Not Seeing OmniGod through Philosophy and Logic: Heaven & Consequentialism

Not Seeing OmniGod through Philosophy and Logic: Heaven & Consequentialism August 12, 2019

Introductory spiel: One of my more recent books, Not Seeing God: Atheism in the 21st Century (UK), has a plethora of gems in it for the reader and a smorgasbord of variety. It was a labour of love and was particularly rewarding due to the fact that so many great writers had been involved in the production of the book. There were some 24 writers from the ranks of Patheos Nonreligious and they all did their bit to make the project a really good looking, good feeling, and intellectually stimulating affair.

There is a great variety of writing and subject matter on offer, in the book, with the first section (Part One: DECONSTRUCTING GOD) dealing with philosophical, moral and theological issues with the God concept. The second section (Part Two: REFLECTING ON GODLESSNESS IN MODERN SOCIETY), deals with atheism within various contexts in modern society, from cinema to the military, politics to education. The final piece of the puzzle (Part Three: LOOKING TOWARD A FUTURE IN A GODLESS WORLD) asks the reader where we go from here, and seeks to give a few answers.

I am going to split up my opening chapter to the book over a number of posts here. All of that which I will excerpt has been the subject of various posts over time. After all, you are my sounding board. Here goes. This is the sixth piece in the series.

Heaven ain’t justification

Please don’t use heaven to justify the last point, or to justify how it is okay that a six-month-old baby dies of cancer. “It’s alright,” you or your theistic friend might say, “they will live for an eternity in heaven!”

This is compensation, and compensation is not moral justification, and certainly so if you are a religious believer. Theists invariably hate a moral value system called consequentialism (William Lane Craig called it a “terrible ethic”) because it has no need for God. You derive your moral value from the consequences pertaining to a given action. If I walked up to you and punched you clean in the face and broke your jaw for no reason, then that would not be nice. It is not morally good on almost anyone’s moral value system. But let’s particularly think about theists who believe morality is divinely commanded, usually, in some manner: this certainly wouldn’t be good. If I am made to pay you $10,000, or even if I give it to you voluntarily, it does not make the punch suddenly morally good. You may even enjoy getting that money and think it was worth it, but it is compensation; it is not moral justification. Don’t let theists fool you with this sleight of hand.

God is a consequentialist anyway

It doesn’t get any easier for God, though. The Problem of Evil is the argument that asks why there is so much suffering in the world given his omni-characteristics. He should surely know what to do about all the suffering, would be able to do it, and would be caring enough to want to do it. But, alas, there is still so much suffering. Therefore, the theist says, it is not gratuitous. It does not exist for no reason; we can reason why it is there. We have free will; it is a natural by-product. We have souls; suffering helps to build them into greater entities. Et cetera, et cetera. However, these theodicies, as they are called, are all built upon notions of consequentialism. Suffering happens so that we can obtain a greater good, whether it be free will, better souls, or whatnot.

Take Noah’s flood, or the death of Jesus. These things happened to obtain greater goods. All of humanity and virtually every ecosystem and animal died. Why? For a greater good, of course! Not sure it worked, but there you go.

The whole moral system involved in proposing theodicies as defenses against the Problem of Evil is consequentialist in nature. God, in allowing these seeming evils, because they can’t be gratuitous, must be a consequentialist.

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