4 Steps Christians Must Take Before Responding to the Problem of Evil

4 Steps Christians Must Take Before Responding to the Problem of Evil March 26, 2019

Here’s where discussions of the Problem of Evil go wrong.

Focusing on the wrong part of the Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil is the question, “Why would an omnipotent, all-good god allow so much evil in the world?” Christians often respond by saying that we can’t judge God because his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8).

Let’s get one rebuttal out of the way first. Their response makes no sense because we’re made in God’s image and so should share his moral instinct.

It makes no sense because Abraham talked God down when he was planning destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:25) and Moses talked God down when he was planning on destroying the Israelites and starting over (Exodus 32:9–10). They could do this because they shared a common moral vocabulary with God.

It makes no sense because Jesus said,

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29–31)

If God notices all and cares deeply, then we’re back to where we started: why is there so much evil in the world?

1. Christians need to admit what God looks like because of the Problem of Evil

Christians can rationalize a response to the problem only after first admitting the problem: God’s actions are those of a sociopath. You would be an evil person if you could prevent gratuitous pain but didn’t.

Let’s not worry about examples like a vaccination, where the long-term good outweighs the short-term pain of an injection. The issue is gratuitous pain like a child dying from cancer, a robbery victim dying from a stab wound, or a deer in a remote forest dying from an injury. At the other extreme, it’s catastrophic disasters like the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake (200,000+ deaths) and the 2010 Haiti earthquake (100,000+ deaths). The world is full of this kind of pain, and yet examples like these are unnecessary. God is magic and could prevent natural disasters. Even if his goal was to remove a future Hitler, he could do it more surgically than with a natural disaster. On an individual level, God could improve people without the pain (but more on this later).

Sure, God (assuming he exists) is smarter and wiser than we are. He might know things we don’t know or couldn’t understand. But it’s backwards to imagine God into existence, see the contradictions in the god you’ve created, and then rationalize (without evidence) excuses so that the original God assumption can still be held. The honest approach is to first evaluate the God claims from a logical and moral standpoint. Once we have good reasons to believe in God, then we can wonder why his morality seems odd. (And why imagine God has a different moral sense? What—besides having to defend the God claim—would cause us to even imagine that?)

The Bible tells us that God is immoral

Consider how God is portrayed in the Old Testament. He isn’t a sage, floating through the story and gently correcting wrongs, passing out insightful judgements, and illustrating morality by example. No, he’s just like the other gods of that place and time such as Marduk or Chemosh. He’s the power behind the throne who demanded genocide, regulated slavery for life, approved of human sacrifice, and permitted sexual slavery.

The New Testament is no better, because this is where God (or Jesus) had the idea to create hell. Don’t tell me that the gates of hell are barred from the inside and that the inmates in hell want to be there. Jesus with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16) makes clear that hell is a terrible place and that the damned want to get out.

Christians sometimes respond by challenging the words we use. We understand what “good” means. It’s a word with a definition, and much of what God does in the Old Testament isn’t good. Said another way, if you did it, you wouldn’t be “good,” and God isn’t good for the same reason.

The Christian response is often to say that our imperfect minds are unable to judge God, but they don’t actually mean that. Rather, they mean, “we shouldn’t judge God as bad.” They’re happy to apply to use that same imperfect mind to judge God as good.

The final three steps are in part 2.

If God exists, I hope he has a good excuse.
— Woody Allen

.

Image from Ryan Hyde, CC license

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  • Let’s not worry about examples like a vaccination, where the long-term good outweighs the short-term pain of an injection.

    The problem is, those apologists would tell you earthly life and its hardships are a vaccination – a cleansening, a short-term pain to be endured before entering the eternal peace of God’s kingdom…

    …which however clashes with another cherished tenet of many Christian churches – i.e. predestination: if we are to believe people are chosen for either salvation or damnation ab aeterno, the worldly suffering of those who are doomed to Hell is pointless.

    • And any transformation that would come about through hardship on earth is doable by an omnipotent god.

      Good point–that’s yet another contradiction.

      • WCB

        Descartes: God creates all including the laws and metaphysics of the Universe. He lays down the laws like a king lays down laws. And of course God is perfectly good. If so God can have any state of affairs, such as a Universe with no moral evil. Descarte’s claim eliminates all theodicies, all claims their might be a good reason for the existence of evil. Now all of a sudden, logic and metaphysics is a big problem for God. Descarte’s claims can be found in his letters to Marin Mersenne and others, in his “Descartes: Philosophical Letters”, edited by Anthony Kenny. It is really a problematic claim, and I think all serious atheist debaters should be aware of these claims, which can be derived from the doctrine of the simplicity of God. It is one of those set of claims, that once you read these letters, you cannot unread them. Decartes was very proud of this idea, laid claim to it, and obviously, didn’t think it out to it’s obvious conclusion.

        • Intriguing. Have you come across a Cliff Notes version of Descartes’ arguments? Maybe an online article?

          I see Kenny’s 1970 edition on Amazon for $75.

        • WCB

          The Philosophical Writings of Descartes (Volume 3: The Correspondence)
          To Mersenne, 15 April 1630

          “At least I think that I have found how to prove metaphysical truths in a manner which is more evident than the proofs of
          geometry — in my own opinion, that is: I do not know if I shall be able to convince others of it. During my first nine months in this country* I worked on nothing else. I think that you heard me speak once before of my plan to write something on the topic; but I do not think it opportune to do so before I have seen how my treatise on physics is received.”

          However, in my treatise on physics I shall discuss a number of
          metaphysical topics and especially the following. The mathematical truths
          which you call eternal have been laid down by God and depend on him
          entirely no less than the rest of his creatures. Indeed to say that these truths
          are independent of God is to talk of him as if he were Jupiter or Saturn and
          to subject him to the Styx and the Fates. Please do not hesitate to assert and
          proclaim everywhere that it is God who has laid down these laws in nature
          just as a king lays down laws in his kingdom. There is no single one that we
          cannot grasp if our mind turns to consider it. They are all inborn in our
          1minds just as a king would imprint his laws on the hearts of all his subjects
          if he had enough power to do so. The greatness of God, on the other hand,
          is something which we cannot grasp even though we know it. But the very
          fact that we judge it beyond our grasp makes us esteem it the more greatly;
          just as a king has more majesty when he is less familiarly known by his
          subjects, provided of course that they do not get the idea that they have no
          king — they must know him enough to be in no doubt about that.
          It will be said that if God had established these truths he could change
          them as a king changes his laws. To this the answer is: Yes he can, if his will
          can change. ‘But I understand them to be eternal and unchangeable.’ — I
          make the same judgement about God. ‘But his will is free.’ – Yes, but his
          power is beyond our grasp. In general we can assert that God can do
          everything that is within our grasp but not that he cannot do what is
          beyond our grasp. It would be rash to think that our imagination reaches
          as far as his power.
          I hope to put this in writing, within the next fortnight, in my treatise on
          physics; but I do not want you to keep it secret. On the contrary I beg you
          to tell people as often as the occasion demands, provided you do not
          mention my name. I should be glad to know the objections which can be
          made against this view; and I want people to get used to speaking of God in
          a manner worthier, I think, than the common and almost universal way of
          imagining him as a finite being.

          Again, this idea can be derived from the ancient dogma of the Simplicty of God. Though Descartes does not write of how he came to develop this idea.

        • Thanks. I’ll give those a read.

        • WCB

          Your blog’s spam catcher seems to have deleted one of my posts.

        • Fixed

        • Susan

          Fixed.

          While we’re on the subject of fixing things, is there any way to incorporate Greg G’s Recent Comment code into your Home Page or into the Subject Article

          Or would that be too much of a pain in the ass?

          Also, it’s possible that it wouldn’t serve what you’re trying to do here. Which might be to keep keep people involved in your most recent articles.

          It’s just that new comments on old articles go to bots if we don’t respond.

        • Can you point me to Greg’s code? Would it reside on a page of its own?

          Maybe I can put something at the bottom of an upcoming post to see how it looks and we can discuss it at that point.

        • Susan

          Can you point me to Greg’s code?

          Thank you for responding. I can’t but I just asked Greg G. if he could.

        • Greg G.

          I posted some links in reply to Susan @ http://disq.us/p/20u9qad

        • I don’t think we’re there. I updated the old Recent Comments page with the new code:
          https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/recent-comments/

          It isn’t what I expected. Take a look.

        • Greg G.

          I think Patheos blocks the Disqus recent comments so it is what I would expect. The basic URL is the same but with more HTML around it.

          I think what Susan is suggesting is to post the code and instructions for how each commenter can create a page on their own device. That is what some of us have done.

        • So there’s no way for me to create a Recent Comments page? Each person must create their own?

        • Greg G.

          Maybe an off-site location. Perhaps somebody who knows style sheets better than I do might be able to add a revised style statement that restores or un-disables it.

        • I do have another site I could try. Are you saying that making a Recent Comments page there would work and that it’s just a Patheos problem?

        • Greg G.

          Yes, the code works everywhere but on Patheos, possibly other sites, but it seems to be intentional. They do allow the four small comments only.

        • Susan

          it seems to be intentional.

          Darn it! Why would they do that?!

        • OK, this seems to work (sorry–it’s epeeist’s code)

          http://crossexaminedblog.com/recent-comments-cross-examined-blog-patheos/

        • Susan

          Can you point me to Greg’s code?

          Greg just sent me this:

          https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/4_steps_christians_must_take_before_responding_to_the_problem_of_evil/#comment-4404407125

          He’ll probably send it to you too, but just in case.

        • epeeist

          If you don’t get Greg’s here is a copy of my code. Functionally equivalent, mine is just a bit prettier 😉

          https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/a_distillation_of_crazy_76/

        • I found your code in this comment:
          https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/a_distillation_of_crazy_76/#comment-4388197238

          I put it into this page, but nothing good happened. Looks blank to me.
          https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/recent-comments/

        • Susan

          http://crossexaminedblog.com/recent-comments-cross-examined-blog-patheos/

          Wow! Thank you so much.

          Now that you’ve made it that far, is there a way to embed it in the articles and the home page for newcomers and oldcomers alike?

          (I am computer stupid. I can only admire your efforts. And ask questions.)

        • You could just bookmark that link. Wouldn’t that do it for you?

          I just put a line at the very bottom of this blog post. Scroll up to see it (it make take an hour to propagate through). Is that what you had in mind?

        • Susan

          You could just bookmark that link?

          I’ve aready done so twice. The first time was with epeeist’s prettier
          version of Greg G.’s code.

          The second time was by Greg G.’s instructions when my hard drive died and I had to start all over with my bookmarks.

          I guess I was wondering how you could create a user-friendly “Recent Comments” button for newcomers and oldcomers who didn’t stumble on Greg G.’s instructions.

          Again, I will stress that I’m a computer idiot, but “Recent Comments” is a way of keeping all the conversations you’ve ever brought up, up to date.

          Also, it’s a way of talking to theists about what they claim;.

          Which is what I thought Disquspatheos claims to be about.

          Finally, it’s a way to notice bots. Every time someone links an old, abandoned thread, there seems to be about seventy upvotes from (old, abandoned) hacked accounts, most of which contain links to hot girls of all ages.

        • The problem is that Patheos is pretty rigid about what can be done. I can make posts … and that’s about it. As you can imagine, if the 300-ish bloggers had free rein, there’s be lots of messes for the IT people to clean up.

          I’m all for encouraging conversation.

          All I can think of is putting a tab at the top (along with About and All Posts) that said Recent Comments, but since it doesn’t work here, it would only be a “Click here” to take you to the page that I gave you. Would that be helpful?

          Another possibility would be “Recent Comments” at the bottom of new posts, which again would be a link to that page, but that would be more of a pain.

