Rebutting Reasonable Faith: Free Will and Evil

A correspondent to William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith column writes in with a very good question, one that atheists have often raised:

An acquaintance of mine recently asked me why it is necessary that we be able to choose evil for us to have free will, while it is not necessary that God be able to choose evil for Him to have free will….

I cannot explain why, if God could create us free without the capacity to choose evil, He did not do so (especially given the fact that we are created in His image, and He is unable to choose evil). Is it because we are finite?

Craig’s first response is to suggest that possible worlds such as this exist, but are somehow worse than worlds with moral evil, in some unspecified way:

It’s consistent with the Free Will Defense that although there are possible worlds such as you describe, they have other overriding deficiencies that make them less preferable to worlds in which humans can choose both evil and good.

Again, Craig is tripped up by the most common problem that plagues Christians who argue for the necessity of evil: what about Heaven? That is a type of existence in which, presumably, we retain our free will but no longer choose evil. Craig seems to concede that it is possible for God to create such a world. All we’re asking is why, if this is going to be the end state anyway, God didn’t simply start out with that and not create a world of suffering in which billions of people end up condemned. Is Craig arguing that Heaven has “overriding deficiencies” that make it inferior to Earth?

The atheist has to prove that, necessarily, God would prefer a world without evil (for whatever reason) over any world with evil if he’s to prove that God and evil are logically incompatible.

This is a bizarre point for Craig to deny. Is he really claiming that God does not prefer worlds without evil over worlds with evil? That would fly in the face of two thousand years of Christian theology by implying a God who was either malevolent himself or, at best, morally indifferent. The usual Christian apologetic response is that God values free will highly enough that he considers it worth the cost, but Craig has already foreclosed that argument: he agrees that there are possible worlds with free will and no evil, but claims that they have unspecified “overriding deficiencies” that make them even less desirable. Left unexplained is why God’s omnipotent power is incapable of correcting those deficiencies as well.

Craig’s second response, which seems to contradict his first, is that it’s actually not possible for God to create beings who only choose the good:

A free being which possesses a nature which is characterized by less than complete moral perfection… lacks the power to choose infallibly the Good. For God to create a being which has the ability to choose infallibly the Good would be, in effect, to create another God, which is logically impossible, since God is essentially uncaused; and, of course, omnipotence does not entail the ability to bring about the logically impossible.

This entire chain of inferences is built on a starting premise that is obviously nonsensical. A being possessing moral perfection, but not omnipotence or omniscience or omnipresence or atemporality or other attributes usually identified with God, would not be another God; it would simply be a free-willed being possessing moral perfection. Again, Christianity itself supplies an example of this: angels are traditionally believed to have free will – they must have, else how could any of them have fallen? – and yet, they are said to infallibly carry out the will of God.

Indeed, if God is uncaused by definition, then there ought to be no problem here. He could create a being possessing all of his other attributes – omnipotence, omniscience and so on – and yet, since this being was caused and not eternal, it would not be God.

There’s a larger issue which neither William Lane Craig nor this week’s questioner explores in detail. Namely, an abiding puzzle for Christian theology is why, if God hates evil and sin so much, he created a world that would guarantee the production of massive quantities of it. As I’ve written in the past, free will is not a mathematical point, nor is it a simple binary choice between good and evil. Free will is a complex bundle of desires, habits and predispositions, any of which can be altered or taken away. Even if we grant the premise that free will is necessary for a world of meaningful choice, why wouldn’t God create human beings with inclinations toward virtue, so that few people exercise the evil options that are theoretically open to them? The reality of our world seems rather to be the opposite.

Other posts in this series:

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Dennis

    But obviously, god must be perfect and never ever wrong! Just make that your conclusion, and work backwards. Why do things the hard way and start at the beginning of logic, when you can just jump to the end?

  • http://users.ox.ac.uk/~ball2568/ Pablo Stafforini

    Another problem with the free will defence is that if, as both Plantinga and Craig believe, there are true and knowable counterfactuals of freedom, God could simply create creatures who had the capacity to chose freely only in those circumstances in which He would anticipate that they would freely choose good. The choices made by such creatures would have at least all the value of the choices made by creatures like us, since all the good choices that they would make would be made freely. Since such creatures would not do any evil, it follows that the free will defence cannot explain or justify why we exist instead of these creatures.

  • J

    I was never interested in theology and I long ago stopped being even amused or angered by it. Nowadays I just ignore it. Listening to theological debates is like watching some weird, late-night ESPN offering in which competitors try to run a double-marathon while wearing leg shackles and old-timey prison weights on their legs. It’s slow-going, visibly painful to all in involved and continually makes one ask, “What is the *point* of this?”

  • Socrates

    I agree that this particular argument against the existence of evil paradox is flawed and you do a good job of pointing out it’s contradictions. However it seems that the paradox is flawed and should be disguarded for stronger arguments anyway.
    This version of the paradox is a specific example of the classical paradox:
    God can’t be omniscent, omnipotent, and good and let evil exist.
    However, without knowing the purpose of life its impossible to make a judgement on the necessity of evil. This isn’t the typical “god is infinite and we can’t understand him” rebuttal; but simply that evil allows the human mind to grow in ways that its lack might stifle. Good is definitly highlighted by the existence of evil, as are attributes such as courage and moral fortitude. Perhaps these traits are more important than the allowance of evil in the world. The paradox also seems to implicitly imply the non-existance of an afterlife. If we do go to heaven for eternity, the existance of evil on earth isn’t nearly as important. So if it does server a purpose, its existance would be far less important than would be thought by a secular humanist.

    I think the paradox is better presented as such:
    If God is all loving and all good, how can he allow good people whom he designed to question their world go to Hell simply for following their design.

  • Ric

    I recently spoke about atheism at a Diversity club meeting at the college I teach at. Someone said something about free will being necessary for evil. The argument I used was: “If I am really evil and want to detonate a nuclear bomb, but the government makes sure to keep nukes out of my hands, is my free will thereby hindered?” Clearly the ability to do evil has nothing to do with free will. God could have given us free will but made us unable to do evil.

  • http://blog.calumnist.com/ Danny

    Good point. I myself have employed this question to those who use the FWD against the PoE.

  • Entomologista

    God can’t choose to be evil? Yeah, tell that to Job.

  • Valhar2000

    Clearly the ability to do evil has nothing to do with free will. God could have given us free will but made us unable to do evil.

    Unless you are a believer in “The Secret”, in which case a nuclear bomb will be delivered to your door in 6 to 8 weeks.

  • Jormungund

    “God can’t choose to be evil? Yeah, tell that to Job.”
    And tell that to Egyptian first born children and all the infants that died in the flood. Even if we accepted their mythology as fact, we would just arrive at the conclusion that God is a monster and that a demon controls the universe.

  • Alex, FCD

    God can’t choose to be evil? Yeah, tell that to Job.

    Actually, I think God outsourced to Satan on that occasion (Job 1:8-12). So I guess God can’t choose to be evil, but he can hire a subcontractor.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    This question from WLC’s inquirer caught my eye:

    …why it is necessary that we be able to choose evil for us to have free will, while it is not necessary that God be able to choose evil for Him to have free will….

    Well, as with any argument or question, what are the assumed definitions and hidden presuppositions? At least one presupposition here is that God even has free will. Can we justify this presupposition from scripture? What about Hebrews 6:18? Can God have free will (or omnipotence) if it is impossible for God to lie? Then WLC’s phrase of “logically possible” is where we quibble next, it seems.

    All we’re asking is why, if this is going to be the end state anyway, God didn’t simply start out with that and not create a world of suffering in which billions of people end up condemned.

    This is a valid question. First, let’s be cautious of veering into the “God should have made us all robotic automatons that only do good” argument, which is only a stop or two away from where we’re going, but takes us a totally different direction. Now, presupposing one’s entrance into heaven or hell is intrinsically related to how one handled evil, one could not enter into heaven or hell without handling evil. If such is the case, then evil must exist in order to be handled.

    But let’s imagine your scenario were true. Let’s say God did just create the end state of things. If God were to say to us, “cl, Ebonmuse, you cannot enter into heaven, because I know the inclinations of your hearts and if I allow you, you would do this and that evil thing…” Would that be fair? Maybe, maybe not, but it would certainly never seem fair to us even if God is all-knowing! How could we possibly get a fair sentence if we’ve not even been given the chance to manifest the inclinations of our hearts?

    A being possessing moral perfection, but not omnipotence or omniscience or omnipresence or atemporality or other attributes usually identified with God, would not be another God; it would simply be a free-willed being possessing moral perfection. Again, Christianity itself supplies an example of this: angels are traditionally believed to have free will – they must have, else how could any of them have fallen? – and yet, they are said to infallibly carry out the will of God.

    I think your response here is strong, but certainly flawed. The first sentence is wholly true, and yes, it’s a justifiable biblical position that angels have free will (see 2 Peter 2:4). Else as you ask, how could they fall? However, you contradict yourself: What is not a justifiable biblical position is that angels “infallibly carry out the will of God.” On the one hand, you say angels “infallibly carry out the word of God,” but on the other hand you turn around and say angels can fall. Anyone else see a discrepancy here?

    …why wouldn’t God create human beings with inclinations toward virtue, so that few people exercise the evil options that are theoretically open to them?

    Bah… The question is disingenuous by ignoring that human beings are inclined towards virtue. Sure, not one of us is without sin, but does that mean that any or all of us weren’t created with inclinations toward virtue? Is not every moral code from Hammurabi to the Constitution and Bill of Rights ample evidence that people are inclined towards virtue? Your argument here ignores that most people do have strong inclinations to do right. Even hardened criminals retain inclinations toward virtue. The hardest thugs and rock pushers I know all admit they’d love nothing more than to quit the game and live a virtuous life. So human beings did emerge with inclinations towards virtue, and the real question is this: Can virtue exist without vice?

  • Paul

    CL, getting a “fair sentence” is moot if God had merely created the end state of affairs. There would be no need for any sentence or judgment, fair or not.

  • Leum

    Ebon, I don’t know if the view is common, but I think some branches of Christianity take the view that the purpose of free will is that we surrender it. But those branches are less inclined to take Craig’s view that this is the best of all possible worlds. Not that I blame him for this view, just look at how well spectacles fit on the bridge of the nose!

    cl, like you I was surprised that Craig took the position that God has free will, a very dubious proposition in my opinion. I’m inclined to agree with Socrates/Plato that perfect knowledge prevents acting in any way other than the one that is necessary. Then again, I’m disinclined to believe in free will at all, so maybe I’m not the best atheologian for this debate.

    Can virtue exist without vice?

    Yes, I think so. Virtue is more than not doing bad things, it’s doing good things. However, in a would without vice,we might not notice it as such. As Diane Duane said in So You Want to Be a Wizard, evil created darkness, but it did not advance its cause, as the darkness only served to emphasize the light.

