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Why I Don’t Think God Exists

Holocaust

NOTE: Today we feature a guest post from Steven Dillon, one of our regular atheist commenters. Be sure to read Brandon Vogt's response, "Why Evil and Suffering Don't Disprove God".


 

I wish that God existed, I genuinely do. His presence would be an invaluable source of hope and strength as well as peace and happiness.1 But, I don’t think he does and that realization is perhaps the greatest of disappointments. Be that as it may, reality is still beautiful and I think we should honor the truth.

So, in hopes of some provocative discussion, I’m going to share what strikes me as a fairly compelling reason to think that God does not exist.

Now, as Richard Swinburne notes, “One unfortunate feature of recent philosophy of religion has been a tendency to treat arguments for the existence of God in isolation from each other. There can, of course, be no objection to considering each argument initially, for the sake of simplicity of exposition, in isolation from others. But clearly the arguments may back each other up or alternatively weaken each other, and we need to consider whether or not they do.”2

I propose this argument then as another piece to the puzzle, one which needs to be weighed in conjunction with the arguments for God’s existence.

My core thesis is this:

P: If God exists, then he will have had to have done things that he would not do.

If (P) is true, it affords what seems to be a powerful argument against God’s existence, because it’s absurd that God has done what he would not do. (P) is essentially composed of two claims:

P1: If God exists, there are things that he will have had to have done.

P2: God would not do at least one of these things.

Since (P) is true if and only if both P1 and P2 are true, I’ll focus on them. Let’s take each in turn.

P1If God exists, there are things that he will have had to have done.

God is traditionally conceived of as being perfectly good and the ultimate source, ground, or originating cause of everything that can have an ultimate source, ground or originating cause.

As such, if God exists, he will have had to have brought the natural world into existence along with most if not all of its significant features. Moreover, nothing that has happened will have happened without his permission. Each of us would be under his care as he chose to sustain us in existence from moment to moment.

P2God would not do at least one of these things.

If God exists, then due to his role as the ultimate cause, he will have had to have given his permission for every single thing that has ever occurred, including the most awful and horrific of events.

Take for example the Holocaust. God will have had to have deliberately allowed the systematic execution of millions, despite their unnervingly helpless pleas for him to spare their children as they were marched at gunpoint into gas chambers.

He will have had to have given his permission for every heinous count of abuse that children have been subjected to.3

But, this seems beneath God and more like the track record of a morally impoverished deity.

Typically, you should not allow children under your care to get beaten and molested. Perhaps there could be an exception to this rule, probably in what I’m guessing is a farfetched scenario. But, it is still a rule, and it thus expresses what is normally the case. To argue against this is to adopt the disturbing position that it is usually not wrong to allow children under your care to get beaten and molested.

Now, because it’s rational to assume that things are as they normally tend to be until given good reason to think otherwise, we’re putatively entitled to assume that someone who has allowed children under their care to get beaten and molested has done something wrong. We very well might go on to learn of extenuating circumstances that mitigate culpability or some such. But, the default position is that this sort of behavior is morally unacceptable, and just as well, right?

Well, in so far as we have prima facie reason to think that allowing kids under your care to get beaten and molested is wrong, we have prima facie reason to think that God would not do this. Because God will have had to have done this if he existed, we have prima facie reason to think that God does not exist.

There are many other moral rules that seem to yield this same conclusion, but they’d needlessly complicate a simple deduction

Conclusion

So, I believe there are some significant reasons for thinking that if God exists, he will have had to have done things that he would not do. For all its beauty, our world just seems too ugly to include God in it. I certainly won’t pretend like this is a rationally undefeatable argument, but I also don’t think it’s anything like a pushover.

How shall a theist respond to this argument? Is it not normally wrong to allow children under your care to be abused? Are we not under God's care? Or perhaps she will simply say the arguments for God’s existence are just too strong.

However we might respond to it, keep in mind that it won’t do to argue that God might allow things like the Holocaust, or human trafficking, or that God could have good reason for doing so. No has said that he couldn’t, that’s not the issue at hand. What needs to be shown is that God would allow these things. Theists will need to take the risk of identifying the reason why God would allow the Holocaust, or human trafficking, and seeing whether that identification can stand to reason.

What do you guys think?

(Image credit: Blog CDN)

Notes:

  1. Cf. http://www.ryerson.ca/~kraay/Documents/2013CJP.pdf for an interesting discussion on whether God’s existence would be a good thing.
  2. Swinburne, Richard. The Existence of God. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 2004. p. 19
  3. In case it seems to some that I am appealing to emotions with these examples, allow me to say that I am not. Any emotions elicited will be incidental to the reason I’ve chosen these examples: moral reasoning is uncharacteristically clear when it comes to children, and we ought to make use of this valuable clarity when we can.
Steven Dillon

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Steven Dillon is a nature loving hippy who enthusiastically supports the Philosophy of Religion, and the importance of good-willed dialogue between theists and atheists.

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  • DonnyPauling

    Stephen,

    A few things:

    1. For true free will to exist, God must not restrict the free will of anyone. If he only allowed good actions on the part of free will beings yet disallowed poor actions on the part of free will beings, true free will would not exist.

    2. Free will is powerful. God allows it, which means He literally gives up some of his own power in our realm. He steps back and let's us do our own things and make our own mistakes. Sometimes we humans use our free will in evil ways. This doesn't reflect on God, who prefers that we use our free will to love Him and therefore trust that the ways he asks us to compose our lives are best for us. Most of us choose to reject his guidelines in some form or another.

    3. As you know, those who believe in a personal God also believe eternal life is possible. This means we need to change our perspective. Your points make the assumption that this life is all we have. That is like walking up to the bottom of the Sears tower and putting our nose up against the wall: from that perspective, we can never see the top of the building. It's only when we step back, way back, that we can see the entire building. Likewise, the death and destruction that resulted from the actions you described aren't the "full building" or big picture. From the perspective of eternal life, the only thing lost by victims is the time they would have spent on earth. Subtract those years from an infinite eternity and you still have... an infinite eternity.

    • Your first two points assume that the manifest suffering of millions is always the result of free will of humans. This is simply not the case. Natural disasters are easily prevented but God chooses not to. And forgive me but do Catholics not believe that God repeatedly intervenes to save the lives of humans through the miracles of the saints?

      I struggle to understand the relevance of your third point.

      • HammerDoc

        God made the universe perfect. No death. No disease. No suffering.
        Human free will--abused--is what perverted nature, causing all of creation to groan under the weight of sin. Yes--this means even hurricanes and earthquakes. Each individual disaster may not have been DIRECTLY the result of a human's free will, but collectively they certainly are, as day follows night.

        • Susan

          God made the universe perfect. No death. No disease. No suffering.
          Human free will--abused--is what perverted nature, causing all of creation to groan under the weight of sin. Yes--this means even hurricanes and earthquakes

          Suffering, death, hurricanes and earthquakes were around long before humans existed.

          • Mary J. Nelson

            Two possibilities here: (1) Man was not the first moral agent to fall or (2) the effects of the fall of man were not bound by time...rippling out through time and space like a stone thrown into water.

          • Mary J. Nelson

            And just a passing note, so-called "natural evils" such as hurricanes and earthquakes are not evil in and of themselves; the problem is when people (or animals) get caught up in them, so at the very least you can only go back as far as animal life with your argument and animals capable of feeling pain, at that. However, it is also possible that such events have good effects; hurricanes, for example, can be beneficial to marine life. So there is a moral judgment being made here. "People ought not die in earthquakes". However, without an objective source of what ought to be and what ought not to be (i.e. an ultimate objective standard) why would one care whether people die in earthquakes, especially people we don't know and who cannot contribute to our own survival (of the fittest)?

          • Michael Murray

            But the point being made, with which you seem to agree, is that earthquakes go back before the version of The Fall that starts with Adam and Eve. That's all.

            why would one care whether people die in earthquakes, especially people we don't know and who cannot contribute to our own survival (of the fittest)?

            There are various reasons one should care. For example we care because we have developed brain circuitry that gives us empathy that helps us live in small social groups. Those immediate kin can support our survival and the passing on our our genes. But we can also imagine how it feels to have your family destroyed by an earthquake even when that happens on the other side of the world. So in some sense you could argue this is a misfiring. Or we can apply rational thought to argue that because we dislike suffering ourselves then unnecessary suffering in other humans is a bad thing. Or even in other living things that can feel pain.

          • Mary J. Nelson

            I agree that there are naturalistic reasons to care about others; unfortunately, one is not required in any way to do so and if one can avoid the consequences about not caring about others, it may be just as naturalistically "rational" to do what one pleases without taking one's fellow man into account. You may tell me you don't like my behavior and try to stop me accordingly (apply a bad consequence) but that is about it since there is no objective standard. The Judeo-Christian standard is supposed to be that one "loves"; that is, one desires and works for the good of the other, as other (regardless of whether that good helps me or mine or not). Love is not self-serving in any way. Of course, being human and fallible, we often fail in this regard, but that does not negate the standard.

          • Susan

            And just a passing note, so-called "natural evils" such as hurricanes and earthquakes are not evil in and of themselves; the problem is when people (or animals) get caught up in them, so at the very least you can only go back as far as animal life with your argument and animals capable of feeling pain, at that.

            No. The claims have been here from the beginning that there is an immaterial, omnisicient, omnipotent mind who created reality from metaphysical nothing.

            "Natural evils" are truly evil if they emerge from omnisicient omnipotence and metaphysical nothing.

            Natural evils are truly evil if there is an agent of that description responsible. They are just the way it is if there isn't but any agent who chose to create beings who can suffer and who stood by while they suffered for hundreds of mililions of years, just because it decided it wanted the love of one species which it could have created without all the needless suffering is NOT good.

          • Mary J. Nelson

            You are missing my point, I think. I am saying so-called "natural evils" (storms, earthquakes, etc.) are not evil in and of themselves. I am not applying the same notion to any resulting human death and suffering (although in certain cases these may not evil. For example, sometimes I suffer because I have acted in an evil way and suffering and perhaps useful is a natural result of my own evil,). A storm or earthquake, however, unless it actually impacts humans/animals, is not evil, it just is.

          • Susan

            You are missing my point, I think. I am saying so-called "natural evils" (storms, earthquakes, etc.) are not evil in and of themselves.

            I'm not sure I am. It's obvious that without agents, there is no moral reasoning. I was trying to point out that because there are agents, beings who have subjective experiences, who can suffer, any agent who chooses natural selection is not good.

            Hurricanes and earthquakes etc. have never cared a whit about their effects. They are indifferent. If an agent thought they would make a great nursery for sentient beings, it is not a good or loving agent.

          • Michael Murray

            How much is (1) supported by Catholic Theology these days ? Was Satan a Fallen Angel and did that Fall predate Adam and Eve and affect Creation ?

          • Susan

            Some possibilities here: (1) Man was not the first moral agent to fall and/or (2) the effects of the fall of man were not bound by time...rippling out through time and space like a stone thrown into water.

            Another possibility is that Catholicism is just another religion.

          • Mary J. Nelson

            Yes, that is a possibility (but perhaps not a probability).

          • Susan

            Yes, that is a possibility (but perhaps not a probability).

            Looks very likely from the outside.

            What separates it?

          • David Nickol

            Some possibilities here . . . .

            The fact that you can offer "possibilities" exposes the weakness of the doctrine. When what was believed for thousands of years turns out to be wrong, you can just "make stuff up" and claim it it was right all along. And of course the "possibilities" are limitless—especially if you allow yourself to break all known laws of nature and let the future influence the past! It makes me think of a writer of fiction—say, Arthur Conan Doyle—who kills off his main character and later brings him back. There are no real constraints on this kind of thing. With a little imagination, you can bring any fictional character—or any discredited doctrine—back to life.

          • Mary J. Nelson

            I call my comments "possibilities" because I am offering possible hypotheses, not established facts or theories (although, certain quantum theories may allow the operations of events time to be rather...fluid). I merely try not to have a closed mind about how the universe actually before such things are known with certainty. Also, the notion that the death of Christ operates outside of time (so to speak since I am simplifying the idea) for the salvation of all mankind, past and present and future is already established Christian theology. God is not assumed to constrained by time in the same way humanity is (the amount of constraint, if any, is debated).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This seems like an unfair characterization.

            David, you often complain about Catholics who adhere to overly traditional interpretations of dogma. Yet one someone proposes a creative solution that -- at least arguably -- still satisfies basic dogmatic constraints, you accuse the person of not being sufficiently traditional!

            In this case, my understanding is that the basic dogmatic constraints on this problem are 1. Creation itself, as God created it, is good, and 2. We all are in need of need of Christ's redemption (My understanding of the doctrine of Original Sin is that it can be described at this level of non-specificity). One needs to somehow account for the distance between those two statements.

            Mary has speculatively proposed some ways of bridging that gap that do not seem (to me) to dilute those two basic doctrinal constraints. It is not as if she is just drawing on a blank slate, without regard for tradition. It does not "expose the weakness" of the dogma to allow for a wide latitude of possible interpretations within dogmatic constraints. To me, that flexibility, particularly with regard to physical mechanism, is an indication of the strength of the dogma.

          • David Nickol

            It does not "expose the weakness" of the dogma to allow for a wide latitude of possible interpretations within dogmatic constraints.

            I don't want to imply that theology should be approached like science, but it seems to me that when "possibilities" are proposed to solve a difficult problem, there should be some grounds for "testing" those possibilities to see if there is anything supporting them other than the fact that they offer some way out of the problem. Taking a look at the "possibility" that man was not the first moral agent to fall, the Catechism says

            390 The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.

            Archbishop Sheen was clearly speculating when he said, "One possibility is . . . " Unless I have missed something (and I hope someone will point it out to me if I have), there is simply nothing in Catholicism to even hint at the possibility that something other than the Fall of "our First parents" that accounts for the allegedly flawed world of today. Now, "the Fall" is clearly a matter of revelation. Some other "Fall" would have to be a matter of revelation, too. But where is any shred of evidence for this other "Fall"? It is not in the Bible and not in Tradition. What it is is an ad hoc "solution" to the relatively recent scientific discovery that the world is billions of years old, and death and suffering existed long before any possible misdeeds of Adam and Eve.

            I have mentioned before a Protestant Fundamentalist "solution" to the Catholic claim of the importance of Jesus saying, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church." One "possible solution" seriously offered was that Jesus's hand gestures need to be taken into account. We need "stage directions." Jesus said, "You [Jesus points at Peter] are Peter, and [Jesus points to himself] upon this rock I will build my church." Jesus was referring to himself, not Peter, as the rock on which the church would be built." Positing a Fall by some other moral agents prior to the Fall of Adam and Eve is perhaps not quite so audacious as changing the meaning of what Jesus said by adding "clarifying" stage directions. But I think they both are instance of "making stuff up" rather than working the explanation out theologically.

            As for events like the Fall echoing backward in time, first of all, the Fall is about human history, and it happened (according to Catholicism) at the beginning of human history. To the best of my knowledge, it is not Catholic teaching (dogma) that the Fall affected all of material reality. It affected the human race.

            To suggest that there are flaws in the world because God subcontracted some work of creation to the angels, some angels fell, and the fallen angels did not do their work according to God's specifications is to invent a story that is not anywhere in the creation accounts of the Bible. Again, it is the kind of thing that could be known only by revelation, but it does not appear in revelation. It is made up.

            I am reasonably familiar with the concept of development of doctrine, and I think it does not entail inventing ad hoc explanations to patch holes in flawed doctrines.

            I sat on a jury a few weeks ago, and after a trial of one week, the opinion of the jury was basically unanimous the moment we began our deliberations. Now, a very clever mystery writer could no doubt write a mystery novel in which all of the evidence against the defendant was mistaken, or fabricated, or in some other way did not prove her guilt. But there was no question in the minds of all of us jurors that the government had proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt. In trying to solve theological problems with doctrine by conjectures, it seems to me there has got to be some kind of minimal standard not for proving a conjecture beyond a reasonable doubt, but for arguing that the conjecture is at least a reasonable conjecture. A conjecture that has nothing more to recommend it than that it is an ad hoc solution to a problem with no reason for believing it other than that it neatly solves the problem seems to me to be nothing more than a conjecture. You seem to be saying that anything that seems to prop up an established doctrine without contradicting it is acceptable. I think that position simply invites endless conjectures that have no basis in scripture and Tradition. Of course, I suppose there is nothing wrong with conjectures. But they have to be presented as conjectures, not as teachings of the Church, and they have to be more than ad hoc solutionsto win arguments.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree with many of your points, but I don't understand which doctrine you think is being "propped up" here? Your understanding of the Catholic teaching on the Fall is that it relates only to humanity, in which case the doctrine would seem to be silent on the origins of physical evil. I will happily defer to you on that point, since that is always the way I have preferred to think about it. But if the doctrine is silent regarding physical evil, then it cannot be in need of being propped up in order to account for physical evil. Am I misunderstanding?