        • Greg G.

          Can you put a link in the Comment Policy statement?

        • Good idea, but, bizarrely, the policy can be only 107 characters long. Even with bitly, it wouldn’t fit. I can put nothing but this in the policy section, but I think that would be a step backwards.

        • Greg G.

          You could change your pen name to “Recent Comments” plus the URL.

          Hey, I’m just brainstorming. No negativity at this stage.

        • Greg G.

          Maybe throw in an addendum to the Comment Policy statement that recent comments can be found at http://crossexaminedblog.com/recent-comments-cross-examined-blog-patheos/

        • Susan

          Maybe throw in an addendum to the Comment Policy statement

          That sounds good but it would probably work better if you suggested it to Bob, not to me. 😉

        • Ah–good idea. @disqus_xYWVllyPLU:disqus , would that be enough for you?

        • Susan

          would that be enough for you?

          That would be wonderful. I appreciate the efforts you’ve made. Thank you so much.

          Thanks also to Greg G. and to epeeist.

        • Greg G.

          You’re welcome.

          I am replying to this from Discus because Patheos isn’t working well.

        • I tried that, and unfortunately, the number of characters is very limited (107 characters, which is a curious number). Anyway, even with bitly shrinking, there’s no way to get the policy + a link. Can you just bookmark it?

          http://crossexaminedblog.com/recent-comments-cross-examined-blog-patheos/

        • Susan

          Can you just bookmark it?

          Thanks. I already had it in my bookmarks from Greg G.’s code.

          I was just hoping it could be available to everyone who didn’t know about it.

          Thanks for trying.

        • Susan

          Maybe throw in an addendum to the Comment Policy staement

          I thought that would be an excellent workaround that left enough breadcrumbs.

          But, when I tested it (and forgive me for being so dense… it’s late… I’ve had a long day… ), I couldn’t find the Comment Policy on the home page or on any single article.

          I’ll check again in the morning. I just wanted to mention it now, in case it’s disappeared.

        • Greg G.

          Bob said the Comment Policy is limited to 127 characters so that idea is a no-go.

        • WCB

          The Philosophical Writings of Descartes (Volume 3: The Correspondence)
          TO MERSENNE, 6 MAY 1630

          ….
          As for the eternal truths, I say once more that they are true or possible
          only because God knows them as true or possible. They are not known as
          true by God in any way which would imply that they are true indepen-
          dently of him*. If men really understood the sense of their words they could
          never say without blasphemy that the truth of anything is prior to the
          knowledge which God has of it. In God willing and knowing are a single
          thing in such a way that *by the very fact of willing something he knows it
          and it is only for this reason that such a thing is true*. So we must not say
          that *if God did not exist nevertheless these truths would be true*; for the
          existence of God is the first and the most eternal of all possible truths and
          the one from which alone all others proceed. It is easy to be mistaken about
          this because most people do not regard God as a being who is infinite and
          beyond our grasp, the sole author on whom all things depend; they stick at
          the syllables of his name and think it sufficient knowledge of him to know
          that ‘God’ means what is meant by Deus in Latin and what is adored by
          men. Those who have no higher thoughts than these can easily become
          atheists; and because they perfectly comprehend mathematical truths and
          do not perfectly comprehend the truth of God’s existence, it is no wonder
          they do not think the former depend on the latter. But they should rather
          take the opposite view, that since God is a cause whose power surpasses
          the bounds of human understanding, and since the necessity of these truths
          does not exceed our knowledge, these truths are therefore something less
          than, and subject to, the incomprehensible power of God. What you say
          about the production of the Word* does not conflict, I think, with what I
          say; but I do not want to involve myself in theology, and I am already
          afraid that you will think my philosophy too free-thinking for daring to
          express an opinion on such lofty matters.

        • WCB

          The Philosophical Writings of Descartes (Volume 3: The Correspondence)
          TO MERSENNE, 27 MAY 1630

          You ask me ‘by what kind of causality God established the eternal
          truths’. I reply: ‘by the same kind of causalityf as he created all things’, that
          is to say, as their ‘efficient and total cause’. For it is certain that he is the
          author of the essence of created things no less than of their existence; and
          this essence is nothing other than the eternal truths. I do not conceive them
          as emanating from God like rays from the sun; but I know that God is the
          author of everything and that these truths are something and consequently
          that he is their author. I say that I know this, not that I conceive it or grasp
          it; because it is possible to know that God is infinite and all powerful
          although our soul, being finite, cannot grasp or conceive him. In the same
          way we can touch a mountain with our hands but we cannot put our arms
          around it as we could put them around a tree or something else not too
          large for them. To grasp something is to embrace it in one’s thought; to
          know something, it is sufficient to touch it with one’s thought.
          You ask also what necessitated God to create these truths; and I reply
          that he was free to make it not true that all the radii of the circle are equal –
          just as free as he was not to create the world. And it is certain that these
          truths are no more necessarily attached to his essence than are other
          created things. You ask what God did in order to produce them. I reply
          that ‘from all eternity’ he willed and understood them to be, and by that
          very fact he created them. Or, if you reserve the word ‘created’ for the
          existence of things, then he ‘established them and made them’. In God,
          willing, understanding and creating are all the same thing without one
          ‘being prior to the other even conceptually’.
          2. As for the question whether it is in accord with the goodness of God
          ‘to damn men for eternity’, that is a theological question: so if you please
          you will allow me to say nothing about it. It is not that the arguments of
          free thinkers on this topic have any force, indeed they seem frivolous and
          ridiculous to me; but I think that when truths depend on faith and cannot
          be proved by natural argument, it degrades them if one tries to support
          them by human reasoning and mere probabilities.

    • Grimlock

      I’ve yet to see a satisfactory explanation of how God’s omniscience – specifically of the future – is compatible with non-predestination. There might be some explanation out there, but I don’t have very high expectations.

      ETA: My point being that any Christian who commits to God’s omniscience might be stuck with predestination.

      • One Christian response I’ve heard is this thought experiment: you watch a football game, then you go back in time and watch it again. All the players have free will the second time around, and yet you know exactly what they’re going to do.

        Admittedly, that’s more focused on free will than predestination, but I wonder if this adds to the conversation.

        • Greg G.

          The players might have the illusion of free will during a game but they don’t even have that during a replay. If they did, they could get their foot in bounds instead of on the line.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          That wouldn’t be ‘predestination’ it would just be ‘hindsight’.

        • Grimlock

          I guess in that thought experiment, everyone would agree that once the football game has been filmed, it’s locked. The way the game plays out doesn’t change, and that the film is ‘predestined’ to show how things end.

          Seems to me that thought experiment simply underlines the point in the predestination context.

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Yup. The movie Predestination starring Ethan Hawke illustrates this perfectly. I highly recommend this movie!

        • Cozmo the Magician

          One of the few things R.A.H. wrote that was adapted to screen that I enjoyed. I really like where whey are walking down to the basement and you can hear the song ‘I’m My Own Grandpa’ playing on the Jukebox O_o

          For those not familiar, it was a movie based on a Heinlein story ‘All you Zombies’. It is a very twisted time travel story what makes a mobius strip look like a butter knife.

        • TheBookOfDavid

          Thanks for the recommendation. If it weren’t for the comments roll of some of our Patheos NR blogs, I would regularly come up emptyhanded on movie night. Perhaps I need to get indoors more often.

        • Adam “Giauz” Birkholtz

          The apologists “forget” the part about you creating each of those football players along with other “Godly plan” meddling in their lives. In this scenario, freewill is demonstrably an illusion.

      • WCB

        A common claim is that we have free will, and if we do X, God will know in advance that of our own free will we chose to do X. Compatibilism. Of course, if God is omniscient and knows the future to the smallest degree, and creates all, God must choose an initial state of creation, from which all that will happen depends on that chosen initial state of creation. Thus all actions of sentient beings are cause by God’s initial chosen state of creation. With a perfectly determinate Universe, free will, and thus compatibilism are impossible. Serious theologians have spilt oceans of ink trying to establish compatibilism as a way to avoid having to admit God makes free will impossible. One of the most famous books on the subject is Martin Luther’s “Bondage of the Will”. In the end, Luther has to admit thus, all moral evil comes from God. Luther dodges the issue by the declaration God is inscrutable, and incomprehensible. See also Molinism for another attempt to save free will.

        • But if God knows in advance what we’ll do, why go through the charade? Why not just create, in heaven, the souls that are worthy and not bother with the losers?

        • WCB

          John Calvin’s take on all of this is similar to Luther’s. But he adds that there are some questions we should not be allowed to ask. In the end he also dodges the obvious conclusions by invoking God’s incomprehensibility. Remember this is a man that had Michael Servetus burned at the stake slowly because of a theological argument. His suggestion that certain questions should be made off limits is chilling.

        • TheNuszAbides

          The relativity of divine glory? The worthies need access to a record of “what could have been” to properly appreciate their lot and put their endless songs of praise in perspective? Surely they should be honored that CreatorBoss went to all the trouble. /s

        • It’s no fun having won the heavenly lottery if you can’t occasionally look over the ramparts and seeing your nosy neighbor and your jerk of a boss writhing in flames.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          That is one of this things about heaven that REALLY REALLY irked me. Everybody in heaven is supposed to be OH SO HAPPY HAPPY. And yet they were also supposed to be watching all the suffering of those who were tossed into the pit. So IOW, only sadistic evil fuckers go to heaven. But, OTOH sitting around ALL DAY EVERYDAY doing nothing but sing ass kissing songs to big sky daddy really don’t sound like much fun. I’d rather be stuck in hell paying cards with the cool folks (:

        • Heaven for the weather; hell for the company.

          I’ve actually heard it argued that you’re numbed or in some other way made to not worry about the pain of those in hell. “Heaven: a place so hideous that you have to be numbed to like it here.”

        • TheBookOfDavid

          In other words, God dials down their capacity for empathy, until they feel not the slightest twinge of anguish over others’ suffering, even those personally close to them. Not only is that an admission that He freely interferes with free will, but plans to fill paradise with nothing but sociopaths. It’s not looking like a good day for theodicy.

        • God often screws with people’s free will. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, for example, to make his crime worse.

        • TheBookOfDavid

          Not to forget populations. God selects a minority of Jews for salvation, and intentionally blinds the rest to recognizing their messiah [Romans 11:9, and surrounding verses to nail home the point].

        • Tangent: what does “Gentile” mean? Christians like to say that Jesus was so fabulous for opening up salvation for everyone, not just for one tribe, but that assumes “Gentile” means “everyone in the world except for Jews.” My hypothesis is that it meant “everyone in the eastern Mediterranean, except for Jews.”

          What would Paul have said about a missionary trip to China or Congo or the Amazon basin?

        • epeeist

          China or Congo or the Amazon basin

          None of these existed in Jesus’ time.

        • Curses! Those danged theists are tying me up again!

        • epeeist

          Well if they had existed in Jesus’ time he would surely have said something about them. After all look at everything he said about the USA.

      • What they claim is that seeing our future actions doesn’t entail his causing them. I am unclear on how that works though if free acts are uncaused.

        • Grimlock

          I wonder if perhaps there aren’t two separate issues here.

          The first issue is whether our actions are predetermined in a way that’s incompatible with libertarian free will. In that case, I think the issues arises out of God’s omniscience of all times.

          The second issue is whether our actions are predetermined by God. In that case, God’s omniscience ain’t enough. But combined with God choosing which possible world to create, and presumably knowing the outcome of any possible world before it is actualized, it seems that God does indeed cause our predestination.

          What do you think?

