Good And Evil: The Fallacy Of Atheistic Scientism Part 2

The argument goes something like this:  If God really existed, there would not be evil in the world, because God, if he is real, is a God of love.  If God really loved us, and if he was really all powerful, he would not let evil happen.

This argument against belief in God is probably the most frequently proffered by atheists.  And yet it is a non argument.  It is, in fact, so non sensical that it rather disproves atheism than theism.

For a start, the premise that if God is all powerful and loving He would not permit evil is flawed.  Atheists have no way of knowing or testing that.   God might well have good reasons for permitting evil, at least for a time.  To draw greater good from it could be one such reason; to strengthen virtue another.

Second, without the concept of God there IS no evil.  Evil is only the absence of good.  But in atheism, actions are neither good nor evil,  they just are. And therefore, actions such as murdering an old lady for the money in her handbag, or starving homosexuals, or amputees, or the mentally ill because they are inconvenient to have around, cannot really be classified as evil.  You might not like those actions, but if God does not exist, you have no basis higher than your own private preferences for labelling them as "evil" or demanding that other people not do those things.

The problem of evil can only be a problem in a theistic world view.  The existence of God has to be assumed to even pose the sort of question Dawkins poses when he raises the problem of evil.  Without God, evil cannot even be said to exist.

perseverer perseverer
56-60, F
11 Responses Jun 5, 2012

The biggest problem with what you've written, is that you haven't solved the problem. You say atheists always come up with the argument 'if god is good, why is there evil?' but you haven't answered it. You merely said it isn't a problem and in atheism there is no good or evil.
Alright, this could be true (if you look at it from one persective, the perspective being 'there is only good and evil when there is a higher standerd of good). But you haven't said why there is evil. Saying you don't know isn't bad, many christians struggle with it and don't know the answer. But don't come up with the false argument 'it rather disproves atheism than theism', because that's utterly false.

The purpose of this problem was not to resolve the problem of evil in the minds of atheist; rather, it was to show why the existence of evil does not disprove God according to the claim of atheists.

Evil exists in the world because of free will and its consequences. Free will is good; it enables us to love freely, and to give and receive love is our highest calling. But if we choose to do what is not good, we distance ourselves from God and from man and put disharmony in our environment. Why would a loving God take the risk of free beings choosing to do evil? It is because He wants us to share with Him His eternal beatitude. We cannot do that unless we freely choose to.

I wouldn't say the existence of evil disproves the existence of god, but I think it shows there are possible visions about god, like: god is evil, or god is not good nor evil.
I believe good and evil doesn't exist in the sense of 'all good' and 'all evil'. Good and evil are subjective. This means only subjective good and evil exists (e.g. If I think something is good, someone else can think it's bad). I know christians don't believe this, but most christians do believe in a subjective and a 'true good' and 'true evil'.
If you see it in this way, and you think of 'good' and 'evil' as merely an animal view of looking at things, you can think of god not being bound to this human/animal subjective ideas. Therefore, god can be 'above' this, not being good or evil. He just is... and people think of his actions as good or evil. Just as gravity. Gravity just exists... it's not good or evil. But if you drop something valuable, it falls and you never see it again, you may think what happened (and what was 'caused' by gravity) is bad. In the same way you could look at the actions of god and say they are evil or good, but he himself isn't good or bad.
I always thought it was a strange idea. Why does a god have to be good? Why wouldn't a god be bad, or good and bad, or not good nor bad?

If free will exists, why are there so many people without a reasonable degree of free will (people who can't be blamed for their actions, like people with an IQ of 20, mentally handicapped people, people with psychosis...). If free will is a gift from god, why don't those people have free will? Or at least no free will to a certain degree.

Why would evil be a consequence of free will? You will say now 'because then we can choose to do bad things'. But if god didn't make evil, and evil wouldn't exist at all, but god did gave us free will, then we couldn't do evil, could we? So you can try to explain it, but everything exists because of god, so does evil, there's no doubt about that. He did even create Satan.

If you say evil is a consequence of free will, you are actually saying god didn't create everything in the world. You're saying god made something and other things came from this without the help of god.This means that god can't control everything (since he didn't made evil, it came from an 'invention' he made), or he can control everything but didn't try to prevent it (meaning he didn't try to prevent evil).
This is remarkably similar to the theory of evolution and a deistic god. God made the universe and it's laws, but then just let it all happen by itself. By the law of causality, everything formed and humans started to evolve into the form they have now. Same with free will: god made free will, left everything behind and evil came from it.