            I think that it is at least a logical implication of Catholic teaching that physical evil must have originated at some point after the moment of creation (*), since we have the constraint in Catholic thinking that --initially at least -- "God saw that [creation] was good". One traditional resolution of the problem -- supposing that physical evil, like moral evil, had its origins in the Fall -- seems untenable in light of our current understanding that the existence of suffering long pre-dated humans. One must now propose new explanations to account for the existence of physical evil. As you say, candidate explanations must be evaluated for plausibility in the context of scripture and tradition. It is not so clear to me that the "fallen angel" stuff is completely out of line (after all, there was a serpent already hanging around in the garden looking for trouble), though personally that is not really the direction I would want to take things anyway.

            (*) I am still trying to evaluate if this is true. I wonder if it is really a contradiction to say that creation was good from the very beginning, while saying at the same time that creation was in a sense at some painful distance from God from the very beginning, and interpreting physical evil as part of that painful distance. Bu, since this is perhaps even more precarious speculation than Mary's , I think I will refrain from trying to develop that idea any more in this space.

          • David Nickol

            . . . . but I don't understand which doctrine you think is being "propped up" here?

            I am not sure that what I am arguing against is truly Catholic doctrine or something more along the lines of what the Limbo of Infants was—something widely taught and believed by many to be Catholic teaching but having no official status.

            I believe some claim there was no death (human or otherwise) before Adam and Eve sinned. It seems to me that is completely untenable. We know for a fact that is not true. Dinosaurs and thousands of other species not only died, but became extinct, before humans existed. We also know that diseases and injuries happened long before humans existed.

            It is not so clear to me that the "fallen angel" stuff is completely out of line (after all, there was a serpent already hanging around in the garden looking for trouble) . . .

            Setting aside the fact that the snake in the garden is clearly a snake and not Satan or a demon—"Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made—the snake is in no way working as one of God's subcontractors in the process of creation. Creation has been completed by this point. There is no hint in Genesis that God's initial creation was not good or very good. It seems to me it is tantamount to an insult to God to call him the Creator and then to claim that creation was partially botched because God subcontracted parts of it out to angels who feel and didn't do their jobs properly. What kind of reputable contractor will not repair bad work done by a subcontractor? It seems the whole point of the creation story in Genesis 1 is that creation is good, and God is pleased with it.

            To claim that the Fall "rippled back through time" and damaged physical reality seems to me to indicate that Adam and Eve had to be created in an already-fallen world. That doesn't make any sense to me.

            One must now propose new explanations to account for the existence of physical evil.

            I will have to give this much more thought. I do not believe in the Fall, but I don't presently see that if one does believe in the Fall, it is necessary to come up with a supernatural explanation of "physical evil." It seems to me that physical evil is in the eye of the beholder. A bull that gets its neck cut so it can be sacrificed as a burn offering may be physical evil from the bull's standpoint, but the Israelite priest who presided was doing something pleasing to God.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It's based on a comment by Paul: Romans, 5:12, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" It was certainly the standard catholic position for centuries.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Setting aside the fact that the snake in the garden is clearly a snake and not Satan or a demon

            ?? But per your own quote of the catechism, Genesis 3 relates an event in figurative language! Or are you disagreeing with that line of the catechism? I am not saying that it is obvious what the figurative language refers to, but it seems very much within bounds to suppose that the snake is representative of our fundamental tendency toward selfishness, a tendency that preceded whatever pivotal event the Fall is referring to. Whether one personifies that tendency as Satan is another matter - I don't personally think of it that way, but I have no problem with those who do.

            ... the snake is in no way working as one of God's subcontractors in the process of creation. Creation has been completed by this point. There is no hint in Genesis that God's initial creation was not good or very good.

            Precisely! The whole point of this "fallen angel" thinking is to tell the story in a way that gets us from a complete and very good creation to a point where physical evil clearly exists. We are not talking about subcontracting anything in the act of creation. What is being proposed is that something must have happened *after* the completion of creation and before the appearance of humans. I don't care if the proposal is natural or supernatural (I really don't like that distinction anyway, as I don't quite know how to interpret it), but somehow you have to get from point A to point B, unless you subscribe to a worldview in which point A wasn't so "very good" after all.

          • David Nickol

            ?? But per your own quote of the catechism, Genesis 3 relates an event in figurative language! Or are you disagreeing with that line of the catechism?

            Just because something is clearly in figurative language does not mean that it is open to any interpretation. The snake in Genesis is very definitively a snake and not supernatural creature. We have this:

            Now the snake was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made.

            We also have this:

            Then the LORD God said to the snake:
            Because you have done this,
            cursed are you
            among all the animals, tame or wild;
            On your belly you shall crawl,
            and dust you shall eat
            all the days of your life.

            It is a story in figurative language, but it explains why men must work hard, women must suffer pain in childbirth, and snakes will be shunned and crawl on their bellies. And of course snakes are shunned and do crawl on their bellies.

            Where is the "hook" on which to hang the interpretation that the snake represents Satan? I suppose one might say that Satan is known for tempting people, and the snake tempted Eve, and consequently the snake must be Satan. But why is Genesis so clear that the snake is a snake, and just as all men and women must suffer for what happened in the garden, all snakes must suffer, too?

            Add to that that Satan in the Old Testament is neither a serpent nor an evil spirit. He is a member of the heavenly court. The author or authors of the story of Adam and Eve had no knowledge of Satan or fallen angels.

            Finally, there is a difference between a figurative story and a roman à clef. We shouldn't feel the need, in trying to understand the meaning of the story of Adam, Eve, and the snake, to say, "Well, Adam and Eve may not have been two people with those names, but they were nevertheless our 'first parents,' and the snake had to be somebody, so it must have been Satan." That just makes Genesis thinly disguised history. If there was a first man (although not named Adam) and a first woman (though not named Eve) who disobeyed God (though not by eating forbidden fruit) because they were tempted by a creature (thought not a snake), and the first man and woman became, literally, "our first parents" from whom we are all biologically descended, then the story is not figurative. It's true with names and details changed.

            To say the snake was Satan is basically to say the story happened pretty much as described, but it has been altered somewhat to sound like a fable.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I suppose one might say that Satan is known for tempting people, and the snake tempted Eve, and consequently the snake must be Satan.

            I guess that does seem like a sufficient justification to me. To my understanding it is definitionally true that *any* activity in the universe that directs us toward selfishness and fragmentation is the activity of Satan. That is just what Satan means to me: he is nothing more and nothing less than that which drives us toward selfishness and fragmentation.

            The author or authors of the story of Adam and Eve had no knowledge of Satan or fallen angels.

            This doesn't bother me in the slightest. They may not have used the term Satan, and they may not have conceptualized things in terms of fallen angels, but it seems obvious that the story was their way of reflecting on that force of selfishness and fragmentation that some of us now -- because of other associations made elsewhere in history -- refer to as Satan.

            The memory of the event that is recollected in this story can only have been available to the authors of this story through their collective unconscious. I am not saying that anyone consciously altered the story to sound like a fable. I just think that this deep primordial memory was only accessible through a sort of dreamscape that the authors themselves must not have fully understood.

          • David Nickol

            That is just what Satan means to me: he is nothing more and nothing less than that which drives us toward selfishness and fragmentation.

            Are you saying that the story of God creating a good angel, Satan, who became rebellious and was ejected from heaven is figurative? Is Satan something like Mother Nature, or Einstein's "old one," or Einstein's God as in "God does not play dice"? Are you saying that Satan is a personification of "that which drives us toward selfishness and fragmentation" in basically the same way that the Grim Reaper is the personification of death?

            The memory of the event that is recollected in this story can only have been available to the authors of this story through their collective unconscious.

            Are you saying the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall is a dimly remembered story of an actual historical event involving out "first parents"—the two first humans from which the human race is descended?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I wouldn't say that Satan is a metaphor, if that is what you are asking. I would say instead that Satan is name for a reality that can best described metaphorically. My description of Satan as "that which drives us toward selfishness" is a non-metaphorical description of the same reality. Either way it is just words that point to something deeper. That something deeper is real.

            Are you saying the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall is a dimly remembered story of an actual historical event involving out "first parents"—the two first humans from which the human race is descended?

            The "first parents" bit is a layer of interpretation that I am not entirely comfortable with (and yes, I know that is the language in the catechism). But yes, something deep in the primordial soup must have created that dream within us. Whatever it was that shaped our dreams in that way actually happened, so the story reveals a truth about our origins.

          • David Nickol

            I wouldn't say that Satan is a metaphor, if that is what you are asking.

            Are angels real? Are they persons who are pure spirits rather than physical beings? Was Satan an angel, created good by God, who rebelled and was cast out of heaven? Is he a person? Does he exist today and is his "home base" hell?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think the best way I can answer is to say that I don't find it problematic to assent to the reality of angels every Sunday when I say the penitential rite. I ask the angels for help. As to what I mean when I say the word "angel", I'm honestly not sure. I would have to really reflect on that. I don't know what it means to say that something is non-physical or non-material, because I don't fully understand what matter is. I think I am in pretty good company on that one. I don't know where Satan came from, but it does seem silly to imagine that he has a home base. I don't know lots of things, but I am still comfortable using the language of "angels" and "Satan" to describe my experience of reality.

          • Scott Harrison

            Yep, must be so Mary J!
            Now, to the mom and Dad whose kids just got vaporized by the Vesuvius pyroclastic blast:
            "... just a passing note, so-called "natural evils" such as hurricanes and earthquakes are not evil in and of themselves".
            Cold comfort.

        • So because of our sin, our act that we knew was wrong, eating of the fruit of tree of knowledge of good and evil no less. God felt it necessary to allow child rape, malaria, the crusades and Justin Beiber?

          I am having trouble understanding why you think this God is good.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Certainly this god punishes disproportionately. Tell me - does a single act by a single human at some point in time justify the existence of harlequin babies? I think not.

          • fightforgood

            I find it interesting with everyone that God gets the blame for all things wrong, but when things go right, do we ever give him the praise? It's always (us) the human.

          • Michael Murray

            Who are "us" in this context ? If you are an atheist you clearly neither blame nor praise God because you don't believe there is one.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Behave...it is the other way around. Or don't you watch or read the news?

            Fundamentalists blame everything and everyone for the natural disasters happening all around us, yet a single being survives and its a miracle from god.

            The only people that can be blaming a god in any case are those who believe in gods existence.

            Over to you.

          • Michael Murray

            Good point IA. It's those gay marriages. I keep forgetting how they cause all the earthquakes.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yep...hedonism in general, but the gays and heathen baby eating atheists get particular attention.

            Pope Benedict had the barefaced arrogance to blame atheists for global warming and the subject matter for that photo at the head of the OP, the Holocaust and Nazism. Didn't he know Catholicism played a leading role in the rise in Nazism and ultimately, the final solution?

          • David Nickol

            Why do the newspapers only report about planes that crash? Why don't they report on all of the thousand and thousands of planes that land safely every day???

        • Scott Harrison

          Nonsense. Long before Adam and Eve dinosaurs were ripping each other apart and devouring their victims young. Stars have been vaporizing their own planetary systems ... the whole of "creation" is intimately connected with destruction and decay. How do you arrive at such an odd and completely unfounded conclusion that "collectively" natural disasters are a result of free will? Pray tell me how the catastrophic collision destined to occur between our galaxy and Andromeda, or perhaps more parochially the eruption of mount Vesuvius (or, "collectively", both) is in any way connected with my freely being able to make decisions?

      • HammerDoc

        Your assertion seems to be a desire to point your finger at God and blame Him for everything in your life that isn't perfect by saying something like, "If you exist you would have made everything perfect in my life." The thing you miss is, that God still does intervene--on a DAILY basis to keep us all alive. There is SO MUCH wrong with this (Fallen) universe, that if He did not do this, NONE of us would make it on a day-to-day basis. Finally, He loves us each enough that He came here--PERSONALLY--to suffer along with us. He did not have to do it this way. He could have redeemed us the same way He created the universe--with a word. However, He chose to get down here and get dirty Himself. By this He not only shows us how much He loves us, but can also actually grant that our sufferings have meaning.

        • I blame god for nothing. I think suffering makes a great deal of sense if there is no god, but is very hard to reconcile if the God that most Christians subscribe to exists.

          In your view it seems that the God created us with the capacity to sin and cause all of this suffering, knowing we would abuse this. I don't see why he created anything in the first place give the risk of the horrors we see continually.

          • HammerDoc

            God loved us enough to grant us Free Will. Why? Precisely because He is NOT a narcissist who would force us to love Him. Without that Free Will, we would be mere slaves, or chips of wood for Him to move us about like pieces on a chessboard. Without allowing the effects of our bad choices, we would not have Free Will. There simply is no way around that.
            The thing is that if there were no God, then suffering would be 100% entirely pointless. It would be something to be avoided at ALL costs, with no OBJECTIVE way to say that ANYTHING I do to you to avoid my suffering, is wrong.

          • I'm nt suggesting God should have created us without free will, I'm suggesting that if a God exists, and he was faced with the choice of creating or not, that creating us knowing we would suffer tremendously, the better choice would have been to decline to create us at all.

            After all without creation, god still exists, he is perfect, there is no such thing as suffering, or evil. Why would he necessarily degrade that perfection by creating any more minds?

            Personally, I neither accept a god exists or that we have free will.

          • HammerDoc

            Your conclusions are astray because your logic is all wrong. How would NOT creating anything be greater than creating it?
            Would Michelangelo have left a better world if he had NOT created the "David?" DaVinci, the "Mona Lisa?" Or Wagner or any of a number of great composers THEIR beautiful created works? Do you REALLY postulate the world would be better without creation of these gifts? Would it be better without the creation of houses to keep rain off your head? (Etc.)
            1) Are you saying that just because you will go through some bad times that it isn't worth having been created? (whether by an Omniscient God or an unaware and random universe) So, the bad you go through makes it ENTIRELY not worth seeing the beauty of nature, or of human creation? Or of falling in love? (Or don't you believe in that, either?) If you are saying this, then ask yourself, WHY are you still here? Why haven't you "checked out" YEARS ago because of the ills which must inevitably befall you sooner or later? I am NOT saying that it would be logical (or right) to do so--but I AM saying that the very fact that you are still here to write those words is testimony to the fact that in your heart of hearts, you do NOT truly believe them.
            2) I also fail to ascertain your logic on the minds thing. It seems to me that creating more minds would NOT inherently degrade or enhance perfection at all. God created the world and said it was "good" and "very good." He did NOT say it was perfection.
            3) God is the only perfection--NOT the creation, although it seems to me that His creation of more minds that were controlled automatons (i.e., WITHOUT Free Will) would be a degradation. It seems inherent to me, that creating more minds with complete Free Will as to whether to accept and love Him is not only an enhancement to the universe, but quite generous, as well.

          • "How would NOT creating anything be greater than creating it?" - because the only result of creating humans would be to degrade his perfection, to allow the opportunity for evil. If you consider goodness to be a great-making property, perfect goodness can only be degraded by creation.

            Your analogies to humans creating things is misplaced. Humans are not perfect and therefore can be improved by their works. God could in no way be improved through the act of creation, unless you concede that prior to creation he was in some way flawed.

            "1) Are you saying that just because you will go through some bad times that it isn't worth having been created?"

            No, I am saying I was not created by a perfect deity, neither was the cosmos. I most certainly am not saying I would prefer not to exist or to have never have existed.

            2) Creating other minds would not degrade God's perfection if he created other perfect minds, but he didn't. He created minds that could and he knew would diverge from him resulting in evil. I am not saying he said the world was perfect, I am saying prior to the world was perfection, his creation degraded it.

            3) " It seems inherent to me, that creating more minds with complete Free Will as to whether to accept and love Him is not only an enhancement to the universe, but quite generous, as well." This presumes that the state of affairs prior to creation, when there was only God, could be "enhanced", this means god could be enhanced, which means could not have been perfect.

          • HammerDoc

            How nihilist of you. How dreadfully WRONG and nihilist. God created us perfectly--including perfect Free Will. What WE did to mess it up is on US, not God. Besides, even an IMPERFECT creation is better than nothing--or haven't you ever had a 4 year-old hand you anything that they have made you themselves?

          • I am not a nihilist and there is nothing nihilist on my comments above. I am also not wrong. There is no God, and humans do not posess libertarian free will.

            No one is suggesting an imperfect creation is better than nothing, rather god without material creation is better than god plus material creation as the former has no evil or evil potential.

            Sure I think four year olds handing me things is great. Four year olds being raped is pretty bad though, god created the potential for both, degrading the state of affairs. I do not see how this follows, either it wasn't perfect absent creation or no such god exists.

