2010 at 10:21 am

@Alex: wonderful point. This is quite along the lines of Luke’s closing statement. I have indeed been frustrated encounters of pleading that there are countless possibilities that might explain why god could still be god with respect a given objection X.

It would seem, however, that the less specific one is (by proposing possibilities/speculations vs. tangible evidence) about god, his nature, his ‘ways’, his desires, wants, plan, etc… the less a theist can be confident to whom or what they’re worshiping and giving their lives over.

As you point out, one seems to lose rationality about defending these ‘tailored’ beliefs. To take some comments up above about redefining god’s omnimax-ness or eliminating much of the Bible and so on to solve the PoE… starts making one scratch one’s head and wondering what self-defined deity one has created!

To heap injury on insult… these possibilities are our attempts to ‘coherentize’ a perfect, personally interacting, historically revealed being… who physically walked amongst us for 30 years. Why in the world should we need to take part in these mental gymnastics in the first place!!? It would seem that there has been ample opportunity for god to answer such simple questions. Not to mention that there have been extremely bright individuals thinking about these very things for 2000 years and they remain unsolved.

@Marcio: your post is a simple form of a potential carrot dangling from a stick. Please understand that for those looking for evidence and solid reasons for belief, the encouragement to ‘just do it and find out for sure when you die’ is quite difficult to swallow. Whatever truth is… I want to know it now.

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Paul Wright July 12, 2010 at 10:29 am

Hume gets there in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion:

He may be fully convinced of the narrow limits of his understanding; but this will not help him in forming an inference concerning the goodness of superior powers, since he must form that inference from what he knows, not from what he is ignorant of. The more you exaggerate his weakness and ignorance, the more diffident you render him, and give him the greater suspicion that such subjects are beyond the reach of his faculties.

Before this, Hume (or rather Philo) concedes that someone who’d previously been convinced that the creator was good without knowing what the world was like wouldn’t give this belief up on contact with the real world, but then says that this is not the case with us.

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Hermes July 12, 2010 at 10:51 am

Hendy: To take some comments up above about redefining god’s omnimax-ness or eliminating much of the Bible and so on to solve the PoE… starts making one scratch one’s head and wondering what self-defined deity one has created!

The usual method to rectify and recover Yahweh as an omnimax deity is to redefine what omnibenevolent means. This often turns what it means to be good inside out and makes nonsense of the concept.

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Hendy July 12, 2010 at 11:15 am

@Hermes: indeed!

I am in the midst of a ‘faith quest’ (currently deconvert[ed/ing]) but still participate in a Christian small group with some other married couples. One person shared a ‘word’ for the group during prayer time that struck her from St. Therese of Lisieux about god seeming distant/close because he plays a sort of ‘love game’ with us. Sometimes he gives believers a strong sense of his presence and other times not but he loves us tremendously nonetheless.

I chuckled inside and wondered what the response would if during sharing I told the group that I had recently been playing a ‘love game’ with my wife. Sometimes I would care for her, be very kind, and do everything a husband should…but other times I would just leave the house for days on end without explanation. Upon my return I’d burst through the door and smirkily shout: Betcha know my love even better now, huh?!? Why accept from god as love what we wouldn’t accept from our own friends and loved ones?

It just amazes me how many human concepts (our own devised and revised definitions created with our minds over hundreds of years) need redefinition when it comes to examining the nature of god, the supposed author of our reason!

During my ‘quest’ I created my own definition of theology:

A field of study in which the aim is to convince rational human beings that what they would expect were an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving god to be the creator and overseer of the world… is utterly flawed and that, in fact, the world in which we live is the only possible way that such a being could have done things.

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al friedlander July 12, 2010 at 11:52 am

“But in conjunction with the doctrine of hell it became much more problematic. It means all the suffering that exists is for most just a warm up for an eternity of unimaginable suffering.”

The pretty much hit the nail on the head for me, back then. If I was taught universal salvation, Christianity would have been much more appealing, and guilt wouldn’t have been quite as hellish as it was (no pun intended).

It never really made sense to me, and become glaring over time. If God really was as lovey-dovey as he was supposed to be (and omnipotent), why did he create such an overcomplicated system that revolved around such cruel punishment (both ON earth, and beyond). It conflicted completely with my definition of ‘good and moral’.

The more I asked Christian leaders (and wow apologists..), the more I got the impression that they were weaseling away from straightforward answers, and delivering semantic-word-play-’arguments’ instead.

It really was kind of like me saying “I think the Holocaust was pretty evil”, and them replying “Oh well, ‘metaphysics/metaphysics/metaphysics’. And also, do you know the date of ‘this event’ and exactly what happened there, and when?”