        • Yes, if you posit God, logically he’ll be either predetermining things directly, by something he created indirectly or not at all. That last one seems hard to reconcile with his attributes. Plus there’s also the issue of how God himself can have free will, since he would be able to see his future actions as well.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          I knew I was going to write something very witty, but nobody would understand it so I didn’t bother O_o

  • RichardSRussell

    And they’ve known this for a long, long time:

    The Riddle of Epicurus (341-270 BCE, Greek materialist)

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    • Ironically, the only source of that quote is from a Christian much later attributing it to him. Even assuming Epicurus said it, he would have been aiming this at other thinkers, since his life was long before anyone heard of Christ.

      • RichardSRussell

        It doesn’t appear to have been “aimed” at anyone. It’s a logical proposition. And, regardless of where it originally came from, it’s been around for a long, long time.

        • Well, the person who cited it took this as being aimed at theists like himself. It is quite old by now yes.

        • RichardSRussell

          As the old slogan has it, “People who don’t like being laffed at shouldn’t believe such funny things.”

          But my gas tank of pity for people who take things like this personally has run out.

        • WCB

          “It’s hit dog what yelps”.
          – Mark Twain

        • I intended no pity toward them.

      • WCB

        It comes from Lactantius, “On The Anger Of God”. Lactantius did not like Epicurus. The usual quotation which is far more strident comes from David Hume

        • Yes, that was it. He was not alone-I think it’s fair to say most Christians philosophers have disliked Epicurus and Epicureanism, since they are completely opposed views on most issues. Hume popularized the quote later I believe.

      • TheNuszAbides

        Indeed, the way our most common translation-meme phrases it made me wonder immediately how the context could have been monotheistic, unless Epicurus was arguing with Persians or Jews for some reason. Or perhaps against his contemporaries’ latest version of Plato’s Form of the Good?

        • Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics had a sort of monotheism too, so this was probably against one of those (assuming he said it).

  • WCB

    The problem for those Christians who claim God is inscrutable, God’s ways are not our own et al, is that the Bible and Quran for that matter tell us explicitly God is just, fair merciful, and compassionate, and more. That pins down God as having a certain moral nature. A God that commands genocides is none of these sub-goodnesses of God explicitly spelled out. A God that hardens hearts as per Romans 11 is not these explicit sub-goodnesses. The Bible has 2 separate Gods. A God that is fair, just, merciful and compassionate and God that is none of these things. Choose one, Christians And explain away the other. There actually three Gods in the Bible, the God of nercy, mercy et al. The God of mythology and genocide. And the deep theological God of predestination, election and other claims of Paul.

    • God is unjudgeable … except when he happens to bumble into some good action, in which case he’s very judgeable.

  • Kodie

    I am pretty bummed, because I think this is my favorite discussion, but I can’t get into it. See you guys in another month-ish!

    • Greg G.

      Hurry back!

      • Kodie

        Ok!

    • Social media fasts are all the rage now. You’re a trend setter.

      • Greg G.

        I am on a Facebook Fast right now. OK, my 20 minutes are up, Later.

        • NS Alito

          Since I tore my medial meniscus, I have been on a going fast fast.

    • MR
    • Pofarmer

      Dang it kodie. Good to have you back.

  • Polytropos

    It you take the position that our imperfect human minds are unable to evaluate god’s morality, god can no longer be used as a basis for human morality. Deriving morality from god (whether that means using scripture or some sort of personal gnosis), requires humans to be capable of accurately understanding god’s morality.

    • Grimlock

      That would be an epistemic limitation, though, and not an ontological one. I.e.,God could still serve as the ontological basis for morality.

      • Polytropos

        That’s true. I don’t personally find moral ontology very persuasive, but I know some people do.

      • Susan

        God could still serve as the ontological basis for morality.

        How?

        • Grimlock

          I’m merely pointing out that the objection raised by Polytropos only deals with an epistemic limitation. Different objections would be required to deal with the ontological claim.

        • Susan

          I’m merely pointing out that the objection raised by Polytropos only deals with an epistemic limitation

          Understood.

          But still, how could whatever “God” means serve as an ontological basis for morality?

        • Grimlock

          I have no idea.

          Best guess? If one were to accept the following principles, it might sort of maybe not fail completely:
          1. Every moral theory must have some foundational assumptions.
          2. It is better for our moral foundations to be grounded in an existing entity than not.

          Then sketch out some idea that what’s good and moral coincides with what’s in God’s nature. Basically, What Would God Do is what’s moral in a given situation.

          Ah… At this point I see multiple issues with this. Such as what an omnipotent being would do probably doesn’t translate well into what a human could do, and then there’s the always present Euthyphro’s Dilemma…

          Well, that was a horrible attempt at steelmanning.

        • Susan

          I see multiple issues with this. Such as what an omnipotent being would do probably doesn’t translate well into what a human could do, and then there’s the always present Euthyphro’s Dilemma.

          Yep.

          that was a horrible attempt at steelmanning.

          I think it was a pretty good effort. It’s just that it’s like steelmanning astrology or the Evil Eye.

          Ideas without steel aren’t easy to steelman.

          That they impale themselves on one of Euthyphro’s horns isn’t your fault.

          There’s no steelmanning anyone out of that one.

    • NS Alito

      Yahweh has the worst communication skills ever.

  • MR

    But it’s backwards to imagine God into existence, see the contradictions in the god you’ve created, and then rationalize (without evidence) excuses so that the original God assumption can still be held.

    This.

    We can see the cognitive dissonance when they try to make their excuses. They think we don’t notice but it’s like the ‘l’ in salmon. You many not be saying it, but when you spell it all out we can see it right there.

  • Grimlock

    The Problem of Evil is the question, “Why would an omnipotent, all-good god allow so much evil in the world?”

    Not… really. It’s more like the problems of evil, where the questions are whether God’s existence is logically compatible, probable, or plausible, with the existence of some type or amount of evil or suffering.

    I gotta say, it’s always fun to see apologists drag up Plantinga’s Free Will Defence to Mackie’s logical problem of evil. They love citing it, but once you start digging into the details of the argument, it’s usually clear that they have absolutely no idea why it supposedly works.

    • Michael Neville

      One problem with the free will defense is that few victims of evil make a free will decision to be victimized. Why is the perpetrator allowed free will and the victim not?

      • NS Alito

        Because reasons.

        See also: Mysterious ways, God is testing them, recompense in Heaven

        • Grimlock

          I love that “recompense in Heaven” idea. It means that someone is conflating moral good with compensation.

        • NS Alito

          In this case, I was suggesting compensation for MN’s victimhood question.

      • Grimlock

        To be nitpicky, that’s not really the issue with Plantinga’s defense, I think.

        (Usual disclaimer: Not even close to being an expert.)

        Plantinga’s Free Will Defence is something like this: It is epistemically possible that humans suffer from transworld depravity, meaning that, by using our free will, in every possible world, we do evil at least once. In other words, it’s possible that we simply can’t avoid having a world that contains some evil.

        It’s not intended to explain an abundance of evil, or gratuitous evil, or animal suffering, or whatever. But to sketch out an option to avoid a strict logical incompatibility between God and the existence of evil.

        I think.

        • it’s possible that we simply can’t avoid having a world that contains some evil.

          Is heaven a world that contains some evil? Presumably not. Therefore, God knows how to create a world without evil. He could’ve done so here on earth (or created human souls in that perfect world).

          My own view is that heaven with humans would suck (like the earth does) assuming those humans had free will. Solution: give those humans great wisdom. Sure, they could steal your wallet or sandwich or girlfriend, but why would they? With their wisdom, it’d be plain that those were simply dumb actions to take, like hitting yourself with a hammer.

          Which gives us the question: if great wisdom is the instruction manual for using our free will, why didn’t God give it to us?

        • Grimlock

          Yeah, the FWD of Plantinga’s tend to not go along very well with various Christian doctrines.

          Wisdom would be nice. But a step in the right direction would have been if we had somewhat less cognice biases. Like, maybe reduce our confirmation bias if you want us to make sensible choices?

        • Like, maybe reduce our confirmation bias if you want us to make sensible choices?

          It’s almost like that whole evolution thing really is correct.

        • Grimlock

          You sure that’s not your confirmation bias talking?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Along those lines, why any special code for the ~initiated~ in scripture, as touted by various church fathers? If some of this stuff was too good for outsiders/genpop to handle … and if CreatorBoss can “harden hearts” for invaluable plot-device purposes … why not have the scripture be unambiguous and just harden the brains of anyone who would misuse it?

        • WCB

          In the OT, Solomon prays for great wisdom and God grants him that wish. So, why doesn’t God grant all mankind great wosdom? Why not grant all mankind great moral wisdom?

          1 Kings 3

          10 And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.
          11 And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not
          asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor
          hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself
          understanding to discern judgment;

          Does this God make sense?

        • Wisdom, it seems to me, is free will’s instruction manual. God was either negligent in not giving it to us, or he’s running a sick experiment, with modern Christians defending him.

        • Kodie

          Wisdom is realizing there’s no god.

        • Kodie

          If someone in heaven steals your wallet because that’s their idea of heaven, you just get stuff for free and don’t need your wallet anyway. I think I told of one time when I was very young, babysitting, and dozed off. Whatever I was watching on tv was now some religious preacher when I opened my eyes, talking about how, in heaven, if you like hunting, there are deer to hunt. You shoot the deer, and after it dies, it just gets up again, so you don’t have to feel guilty about killing deer. I have always heard that everyone in heaven is having a great time doing what they like, so if you like being a pickpocket, you get to continue enjoying that. If you like ice cream, you can eat as much as you want without getting sick – or sick of eating ice cream. Humans are fucking stupid if you think this “heaven” will be a place of all goodness. Let’s say there is a canyon of difference between stealing and eating decadently. Eating decadently is unhealthy but delicious. For some people, this is all the delight they have to look forward to in life. For Muslims, with their 72 virgins, I mean, who are these virgins. In heaven, who is tasked with bringing you steaks? And where do they get the cows, and do the cows get to keep living? If you like shopping in heaven, where does that stuff come from?

          Some Christians have a very stripped down version of heaven where it is continuous praising of god. That doesn’t sound fun to do for eternity as maybe ice cream and catching up on all the tv shows you never got to finish on earth. Turning into slothful blobs does sound like heaven, but if that is heaven, why do people on earth get socially punished for doing their version of heaven? There is no way for people to exist in heaven in any meaningfully good way. The dummies that believe in heaven are just looking forward to an eternity that isn’t the hell they’ve had described to them, while their heaven sounds like hell to a normal person. My heaven would naturally impede on another person’s heaven, just like earth, where we have to behave ourselves and get along, and work and compromise. None of that sounds personally “ideal”, so maybe only the most selfish and manipulative get to go to heaven and it’s just one big golf course for rich white men, which also serves as hell for whatever women there must be so those douchebags have someone to have sex with.

          I mean, heaven doesn’t make any fucking sense whatsoever. Whatever random elite chosen, it can’t be heaven for everyone if everyone else is there, and EVERYONE knows that! Nobody wants to be in heaven with people who don’t fucking belong there, according to their own judgment of annoying, intrusive, and terrible people.

        • Maybe heaven is getting out of bed and trudging off to so-so work with a so-so boss. It gives you a reason to get excited for Friday and vacations.

          If the gambler won every roll of the dice in casino heaven, where’s the fun in that?