            Your move in this argument should be saying that the volume of good may outweight the evil that was allowed to occur by way of creation.

          • Theodore James Turner

            I had children. some of them have experience great suffering. Was I wrong bring children into the world knowing that this possibility existed? I also know that some of my children, or descendants, will cause great suffering to others. I know that things do not always go the way we wish.

            The Bible says, "The sufferings of the present world are not to be compared to the eternal weight of glory." God has provided a solution. He could not have made beings that could love, without giving them free choice. He weighed the risk. He has suffered beyond imagining, because He loves us. His suffering is eternal. Ours is temporary.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Do you have any evidence at all for us to believe any of that is true?

    • Sqrat

      If God has all of the characteristics traditionally ascribed to him, there is a fatal flaw in your logic.

      God is traditionally said to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent and eternal, and is also said to have been the creator of the universe. If God is omniscient, then he has perfect foreknowledge; he knows exactly how things are going to turn out in the future. Therefore, he must always have known how I will use my free will, in each and every particular case. It would not be possible for me to use my free will, ever, in any way that God has not precisely foreseen. To put that another way, whatever "free will" means, it cannot mean that any of my "choices" are contingent. If they were contingent, then even God could not foresee them with certainty. But if God can foresee them with certainty, then they are not contingent, but inevitable. If, confronted with a choice to do A or B, God has always know that I would freely choose A, then my choice to do A was absolutely inevitable. I only have the "free will" to do precisely what God knows and has always known I am going to do.

      Consider the myth of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. If God is omniscient, then he surely knew before he created Adam and Eve that they would disobey him. If God foresaw that Adam and Eve would disobey him, they could not NOT have disobeyed him unless his foresight was flawed, in which case God is not omniscient. But if God is omniscient, then the disobedience of Adam and Eve was not only inevitable, it must also have been in accordance with God's will. After all, God had created Adam and Eve knowing with absolutely certainty that they would disobey him, then their disobedience was as much a matter of his choice as it was theirs. God fully shares with Adam and Eve the responsibility for their disobedience, because he willingly and knowingly chose a world in which they would disobey.

      What is true for Adam and Eve would be equally true for any of us. If God is omniscient, then however you or I end up using our free will, we can only make those choices that, in effect, God has already made for us.

      • HammerDoc

        It is silly to say that if an omniscient God gives us Free Will then He cannot see what our choices will be ahead of time. He DID see the choices WE would make ahead of time, but He loved us enough that He went ahead and made us anyway. That is an AFFIRMATION of Free Will, not a negation.

        • Sqrat

          According to the model of God's omniscience to which you subscribe, God knows, and has always known with 100% certainty, which side of the bed you will get up on tomorrow morning. If that is the case, then it is also the case that there is a 100% probability that you will get out of the bed on the side of the bed God has always known you will get up on, and a 0% chance that you will get up on the other. Your choice to get up on one side or the other has no contingency to it, since you must, absolutely inevitably, get up on the side that God knows you will get up on.

          I am not saying that you don't have free will in choosing what side of the bed you will get up on, but I am saying that, whatever "free will" means under your model of God's omniscience, it cannot logically mean the ability to choose anything other than the one inevitable choice you have always been predestined to make.

          There is a way to get around this, though. Just for fun, I could invoke the "many worlds interpretation" of quantum mechanics here and suggest the possibility that, tomorrow morning, you freely choose to get up on the right side of the bed, and also freely choose to get up on the left side, and thus do both, in different universes. The theological implications are amusing. It would, I suppose give you contingent free will of a sort -- except that you would not have the free will not to make any choice that is actually possible. You would always make every possible choice.

          • HammerDoc

            No, your logical conclusion does not follow from your premises, and is in fact, entirely fallacious. The fact that God knew ahead of time which side of the bed I would CHOOSE to get up from this morning in NO WAY diminishes the fact that it WAS my choice.

          • Sqrat

            Yes, but it also does not diminish the fact that it was God's choice to make a world in which he knew which side of the bed you would get up on -- unless God himself had no choice but to do so.

            Here's an experiment for you to try: Tomorrow, get up on the opposite side of the bed from the one that God thought you would get up on, way, way back when he said "Let there be light." Think you can do it?

  • Alypius

    It seems to me Mr Dillon's argument boils down to Aquinas' objection #1 from evil (see http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm )
    "But the word "God" means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist."

    And thus the theistic response would more or less be the same as Aquinas' as well:
    "As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): 'Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.' This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good."

    If Mr. Dillon is reading this, does this seem too vague to be a response to your objection? Do you feel like your objection needs a more specific response to have any weight? (i.e. The Holocaust was allowed to happen because good X was the specific good we have been able to identify that God was allowing to come of it.)

    • Steven Dillon

      Thanks for the response! I would say that Aquinas' argument works well for many evils, but not for all of them. This is because 'goodness' must be recognizable. A perfectly good god could not permit just *anything*, or its goodness would lack identifiable content. In other words, we have to draw the line somewhere: perfect goodness is compatible with allowing x and y, but not z.

      As David Baggett and Jerry Walls opine: "In general, what God can't do is anything in diametric oppoisition, irremediable tension, or patent conflict with our most nonnegotiable moral commitments. God can't, for instance, issue a command for us to torture children; but he may well be acting in accord with moral perfection when he, say, allows death to take place in a fallen world." - Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality, p. 135

      So, the issue is whether or not a perfectly good being would allow children under his care to be abused. Saying that he would because he has is only to beg the question.

      • Jonathan Augustine Stute

        It seems that we are having a bit of an Adam and Eve moment here. What I mean by that is that it seems that by claiming that we know that there are certain things that God can allow and things that God cannot allow that we are making ourselves the arbiters of objective morality, which cannot in situation be the case. More than that, it would make us judges of God which would be like cutting of the branch that you are sitting on.

        It is far above our pay grade to say that God can allow A and B but not C because as Paul says, "eye has not seen nor ear has heard nor has it entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him." (1st Corinthians 2:9) It is entirely possible that God has a plan to bring justifiable goodness out of even the most (seemingly) inexplicable evil but we simply cannot recognize it due to our finitude. I don't remember which saint it was but when speaking of heaven, she said something akin to "Compared to the joys of heaven, the most horrible suffering will at the worst seem to be nothing more than a slightly uncomfortable stay at a cheap motel." So, it is entirely possible that God has the means and intention to reward those who suffer in faithfulness with something beyond our understanding in this life.

        So, it seems that your objection to Augustine's version of theodicy rests not on any logical necessity but a personal assessment of the nature of good and evil. This more or less completely defuses your argument from evil as a logical objection to God's existence. However, it does not answer the further pastoral problem of the emotional problem of evil but it shows that the presence of evil in the world does not count as a strong argument against God's existence.

        Finally, in order to clarify, could you explain to me what you mean by "goodness must be recognizable"? Is it something like how I suffer through my job because I know the goal of my pay check? Or do you mean something different? This would just be helpful for me to further understand your argument

        I'm also discovering that with posts on the internet, brevity is essential. I have some other questions and concerns about your argument but I'll leave that to a thread separate from this one.

        I love your bio by the way!

        • Susan

          More than that, it would make us judges of God which would be like cutting of the branch that you are sitting on.

          Unless you are judging it good, in which case all bets seem to be off.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            According to Steven's definition, God is the source of all things-including goodness. So, to call the source of goodness evil would be to say that the source of goodness is not good. This would mean that the very place where you get your idea of "goodness" is not accurate and then your assessment of it's goodness or badness would be moot. However, to recognize the source of goodness as good would simply be affirming that God is good.

          • Susan

            According to Steven's definition, God is the source of all things-including goodness.

            What is goodness? If you're going to get all circular on me, then don't bother using the term.

            Define it.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            You misunderstand me. Saying, "However, to recognize the source of goodness as good would simply be affirming that God is good." Would be like saying, "This branch is holding me up." While (per the atheist author's definition) calling God the source of moral goodness evil in some sense would be like saying, "This branch will continue to hold me up, even if I cut it off the tree."

            Understand?

          • Susan

            According to Steven's definition, God is the source of all things-including goodness

            By that definition, this deity is also the source of tables, smallpox, evil, ping pong, tacos, ukuleles, pinkness, malaria, alchemy, paper, black hole theory, motorboats...
            It is a useless definition. "The source of all things". Also, there is no evidence. There are things and I'm claiming a source and that source is Jesus.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            You are totally right, God is the efficient cause of all of those things and holds them in existence as we speak. If you want the evidence for that, please pick up Dr. Edward Feser's book "Aquinas" for a detailed look at that.

            Simply put, "moral goodness" is being's relation to the will.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Feser's book does not provide evidence. It provides a not particularly convincing argument.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Could you show me how he inadequately provides arguments for God's existence?

          • Susan

            You are totally right, God is the efficient cause of all of those things and holds them in existence as we speak.

            Got evidence? Can you define your unevidenced agent in less vague terminology and explain the mechanisms by which it holds "things" in existence?

            Simply put, "moral goodness" is being's relation to the will.

            That means nothing to me unless you explain it.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Let me see if I can't find you a few links to an article or two. It would be ridiculous for me to sit here and type out a detailed explanation of the 2nd way and Thomas' theory of transcendental in a way you could understand given that you likely don't have a broad and deep background in philosophy. Please hold (Hold music)

          • Susan

            Let me see if I can't find you a few links to an article or two. It would be ridiculous for me to sit here and type out a detailed explanation of the 2nd way and Thomas' theory of transcendental in a way you could understand given that you likely don't have a broad and deep background in philosophy

            Thanks Jonathan but I was more interested in the "Got evidence" bit.

            What percentage of humans with a broad and deep background in philosophy are convinced by those arguments?

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Okay, since we are so interested in definitions. Could you please define "evidence"?

            Probably very few people actually understand Thomas' Five ways and his theory of the transcendental. However, his case is very compelling if you approach it honestly. I find it odd that someone could so flippantly dismiss someone the statue of Aquinas without actually knowing a thing or two about his system of thought.

          • Susan

            Okay, since we are so interested in definitions. Could you please define "evidence"?

            To what extent can you demonstrate that external referents overwhelmingly support your claims?

            How can you separate your claims from the endless things that people make up?

            How do you define evidence? I'll expect you to be consistent and I expect you to ask me to be consistent.

            Probably very few people actually understand Thomas' Five ways and his theory of the transcendental.

            But you do? The fact that people don't understand it doesn't make it true. If it's true, despite the fact that most people don't understand it, we should be able to see its effects, like the way that you and I are having this discussion on a computer.

            However, his case is very compelling if you approach it honestly.

            So, if I don't find it compelling, it's because I haven't approached it honestly. That is not a compelling statement.

            I find it odd that someone could so flippantly dismiss someone the statue of Aquinas without actually knowing a thing or two about his system of thought.

            I did not dismiss him flippantly. How much have you engaged with the greater percentage of philosophers today who don't find Aquinas's arguments compelling? Or even in the past? How much have you engaged with Hume or Russell or Quine, for instance?

            Did a 13th century thinker make all the compelling arguments? Why did so many philosophers disagree across the ages and most of them today and what would he think and say if he understood what the scientific method has discovered about reality since he died?

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            To answer your questions in order:

            1. To what extent can you demonstrate that external referents overwhelmingly support your claims?

            I can use logical deduction based on what we observe in the world to lead us to a necessary conclusion based on the laws of logic.

            2. How can you separate your claims from the endless things that people make up?

            By applying abstract reasoning to see if the proposition is free of contradiction, errors or logical fallacies. I also hope that you don't think that the scientific method is moot. Remember that the scientific method is also "made up" by people who create experiments, variables, artificial environments, terminology and so on.

            3. How do you define evidence?
            I count as evidence any relevant information or reasoning applied to a claim. For instance, if we are trying to figure out if "Socrates" is mortal and I would accept any of these methods:

            Method 1: Empirical experimentation-
            Hyp: If I shoot Socrates in the head with a howitzer, he will die.
            Method: I will aim an 88mm cannon at Socrates' parietal lobe and fire.

            Observation: Socrates is obliterated.

            Conclusion: Socrates is mortal

            Method 2: Logical Deduction
            P1. All humas are mortal.
            P2 Socrates is a human.
            Conclusion. Socrates is mortal.

            Method 3: Modal logic
            P1. Socrates is a composite of form, matter and an act of existence.
            P2. To be a composite of these things means that you have the potential to have them separated- i.e. mortality.
            P3. This means that in all possible worlds, Socrates is mortal.
            P4. If Socrates is mortal in all possible worlds then he is mortal in the real world.
            Conclusion. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

            4."But you do? The fact that people don't understand it doesn't make it true. If it's true, despite the fact that most people don't understand it, we should be able to see its effects, like the way that you and I are having this discussion on a computer."

            Actually, I'd say that I have a pretty good grasp on Thomas' five ways and a sufficient understanding of his metaphysical conception of reality as well.

            I also did not claim that they are true because people don't understand them, that would be silly. All I was saying is that most people don't understand them-that's it. They often are satisfied with a mistaken caricature of his arguments instead of interacting with the real McCoy. ( See Dawkins, The God Delusion page 100-103).

            5. "So, if I don't find it compelling, it's because I haven't approached it honestly. That is not a compelling statement."

            I'd say that if you approach his arguments with a good understanding of the philosophical framework from which they come out of that you would find them at least somewhat compelling as long as you didn't hold any pretense against them. I generally can't judge your motives but since I have yet to see any rebuttal to Thomas' 2nd way from either you or "M Solange" it is my inclination to assume dishonesty. It's not a habit that I strive for but it is what my intuition usually tells me.

            6. "I did not dismiss him flippantly. How much have you engaged with the greater percentage of philosophers today who don't find Aquinas's arguments compelling? Or even in the past? How much have you engaged with Hume or Russell or Quine, for instance?"

            Earlier, after I had offered to provide you an article regarding Thomas' 2nd way and his theory of transcendental in order to help provide clarity (and save me time). However, to this you said, "Thanks Jonathan but I was more interested in the "Got evidence" bit." The implication is that you don't consider logical deduction such as Aquinas 2nd way as worth your time. This would seem to me to be flippantly dismissing Aquinas.

            I'm not sure what "percentage" of philosophers that I've engaged with but I will say that I am currently reading Hume's "Dialogue Concerning Natural Religion." I actually find Hume to be a rather enjoyable read and agree with him on some of his points but I do not think that his responses to the classical arguments for God's existence to be very well-placed for reasons that I could go into if you'd like.

            As for the other atheists, I am very well acquainted with Dawkins & CO (My favorite being Sam Harris...or maybe Hitchens, I'm not sure). I have also listened to dozens of debates between atheists and theists. And I would say that I am more familiar with Russel, Freud, and Nietzsche than the vast majority of atheists actually are. I actually don't know who Quine is, perhaps I'll take a gander! IMHO, Hume is probably the best philosopher that atheism has to offer.

            7."Did a 13th century thinker make all the compelling arguments? Why did so many philosophers disagree across the ages and most of them today and what would he think and say if he understood what the scientific method has discovered about reality since he died?"

            No, I think that William Lane Craig has made some compelling arguments. I am also a HUGE admirer of C.S. Lewis and his work. Alvin Plantinga has provided some very compelling arguments in his work. I could go on but you get the picture. Aquinas just happens to be my favorite.

            People disagree for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they are foundation disagreements which prevent dialogue. Sometimes people misunderstand each other due to language(thus the "Filioque" controversy). And to be honest, sometimes some people have a clear grasp of reality than others. This does not mean that there is no "true" view on anything. Just ask a group of 100 theoretical physicists to comment on their opinion about string theory and watch the chaos ensue!

            Thomas' five ways don't actually depend on any particular scientific discovery because they are not "probabilistic" arguments based on a mechanistic view of the world like Paley's design argument or the Kalam argument. His arguments are purely metaphysical and are thus not necessarily subject to scrutiny in the same way his understanding of biology would be.

            He would actually probably see Darwin's theory of evolution as a wonderful example of God's existence via final causality. Evolution wouldn't have been a surprise to him, since as an Augustinian he would have been well aware of St. Augustine's views on the "gradual development of species." The whole, "evolution contradicts the Bible" thing is a modern issue that is based on a misunderstanding of theology or science or, most likely, both. His views on when life begins would change as he had an inadequate embryology. I would be very interested in his view on quantum mechanics as seen in this VERY intriguing video:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4C5pq7W5yRM

            I could probably go on but you get my point.

            Would you like to continue this or would you like to just agree to disagree? I'm fine with either but I know life can be busy.

          • Susan

            I actually find Hume to be a rather enjoyable read and agree with him on some of his points but I do not think that his responses to the classical arguments for God's existence to be very well-placed for reasons that I could go into if you'd like.

            Sure.

          • Susan

            I can use logical deduction based on what we observe in the world to lead us to a necessary conclusion based on the laws of logic

            Only if your premises are necessarily true. Three-sided triangles and unmarried bachelors are a given if we're talking about triangles and bachelors but you aren't talking about those, are you?

