Believing in an all-good and omnipotent god is no less difficult than believing in an omnipotent all-evil one. Philosopher Stephen Law points out the inconsistency of thinking that the former is more plausible than the latter.
For centuries, many Western theologians and philosophers have answered the ‘problem of evil’ – how a benevolent god could allow for pain and suffering – with the argument that, in order for humans to perform good deeds, they must be free to choose between good and evil. In this animation from the Centre for Inquiry UK, the British philosopher Stephen Law considers the inverse scenario: if there were a fully evil, omnipotent god, could we possibly imagine he would allow for good deeds to be performed in the name of freedom to choose evil?
Of course. If you allow people to build up their grace and their fortunes, it’s so much more fun when you take it off them.
Well lets see. Tells his chosen people to slaughter everyone who doesnt think like them and to keep the young girls for themselves? Check. Has a bunch of rules it demands everyone else must follow but breaks at its whim? Check. Supports slavery? Check. Tells us not to kill then kills everything on the planet except for a few “chosen ones”? Check. Kills his only son in an act of human sacrifice because reasons? Check. I dunno, the god of Abraham seems evil to me. Im waiting for this so called “good god” to show itself. The one that keeps getting offered to me is nothing short of awful.
I have two questions for anyone who attempts to argue the Free Will defense for a triple-omni god having allowed evil to exist.
One: Do the inmates of Heaven have free will?
Two: Is there evil in Heaven?
Matt G says
cubist @3- If you marry the love of your life, that person dies, and then you marry someone else who becomes the love of your life, with which one do you spend eternity after you are all in heaven?
Matt G @4- That question goes all the way back to the 1st century! The Gospel of Luke has Jesus answer it by basically saying that there is no marriage in heaven so it’s not an issue (Luke 20:27-40). I’m not saying it’s a great answer… but just know that Christians will have an answer.
StonedRanger @ 2
It seems this ‘good’ god is rather difficult to find. It is certainly not the vengeful and vindictive Abrahamic god.
Speaking of which, the ‘heaven’ place must have some pretty secure walls (like the isreali’s have put up, or the ‘peace wall’ in Belfast) to keep the suicidal islamic fundamentalists away from the christians, the christians from the jews, etc.
Or is it a place where nothing ever happens and the band plays the same song over and over?
John Morales says
The whole thing is so silly, the excuse so ridiculous given the premises, that I’ve long since wearied of those who take it seriously. It’s called theodicy, but it’s really idiocy.
Also, why is this god (God) supposedly a bloke? Sex is only relevant to sexually-reproducing entities
(It’s OK, I know why)
Who Cares says
Who would want to go to heaven these days?
If you read how the early Christians describe heaven then somewhere between 1000 & 1500 the living quality of the well to do in Europe was better then what could be found in heaven.
And as some rascals have said “Heaven is boring!” based on those same descriptions.
And for centuries, people have laughed at that answer, which doesn’t solve “evil” not caused by humans.
From “The Madman”by Khalil Gibran.
John Morales says
tuatara, presumably, the point of that allegory is that there is no apparent difference between the two gods (or, the two perceptions of god). Kinda imprecise and laboured, but I see from your link the author was a poet, so I suppose the periphrasis is to be expected.
(Literally, of course, the concept at hand is a monotheistic deity, so a singular being by definition)
The problem I see with the free will argument to justify the existence of evil is, if I commit an evil act against you how does your free will enter into the equation?
steve oberski says
They said, “Well, we also believe that if you’re a Mormon, and if you’re in good standing with the church, when you die, you get to go to heaven and be with your family for all eternity.” And I said, “Oh, dear.
That wouldn’t be such a good incentive for me.”
Hey! Well, we also believe that when you go to heaven, you get your body restored to you in its best original state. Like, if you’d lost a leg, well, you get it back. Or, if you’d gone blind, you could see.” I said, “Oh. Now, I don’t have a uterus, because I had cancer a few years ago. So does this mean that if I went to heaven, I would get my old uterus back?” And they said, “Sure.” And I said, “I don’t want it back. I’m happy without it.” Gosh. What if you had a nose job and you liked it?
Letting Go Of God
Deepak Shetty says
Eh. “Omnipotent” is a logical impossibility -- Can God allow a user to create a modal window that will always be the topmost window on any windows machine and so on. Law’s argument fails for most believers because a believer could simply say “Sure , An evil omnipotent being is unprovable from a good one but we lucked out and we have a good one” -- Well How do you know ?” -- Faith and the Bible ofcourse!
On Heaven, the one I have found that causes believers some concern is How could Heaven be heaven , unless all your loved ones are there (leading to a Kevin Bacon -- six degrees of separation chain)?.