  • Polly

    Now, presupposing one’s entrance into heaven or hell is intrinsically related to how one handled evil, one could not enter into heaven or hell without handling evil.

    But, Christians believe that dead babies and infants wind up in Heaven. Also, god is there. These beings never had to handle evil.

    On the one hand, you say angels “infallibly carry out the word of God,” but on the other hand you turn around and say angels can fall. Anyone else see a discrepancy here?

    Those that made the choice to stay, follow god infallibly unlike humans, who, even in choosing god still fail daily. I think that’s what he meant.
    However, it can be argued that the Bible leaves room for fallibility among un-fallen angels. Job 4:18

    18 If God places no trust in his servants, if he charges his angels with error, 19 how much more those who live in houses of clay…

    I’m not one to make the argument. I’m just pointing it out.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Good piece. Yes, it definitely seems silly to assume that terrible evil and suffering are necessary for free will.

    The way I sometimes put it is this: Some people are born into relative comfort, to parents who take good care of them, with a good education and good nutrition and a general sense of security, with many choices as to what they can do with their lives, and with good prospects for those lives to be happy and fruitful. Other people are born into poverty and neglect or abuse: underfed, poorly educated, always wondering where their next meal is coming from, with few options (most of which suck), and with little or no hope for anything better.

    People in the latter group are more likely to commit crimes and make bad, even evil choices than people in the first group.

    Yet people in both groups clearly have free will. In fact, it’s arguable that people in the first group have more free will than people in the second, since they have more options.

    So if evil is really necessary for free will, then why didn’t God create a world in which all of us live in the second set of conditions? And if relative comfort and prosperity are not incompatible with free will, why didn’t God create a world in which all of us have that prosperity?

    If you believe in God, you have to bend yourself into contortions to try to explain this… and even then, you ultimately have to fall back on “mysterious ways.” Atheism cuts the Gordian knot.

  • Entomologista

    Unless you are a believer in “The Secret”, in which case a nuclear bomb will be delivered to your door in 6 to 8 weeks.

    Ha! I hate that book. Say, maybe Ebon could do a post on this and other such self help books for one of his series…

  • Mathew Wilder

    cl, what possible reason could a god gave for making Heaven dependent on one’s response to evil? That seems completely arbitrary, if he could have created us all in Heaven, where we presumably still have free will but only do good.

    Also, as others have mentioned, don’t aborted babies go to Heaven without having faced evil? Also, what need of Christ’s Redemption if entrance to Heaven is based on one’s actions as regards evil.

    Re: angels- I don’t know of any Christians that believe there are angels still falling. The falling of angels happened, and those that didn’t fall, now carry out god’s will infallibly, yet still have free will, presumably. I’m not that up on my angelology, so I could be wrong on this.

  • David Ellis


    Re: angels- I don’t know of any Christians that believe there are angels still falling. The falling of angels happened, and those that didn’t fall, now carry out god’s will infallibly, yet still have free will, presumably. I’m not that up on my angelology, so I could be wrong on this.

    Nothing in the bible really addresses that question. But what you describe is what most christians assume on the topic.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Say, maybe Ebon could do a post on this and other such self help books for one of his series…

    Ask and ye shall receive. :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    … I was surprised that Craig took the position that God has free will, a very dubious proposition in my opinion. I’m inclined to agree with Socrates/Plato that perfect knowledge prevents acting in any way other than the one that is necessary.

    While I would agree with that, Leum, I wouldn’t say that that condition would represent an absence of free will. On the contrary, I’d go with Kant on this question and say that a person possessing perfect knowledge would always freely make the choice which best achieves their goals. To deny this is to claim that free will requires sometimes making decisions which you know to be suboptimal, which sounds like a dubious proposition to me.

    Taking the monotheist perspective for a moment, I would think that Christians and other religious people would have to agree. If God possesses all perfections and virtues, but does not have free will, then clearly free will is neither of those things. If that were the case, one would have to ask why he values it in humans.

  • Duke of Omnium

    Since god putatively does not want us to sin, doesn’t that necessarily imply that god would prefer a world without evil? Not all evil is sin, perhaps, but wouldn’t all sin be evil? (hint: if it isn’t, then sin is a matter of god’s arbitrary preferences).

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    a person possessing perfect knowledge would always freely make the choice which best achieves their goals. To deny this is to claim that free will requires sometimes making decisions which you know to be suboptimal, which sounds like a dubious proposition to me.

    I’m probably punching beyond my weight here, but. If a god was a U.U;perfect knowledge of all circumstances around a problem would force him to make whichever decision maximised happiness for those involved, although any one individual may be severely compromised (pushed under the train?). So, from his perspective he doesn’t have free will and from the perspective of the disadvantaged party he has created evil. Isn’t that essentially the apologetic position?

  • paradoctor

    “God’s mysterious ways”; agnosticism disguised as mysticism.

  • exrelayman

    About ‘Free Will’: I didn’t know Will was incarcerated. But even if you did free him, those guys on the firing range would ‘fire at Will’. Will has a tough time. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    Minds are not pretzels, but pretzel like twists of mind are required to create theodicies.

  • justin

    I’m probably punching beyond my weight here, but. If a god was a U.U;perfect knowledge of all circumstances around a problem would force him to make whichever decision maximised happiness for those involved, although any one individual may be severely compromised (pushed under the train?).

    The thing is, if God had perfect knowledge, he’d presumably have a heckuva imagination, and even with my limited imagination I can imagine simple solutions (simple for an omnipotent being, anyway) to moral dilemmas.

    Besides, apologists usually don’t define free will in any detail; what if we’re talking about a free will that is somehow compatible with determinism in human minds? God could use that type of free will to his advantage without having to limit it.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    If a god was a U.U;perfect knowledge of all circumstances around a problem would force him to make whichever decision maximised happiness for those involved, although any one individual may be severely compromised (pushed under the train?). So, from his perspective he doesn’t have free will and from the perspective of the disadvantaged party he has created evil.

    I don’t accept that an omnipotent being could ever be forced to make such a tradeoff. That’s more or less the definition of omnipotence. Certainly a limited being lacking the power to shape circumstances to its liking might have to make difficult moral decisions, but that’s not the kind Craig is talking about, nor the kind that most theists believe in.

  • Christopher

    Besides, apologists usually don’t define free will in any detail; what if we’re talking about a free will that is somehow compatible with determinism in human minds? God could use that type of free will to his advantage without having to limit it.

    The reason they don’t talk about “free will” is (a) it doesn’t exist and (b) if it did exist it would shoot their entire belief system to shreds once taken to its logical conclusions: so they describe “free will” in the vaguest terms possible so no one ever catches on to how the idea undercuts their own theology – while still maintaining an opening to invoke it whenever it’s convenient!

  • Mathew Wilder

    I think you are quite correct, Christopher.

  • prase

    @cl:

    But let’s imagine your scenario were true. Let’s say God did just create the end state of things. If God were to say to us, “cl, Ebonmuse, you cannot enter into heaven, because I know the inclinations of your hearts and if I allow you, you would do this and that evil thing…” Would that be fair? Maybe, maybe not, but it would certainly never seem fair to us even if God is all-knowing!

    It’s a rather good argument why God cannot prevent evil by physically preventing us to do it. But,

    1. God could make people who would never desire to do evil. That wouldn’t make us less free? I am pretty sure that I have never wanted and I will never want to torture a hippopotamus and I don’t feel unfree because of it. I suppose that “never want to torture a hippopotamus and be still free” can be generalised to “never want to do evil and be still free”, whatever the definition of evil is. If not, please explain. (A working definition of free will in appendix recommended.)

    2. I think it is in the first place unfair to judge people for their thoughts instead of for their deeds. If Heaven is free from evil, why does it matter how it is established? I don’t know the inclinations of your heart and I don’t care as long as you don’t hurt me. If you can’t hurt me even if you want, that’s entirely your problem. Why should God care?

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    Another Christian defense that could be used is that God DOES possess free will, but always chooses good over evil in all that he does. He has the power to choose evil, but will not, because he wants to do good.

    This defense may work, though it can easily succumb to circular reasoning(why does God choose good over evil? Because he’s good. Why is he good? Because he chooses good over evil). Nevertheless, it offers another explanation for the “free will exception” (why we need it, but God doesn’t) by asserting that God DOES have free will.

    Whether this is true or not seems not to matter. The largest problem is that God would create a world in which people can do evil. Why would a morally perfect God (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, etc.) create a world in which there is suffering caused by free will?

    Once God fails to prevent evil in the world (i.e. a murder), he is no longer morally perfect. Why? Because being all-knowing, he would know the murder would take place (if he didn’t, he wouldn’t know everything, and therefore isn’t perfect). Also, being all-loving, he wouldn’t allow for someone to be murdered (if he did, he wouldn’t be all-loving). Finally, being all-powerful, he would have the power to prevent the murder (if he didn’t have the power to do so, he wouldn’t be all-powerful). A morally perfect God could then not have a world with free will.

    Though theists would argue that God feels the cost is necessary, I disagree. Why is the cost necessary? It cannot be the case the God needs to test us; God is all-knowing, and would know before creating a person (i.e. Hitler) that the person would become evil (i.e. exterminate millions of Jews). If God needs to test us, then this indicates that God doesn’t KNOW something about us. If god doesn’t know something about us, then he is not omniscient–he is not all powerful.

    Other people believe we NEED this suffering in order to devolop virtue and morality. For example, how can we develop sorrow in a world where there’s no one to feel sorrowful for?

    My rebuttal to this argument is that a morally perfect God would be able to create humans with virtue. He can create us with the moral principles, virtue, and everything that experiencing years of suffering is necessary for. After all, he is all-powerful, isn’t he?

    All right, then what about God’s love for us? For God so loved the world, he granted us free will so that we may do as we please. He gave his “children” the power to steal, rape, kill and commit any atrocity imaginable, and this gift is a sign of his love for us. He WANTS us to be free.

    Now, I know I’m not analagous to God, but if I “created” two children and decided I would let them do whatever they wanted and give them freedom to play with knives and matches, and choose not stop one of them from harming the other, I would be seen as a very bad mother.

    Also, God could give us this freedom (i.e. freedom to shoot someone) without letting the suffering occur (i.e. preventing the victim from being shot). It would not interfere with someone’s free will to prevent death from occuring. If a murderer breaks into my house tonight and shoots at me, it would not interfere with his free will if God made him miss me. It also would not interfere with his free will if the police caught him and he went to jail. He performed the actions he wanted to do, the actions simply didn’t lead to the result he wanted. If God is all-powerful, then why can’t he do this at the least? He would still be granting us his gift out of his love, but he would also be protecting us from those who abuse the gift.