            I have no idea what that video is supposed to explain.

            Conscious observers are irrelevant as far as I know.

            Interference does not require a conscious observer. Why would it?

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html

            And why don't you give these lectures a shot (only about a half-hour a piece)
            http://www.dominicanwitness.com/?page_id=692

          • Susan

            And why don't you give these lectures a shot (only about a half-hour a piece)

            This is why. Honestly:

            Everything that exists contingently (that is, something who's existence and essence could be separated.) needs a cause for it's existence.

            Prove it.

            So in the order of created things, we must come to a necessary being who's essence and existence are identical, which could not fail to be, upon which all things depend on for their existence and this is what we call God.

            You made a concept that is unproven a who and implied that that who is Jesus without justification.

            "Necessary being" does not get you a "necessary being" and even if it did, there is no reason yournecessary being should win the argument.

            Even if your logic about the "what" adds up and I don't think it does, it doesn't make it a "who" and it certainly doesn't get you your "who".

            I prefer this "Who" without evidence. It's my favourite "Who".

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtqVXo_80VA

            I'll make this as simply as I can. A good knife is sharp and cuts well and a bad knife does not cut well.

            You have turned a noun into a verb. I'm not sure that's progress. We're stuck in the same place.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Good= Willingly fulfilling your ontological nature via teleology.

            The argument does actually work to prove that the first cause is both a what and at least one "Who". Since it is impossible for a cause to give rise to an effect greater than itself (the principle of sufficient reason) then since we know that there are who's in the world, we can conclude the the first cause is certainly at least personal (probably more than personal) in the sense that we could call it a "who".

            ""Necessary being" does not get you a "necessary being" and even if it did, there is no reason your necessary being should win the argument."

            Well, that is a part of my point. God is not the greatest being among a bunch of other beings but is simply pure being itself. This is a hard concept to wrap one's mind around as most people have a very anthropomorphic concept of God.

            "and even if it did, there is no reason your necessary being should win the argument.""

            I could further demonstrate that this first efficient cause is also all knowing, all powerful, all good, personal and so on but that would take an enormous amount of time. I will also add that these arguments aren't meant to prove that Jesus is God or that Catholicism is correct and I've never said so, you brought up Jesus. Rather, they simply are meant to prove that God exists-whatever that turns out to mean.

            "Everything that exists contingently (that is, something who's existence and essence could be separated.) needs a cause for it's existence.

            Prove it."

            To give you an understanding of what you asked me, I would just like to let you know that what you've asked me to prove is akin to being skeptical that a triangle is a three-sided closed figure with angles adding up to 180 degrees. If something is a contingent being which does not have existence as a necessary part of it's nature, it by definition must have something that conjoins those two things together. For instance, a lump of clay and the idea or form of a pot in my mind cannot cause themselves. Rather, I must act as the efficient cause to conjoin the form of a pot and the matter in the clay together so that the pot exists. Understand what I am saying?

            (In regards to the impossibility of an infinite series of efficient causes per se)
            "You made a concept that is unproven a who and implied that that who is Jesus without justification."

            I'll say again that I NEVER said that the first cause is Jesus and I would not use the 2nd way to even try to prove that Jesus is God because it is not meant to.

            Secondly, to understand the impossibility of an infinite regress of causes please consider this analogy of a train. Suppose you saw a train heading up hill at a high rate of speed, you cannot see an engine or a smoke trail and the box cars that you do see do not have any way of moving themselves. However, since it is obvious that an even an infinite number of box cars could not move themselves you can reason to a first cause of their movement-namely the engine which has no need to receive it's movement from anything else.

            Sorry, those responses were a bit out of order but I think you get the picture.

          • Susan

            Good= Willingly fulfilling your ontological nature via teleology.

            Now, I think I know what "ontological" means and I know what "teleology" means but I have no idea what you're trying to say. Exactly what would that entail?

            Since it is impossible for a cause to give rise to an effect greater than itself (the principle of sufficient reason) then since we know that there are who's in the world, we can conclude the the first cause is certainly at least personal (probably more than personal) in the sense that we could call it a "who".

            The principle of sufficient reason gives us a who because we know there are whos?

            God is not the greatest being among a bunch of other beings but is simply pure being itself.

            That is a meaningless statement. Being is being. Not a deity. Being. Sounds deep, though.

            This is a hard concept to wrap one's mind around as most people have a very anthropomorphic concept of God.

            Not hard at all. Just meaningless.

            Secondly, to understand the impossibility of an infinite regress of causes please consider this analogy of a train.

            I have considered this analogy many times. What if the train were on an event horizon?

            Sorry, those responses were a bit out of order but I think you get the picture

            No.

          • Susan

            If something is a contingent being which does not have existence as a necessary part of it's nature, it by definition must have something that conjoins those two things together. For instance, a lump of clay and the idea or form of a pot in my mind cannot cause themselves.

            Snowflakes? Hurricanes? Virtual particles?

            What do you mean "cannot cause themselves"? I can't parse your language.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            You are mistaken: that is not the principle of sufficient reason.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Everything that exists contingently (that is, something who's existence and essence could be separated.) needs a cause for it's existence. Not just a cause like one billiard ball hitting another but more like the floor holding up the table holding the balls. Because then you would have a series of contingent beings which do not explain themselves either individually or collectively. For instance, you would never say that a paintbrush can paint by itself, provided it has a long enough handle, but rather requires a hand to move it. So too, the existence of my left shoe depends on the glue and threading, which depends on the molecular structure which depends on the strong and weak forces, and so on. These do not explain themselves either collectively or individually because each one of them could have their essence and existence as separate from one another. You could think of this like a pool ball on a table on floor which is supported by the building which is supported all together by the foundation which is necessary for the whole series. So in the order of created things, we must come to a necessary being who's essence and existence are identical, which could not fail to be, upon which all things depend on for their existence and this is what we call God.

            (Note that this would mean that this being would be "existence itself" since what it is is simply existence itself)

            Now to goodness. I'll make this as simply as I can. A good knife is sharp and cuts well and a bad knife does not cut well. We cannot blame a bad knife for not cutting well nor can we praise a good knife for being sharp. A bad person does things that violates the nature of humanity ie greed, adultry, murder, lies and the like. A good person is kind, noble, loving and so on. However, due to the fact that man has a will, we can blame a person for failing to live up to what a human is supposed to be or praise them for their great example. Hence when we speak of "goodness" we are merely referring to whether or not someone has used their will to fulfill their ontological nature.

            So, since God is a a being who simply is Being itself then it would be impossible for Him to be anything but all goodness. So then, God as the very ground of being simply is goodness itself as well.

            For a much longer, detailed and well-crafted explanation of that please refer to the aforementioned book by Dr. Edward Feser.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            In other words, you choose a definition of god as the exception to the rule. But neither you nor Feser ever proves the rule holds. More importantly, god violates the rule itself.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Why is it impossible for god to be anything but goodness?

          • Robin van Leeuwen

            How can there be darkness when there is light?

            (philosophically) God, as a being worthy of praise, can only be worthy of praise if he is perfectly good. Evil then is the absence of good.

            In christian theology that is a sound explanation, because when men rejected God, they rejected all that is good.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Right. God is the greatest conceivable being. From that it follows that god must be perfectly evil.

            See the problem there?

          • Robin van Leeuwen

            No, good and evil are not two exactly equal forces. as evil can degrade good, but good cannot degrade evil. A lie can degrade truth, but truth cannot degrade a lie. dead degrades life, but life doesn't degrade dead.

            Evil in itself then has no worth and cannot exist without good.

            If follows then that the highest conceivable being must be good. There is no problem.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So a sharp knife is good, because it does what a knife is supposed to do. Morally? It's morally good?

            So a bad man is good if he's good at being a bad man?

          • Michael Murray

            So a sharp knife is good, because it does what a knife is supposed to do. Morally? It's morally good?

            I wonder what the qualities of a good gas chamber are ? Particularly convincing bars of wooden soap maybe ? Extra efficient gas vents ?

          • Ignorant Amos

            One of mans greatest innovations was using fire to cook food. Apparently it assisted with development of our big brains, ergoergo greater sentience, intelligence, consciousness, mind, idea conception, etc., and eventually the greatness of gods.

            Also efficient at body disposal, both legal and illegal.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            I like food, especially Thai food. I highly recommend Sawatdee in Minneapolis if you are ever in town.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Gas chambers in and of themselves are morally neutral-it just is. Just like a knife is morally neutral. You could use a knife to cut cheese to feed to your wife or you could cut your wife. In one case, you used the knife for something good and the other for something awful. Now, I can only think of one morally good use of the morally neutral gas chamber. Perhaps we could use it for helping people who have a problem metabolizing oxygen as a place for them to be oxygen-tank free?

            In general, I'm not sure what your objection is supposed to be as it does not contradict or refute any of the premises in my argument above. Could you help me out there?

          • Mary J. Nelson

            A "bad" man is not "supposed to be bad", he is merely failing to be good, failing to attain what he was meant to be. Evil is an absence, a falling short. I suspect that in this conversation we are defining good in a moral fashion, not as "competent" but as "righteous". P.S. Knives cannot be morally anything, as they are knives, not reasoning rational sentient beings. Also, they do not do anything, they merely exist. Humans pick up knives and do stuff with them.

          • Michael Murray

            I suspect that in this conversation we are defining good in a moral fashion, not as "competent" but as "righteous".

            Then you suspect wrong. Goodness is being defined the way it was in the comment being responded to

            Now to goodness. I'll make this as simply as I can. A good knife is sharp and cuts well and a bad knife does not cut well.

            https://strangenotions.com/why-i-dont-think-god-exists/#comment-1352950262

            So essentially good=competent.

          • Mary J. Nelson

            I think the writer was trying to make an analogy and analogies should not be dragged out of their context, as seems to be happening here. Perhaps the analogy was too simple, but I think the writer was just trying to say that we should function according to our design. Since we are supposedly moral beings, we should take that into account.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            That presupposes we are designed, and that we are designed only for one thing. Neither point has been established.

          • Mary J. Nelson

            Yes, I am presupposing design in this particular argument since I am supporting the notion of a designer. Since I am arguing that if God exists, there is the possibility that God is not evil, I have to start with the "God exists" presupposition or there is no point in bothering. Why I would argue that God is not evil without assuming he exists, at least for arguments sake, is a bit beyond me. As to designed for "one purpose", I am not sure that I have said anything about single purpose above, merely that we we have at least one purpose.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            It's not necessarily a "design" that I am going for although I think that you understand what I meant. It's just that humans have certain "ends" that we are directed to. It wouldn't take much examination to notice that our hands are meant to do work. If we intentionally did not use our hands, if there were no physical or neurological impediment, then we would be violating our nature as humans in that sense.

            I also want to thank you very much for stepping in here, I've been busy trying to figure out my schooling issues (I'm trying to decide between an MA in theology and a PhD in Philosophy or vice versa). You also have a great grasp of what is going on here, keep up the good fight!

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Not quite. Goodness=intentionally fulfilling one's ontological nature via teleology.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            This was exactly my point. The reason why I said "we cannot blame or praise a dull knife (or whatever)" was meant to show that knives are not moral agents and then humans (because we have will ) are moral agents. The knife was simply an analogy, something some neo-sophists don't seem to understand.

          • Phil

            "So a bad man is good if he's good at being a bad man?"

            Only if one could successfully argue that the true natural end of the human person is to be bad.

            I think it is hard to argue that evil or badness has any actual existence in itself, as opposed to simply being a privation of a good that ought to be present. One would have the argue that a knife is actually supposed to be bad at cutting or a tree and a cat are not supposed to thrive by doing proper "treelike" or "catlike" things. Badness in these examples would be a lack of what ought to be present (i.e., the ability to cut, and not thriving).

            I know below you mention that you don't think that we are designed for one thing. When it comes to natural object this is much easier and reason can help us discover what the natural end of these beings are. And we can point out when something is not acting toward this proper end.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Excellent! This is where I would go in dealing with the ontological origin of evil. Thanks for stepping in as I've been a bit busy.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The general hint of the recent postings on this subject would seem to be that man is designed to be a moral agent: free will is only important if man is "designed" to make moral choices.

            But it's not free will if moral choices are punishably constrained:

            You can pick door number 1, 2, or 3. But if you pick wrong, you are damned for all eternity.

            In what sense is free will "good" in that context?

          • Phil

            Yes, the human person is a moral agent by the fact that s/he has intellect and will--the capability to know the good and then to choose it. Insofar as a being does not have intellect/will or a limited intellect/will they would of course have lesser or no culpability. (Like all non-human animals we are aware of.)

            Something is only a serious sin when one knowingly chooses something that they know to be wrong. If they do something completely not knowing the it is wrong culpability is lessened or is gone. So God allows us to choose to do good or bad, good being that which brings us closer to Goodness Itself (God) and badness separating ourself from Him. So if we freely choose to separate ourselves from God, he is so loving that he gives us what we desire-- separation from Him, i.e., Hell.

            In other words, no one except ourselves send us to Hell.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So to take my current example: Muslim honor killings will send a Muslim to heaven, since the Muslim thinks that they are doing the correct thing and being morally correct.

            Right?

          • Phil

            As you probably realize, there is a big difference between thinking one is doing the right thing, and actually doing the right thing. That's why it is very hard for us to judge what is in another persons heart. But we can judge the action, and say that any act that directly and purposely takes the life of an innocent person is wrong and against natural law.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            And actually, no - god sends us to hell. After all, god is infinite forgiveness and mercy. God made the rules. God can choose whatever he likes.

            It seems to me that you're still being inconsistent: god clearly does NOT value free will and the capacity to make moral choices, if the result of those moral choices is to eternally damn his creations.

          • Phil

            No, we do separate ourselves from God by our choices and send ourselves to Hell. Now we do hope and pray that through the great mercy and forgiveness of God that all persons will one day come to be with him--but that doesn't get rid of the possibility of Hell if someone really doesn't want to be with Him.

          • Phil

            And it is only because God truly values our free will that Hell is even a possibility.

        • Steven Dillon

          Thanks for the reply! In claiming that God could and could not do certain things we are only claiming to have an understanding of what goodness involves. For example, presumably you'd say God could not incarnate as a woman and have an abortion . Why? Because, abortion is intrinsically wrong.

          But, my claim in the article is weaker than that God couldn't do something, it is only that he wouldn't. So, while it may be possible that God could allow the children under his care to be abused, the presumption is that he wouldn't, as this tends to be wrong.

          The reason we can expect God to act in accord with the moral rules that are usually in force is because goodness has identifying features that individuate it, features by which we recognize it as goodness instead of something else. And she who always does what is usually wrong is not recognizable as good, let alone perfectly so.

        • Steven Dillon

          For the record, while I feel this is a significant objection to God's existence, especially for theistic personalists, it seems classical theists have the resources to resist it: by distinguishing between primary and secondary causation, they can argue that children are not under God's care in the way they'd need to be for the relevant moral rule to apply.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Then in light of the success of classical theism's resistance of the problem of evil and the power of Thomas 5 when properly understood, why would you still not believe in God?

            I'll also note that I am bit confused. It seems that you define God as the source of being and goodness while at the same time seem to be referring to something that would be extrinsic to God that would hold him morally accountable-which is contradictory. For how could God be both the source and standard of all goodness and yet be held to a standard of goodness that he is responsible to?

            P.S. Excellent response, it wasn't insulting or demeaning in any way. I think that there are a lot of commenters on this thread who seem to be here primarily to engage in either sophistry or have an ax to grind. You seem to be interested in truth! It's refreshing :D

          • Steven Dillon

            Thanks, you as well. I should explain that I wrote this nearly 6 months ago, and a lot has gone on since then :P I've been a classical polytheist for years now, in that I accept many of the traditional pantheons such as the Norse, Celtic, Egyptian and even Hebrew. (And I'm finally getting my book The Case for Polytheism published!) But, I have doubted that the God of natural theology exists - as polytheists tend to do. However, upon adopting substantial amounts of A-T metaphysics, I have become convinced that there is a deity whose essence is identical to its existence, a deity I call The Source. So, in a way I do believe in 'God', except that I tend to think of her in predominantly feminine terms and do not identify her with YHWH, Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            I want to go to bed so I'll keep this brief. I'm very interested by your journey and I'm glad that you are constantly seeking! It's great! The reason why I refer to God as "Him" is that in relation to man, it is God who puts his divine life in us to produce life in us. We cannot give to God what he does not have in order to produce life in him. Thus the Bride/Bridegroom paradigm in Scripture. Have you ever spent some time rolling around in Karol Wojtyla/John Paul II or the Summa Contra Gentiles? These might give you a strong background for why we Catholics think the way that we do on this issue. Or you could have long dialogues with me as I inadequately try to emulate these great philosophical heroes of mine :D

          • Steven Dillon

            Ah, I can understand the association of ensoulment with masculinity, although for some reason it seems more like 'birthing' to me. I haven't really read JPII since my days as a Catholic, and even then it was limited to Theology of the Body stuff. But, I have been getting back into the SCG, which is a great read! Yeah, I'd love to talk with you about this sort of stuff, maybe bounce some ideas around. Shall I look you up on Facebook or maybe we could just exchange emails?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I would be interested to hear more discussion on this topic. It is my understanding that many (maybe even most?) pre-axial-age religious systems assigned masculine gender to their "sky gods" and assigned feminine gender to the earth. It certainly seems like a natural move, since the rain and sun from above "impregnate" the earth (poetically only, of course; please no one start correcting my understanding of plant biology), which then "gives birth" to new life. It is not crazy to me to suppose that this metaphor is essentially hard-coded in us as a consequence of our life on earth.