Me: “Um..not really….”
Them: *smirk* “Oh really, now?”

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Red-Agnostic July 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

This is unnecessarily picking on religious people. I think I can understand why theists, be they Jew, Christian, Muslim or other god-believers make this kind of question. After all, they have “chosen” to live in a God-centric world. But for an atheist to keep asking the same question… Isn’t this a little odd? Isn’t that like to be trapped in an unrealistic world?

I mean, what if, instead of focusing on the classic “why does God allow evil?”, we focus on “why does man force God to allow evil?” But in order to answer this question we must come down from the ethereal world of Philosophy to the real world, a world where religion –any religion- has been, is, and will be applied as a mere means of government, or as the perfect disguise of the interests of centers of power (Islamic, Christian, Jewish fundamentalism). Sound too simplistic? Perhaps..

But what amazes me most about American atheists is the equanimity and the detachment with which they can observe acts of cruelty like the Fallujah genocide, or the hundreds killed in drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan (crimes paid for by YOUR tax dollars), and then asking themselves, not why I am so evil, but why God allows evil.
Sorry for the tone. But american rationalists make me angry.

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lukeprog July 12, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Red-Agnostic,

It all comes down to this.

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Eneasz July 12, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I mean, what if, instead of focusing on the classic “why does God allow evil?”, we focus on “why does man force God to allow evil?”

Wait, stop, go back.

*I* certainly never forced God to allow evil. I don’t know of anyone who did either. Point me to the guy who forced God to allow evil and I’m sure I can get enough people together to go beat the shit out of him until he desists and allows God to go back to preventing evil.

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Hermes July 12, 2010 at 1:24 pm

It just amazes me how many human concepts (our own devised and revised definitions created with our minds over hundreds of years) need redefinition when it comes to examining the nature of god, the supposed author of our reason!

Exactly! The word abuse and reuse is rampant in religion. One transparent example is the use of family titles for religious clerics; father, brother, sister, … . I can’t think of a single example from anywhere that is as presumptuous as that.

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Justfinethanks July 12, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Sorry for the tone. But american rationalists make me angry.

You consider that a disagreeable “tone”? You haven’t spent much time on the internet yet, have you, Euro-boy?

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Hendy July 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm

@Red-Agnostic:

I ask the question (PoE)… because I want to know if there’s a valid reason to believe that god exists. Having been a Christian and now amidst doubts, this is simply another area where I can examine the evidence (along with cosmology, Biblical analysis, historical evidence for/against Jesus, etc.).

I may have misunderstood, but you seem to be proposing that it would be better to just forget about the question, realize that some will believe it has a good explanation (theists) and others won’t (atheists/agnostics/deists) and so let’s just get on with our lives. Is that the gist?

I’m not really sure that anyone is advocating for asking philosophical questions about occurrences of evil as a substitute for acting to alleviate suffering. Is that what you’re accusing ‘American Rationalists’ of? If so, we should probably stage a nation-wide government overthrow. Other than my vote, I’m not sure how exactly to run a one-man-show war-shut-down operation for the US military. Feel free to suggest ideas.

…hundreds killed in drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan (crimes paid for by YOUR tax dollars), and then asking themselves, not why I am so evil…

You seem to associate my flow of tax dollars with me being evil. Because I pay taxes and live in a country where most of the major actions are decided without my input makes me evil? I contact my Representative and Senators about key issues with decent regularity… I discuss my unsupportive views on our current military engagements when it arises. Should I boycott taxes and risk the financial security of my wife and two children?

Maybe I’m just anal, but before rejecting something I feel the need to conduct a fairly exhaustive search to consider the matter in full. Yes, I probably border on the obsessive when considering whether or not god exists during this phase of my life… but it’s because this question is among the top questions ever that people want to answer in their lives and truth, in general, is about the most important thing to me. Examining this question (even ad nauseum) is one way to get at the truth of the larger ‘god question.’

Lastly, I find you inconsistent; note the following:

On the subject of suffering: there is a truth which has been established nearly universally: that individuals suffer. Furthermore, you have come to the conclusion that a second truth has been established: our government (and therefore Americans) are a key cause and should therefore alleviate this suffering.
Key concept: Establish truths, then remedy deficiencies and help fellow humans.

On the subject of god: there is a truth which has not been established nearly universally: that god does or does not exist. Furthermore, on the subject of the problem of evil which could provide a more conclusive proof of god’s existence/non-existence… you suggest that we remain inactive. You, instead, find it more fruitful to just accept that this is the way the world is.
Key concept: stop pursuing truth and accept that religion is, and always will be a (in your words) “mere means of government, or…the perfect disguise of the interests of centers of power.”

