The Problem of Niggling Inconveniences

OK, so the Problem of Evil is one of the oldest and most prominent reasons to be skeptical about a benign God. I don’t emphasize it, since it says nothing about supernatural powers with an obnoxious streak, but I guess for people enculturated within a conventional monotheism it should raise a question or two.

But there’s another reason (among many) that I don’t like wading into issues about Evil. It’s an invitation to the pious to start on about the benefits of overcoming suffering. Evils spur heroic efforts. And if nothing less, a world with lots of nastiness acquires some of the grandeur of tragedy. (At least from the point of the view of a person pontificating about evil rather than bearing it.)

So, here’s my substitute: The Problem of Niggling Inconveniences. See, if the head God is supposed to be so omni-bleeding-perfect, you figure this God should get everything right. A small inconvenience is as much of a problem for His Omniness as a major catastrophe. So let’s not focus on genocides or city-destroying earthquakes, but on traffic jams and the common cold. Take the tragedy and the heroism out of the picture. Say you’re sick of theists talking about the ennobling aspects of a terminal disease. Then bring up not the cancers, but the ingrown toenails of existence.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. God is omni-everything;
  2. God’s creations are therefore also the best that are possible, morally speaking;
  3. Niggling Inconveniences are mere nuisances with no redeeming moral value;
  4. It’s possible to fix Niggling Inconveniences so they go away;
  5. Look, how difficult can fixing some minor nuisance be for an omnipotent God anyway?
  6. I can tell you for a fact that health care in the US is a thorough headache because of all the idiot insurance bureaucracy you have to put up with;
  7. If I were to design a universe I’d certainly leave out all the paperwork that serves no purpose but to infuriate people;
  8. Draw the obvious conclusion about God.

I now pompously dub this argument the Problem of Niggling Inconveniences, PoNI for short.

In a truly just world (one which works according to my standards of black humor) PoNI would be discussed and dissected by a small army of philosophers of religion, alongside the Problem of Evil (PoE), the Problem of Unbelief (PoU), and similar nuisances for the idea of God. In a minimally just world (MJW), PoNI should at least be worthy of a Ph.D. thesis or two.

This will not happen; in fact we all know it will be ignored. Hmph. Therefore the world is not even minimally just, and therefore God does not exist.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09010421115826273321 Rourke

    Brilliant!

    (And, incidentally, happy holidays!)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07084315223515340046 David Rochester

    Perhaps the problem is that God is far more like the CEO of a large company than we usually care to consider. He’s fine with the big stuff, and can motivate his folks to deal with corporate takeovers from Evil, but he’s not, you know, really concerned with the everyday inconvenience-equivalents of the typing pool.

    So what we really need to do is cut his bonus and get him off the golf course.


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