            It would be a stretch to say Judaism or Catholicism has the concept of "Mother Earth", but the tabernacle, and Israel, and Mary, and the Church do seem to play a role that is similar in many ways. They are finite, earthly, feminine realities that receive the ethereal "Word" and give birth to it as a concrete reality in the world. The feminine is what "makes it real", so to speak.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            I'm sorry that it took me so long to reply, I've been rather busy with sorting out schooling and work. Go ahead and find me on face book and we can exchange emails.

            Blessings

  • NicholasBeriah Cotta

    First of all: the book of Job is a great answer to this question.
    Second of all: Imagine the world without any suffering, death, horrible things, etc. This is a world without free will and also a world that has no meaning whatsoever- it is a world where you'd just download things in to your brain Matrix-style? Studying and learning certainly involve lots of suffering and failure - this would not exist. Almost anything worth doing causes suffering, destruction, and pain.
    As for the worst atrocities, keep in mind they are temporal - a God who allows them also allows those people to come home to Him. Allowing human beings to use their free will to go to the depths of destruction is a way for humanity to collectively understand how good God is, and how good it is to live in Him. The story of the Prodigal Son puts it this way - the reunion with God is even sweeter than the son's abandonment.

    • Gordon Reid

      Your second point seems to create conflict with the description and desirability of heaven. You state a world without any suffering, death, horrible things, etc., is a world without free will and also a world that has no meaning whatsoever. Isn't heaven a world without any suffering, death, horrible things? Does this mean heaven is a world without free will and a world that has no meaning whatsoever?

      • NicholasBeriah Cotta

        Heaven is a destination and not a journey, and my description of evil helps shape that journey. Heaven is a mysterious place and has been analogized to a "wedding feast," and one in which the mysteries of this life are open to you. How much would you appreciate a wedding feast if you were born and raised there? Even there, I assume that knowledge of evil informs our joy.

        • Gordon Reid

          Your reply does not resolve the conflict. Your original post made the claim that a world without any suffering, death, horrible things,...is a world with no meaning whatsoever. If you believe this claim then heaven which is a world without any suffering, death, horrible things must also be a world with no meaning whatsoever. Might I suggest that you simply agree that you overstated your case in your original post.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            I think there is no conflict. Although suffering, death, and horribleness is not present in heaven, the awareness of them is I'm sure. Heaven would not have an absence of meaning if we came there from a world in which we learned what meaning was. How is this inconsistent with what I stated previously? This really is just forcing me to talk about something else in order to force a conflict - it smacks of the blind men and the elephant pit parable.
            I think you're trying to force me in to a corner to simply admit I'm wrong rather than seriously trying to understand what I'm saying.

          • Gordon Reid

            The premise of your second point begins with “Imagine the world without any suffering, death, horrible things….” I say, ok, I imagine the world of heaven. You then tell me this heaven world that I imagine “is a world without free will and also a world that has no meaning whatsoever" because heaven lacks suffering, death, horrible things, etc. So thus far, your argument is that heaven has no free will and no meaning whatsoever. Then you add that heaven may not have suffering, death, horrible things but it has the knowledge of those things. Thus, your point becomes that in heaven knowledge of suffering, death, horrible things is required in order to prevent those things from happening.

            So given that, we must have the experience of every possible
            suffering, death, horrible thing in order for us to gain the knowledge necessary to prevent those things from happening in heaven. Remember that we have free will in heaven and your claim is that our knowledge is what prevents us from causing suffering, death, horrible things.

            You might now want to say that we do not have to act out every possible suffering, death, horrible thing in order to gain all the knowledge needed for heaven. But this is the very point of Dillon’s article. Specifically, God will have had to have deliberately allowed the most awful and horrific of events. Events, according to your argument, that are at least awful enough to give us the knowledge needed to not do those things in heaven. So your argument seems to agree with Dillon. Specifically, a God that will have had to have given permission for every heinous act is more like the track record of a morally impoverished deity.

            Did I understand what you said?

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            No. I do not claim that knowledge of evil is necessary for us not to do them in heaven? Where do you get this argument?
            You have broken down my argument like this:
            A world without evil is a world with no free will and a world without free will wouldn't be worth living in. Heaven has no evil, so therefore it is a world without free will that wouldn't be worth living in.
            The problem with translating my argument this way is that it assumes that the world and heaven are entirely separate places without connection. For your soul, this will not be the case.

          • Gordon Reid

            OK, I won't assume the world and heaven are separate places. I do assume that the same rules apply to both since they are not separate places. Let me know if you also think the same rules apply in the world and heaven, otherwise, we have a much deeper definitional problem.

            You ask where I got that knowledge of evil is necessary for us not to do them in heaven. I got that from you. You stated suffering, etc., was required for the world to have any meaning whatsoever. I assumed by extension that this applied to heaven, too, because the world and heaven work by the same rules. Then you clarified that heaven does not need suffering, etc., in order to have meaning because the difference between the world and heaven is that the world has suffering while heaven does not have suffering but does have the knowledge of suffering. Let me quote, "Although suffering, death, and horribleness is not present in heaven, the awareness of them is I'm sure." So from your first argument, the world has suffering which is required for the world to have any meaning whatsoever. Heaven does not have suffering but it does have meaning, therefore, something exists in heaven which is a substitute for the suffering that allow the world to have meaning. Thus, in heaven, the substitute for its lack of suffering, is as you say "the awareness of them."

            What I am asking of you in my replies is for you to be logically consistent. Dillon presented a logically consistent argument that he does not pretend is rationally undefeatable. Since you replied to a logically consistent argument, I have made the assumption that your arguments would also be logically consistent.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            This is barely intelligible. I think you assume many things about certain words (such as world, place, suffering) and are trying to make a logical deduction out of my arguments as if words have strict and narrow interpretations(your own strict and narrow interpretations by the way). You casually leave out parts of my statements as if they're unimportant -

            FOR EXAMPLE, I say this "The problem with translating my argument this way is that it assumes that the world and heaven are entirely separate places without connection."

            and you translate it as this, "OK, I won't assume the world and heaven are separate places. "

            Do you see how that is a corrupt understanding of what I said? By leaving out certain words here and there, you are just trying to reduce and simplify my argument so that you can make simple, "if, then" statements.

            It's incredibly tedious and shows the kind of spectral autism I've come to expect from the practitioners of Scientism. It's like you believe arguments can all be boiled down to simple if-then statements, without any regard to the ACTUAL words I used or any sort of nuance in regard to the context they're used in. To try and parse out an informal argument is just a waste of my time and yours.

            This isn't so much a conversation as one man trying to paint a picture while another incredibly myopic man argues about the inconsistency of every brush stroke.

          • Gordon Reid

            It was my error to believe that you would be able to explain
            the foundation of your nuanced big picture. Sorry about that. Have a good life.

    • How is the book of Job an answer to this? Are you saying that god is having a wager with the devil to see if we will abandon him if we suffer? Or that God explained why we suffer by proclaiming his power?

      • NicholasBeriah Cotta

        Well many reasons but I think a good summation is in God's response to Job in chapters 38-41, wherein God basically says, "What a large question for such a little man..."

        • Do honestly think that "what a large question for a little man.. " is a good answer?

          Particularly when the reader has been told the answer, that God was allowing someone to torture Job to see if he would denounce God?

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            I definitely do because God is giving context to the asker. Asking "why did this happen?" is not relevant to such a small corner of the universe - God simply is showing that "why" something happens could involve many more things than one person could know - the important thing is always that person's relationship to God. Job's "torture" is not really torture because he always has God, and he will not turn away because he values God over anything, even his possessions and family. It's like saying it is torture to put children in school because the children don't understand why they would have to waste their time and effort in school.
            The demand to be able to understand evil is really a demand for more information than you need just for the principle of getting information that you want, not something necessary to live a fruitful life.

          • I disagree that killing someone's family and covering them with boils is not torture if they have god. I actually find it disturbing that you would say that.

            I disagree that Job could not understand the reasons why it was done to him. The book tells us why itself, it was a bet to see if his faith would fail. If there were other reasons that job couldn't understand, why not just say that? Clearly we as readers of the book Job are able to be told about the bet and to understand the deeper meaning. But not Job?

            If your kid asks you why he needs a painful operation or suffer in school, you don't go on about how strong you are and how you built his house and paid for his clothes. You tell them that there is a really important reason that they won't understand.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      I've read Job; I don't see that it in any way answers the POE. Maybe you could get into specifics?

      • NicholasBeriah Cotta
        • M. Solange O’Brien

          You accept the answer: "who are you to question god?" In other words, "because"?

          • Susan

            You accept the answer: "who are you to question god?" In other words, "because"?

            This is a move that astonishes me. I am not questioning a god (whatever that is).

            I am questioning human claims. That's all they are until they justify themselves. So far, they haven't.

            It's simple. Define your terms. Provide evidence. Demonstrate how your interpretation of all of the evidence is superior or even reliable.

            Atheists aren't questioning "God". They are questioning human assertions. We would be having the same arguments with mormons and muslims and homeopaths and be given more or less the same kinds of answers.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well, I think it's a very sophisticated answer, especially for 3,000-5,000 BC when this was written. In a time where mythologized gods in a manner that displayed human characteristics, the God in Job acts like God.
            He doesn't just say "because," he says "you are a small part of the plan; what good is it for you to question the plan? You'd have to know all of the parts."
            I think it is analogous to the moment when Moses asks God for his name and God replies, "I AM." Also a very sophisticated answer - I think it would be very difficult to defend the Christian story if we had to defend someone like Thor or Horus, who are all clearly silly idealizations of what a human thinks a god should be.
            Isn't it remarkable that this crappy little tribe of Israelites developed their own written language (in order to write down the stories from their God) and formed their culture around this God and then stood the test of time? What other po dunk shepherd tribes would do that (or did)? I think we have a sophisticated God talking to an unsophisticated people thousands of years ago. How would He speak?

          • Charles Breemer

            Job certainly wasn't written so early!!!
            I (and I am a great lover of Job) do not see anything in the text that indicates that God's argument with Job involves any reference to some sort of great plan.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well first off, you're totally right about the dates- my NAB says between 2500-2700 years ago. I should've checked myself.

            But second, it's the first thing God says to Job: "Who is this that obscure my plans with words without knowledge?"

          • David Nickol

            According to the NAB:

            The author or authors of the book are unknown; it was probably composed some time between the seventh and fifth centuries B.C. Its literary pattern, with speeches, prologue and epilogue disposed according to a studied plan, indicates that the purpose of the writing is didactic. But the lessons that the book teaches are not transparent, and different interpretations of the divine speeches and of the final chapter are possible. The Book of Job does not definitively answer the problem of the suffering of the innocent, but challenges readers to come to their own understanding.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            That's why I revised the number adding 500-700 on to the current year 2014. I guess you could get technical and say 2414-2614 years ago but I thought 2500-2700 was good enough.

            And the NAB commentary is not the last word on anything although I'll admit it's a little hyperbolic of me to say "Read Job and know suffering." I am a Christian and so of course I think the Cross is the ultimate lens with which to view suffering. I just thought in a debate with atheists that the book of Job is more easily accessible than the theology of the Cross. To understand the Cross, you have to believe in God. To understand Job, you get introduced to who we think God is in my opinion.

            Thank you guys for keeping me on my toes. There's no room for mental laziness around here, eh?

          • David Nickol

            I think it is analogous to the moment when Moses asks God for his name and God replies, "I AM." Also a very sophisticated answer . . .

            Well, there are two basic possibilities. One is that the story is true, in which case it is no surprise that God would give a "sophisticated answer"! The other is that the story is religious literature, not history. Is that what you are implying here? The evidence (aside from the biblical accounts) for the existence of someone named Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt is nonexistent.

  • Phil

    I do think that the "problem of evil" is the toughest challenge for belief in the Christian God. Many do say it is the only true tough intellectual challenge when it comes down to it. Though I was reading the other day that the problem the evil does not necessarily mean that God does not exist, but can also come down to a dispute over what properties one can coherently attribute to him.

    I do think that the argument above has the problem of trying to argue that there is a specific example of an evil that God would not allow, beyond any reasonable doubt. I think that's a hard premise to argue for.

    • Perhaps a better formulation is accept that a truly good God would not permit any unnecessary or gratuitous suffering. We have millions of examples of suffering from forcing children to murder and can analyze their family, thinks like the Spanish Inqiusition to Stalin, Mao to bee stings and so on. If even one of these is gratuitous, there is something wrong with the common definition of the Christian God as all powerful and good.

      I think it is fair to say that at least some of these sufferings seem gratuitous and the burden shifts to the theist to explain how it can be that they are all necessary.

      I do not think theists can, but they are fine to say this does not absolutely disprove God, there could be an unknown explanation. However, consider whether you would accept this kind of a counter in any other argument. If the stars were to align in the night sky to read clearly Jesus is God. Would you accept atheists saying, that there could be some unknown natural explanation which we cannot fathom, but this does not absolutely prove a God exists?

      • Phil

        It is very tough subject, no denying it. Again, it is hard if one could truly prove beyond a reasonable doubt that something was truly "gratuitous". There is no reason why all in past and future that we would consider "gratuitous" suffering would end up bringing about a good that redeems this suffering millions of time over.

        Again, it may make belief in the classical formulation of God challenging but not rationally impossible. Obviously, there have been many who don't think it is logically impossible to say that God is good, omnipotent, and allows evil to occur. Though it may make it harder for someone to believe in a truly loving God. The best answer to the question of evil is to enter into dialogue within Christianity and God himself. I truly think it is a question that can only be most fully understood from the inside, unlike other rational questions, such as basic ones of God's existence, as classically formulated. (Though of course it, like everything else, is never fully understood in this life.)
        _______

        "Would you accept atheists saying, that there could be some unknown
        natural explanation which we cannot fathom, but this does not absolutely
        prove a God exists?"

        That is actually the purpose of the endeavor of using reason, through philosophy, to discover what the actual explanation of the cosmos as a whole is. And I agree with all persons that say we should look for a rational explanation of the cosmos as a whole.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Actually, the most rational response to the POE is to accept that God cannot be tri-omni; a god that is 100% malicious, but only 1% effective would be a far better explanation of reality.

          • Phil

            Interesting.

            The big problem I am seeing with this is that I don't know if God, as ground of all being, could be only 1% effective. In other words, God necessarily must be 100% effective if we actually talking about the ground of all being. This follows from the fact that the ground of all being cannot have any potentiality to be or exist in some other way--since then this "being" would need an explanation as to why it exists as it does. We can reason to God simply because we know that for reality to be intelligible it needs a ground of existence that needs no explanation outside of itself. To say that this "evil god" is only 1% effective means this isn't actually God.

            Now, what if one claimed that the world was created as purely evil, and that this "evil god" allows good to happen for some reason? Well that would be a whole 'nuther discussion on whether badness/evil actually has a positive existence.

            But then the issue is that you are stuck in the same predicament as a good God that allows evil, now you just have an evil god that allows goodness.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            The problem with claiming that god is the ground of all being; that god sustains the universe at every instant, is that makes the problem of evil HARDER - since god could certainly choose NOT to sustain the universe, then every moment god is making a choice that that moment exist. Which means all this stuff about free will is moot; the universe is, at this moment, exactly the way god wants it to be.

          • Phil

            You are exactly correct that most traditional theists would hold that God could easily annihilate any part of creation by simply ceasing to hold it in being.

            The next question becomes would God annihilate a creature? This is a question that both Augustine and Aquinas addressed. The short of it is that every being, insofar as it exists is ontologically good (this is separate from being morally good/evil). It is answered that in this way God would seemingly not annihilate any thing that reflects the infinite goodness of God, even if it is in the smallest way.

            Secondly, when dealing with any sort of evil, be it physical/natural "evil" or moral evil, it would seem that we would be questioning his perfection if we thought that he could not bring about the greatest good from any sort of evil.