    This doesn’t even begin to cover all the suffering in the world not caused by free will. Hurricanes? Tornadoes? Tsunamis? Cancer? Even if I accepted free will, and reprieved God for granting us that gift, I cannot explain why natural disasters occur. Natural disasters completely contradict the idea that a morally perfect being exists.

    Overall, a morally perfect being would not create a world such as ours, whether he has free will himself or not. Perhaps an imperfect being would, but an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God? No, it is logically impossible.

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @ Socrates

    YOU SAID: “However, without knowing the purpose of life its impossible to make a judgement on the necessity of evil. ”

    God knows what makes people miserable, just as a parent know what makes their children miserable. To one child, removing television privileges would be a travesty, while to others it wouldn’t matter in the least. God, being all-knowing, knows what makes each of us suffer–he knows what our “personal evils” (if you will) are. Knowing this, a good, loving, all-powerful God would not allow us to experience this suffering even if he himself doesn’t view it as suffering. For example, perhaps to God, it is good to see a dog run over by a car. To a child, it would be traumatic. A morally perfect God would not allow this child to suffer–a morally perfect God, even though he himself doesn’t view it as suffering, would not allow the child to see the dog be run over by a car. We cannot say that suffering might be okay because we don’t understand its purpose. Saying this doesn’t make suffering hurt any less. We stil suffer from evils, and it still hurts us greatly to experience this suffering. God knows what makes us suffer, and so, being morally perfect, would not allow us to endure this suffering.

    YOU SAID: “…evil allows the human mind to grow in ways that its lack might stifle.”

    A morally perfect God could do anything, and could make it so that our brains “develop in ways that [evil's] lack might stifle” without introducing evil. If it is not possible for God to do this, then he’s not all-powerful.

    YOU SAID: “If we do go to heaven for eternity, the existance of evil on earth isn’t nearly as important.”

    You seem to think that right now, if we suffered, it would matter little because we would have an eternity of happiness. It is very difficult for someone experiencing chronic pain, or suffering though the death of a child, to think “it’ll all be all right because I’m going to live forever in happiness eventually.” For most of their lives on Earth, these people will suffer–for years and years and years. We live in a finite world right NOW, and our brains are wired to think as if we’re in a finite world right now. A year feels like a pretty good stretch of time to most people now, and were we to suffer for years on end, most would be unhappy. An eternal life would not undo this suffering. It may make it seem negligible when looking back, but when actively experiencing the suffering, it would still seem like a long amount of time.

    YOU SAID: “So if [evil]does server a purpose, its existance would be far less important than would be thought by a secular humanist.”

    If you feel that the afterlife would make the suffering seem unimportant, then why would suffering be necssary? Any virtue devloped from the suffering would also be unimportant, by your thinking, in comparison to eternal life in the after world. Since this virtue would then be unimportant, the reason for having suffering in the first place (to “allow the human mind to grow in ways that its lack might stifle”) would be irrelevant. If suffering is necessary to develop the human mind, then suffering is important. You say suffering is UNimportant in comparison with the afterlife…so then why is suffering necessary?

    God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-powerful, and could make a world in which suffering isn’t necessary and in which people can live happily with virtue and morality.

    If I’ve misrepresented anything you’ve said, please don’t hesitate to point it out.
    (For more detail on this, read my above post).

    ~Sam

  • Mathew Wilder

    Sam, you are quite right. I have often wondered why god wouldn’t turn a murderer’s bullets into flowers or butterflies, thus allowing free will on the killer’s part, but not allowing the harm. I see no reason why the suffering must be allowed.

  • Socrates

    @Sam
    “A morally perfect God would not allow this child to suffer–a morally perfect God, even though he himself doesn’t view it as suffering, would not allow the child to see the dog be run over by a car.”

    This is actually an indefensible statement. We have theories to what constitutes moral behavior but in no way have defined “morally perfect” behavior. Perhaps a moral perfect being would allow a child to suffer, if they thought it would be beneficial in the long run. Most of the Existence of Evil Paradox hinges off of this fallacy. Until you can define moral perfection and prove it to be a unique definition, you can’t actually say God is contradicting it.

    “If you feel that the afterlife would make the suffering seem unimportant, then why would suffering be necessary? Any virtue developed from the suffering would also be unimportant, by your thinking, in comparison to eternal life in the after world.”

    By your own admittance suffering seems important to a finite mind. That suffering shapes us more than it would an infinite being. If 100 years of suffering leaves a lasting impression on a human mind for eternity, the suffering was definitely worth it.

    And finally, “God could have just made us perfect to begin with.” Perhaps there is intrinsic value in growing into something worthwhile instead of being made that way. Much the same way that many people feel that there is intrinsic value in the truth.

    The existence of evil doesn’t prove or disprove god, what it should do is make any moral human refuse to worship him either way ^_^

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Perhaps there is intrinsic value in growing into something worthwhile instead of being made that way.

    Then, that is value that god surely does not possess.

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @Socrates

    YOU SAID: “Until you can define moral perfection and prove it to be a unique definition, you can’t actually say God is contradicting it.”

    I believe that there is a definition of morality. I don’t believe in subjective morality, but you’re correct in saying I can’t produce a working definition for you at this point in time.

    However, I’m not arguing against a universal definition of morality. I’m arguing against the Christian belief of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God. This is what I mean by “morally perfect”–a God meeting these qualities. Instead, I’ll refer to this omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God as the “Greatest Conceivable Being (GCB)” rather than “morally perfect.” Christians (and probably other religions as well) believe in the existence of such a God (The GCB), and that is what I am arguing against.

    Following this definition, we CAN say that God is contradicting his alleged perfection by allowing evil, and we CAN say that a Greatest Conceivable Being does not exist.

    YOU SAID: “By your own admittance suffering seems important to a finite mind. That suffering shapes us more than it would an infinite being. If 100 years of suffering leaves a lasting impression on a human mind for eternity, the suffering was definitely worth it.”

    Still, the person enduring the 100 years would feel otherwise UNTIL they got to the eternity. Is to tell this sufferer that it will all be worth it in the end? I see myself as a good person, and have not suffered greatly in my life. Others I know have suffered all their lives. Why is it necessary for them, but not for me and other people to suffer? That is, why is there “selective suffering” and some people are burdened their entire lives, while others get a free ride?

    Also, if we have an infinite amount of time in heaven, can we not develop virtue there? Why is suffering necessary to develop morality? Can’t someone who has not sufferend look objectively at the world and decide what they believe is wrong and what they believe is right?

    Furthermore, why are these virtues necessary in HEAVEN? Let’s say I grant that suffering is necessary on Earth (which I don’t grant, but if I hypothetically did). This suffering would be “necessary” for developing a sense of pride, shame, guilt, sonscience, etc. So, if someone close to us lost a relative, we would feel sorry for that person through our virtue that we could ONLY gain through suffering. In heaven, events like this don’t occur. Why would it be necessary in heaven to develop a sense of morality when nothing bad happens there? Wouldn’t it make more sense for God to skip the “Earth process” and create only those people he knows would be deserving of heaven in heaven instead?

    The suffering still does not seem worth it because it is unnecessary.

    YOU SAID: “Perhaps there is intrinsic value in growing into something worthwhile instead of being made that way. Much the same way that many people feel that there is intrinsic value in the truth.”

    Perhaps this is true, but I think there are other ways to “grow into something worthwhile” than enduring lifelong suffering. Many successful (and by successful I mean ‘something worthwhile’) people have suffered most of their lives, while others have no scars to show. This goes back to what I said earlier about “selective suffering.”

    YOU SAID:
    “The existence of evil doesn’t prove or disprove god, what it should do is make any moral human refuse to worship him either way.”

    Though it does not disprove God, it does disprove a “Greatest Conceivable Being” that Christians refer to as God. So, perhaps an omniscient, omnibenevolent God exists, but perhaps he isn’t omnipotent. This God would hardly be worth worshipping, and would not make sense with any teachings. The idea of God arose with the idea that the Universe is so magnificent that it must have a creator. It’s hard for me to think that a being who created the universe can’t stop a bullet from hitting a victim. Perhaps then, he doesn’t wish to stop the bullet from hitting the victim. Perhaps God is omnipotent, omniscient, but not all-loving. Again, few people would want to worship this God. This God would be inconsistent and full of contradictions, making it hard to believe that such a being would exist. This is where I have a problem arguing against God. Though I know a God that is sometimes good and sometimes bad, sometimes all-knowing sometimes not, sometimes all-powerful and sometimes not, does not exist, I cannot as effectively disprove it as I can the Greatest Conceivable being.

    There are many types of “God” that can be argued for, but each seem contradictory. However, the subject at hand is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God. That God does not exist. It’s incompatible with reality.

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @ OMGF

    YOU SAID:

    ” ‘Perhaps there is intrinsic value in growing into something worthwhile instead of being made that way.’(Socrates)

    Then, that is value that god surely does not possess.”

    You have a great point. This gets into the question of where God came from and how he was created (not to mention where). God is allegedly perfect by nature, yet he can’t make us perfect by nature because it wouldn’t be as valuable as working for our perfection. Why does God get away happy while we’re left to cry? If we have to suffer to become virtuous, why doesn’t God?

    ~Sam

  • Socrates

    @Sam
    Morally Perfect, Greatest Conceivable Being, etc, doesn’t matter what you term it, allowing evil doesn’t create a paradox until you can prove that allowing evil is absolutely contradictory to moral perfection or “all loving” etc.

    Your moral beliefs state that it is bad to allow evil, thus a god who allows evil and could have stopped it is bad. But without a universal and unique moral system in which it is provable that allowing evil is always bad, this doesn’t make for a contradiction in god.

    You ask many questions like “Why are these virtues necessary in Heaven?” and “Isn’t there some other way than suffering?” But the burden of proof doesn’t fall on me. You’re the one trying to put forth a conclusive proof of paradox, “God can’t exist.” I don’t claim to know the answers; I don’t think there are answers as god isn’t real. I do however think that your paradox contains a fallacy and that there are better arguments for being an atheist.

    “There are many types of “God” that can be argued for, but each seem contradictory. However, the subject at hand is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God. That God does not exist. It’s incompatible with reality.”
    This is the crux of what I’m saying. This statement is wrong. The converse isn’t necessarily true, just that this statement is wrong. God’s definition can’t be self-contradictory if we don’t even know how its constituent parts are defined. How can “omnipotent and omniscient” contradict “omnibenevolent” if omnibenevolent is undefined?

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @Socrates

    YOU SAID:
    “Morally Perfect, Greatest Conceivable Being, etc, doesn’t matter what you term it, allowing evil doesn’t create a paradox until you can prove that allowing evil is absolutely contradictory to moral perfection or “all loving” etc.”