Doesn’t that strike you as odd? You promote a given truth as the basis for action on one hand but promote an apathetic stance on another issue which, may I point out, very well may be a huge motivating factor for a lot of the evils you wish us to act on (extremist terrorists are said to do X, therefore US govt spins info so that pure-hearted conservative Christians are made to feel their ‘nationalistic duty’ to counter-strike and destroy these infidels). I want to know the truth in order to help my fellow man; if it is that god does not exist, I wish to spread that truth or at least stop believers from believing that they have a solid bedrock from which to push agendas and labels on those who disagree (which is especially true politically).

What do you think of this?

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Richard July 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm

They must say that many good things happen because they understand God’s ways and he wanted those things to happen, but they must also say that all bad things happen for reasons we can’t know because we don’t understand God’s ways.

Erm, I get the first part. Christians do claim to know God’s intentions with respect to a wide variety of good events.

But about the second part, why think Christians must say that ALL bad things happen for reasons we can’t know? I’m a Christian. Suppose I grab some scissors and, in order to prove a point, intentionally cutmy finger, causing lots of pain.

Why did this bad thing happen? Must I really say “Gosh, I just don’t know why this happened. God’s ways are mysterious”? I doubt it. Isn’t it obvious, rather, that I know full well why this happened? I intentionally did it. I and my psychological states explain this bad event perfectly well. That’s why it happened. So, contrary to what you say, here’s a bad thing that happened for reasons that I *DO* know.

What’s more, we often know, according to the Christian, why God permits evil things to happen. We know why God the Father allowed Jesus to suffer and die. We know why God caused the flood. We know why God permitted all those bad things to happen to Joseph. The Bible tells us! And many Christians can look back in their own lives and piece together why God allowed some bad things to happen — they led to a greater good. Consider for example 2 Corinthians 12:7, in which Paul claims to know why God is permitting some suffering: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” So again, contrary to what you say, Christians do claim to know why some bad things happen. They need not always retreat to God’s mysteriousness.

And in any event, even supposing that you’re right, why think this is some “incredible double standard”? Even supposing you’re right, for the Christian, sometimes we know the reasons God does good stuff, and sometimes we don’t. And suppose we never know why apparently evil things occur. What’s the problem? Where’s the double standard?

My wife is great. Often, I know why she does the nice things she does. Sometimes, she does apparently bad or mean things. In those cases, say, I can’t really explain why she’s doing what she’s doing. I’m just at a loss. But I know there must be some explanation, because she’s so great. Am I employing some egregious double standard here? I can’t see how. But then the same thing goes with the Christian and God.

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Red-Agnostic July 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm

ENEASZ:

When I say “man”, I mean man as a social being. Gee…

I am sure that the Abrahamic God does not exist, but that doesn´t mean the sacred books of Christianity, Judaism or Islam are just a bunch of mythological nonsense, but the inevitable result of pre-scientific times.

Man is the author; God is the invention, the pretext. When God says something, commands something, it is man (a certain hierarchy of men) who is saying it and commanding it. So God´s evil is man´s evil.

And I point to you for making poor uneducated Islamic people rationalize all the crimes committed by your government as “Allah’s will”. Why? Because you are PAYING for those crimes. So, an atheist, rationalist like you is contributing to the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism.

And I´m not european. I´m from Latin America.

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Justfinethanks July 12, 2010 at 1:57 pm

And I´m not european. I´m from Latin America.

Crap, I was worried I would get that part wrong. Smug indictment of Americans for the acts of the American government and overheated political language usually indicates a European four times out of five in my experience (or at least the occasional home grown liberal arts sophomore).

At least I guessed your gender right.

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Justfinethanks July 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Also, Red-Agnostic, I’m curious. Have you ever:

Watched an American movie?
Used an internet service (like Google, Yahoo, Youtube, or Facebook) that is based in America?
Wore clothes with American brands?
Ate a chain restaurant founded in America?

If so, then you have put income into the American governments coffers, and by your own logic are guilty of paying for the crimes of the American government.

If not, I really recommended you watch Avatar. It’s a trip.

Also, how do you use the internet without Google or Yahoo?

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Eneasz July 12, 2010 at 2:58 pm

When I say “man”, I mean man as a social being. Gee…

I realize that, my reply was meant to point out that this was dumb. We weren’t talking about the nature of man and our grapple with our own tendencies, we were talking about actual people undergoing actual agony and actual death, which isn’t prevented by any actual god.

I am sure that the Abrahamic God does not exist, but that doesn´t mean the sacred books of Christianity, Judaism or Islam are just a bunch of mythological nonsense, but the inevitable result of pre-scientific times.