            "Which means all this stuff about free will is moot; the universe is, at this moment, exactly the way god wants it to be."

            Other have brought up free will, and though I think it can be convincing in some ways, I think the most proper way to view this POE is God bringing about a greater good from evil.

            And I would say the universe is exactly how God wants it to be, creatures with free will and a natural universe that he allows evil to come about through them/it but only to bring about a greater good. Again, we never can go as far as to say that God has willed the current evil we find--no, he simply allows it.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          The best answer to the question of evil is to enter into dialogue within Christianity and God himself. I truly think it is a question that can only be most fully understood from the inside, unlike other rational questions, such as basic ones of God's existence, as classically formulated.

          I'm sorry, but I'm not even sure what this means. Is sounds as though you're saying - well, if you believe in god, all these nasty questions will just go away. 'cause you'll believe, somehow, against reason, and without answers, that they're not a problem.
          I'm sure that's not what you meant. :-)

          • Phil

            Not at all, actually. What I was trying to get at is this question (why evil/suffering) is not one that I believe can be sufficiently answered by reason alone, unlike God's existence which I believe one can believe on the basis of reason alone. But this does not mean it is in conflict with reason. Certain things can be beyond fully understanding with reason, yet not in contradiction with reason.

            So the best way is to come to true belief in God, which is supported by reason as I mentioned, and to wrestle with the POE within the framework of the Christian faith. This does not mean throwing reason to the wind. In fact, God welcomes our honest questions, but I don't think he is a big fan of true obstinance--though he is infinitely patient :)

  • Martin Sellers

    Without a knowledge of evil (God allowing the circumstance for evil to occur), and the ability to accept or reject that evil, how can we understand the depth of goodness.

    knowledge of Lust-----> realization of importance of Chastity
    knowledge of Gluttony ---> realization of a need for Temperance
    Understanding of Greed-----> realization of a need for Charity
    Knowledge of Sloth-----> realization of a need for Diligence
    Knowledge of Wrath----->realization of a need for Forgiveness
    Knowledge of Envy-----> realization of a need for Kindness
    Knowledge of Pride---->realization of a need for Humility

    I would argue that the virtues on the right (among other things) are much of what we derive meaning from in life. Can they exist without the sins on the left?

    • I would say that these are understandable without the desperate and seemingly gratuitous suffering of hundreds of millions daily. What lesson does childhood leukaemia or schizophrenia teach? Would we be ignorant of sin if God had never allowed them to exist?of course not.

      • NicholasBeriah Cotta

        This is like saying, "I think we understand how long a mile is without having the need to travel it."
        To fully understand any road, you must travel its full length.

        • I disagree. I don't think we all need to be tortured and raped to fully understand anything. I don't think anyone does.

          I don't think hundreds of thousands of us need be drowned in tsunami to learn anything about morality suffering or ethics.

          I think these things happen because no one with the power to stop them exists

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            Well that's just a guess on your part. You live in a world with evil and can only guess what one looks like without it. Guessing at counterfactuals is merely comforting to yourself; I doubt you're really qualified to know what kind of person you would be in a world without evil.
            The term "needless suffering" is a guess at what is needed or not and that line of thinking gives us the helicopter parenting we have today. Why make your kid cut her own french toast? It is just "needless suffering" when you can do it for her - or why would Bill Gates make his kids go to school or get jobs? He can provide for them with his wealth.
            Take the idea of "needless suffering" to its logical extent and you can make the claim that anything that causes discomfort is needless; my guess is that you personally cause people discomfort frequently because you feel there is more to be gained that outweighs the discomfort. Needless is a judgment call, one in which so many humans think they are qualified to answer without any good basis in that qualification.

          • Ignorant Amos

            I don't think we all need to be tortured and raped to fully understand anything. I don't think anyone does.

            Only the omniscient. To understand everything, the omniscient must experience it.

            http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/4932

            I'm glad us mere mortals are not required to know everything.

      • Martin Sellers

        "What lesson does childhood leukaemia or schizophrenia teach?"

        I by no means am trying to justify or trivialize such horrible things- but let me suggest possible goods that come from those two diseases.

        Say, the child with leukaemia displays an awe inspiring will to live, epitomizes courage, grace and determination in the struggle but eventually dies. Who's to say how many lives were changed for the better by contact with such a sad event.

        Perhaps the parents of the child with schizophrenia are forced to readjust their lives, confront their personal struggles, think introspectively, and ultimately rely on a higher power in order to come to grips with the illness of their child.

        Infinite goods can come from events that are evil. We cannot see the aggregate of every individual good, only the bluntness of the evil. I tend to think of God as the greatest of artists. If you have ever seen Bob Ross paint on PBS, he generally thrills his audience by painting strokes that seem dissonant or out of place at first. However, once the work is complete- it is always more beautiful than we imagined it would be.

        • I cannot think of any good that would come even close to making a child's death worth it. I think that any God who requires literally millions of innocent children to die either can't stop it, doesn't care or doesn't exist.

          Hundreds of millions of parents never have to deal with dying children and yet they are able to have full lives and learn what they need to learn to become good Catnolics and be saved. Millions more have children who recover.

          You certainly are suggesting that such death and suffering can be justified and no doubt you must believe that it somehow is.

          I think the best you can do is say that there could be some reason that justifies this but we have no idea what this could be.

        • Danny Getchell

          Martin,

          It sounds to me that what you are saying is that things which appear to us to be evil would demonstrably be good, if we could see them from God's point of view.

          Am I correct? If so, I'll have a follow up question.

          • Martin Sellers

            Well I think it depends on if the "evil" is afflicting the innocent, ie child with Lukemia, or is affecting someone as a result of sin (not innocent). In the second case, no not really. But let me think on this after your follow up question.

            If we are speaking only of the innocent, then I suppose yes that is what I am saying- but only in the sense that God can see the aggregate of all good that will result.

          • Danny Getchell

            OK, next question.

            Upon observing an apparently evil event occurring here on earth, how would you determine whether it really was an "evil evil" or whether it was ultimately for the good?

          • Martin Sellers

            Any sin that led to the event is an evil evil. That being said, good may or may not come about as a result of the event.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          I agree with Brian below - and remember that Christians claim we're dealing with an omnipotent god. There is no such thing as "necessary" suffering given an omnipotent god.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            Unless, of course, you are interested in avoiding logical contradictions. In which case, it is entirely possible for necessary evils to exist with the existence of an omnipotent God. It would be logically contradictory for God to actively control someone to choose a certain thing and yet say that person has anything like a libertarian free will.

    • David Nickol

      Without a knowledge of evil (God allowing the circumstance for evil to
      occur), and the ability to accept or reject that evil, how can we
      understand the depth of goodness.

      But the Catholic position is that God created human beings ("Adam and Eve") without the knowledge of good and evil. "Our first parents," according to the Catholic view, had no "knowledge of Lust" (they did not know they were naked) or any of the others.

      I would argue that the virtues on the right (among other things) are much of what we derive meaning from in life. Can they exist without the
      sins on the left?

      It seems to me you are suggesting that "the Fall" was necessary.

      • Martin Sellers

        "It seems to me you are suggesting that "the Fall" was necessary"

        You are thinking about it backwards. Our current "fallen state" finds evil "necessary" for virtue to take place, and meaning to occur. It may not have been the case for Adam and Eve who were "not fallen". They had no knowledge of evil or good, thus no reason for considering the duality sin or virtue. "Meaning" was intrinsic to them in ignorance.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          If they had no knowledge of evil or good, then they were not conscious moral agents and so could not have sinned, and so the fall could not have happened.

          QED

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            They DID have an awareness of the Moral Law. The whole "knowing good and evil" thing is a metaphor that means something like, "dictating what is good and what is evil for yourself." This is putting the creature in place of God.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            You don't seem to understand what "having knowledge of good and evil" means in a Biblical sense. It doesn't mean the same thing as having knowledge of facts but it rather implies control. This is why the serpent says "You shall become like gods, knowing good from evil." Adam and Eve were trying to usurp God and put themselves in His place.

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            QED

    • Jonathan Augustine Stute

      This is a bit problematic for three reasons.

      First, evil depends in an ontological manner on good. For instance, if properly ordered sexual desires (chastity) didn't exist then lust or prudishness wouldn't either. It is entirely possible for us to have properly ordered sexual desires without struggling with lust or prudishness. Remember that in the garden that Adam and Eve were "naked without shame."

      Second, This would imply that evil is a "positive" entity in the universe which would imply that they have their own subsistent existence instead of simply being privations or deprivations of some good as discussed above. If this is true then God is genuinely the author of evil, which is absurd.

      Third, God is supreme goodness without admixture of evil. This means that since there was a "time" when God was all that there is that there was not comparison of good to evil. However, if what you are saying is true then it would mean that there must have been some supreme evil to act as a counter-reflection of God's goodness. Again, this is absurd.

      I'll also note that this is essentially how Mormons view the fall of man. It wasn't a fall downwards but a fall forwards. They claim that man could only know good if they could also only know evil which for reasons discussed above (and others) is demonstrably false.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        Actually, I believe the bible says that god claims to be the author of evil.

        • [---
          Actually, I believe the bible says that god claims to be the author of evil.
          ---]
          Yes, God created physical evil, like chastisement or punishment. However, that is not to be confused with moral evil.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I don't think the bible makes that distinction.
            Isaiah 45:7 (King James Version):
            "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

          • Jonathan Augustine Stute

            That is a notoriously bad translation. The word likely means something like "calamity." So, it is showing that God can dish out a judgement like he did with Egypt. Individual translations must be in accords with the work as a whole and to interpret Isaiah as saying that God is the author of moral evil would be to contradict Isaiah. Clearly, something else was intended.

          • [---
            I don't think the bible makes that distinction.
            ---]
            It's implicit when the rest of the bible is taken into account.

          • Susan

            It's implicit when the rest of the bible is taken into account.

            No, it ain't.

            Your ball.

          • David Nickol

            You need to read Wikipedia more. :P

            The free will theodicy justifies God by ascribing all evil to “the evil acts of human free will.” At the same time, the Bible teaches that God “rules the hearts and actions of all men.” The Bible contains many portrayals of God as ruling “hearts and actions” for evil. Following are a few examples:

            • God said, “I will harden [Pharaoh’s] heart, so that he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21).
            • Isaiah asked, “Why, O Lord, do you make us stray from your ways and harden our heart, so that we do not fear you?” (Isaiah 63:17).
            • God said, “If a prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet” (Ezekiel 14:9).
            • John writes that those who “did not believe in [Jesus] could not believe,” because, quoting Isaiah 6:10, “[God] has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart” (John 12:37-40 abr).
            • God “hardens the heart of whomever he chooses” (Romans 9:18).
            • “God sends [those who are perishing] a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so [they] will be condemned” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
            • “Those who do not believe . . . stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined [by God] to do” (1 Peter 2:7-8).

  • I think this is a re formulation of the strong argument from evil. I like the new formulation here as saying the evidence prima facie implies that a loving God does not exist and the burden is on the theist to rebut this inference.

    I think the best response from theists would be skeptical theism, which I agree does not rebut the prima facie case.

    I prefer Justin Scheiber's formulation which argues that a truly loving god would simply chose not to create anything, or at least anything like humans as this would necessarily result in some form of degradation to the ultimate perfect and loving universe in which other agents exist with the potential to chose evil.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Can you explain why you think a perfect God would have to create a perfect universe with perfect beings in it?

      I ask this as imperfect being living in an imperfect world.

      • David Nickol

        Can you explain why you think a perfect God would have to create a perfect universe with perfect beings in it?

        I have somewhat of a related question. Can you explain why God could not create a perfect universe with perfect beings in it? Apparently his two tries at creating intelligent beings were failures. If God meant for his creatures to be loyal to him, the creation of angels was a partial failure, since some of them turned away from him. The creation of human beings was in some sense a total failure, since the very first two turned away from him, alienating the whole human race. (According to the Christian view.)

        So does God not choose to create a perfect universe, or is he incapable of creating a perfect universe.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          God could.

          310 But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” toward its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.

      • I do not think that. I do not understand why a perfect being would degrade things by creating imperfections. I do not understand why it would choose to create at all. Especially if it knew that doing so would result in genocide.

    • Moussa Taouk

      ...a truly loving god would simply chose not to create anything, or at least anything like humans as this would necessarily result in some form of degradation...

      That's a big call. I don't see how that's necessarily true. For God's creation to be in accordance with His will/plan/purpose, which is ultimately good, it's not necessarily true that He wouldn't allow for the possibility of evil. If He is able to bring from evil a greater good, then it's worth creating beings with free will.

      As an illustration of how I'm sure you yourself disagree with the argument you've presented consider this scenario: People marry someone they love. They KNOW, as sure as we can know anything, that either they or their spouse will one day die. That know that the emptiness that will be left behind in the heart of the living spouse is a black hole of darkness and sadness. Eventual suffering is certain because the more one gives their love to another, the more one will inevitably have their heart broken. But how if one never marries because of the inevitable saddness/loneliness, given that the purpose of marriage is happiness/love? Why marry? The answer is (and I'm sure you know it better than I do because I'm not even nearly married): because it's worth it.

      I propose that such is also the answer to Justin Scheiber's formulation.

      • M. Solange O’Brien

        If He is able to bring from evil a greater good, then it's worth creating beings with free will.

        Why? I mean seriously, why?

        • Moussa Taouk

          Why? I mean seriously, why?

          Why what?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What part of the claim I quoted is unclear? Why is it worth creating beings with free will because god is able to bring a greater good from evil?

          • Moussa Taouk

            Well... because God is able to bring a greater good from evil. Sorry M, but I don't get what you're asking.

          • Susan

            Well... because God is able to bring a greater good from evil.

            So... because.

            Why don't I find that persuasive?

            Sorry M, but I don't get what you're asking

            She is asking you:

            If He is able to bring from evil a greater good, then it's worth creating beings with free will...

            Why?

      • Okay this makes sense but it requires you to believe in a flawed god. It implies that without creating human agents and introducing at least the possibility if not the inevitability of evil, god is incomplete, unhappy, lonely or something. You are right this argument only works if you believe in a god that is perfect absent the creation of humans or evil.

        If not, god was absolutely perfect without creating us, just as he will still be once he abolishes sin and we are all in heaven. Or some of us will. But just as it will be impossible to be lonely or miss someone in heaven, god would certainly not be even potentially lonely or sad before he created us. He would be perfect, he would be infinite.

  • Loreen Lee

    This is a response basically to several posts made above. The first concerns the question of free will. May I ask in this regard, do we always accept the 'responsibility' that comes with free will. I would wonder for instance, how much of what is child abuse, comes about as different forms of punishment, or variation of same, directed at the child or victim, on the presumption that they are the one's 'deserving of blame'. Indeed, can not such a statement be made even with regard to the 'holocaust', for were not the Jews 'blamed', if not for the death of Christ in the long legacy of tradition, but as a cause of the economic disparity of the times.

    On this topic, we remember that Jesus Christ is also a 'scapegoat'. That his crucifixion is the result of blame being laid upon him, and the atonement is I believe often interpretated as Jesus taking 'the blame' for all sin. Yet we continue to be 'irresponsible', and even blame God, as many examples of theodicy can illustrate.

    Free will comes with responsibility. True we cannot account ourselves responsible for natural disasters, (although global warming might be a future counter-example of a general thesis), but in a way, the distinction between natural and human disasters has never, in my experience, been held as a priority in an account of why we should 'continue' to 'blame God' in arguments of theodicy. Indeed, before we accepted responsibility (and repented, or changed our ways) it could be considered 'easier' to treat all such 'sins of the human condition' as natural events, in much the same way animals are not responsible for their 'actions', etc.
    But, 'fortunately' we are considered to 'be' sinful, for the very reason that we do have 'free will', although taking responsibility for ourselves remains most difficult.

    'Freedom is the recognition of necessity' said Hegel. Was the holocaust 'necessary'.? Is childhood abuse 'necessary'.? Perhaps an atonement is still necessary and the question of theodicy is relevant, because we continue to make God into a scapegoat for our 'crimes against humanity - and God'. Just wondering.

  • ladycygnus

    The existence of suffering is actually, for me, one of the strongest arguments FOR God's existence. Because the existence of a perfect good is the only reasonable explanation for the "this ought not to be" that rages inside me. I know intuitively that there are things that are always, fundamentally wrong - and yet without some fundamental good to compare against, this sense of morality makes no sense.

    One can argue that it's just evolution, societies developed by being "nice" to one another or empathy helps us to reproduce. Yet this makes little historical sense, the ones who reproduced the most were the conquerors who squelched their innate understanding of right and wrong. How many people are related to Genghis Khan?

    It also doesn't fit what we know of our near relatives in the animal kingdom. Within other primates when a new male defeats an older male it will often kill off the young to bring the females into heat and assure the new offspring are his. The other apes might scream a bit - but it's not like they lead an armed revolt against their oppressor.

