Jamming with Dr. Craig

Over at the other blog, we’re in Chapter 7 of William Lane Craig’s On Guard. Here’s an excerpt.

Craig loves to turn the tables and use the atheist’s own arguments against him, and I think this time it really backfires on him.

Although at a superficial level suffering calls into question God’s existence, at a deeper level suffering actually proves God’s existence. For apart from God, suffering is not really bad. If the atheist believes that suffering is bad or ought not to be, then he’s making moral judgments that are possible only if God exists. [Emph. added—DD]

I had to push back from my desk and stare at that one for a while. So in other words, God’s existence makes the world a worse place than it would be without Him. Without God’s existence, nothing would be bad. “Whoa, Jim, that pit bull just chewed your foot off!” “Yeah, I know, I’m in extreme pain, but that’s ok because God doesn’t exist.” “Sally, is it true that your dad went insane and killed all your kids?” “Yeah, I’m suffering terribly, but it’s ok, because there’s no God.” WTF?

I can see where this is something Craig has no choice but to affirm. It’s the logical extension of his arguments about morality. But seriously, it shows both the flaw in his definition of “good” vs “bad,” and the downright silliness of the whole argument. Yes, it’s literally true that by Craig’s own arguments, the world is a worse place if God exists than it would be without God. God’s existence is what makes suffering bad. If it weren’t for God, suffering would be perfectly ok, at least according to a Christian worldview. And folks, that is one seriously screwed up worldview.

I’m just saying.


  1. Lauren Ipsum says

    I had to push back from my desk and stare at that for a while too.

    I think what this loon is trying to get at is that “bad” doesn’t mean “oh, what a terrible thing,” but in the moral sense of “good vs. evil.”

    So, in the above example, an atheist would not say that the universe is an evil place or wishes evil on Jim because the pit bull chewed his foot off. And I would agree with that; the universe is not evil. Depending on the exact circumstances, it’s even possible that the pit bull was not evil. (I won’t say the same for the stupid owners of the pit bull, however.)

    But that doesn’t make Jim’s suffering “not bad”!

    And in Sally’s case, her dad may be insane, which a court might later eventually find makes him not culpable, but mercy, killing her kids is still an evil act, whether he was ultimately responsible for it or not. And she’s still suffering, and the kids suffered in their deaths.

    And there are other acts which are blatantly, unarguably evil, and morally wrong, with or without the Bearded Sky Fairy’s presence.

    So I think Craig’s argument is that “if you think that suffering is terrible and an injustice, you must have someone to blame. There has to be a Someone who allowed the injustice to happen. Ergo God. If you think that there’s no God, then you can’t assign blame to suffering, so it must not be that bad.

    It is a difficult thing to accept the indifference of the universe. It’s hard to realize that in the grand scheme of things, individuals don’t matter. We matter to one another, and to ourselves, but very few individuals matter to the world as a whole, or history, and so far only astronauts have mattered to any ball of rock other than Mother Earth.

    I get why Craig is denying this so desperately. But wanting something doesn’t make it so. Suffering is bad, whether there’s someone to blame or not. Sometimes shit just happens.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Craig does like to use a somewhat customized nomenclature in referring to bad/good/right/wrong. In On Guard he gives the example of a teenager deciding on a career to pursue: it would be good to become a doctor and help people, but it would not be wrong to choose not to become a doctor. For a thing to be wrong, there needs to be some sort of duty involved. Thus, it could theoretically be bad for God to allow suffering without it being wrong for Him to do so, assuming He had no duty to relieve suffering where possible. Or something. So I’m not sure your description isn’t closer to what Craig calls “wrong” rather than what he calls “bad.” But I agreen, this is really about Craig being in denial more than about morality.

  2. N. Nescio says

    “For apart from God, suffering is not really bad.”

    Says the guy writing from the comfort of his home, which is likely sufficient to protect him from the elements, with electricity and indoor plumbing providing water that is safe to drink; who can cook sufficiently nutritious and filling meals of his choice on an appliance designed to do so, as opposed to whatever he can find cooked over an open fire in the middle of his smoke-filled dwelling.

    I’m going to guess that Dr. Craig does not live in a war zone and has never had to be concerned that he might be murdered for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time on any given day. He’s probably never going to contract any chronic illnesses due to dangerous working conditions, or have to worry about horrific injury/death on the job for the same reason.

    Most likely when he gets sick or on the off chance he gets injured he has access to sufficient medical care of a sort that will result in healing and a continued high quality of life. He’s probably never had to stand helplessly and watch anybody he loved die (like any of the 29,000 children under 5 who die every day (UNICEF.org)) in front of him because there simply was no doctor, hospital, or any other medical care available. Most likely *his* children, if any, will grow up healthy and will have access to education and opportunities that will lead them to have the same quality of living.