It can be both. A lot of mythological nonsense is the inevitable result of pre-scientific times.

Man is the author; God is the invention, the pretext.

You’re answering the wrong question again. No one disputes this, but it’s not the topic at hand. It has nothing to do with theodicy.

Because you are PAYING for those crimes. So, an atheist, rationalist like you is contributing to the expansion of Islamic fundamentalism.

I’m not your target. The American rationalists are doing their best to steer the country away from that. Well, some of us anyway. Would you rather that we left the country and allowed it to be completely taken over by the rabid fundamentalists? I don’t think you’d be happy with the result of a true Christian Taliban taking control of the USA military.

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Hendy July 12, 2010 at 3:44 pm

@Richard:

Fine points about bad events that are willed, though you are doing this in a somewhat ex post facto manner. Discussion of the PoE often leads to talk about possible worlds in order to establish if god needed to create a world in which suffering/evil was present at all.

Does that make sense? One issue is the current reality of suffering and why god might not intervene (as you bring up)… another is why he created a world in which people need to beg for such intervention whatsoever.

Note that the Christian story begins sans pain, death, conflict and any separation from god (the garden). It ends without suffering/evil. If you’re Catholic (and perhaps other traditions as well?) you believe that Mary was without concupiscence but still free. She didn’t even want to sin at all… why can’t we all be like this?It seems that it was logically possible in some manner to create existences for man in which they were not only free but didn’t have any desire for sin.

Lastly, your example involves self-inflicted pain. What happens when that ‘free choice’ involves turning the scissors on another? Is it a greater good for the family of the deceased that they no longer have a loved one? Heck, we don’t even need bodies since we have minds and souls. Why not be immaterial or material but not have the ability be murdered physically… we die only when we get old? I can’t see a benefit to forcing the breakdown of our bodies to lead to the majority of deaths.

Re. your wife… the difference is that you can say, ‘Hon, why are you upset? Did I do something or can I help you in any way?’ and she will respond. We can pray and think about the PoE for 2000 years and still be grasping at possibilities, not to mention he left us an inspired text with prescriptions on where to go to the bathroom and not to sit on a footstool recently occupied by a woman having her period… but not give us any possible clues about why he slaughtered thousands of nonbelievers for a promised land the Iraelites never got anyway or why he created a world requiring suffering?

‘In the beginning I created the world with a morally sufficient reason for suffering. It is for your greater good and you will not understand until you die, but I will physically appear to anyone who asks (skeptical or believing) every 5th year of their life to confirm my existence throughout their lives. I will appear so that any witnesses present can confirm the vision you beheld as well. Moreover I have planted a sense similar to the desire to eat (strong but not irresistible) which hungers for me alone so that you will know the false prophets from the true, the false gods from the one true god.’

Something like that would be awesome.

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Red-Agnostic July 12, 2010 at 5:49 pm

ENEASZ

…”It has nothing to do with theodicy”…

I get it. You prefer the kind of theodicy which talks about a malevolent God who, according to a semi-fictitious book, ordered the butchering of the Amalekite children thousands of years ago.

I personally prefer the kind of secular theodicy which talks about a malevolent government which, according to most independent media outlets, is ordering the butchering of Iraqi and afghan children right now.

In the former case you can show off your atheistic rationality. In the latter situation you choose to live in a cocoon of sterile religious criticism. You´re right. You´re not my target.

Luke: This is my last comment, I promise. But I will come back here for your podcasts. Each one of them is like an English lesson. Thanks a lot.

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JS Allen July 12, 2010 at 5:54 pm

@Red-Agnostic — You cannot lump the atheists here in with the bad people you speak of.

The atheists here are taking firm action to fight against all man-created religious ignorance and superstition. Since religion is man-created evil, anyone who fights against religion is against man-created evil, and is thus incapable of man-created evil. These are not the men you’re looking for.

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noen July 12, 2010 at 9:24 pm

American is torturing right now. People are being renditioned to CIA black sites for torture right now and no one, well, hardly anyone, in the US is saying squat about it. We don’t give a shit.

We, the citizens of the US do bear some responsibility for our government. We have a representational system after all. We re-elected George W Bush in 2004 and we like images of torture and the tin pot dictators like GW who do our bidding. We get off on it.

If we start to feel a little guilty about the brown people murdered in our name we can always discuss some abstract problem like the POE. It’s nice to sit in a comfy chair and think about deep problems secure in the knowledge you will never find yourself alone in the dark in one of America’s black sites with a cattle prod sliding up your colon. (they’re extremely effective and they leave no marks, it’s win win!)