    The ONLY explanation I've seen that has made even a lick of sense of "this ought not to be and is therefore 'evil'" is Christianity - and specifically Catholicism. It speaks of a perfect goodness that is exactly what the soul longs for. An ultimate truth which we all desire to know. Catholicism then says the impossible, that the ultimate goodness and truth is a person who WANTS us to love - and the only way to love is to have the choice to NOT love. So he gives his reasoning creatures the ultimate gift - the ability to choose to love goodness or to reject it.

    Many of those creatures then choose to reject love, choosing instead their own personal pleasure over truth, goodness and beauty. In choosing their own personal pleasure their ability to choose the good is weakened. Bad habits are hard to break, even hard when you start trying to justify them, and slowly lead to worse and worse rejections of goodness. Others end up hurt by them and pain enters the world - for to reject ultimate goodness, even for a lesser good, makes that lesser good consume you. The pleasure of the drug is wonderful, but at the expense of your ability to reason, love and serve others.

    This is true - it FITS the description of the world far more than any other explanation ever given.

    And how can a perfect good allow such evil? I don't fully know. I do know that Catholicism also teaches that perfect goodness entered into his fallen creation, choosing to become one of us and to embrace the suffering we had chosen. THROUGH that suffering he brought about the redemption of us all. God took the worst evil the world could met out, the humiliation, torture, and death of perfect goodness, and brought about the ultimate good - our redemption.

    This gives a different kind of hope. Not just a hope that one day we'll all be happy playing our harps in heaven, but a deep hope that God is more powerful than the evil we experience. That even death is powerless before him. We choose darkness and our minds cannot now understand fully because of that darkness, but we have hope that one day it will be explained. And it will be beautiful.

  • TwistedRelic

    All would do well to consider what Albert Camus had to say about living courageously as an atheist, in the face of the likely probability that there is no god or no creator.

    "Affirming a defiantly atheistic creed, Camus concludes with one of the
    core ideas of his philosophy: “if there is a sin against life, it
    consists not so much in despairing as in hoping for another life and in
    eluding the implacable grandeur of this one.”

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/camus/

    • Martin Sellers

      "hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this one".

      I would argue that the Christian worldview helps one realize the implacable grandeur of life.

      • TwistedRelic

        Hmmm.....let us get the question of God dealt with first.....Convince me that there is a god....and then we can discuss which ones are real...or should have precedent over the others. Appealing to the Christian deity or any other deity...or any version of Christianity....based on their so called divine revelations. is a big leap..... I am not opposed to the possible existence of a supreme intelligence as creator of the universe or multiple universe's.....just have not seen any compelling evidence to support one religion over another....or that if such an entity were to exists...no evidence that it is a loving or caring entity....reality and history would indicate not. If there is such an entity.....it would seem that such is at best indifferent to the plight of humans....as nature itself is. I am not looking for any argument with fundamentalist Catholics...who use their scriptures...just to be clear...because those documents add nothing to the discussion about whether god exists or not. No insult intended Martin. There are a number of religious views or philosophies...including that of atheists and agnostics....and of course Christianity in recent times....that proclaim the grandeur of life. Have you heard of Carl Sagan and Neil De Grasse Tyson? Of course you have:-)....

        • Kevin Aldrich

          You have just dodged your own Camus issue.

          • TwistedRelic

            explain please....don't just post just a critical comment...as is the usual modus operandi of some fundamentalist catholics. I will be happy to address or explain what you see as a dodge re Camus....if you please explain. Thank you....and be specific please. If you will....in my quote I was not addressing the whole of the Camus philosophy.....so please don't bother if what you are going to refer to are other Camus points other than what I have quoted.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To answer your question, you made a point about something cool about being an atheist based on something Camus said.

            Martin Sellers and I countered it.

            Instead of staying on topic, you heaved the entire atheist arsenal at him. You termed it, aptly, a dodge.

          • TwistedRelic

            OK........you and Martin and all of the Catholic "apologists" make the most sense and are more logical than atheists and agnostics.......there is obviously a god....and that god is Jesus as there have been no end to the "compelling arguments" for that "fact".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The only "win" is to establish that both atheists and theists can appreciate the grandeur of living in this universe.

            This is similar to an atheist "win" that happened here that theists should not assume atheists in general claim anything beyond that there is no God.

        • Martin Sellers

          You make some very good points. This site does a very good job of addressing each of your issues -and the comments associated with each article are debated at length from both sides. Rather than me addressing each of your concerns, I recommend exploring this site a little further and tackling each of your concerns one by one. I think you'll find "at least" a compelling, thoughtful (if not entirely provable) argument from the theist perspective aimed at each one of your issues.

          • TwistedRelic

            I am no stranger to this site....and have read most of the articles and resulting comments....and have seen nothing to change my mind on these matters. I have not read any "compelling arguments" for anything regards an argument for the existence of Jesus being God......though I admit many of the arguments have been...as you say..."thoughtful"...do not wish to portray any comenters as less than thoughtful.....though this site does very seldom acknowledge the same arguments from atheists as being at least thoughtful......if not compelling.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I agree with @anonkneemouse:disqus and in my own experience I enjoy life much more as a Catholic than I did as an atheist.

      It is false dichotomy to oppose appreciating this life and hoping for another.

  • John Kowalski

    Sometimes I want to ask God why he allows poverty, famine and injustice in the world when he could do something about it; but I'm afraid he may ask me the same question.

    • GCBill

      Humans' power and resources are limited; plus, sometimes we're just selfish and/or lazy. Neither of those excuses work for an omnipotent, omnibenevolent Being.

  • Emilianne Hackett

    Yes, God allows terrible things to happen. Terrible things that should never happen, except that there are truly depraved and evil people in the world who use the gift of their free will to murder, rape, torture and hurt other people. It makes God sad, just as it makes any parent sad when their children make wrong choices that hurt others. Yes, God does intervene in certain situations and cure people or save them from situations. I don't know why God chooses to intervene when He does, but I don't have to because I'm not God. Just like a parent chooses to grant some of their children's requests and not other's, even if it does not seem fair to the children at the time. When the children grow up, they understand why their parents did what they did. When we get to Heaven, we will understand God's actions.

  • Mike

    I'd like to thank Steven for writing such a fine article. I think he raises a topic that people of all beliefs struggle to understand and explain.

    Along with I think all others struggle to reconcile the suffering and evil I see throughout the course of my life with a loving personal God. When considering this in my own life I like to consider two types of suffering/evil. The first type I term man-made evil/suffering. Things like murder, rape, and every other atrocity. The second type I think of as natural suffering/evil. Things like natural disasters, disease, etc.

    Of the two I think the second is more difficult to justify. The first I can consider to be a misuse of free will, which I could assert to be a gift from God. When free will is misused suffering/evil ensues. I can only speak for myself, but I appreciate having free will, and wouldn't want it removed from creation. However, I think myself, and others would prefer a world without natural disasters, childhood cancer, etc.

    In real life when this topic is presented I say that I don't have a good explanation for why God would create a world in which such suffering occurs. I hope that God would have a satisfying explanation if/when I am fortunate enough to stand before God.

  • P: If God exists, then he will have had to have done things that he would not do.

    I believe that "P" should be a "C". If we're talking about logic, then we should make it clear that this particular statement is the conclusion. At least from the way this is structured that's what it looks like. It appears that you are saying that
    1) God would not do x
    2) God does x
    3) This is a contradiction
    4) Because of this contradiction, it is unlikely that God exists.

    Addressing this in a systematic way, we need to assess your presented premises to see if the conclusion is actually sound. Wikipedia says in its entry on sound arguments that,

    "An argument is sound if and only if

    1) The argument is valid.

    2) All of its premises are true."

    I argue that P2 is a false premise.

    P1: If God exists, there are things that he will have had to have done.
    P2: God would not do at least one of these things.

    God believed people having free will is a good thing. Giving human beings freedom does not equal consenting to all actions performed by human beings. In other words, God creating something and giving that creation free will does not mean that God has done something that He would not have done. The arguments presented for premise 2 seem to revolve around the idea that evil performed by humans is proof that God is okay with what is being done. This premise is fundamentally weak and should be rejected and thus the argument is not sound.

  • GCBill

    To those of you using the gift of free will to explain evil in the world, I have a question:

    Does God have free will?

    If you answer "yes," then free will does not require the ability to do evil. If we assume God has free will, yet does no evil, you can see how this follows logically. It's no good to say "evil is a result of free choice" when it needn't be.

    God could have created morally perfect beings that were not omnipotent. Lacking omnipotence, these creatures would not have been "greater" than God. Yet having perfect moral senses means they could have freely chosen to follow God, in the same way God can freely choose things that are not evil.

    If for some reason you're willing to deny that God has free will, and free will is good, well then...the being you call "God" really isn't.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      God is simple, whereas we are composed.

      God's goodness is not different than his being. Our attributes are different from our being, and what we do determines the kind of beings we are becoming.

      Certainly, God could have chosen to create us such that we could only choose from among good ends and only chose among good means.

      While we find that we are persons who only have the actual freedom to choose the good end of happiness, we also find we have freedom in choosing good or bad ends in order to be happy and good and bad means to achieve that happiness.

      You have not shown that the former is *required* if God is good and why the latter is ruled out.

      • Danny Getchell

        we also find we have freedom in choosing good or bad ends in order to be happy and good and bad means to achieve that happiness.

        Which to me is a much stronger argument for a God who is a disinterested observer, than for a God who is "good" in the same sense that we mere humans interpret the word "good"

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't agree. The Catholic faith holds that God offers us help (grace) at all times to choose good means and ends, so he is immanent in our goodness.

      • GCBill

        Certainly, God could have chosen to create us such that we could only choose from among good ends and only chose among good means.

        While we find that we are persons who only have the actual freedom to choose the good end of happiness, we also find we have freedom in choosing good or bad ends in order to be happy and good and bad means to achieve that happiness.

        You have not shown that the former is *required* if God is good and why the latter is ruled out.

        If God chooses the former option, he can maintain free choice among his creations without producing moral evil.

        A universe with free choice but no moral evil is preferable to a universe with both free choice and moral evil.

        God, being omniscient and omnibenevolent, would recognize and prefer the universe where free choice exists, but moral evil does not.

        Since moral perfection and free will are compatible, there is no need to allow moral evil so that goodness can be brought forth. An omnibenevolent being would not allow evil unless there were a reason; say, bringing about a greater good. To allow unnecessary evil would conflict with the nature of omnibenevolence. Therefore, the fact that we live in a universe with unnecessary moral evil is evidence against the existence of an omnibenevolent God.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          This is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#310).

          But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” toward its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.

          This point assumes omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence.

          Now for moral evil (#311):

          Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil, incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil. He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and, mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it:
          > For almighty God... , because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself. (St. Augustine)

          • Ignorant Amos

            Omniscient eh?

            Can God know ignorance?

          • GCBill

            CCC #310: Why would an infinitely powerful, wise, and good being not choose to "create something better?" We only settle for less-than-perfection because our options are limited. Remove those limitations, and there's no reason not to prefer the greatest good.

            CCC #311: This doesn't answer my objection at all. My entire point is that morally perfect agents can still freely choose the good. Therefore, if free choice of the good is what God wants, He should have just created morally perfect agents in the first place. Allowing them to "journey" from a state of imperfection is an inferior option because in this scenario, some beings never attain perfection and are instead denied the fullness of Being for all eternity. What good can be brought from this that couldn't be brought from the first scenario in your initial response to me? Put differently, why would a good, all-knowing God select an option that produces suffering as an end-state for some beings over one in which all beings attain perfection? "To preserve free choice" cannot be the answer to this question.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          More importantly, god could have created us so that we freely choose the right - not because we are forced to, but because we freely choose to.
          Gets around the theists' claim that otherwise we become robots.

  • John

    As a matter of pure logic, you should look at _God, Freedom, and Evil_ by Alvin Plantinga. http://amzn.com/0802817319

    • Susan

      As a matter of pure logic, you should look at _God, Freedom, and Evil_ by Alvin Plantinga. http://amzn.com/0802817319

      Perhaps you could introduce the argument by Plantinga that you feel is compelling on this subject. I

  • Tim Dacey

    Steven:

    Good stuff; it's nice to see some analytic philosophy making an appearance. However, I'd like to share a couple of points (one minor and one more substantive).

    1. You may need to revise (P) since if it being true is dependent on P1 being true, then I'd say that ~(P) since ~P2. P2 is false because God is *not* obliged to have to anything since God is perfectly free to do whatever God wants.

    2. You state in your conclusion: "Theists will need to take the risk of identifying the reason why God would allow Holocaust, or human trafficking, and seeing whether that identification can stand to reason." The Theist has at least 2 options. She can develop a Theodicy or she can simply respond that she doesn't know of any good reasons why God would allow X. I'm not opposed to the former but I prefer the latter. So even if you maintain that are instances of gratuitous evil, I can simply (and skeptically) respond that there *could* be reasons why God would allow X.

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      There cannot be reasons if god is omniscient. This is part of the whole POE: gratuitous suffering and evil are logically incompatible with an omniscient and omnibenevolent god.

    • Steven Dillon

      Thanks, Tim:

      1. My claim is not that God has obligations, but that his existence entails that he has done certain things, such as create the universe.

      2. My argument purports to show that we should assume that God wouldn't allow children under his care to be abused unless and until we have good reason to think otherwise. This claim is not undermined by the possibility that God could do this.

  • David Nickol

    I think Catholicism would be a lot easier to accept for people who find the problem of evil an enormous stumbling block to belief if the Church said something along the lines of the following: "This is something we can scarcely even begin to attempt to explain. It is one of the greatest mysteries for people of faith. We trust that God is all good, but knowing he is all powerful, we can only conclude that for some reason he permits evil."

    Instead, it offers neat little prepackaged answers like this one that was pointed out to me:

    310 But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could
    exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something
    better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to
    create a world “in a state of journeying” toward its ultimate
    perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the
    appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the
    existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both
    constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there
    exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached
    perfection.

    Weigh this against the amount of human suffering in the world and it is inadequate. Imagine trying to comfort victims of a horrible crime (say, a school shooting) or a natural disaster by reading this to them. And what are we to make of the following: "But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed . . . . " It reminds me a bit of Monty Python's Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch prayer—"O Lord, bless this thy hand grenade, that with it thou may blowest thine enemy to tiny bits, in thy mercy." God, in his infinite wisdom and goodness, freely willed a world in which unspeakably horrible things happen. Isn't he just fabulous?

    The problem with Catholicism, for me, is not that it doesn't have enough answers. It's that it has too many.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I like the language that you propose in your first paragraph, and I must say that that is the only way that I personally am comfortable talking about deep evil. On the other hand, I can appreciate that the Church is committed not only to faith, but also to reason. It is truly problematic to come up with a rational explanation of deep evil, but the alternative to coming up with such an explanation is to throw up one's hands and say, "human reason can only take us so far". So, as much as I like your proposed language, I am not sure that I am ultimately OK with abandoning the intelligibility of reality in that way. My deepest hope, admittedly unconfirmed as yet, is that reality is both good AND intelligible.

      • Michael Murray

        It is truly problematic to come up with a rational explanation of deep evil,

        Only if you want to keep god. Otherwise it's simple. Humanity is an accident. A glorious, wonderful, often appalling accident. We live in the universe that cares nothing for us where the only purpose is the one we create ourselves.

        My deepest hope, admittedly unconfirmed as yet, is that reality is both good AND intelligible.

        But it isn't good. We know it isn't good. Look at the picture at the top of the page again. Are you really going to be happy with a solution that explains that as good ?

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          You are saying that reality is both "glorious [and] wonderful", and also that it is "often appalling", and also that "it's simple". That doesn't sound simple.

          I certainly am not happy with trite explanations of why that picture at the top of the page is good.

          On the other hand, BECAUSE of the picture at the top of the page, I also am quite unhappy with the conclusion that there is no God and humanity is an accident. To say that their suffering had no meaning does not make me any happier.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not saying reality is simple. I'm saying that the problematic need for a rational explanation goes away if you stop believing in god. So reality is just as it is. Evil does't need explanation. It still needs fighting.

            To say that their suffering had no meaning does not make me any happier.

            I would rather that than one that diminishes the suffering by claiming it was all some kind of cosmic collateral damage.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            "Evil does't need explanation."

            I don't agree. I don't expect to actually get a sufficient explanation, but I am not going to stop asking for one. I'm a symbolic creature: I want everything explained! To paraphrase Fr. Lorenzo Albacete, we should always be crying to God, "Why, why why?" Whether it is a question in physics, or the existence of evil, we should always be crying, "Why?". If you don't agree on that point, this is a very fundamental disagreement, and there is probably not much more progress the two of us could make toward a resolution (which is fine, I'm still happy to help you fight crime).