        • Kodie

          As far as I can tell (by popular culture), heaven is everything people like and nothing they don’t like, so if you like spiders a lot, you have to go to hell, because heaven has no spiders. There is no guilt for doing anything people on earth feel guilty about doing, which is usually victimless crimes like eating and drinking, but doing drugs is a crime… I mean, what about in heaven, I can finally try cocaine, but I guess not, but I can shovel as many gummi bears and whiskey I want into my face because you don’t get punished by stomachaches and hangovers in heaven, and you don’t need salads and yogurt unless you actually like them, you never gain weight, clog your arteries, get diabetes, or liver disease, and your skin looks fantastic all the time*, but I wonder if you ever have to go to the bathroom… there’s a certain pleasure, but excretory functions are adjacent to disease. Think 1. how good it feels to have just relieved yourself, but 2. how good you feel when you don’t have to go. Having to go to the bathroom feels like pain and sickness. Eating for pleasure instead of nutrition, because you’re already dead and your body doesn’t change. I mean, I think that’s the dream for almost everyone.

          *I went on 28 journeys since I planted this asterisk that I can’t remember what the footnote was going to say.

        • It’s one thing to say, “Heaven is perfect and everyone there loves it” and another to actually think it through. That the Bible doesn’t say much about heaven is another problem.

        • Kodie

          You know what’s fucked up? A lot of the bible happens when no one else is around and no one could possibly contradict! Is the only thing we really know about heaven is that it’s not hell? Suspicious that the reports about hell are made by the same people who lie about atheists.

      • nevbig

        god has a future fer victims that will more than compensate fer all injustice ..god is vindicated .

        • Michael Neville

          There’ll be pie in the sky when you die is not a good response to a rape or mutilation victim.

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          well on top of the bad spelling that is one of the most vacuous comments i have seen today, good work on lowering that bar

        • nevbig

          most people a few briks short of a load .. the fleshly man cannot appreciate the spirit of god ..keep ter the subject

        • Kit Hadley-Day

          Impressive you just managed to duck under your own low bar, do we think he has third low in him?

  • MadScientist1023

    You know, the irony is that if Christians just admitted their God wasn’t all powerful or all knowing, he’d be a lot more likeable and a lot less of a sociopath. You can forgive someone who has limits on what they can do but who does the best they can, even admire them. Not that I would concede he does the best he can, but still, you could understand a believer with a rosier outlook on the world who’s inclined to believe he does.

    • Guestie

      The old mechanic’s joke applies: Fast, cheap, good. Pick two.

      All powerful, all knowing, all good. Pick two.

      • I Came To Bring The Paine

        Or the college joke: Good grades, enough sleep, social life. Pick two.

        • Guestie

          That version is new to me!

  • skl

    Their response makes no sense because
    we’re made in God’s image and so should share his moral instinct.

    Their response should be just what their bible indicates –
    they’re made in the god’s likeness in some ways
    (e.g. we do some things that are considered “bad” and some things that are
    considered “good”, just like god), but obviously not all ways.
    And one of the ways they’re not like their god is in this god’s obvious extremities
    (e.g. rewarding with heaven, condemning with hell).

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      How conVEEEEnient…

    • eric

      This doesn’t do anything to resolve the core problem, which is that Christians will use the “he’s totally inscrutable” argument when it suits them, and the “he’s scrutable, and I’ve scruted out how we wants you to act” when that suits them instead.

      Either characterization of God could be defended by a theology, but a theology or theologian that uses both at different times is intellectually dishonest.

      • skl

        Well, sometimes people (Christian or otherwise) understand exactly
        why they do certain things, and sometimes they don’t. They can
        be inscrutable to their very selves

  • As atheist philosopher Stephen Law argues, any defense of God could equally support a deity who’s evil.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Yahweh, as descibed, IS evil.

  • JBSchmidt

    It is fun to return to this page occasionally and see what recycled challenges you are using.

    1) Draw for us this world God is supposed to have created.

    If the natural disasters are caused by forces in the earth, forces that are beneficial, provide an alternative. Along with that, explain why it is God’s fault that people have lived in areas prone to natural disasters. Draw your world that exists without the natural processes of the earth or prevents people from inhabiting these areas.

    How would you rectify the robbery situation? Should God prevent the ability to break the law? Or should he remove consequences for crime? Draw for us a world where crime is possible and no one ever gets hurt.

    After that God should eliminate disease or maybe death entirely. Although, that might cause a problem with your love of abortion. (which coincidentally you failed to mention considering it ends the lives of millions a year) So I guess draw for us a world with no physical pain, then show me where inspiration comes from.

    2) Of course, the BIble says God is immoral. Wow, from the bin of forgotten favorites. Each one of those has been effectively dealt with by countless Christian philosophers since around 300AD. However, you forgot to include that we as Christians are supposed to murder all the gays.

    In truth there is no answer you will accept. You are as much a zealot as the Christians you wish to convert.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      If the natural disasters are caused by forces in the earth, forces that are beneficial

      Conflation. Natural is not necessarily beneficial, as Ebola and venomous snakes demonstrate.

      The rest of your nonsense is of a piece with that dishonesty, so you’re not worth our time.

      reposted

      • JBSchmidt

        So if it conflicts with your notion of beneficial, then it is a problem. Curious, does the snake share your feelings on its venom being not beneficial.

        Are we selectively removing viruses or do you wish all be dealt with at once?

        ” you’re not worth our time.”

        That’s adorable. I feel like we have a real connection. Want to grab coffee some time?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Then explain how Ebola or venomous snakes are DIRECTLY beneficial to humanity.

          Earthquakes, volcanic explosions, catastrophic weather and being caught in wildfires, too…explain.

          I find it both amusing and disturbing that you try to belittle with faint praise a true statement that you find inconvenient.

        • JBSchmidt

          “Directly”
          If that is only determining factor, are you suggesting God should eliminate everything but edible plants and animals that are also not harmful? (Do cow kicks count or should all pain be removed as well?)

          For those in rodent infested areas, snakes that can tackle a larger rodent because of its venom is probably beneficial to humans.

          Do we rid the world of all viruses? Or just keep those you like and then eliminate the ability of mutation? Or is your suggestion that God remove those mutations that appear bad? What if that is an intermediary stage?

          “belittle with faint praise”
          I apologize. I rescind my coffee invite.

        • Michael Neville

          You still haven’t show how ebola is beneficial to anything or anybody in any way. So stop whining and start explaining.

        • Greg G.

          The world is in shambles because polio has been mostly wiped out. Maybe we should bring it back to improve the world.

        • Are there snakes in heaven?

        • I Came To Bring The Paine

          Hehehe. Is the Ebola in heaven? 😀

        • Well, the heavenly version, sure. You’re in heaven, so you don’t die, even though you wish you could.

        • al kimeea

          glad I wasn’t drinking coffee.

        • Greg G.

          If you cannot die in heaven, there is no need for an immune system. Every Christian who died of a communicable disease would bring it to heaven. Eventually, you would have the whole set of communicable diseases for the rest of eternity.

          In hell, everything would be sterilized immediately.

        • richardrichard2013

          notice that the story does not say that if adam did not eat , he would never die. it seems to me that adam needed food to live in heaven. i don’t know where christians get the idea that adam was an immortal god who didn’t need food to live.

        • Greg G.

          I think the idea comes from the Tree of Life that anyone who ate from it would live forever but if they stop eating from it, they will eventually die.

        • Kodie

          So if you eat, you live, and if you stop eating, you die. Except if you eat something poisonous or toxic, so eat exclusively from the tree of life, which will not sustain you forever, you have to continue eating. Sounds a little bit bullshit to me.

        • Greg G.

          Does it make the bacteria in your gut immortal, too? You would get infections that would never kill you but you couldn’t cure them either.

        • Kodie

          No, those are good bacteria. I guess if you don’t take care of the good bacteria, the bad bacteria take over. I was on a successful diet a while ago that I attribute to the probiotic effects of yogurt, based on something I heard on Radio Lab. I don’t really know to what the credit goes, but I successfully sustained a diet despite the fact I have no discipline, and I was not missing or craving or deprived of yummy greasy foods. I would literally walk through a grocery store and not want cookies at all, or chips or whatever frozen pizzas and shit.

          But I have to ask a stupid question about probiotics. If your gut has good and bad bacteria, how do probiotics not encourage the bad bacteria to take over and kill you?
          https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/197242-gut-feelings

        • My question: how do the good bacteria from probiotics make it through your stomach?

        • Greg G.

          AIUI, probiotics are good bacteria. You just introduce 10 or 30 billion bacteria into your gut until they become dominant.

        • Kodie

          I wasn’t really thinking about it that way, so I should. Where did the bad bacteria come from? Is just all food covered in mostly bad bacteria, how does the fermented foods only have good bacteria? How many different good bacterias are there, and what if you only had one kind? Etc. Anything I can know better or research further.

        • Greg G.

          Micro-organisms can turn a host creature into a zombie. They can make an ant climb to the top of a blade of grass and lock their jaws so that a large herbivore will eat it to complete the micro-organism life-cycle. What makes bacteria bad is that they can release chemicals that can manipulate the cravings of a host to consume foods that are good for the bacteria and may not be so good for the host. You will eat lots of bacteria on food, especially salads which might have small, live insects with their own gut bacteria.

          I think the good bacteria that ferment foods are probably selected. I think some are to break down lactose. Which reminds me that if you eat beans regularly, you can maintain a population of bacteria that breaks down raffinose, a sugar in beans and lentils, more efficiently, so there is less gas.

          I was looking up probiotics last summer. The articles suggested getting a tablet with about a dozen different species and 20 or 30 billion units

          I am not an expert, I’m just recalling things off the top of my head that I have read, or possibly inferred.

          I have traveled to Vietnam almost every year since 2011. I was very careful about drinking the water, raw foods, and making sure the ice was made with bottled water. On the second trip, right after getting back to Saigon from Hanoi, I had dysentery for three days that ended the day before my return flight. I was not taking probiotics then.

          Nevertheless, I have become less concerned about it over the years. But I still boil the tap water yet I don’t worry about a little from brushing my teeth or the melt from my iced coffee.

          Last year, we went to the beach and stopped at a floating seafood restaurant. That was the most seafood I have ever eaten at once. That night, I got severe diarrhea for about five hours but it was over by midnight, though I was still dehydrated the next morning. One of the girls had a problem, too, but not as bad.

          So I think probiotics might help against dysentery in incidental amounts* but not against food poisoning.

          * I have seen claims about that.

        • Joe

          Noah must have had a host of viruses for them to survive the extinction of the rest of mankind.

        • Joe

          That sounds like a Disney movie featuring Samuel L. Jackson.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          LMFA, I can see it now “I’m tired of these *BLEEEP* *BLEEEP* *BLEEEP* snakes on this *BLEEEP* *BLEEEEP* *BLEEEP* cloud”

        • WCB

          Maybe. Strictly for the entertainment of herpetologists who have passed on and gone to heaven.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Do we rid the world of all viruses?

          We’ve already done that with smallpox, and we’re working on polio.

          Do you consider that a bad thing?

          Mark Twain, in Letters From The Earth, discussed *at length* how useless your supposed ‘god’ was at doing ANYTHING to improve the lot of humanity, and all improvement was the work of real people.

          And I don’t like coffee.

        • Joe

          We’ve already done that with smallpox, and we’re working on polio.

          A question I’ve often asked to these “God has a good reason for allowing evil” is: Why was smallpox necessary to enable a greater good, right until the time when a vaccine was developed, then it was no longer necessary? Same for how the world was better without HIV until around the late 70’s (?) but then for some reason it became necessary for this virus to infect some people (but not others) in order for an unspecified “greater good” to occur.

        • Joe

          If that is only determining factor, are you suggesting God should eliminate everything but edible plants and animals that are also not harmful?

          Wasn’t that the “default setting” in the garden of Eden, according to the Bible?

          Do we rid the world of all viruses?

          There was presumably a time when there were no viruses. Was the universe better, or worse?

          Or just keep those you like and then eliminate the ability of mutation?