    It seems the problem we’re having lies in the questions “What is good?” and “What is evil?” I believe that it is moral is to achieve happiness without interfering with another person’s similar achievement of happiness. This is loosely based on Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. If it makes me happy to murder someone, this is morally wrong because I’m interfering with that person’s ability to achieve their happiness. If it makes me happy to do math, then that’s the morally correct thing for me to do, so long as I don’t interfere with others’ achievment of happiness in the process. I can’t say, as a fact, that my moral beliefs comprise “a universal and unique moral system,” but I can say that I believe it is a functional moral system that provides some basis for my argument.

    Though I do believe there is a universal moral system that dictates what’s right and what’s wrong, I can’t lay one out for you. For now, I base mine on the statement in the prveious paragraph.

    Based on the idea of achieving happiness without interfering with others’ achievement of that happiness, it is wrong to inflict harm on a person; i.e. to make them suffer, for it conflicts with their ability to achieve happiness.

    Using these ideas, I can disprove a God who possesses omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and omniscience, because he would not inflict harm upon a person since it would interfere with their ability to achieve happiness. This action is contradictory to a good God based on my moral beliefs.

    Also, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to say killing others for the sake of killing is wrong. Once again, you’re correct in saying that I don’t have the universal definition of morality, but I do believe I have a good idea of what people shouldn’t do.

    YOU SAID:
    You ask many questions like “Why are these virtues necessary in Heaven?” and “Isn’t there some other way than suffering?” But the burden of proof doesn’t fall on me. You’re the one trying to put forth a conclusive proof of paradox, “God can’t exist.” I don’t claim to know the answers; I don’t think there are answers as god isn’t real. I do however think that your paradox contains a fallacy and that there are better arguments for being an atheist.

    On the contrary: the burden of proof is on you. You argued earlier for the necessity of suffering, saying “If 100 years of suffering leaves a lasting impression on a human mind for eternity, the suffering was definitely worth it.”
    I’m asking you why you believe is worth it, and am offering arguments for why I do not think it is. You need to tell me why it is worth it. If suffering isn’t necessary, then the free will defense falls apart (because it claims suffering is necessary), as does the idea of God as being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

    YOU SAID: “How can “omnipotent and omniscient” contradict “omnibenevolent” if omnibenevolent is undefined?”

    I’m arguing that this God contradicts reality: that his being “all-good” isn’t compatible with the evil in the world. An all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God would not allow suffering to occur, yet suffering does occur, so this God does not exist. This is based on my idea that suffering is bad, since it’s unnecessary according to my moral beliefs.

    Again, I don’t believe my moral beliefs are far-fetched, but you want a universal definition that I can’t offer. What I can say is that even if it’s universally “morally good” to suffer, most humans don’t view suffering in that way. If God knows that we view suffering as bad, he would not allow us to suffer because he knows it isn’t a good experience for us.

    ~Sam

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Socrates: It seems like you’re essentially saying, “God might be good, but we don’t know what ‘good’ really is. What ‘good’ means to us isn’t necessarily what good means to God.”

    If that’s so, then why bother having this conversation? If we’re going to redefine good and evil so it means something completely different for God than it does for us, then what on earth is the relevance? If what we think of as good and evil aren’t what God thinks of as good and evil, then aren’t those terms rendered meaningless? Saying “God is good” is like saying, “God is blort.”

    And also, how in that case is God the moral example he supposedly is?

    The existence of evil doesn’t prove or disprove God. But it certainly does disprove the All- Powerful, All- Knowing, All- Good God of standard Christian theology. The only way to wiggle out of it is by resorting to “mysterious ways”… which is essentially what the “good doesn’t mean the same thing to God as it does to us” argument is.

  • Christopher

    Sam, you are quite right. I have often wondered why god wouldn’t turn a murderer’s bullets into flowers or butterflies, thus allowing free will on the killer’s part, but not allowing the harm.

    You ripped of the “Watchmen” comic for that one, didn’t you? Does this mean the “god” is a naked blue man with the power to alter matter/energy at the subatomic level? *snicker*

  • Paul S

    Greta Christina beat me to the punch on this one. God always comes out smelling like the proverbial rose because (to the believer) it is impossible for God to do anything wrong. And who tells them this? Why God of course! It’s absolutely amazing to me the illogical leaps Christians take when it comes to defending their god’s inaction.

    If any parent treated their children with the demonstrable indifference and callousness that God shows his “creations,” that parent would be guilty of child abuse, arrested and sent to prison.

  • Brian

    @ Socrates

    I agree with what Greta said. We can’t allow ourselves to slip into moral subjectivism.

    It’s sad when the logical contradictions are so apparent that we are asked to abandon the conception of the things that define us as human beings.

  • Mathew Wilder

    @ Christopher: it was totally unintentional, but now that you mention it, it is funny.

    I’m curious why we can’t argue against the existence of god without knowing what morally perfect might mean, but believers can argue for god’s existence without that knowledge. Why the double-standard? Or do believers know what is morally perfect and just aren’t willing to share that knowledge?

  • John Nernoff

    The Bible says God is perfect and his works are perfect.

    Psalm 18:30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried…

    Matt. 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

    Deut 32:4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

    Job 11:7 Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection (KJV)

    Job 36:4 “…he that is perfect in knowledge is with thee.”

    Job 37:16 “…the wondrous works of him which is perfect in knowledge.”?

    Therefore we are perfect. Perfect beings can’t go wrong (choose evil) no mater how much free will they have. The free will claim is therefore irrelevant.

    Of course, we are obviously not “perfect,” If so, the Bible is in error, and nothing in it can be trusted.

  • Socrates

    I’m not falling into moral subjectivism, I’m simply stating that “I’ve disproven God” is a arrogant indefensible position assuming that the world works according to your own personal moral code.

    @Greta
    The reason we’re having this conversation is that people bring this argument up as a good argument against god. As an atheist I want to see sound arguments being used to support my cause, I don’t think this is one.

    YOU SAID:
    You ask many questions like “Why are these virtues necessary in Heaven?” and “Isn’t there some other way than suffering?” But the burden of proof doesn’t fall on me. You’re the one trying to put forth a conclusive proof of paradox, “God can’t exist.” I don’t claim to know the answers; I don’t think there are answers as god isn’t real. I do however think that your paradox contains a fallacy and that there are better arguments for being an atheist.

    On the contrary: the burden of proof is on you. You argued earlier for the necessity of suffering, saying “If 100 years of suffering leaves a lasting impression on a human mind for eternity, the suffering was definitely worth it.”
    I’m asking you why you believe is worth it, and am offering arguments for why I do not think it is. You need to tell me why it is worth it. If suffering isn’t necessary, then the free will defense falls apart (because it claims suffering is necessary), as does the idea of God as being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent

    No. You have made a claim, that claim requires these questions to have specific answers. I simply state that you have not sufficiently ruled out all other possibilities and thus your claim is not in fact a proof of anything.

    Lets look at a sound argument:

    In several parts the gospels describe the life of Jesus differently in such ways that both descriptions can’t be true. This means that at least one of these descriptions cannot be true. This implies that the bible is not perfect. Since the bible is provably not perfect, it cannot be the perfect foundation for morality.

    I don’t need to pre-assume that my personal moral code is correct, anything about the nature of Heaven, or anything else that is part of what I’m trying to prove in order for my proof to work. In contrast your proof does have to assume these things, and they are by no means unquestionable assumptions.

    What you have proven is that by our standards god is a jackass. I assert that since I am (and should be) sufficiently self confident in my own moral worth that I will not willing following such a being. What you have not proven is that being a jackass somehow disproves god’s existence.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Socrates, you’re flat wrong. When atheists critique the Christian god in this way, what they are doing is making an argument ad absurdum. If we assume Christian morality, the Christian god doesn’t live up to it. The aspects of god are self-contradictory in themselves. One doesn’t need to bring in the issues of what is actually right and wrong, if anything, at all.

  • Socrates

    Socrates, you’re flat wrong. When atheists critique the Christian god in this way, what they are doing is making an argument ad absurdum. If we assume Christian morality, the Christian god doesn’t live up to it. The aspects of god are self-contradictory in themselves. One doesn’t need to bring in the issues of what is actually right and wrong, if anything, at all.

    That most certainly is not what you are doing. Christian morality allows for suffering, especially of undesirables. The existence of evil paradox is a paradox constructed from a framework outside of the christian framework, as such to be a paradox it must be shown that your framework is in fact accurate.

    A paradox constructed inside the christian framework would read something like thus: If god is perfect, how is it that he changes his mind from the old testament to the new testament to now? Was he wrong then or is he wrong now?

  • Socrates

    I’d like to clarify my position. I’m arguing mostly about terminology, just like theory means more than “some scientist’s guess” proof has connotations above “its likely.”

    There are many types of “God” that can be argued for, but each seem contradictory. However, the subject at hand is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God. That God does not exist. It’s incompatible with reality.

    The aspects of god are self-contradictory in themselves.

    These are strong words. This isn’t making supposition on god, this is stating very clearly that it is _impossible_ for god to exist. That’s a big leap from unlikely and to make that leap the case has to be concrete.

    The reason this matters to me is that I want people to be atheists because of reason, not because of a fallacious proof. If they lose their faith because of this proof and later see that it isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, then they’ve been betrayed by atheism just as much as they were by religion. Instead we show them that there are contradictions within the framework of the major religions and that it is unlikely any such supreme being exists. We show them that human dignity is worth something and that any god we worship should respect our moral views. We show them that creation fairy tales aren’t needed anymore, because we can find out the answers ourselves. We show them that being good for goodness sake is a better virtue than being good because of a giant paddle in the sky.

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @Socrates

    Once again, I’m simply stating the incompatibility of the CHRISTIAN God with reality. The Christian God, as Christians define Him, CANNOT exist for reasons I’ve already mentioned. He’s all-good, so he can’t do evil, but if he can’t do evil, then he’s all-powerful. It doesn’t matter what you define “good” or “evil” as here either. “Good” still has an oppostie. An all-”good” God cannot do anything that isn’t good. I’m not here to say what good is; however, if this God CANNOT DO this, he isn’t all-powerful, and therefore an all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing God–a God containing all these qualities–CANNOT logically exist.

    As for a sometimes good, sometimes bad, maybe all powerful, maybe somewhat (but not all) knowing God, that’s a different story, and I don’t claim to disprove that. But, as others have using the problem of evil and God’s contradicting qualities, I can disprove the Christian God.

    ~Sam

  • Brian

    @ Socrates

    One of the problems I’ve encountered using your “sound” proofs is that they are open to unfalsifiable apologetics. Yes, the Bible may contain contradictions when taken literally, but many people just assume a figuritive interpretation of the Bible, and blame the other errors on human fallibility.

    Your argument might be sound to refute the perfection of the Bible, but it’s weak for arguing against god.

    The beauty of the problem of evil argument and the free will arguments is that it’s one of the few times an atheist can attack. Usually proving a negative isn’t required of us, but in this case, we can point out the logical contradictions.

