In 2016, Pell wrote an essay titled “A wise reply to atheism’s strongest argument”. It gets off to a bad start — don’t brag about how wise your answer is before you’ve even given it — but it gets even worse.
You might be wondering what atheism’s strongest argument might be, and I’ll cut to the chase: Pell thinks it’s the argument from evil. Personally, I don’t find it very compelling or interesting, because it presupposes a god whose purposes we’re supposed to be arguing over, but OK, I can see where a Catholic would find it relevant. And then…this is child rapist George Pell. I would think he’s spent a lot of time contemplating evil, rationalizing evil acts, fantasizing about evil, condemning evil people, practicing evil. He’s an evil authority! If anyone is going to be an expert on justifying how god would allow evil to persist, it’s a devout evil-doer who has to be having an interesting internal monologue on the acts he has committed.
Evil and suffering constitute the most formidable argument against monotheism, for those who believe in the existence of one good and transcendent Creator God.
So I settled down to read a challenging argument about how a benevolent, omnipotent, omniscient being could co-exist with evil in his personal hand-made universe, and boy was I disappointed. The entirety of his argument is one paragraph. One short paragraph. Most of the essay is namedropping philosophers and theologians and explaining how the
resurgence of atheism should jolt us out of our silence and indifference because oh, this is such an important question, and isn’t suffering such a wonderful gift from God yadda yadda yadda. The Catholic bullshit gets thick in there.
But here is the one paragraph which purports to answer the whole Problem of Evil.
I believe that the intellectual arguments now available to be drawn from biology (the discovery of DNA) and from physics and chemistry and the fantastic improbabilities necessary for evolution from the Big Bang to humans, mean that the rational or metaphysical path to the Supreme Intelligence is easier for us than in the past. Thinkers are coming to God from or through science.
It’s lies and nonsense through and through, and it isn’t even relevant to the question.
The intellectual arguments from biology and physics and chemistry are all about the fundamentally natural properties of our universe. They don’t say a god did it; they say chemistry happens whether a god wills it or not. The probability argument is not an answer to the evil argument, and you can’t use improbability to claim that the current state of life couldn’t possibly arise without design and purpose. Also, the more science you’ve got in your life, the less need you have for silly mythology, so no, with few exceptions, scientists aren’t suddenly flocking to church every Sunday.
This isn’t what I’d be interested to hear from Pell. God did wicked things; George Pell sexually molested 13 year old boys. Is he going to claim that DNA and physics and chemistry and biology compelled him to force his penis into a child’s mouth? That it was fantastically improbable that he was wracked with sexual obsessions, therefore God must have made him do it? Save it for the trial defense. I’d like to hear how a man who thinks he is good can commit gross, unforgivable crimes.
Maybe I should just read Dostoevsky instead.