          Do you believe in evolution? If not, what is the benefit of mutation?

        • epeeist

          There was presumably a time when there were no viruses.

          There was? Then how come our genome is full of ERV fragments?

        • Joe

          I’m pretty sure we haven’t been around forever. Biological life too.

        • I could imagine a time before viruses, since they’re parasitic on other forms of life, but that might’ve been a small window.

          On the topic of endogenous retroviruses, our genome has about 8% of inactivated fragments, if memory serves.

        • Susan

          are you suggesting God should eliminate everything but edible plants and animals that are also not harmful

          Are you saying cows don’t suffer? Why should we have to cause suffering to survive?

          For those in rodent infested areas, snakes that can tackle a larger rodent because of its venom is probably beneficial to humans.

          Rodents can’t suffer? Why create beings that can suffer that cause harm to humans when they try to survive?

        • Greg G.

          There is unnecessary suffering in this world. For suffering to be necessary, it must accomplish something. What can suffering do that your god thingy cannot do? Is suffering more powerful that God? If not, then God could do whatever suffering can do, with or without the suffering, which means that all suffering is unnecessary.

          If your god thingy chooses to allow unnecessary suffering, it is either sadistic, which means evil, or indifferent, which means not loving.

          There is no being in this universe that is both capable of preventing suffering and caring enough to prevent suffering. Why bother pretending there is one?

        • Joe

          Can we at least come to an agreement as to what is beneficial? There are non-venomous snakes in this world, suggesting venom is not necessary for the survival of snakes in general.

        • Susan

          So if it conflicts with your notion of beneficial, then it is a problem.

          Of course it is. What do you mean by beneficial? If it includes torturing trillions of life forms to death, then, yes. It’s a problem.

          Are we selectively removing viruses or do you wish all be dealt with at once?

          Viruses that cause great suffering and death to life forms capable of suffering should be eradicated. They shouldn’t even exist if you are am omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent being. The only justification not to eradicate them is if other forms of harm would be caused by eradicating them.

          But an omnibeing wouldn’t have to compromise like that.

        • EnlightenmentLiberal

          If Yahweh was good and powerful, and existed, he should be doing at least at much as our police. Or do you consider police to be an infringement of our free will?

          I suspect that you’ll bring up the standard line about how suffering is necessary for growth for some people. Here is one case where no one can say it seriously and with honesty:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritzl_case
          Read the details of that case, and tell me that this level of suffering was necessary for the growth of the woman who was kept chained in the basement for 24 years and raped daily by her father. More importantly, try telling yourself that there was a purpose behind this, that it’s all part of a plan for the betterment of the woman. If you can manage to tell yourself in the mirror that there was a plan, then I will call you human filth.

    • It is fun to return to this page occasionally and see what recycled challenges you are using.

      Is it recycled? That’s interesting—I’ve never seen it before. Point me to a couple of prior instances.

      If the natural disasters are caused by forces in the earth, forces that are beneficial, provide an alternative.

      Earthquake magnitudes naturally follow a power law. Since that’s harmful, God could clip the magnitude of earthquakes—none bigger than a 5, for example. That means that a wanna-be magnitude 8 would be converted into 31^3 = 30,000 magnitude 5 earthquakes spaced out over, say, a year. Or a decade. Ditto bad storms.

      It’s surprising God didn’t think of this himself, but I’m we all need a little help now and again. I’m glad to help. Give him a hug for me.

      Along with that, explain why it is God’s fault that people have lived in areas prone to natural disasters.

      Explain how people were supposed to know how this worked in a world before modern science. London (to take one modern city) is where it is because it was put there >2000 years ago by pre-scientific people.

      While you’re at it, note that building a city in a flood plain kinda makes sense if you want to be near the fertile farmland and the water. Sure, you can build elsewhere but at a cost–much more distance between you and the water and farmland. Since God is magic, he could prevent the floods, or he could eliminate the problem of living away from the flood plain.

      How would you rectify the robbery situation? Should God prevent the ability to break the law? Or should he remove consequences for crime? Draw for us a world where crime is possible and no one ever gets hurt.

      Is there crime in heaven? No? Then do it like that.

      After that God should eliminate disease or maybe death entirely. Although, that might cause a problem with your love of abortion.

      Yup! I wuv abortion this much! (See my selfie below. I just wish I had a bloody fetus to go along with it)

      I guess draw for us a world with no physical pain, then show me where inspiration comes from.

      Heaven. God clearly can create a world without physical pain. Apparently he just doesn’t feel like it down here. Kinda makes him a dick. Or maybe a sociopath. Which one do you vote for?

      2) Of course, the BIble says God is immoral. Wow, from the bin of forgotten favorites. Each one of those has been effectively dealt with by countless Christian philosophers since around 300AD.

      If you care to read the post, my response to that I will consider Christians’ rationalizations for why God’s Perfect Plan® sucks so much, but only after they admit that God sure as hell looks like a bastard, even if he doesn’t turn out to be.

      In truth there is no answer you will accept.

      No answer to what? To the Problem of Evil? Give me an answer that doesn’t suck and I’ll be happy to accept it.
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/354ef1cc2322845a570be84b0ca278eefecf3ca7434dba1b3b930e27bb380879.jpg

      • JBSchmidt

        “Point me to a couple of prior instances.”

        July 13, 2013; February 28, 2018; January 01, 2018…..I can keep looking.

        “God could”

        Simplistic Answer. “God could” give everyone a million dollars, does that make everyone’s life better or create another problem for you down the road? Does changing earthquakes create other systemic problems?

        “before modern science”

        Yes, I am. They would have had far less infrastructure, far less death (if any) and far less destruction. Prior to the San Fran earthquake of 1906, are you claiming they had no idea an earthquake could come? They weren’t sciency enough? I am sure the Native Americans knew. But they weren’t smart and white like you, soooooo.

        As for floods, the annual flooding of the Nile is what produced that civilization in a desert. They figured it out some 3000 years ago and praised the gods for it, without massive death. #modernscience

        “Is there [insert perfect scenario] in heaven?”

        If you are challenging God and evil through the Christian narrative, God did create a perfect world and man ruined it. Rather than destroy everything and start over he sent Christ to redeem us so we could return to the perfection of heaven. Could he make earth into heaven, of course. Is that what you want? An eternity of heavenly worship to God?

        So draw me a picture of the planet if you were God. One with the freewill you want, the ability to live as you choose and with no suffering. Draw me your utopia. That is what you are demanding from God, utopia, right. A place where you can live exactly as you choose with no burdens of this world. Show me how the looks, without God and just you in charge of the universal mechanics. You could claim we live in it; however, as “modern science” gets better, they are having a harder time proving our existence without a creator.

        P.S. – Love the statue. When I think of you I always think of you in nothing but a long shirt.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          “Point me to a couple of prior instances.”

          July 13, 2013; February 28, 2018; January 01, 2018…..I can keep looking.

          I call bullshit.

          YOU are untrustworthy, so provide links and explanations of why you consider it recycled or admit what a lying sad sack you are.

        • Gary Whittenberger

          JBS1: Does changing earthquakes create other systemic problems?

          GW1: Not if God can and wants to prevent other problems. After all, you do assume that he is all-powerful and perfectly moral, right?

          JBS1: If you are challenging God and evil through the Christian narrative, God did create a perfect world and man ruined it.

          GW1: False! Man could not ruin a perfect world created by God, if he existed.

          JBS1: Rather than destroy everything and start over he sent Christ to redeem us so we could return to the perfection of heaven.

          GW1: According to the Genesis story, God did destroy nearly everything once, i.e. in the Flood. If God did exist, he would never implement an atonement.

          JBS1: Could he make earth into heaven, of course. Is that what you want? An eternity of heavenly worship to God?

          GW1: What the respondent wants is irrelevant. What is relevant is what God would do if he really existed. You aren’t dealing with that.

          JBS1: So draw me a picture of the planet if you were God. One with the freewill you want, the ability to live as you choose and with no suffering. Draw me your utopia. That is what you are demanding from God, utopia, right. A place where you can live exactly as you choose with no burdens of this world. Show me how the looks, without God and just you in charge of the universal mechanics. You could claim we live in it; however, as “modern science” gets better, they are having a harder time proving our existence without a creator.

          GW1: Well for a start, if God existed he would prevent natural disasters, all diseases, and any version of free will by which humans choose to engage in physical aggression of any sort towards each other. How does that work for you?

        • Joe

          Simplistic Answer. “God could” give everyone a million dollars, does that make everyone’s life better or create another problem for you down the road?

          Wouldn’t that depend on…..free will?

        • “Point me to a couple of prior instances.”
          July 13, 2013; February 28, 2018; January 01, 2018…..I can keep looking.

          Yeah, I think you’d better. The point that, in my mind, is novel about this post (in the context of this blog—I’m not claiming that no one else has gone here) is the idea of holding Christians accountable for God’s actions. Sure, God may have reasons that we can’t understand, but from the standpoint of human morality, God’s actions make him a sociopath.

          That’s what you need to show to uphold your charge that this is recycled. Go.

          “God could”
          Simplistic Answer.

          It’s a complete answer. You apparently could think of absolutely nothing to replace natural disasters. I provided one obvious answer that anyone who understands what “God’s magic” could’ve come up with. Glad to help.

          “God could” give everyone a million dollars, does that make everyone’s life better or create another problem for you down the road? Does changing earthquakes create other systemic problems?

          And we’re back to giving God the benefit of the doubt? Nope—we do this in a human context. Clipping earthquake magnitudes is what I would do if I were God. Furthermore, it’s what you would do. If you want to return to the beginning of the topic and say that God might have a good reason to kill 100,000 people with an earthquake, I agree. But we don’t assume that out of the gate. If that’s your claim, show it.

          “before modern science”
          Yes, I am.

          Yes, you am what?

          They would have had far less infrastructure, far less death (if any) and far less destruction.

          Around Neah Bay, at Washington state’s extreme NW corner, a small group of people were living on the shoreline hundreds of years ago. Because of glaciers, we have lots of cliffs at the shoreline, and a landslide buried this group of people. There’s a museum showing what archaeologists learned from excavating the site.

          Yes, there was less infrastructure in a Native American community centuries ago. I’m not sure how that’s relevant. The shoreline is a good place to live. They didn’t know about the landslide, but God did. Whether it’s 100,000 people in Port au Prince, Haiti, or dozens centuries earlier in Neah Bay, how do we get God off the hook?

          Prior to the San Fran earthquake of 1906, are you claiming they had no idea an earthquake could come?

          I’m saying that the excuse, “Well, they shoulda known! It’s their own fault.” makes no sense. I heard John Lennox use this argument—even coming from his educated mouth, it’s a pathetic attempt to apologize for God.

          Omit as many examples as you want; at some point, there are people who honestly didn’t know the danger. God’s to blame for natural disasters.

          I am sure the Native Americans knew. But they weren’t smart and white like you, soooooo.

          Not only am I a baby killer, I’m a racist, too! This is fun.

          And everyone told me that you were an asshole. I think you’re just misunderstood.

          As for floods, the annual flooding of the Nile is what produced that civilization in a desert. They figured it out some 3000 years ago and praised the gods for it, without massive death.

          So massive death is the problem? If there’s massive death, it can’t be God’s fault, and if there’s a few deaths, it can’t be God’s fault. I think I’m figuring this out.

          Goodness knows we wouldn’t want to hold God to account for his actions. Poor baby.

          If you are challenging God and evil through the Christian narrative, God did create a perfect world and man ruined it.

          So then you admit that heaven is perfect and this ain’t heaven. Makes one wonder why God’s giving us life here when it could be so much better. It’s almost like reality is all there is, and “God” is just pretend.