I like the death of God theologians who argue that since God is now dead it is our responsibility to do what he was apparently unable to do. The burden now falls on us.

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Justfinethanks July 12, 2010 at 9:42 pm

If we start to feel a little guilty about the brown people murdered in our name we can always discuss some abstract problem like the POE.

If you prefer to mull over actions taken by US government over abstract issues like the problem of evil, perhaps a philosophy of religion blog isn’t your cup of tea. May I suggest DailyKos?

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Mike Young July 13, 2010 at 9:29 pm

The POE cannot be a problem for anyone.
1. If there is no God then Earth quakes and hurricanes and slow painful diseases are not evil, they are just events that effect us in ways we dont like. The may be unfortunate for us but they are not strictly speaking evil. In fact there is no objective evil at all. Evil is merely a name that we give to actions that violate desirism (or whatever moral theoy you come up with) and as such no one can lob this objection at the atheist.

2. If you are a christian and you say God is all good then you must, granting Gods omnipotence say he has a reason for allowing whatever happens to happen. unless you can show this to be false a robust free will defense knocks out any logical problems the POE might give.

The POE is little more then philosophical snake oil that plays off of people emotions. If this is your big objection to thesim your sad.

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Hermes July 13, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Mike, the POE implies a deity as a premise, so #1 is not needed. #2 (*not* limited to Christians), does not provide an out to any deity that is said to be an omnimax.

What you promote seems to be ‘might makes right’ and has noting to do with free will. The POE does not require any focus on the underlings (in this case humans), only the impact of the omnimax upon any other players.

That said, the POE (as I mentioned before) is not a problem for Christians (or any non-Christian theist) if they reject the idea of an omnimax. Specifically for Christians, as their deity is probably not an omnimax if it exists and their religious texts are mostly accurate, the POE doesn’t apply and the advocates of the Christian deity (non-omnimax) have substantial wiggle room. This, of course, does not offer positive support for the Christian deity but does provide an out so that it is not completely self-contradictory. Most Christians, though, insist on some form of an omnimax and thus refute what they assert is real.

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Hendy July 14, 2010 at 5:58 am

@Mike: I’ve always been unsure of how the free will defense works with natural evil and things like infants who die right out of the womb from painful afflictions.

Or are you arguing that a world in which free will exists must contain natural disasters and infants who die without having willed anything to deserve negative consequences?

Could you put forth some material for me to read in which a ‘robust free will defense’ is presented?

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Justfinethanks July 14, 2010 at 6:43 am

The may be unfortunate for us but they are not strictly speaking evil.

I’ve always found this to be the weakest of objections to the POE. Because even if we grant for the sake of argument that “evil” can’t exist apart from the existence of God, then theism still collapses internally, since in it there exists something that shouldn’t exist if it is true.

In other words, if it’s true that evil is incompatible with the existence of God and evil can’t exist apart from God’s existence, what follows is that both evil and God don’t exist. (Since IF God exists, then evil exists)

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Justfinethanks July 14, 2010 at 7:11 am

If you are a christian and you say God is all good then you must, granting Gods omnipotence say he has a reason for allowing whatever happens to happen.

And this response, while I suppose there’s nothing incoherent about it, I think completely destroys its proponents’ ability to make any moral judgement. If someone walked up to you and sucker punched you, their claiming “Look, I know something you don’t know, and I have a morally justifiable reason for doing that, but I just can’t tell you what it is,” probably wouldn’t prevent you from filing assault charges. Yet theists inconsistently think that this a perfectly fine way to think about horrible disasters.

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Mastema July 14, 2010 at 11:41 am

Regarding the free will defense:

If free will is so intrinsically valuable to God, so that he would allow someone to rape a child, why has he not placed similar restrictions upon us? If we open a door and see someone about to rape a child, would God want us to interfere? Would it not be more God-like to allow the rapist to exercise his free will and rape the child? If God is the source or representation of all good, how can an act contrary to his nature or desires (stopping a rapist) be considered a good thing to do?

Or is there a difference between free will and our ability to act on our it? If so, why does God not allow the rapist his free will, but give him a heart attack or use a Force Grip to squeeze his testicles really REALLY hard until the child can get away?

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Mike Young July 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Just fine thanks. My response does not destroy anything. If you can show that God does not infact have a reason for allowing evil then you would have me dead to rights. The problem that you run into turns out to be an epistemological problem. Namely that if God intereferes too much it will erase our opbseration of causal interaction. In other words, we need causal laws to be static inorder to learn, if God messes with them to often, or under the wrong circumstances conditions underwhich our epistemic faculties were built to function will be undermined.

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