Summary of reply: free will fails as a response to evil from humans, and God is hardly a defender of people’s free will. “It’s all your fault” is a surprisingly frequent answer from Christians trying to protect their fragile God, but it fails. And the obligatory appeal to objective morality is made with no evidence.
(These Bite-Size Replies are responses to “Quick Shots,” brief Christian responses to atheist challenges. The introduction to this series is here.)
Challenge to the Christian: God wouldn’t allow evil and suffering
Christian response #1: Are we talking about evil done by other people? God may allow us free will to do evil because free will is a requirement for human love. But there will be a reckoning where God will right these wrongs.
BSR: God as a champion of free will? Tell that to the victims who had their free will violated by rape or murder while God stood by, ignoring them.
If free will is as essential to human wellbeing as you insist, heaven must also have free will. But if free will is indirectly the cause of so much evil on earth, will that make heaven as bad as earth? If not—perhaps people in heaven get the wisdom to use free will properly—then God can clearly allow free will while avoiding evil. Blame God that that’s not the situation here on earth.
And if the issue is love for God, he can earn a loving relationship like anyone else. By being indistinguishable from nonexistent, he’s not making his case.
Let’s move on to the promised reckoning where God will right the wrongs. According to Christian logic, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who became a born-again Christian in prison, is in heaven now. Mahatma Gandhi, Indian pioneer of nonviolent resistance, died a Hindu and is now in hell. How is that justice?
According to Christian logic, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who became a born-again Christian in prison, is in heaven now. Mahatma Gandhi died a Hindu and is now in hell. How is THAT justice? [Click to tweet]
Christian response #2: Are we talking about natural evil like floods or earthquakes? Some of that is our own fault, and some of that is part of life-giving nature.
BSR: I get so tired of hearing that every instance where God could be at fault relabeled as our fault. God doesn’t answer prayers, God created hell, the Bible seems contradictory—it’s all somehow our fault. This is the “God is a Sensitive Baby” argument. Can God accept any criticism? Heck—can he simply come here himself and address these issues instead of having you do it for him, poorly?
We’re told that natural disasters are our fault, or at least putting ourselves in harm’s way by not being clairvoyant and knowing where they’d strike. We build where there are tornadoes or hurricanes, and we should’ve known better.
Sure, now we know better, though that’s thanks to science, not God. What about centuries ago, before science taught us about how natural disasters work? And what remedy do you recommend? What fraction of the US Midwest should be off limits because of tornadoes? Should the east coast from Florida to New York have a 50-mile uninhabited coast because of hurricanes?
I wonder if the trillions of dollars spent on these busywork projects could be better spent helping those whom Jesus called “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine.”
The last part of the argument, “some of that is part of life-giving nature,” says that tornadoes come with rain-giving thunderstorms, and earthquakes are a consequence of a process that recycles minerals. But this, of course, is irrelevant to a god who can speak the universe into existence. A magic god could get the good without the bad.
Is everything our fault? This is the “God is a Sensitive Baby” argument. Can God accept any criticism? Can he simply come here himself and address his problems instead of having the Christian do it, poorly? [Click to tweet]
Christian response #3: What standard are you using when you label something “evil”? Objective rightness is grounded on an unchanging, transcendent God.
BSR: You ask what standard I’m using. I’m using my own—whose would you recommend? Obviously you imagine that there are moral truths that are objective (correct whether humans are here to appreciate them or not) and reliably accessible. That’s a fascinating claim for which you’ve provided zero evidence. The ball’s in your court.
With no objective morality, your grounding argument fails, leaving no reason to believe in your God.
And what is this “unchanging” aspect of God that you imagine? The Old Testament god walked in the Garden of Eden, sent scouts to check out reports about Sodom and Gomorrah, and spoke to Moses “as a man speaks to his friend,” but today he’s an omnipotent and omniscient god who transcends time and space and created a universe with several trillion galaxies.
Morality has changed as well. Today, slavery, genocide, and killing everyone in a worldwide flood are beyond the pale, but they were part of God’s songbook in the early days. All that’s unchanging is that whatever correct morality happens to be at the moment, “unchanging” God has adapted and is now on board.
Slavery, genocide, and killing everyone in a worldwide flood are unacceptable today, but they were part of God’s songbook in the early days. Whatever passes for correct morality at the moment, “unchanging” God is apparently on board. [Click to tweet]
(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)
For further reading:
of ignorance, stupidity, wishful thinking
and a very large dose of Kool-Aid.
— commenter epeeist
Image from Peter Forster, CC license