    Considering the contradictions that Sam and others have pointed out, we CAN prove that the Christian God is logically impossible, just like we can prove that a square circle cannot exist.

    Defending a god with the 3 O’s can only lead to contradiction.

  • Socrates

    @Brian
    Refuting a literal bible is useful. Its hard to throw at verse at someone as to why they shouldn’t have any rights if you’re book is provably unsound. I think its more useful than trying to attack the concept of god because its doable whereas disproving god hasn’t been as successful.

    The point I’m trying to make is that you _arent_ disproving god with the free will or the evil arguments; you’re playing philosophical word games. The 3 O’s can only lead to self contradiction if rigidly defined correctly, same with free will. Since you are unable to do this, your proof is not.

    Sam’s proof is the same as asking whether god can make a rock he can’t pick up, as either case “proves” him to not be all powerful. It more shows that language isn’t perfect than disproves god.

    God is “all good” and thus unable to perform evil. This supposedly puts a limitation on him and thus means he isn’t “all powerful.”

    Good and evil can be defined by intention. Any action can be justified given an extreme enough circumstance, thus good and evil aren’t limiting what god can do; only what he is inclinded to do. All powerful can be defined as “capable of causing any phenomenon in reality at will.” Since god can cause any action, his lack of evil intent does not limit this and causes no contradiction.

    As an aside “we need things to throw at relgion” is a terrible reason to support an argument. Either it is sound or it is unsound, its necessity and usefulness should not at any point weigh in on whether it is justified to use. Convincing someone of something with an argument they are simply not qualified to dispute should be against everyone’s morals.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I suggest Socrates check out “The Impossibility of God.” (Sorry, I don’t know how to underline.)

    Also, how in the world can anyone defend the actions of ordering and committing genocide and also being omni-benevolent?

  • Robert

    What about the so-called “age of accountability”? That doctrine clashes with “free will”. See, we are told that babies and young children who die get a free pass to heaven. Why? Because they aren’t able to understand what sin and evil are; they are incapable of making a free will decision on moral matters so it would be unjust for God to send them to hell. But Christians tell us that free will is important because God wants people to love him freely; or as Christians often put it, “God doesn’t want robots”. This is where the two doctrines clash. If free will is so important to God, if not being able to exercise free will makes one like a “robot”, then what of babies and young children who die? Since they are (as we are told) incapable of moral reasoning and hence making a free will decision for or against God, are they then like robots? And further, if God is okay with babies in heaven without their exercising free will, then why not take everyone there? Or at the beginning making a race of beings that all died young?

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @ Socrates

    YOU SAID:
    “No. You have made a claim, that claim requires these questions to have specific answers. I simply state that you have not sufficiently ruled out all other possibilities and thus your claim is not in fact a proof of anything.”

    True; I have made a claim stating that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God cannot exist. I have not made a claim that a different God with differing qualities can’t exist (even though I don’t believe it’s true).

    I argued that a 3-O God would not make a world with free will. He would not do this because a person with free will could perform evil acts and good acts, for he has free will. It doesn’t matter how I define good, or how I define evil. What matters is that the person is capable of doing these acts, and that’s what makes God’s “gift” of free will so wrong–because it introduces the availability of “evil”–whatever “evil” is–into the world.

    I argued that free will is UNnecessary–that people could be worthy of heaven without needing to suffer grievously. You disagreed with me, saying that you believe the time spent suffering would be worthwhile because it would seem negligible in comparison with an afterlife. Why then would suffering (and therefore, free will) be necessary? You have presented a claim (that free will is necessary) and have not provided me with reason for that claim. So, the burden of proof is on you. I’ve told you why it’s unnecessay in this and previous posts, but you didn’t tell me why it’s necessary.

    YOU SAID:
    “The point I’m trying to make is that you _arent_ disproving god with the free will or the evil arguments”

    I’m logically able to prove that the 3-O God cannot exist. I may not be able to prove a different God doesn’t exist, but I CAN prove that one doesn’t.

    YOU SAID:
    “you’re playing philosophical word games. The 3 O’s can only lead to self contradiction if rigidly defined correctly, same with free will. Since you are unable to do this, your proof is not.”"

    “Omniscience”: knowing everything; there is not one thing an omniscient being would not know, for he would know everything. Call it omniscience, or call it zublurfin–THAT part is semantics. The meaning behind it is not. Omniscient means to know everything.

    “Omnipotence”: being all-powerful; there is nothing an omnipotent being cannot do, for he can do anything. Again, call it omnipotence or xigla, THAT part is semantics. The concept is not. Omnipotence means to have the power to do everything.

    “Omnibenevolent”: being all-good; this being cannot do anything that is not good, for he is an all good being. Though we can’t PROVE what “good” is and what “not good” is, we CAN say that an omnibenevolent being cannot do “not good.”

    So, following those defininitions, we can say that an omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient being cannot exist. It’s contradictory. Why? Because an all-good God can’t do anything not good. So, there is something he cannot do (not good), therefore, he is not all-powerful.

    We can also say that this particular God is contradictory to a reality with humans who possess free will. Why? A person with free will can choose to do “good” or “not good”–whatever good or not good is–and so this introduces a world in which “not good” things happen. An all-good God would not allow “not-good” things to happen to his creations because it would not be good. So, a 3-O God is incompatible with reality.

    Thus, a 3-O God cannot exist.

    YOU SAID:
    “God is “all good” and thus unable to perform evil. This supposedly puts a limitation on him and thus means he isn’t ‘all powerful.’
    Good and evil can be defined by intention. Any action can be justified given an extreme enough circumstance, thus good and evil aren’t limiting what god can do; only what he is inclinded to do. All powerful can be defined as “capable of causing any phenomenon in reality at will.” Since god can cause any action, his lack of evil intent does not limit this and causes no contradiction.”

    If God, then, by his nature is good–if he is inclined to do good–then he still cannot do evil. God is incapable of doing anything evil, for he is good by nature.

    Even if I were to agree with you and say that God is CAPABLE of doing evil but CHOOSES not to, then why didn’t God make humans in this manner? It would elminate the problem caused by having free will (i.e. people capable of doing both good and “not good”, and choosing to do “not good.”) and would thus get the 3-O God off the hook.

    You might argue that God wants us to develop our virtue, but why are we asked this of God when God did not have to do so himself. Why can he not make us in his image (as he supposedly did) and therefore make humans who COULD do not good, but would be inclined to do good, and so would always choose to do so?

    Furthermore, don’t forget about natural “not goods.” Yeah, yeah, you can argue that “maybe a hurrican is actually a good thing! maybe cancer is actually a good thing!” But no matter the case, they cause people to suffer, and suffering as humans view it is “not good.” An all-good God would not allow “not good” things to happen to his creatures.

    YOU SAID:
    “As an aside “we need things to throw at relgion” is a terrible reason to support an argument. Either it is sound or it is unsound, its necessity and usefulness should not at any point weigh in on whether it is justified to use. Convincing someone of something with an argument they are simply not qualified to dispute should be against everyone’s morals.”

    I’m not sure who you’re quoting with ‘we need things to throw at religion,’ but it’s more of a defensive idea. Atheists are constanlty attacked with “prove God DOESN’T exist” when the burden of proof is on the person arguing he does. Atheists are constantly called upon, as Brian said, to prove a negative (i.e. to prove God DOESN’T exist, to prove free will ISN’T necessary). With the problem of evil, we have a logically sound argument that can disprove the Christian, 3-O God as I outlined above. It’s refreshing to have such an argument to protect ourselves from Christians who fail to understand the “burden of proof” idea, and to show that we have reasons for not believing in, at least, that particular God.

    I believe it’s morally wrong to ignore reason and logic. I, and others, have logically concluded that the 3-O God cannot exist. We need only logic and a working definition (Which we do have) of what this God is to “qualify” to make this argument and use it to disprove the 3-O God.

    You should check out the article OMGF referred you to. Perhaps it will clear more about the “problem of evil” argument up for you.

    ~Sam

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    It’s actually a book. I should have included a link to it or something…I blame it on being sick.

    Here’s the link:

    The Impossibility of god

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    Thanks, OMGF; I may look into it myself!

    ~Sam

  • Mathew Wilder

    Good call OMFG. I also recommend Edwin Curley’s “The Incoherence of Theism”, a relatively short paper.

    This paper discusses the incompatibility of an omniscient god and human free will. If god knows everything, god knows what we’re going to do, and so we can’t do otherwise, else god wouldn’t know what we do. If we do have free will, though, then god cannot be omniscient. Good paper.just taking one aspect of the 3-O god, omniscience leads to the contradiction that determinism is both true and false.

    Google the paper. It’s available online.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    @Socrates:

    The reason we’re having this conversation is that people bring this argument up as a good argument against god.

    No. People bring this argument up as a good argument against a very specific version of God, one which is not universal but very common (namely the Omninax 3-O God). And I think it is a good argument against that god.

  • Socrates

    @Sam

    Furthermore, don’t forget about natural “not goods.” Yeah, yeah, you can argue that “maybe a hurrican is actually a good thing! maybe cancer is actually a good thing!” But no matter the case, they cause people to suffer, and suffering as humans view it is “not good.” An all-good God would not allow “not good” things to happen to his creatures.

    By your own admission you have no possible way of proving that any of those things are “not good” you only _think_ they are “not good.”

    Also, you ignored my entire argument about the definition of good/evil and omnipotent. There is no “evil action” of which god cannot do. There is only evil intention, since god can do any action as long as he does it with good intent, he can do any action and is therefor all powerful. You have to prove then that there are evil actions that god cannot perform to make your contradiction stick.

    Even if I were to agree with you and say that God is CAPABLE of doing evil but CHOOSES not to, then why didn’t God make humans in this manner? It would elminate the problem caused by having free will (i.e. people capable of doing both good and “not good”, and choosing to do “not good.”) and would thus get the 3-O God off the hook.

    You might argue that God wants us to develop our virtue, but why are we asked this of God when God did not have to do so himself. Why can he not make us in his image (as he supposedly did) and therefore make humans who COULD do not good, but would be inclined to do good, and so would always choose to do so?

    It doesn’t matter why god did any of this as to whether he is self-contradictory. You have to show that its impossible for him to do otherwise and thus he is self-contradictory. You have not done this, to do this you would have to prove that your moral system is absolute and thus your answers to how creation should have went are accurate.

    I believe it’s morally wrong to ignore reason and logic. I, and others, have logically concluded that the 3-O God cannot exist. We need only logic and a working definition (Which we do have) of what this God is to “qualify” to make this argument and use it to disprove the 3-O God.

    By your admittance you need a working definition, I assume of the 3-0′s and good/evil. I disagree with your definitions, without them your “proof” doesn’t hold.

