In this thread, by “God” (with a capital “G”) I mean a being that is omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and omnibenevolent (all good). I am not presently interested in the issue of whether some other god (notice, small “g”) exists, such as whether Zeus exists or not; Zeus can be the subject of another thread, if someone wishes to discuss him.
The proof that no God exists is the problem of evil. (“Evil”, in this context, simply means anything that is bad.) If there were such a God, being omniscient, it would know about any evil, being omnipotent, it would be able to prevent all evil, and being omnibenevolent, it would have the inclination to prevent all evil. Consequently, it would prevent all evil. Since there is evil (i.e., bad things happen), there cannot be such a God.
Historically, theists have tried to come up with a variety of excuses for God, to try to circumvent the argument. These excuses, though, invariably fall into one of three categories (usually the first of the three). First, many of them essentially deny that God has one of the attributes in question, which really is an admission that there is no such God, though those coming up with the excuses typically don’t recognize that fact. I will provide some examples below.
The second approach is to simply refuse to admit defeat, even though they have nothing real to argue against the problem of evil (e.g., “it is a mystery”). Often, this second approach is used within an argument about an excuse, such that the person never admits defeat of that excuse, even though it has been shown to fail (this has been called “the Invincible Ignorance fallacy” and “argument by pigheadedness” and probably has probably been called a few other names as well). When people cherish a belief, they do not like to give it up, and often tend to dogmatically hang onto it no matter what. One can try to hide the failure by trying to make the argument go on and on and on endlessly, instead of honestly admitting defeat. I will not be surprised if we see this tried in this thread, as it is sometimes used in threads in which someone is determined to be the last one posting, as if that meant that they were right after all. After a certain point, I may decide to stop replying to someone if they just keep repeating a debunked position.
The third is to produce something that is simply irrelevant to the argument, while pretending that it refutes the argument (the latin for this type of fallacy is "non sequitur”).
It is impossible to list here everything that everyone has ever said on this topic, and consequently you may feel dissatisfied with my claim. However, I challenge any and all of you to come up with an excuse for God to circumvent the problem of evil, that does not have one of the faults listed. If it has one of the faults listed, the excuse fails and the argument stands. I will check this thread from time to time, for, say, a month (I do not want to commit to this thread for the rest of my life!) to respond and show that the arguments presented fit one of the three categories listed. I am submitting this on October 9, 2020, so I am only committing to replying through November 9, 2020. Of course, if I die from COVID-19 or some other thing, I may stop replying to the thread sooner; I do not promise to post while dead.
Here, though, are three samples to get us started. The first comes from another thread (which is what has inspired this thread):
musicgold wrote: ↑March 5th, 2020, 2:17 pmHi,
I am trying to determine the logical fallacy committed by B in the following argument. I think it is circular reasoning but I am not sure. Or is B using God's will as a justification to another problem potentially arising from God's will?
A: How could a fair God create such an unjust world?
B: This world is not the final world. This world is like an examination hall, and God is testing us to see who is good and who is evil, and that's why it is not a fair world. God gives here everyone a separate test. Finally, after the day of judgement, God admits only good people to his eternal, beautiful, and just world.
I stated in reply:
B is implicitly saying that God is too stupid to know in advance which of his creations would pass a test, so he has to test them. If God knew which ones would pass, he would not need to test them. And consequently, making people suffer in such a test would be unnecessary evil.
Presumably, you are thinking of a God that is supposed to be omniscient (all knowing), omnipotent (all powerful), and omnibenevolent (all good). And person A is bringing up the problem of evil. All of the excuses that theists have come up with against the problem of evil ultimately end up denying one of the three supposed attributes of God, or are simply a refusal to admit defeat (e.g.,"it is a mystery"). In the example you have given, either the God does not know who will pass the test (so he is not omniscient), or if he does know in advance of the test what the results would be and decides to torture people with it anyway, then he is not omnibenevolent. Basically, the excuse given is stating that there is no omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God.
Keep in mind, the problem of evil is only relevant to such a god. For example, it is irrelevant to the ancient Greek religion. Zeus, the most powerful of the ancient Greek gods, is not supposed to be omnipotent, omniscient, or omnibenevolent, nor is he supposed to have created the world. So the problem of evil does not disprove the ancient Greek religion.
Notice, depending on one’s take on this excuse, it could be a denial that God is omniscient, or it could be a denial that God is omnibenevolent, but either way, it is denying that there is a God that is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, because the being described lacks at least one of the three attributes.
So, the idea that this life is a test fails for the reason that it essentially denies that God has the three attributes.
Our second example is the claim that “good” and “evil” are subjective and have no objective meaning. This is an instant denial that God is omnibenevolent, as that is the claim that God is all good, and if there is no such thing as good, then not only would it mean that God can’t be all good, it would mean that God cannot be good at all. So that would make it impossible for there to be a being with all three of the attributes, since it is the denial that anything can have one of those attributes.
The third example is one that is commonly brought up, which has many problems with it. It is the claim that God cannot prevent evil because people have free will.