          As for Eden, I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be a fallible person, and then some knucklehead spoils it. God did his best; who could’ve foretold how it would work out? I feel for the guy. And if it’d been me, I would’ve cursed mankind forever, just like him. Who cares if it’s petulant and unfair?

          Rather than destroy everything and start over

          Which reminds me of the time he did destroy everything and start over. Good times.

          he sent Christ to redeem us so we could return to the perfection of heaven.

          Doesn’t apply to me, so I’m not all that impressed with the story.

          Could he make earth into heaven, of course. Is that what you want? An eternity of heavenly worship to God?

          Is that your view of heaven? You want to worship God forever?

          So draw me a picture of the planet if you were God.

          See previous comment.

          One with the freewill you want, the ability to live as you choose and with no suffering. Draw me your utopia.

          Mankind gets wisdom. QED

          as “modern science” gets better, they are having a harder time proving our existence without a creator.

          Citation needed.

          P.S. – Love the statue. When I think of you I always think of you in nothing but a long shirt.

          Take the photo out of your wallet when you reply to my comment. It’ll bring us closer.

        • JBSchmidt

          “The point that, in my mind, is novel about this post”

          I guess you see six and I see half dozen.

          “holding Christians accountable for God’s actions”

          Seems illogical. How do impose your notion of reality onto someone else’s belief system and them demand they tell you why it doesn’t match up? Can I hold you accountable to the deaths under secular governments or in the name of secular science?

          “So massive death is the problem?”

          No the opposite. You started with mass killing and will reduce your argument to as narrow selection as possible to claim the God that doesn’t exist is evil. The landslide buried 6 homes (far stretch from your claims). How many died? Do we know that they had no knowledge of the risk?

          “he did destroy everything”

          Nope, read the story again.

          “Who cares if it’s petulant and unfair?” – “God’s actions make him a sociopath” – “So then you admit that heaven is perfect and this ain’t heaven. Makes one wonder why God’s giving us life here when it could be so much better.”

          Christians have wrestled and answered these questions for centuries and the Jews for centuries before that. To assume you have some new novel idea that hasn’t been presented is comical. You can deny and ignore what Christian philosophers have written; however, their answers satisfied these aspects of God in Christianity. This is more of, haters gonna hate, then it is critique.

        • Greg G.

          Christians have wrestled and answered these questions for centuries and the Jews for centuries before that. To assume you have some new novel idea that hasn’t been presented is comical. You can deny and ignore what Christian philosophers have written; however, their answers satisfied these aspects of God in Christianity. This is more of, haters gonna hate, then it is critique.

          Yes, Christians and Jews have wrestled with the problems for centuries but they have not solved the problems. You just assume they answered them. That problem with apologetics is that they are only excuses for believers to stop thinking.

          If you knew of some Christian philosopher that had an answer, you would have cited him or her and presented the argument. All you have provided is The Courtier’s Reply, which is air without substance. You have just listened to other Christians who made the same assumption. Stop doing that. If there was a good answer, we would have heard it by now.

        • MR

          Plus those centuries were steeped in an inaccurate and superstitious understanding of the world. We know much more about the world and about human nature than they ever could have imagined. It’s not surprising, for example, that someone who finds fossilized fish or shells on a mountaintop would imagine a global flood. They could not have known about plate tectonics.

          If those deep thinkers at the roots of religion and the apologists that followed had known what we know today, would we even have religion, I wonder?

          Sure they wrestled with those questions but they had incomplete information, and it seems to me we’re just riding their misunderstanding of the world and the mythologies they developed from that misunderstanding. Now, those mythologies are entrenched in the culture. Today’s deep thinkers are moving away from the superstitions and focus on a fact-based understanding of the world; the modern apologists are just doing their best to continue digging their trenches.

          They no longer have the power to explain, only the power to excuse.

        • Greg G.

          If those deep thinkers at the roots of religion and the apologists that followed had known what we know today, would we even have religion, I wonder?

          Excellent question.

        • Susan

          Excellent question.

          It is.

          On another subject, Bob just asked me to point him to your code.

          Of course I can’t because I’m an inept moron who followed your instructions and now all I have is “Recent Comments” in my bookmarks.

          Could you provide it to Bob?

          Thank you. (I wish I had a good emoticon for an awkward grin.)

          Here is Bob’s comment:

          https://disqus.com/home/discussion/crossexamined/4_steps_christians_must_take_before_responding_to_the_problem_of_evil/#comment-4404380089

        • Greg G.

          I found a simple version here: http://disq.us/p/20kicc4

          There is a more complex version here: http://disq.us/p/20feclu

          The code for the Recent Comments is the same in both but the second one is a table with some other links.

          After retrieving the links I noticed that there is only one comment between them. I noticed that on the more complex one, the links do not show in the code. It should not be hard to fix.

        • Susan

          I guess you see six and I see half dozen.

          Bob explained the distinction. You’ve ignored it.

          How do impose your notion of reality onto someone else’s belief system and them demand they tell you why it doesn’t match up?

          You are claiming Yahwehjesus is good. It doesn’t match up with what people generally mean when they say “good”. Special pleading applies to Yahwehjesus. Special pleading means it doesn’t match up.

          The landslide buried 6 homes (far stretch from your claims). How many died? Do we know that they had no knowledge of the risk?

          That is a cold-blooded response. So in the history of this planet, only those victims in 6 homes have suffered and died? And it was probably their own fault? They should have known better than to live there? Can you give me an example of a place where humans (and non-humans) are safe from natural disasters?

          You can deny and ignore what Christian philosophers have written

          He hasn’t. He’s addressed the arguments one by one. They’re crap. Based on shoring up unevidenced, superstious beliefs.

          This is more of, haters gonna hate, then it is critique

          You saying so does not make it so.

          Your inept and cold-blooded responses haven’t made any case for your statement.

        • MR

          Christianity: Suppressing empathy for others for 2,000 years.

        • Kodie

          Christians have wrestled and answered these questions for centuries and
          the Jews for centuries before that. To assume you have some new novel
          idea that hasn’t been presented is comical. You can deny and ignore
          what Christian philosophers have written; however, their answers
          satisfied these aspects of God in Christianity. This is more of, haters
          gonna hate, then it is critique.

          You know why there are so many different religious sects and denominations? Because everyone tries to cram a bad explanation into an idealized fiction, and it doesn’t fucking add up. Whatever you come to settle on, with your excuses why it doesn’t make sense, and your shrugs and “I guess we’ll find out the answer to that when we die” kind of giving up – yes YOU DO have to answer for that shit. You believe it, and your kind would generally like to force the rest of us to just give in and believe it, i.e. join your cult! No, you are accountable to the shit you propose is reality, first of which, why there might be so many different people coming up with so many different ways to interpret the intentions of ether.

        • Kuno

          Again, you don’t seem to think much of God’s omnipotence and omnisciene.

        • Pofarmer

          The God Virus hard at work.

        • al kimeea

          If you are challenging God and evil through the Christian narrative, God
          did create a perfect world and man ruined it. Rather than destroy
          everything and start over he sent Christ to redeem us so we could return
          to the perfection of heaven. Could he make earth into heaven, of
          course. Is that what you want? An eternity of heavenly worship to God?

          This perfect world was this one we’re on right now that we ruin still or was it another location? If the former, this perfect deity could make it so again, right now. If the latter, well that also shouldn’t be an issue. The almighty should be able to accommodate 2, 8 or 7,000,000,000 or so of his flock.

          The Flood did destroy everything ‘cept a drunk & his kin on an unpossibly large, wooden petting zoo.

          This perfect heaven we return to is another place, not this planet. This planet is very much like a garden, so you see why I’m curious as to where Eden is, brother.

          An eternity worshipping a deity doesn’t sound very appealing to me, but what I want has no bearing on a deity that could turn earth into whatever heaven is. The faithful want an eternity on their knees, it’s why they worship now and feel blessed by pancreatic cancer.

          If I were a loving deity this planet would look just as it does now, but unchanging as far as the continents go. The weather would be mild but changeable to promote optimum growth worldwide. No disease, long life… etc, etc. Then you’re in a more perfect heaven… or something.

          That’s if the deity is an omni version. The deistic version might as well not exist.

        • MR

          Seems to me that if he created a perfect world then man wouldn’t have been able to ruin it. The story makes no sense. Justifications that need justifications.

        • Kodie

          Simplistic Answer. “God could” give everyone a million dollars, does
          that make everyone’s life better or create another problem for you down
          the road? Does changing earthquakes create other systemic problems?

          The real answer is – people made money. We could just have what we need, and I guess with free will, that makes some people selfish, which causes envy and crime. Let’s imagine earthquakes could be even worse. Again, the Richter Scale is human, and earthquakes have a basic range of how mild a detectable tremor is to the other extreme. What if they were more extreme, but imagine a god dialed them back so the worst ones are much better than they could have been. It’s not really earthquakes that are the problem, it’s Christian delusion that this is the best possible world with all your fucking excuses. Things could be any way they could be, they could be less dire for everyone, but that would “create other systemic problems,” right? Like WHAT!

          I was listening to someone talk about solar energy today, and this isn’t new news, and how the oil company model is built on billing people every month to provide a material that is basically mined and refined and piped to them, and that the sun does that all the time for free, and “what a dumb business model that is”, is basically what they said. How about stop thinking about this shit in terms of how to make money but how to care about fellow humans. Your excuses sound like an oil company shitting on a great plan that your god was too fucking stupid or greedy or imaginary to come up with.

    • Max Doubt

      “Should God prevent the ability to break the law?”

      Gods have no power to do anything outside the imaginations of those who believe gods exist.

      “After that God should eliminate disease or maybe death entirely.”

      Nice thought, but again the utter lack of ability to do anything at all precludes gods from causing or eliminating anything.

      “Although, that might cause a problem with your love of abortion.”

      If those gods had any power outside the imaginations of the believers, they could either stop that if they don’t like it, or they consider it acceptable and let it happen.

      “Of course, the BIble says God is immoral.”

      If gods had the powers believers imagine they have, the gods wouldn’t have to arrange for the enslavement and death of millions of people. Obviously gods have no power in the real world.

      “In truth there is no answer you will accept.”

      Here’s an honest truthful answer I would accept. You could acknowledge you have no objective way to show that the gods you imagine have any power to do anything at all outside your imagination. Does it rock your little god-fantasy world when a regular mortal human like myself is demonstrably, objectively more powerful – right here in the reality we all share – than any god you can conceive?

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/018d9075880fa729e0a61595800a6b259c3a2af784920b918da65f10a38caecc.png

    • WCB

      Have you ever visited the Parasite Of The Day blog site? Lots of interesting parasites causing misery for man and beast. Who made these parasites? God? Why? Some bizarre “intelligent designer”? Fave of the week, Acanthusamoeba spp. Infects eyes. Parasites! Viruses! Fungal diseases! Protozoan diseases Nasty little germs! Thank you God! Thank you!

    • I Came To Bring The Paine

      Draw your world that exists without the natural processes of the earth or prevents people from inhabiting these areas.

      A world where a god actually exists.

      Draw for us a world where crime is possible and no one ever gets hurt.

      A world where a god actually exists.

      So I guess draw for us a world with no physical pain, then show me where inspiration comes from.

      A world where a god actually exists.

      However, you forgot to include that we as Christians are supposed to murder all the gays.

      It’s too bad many Christians can’t forget that, either.

      In truth there is no answer you will accept. You are as much a zealot as the Christians you wish to convert.

      Good thing you’re superior to both of us, then.

      • Pofarmer

        And witches, don’t forget murdering witches.

    • eric

      If the natural disasters are caused by forces in the earth, forces that are beneficial, provide an alternative.