    You throw in a bunch of references to bad things in the world as support to your proof, but they are meaningless. Unless you can prove that the only possible framework for those events requires god to be evil, they don’t require god to be evil. If natural disasters don’t have a moral weight, ie they are neutral, then their existence doesn’t effect god’s morality at all. Again, the burden of proof is on you to show that the only possible moral framework is one in which natural disasters are in fact evil.

    @Mathew
    As to omniscience undermining human free will; knowledge of an event does not imply causation of the event. Even if god knows what you are going to do, if you make the decision without influence you’ve retained your free will. Determinism is a far stronger case against free will than god knowing everything. I found a paper by Andrew Moroz title “The Incoherence of Theism” that talks about this topic, but it doesn’t add anything new to this.

    I’d love to read “The Impossibility of God” I’m actually waiting for my library to get a copy.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Socrates,
    Although I agree with you that an omni-max god would have the capability for evil and would simply not express it, I take exception to this:

    There is only evil intention, since god can do any action as long as he does it with good intent, he can do any action and is therefor all powerful.

    Only looking towards god’s intent ignores the omniscience part of the O-3. It’s not as if god can say, “Oh, my bad, but I meant for it to turn out OK” if he messes up, because he would know ahead of time all the consequences of all the possible actions he could take.

    If natural disasters don’t have a moral weight, ie they are neutral, then their existence doesn’t effect god’s morality at all.

    I don’t see how it is possible to claim that natural disasters are neutral and don’t affect god’s morality at all. These natural disasters occur because of god – there is no other possibility. When hurricans happen they are because god knew ahead of time that they would happen, set up the system to cause them to happen, etc. If this is not the case, then we are not speaking of the O-3 god.

    As to omniscience undermining human free will; knowledge of an event does not imply causation of the event.

    Actually, it does. An O-3 god necessitates that the universe be determined to the extent that all actions and causes are known by god before he creates the universe. IOW, he sets about a universe that is going to occur exactly by his design. If you choose X, it is only because god set the universe on that course from the start to cause you to choose X. It’s not really a choice.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Sorry, the exact title of Curley’s paper is “The Incoherence of Christian Theism.”

    How can we have free will if god knows what we’re going to do? If god knows it, it could not have been otherwise, which means we could not have chosen freely. Free will seems to me, at least, to imply the possibility that things might have been otherwise, but if god knows it, then it can’t have been otherwise.

    Read Curley’s paper. I’m on my phone and it’s sort of a pain to try and type long answers. His paper is clearer and more precisely argued than I can type right now.

  • Socrates

    @OMGF
    ^_^ Now we’re getting somewhere.

    There is only evil intention, since god can do any action as long as he does it with good intent, he can do any action and is therefor all powerful.

    Only looking towards god’s intent ignores the omniscience part of the O-3. It’s not as if god can say, “Oh, my bad, but I meant for it to turn out OK” if he messes up, because he would know ahead of time all the consequences of all the possible actions he could take.

    My example was to illustrate that not doing evil didn’t necessitate that he was limited. I can define a moral worldview in which no action has moral worth, the morality is inherited from the purpose. In this worldview there are no actions which god is not permitted to take, assuming he has the proper purpose. Your problem lies in the fact that god does seemingly evil things (I think?) and thus knows he is doing them. This is where I claim that we lack a definition to disprove god. Neither of us can prove that any particular event didn’t need to happen since we don’t have all the information concerning the event nor an absolute moral standard to judge it on. I am only pointing out a feasible possibility in order to illustrate that god has not actually been disproved.

    I see the natural disaster thing as easier. Assume there is virtue in the world having natural laws that allow for both rainbows and hurricanes. God set up these laws knowing that hurricanes are going to happen, but their happening isn’t evil, they are just part of the natural laws. You have to prepresume that any and all suffering is unquestionably evil to lend moral weight to natural disasters.

    @OMGF and Mathew
    Went and found the correct paper, “The Incoherence of Christian Theism.” His paper doesn’t really need god. Determinism blows up free will by itself, god as the enacter of determinism just has god blowing up free will personally. I think one of his propostions is of indeterminate truth and thus doesn’t hold. He discusses this:

    Paraphrasing what George Mavrodes has said in a recent article on divine omniscience, we might say: God did indeed know, before Adam ate the forbidden fruit, that he would eat it, but there was no inherent necessity that God should know that particular proposition; what determined him to know that was Adam’s decision to give in to temptation rather than to resist it. Divine foreknowledge of future human choices depends on those choices; our present choices determine what God has always believed.

    This seems to be a common response nowadays, among those theists who reject the Edwards-Pike argument. I find it unintelligible. The idea that our present actions might determine what happened in the past makes nonsense of the concepts of causality and the temporal order. Theologians have traditionally held that even an omnipotent God cannot make the past not to have been. If even an omnipotent being cannot bring this about, surely a human, whose powers are finite, cannot bring it about.

    This makes an assumption about god’s temporal abilities that I don’t think is clearly defended.
    Knowing an event and causing an event are different. I think of it as a simpler example:
    Suppose god wants to flip a coin but not cause it to land one way or the other. (Lets presume that its possible for things to happen randomly unless god says otherwise).
    God flips his divine penny and actively keeps himself from having any effect on the outcome. Due to his omniscience he knows how the penny will land, but the flip was still random as god was actively not influencing it. I don’t see this example as provably problematic and can imagine him doing the same thing with a person. “Go out and do things. I know what you’re going to do, but am sufficiently amused by your doing them that I won’t interfere in your decision making process.” This just leaves us with determinism either blowing up free will or it not. I’d believe that if random chance does exist it defeats determinism, thus leaving god in the clear on this one.

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @ Socrates

    YOU SAID:
    “Also, you ignored my entire argument about the definition of good/evil and omnipotent. There is no “evil action” of which god cannot do. There is only evil intention, since god can do any action as long as he does it with good intent, he can do any action and is therefor all powerful. You have to prove then that there are evil actions that god cannot perform to make your contradiction stick.”

    I did not ignore your argument at all. I provided clear definitions of the 3 omni’s as Christians use them. This is the God that most Christians (and perhaps other religions) believe in, and this is the God that I am disproving. You are entering far into semantics by asking me to imagine any possibility of a definition for these qualities of God. My argument was solely to disprove the Christian God as Christians define him, and most define him as omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent according to the definitions I listed in my previous post. That is the God I am disproving.

    Furthermore, I can grant that perhaps God is capable of doing “not good” but chooses not to. In this case, God’s qualities aren’t contradictoy. In my other argument, however, I show how the 3-O God is incompatible with a world of free will. A 3-O God is incompatible with a world with free will because his creations, by definition of free will, would be capable of doing both good and the opposite of good.

    Once again, I won’t define good, and I won’t define its opposite–though I have my idea of what they both are, it does not matter what you, I or even God defines them as. The idea is that the 3-O God is ALL-GOOD, so he cannot cause a non-good. By creating humans with free will (who can do both good and non-good), he creates non-good. Thus, by creating non-good, God shows he is not a 3-O God.

    I don’t have to provide an example. For you, certain events may be “not good,” and for me they may be “good.” My argument is that a 3-O God does not exist with a reality that has people with the ability to do “good” and do “not good.”

    If you don’t believe that humans have the capability to do “good” and to do “not good,” then that’s a different story–then, perhaps in that case, such a 3-O God may exist. However, if humans DO have the capability to do “good” and “not good,” then because this ability was given to them by God, God has caused the “not good” that occurs in the world.

    YOU SAID:
    “It doesn’t matter why god did any of this as to whether he is self-contradictory. You have to show that its impossible for him to do otherwise and thus he is self-contradictory. You have not done this, to do this you would have to prove that your moral system is absolute and thus your answers to how creation should have went are accurate.”

    I don’t understand why I have to show it’s impossible for God to create humans without free will. On the contrary, I believe it’s possible for a 3-O God to create humans without free will. What isn’t possible is for a 3-O God to create humans with free will. Since humans have free will (unless you believe otherwise), it cannot be that the 3-O God created them, for the 3-O God would defy his qualities by doing so. Therefore, humans must have a different cause than a 3-O God.

    YOU SAID:
    “By your admittance you need a working definition, I assume of the 3-0′s and good/evil. I disagree with your definitions, without them your “proof” doesn’t hold. ”

    Once more, it doesn’t matter if you disagree with these definitions. Those definitions I offered are the Christian’s idea of God. I was disproving a God with those qualities. Once you change those qualities, you change the idea of the Christian God, and change the entire argument. My argument was only to say that a 3-O God, as defined by Christians, would not create humans with free will for it would contradict his nature.

    YOU SAID:
    “You throw in a bunch of references to bad things in the world as support to your proof, but they are meaningless. Unless you can prove that the only possible framework for those events requires god to be evil, they don’t require god to be evil. If natural disasters don’t have a moral weight, ie they are neutral, then their existence doesn’t effect god’s morality at all. Again, the burden of proof is on you to show that the only possible moral framework is one in which natural disasters are in fact evil.”

    It doesn’t matter what God’s view of natural disasters is. Most humans would view natural disasters as negative events–they are far from neutral to humans. Because humans suffer from natural disasters, and because God created them, he has caused humans to suffer. A 3-O God would not allow this (because he knows they cause suffering). However, even without my example of natural disasters, my argument still holds–the 3-O God is incompatible with our world.

  • The Chode

    Ok, first off free will is mostly an illusion anyway, why would a god claim to be giving us free will if we are only able to make certain choices within our limited life span. you cannot choose to, say … go to venus for your honeymoon, only places on terra firma (for now) unless you are richard garriott :P there are tons of “choices” that are neither good nor evil as well, and most of those are what we humans make on a daily basis, so who really cares which choices are good and which are evil, evil is a point of view. a human watching another human step on a cockroach does not feel that that human is being “evil” unless they are excessively sensitive. some people can watch other people kill cats or dogs and not feel any remorse. only because we know what it is like to be a human, and that some animals (cats and dogs) are the closest to humanity out of most of the other animals (other primates aside), do we actually equate the act with causing suffering. obviously if an animal or, yes even an insect, has neural circuitry that can be damaged, the damaging of that neural circuitry causes pain, I don’t care about stepping on a cockroach, but, even with his limited sensibilities, I realize that he probably doesn’t like it too much.

    so much for your free will, and so much for your sense of good and evil. there are choices we can make, and they can inconvenience others, or cause others suffering, but even if I did believe in god, I’m not pretentious enough to believe that because maybe some lady was talking on her cellphone coming off the interstate at 60 mph, and slammed into a motorcyclist and rammed him into the overpass pylons and crushed him, that she would go to hell for that, it’s stupidity not evil.

    if there is a god, we are probably the farthest thing from its mind, if it is indeed an it, whatever created this universe may be all powerful, but I believe that what is meant by being all powerful is having no choice in the matter, and having to simultaneously create all possibilities, probabilities, and the various interactions between them all.