Free will and love aren't compatible. We now know why we love somebody, and why we don't love somebody else. It has to do with chemicals in your brain. There is no 'I choose to love you', you fall in love because your brain commands you. You are also programmed to love and protect your children, so you don't 'freely' love your children.

One does not require "god" in order to define a system of ethics and morality. Indeed, humans have always defined their own systems of ethics and morality, as there is no god. Plato demonstrated how "god" is not essential to the definition of good and evil a very long time ago. He did that with a simple question "how does god define what is good?". There are 2 possible answers a) "something is good because god said it is" and for no other reason - i.e. it is defined on a whim and for no other reason. OR b) "god defines it as good because it holds some inherant quality that makes it good that god can identify". IF the answer is a), then god is a tyrant. IF the answer is b) then it must be possible to define the inherant quality that consistutes a good act and if that is the case then one can define good and evil without the need for god.

I would dispute that one does not need God in order to define a system of ethics and morality. For without God their are only material realities and the well being of society is nothing more than a way of protecting one's own needs, survival of the fittest.

Plato is a product of a time in which there were many gods and many religions. He did not have the benefit of the Gospel. One is not surprised by his cynicism towards the world of theism, considering what theism was in his time; he was the father of philosophy; thought about the existence of and nature of God was to develop over many centuries.

There is a basic premise overlooked by Plato about the definition of good, and that is very simply, that God IS good. "Good" is what "God" means. Goodness does not need to define itself; it just is. Revealing His nature to Abraham, this God said, "I Am Who Is." He is the very essence of to be, He is the infinitude of all perfections, including goodness.

In my opinion, people and cultures define ethical and moral systems. These share common underlying similiarities, certain universals within human cultures. Obvious examples include strictures against murder and theft, and encouraging greater social harmony etc. These are a consequence of our evolutionary imperative as social animals. Social animals require co-operation for evolutionary success - it is there great strength. That is why, as a species we tend to evolve social rules and ethical systems that promote social harmony and discourage behaviours harmful to the group. What we term "good" is in fact those behaviours that promote social harmony and the success of our species. Survival of the fittest in fact - where the fittest are those best equipped to survive in their environment and NOT (as some people mistakenly believe) the strongest. Moral and ethical systems have therefore always been devised by human cultures - motivated and guided by evolutionary imperative, human innovation and reason and social consensus. That would be my view anyway.

Of course the waters have been muddied somewhat by Mr Dawkins "selfish genes" theory - which actually means something very different from what the name suggests in my option. But I guess if he had titled his book "altruism is genetically programmed into us as it promotes our survival as a species" it may not have sold quite so many copies.

Permitting evil, and thus letting hundreds, thousands, millions, of people die so that a small group of them can gain good from such tragedies is something you'd see in the cold emotionless mind of an insane dictator, not an all loving deity.There can't be places without god in them, God is supposedly omnipotent and perfect, he's not allowed any errors, he doesn't have any limits, why would there be places without him?God does not need to do anything, he can just manipulate time and space, the very fabric of reality, at whim.There is also no free will, God instantly knows what we will choose if given a choice, as he can see in the future, even if we ignore this we're still being Given an "Obey me or Die" choice.<br />
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As for the God being the ultimate example of good, his rules, they're not Good at all, How can we know what's Good and what's Evil if we listen to a Deity which tells us that killing a gay man is awwwright but eating shellfish is !PURE EVIL!<br />
Also, the apple tree supposedly gave humanity the knowledge of Good and Evil, God confirms this in the bible, so even without God according to your faith we'd still know what is good and what isnt.

Thank you for reading this story, thetruthexposed. Death comes to all of us, and according to our different philosophies we have different explanations for this most certain event that we all will face. One thing we agree on is that death is a tragedy. But for atheists, there is no moral value in this event. For theists, there is an explanation that has its origins in the action of free will. For atheists there is no deeper, more satisfying meaning other than that life wears out. This God you represent as assigning the many to misery in order to bring good to the few is not the God I worship. The God I worship redeemed everybody and proved life after death by willingly submitting to it Himself, by becoming one of us.