      I’ve never thought of plate tectonics as a “beneficial force.” It just is. But IIRC other planets don’t have them, so it’s obviously not necessary.

      explain why it is God’s fault that people have lived in areas prone to natural disasters

      Because he’s omniscient, and he knows beforehand exactly where people are going to explore, move, and settle. Look, if I’m driving a car down a road, and I see a pedestrian unaware that I’m coming walking into the street…walking…walking…walking, the only ethical thing is to stop. I don’t run him over and then claim it’s not my fault he walked into the street and was unaware I was there.

      God rules the world. He controls all that happens. So he’s driving the car. He has a moral responsibility to stop.

      How would you rectify the robbery situation?

      Give all humans Ghandi’s moral backbone and temperament. There are many many people in the world with the willpower and ethical beliefs needed to resist the temptation to steal. Now, theologically, either those people have the free will ability to meaningfully choose salvation, or they don’t. If theydo, then Christians cannot claim that this solution prevents free will from operating. If they don’t, then they can’t reach heaven and the Christian’s argument against this solution implies that God damns to hell people who have a strong natural predilection to choose good. I’m not sure if there’s a philosophical name for this argument, but I tend to think of it as the “least bad human” argument. I.e. If humans with a natural predilection for good can be saved and enter heaven, then God could have made all of us as temperamentally good as the least bad human without compromising our free will.

      In truth there is no answer you will accept.

      While it’s true I have yet to see an argument that solves the theodicy problem satisfactorily, I’d say that since it’s been a theological problem for 2,000 years, I’m in the majority there, and that the failure of Chrisitans to develop an answer that convinces millions of people throughout history means the problem here is the lack of a convincing reply, not that I’m unsatisfiable.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        I’d bet that other planets DO have plate tectonics, we just don’t have enough data yet to confirm it.

        Other than that, pretty much spot on.

        • eric

          Mars doesn’t. At least, nowhere near to the extent that Earth does. And it had an atmosphere and standing water (we think). Soooo….not necessary, at least in a philosophical sense. Thus earthquakes largely not necessary also.

        • Cozmo the Magician

          Mars mos likely HAD plate movement. Take one look at that HUUUUGE ass volcano. And water was VERY likely. The grand canyon on Mars makes the one in the US look like a skid mark left by a baby’s diaper (;

        • eric

          AIUI the presence of surface water has nothing to do with plate tectonics; it has to do with temperature, atmospheric pressure and composition, and the existence of lots of stable H2O (or not).

          Even volcanoes don’t necessarily have a direct requirement of moving plates. Consider: if there’s a thin crust spot that’s not moving over a hotter layer, that just means that one spot grows a bigger and constant volcano, and doesn’t create a string of them over time. So, in fact, Olympus Mons’ size may undermine your claim rather than support it, as we would expect bigger shield volcanoes in places where the crust isn’t moving. Let’s say there was no plate tectonic movement around the location of Hawaii. Instead of a string of Hawaiian shield volcanos anchoring small islands, you’d just have one really big island with one really big shield volcano in the middle of it. But you’d still have that volcano.

        • Greg G.

          I see that Europa has plate tectonics with ice instead of rock.

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      If the natural disasters are caused by forces in the earth, forces that are beneficial, provide an alternative.

      Are you suggesting that god isn’t capable of creating a world without natural disasters?

      Should God prevent the ability to break the law?

      I’m already prevented from zapping people with eyeball lasers or breaking bones with my mind. Why is it ok for god to prohibit that but not other types of harm?

      Is there crime in heaven? If not, why not? If crime is so essential to the human condition, how does god get away with restricting it elsewhere?

      So I guess draw for us a world with no physical pain, then show me where inspiration comes from.

      If physical pain is necessary for inspiration, does this mean we no longer feel inspired in heaven? Perhaps more important, does this mean god cannot be inspired?

      Each one of those has been effectively dealt with by countless Christian philosophers since around 300AD.

      Terrific! So what is the moral justification for drowning all life on the planet?

      • Joe

        I’m already prevented from zapping people with eyeball lasers or breaking bones with my mind. Why is it ok for god to prohibit that but not other types of harm?

        That is similar to my counter to the “free will” argument theists use.

        If god, from the beginning of time, made child abuse impossible, how would we ever know we are being denied this particular “freedom”? There are lots of things we are not capable of, and probably behaviors nobody has ever imagined. Is the world poorer because we can’t do any of these things, or no different?

        • Greg G.

          If masturbation is wrong, why isn’t it as difficult as tickling yourself? Perhaps masturbation and procrasturbation are OK but tickling yourself is as immoral as traveling at greater than light speed.

        • Joe

          Our friend here is making a good case for many of gods decisions being completely arbitrary.

          If masturbation is a sin, make it excruciatingly painful and people would still have the free will (as in the theist’s limited understanding of the concept) but would willingly choose not to.

        • Whoops. You beat me to it.

        • MR

          I see what you did there.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          “Cleanup on aisle three!”

        • Kuno

          Almost a toss-up.

        • Now don’t you start!

        • Kuno

          Why, do you want to finish it yourself?

          OK, OK, I’ll be in my bunk get my coat.

        • MR

          Don’t be such a wanker.

        • Masturbation works but self-tickling doesn’t. God is magic and could’ve arranged things any way he wanted.

        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          I wouldn’t even call it “similar”, it’s the same argument. The only difference is that you explain the underlying ideas whereas I took a more visceral approach.

      • Grimlock

        I’m already prevented from zapping people with eyeball lasers or breaking bones with my mind. Why is it ok for god to prohibit that but not other types of harm?

        This. So much this.

        • JAA2 raises a good point. The world would be so much better, so much more normal, if God restored our eyeball lasers.

        • Grimlock

          Precisely!

          Clark Kent – the man who God forgot when he removed our eyeball lasers. (Or Scott Summers, it you’re an X-Men fan.)

    • Susan

      Draw for us this world God is supposed to have created.

      Well, a world where life evolved for hundreds of millions of years, experiencing unfathomable suffering before humans existed wouldn’t be part of the picture. A world where most suffering is non-human wouldn’t either.

      If the natural disasters are caused by forces in the earth, forces that are beneficial, provide an alternative.

      A world that can be beneficial without starving earthlings to death, letting them die from drought, from disease, from predation, from gangrene, from tooth decay, where they aren’t drowned in floods, burned to death in forest fires, crushed to death in earthquakes, trapped in tarpits where they slowly die.;.. and is still beneficial.

      Isn’t Yahwehjesus supposed to have invented reality out of metaphysical nothingness? What’s the problem?

      Draw for us a world where crime is possible and no one ever gets hurt.

      An omnipotent being could provide unlimited options where beings could learn and grow without anyone having to get hurt.

      After that God should eliminate disease or maybe death entirely.

      Yep. The story is that it plans to do it in heaven. Why invent it all, then?

      Wow, from the bin of forgotten favorites. Each one of those has been effectively dealt with by countless Christian philosophers since around 300AD

      That old canard. “This has been dealt with.”

      It hasn’t been dealt with well. Give me an example of how you would deal with it. I’ll bet it’s from the bin of incanted favourites that don’t solve the problems that have been brought up.

      In truth there is no answer you will accept.

      Bullshit. I just won’t accept bad answers that dismiss, paper over and ignore the problems with Yahwehjesus claims.

      You are as much a zealot as the Christians you wish to convert.

      Nope. Not believing incoherent, unsupported claims doesn’t make one a zealot.

      Try it with Scientology.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        I love a good fisking in the morining!

        It smells like….*victory*!!

        🙂

        • Susan

          I love a good fisking

          I didn’t intend it as a fisking. I just responded to JB Schmidts’s parroting.

          From memory, that’s when he disappears and returns back later with the same crap.

          I loathe the reset button.

    • Grimlock

      Hold on a second. This is essentially an optimization issue. It seems apparent that the world could’ve been in a number of ways, but the Christian usually requires our world to be the optimal one.

      Clearly the burden of evidence, then, lies on the one claiming that a particular solution is the optimal solution. In other words, it’s on you. So how about you Bilbo it up, and give some reason why we shouldn’t be utterly dismissive of this world being the optimal one?

    • Gary Whittenberger

      JBS1: It is fun to return to this page occasionally and see what recycled challenges you are using.

      GW1: It is fun to see what excuses you are using.

      JBS1: 1) Draw for us this world God is supposed to have created.

      GW1: A world in which God prevented natural disasters, diseases, and physical aggression among human beings. How does that work for you?

      JBS1: If the natural disasters are caused by forces in the earth, forces that are beneficial, provide an alternative.

      GW1: A world in which there are natural forces but no natural disasters.

      JBS1: Along with that, explain why it is God’s fault that people have lived in areas prone to natural disasters.

      GW1: It would be God’s fault that he created, caused, or allowed natural disasters. If he had done otherwise, then people could live anywhere without fear, harm, or loss.

      JBS1: Draw your world that exists without the natural processes of the earth or prevents people from inhabiting these areas.

      GW1: I already did this. Natural processes and natural forces, but no natural disasters.

      JBS1: How would you rectify the robbery situation?

      GW1: If he existed, God would rectify the robbery situation by preventing human beings from being physically aggressive towards each other.

      JBS1: Should God prevent the ability to break the law?

      GW1: Why wouldn’t he prevent the human ability to break laws which ban harmful behavior, if he existed?

      JBS1: Or should he remove consequences for crime?

      GW1: Yes and no. It depends on the types of crimes and the types of consequences.

      JBS1: Draw for us a world where crime is possible and no one ever gets hurt.

      GW1: Define “crime” and “getting hurt.”

      JBS1: After that God should eliminate disease or maybe death entirely.

      GW1: Wouldn’t God do either or both of these if he existed? Why not? He is supposed to be perfectly moral, right?

      JBS1: Although, that might cause a problem with your love of abortion. (which coincidentally you failed to mention considering it ends the lives of millions a year)

      GW1: It appears that you are assuming that all atheists love abortion? Where’s your evidence for that?

      JBS1: So I guess draw for us a world with no physical pain, then show me where inspiration comes from.

      GW1: If God did exist, he could create a world for us with no physical pain but with inspiration, right? If he did exist, isn’t that exactly what he would do?

      JBS1: 2) Of course, the BIble says God is immoral. Wow, from the bin of forgotten favorites. Each one of those has been effectively dealt with by countless Christian philosophers since around 300AD.

      GW1: It is ironic that the Bible says God is immoral, but religious doctrine says that God is perfectly moral. A little contradiction there.

      JBS1: However, you forgot to include that we as Christians are supposed to murder all the gays.

      GW1: What does the Bible say about this?

      JBS1: In truth there is no answer you will accept.

      GW1: In truth there is no good answer you can or will give.

      JBS1: You are as much a zealot as the Christians you wish to convert.

      GW1: Better to be zealous and correct than to be zealous and incorrect. You have still not solved The Problem of Evil, but keep trying.

    • carbonUnit

      Another way God could mitigate some of the badness of this world would be to simply be an effective communicator. Ya know, that personal God everyone is supposed to be able to have a relationship with. If we could truly converse with God, then He could provide much needed guidance and warnings. Imagine what a difference it would make if one could initiate a conversation with God as easily as making a phone call?

      “You probably don’t want to build that town there – in 27 years it is going to be hit by a 4 meter tsunami.”
      “Next week, a tornado is going to come through here – best get out of the way!”

      My spouse and I have suffered repeatedly at the hands of so-called Christians who repeatedly do dastardly, low down things. As if they don’t really believe that there is a God who will punish them. A God who clearly exists would be hard to ignore. God would not have to even get on people’s cases about not doing this or that bad thing. People would not consider committing crimes, just as a criminal would not even consider robbing a bank with an effective security force in place. It could be like having a very friendly cop always around – just don’t mess with him!