    I do believe in residual informational patterns, and I think that if we leave any impression on this world, it simply depends on how we lived, if you cause more suffering, whoever you caused it for will pass it on, if you caused innovation, whoever follows your work will pass it on, our actions are merely legacies of our influence.

    honestly I think more important than free will is the possibility for humanity to become like the gods we imagine. there is a principle called determinism, which basically means that given enough information on a closed system, one can determine all possible outcomes. if there is a God and it is omniscient, it would have known, based on its own actions in creating the universe, exactly what would have been the outcome for each individual person, so if there was one, and it created us all exactly the way we are, it isn’t free will anyway, no matter how many choices you can think up, maybe change it up a little just to psyche “him” out no matter what you choose he will have known at your creation that you would choose that choice, thus nullifying even the relationship between an omniscient god and free will.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Socrates,

    I can define a moral worldview in which no action has moral worth, the morality is inherited from the purpose. In this worldview there are no actions which god is not permitted to take, assuming he has the proper purpose.

    I understand that, and I specifically talked about how this ignores the omniscient part of O-3. It’s not enough to simply have purpose to an omniscient god, since that god knows all the outcomes of all the possible actions. In order to be omni-benevolent, god only has one option for each action, that option whereby the best outcome is attained, with “best” being defined as that option which engenders the most good.

    Neither of us can prove that any particular event didn’t need to happen since we don’t have all the information concerning the event nor an absolute moral standard to judge it on.

    Sure I can. god is not limited in any sense, so any possible action that I can conceive of that leads to a better outcome would show that the event in question did not have to happen. An easy example of this is the creation of hell. There’s no reason that god had to create hell. That god did this shows that he is not omni-benevolent.

    I see the natural disaster thing as easier.

    You shouldn’t, because it’s not defensible by the free will defense (not that I think the free will defense has any merit).

    God set up these laws knowing that hurricanes are going to happen, but their happening isn’t evil, they are just part of the natural laws. You have to prepresume that any and all suffering is unquestionably evil to lend moral weight to natural disasters.

    There’s no logical necessity why god had to set up a system whereby natural disasters occur and cause suffering, or why god can’t do anything to block their effects. To make matters worse, it’s not that god simply knew that hurricanes would happen, but he actively caused them to happen when he started the universe.

    God flips his divine penny and actively keeps himself from having any effect on the outcome. Due to his omniscience he knows how the penny will land, but the flip was still random as god was actively not influencing it. I don’t see this example as provably problematic and can imagine him doing the same thing with a person. “Go out and do things. I know what you’re going to do, but am sufficiently amused by your doing them that I won’t interfere in your decision making process.” This just leaves us with determinism either blowing up free will or it not. I’d believe that if random chance does exist it defeats determinism, thus leaving god in the clear on this one.

    This doesn’t work. When god created the universe, he created a determined situation where someone by the nom de plume of “Socrates” would come onto the Daylight Atheism blog and write the comments that you have written. You didn’t have a choice in it, you were pre-determined at the time of the universe, else god is not omniscient. Had god wanted the universe to play out differently, then you would have a different set of actions, but those would similarly be determined.

    Try this:
    god writes a book and hands it to you. The book is a tome of all the actions, thoughts, etc. that you have ever had and will ever have. If you read what’s in the book, can you do anything different from what’s in the book? Let’s say that the book states that you will forget to look both ways before crossing the street and that’s how you die and it gives you the exact date, time, etc. Having this foreknowledge, will you forget to look both ways when the time comes? (Barring unforeseen acts of heroism, like you rushing out to protect a child from the onrushing car – I’m speaking of a simple mistake that you make that leads to your death.)

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @ Socrates

    “God flips his divine penny and actively keeps himself from having any effect on the outcome. Due to his omniscience he knows how the penny will land, but the flip was still random as god was actively not influencing it. I don’t see this example as provably problematic and can imagine him doing the same thing with a person. “Go out and do things. I know what you’re going to do, but am sufficiently amused by your doing them that I won’t interfere in your decision making process.” This just leaves us with determinism either blowing up free will or it not. I’d believe that if random chance does exist it defeats determinism, thus leaving god in the clear on this one.”

    No, this does not leave him in the clear. Being omniscient, God knows the outcome, but willingly keeps his own influence from interfering with it. Even though he doesn’t cause the penny to land on heads or tails, he knows the outcome. Even though God may not cause Hitler to choose evil, he knows before he creates Hitler that Hitler will do “evil” things. I’m inclined to think of Hitler as evil, based on my moral standard. I don’t want to get into defining a universal morality, but that’s irrelevant on this matter. The point is that God knows the outcome whether he directly causes it or not–his not intervening or preventing that “not good” outcome is what makes him perform a non-good act.

    ~Sam

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    To add, I agree with OMGF in that God would be responsible for someone like Hitler’s actions, for God created Hitler. So, the penny example doesn’t follow from the teachings of God as the creator of all. He created the penny, he created all outcomes for the penny, and he fashioned the penny in such a way that it lands on heads about 50% on heads and 50% on tails. He’s responsible for its outcome, just as he’s responsible for Hitler’s outcome.

    ~Sam

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    It’s meaningless to say that God can know what the product of a free choice is (just like “Can an omnipotent God move a rock so heavy he can’t move it?”). If it’s free, it is by definition unknowable. If it were known, it wouldn’t be free because it couldn’t be otherwise.

    How can a choice be free and yet known (determined)? Forget that God does it – just consider whether it’s possible without specifying the agent who does the knowing. If an unspecified agent can’t determine (know) the free choice, then to say that God does is just waving your hands to get the conclusion you want.

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @ Paul

    If, by definition, free means unknowable, then God cannot know the product of free choice. If God cannot know the product of free choice, then he’s not all-knowing, for there is something he doesn’t know. To say God knows the outcome of free will is not “waving your hands to get the conclusion you want”—it’s applying the definition of omniscience and free will to the Christian, 3-O God, and using their definition to show it is incompatible with your definition of free will (i.e. God can’t know the product of free will because it’s unknowable).

    ~Sam

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    First some general comments: Sorry for the absurd length, but many people responded to my original comment, and since my freedom to respond has been curtailed, I can’t quite keep up with y’all. I tried to offer a quick sentence or two to potentially salient points. Second, I read the entire thread which is quite interesting and seemingly productive, and I’d say that if any of us want to have any success whatsoever discussing the POE, perhaps you’ll accept my challenge to biblically justify the omni^4 claim? Sans such justification, POE discussions are inevitably doomed to redundancy.

    Paul,

    CL, getting a “fair sentence” is moot if God had merely created the end state of affairs. There would be no need for any sentence or judgment, fair or not.

    Presuming not one person ever sinned then of course there would be no need for judgment, but that wasn’t really what I had in mind when I made my comment. Ebonmuse describes Heaven as a condition where we “…retain our free will but no longer choose evil,” but I would describe it as retaining our free will while no longer desiring evil. Seems to me, the potential to do evil must exist right alongside the potential to do good at any given time, wouldn’t you say?

    Leum,

    I’m inclined to agree with Socrates/Plato that perfect knowledge prevents acting in any way other than the one that is necessary.

    I agree, and this relates to WLC’s concerns of “logical possibility” I noted.

    Polly,

    Christians believe that dead babies and infants wind up in Heaven. Also, god is there. These beings never had to handle evil.

    I can see how that might trip one up, but please realize: 1) What “Christians” say is in no way authoritative when the subject is scripture, and 2) Although the Bible does say that “…a man lives once and after that faces judgment,” that we can logically conclude dead babies and infants wind up in Heaven without somehow handling evil might be stretching. I can think of other perfunctory options as well.

    Greta,

    I realize you weren’t addressing me and I don’t mean to haggle, but these got me thinking:

    People in the latter group are more likely to commit crimes and make bad, even evil choices than people in the first group.

    Although I can see where you’re going, I also see lots of red flags. First, on what evidence? “The kid who had it all,” “The nicest guy ever,” and “I would’ve trusted him with my wife” are all reasonable paraphrases of things I’ve heard from neighbors of serial killers living in affluent communities in various regions of the US. I’m cautious of establishing any direct link of culpability between poverty and evil. In fact, greater access to resources, which does have direct links to wealth, can and most certainly does lead to greater acts of evil, acts that affecting thousands and millions of people rather than the nextdoor neighbor whose poverty leads him to steal your Sunday paper.

    In fact, it’s arguable that people in the first group have more free will than people in the second, since they have more options.

    I’m also cautious of quantifying free will such that it can increase or decrease.

    In a later comment when you say,

    The existence of evil doesn’t prove or disprove God. But it certainly does disprove the All- Powerful, All- Knowing, All- Good God of standard Christian theology. The only way to wiggle out of it is by resorting to “mysterious ways”… which is essentially what the “good doesn’t mean the same thing to God as it does to us” argument is.

    First off, I’d ask you to biblically justify the omni-4 claims, and second, there is more your interlocutor can do than resort to theistic solipsism.

    Incidentally, I think the distinction you made March 11, 2009, 3:45 pm was a wise one.

    Mathew Wilder,

    what possible reason could a god gave for making Heaven dependent on one’s response to evil?

    Well, there can’t be evil in Heaven, right?

    …don’t aborted babies go to Heaven without having faced evil?

    I honestly have no idea one way or the other, but I’m aware such is an oft-quoted bit of dogma.

    Also, what need of Christ’s Redemption if entrance to Heaven is based on one’s actions as regards evil.

    Well, same as the first question. If entrance to Heaven is not possible without atonement for sin, then anyone who needs atonement for sin needs Christ presuming Christ can atone for sin, right?

    …and those that didn’t fall, now carry out god’s will infallibly,

    I would agree with David Ellis that there is no reasonable biblical support for that particular claim.

    I have often wondered why god wouldn’t turn a murderer’s bullets into flowers or butterflies, thus allowing free will on the killer’s part, but not allowing the harm. I see no reason why the suffering must be allowed.

    What if the realization and experience of suffering is the only or best logically possible motivator that can successfully motivate a consciousness with free will to eschew evil?

    Christopher,

    My problem with your comment March 9, 2009, 11:38 pm was that you supply no justification for (a) and as far as (b) goes, why?

    prase,

    It’s a rather good argument why God cannot prevent evil by physically preventing us to do it.

    Hey thanks. Although I wondered if I was misreading you, I presume such was sincere and it’s good to hear something positive now and again.

    God could make people who would never desire to do evil.

    Presuming said people possess consciousness, that’s certainly a presupposition that I’m not so sure of, and as I said to Paul, it seems to me the potential to do evil must exist right alongside the potential to do good at any given time, wouldn’t you say?

    And I like your point about the hippopotamus. As for your point 2, I agree with it’s first sentence, and it seems you’re saying, “Thoughts can’t hurt anybody, so why not allow evil thoughts in Heaven?” Is that a reasonable paraphrase of the idea you’re trying to convey?