There are many objections that people can and have raised against this, like pointing out the fact that the expression “free will” needs to be properly defined before it can be properly analyzed, which almost no one ever does, as people seem to assume that everyone knows what it means, even though that clearly is not the case, as anyone who has read threads about “free will” will notice, with some people affirming things about “free will” that others regard as “obviously false”. One can also see that different people mean different things, when one considers that some regard “free will” as compatible with determinism (called “compatibilism”) and others affirm that it is not compatible with determinism (not surprisingly, called “incompatibilism”). But as this would get us mired in troublesome disputes, and because this is not the only issue regarding this excuse, we need not resolve that or consider it here.
One might also question whether we have “free will” or not (because if we don’t, then this is obviously worthless as an excuse), though, again, that is going to get us mired in troublesome disputes, and because this is not the only issue regarding this excuse, we need not resolve that or consider it here.
Another issue involves considering whether it would be better or worse for people to have “free will”. Though some people take it for granted that having free will is better than not having it, that is a substantive claim that would require evidence before it would be reasonably believed. Additionally, on the face of it, it just seems false to claim that it is a good thing for rapists and murderers to have free will. If it is not better for people to have free will, then it would have been better if God did not give us or allow us to have free will. But, again, that is going to get us mired in troublesome disputes, and because this is not the only issue regarding this excuse, we need not resolve that or consider it here.
As an aside, if free will were a proper explanation for evil in the world, making it impossible for the world to be devoid of evil, then that would make hash out of the idea of heaven, a place where people supposedly go that is perfect and devoid of evil. If having free will means that there will be evil, then if people in heaven have free will, then there would be evil in heaven and therefore it would not be heaven (i.e., it would not be a perfect place with no evil). Of course, it could be that people no longer have free will in heaven, but if that is the case, the it must be better to not have free will (because heaven is supposed to be perfect, certainly better than the earth), which would mean that having free will is not an excuse for evil, because it would mean that God should not allow free will in the first place. But, of course, belief in heaven is not necessitated by the premise of the argument, so this will only be applicable to those who are inconsistent and believe that free will necessitates evil and who also believe in heaven, a perfect place where some people go after they die.
It is also an interesting thing, that people who promote the free will defense apparently believe it is impossible for people to freely choose to be good. If that is possible, then that would be better than them choosing evil, and consequently it would be better if only people who freely chose to do good existed, which means that the free will excuse would not work for there being evil. But we need not worry too much about this point, for this is just an aside.
In connection with this, we can ask, does God have free will? Being omnibenevolent, God would never choose evil. Does that mean God lacks free will? But, again, we can set this aside as well, because the free will defense does not work regardless, for reasons I am about to present.
One of the reasons why the free will excuse does not work is because it does not deal with evil that is not caused by people. For example, when a child dies a horribly painful death from bone cancer, cancer is not something that a person has chosen for the child to have. Free will does not deal with earthquakes or hurricanes or any other natural disaster (what some insurance companies call “acts of God”), which are very bad and cause quite a lot of pain and suffering. It does not cover natural diseases that cause incredible suffering in the world. So the free will excuse, if it worked at all, would only cover some kinds of evil, and still not be a proper excuse for all of the evil in the world.
I could stop there, but the thing is, the free will excuse does not even work for the limited cases for which it is supposed to work. This is probably most easily seen with a little thought experiment. Imagine that you and I are sitting together having coffee or drinks, on the rooftop of a restaurant, looking down on the street below. But down below in the street, we see a group of men attack someone, brutally beating the person, and raping the person. You say something like, “We should do something! Let’s call the police!” But I reply, “No, we should not do that; that would interfere with their free will.” So I do nothing in this imaginary example. Now, what would you say of me in this hypothetical scenario? That I was a monster, an evil person? Well, what I would be doing is EXACTLY what God does in many such situations, as otherwise, the police would always be called.
Additionally, if we called the police, we would not be taking away anyone’s free will. And likewise, if God called the police, God would not be taking away anyone’s free will. Furthermore, if we took out guns and shot the men who were attacking the person, although they might then no longer have free will if we killed them, our actions would not make it so they never had free will. Likewise, if God struck them down dead, God would not thereby be making it so they never had free will.
In our case, there might possibly be some excuse for not doing anything, as we may be afraid to act for some reason, we may not have a phone to call the police, etc. But God cannot have such an excuse, as a being that is omnipotent could do anything and overcome any opponent, and being omniscient, God would know this and know how to most effectively stop this. Indeed, God could (if, that is, God actually existed) strike the men dead just before they actually attacked the person, but after they decided of their own free will to attack the person. Or, if God wanted, God could have, at that moment, made the would-be attackers fall asleep or be temporarily paralyzed or any of many other things to stop the attack from happening. None of those actions would make a change in what the men willed; their free will would be untouched, but they would be prevented from doing evil (though not from thinking evil and wishing to do evil). But, since God allows such things to happen, God must want them to happen; after all, he has both the power to prevent it and the knowledge of what is going on. So, if there were a being that was both omnipotent and omniscient, it would be evil.
Thus, the free will excuse fails.
That is the end of the sample excuses, each of which obviously does not work. If you think of an excuse for God that you believe would actually work, go ahead and present it below. Keep in mind, your excuse must be consistent with God having all three attributes, or it does not work.
Naturally, one of the things we can expect is for someone (or more than one person) to post incomprehensible gibberish, and pretend that that excuses God. That would fall under the third category listed above, of being an example of the fallacy known as non sequitur.
So, are there any question? Comments? Threats?