Floyd wrote:If there is a God, why is there evil? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there so much needless suffering in the world, from natural disasters and such? Why would a loving God do this?
This is the most human question that could be asked.
I think Benjamin Perlin, in A Nature Reflected: Philosophical Notes for My Children (on the Amazon Kindle bookstore), answers it effectively:
The end signified is completely good, the unqualified version of the nature we wish Yeezus had more of and which you can almost touch in Francis of Assisi. If she were to do anything differently than she does it would be a change for the worse.
This raises a problem. First of all, the doctrine of original sin should have died in the womb. Jesus was above it. It's not the baby's fault the dinosaurs died but the high-born crawler and the terrible lizards stand together for a minute: our experience projects the objective sign that is the collective will for better or for worse. She is perceived as suffering for us, realizing every bad fact as a natural thought, but nobody feels a real natural disaster.
Every time a child is hurt this is the worst of all possible worlds. But that's just bleeding-heart talk, isn't it? However bad things get, one need only hack through another foot of self-erected jungle to find the horror Colonel Kurtz speaks of: chaos theory, paralysis in practice.
The lamp-headed response is to plug one's ears and hum the Smurfs theme. One is dampered to find Heraclitus saying, "To God all things are beautiful and good and just, but men have supposed some things to be unjust, others just." Leibniz sings a rose-colored tune in the only book he published: ignorance and illogicality hinder finite minds like ours from seeing the interconnection of all things, in virtue of which the replacement of the Killing Fields with conservatories would have brought with it antecedents and consequents implying a change in the whole for the worse. The idiocy of this man at times. Things are as bad as they look to those of us outside the Herrenhausen Gardens.
Yes, light stands out in darkness and a grinning Mona Lisa would have been unfortunate; a bouncing babe does not need a Nazi to throw her. I don't deny acts of valor their due but 'good' that needs evil is a lesser of two species. Heil the woolen angel at the center of the new world who elects not to stay even one raised hand.
Stalwart moral skeptic J. L. Mackie ("There are no moral values"; ethics is invented) gave a deductive argument that shall illustrate the problem on our hands openly. The following are obviously true:
• What's completely good does away with as much bad as it can.
• What's completely powerful can do anything.
So it's impossible for something that knows everything to be completely good and powerful while there's anything bad:
• If something completely good were to coexist with badness, it would have to lack the power to do away with it.
• If something completely powerful were to coexist with badness, it would have to want it there.
• If something were completely good and powerful, we wouldn't have a problem (namely, pain).
The argument is sound. Its implicit premises and logic are true so its conclusions are. Yet Mackie goes on to say, "Trot out the scarecrow": he's concerned with traditional Western conceptions of God, which he generously sweeps under the heading 'theology'. So when a witness for the defense flew in a pizza monster with enough muscles to handle a badd onion and every other logically handy evil, Mackie mumbled a **** you and conceded the logical compatibility of its omnipotence and complete benevolence. (Alvin Plantinga argued that the Biblical conception of God as possessing these qualities is logically consistent.)
That black crow does not jet, for she does not satisfy Mackie's postulation of omnipotence. The nil to power. It was never knowledge and that one nature has nothing to budge. Not that she is alone, as the purpose of the other selves there. There is no variety among these latter omniscient and self-crafted wallflowers. This finite number of objects is reality.
The muddle-headed use of the word "infinite" in theology goes hand in hand with "omnipotent". Bandiers of the former don't think God is Hitler, so it's not meant literally. Infinitely good, powerful, and knowledgeable? Why not just say so? Too few gooseys.
Ours is not a Barbie and Ken world. Neither can do wrong by you; neither can make do. With right comes a choice (one infinity of preoccupied Kanes reflected in two mirrors or the voyager beyond the infinite who leans into his own eyes in 2001?); good requires the possibility of evil, which is an abstention or muffling of good. The necessity of the horror is a logical one. You can lift a leaf that nature cannot but that doesn't make her a weakling; it makes our thought bear the weight of being thought. No one has ever conceived a contradiction. A is A and not not-A, to be and not to be is nothing to us, and a self cannot necessarily evolve.
This topic hits close to home and empiricists jump in at the heels, categorizing sub-species of evil and saying, "My good man, you know that is most likely not true (meaning your mother sucks cocks in hell)" to such possibilities as a dragon falling from the firmament. Maybe he was a covering law for the constant injunction to bite the dust. When Mackie was still arguing for the logical impossibility of theology, he challenged a conception that is no more free will than a Nazi android is murderous:
If God has made men such that in their free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good? God was not faced with a choice between making innocent automata and making beings who, in acting freely, would sometimes go wrong [since beings who freely always go right isn't logically impossible.].
But in "A makes B such that it only does what is good" there's no analytical elbow room to replace "it only does" with "she can only will". I read an article recently that said, "Individuals could have free will but not have the [metaphysical] power to torture and murder others." Then it wouldn't be free will now, would it? Don't answer that. Dictionaries are written in cop-out killing lead.
I never used to find arguments for a good God based on the quality of the world convincing, and it wasn't just because you weren't here yet. But I've noticed a surprising consistency among many reports from those who have almost died. Bodily death does not seem to be the end to them. What follows is public in nature. Let us call confirmation bias where we see it but let us be objective. It isn't described in the good book and its witnesses often aren't churchgoers. (My best friend, who considers himself a devout atheist, agrees.) If one prefers, she might simply regard it as K, in the style of Wittgenstein's friend Frank Ramsey (whose brother attested to Ramsey's "readiness to respect mysticism as an empirical phenomenon"), and withhold further supposition.
A.J. Ayer (1910-1989) saw it. In him one finds no flashes of intelligence but an attractive vigor and directness. He clicked his red heels at the opportunity to be the post-Russellian poster boy for British empiricism, heralding ethical emotivism ("Throwing babies out windows is bad" translates to "throwing babies out windows-no!") and the then new atheism.
His unverifiable experience ("My thoughts became persons") was unpleasant and sensational. Graham Macdonald, writing for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, reacts with daring assumptions: "On reviving he reported his experience whilst ‘dead’ in such a way as to provide fodder for those who thought the famous atheist had recanted and found God. He moved quickly to dispel these rumours." ¿Qué? So assured are the faithful. Ayer's 'dispelling' (of an obviously sincere report), written "not primarily to retract anything", must have squashed the least suspicion of anything untoward. As he clarifies, it was his inflexible denial of life after bodily death that was weakened, not his conviction thereof.