God's omniscience is not an argument against free will. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink it. We are not mindless puppets. That God foresees our misfortunes and still permits them is not a contradiction of the God of love. This same God recycles our misfortunes, has personally experienced them Himself, and redeems them so that we can all choose the victory He has won in them.

One of the earliest recorded deceptions is the exaggeration of God's actions made to Eve by the serpent. "Did God really say, 'You cannot eat from any of the trees in the garden?" And that is the sort of deception you make in your argument about it being alright to kill a gay man but pure evil to eat shellfish. Some parts of the Bible are meant to be figurative. Some of the commandments given to the people of the first Covenant are figures for a higher good demanded of people in the New Covenant. Abstinence from certain foods is meant to be a form of mortification, to prepare spiritually for abstinence from moral evil. Free reign to the appetites does not strengthen in this regard. The destruction of Sodom was not a wanton act of intolerance. Sodomy, whether performed by homosexuals or heterosexuals, is a sin against nature and is therefore very serious. The city of sin received warnings, counsel, even the visit of angels. But this sin has a way of perverting the mind and making it blind to spiritual realities.

guestguestguest, thank you for reading this and sharing some interesting thoughts on the subject. I actually think there are two premises in what you are saying. One I can agree with, the other I cannot and think it is dangerous to confuse the two.<br />
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The first thing you are saying is that all human beings are intrinsically valuable, irrespective of race, colour or creed. I totally agree, and all people should be treated with respect because they are human. The second thing you are saying is that no differences among us affect our dignity, therefore no one religion is better than another, just as no one skin colour is better than another. <br />
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This is where I have to disagree. Something like skin colour, or the colour of our eyes, has no merit of itself. It is just a physiological characteristic. Some might like my skin colour less than others and that is purely a matter of personal taste. I should not be discriminated against on the basis of skin colour.<br />
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But religious and philosophical beliefs are not in the same category. One set of beliefs does not necessarily have the same merit as another. One set of beliefs might be nothing other than fiction or fantasy. Beliefs can be scrutinised for their logicality, and as creatures given to searching for truth, they should be. The grounds for holding beliefs should be credible. Beliefs should be consistent within themselves and so on. To say that all beliefs are just like different skin colours is, in my opinion, not a fair analogy.<br />
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On the other hand, I want to make it clear that I believe in the right to believe as a basic human right. People should be free from coercion in the external order as a civil right. I might not agree with my atheist neighbour, but he should not be persecuted because of his belief. And neither should I have my rights curtailed for being a Catholic if I happen to live among atheists. But that is a far cry from saying that Catholicism and Atheism are equally meritorious belief systems, because the fact of the matter is that they are not.

Religion is something that many people share, but shouldn't have the immense power it does. After all, everybody is human. Skin colours once divided us like religion-atheism also comes under this category as it is religion in some sense- does now. Cant we realize, whatever our beliefs a catholic is no better than an atheist?

dearestapples, I am also a Traditional Catholic and challenged in much the same way as yourself, which is why I have applied myself to consideration of the arguments posed by atheists. Thank you for leaving your encouraging comment. My next story on this subject will be about Atheism and the elimination of knowledge.

Clarkee, thank you for your comment. Yes, it is interesting how indigenous peoples always believe in God and yes, the aboriginal people always did. We all have a conscience and know instinctively the difference between good and evil. On top of that we have God's revelation to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the written testimony of His Church in the Bible. But after all that is studied and considered, there remains that aspect of the private conscience which is mandatory, and that which is permissive.

i believe in god. there has always been god. aboriginal people as far as i understand all knew there is a god. no question. what is yet to be known is how to interpret the ways in which god is compelling us. that is up to the individual.

Thank you for reading my humble contributions, Brian, and for your encouragement. When I had the opportunity to do a degree in theology I opted out on the grounds of lack of trust of the course material, and I reasoned that I could work out the reading myself. Thank you for expressing your confidence in my work.

I draw a lot of strength from your posts Barbara, and this is one that I particularly enjoyed; I think you could easily earn yourself a degree in Theology. Thank you for all the help you have given me.

No-one can avoid the consequences of their actions or the judgement that some actions (and their consequences) are evil. Atheists will complain, "That's not fair!" when someone skips the queue in front of them as quickly as anyone else. But what they do not realise is that every time they acknowledge a personal injustice, they are also implicitly accepting the reality of God's existence.