    Sam,

    I think you’re definitely getting somewhere in your opening line March 10, 2009, 2:45 pm and you offer a reasoned and well-thought out synopsis of the POE, but on the other hand, there’s lots I could say about said synopsis, but I don’t think it’d quite be in context here and so that’s why I provided the link in case you’re interested.

    And I don’t think OMGF’s point was as strong as you thought:

    Perhaps there is intrinsic value in growing into something worthwhile instead of being made that way. (Socrates)

    Then, that is value that god surely does not possess. (OMGF)

    The statement about “intrinsic value in growing” only applies to things that are 1) growing and 2) made. So, we can’t say that God does not possess whatever qualities are implied by “intrinsic value” simply because God is not growing and made. The God of the Bible claims to be “the same yesterday, today and forever,” so where is the greatness in OMGF’s claim in your opinion?

    Socrates,

    I think you effectively dabbed the first strokes of white paint on this black swan commonly called the POE in your first sentence March 10, 2009, 6:19 pm. Also here:

    We have theories to what constitutes moral behavior but in no way have defined “morally perfect” behavior. Perhaps a moral perfect being would allow a child to suffer, if they thought it would be beneficial in the long run. Most of the Existence of Evil Paradox hinges off of this fallacy. Until you can define moral perfection and prove it to be a unique definition, you can’t actually say God is contradicting it.

    Bravo on strictness of rational rigueur, and I’m being sincere, not snarking. The burden is on the person who argues POE to demonstrate how allowing instances of suffering is incompatible with omnibenevolence. The people who say you’re slipping into moral subjectivism and whatnot are wrong IMO. As for this,

    In several parts the gospels describe the life of Jesus differently in such ways that both descriptions can’t be true.

    Anything besides the census come to mind? Such as?

    Neither of us can prove that any particular event didn’t need to happen since we don’t have all the information concerning the event nor an absolute moral standard to judge it on. I am only pointing out a feasible possibility in order to illustrate that god has not actually been disproved.

    Exactly. Seems your opponent is not Factoring Intelligence Into Assessments Of Morality.

    OMGF,

    1) god is not limited in any sense, 2) so any possible action that I can conceive of that leads to a better outcome would show that the event in question did not have to happen. (enumeration mine)

    Two problems with that line of reasoning: 1) presuming the context is still the God of the Bible, that you say God is not limited in any sense suggests you possibly don’t actually read the Bible for yourself, and 2) any possible action that you can conceive of is always going to be < the possible actions an omniscient God could conceive of, so aren’t you up against a bit of a wall there?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Sam,
    I think Paul was agreeing with you.

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    @Paul

    I apologize if I misread your post. I confused “then to say that God does is just waving your hands to get the conclusion you want” with ‘then to say that God should…”

    I’m sorry. Thanks for pointing my misunderstanding out, OMGF.

    ~Sam

  • Paul

    No biggie, Sam.

    Cheers,

  • Paul

    @CL

    Seems to me, the potential to do evil must exist right alongside the potential to do good at any given time, wouldn’t you say?

    I think you mean in a logically necessary sense. If that’s true, it’s not obvious to me. Can you explain why? It seems to me that it could be impossible to do evil and not be logically a contradiction. I don’t mean that heaven is necessarily like that, only that I don’t think it’s a logical contradiction, as a response to your claim that evil must exist alongside good.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Paul,

    I did mean in a logically necessary sense, and that’s why I got a red-flag when you said,

    I don’t mean that heaven is necessarily like that, only that I don’t think it’s a logical contradiction, as a response to your claim that evil must exist alongside good.

    To be clear, I’m not stating that “evil must exist alongside good” – I’m wondering how the option of good behavior can exist without the option of evil behavior. At any time, it seems any human must retain the capacity to behave in either manner, else they would not have free will.

  • http://the-now-life.livejournal.com Sam

    cl,

    Hypothetically, if God created us with the “capacity” to do either good or evil, but only created those who he knew would do good, would you still consider this free will? Why?

    If so, then this is exactly why I believe God is not a triple O God (I did read your last post about Biblical proof not existing, but since I can’t look that up right now, I’ll just say I’m arguing against a common Christian belief, whether founded or unfounded). If God were a triple-O God,he would choose this option instead, for it would be better for his people.

    If you don’t believe this is free will, then doesn’t that mean God doesn’t have free will by the same standard?

    ~Sam

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    CL, I don’t get what your point has to do anymore with whether God could or could not have just created the end state of affairs. Are you saying that in heaven we do or not do have the option/capacity/potential/whatever to do evil or good but can/cannot do otherwise? Whatever you choose for those options, why couldn’t God have just created that situation without having us be tested/evaluated/choosing/whatever?

    Because God could have just created the end state of affairs (everyone is in heaven and happy, with free will or not, take your pick), it makes no sense that he wouldn’t have, how can it make a difference in the end if we were or were not created with or without free will, had a choice, chose wrongly or rightly, etc., etc., etc.?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    As far as omni- claims in general, what I’d like to know from anyone is this: Does allowing suffering in any degree for any duration violate omnibenevolence? Why or why not?

    Sam,

    You said, “Hypothetically, if God created us with the “capacity” to do either good or evil, but only created those who he knew would do good, would you still consider this free will? Why?”

    Are you in the context of the end game scenario? Or here on Earth? And are you asking if I’d say those God created whom He knew would only do good still had free will?

    And in general, I shy away from claiming what would and would not constitute a better option for the Creator of the universe. And when you ask if God has free will I wonder myself if per Hebrews 6:18 “…it is impossible for God to lie.”

    Paul,

    I’m suggesting that it seems logically impossible to have only one option or the other at any given time. Heaven is typically described as devoid of evil and I think that’s a reasonable inference from scripture. How can it be devoid of evil unless populated by those who thwart evil? God would have to make everyone thwart evil, which seemingly violates the whole point of our moral evolution. How can we come to thwart evil but by truly knowing (via experience) what it is, and what its ramifications are in the real world. Sure, in your hypothetical world we could just rely on God telling us “Trust me, you don’t want to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” but you know us Homo sapiens – we want to know by experience. In short, human curiosity regarding evil would destroy Heaven were evil not already falsified on Earth.

    I can’t think of its name right now but Ebon’s “hypothetical afterlife” post makes some really great points that interweave through some of what I’m saying. “Designing the Afterlife” I think is that actual title.

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    As far as omni- claims in general, what I’d like to know from anyone is this: Does allowing suffering in any degree for any duration violate omnibenevolence? Why or why not?

    When coupled with omnipotence, as it is in the 3-O God, then I would say it does. Omnipotence implies the ability to avoid 100% of suffering. Therefore, the existence of suffering implies a lack of benevolence, a chink in the armor of omnipotence, or both. In other words, I do not buy the argument that “we don’t have access to all the information on which to judge God’s allowance of suffering.” All the information we need is contained in the word “omnipotence.”

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    cl, I still don’t see where you’re going. On the one hand, you doubt the lack of evil in heaven (“God would have to make everyone thwart evil, which seemingly violates the whole point of our moral evolution.”), and then you require that moral evolution (“How can we come to thwart evil but by truly knowing (via experience) what it is, and what its ramifications are in the real world.”). So if we require moral evolution, how does God not make everyone thwart evil?

    If you could lay out your entire argument, it would help a lot. Not a complete explanation of every nuance, but just the logically necessary parts – but *all* the logically necessary parts.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Jim Speiser,

    I disagree that allowing suffering for any degree in any duration necessarily implies a chink in the armor of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or both.

    Paul,

    If you could lay out your entire argument, it would help a lot. Not a complete explanation of every nuance, but just the logically necessary parts – but *all* the logically necessary parts.

    The single-sentence version would be, “Human curiosity cannot be satiated but by direct experience.”

  • http://prinzler@calpoly.edu Paul

    cl, that *so* is not what I asked for.

  • http://www.croonersunlimited.com Jim Speiser

    I disagree that allowing suffering for any degree in any duration necessarily implies a chink in the armor of omnibenevolence, omnipotence, or both.

    OK. But…just curious…

    Able in every respect and for every work; unlimited in ability; all-powerful; almighty…

    What part of that allows for an inability to avoid all suffering?

    Now, allow me to give you an “out.” I don’t believe the word “omnipotent” appears in the Bible. I believe He is called “all-powerful,” but if I may interpret that a little. I have suggested the word ultipotent to describe God’s power, a word which I define as “exactly as powerful as an entity needs to be in order to create a universe and be the most powerful entity therein” – thereby sidestepping the rather irksome conundrum about “a rock so big he can’t lift it.” First of all, hell, -I- could figure a way around that one, using some TNT, and second of all, I can conceive of a creator-entity that is the most powerful entity in a given universe, without him having to be able to solve that ridiculous problem. So…

    Forget omnipotent. Work with ultipotent. I still maintain that an ULTIPOTENT being would be able to create a universe (or a realm of some kind) where all suffering is avoidable. Given that, the failure to do so strongly impinges on the putatively infinite benevolence of said deity.

    Prove me wrong. Show your work.

  • BS

    “An acquaintance of mine recently asked me why it is necessary that we be able to choose unicorns for us to have leprechauns, while it is not necessary that God be able to choose unicorns for Him to have leprechauns….”

    Well, one must first determine if “unicorns” and “leprechauns” exist. Only then can one discuss if “God” allows “unicorns” to exist because we have “leprechauns”.

  • http://banana-slug.blogspot.com round guy

    I think Christians trying to make any free will argument is absurd. According to them, we are all fallen and incapable of choosing good, so we don’t really have any free will anyway.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Jim Speiser,

    Sorry for the delay. I’m on comment-restriction at DaylightAtheism, so I can’t get to everyone in a timely manner. You asked,

    What part of that allows for an inability to avoid all suffering?

    Were you aware that you juxtaposed words that were not mine alongside words that were mine? Doesn’t really matter, I was just a bit thrown off for a second. But to answer the question, none, and you don’t need to give me an out. As for the “rock-so-big” conundrum, I always just assume omnipotence doesn’t entail the ability to do that which is not logically possible. And I appreciate your concerns about the biblical foundation for these claims. If it’s something you really want to discuss and you don’t mind, I’ve got a post dedicated to just that.

    I still maintain that an ULTIPOTENT being would be able to create a universe (or a realm of some kind) where all suffering is avoidable. Given that, the failure to do so strongly impinges on the putatively infinite benevolence of said deity.

    Let’s call the idea that an ultipotent being could create a suffering-free universe X. I agree with X. I disagree with your conclusion.

    Prove me wrong. Show your work.

    I’d love to chat further, but my comment-restriction kinda puts a damper on things. Why don’t you pop over to the link I provided above and leave a comment, and we can carry it on there, where I can reply in a timely fashion?