      • Damian Byrne


        A God who clearly exists would be hard to ignore. God would not have
        to even get on people’s cases about not doing this or that bad thing.
        People would not consider committing crimes, just as a criminal would
        not even consider robbing a bank with an effective security force in
        place.”

        A while back, I read a fanfiction of Superman set in the 1930s. It explored what would really happen if there WAS a Superman, a being able to be super-fast, super-strong, see and hear pretty much everything, and very welling to help people. Eventually, as word got out about him, criminals stopped plotting murders, since they realised Supes could hear them speak, or see them writing down their plots. People stopped escaping from burning buildings, instead climbing out onto roofs in hope Supes would pick them up.

        Do we see Christians by and large doing anything like this, despite the fact this is what they say their God is capable of doing, and will do? I’ve heard of small cults where people sell everything they own, take their kids out of school and just wait for the end, but by and large, mainstream denominations still live in the real world, still treat the real world as being a thing despite what they preach in mass on Sunday.

    • Jack the Sandwichmaker

      2) Yeah, God had NO CHOICE but to order the Israelites to murder the children of the Canaanites. if He didn’t then the Canaanites would have murdered some of those children (citiation needed), and that would have been worse for some reason.

    • Kuno

      You seem to have a very low opinion of God’s omnipotence.

      • Kit Hadley-Day

        All apologists seem to need a refresher on what omnipotence means

        • Greg G.

          They like the sound of the word and the concept but cannot think through the implications of what it means.

    • Kit Hadley-Day

      why should a good god have created a world in which there are earthquakes? did it just get his design wrong, this all powerful magical being could have just created a completely stable planet, why didn’t it?

      an all powerful god could remove the desire for robbery by providing enough resources for all are removing the desire to accumulate wealth in excess of need, clearly god is happy to muck around with peoples desires so this would be trivial.

      Why eliminate death? people would want to move onto heaven, but an all powerful god could ensure that all people dies painlessly in their sleep. no need for debilitating pain or dementia, what good does that deliver?

      The reason people like bob keep having to answer the same questions is because apologists have not moved forward a single footstep since Augustus, and he didn’t prove anything either.

      I suspect Bob, like many here, couldn’t give a tinkers cuss about converting people, we just wish that you would stop abusing logic and argumentation to suggest that your unfounded beliefs have some place in reality. If you want to believe in magic then that is your prerogative, but don’t pretend that it is rational to do so.

  • Brian Curtis

    “Your puny mortal mind is incapable of comprehending God’s plans and motives in terms of your childish understanding of good and evil.”
    “So… why should I worship God?”
    “Oh, because he’s so good!”

    • JustAnotherAtheist2

      Pretty much . Try ax they might, theists can’t ditch the basis for judging god as evil without also ditching the basis for concluding he is good. This would be patently obvious to even them in any other context.

  • 3vil5triker .

    Its just the same thing that happens to comic book characters that have gone through many iterations, re-imaginings, reboots and writing teams. If you try to make everything into a single coherent narrative, plot-holes start appearing everywhere, some characterizations will seem at out of place and many stories will seem dated and out of touch with modern sensitivities.

    But since its fiction, we just suspend our imagination for a bit and play along with it. The whole thing with God and the Bible is just fiction that too many people take way too seriously.

    Another thing, when I still believed, I remember trying to reconcile the idea of unfair and cruel things being done by a supposedly just and benevolent god. In my heart of hearts, I thought he was a complete monster, but due to the religious indoctrination and gaslighting I’d received, I kept myself from thinking about it in those terms.

    • Grimlock

      Its just the same thing that happens to comic book characters […]

      Blasphemy!

    • Kuno

      I’ve always said that God needs a better editor.

  • Derek Mathias

    My YouTube channel is devoted to proving the God of the Bible is evil (not because I believe he exists, but because Christians do believe he exists and many of them use that belief to try to impose their dogma on society, especially science). While I have many videos detailing all the various forms of biblical and other evidence that God is evil, I summarize all the major points in this video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcHYsieoQK8

  • David Peebles

    As I’ve said on other occasions: If god exists, nothing makes sense. If god does not exist, everything makes sense.

    • MR

      Yes! Just listen to the apologists here jump through hoops, evade and outright lie. The cognitive dissonance is palpable. I always want to say, “Can you hear yourself?” Excuses here, justifications there. Atheists aren’t constantly needing a clean up on aisle four. Apologetics is one big mop up.

  • Chuck Johnson

    The Bible was written over a very long period of time by a large number of authors, many of whom were not in contact with each other.
    I’t a patchwork quilt of ideas, laws, assertions, etc.
    By picking and choosing, a good God, a bad God, or a mediocre God can be assembled.
    And that’s what people do. they assemble a God in their own image.

    This would be trivial, but many people will then start worshiping and obeying this concocted God.
    And worse, insisting that everyone else should worship and obey it.

    • Kodie

      I think a great problem is that, over time, and probably by tradition, these people who contributed to the text of the bible think they are talking about the same god. I mean, first there are Jews, but they split off into Christianity, based on the martyrdom of a Jew, that Jews don’t think is the messiah, or any of his deeds, or so-called miracles, or that he raised from the dead, etc. They believe their own weird pretend shit, but that is the bridge too far. Maybe this is why Christians hate atheists, because of the main thing we have in common with the Jews.

      As we approach Easter, the funniest time of the year, I know an atheist who never knew how Easter is so paganly calculated, the first Sunday after the first full moon after the first day of spring, whereas the birth of Jesus is sent to the same date of a pagan holiday in December every year, when I have all my life been treated to weird newspaper features that say Jesus was more likely born in May.

      The god of the bible changes within the actual bible because, as time passes, people both cling to their traditional god and revise god to apply to their lives and societal (adaptation of, i.e. progress, acceptance, excuses to disobey the original “god” while reinterpreting what the earlier tradition said) rules. I.e., the bible is a distinct indication that people invent god, invent religions, and use their deity to draw lines between groups of people, tribes, cults, old-fashioned crap like superstitions, and what arbitrary rules people are afraid to break, or what people come to expect if established rules are broken (mostly nothing, or earthly justice systems). .

      • Chuck Johnson

        Thanks.
        I see the evolution of cultures (including religious ones) as being similar to genetic evolution.

        The religious stories undergo mutation over time (they are added to, subtracted from, and told differently) and then selection pressure decides which stories will survive for the following generations, and which stories become obsolete.

        Selection pressure selects for the stories that people like the most.
        The ones that people like the most will generally be stories that resonate with the lives, education and knowledge of the people of that religion in that time period.

        Once the civil rights movement came along, the Mormons got a revelation from God that they should dispense with their racially-bigoted (African-American bigotry) laws and traditions.

        This is the way that the God of the Mormons learned His lesson.

        • Kodie

          I point out these people are creating new religions all the time, and yet cling to their historical petty juvenile god who hates everyone. They don’t recognize that they’re doing that. We could ask them, if there are relatively rational Christians who are socially tolerant and generous and liberal, and don’t have any problem with science, then why are there still fundies?

          The ones that people like the most will generally be stories that resonate with the lives, education and knowledge of the people of that religion in that time period.

          What bothers me is that normal things that resonate with humans get absorbed by religions who take credit for their god creating those concepts, like marriage, or morality. People get stuck in patterns of excusing their god or ignoring their god for anything they don’t like, dismiss believers of other denominations for being sucked into a misleading marketing pitch, but their beliefs are not like that. They can’t get out of the loop where their marriage is sacred because they had a wedding inside a fancy building by a man in a satin dress and a funny hat, and some oil and candles might have been involved, and sexual intercourse after that is somehow drastically different in quality and divinity than before it, yet, when I call religion a superstition, they don’t understand how similar that all is to thinking your lucky shirt helps your team win a game, or knocking on wood, etc. I mean, not to put down wedding ceremonies – it’s not a small deal in life to promise in front of your family/tribe/community to sign up for a life contract to build a household together, but traditions and customs don’t make it more significant than going to town hall, or else there would not be choices in the ceremony itself, the attire, the flowers you like, etc.

          And while we’re on the topic of cake, that is a part of the reception where you thank your guests and feed them, not any part of the ceremony itself. It’s a custom at a party to have dessert after the meal. It’s a tradition. I mean, can the tablecloth rental place say it won’t service weddings of non-straight people? What about the caterer’s chicken supplier? They make up shit as they go along and because they think if they waver on their faith, god will send them to hell. That’s what a superstition exactly is.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Some call it confirmation bias, God glasses, living in an echo chamber, etc.

          The disconnect continues to increase between the ancient supernatural stories and the real universe that we live in.
          The religionists try to make it all seem logical.

  • Gary Whittenberger

    Bob, this is a very good essay. Well done! I’d like to see you in a debate with William Lane Craig. I don’t think he could deal with your arguments.

    The problem of evil is a big part of what led me to atheism.

    • Max Doubt

      “The problem of evil is a big part of what led me to atheism.”

      Lemme point you in a better direction here. There is no objective evidence that any gods exist as anything other than figments of individuals’ imagination. Period. There. You can’t prove gods don’t exist by inventing vulnerable gods and throwing your imaginary krypton at them, as per your usual shtick. The full set of characteristics people use to describe their gods don’t apply to supposed flaws in any other people’s imagined gods, like the alleged problem of evil. If a believer doesn’t see it as a problem, it’s not a problem.

      Every single believer imagines their gods differently, exactly like how everyone who reads 20,000 Leagues imagines Capt. Nemo differently. Any god characteristics you imagine exist only in your imagination. You don’t have to rationalize how something you only imagine isn’t real for this, that, or the other reason. It’s not real because there is zero evidence of its existence outside your imagination or the imaginations of other believers.

    • Thanks. I perform best in written form (though I find WLC unconvincing in any form).

      BTW, I leafed through the last Skeptic magazine. You had an interesting article on the abortion issue, wasn’t it. I haven’t read it, but it looks excellent.

  • Jack the Sandwichmaker

    So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

    Like, 10 maybe. You are worth more than 10 sparrows.

    • Greg G.

      Like, 10 maybe. You are worth more than 10 sparrows.

      But still worth fewer than three chickadees.

    • Kuno

      Maybe if the sparrows would bother to get jobs, the lazy bastards.

      BRIAN: Uh, well, the birds, then.

      EDDIE: What birds?

      BRIAN: Any birds.

      EDDIE: Why?

      BRIAN: Well, have they got jobs?

      ARTHUR: Who?

      BRIAN: The birds.

      EDDIE: Have the birds got jobs?!

      FRANK: What’s the matter with him?

      ARTHUR: He says the birds are scrounging.

      BRIAN: Oh, uhh, no, the point is the birds. They do all right.
      Don’t they?

      FRANK: Well, good luck to ’em.

      EDDIE: Yeah. They’re very pretty.

      BRIAN: Okay, and you’re much more important than they are,
      right? So, what are you worrying about? There you are. See?

      EDDIE: I’m worrying about what you have got against birds.

      BRIAN: I haven’t got anything against the birds. Consider the
      lilies.

  • igor

    Here is another way to look at the PoE. Think of the Stephen Unwin attempt to show (using Bayes theorem) a high probability that God exists. In the assessment he considers some good stuff and some bad stuff. The good stuff is positive for the probability and the bad stuff is negative for the probability.

    If you group together the good stuff, it is very highly probable that a good God exists. If you group together the bad stuff, it is highly probable that God does not exist. But God cannot both exist and not exist. So if we assume that God exists, He is responsible for both the good stuff and the bad stuff.

    So this Unwin thing unwittingly shows that God is malevolent as well as benevolent. God can have both capabilities but utilise only one at a time.