    I could go on, but it just makes me angrier. I grew up Roman Catholic and am well familiar with the “suffering is good for the soul” trope, and can clearly see it as privileged bullshit put forth by people who have likely never had to experience anything CLOSE to the actual suffering most of the rest of the population of this planet has as their daily lives.

    Seriously, fuck William Lane Craig.

  3. Rosita says

    The medical ethic is that doctors shall do no harm. This includes the concept that people should not be made to suffer unless it is necessary to prevent greater suffering or death. To the extent that the doctor is capable (and paid, in capitalist cultures) it is expected that “doing no harm” includes preventing suffering unless it creates a better prognosis for the future.

    The problem which Craig does not acknowledge is that his version of god does not prevent any kind of suffering. Under the conditions of the Hippocratic Oath his version of god does harm. This would seem to be why doctors do a far better job of healing the sick and ameliorating needless suffering than Craig’s version of god.

    In other words, Craig glorifies a god who does not prevent the kind of needless suffering that ethical humans aim to prevent where-ever possible. Where there are only good and capable people, needless suffering is prevented or stopped. Where there is only Craig’s version of god, needless suffering is NOT prevented or stopped. That implies that this version of god is either not good and/or not capable, or does not exist. Or it implies that good and capable humans are wrong (or evil) to prevent needless suffering.

    The only other option is to employ some version of Special Pleading that makes it morally right for humans to try or succeed in preventing needless suffering but morally wrong for Craig’s god to do so. This results in humans being unable to determine which aspects of the behavioral model displayed by Craig’s god are to be emulated by humans (because they are good no matter who does them) and which aspects are not to be emulated by humans (because they are only “good” if performed by Craig’s version of god.) History makes it abundantly clear that humans, no matter how devout, are incapable of coming to any kind of consensus on which is which. This nullifies any argument that Craig’s version of god provides a perfect and unambiguous moral compass for humans to follow.

    Since religions like the one that Craig preaches ensure that theists are intrinsically confused about what is “right” and what is “wrong”, it is harder for a theist than an atheist to behave in a humane fashion. It is even harder if they believe, as many do, that their first priority is not to make the lives of humans better, but to please their version of god by doing what they fallibly and unreliably think this god wants.

  4. wholething says

    An omnipotent god should be able to accomplish any end by any means. Therefore any means to an end that includes suffering is unnecessary. A god that would choose a means that includes unnecessary suffering is sadistic. An omnibenevolence and sadism are mutually exclusive characteristics. There is suffering. If there is a god who is omnipotent and omnibenevolent, then it is not omniscient as it apparently is unaware of the suffering and it also does not hear prayer because praying is a common tactic among suffering people. It could be the case that a god knows about the suffering and cares enough to wish it was omnipotent. If a god is omnipotent and aware of suffering, we would be forced to conclude that god is sadistic.

  5. Elmo14 says

    Craig usually lays out this argument in debate as such,

    1 – There can be no objective good or evil without a god to define it, because any human definition is subjective.

    2 – Because “objective moral values and duties” exist, god must exist.

    He then contorts the “problem of evil” by the following,

    1 – If evil exists then good must exist.

    2 – If good exists god must exist.

    I always wonder if he actually believes the shit he says. His arguments are always so laden with fatuous presuppositions that he will never address when they are pointed out.

  6. Randomfactor says

    Children impaled on the swords of invading soldiers is a moral good, according to WLC, if those soldiers (believe they have) received instructions to do so from their god.

    This is all you need to know about WLC.

  7. ttch says

    Viz. Elmo14 @6:

    I keep seeing this “If God doesn’t exist, then there is no objective good or evil.”

    But if God does exist, His position on good or evil is just as subjective as mine.

    For anything to be objective–including value judgments–it has to be objective independent of everyone’s individual viewpoint, including God’s. This is true whether or not God’s subjective viewpoint coincides with the “objective” one.

    Objectivity requires observer neutrality. God’s existence cannot enter into the picture.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Ironically, the one time Craig addresses what it would really mean for moral values to exist objectively, he calls it “atheistic moral platonism,” and rejects it as absurd.

  8. says

    Eventually he will crack and start looking for Aliens like the Pope, or have a break down. Perhaps there are Aliens who need to be baptized since the world is running out of people who need to be saved. This way he can stay in business and all is well, because we don’t have to put up with so much none sense any more lol.

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