Deepak Shetty @14- You are correct to note that ‘a believer could simply say “Sure , An evil omnipotent being is unprovable from a good one but we lucked out and we have a good one.”’
It is however the case that a religious proposition can be centered over a decidedly less religious contention. In this instance I would argue that Jesus addresses the matter not on “Faith and the Bible,” and more importantly not entirely in terms of “we lucked out and we have a good [omnipotent being],” but rather in terms of “we lucked out and we WANT a good one.” I find this in the oddest of all places—the much-reviled passages in which Jesus speaks of the Unforgivable Sin (Matthew 12, Mark 3, Luke 12).
Satan cannot be divided against himself, says Jesus (though, with all due respect to Jesus, Satan deviously contending with his minions would be entirely Satan-like); one cannot plunder a strong man’s house without including bondage of the strong man (an entirely debatable proposition); a tree is revealed in its qualities by its fruit (a biologically debatable proposition); an evil person cannot speak good things (a proposition usually met with laughter); the truth of every matter will be revealed (a future promise.)
The common thread of these illustrations is an insistence by Jesus on a wholesome ultimate reality. Each of the above illustrations embodies a desire for a trustworthy universe, a universe that makes sense. Existence as it may be experienced cannot in the final analysis be incomprehensible—and this from a Jesus all too willing to forgive those who find him incomprehensible (“Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake”—John 14.) Existence cannot be mask upon mask receding endlessly away from us.
Religiosity such as Jesus teaches is not bound by the mask-upon-mask horror of faiths that attempt to prove the existence of a good god. Consider the “good god preferred to an evil god” question: Substitute “ultimate” for “god” in the phrase, and reckon along with Jesus that any conceptualization of the “ultimate” as a describable entity (“Father,” “Son,” “god”) is a conceptualization that can be fumbled forgivably or forsaken mistakenly. What of necessity remains to the discussion, other than our preference (I will dare to assume) that sentient beings choose good over evil?
I agree it is laboured. However, the point I was trying to convey is not one of there being two (imaginary) gods but rather the perception of good and evil, hence the last sentence cursing the stupidity of man. I think christianity is evil and a scourge on the face of the earth, while many christians consider me evil for having no god.
And, in a monotheistic religion, good and evil must be facets of the same god no?
@7 and 12: kiiiind of OK with the argument “evil may come as a consequence of free will”, but that covers only human deeds. Theodicy breaks down, IMHO, when we consider the disastrous state of the physical universe, for which no human bears responsibility.
We have volcanoes erupting, tsunamis inundating, earthquakes shaking, illness exterminating, asteroids cratering and maybe even gamma ray bursts frying everyone and everything.
I mean, nice place the god/s made for us, mmmh? Even looking at the nuclide chart, out of some 3000 nuclei, there’s just a hundred or so which are stable. The very building blocks of the universe are not to be relied on!
At this point, I’d forget about “good/evil” and go for “plain fu**in incompetent” and I believe there are a few theologies in the zoo which posit just that. The Creed of the Bumbling God, or something.
Rob Grigjanis says
Christianity isn’t the problem. Humans are. Take the best-intentioned ideology. We’ll turn it into evil. We don’t do ideology very well, because, as a species, we are short-sighted, selfish, and stupid. Blaming a particular theology is a cop-out.
It certainly looks disastrous to frail, vulnerable humans. That’s why we invented gods! There are a million ways the universe can kill us, or make us suffer, but it also allows our existence (because the ‘building blocks’ seem fine-tuned to allow it), and I see real beauty in the physical laws we have discovered.
Rob Grigjanis @18
So we, a short-sighted, selfish, and stupid species created a short-sighted, selfish, and stupid theology, (the origin of which is essentially lost in the distant past) which then gives legitimacy to short-sighted, selfish, and stupid acts (many of brutality and unspeakable cruelty due to the foundational stories in said theology glorifying such acts as performed by a vengeful and jealous god) and you won’t apportion blame to said theology?
Isn’t that a cop out too?
Rob Grigjanis says
tuatara @19: When you write “I think christianity is evil and a scourge on the face of the earth”, the implication is “things would be better without christianity”. Given our history as a species, that just seems naive. We don’t need gods, brutal or otherwise, to do horrible things. As I said, we can start with the best-intentioned ideology, and still somehow end up justifying war, genocide, enslavement, and any other evil you can think of.
By me @16.
There. I fixed it for you.
Stevie, the one-year-old evil genius in ‘Family Guy’ read the bible as fiction and said “I like this “God” fellow. He is so marvellously evil.”