            I also don't subscribe to the metaphor of "collateral damage" with regard to the suffering of innocents. The metaphor I would prefer is that we all, collectively, are climbing a mountain. We are on the journey to the top, and the struggle to get there is a sort of participation in the glory of the mountaintop. Now, what glorious mountaintop could possibly justify the killing of innocent children? This is where I simply have no idea. I cannot imagine such a mountaintop. But the key point I am trying to get across is, I don't believe anyone is collateral damage. I believe we all get there, most especially the suffering innocent.

            To be clear, I don't imagine that my stupid little metaphor is a satisfactory explanation for the picture at the top of the page. It is the best I can do to make things intelligible, but I am still asking God, "why, why why?"

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            So harlequin babies (google it, I refuse to post a link) are getting to the top of your mountain? The 2/3 of all fertilized eggs that are, according to the church, fully human beings who never even made it to cell-division, are getting to the top of the mountains?
            Evil and sufferering have coherent explanations only in the absence of god (or at least, only in the absence of the triomni god).

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Are you mentioning harlequin babies because you imagine that I need to be instructed on the existence of suffering in the world? Do you imagine that believers live in a bubble that is isolated from suffering?

            Yes, absolutely I believe that those harlequin babies get to the mountaintop. What else would you expect me to believe?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Not at all. I use them as an example of wholly gratuitous evil.

          • Susan

            Yes, absolutely I believe that those harlequin babies get to the mountaintop. What else would you expect me to believe?.

            What about baby mammoths? Baby coyotes? Factory farmed animals, all of whom have the capacity to suffer?

            Hundreds of millions of years of natural selection that involved the suffering of our fellow earthlings so some humans could make it to the mountaintop while billions of others perish in eternal fire?

            It involves dismissing almost all of the suffering that has ever occurred on this planet and that continues to occur on this planet in order to cling to and justify a religious claim that gives you "personal" hope. Forgive me if I find that morally disturbing.

            Don't get me wrong, Jim. My impression of you from reading your contributions here is that you are an extremely decent and thoughtful person.

            No good agent who had a choice and was even remotely good would choose natural selection.

            You can invoke mystery all you want but that is not good enough. The evidence shows no sign of benevolence. .

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            My impression of you from reading your contributions here is that you are an extremely decent and thoughtful person.

            Aww, shucks [look down at boots and kicks dirt]. Likewise, Susan :)

            This is just my imaginative landscape, and I honestly don't know if this departs in any serious way from the catechism, but I do imagine that all of creation is on a journey to reunite with God, baby mammoths and all. (Since I have already been called out for my mystical bent, let me go even go further -- I think of every rock, in its unrealized physicochemical potential, as "suffering" to reunite with God, and I believe that every rock one day will). We humans seem to have some special role -- we seem to be those places where the universe has become aware of itself -- but I don't see that as disconnecting us from the unity of creation. It seems to me that we humans must necessarily bring everything else in tow with us in the afterlife.

            As to whether there should have been a better way than natural selection ... I don't know. I've never tried really hard to think about God's options on that one. I can see why you feel it is problematic. I don't have a great answer.

          • Susan

            Likewise, Susan :)

            Thanks, Jim. From you, that means something. We are doing the best we can.

            This is just my imaginative landscape, and I honestly don't know if this departs in any serious way from the catechism, but I do imagine that all of creation is on a journey to reunite with God, baby mammoths and all.

            I think it does depart in a serious way. The catechism never addresses it. Our fellow earthlings are fodder even though they suffered and died before us, suffered and died beside us and suffer and die because of us. Not a major catechismical ;-) topic. I would say it undermines much of what they claim.

            we seem to be those places where the universe has become aware of itself

            I'm not sure we're the only ones but yes, I agree. That's why we should hold ourselves and each other accountable as much as we can because our brains are quite capable of fooling us.

            It seems to me that we humans must necessarily bring everything else in tow with us in the afterlife.

            I don't think there is evidence of an afterlife. Just assertions and hope. So respectfully, I think it is more urgent for humans who can behold a universe from a tiny planet teeming with life, to take life the fact of being an earthling seriously. Give me a good reason to take an afterlife seriously and I will consider it. I certainly hope for an afterlife with justice for all participants but your church's teaching doesn't address that. It dismisses it generally if my discussions on "God" are any indication.
            Most importantly, there is no evidence for a god, let alone your god. I don't see agency in the white noise. I do see earthlings. God claims mostl

          • Mary J. Nelson

            I don't think Jim's words depart all that much from the Catechism (which is a summary of Church teaching, by the way. There are other documents included in official church teaching). See 302, 346-349, 595-623 and 1046-1047 from the catechism of the catholic church to start.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Great selections Mary. I especially like 1046-1047. Thanks.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Hi Jim. Your post reminded me of C.S. Lewis' book "The Great Divorce" (and maybe Mere Christianity as well). It's easily one of my favourite books.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Thanks Moussa. I will have to check that out. I always loved the Narnia books as a kid, and I've always meant to get around to reading some of his adult stuff. This sounds like a good place to start.

          • Michael Murray

            I think where we disagree is over what kind of answer we want to that "why" question. I'm happy with what you might prefer to call "how" questions. How did the holocaust happen ? How did we let the holocaust happen ? How can we make sure nothing like this ever happens again ? etc. Questions like "why did God let the holocaust happen" don't have any meaning for me because I don't have a belief in God.

          • Susan

            Questions like "why did God let the holocaust happen"

            Which are begging the question.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That's fair enough - we can leave God out of it.

            But it seems that at some deep level, you have the perception (as do I) that the universe is fundamentally glorious and wonderful. At the same time, you observe the data of "appalling things". Do you not feel any tension between your fundamental perception and the data of evil? Isn't there something for you to resolve here, even if you might not phrase it using God language?

          • Susan

            I would rather that than one that diminishes the suffering by claiming it was all some kind of cosmic collateral damage.

            Thank you, Michael.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      So, here are some more "too many."

      The Church does say about suffering what you want it to say in your first paragraph. It also says what the Catechism point says (which is not all it says there). It also says (without the satire) what the Monty Python quote says: "Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel" (Ps 2:8-9).

      • David Nickol

        I think it must be kept in mind that promises like those in the Psalm you quote were made to a people, not to individual persons. We must always remember that there was no concept in the Old Testament of heaven or eternal reward or punishment.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          One way the Church has always read the Psalms is "as if" Christ is the speaker. Another way they can be read is to put yourself in the place of the speaker (like, "The LORD is my shepherd").

          • David Nickol

            One way the Church has always read the Psalms is "as if" Christ is the speaker.

            That seems very unfortunate to me. I hope it is not really true. Of course, since Jesus was a Jew, it would have been perfectly appropriate for him to consider the Psalms as his prayers. But unfortunately the Church until quite recently saw Jesus more as a "Christian" than a Jew, so if what you say is actually true, the Psalms could only have suffered.

            I don't much care for the idea of Jesus saying, "You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." And certainly not, "Blessed the one who seizes your children and smashes them against the rock."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I was imprecise. In the case of Psalm 2, Christ is the one spoken about.

            Again, you surprise me. Luke quotes Psalm 2 in Acts 4:25ff as referring to Jesus Christ.

  • Ignorant Amos

    God, not having a body and never having done certain things, lacks experiential knowledge–what it is like to do or experience certain things. But in particular... God cannot really know what it is like not to know something. Because God can only know what it’s like not to know something if he’s not omniscient. By definition. Therefore, either God is not omniscient, or humans know something God cannot know, in which case God is…not omniscient. Ooops. There goes an omniscient God, zap, in a puff of logic, faster than if we discovered the babelfish.

    • Peter

      While on earth there were things Jesus Christ as a man did not know (e.g. the woman who touched his robe to be healed). Therefore, contrary to what you say, the second person of the Trinity has experienced not knowing.

      • Ignorant Amos

        This is where it all turns to goboldygook.

        If the one are three and the three are one, then a third as in the man Jesus was not omniscient. How can that be? How can anything be a this not knowing everything while at least a third knows everything? We can leave the ghost out for know, things are complicated enough.

        When Jesus became divine he became omniscient, no? In that case he knew everything. So, as God he could not unknown the everything he knew.

        Kevin A has it as a choice that Jesus was ignorant, though why and how anyone knows he hasn't yet answered.

        You are trying to have our cake and eat it as usual Peter.

        • David Nickol

          It is all very simple if you check out the old online Catholic Encyclopedia entry Knowledge of Jesus, which provides a more detailed answer to the question that KA gave to me. Jesus was one person with two natures—human and divine. In his divine nature, he was omniscient. In his human nature, he was not omniscient, although be reason of who he was, he had a superior intellect. The great question, of course, is how a person with two natures can know something (everything!) with one of those natures but have only finite knowledge with the other. Since there is only one person in all of creation with two natures, an ad hoc explanation of his personhood is the best that can be expected.

          N. T. Wright suggests that Jesus was God but was not fully cognizant of the fact. He had a powerful conviction of who he was, but he also was aware he could be making a terrible mistake. To the extent that I am a believer, this makes more sense to me. While it is an imperfect analogy, it seems to me that it is possible to not know who you are. One example is Jason Bourne, the hero of a number of novels by Robert Ludlum (and movies with Matt Damon). As I recall the first novel in the series, no doubt imperfectly (SPOILER ALERT!), Bourne awakes with amnesia not knowing who he is, and finds himself so well equipped with the skills of an assassin that he suspects he may be one, although eventually he discovers he is a special agent trained to imitate a famous assassin and capture or kill him.

          • Ignorant Amos

            No spoiler alert required, at least not for the four movies, I have watched them that often I can recite the scripts

          • Peter

            As I said above, this site concerns the Christian God, so if you have any criticisms you must criticise the Christian God in his entirety and not cherry pick.

            One aspect of the Christian God you overlook is that God knows all our thoughts, and therefore will be aware of the unique suffering experiences of each and every one of us no matter how extreme. There is nothing humans know that God cannot know. God is omniscient.

          • Ignorant Amos

            You must be even more omniscient, you seem to know a lot about the mind of your god.

            I best convert to Christianity, now which of the 38,000 plus true Scotsmen do I follow?

          • Peter

            We learn the mind of God in two ways: through revelation in the scriptures which we accept through faith and through the discovery of creation which we adopt through reason.

            Catholicism is the only religion which states that God can be known through reason alone and that revelation is an additional means of knowing God. It is therefore tailor-made for self-styled devotees of religion and science.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi David,

            This was a quote from Raymond Brown's book on Christology. I think it gives the best description. i hope you find it helpful;

            “Let me comment on how the statements of Nicaea and Chalcedon are functional and, in popular parlance,
            “relevant.” Once, after a lecture I gave on Jesus as God in the NT, a student asked me why the issue of full divinity
            raised at Nicaea was so important. What difference does
            it make whether Jesus was God or the most perfect creature, so long as one has accepted him as Savior? Behind such a question there is often the suspicion that Nicaea and Chalcedon and indeed all the Christological
            controversies of the 4th and 5th centuries were matters
            of diphthongs and of bygone metaphysics that have no relevance today. I could not disagree more; for I think the
            issue of the full identity of Jesus, which is related to the insights of Nicaea and Chalcedon, is ultimately a question of the love of God for human beings.
            If Jesus is not “true God of true God,” then we do not know God in human terms. Even if Jesus were the most perfect creature far above all others, he could tell us only at second hand about a God who really remains almost as distant as the Unmoved Mover of Aristotle. Only if Jesus is truly of God do we know what God is like, for in Jesus we see God translated into terms that we can understand. A god who sent a marvelous creature as our Savior could be described as loving, but that love would have cost God nothing in a personal way. Only if Jesus is truly of God do we know that God’s love was so real that it reached
            the point of personal self-giving. This is why the proclamation of Nicaea was and is so important- not only because it tells us about Jesus, but because it tells us about God. Indeed were it otherwise, the Nicene proclamation would scarcely be faithful to a Jesus who
            preached the kingship of God.

            So also do
            I think the proclamation of Chalcedon about Jesus as true man (as well as true God) has enduring value. Again unless we understand that Jesus was truly human with no exception but sin, we cannot comprehend the depth of God’s love. If Jesus’ knowledge was limited, as indicated prima facie in the biblical evidence, then one understands that God loved us to the point of self-subjection to our most agonizing infirmities. A Jesus who walked through the world with unlimited knowledge, knowing exactly what the morrow would bring, knowing with certainty that three days after his death his Father would raise him up, would be a Jesus who could arouse our admiration, but a Jesus still far from us. He would be a Jesus far from a humankind that can only hope in the future and believe in God’s goodness, far from a human kind that must face the supreme uncertainty of death with faith but without knowledge of what is beyond. On the other hand, a Jesus for whom the detailed future had elements of mystery, dread, and hope as it has for us and yet, at the same time, a Jesus who would say, “Not my will but yours”- this would be a Jesus who could effectively teach us how to live, for this Jesus would have gone through life’s real trials. Then his saying, “No one can have greater love than this; to lay down his life for those he loves”(John 15:13), would be truly persuasive, for we would know that he laid down his life with all the agony with which we lay ours down. We would know that for him the loss of life was, as it is for us, the loss of a great possession, a possession that is outranked only by love.”

          • David Nickol

            This was a quote from Raymond Brown's book on Christology. I think it gives the best description. i hope you find it helpful . . . .

            Fr. Sean, that's very helpful. Raymond Brown is someone I always am ready to listen to. This seems to be key:

            On the other hand, a Jesus for whom the detailed future had elements of mystery, dread, and hope as it has for us and yet, at the same time, a Jesus who would say, “Not my will but yours”- this would be a Jesus who could effectively teach us how to live, for this Jesus would have gone through life’s real trials.

            What sense would it make for a Jesus who knew the future to say, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done"?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It points to the two wills that Christ had. With his human will he did not want what he foresaw was going to happen but as God he did.

          • David Nickol

            It points to the two wills that Christ had. With his human will he did not want what he foresaw was going to happen but as God he did.

            This strikes me as logically contradictory. It is not consistent with the concept person to say a person has two wills (or two intellects). If the two wills conflict, how does the person make a decision? There would have to be an "uber-will" capable of ultimate control of the two wills. If a person has two wills, and the will is the faculty by which a person chooses, how can the person choose which of the two wills to use without using either one of them?

            Maybe if you want to assert that the Second Person of the Trinity chose, by the Incarnation, to forego during his time as a human being his knowledge and power, something could be worked out. But to claim Jesus had two wills and two stores of knowledge (one of them infinite) defies logic.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You find it a problem but two intellects and two wills is Christian orthodoxy.

            Even with one will you can want different things at the same time. A person's will can be divided, but he can ultimately make a choice one way or another.

          • David Nickol

            You find it a problem but two intellects and two wills is Christian orthodoxy.

            Christian orthodoxy is often much more complex than presented here. Maybe someone will point to the work of theologians who give plausible explanations, but if it is Christian orthodoxy that Jesus had two intellects to which he had continuous access, one human and one divine and omniscient, and two wills that were always operative and that could will different things, then I will just have to say Christian orthodoxy in this matter has troubling logical contradictions.

            Even with one will you can want different things at the same time. A person's will can be divided, but he can ultimately make a choice one way or another.

            The idea that people have "a will"—a kind of mental or spiritual organ that makes decisions—is an incredibly idealized and abstracted concept to explain the complex (and often unconscious) processes by which people make actual choices.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Of course it is complex, but truths can be both expanded and contracted.

            Fr. Barron wrote one of his doctoral dissertations on the two natures of Christ.

          • David Nickol

            Of course it is complex, but truths can be both expanded and contracted.

            Einstein (possibly) said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

          • Mary J. Nelson

            Possible that Christ, while always having two natures (not intellects exactly) was initially more aware of his human nature and as he grew in wisdom and stature toward adulthood became more and more aware of the divine nature that was always there, culminating in his final full knowledge of his mission to die for the sins of mankind in obedience to the will of the Father. I am not an expert on this complex issue, so I will ask for more insight from those who know more. Now, of course, Christ is fully aware of all things, having returned to the Father.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi David,
            That's exactly right. As i understand it, Jesus had to come to learn who he was and what his life was about the same way we all do. if he didn't have to have faith, or as brown seems to indicate, if he didn't wrestle with faith or what his father asking of him than he wouldn't be 100% human as well as 100% diviine. i also like his one quote, that "Jesus is God translated into terms that we can understand". Thus, the best way (from a christians' pov) to understand what what God is like is to study the life of Jesus for he is God trranslated into terms that we can understand.

          • Noel

            Hi Fr Sean -- I never read the earlyier books by Fr Brown but when I read some of his recent works (not many) I defenitly do not like his teachings and since he is not the dogma of Catholic dogma I don't have to agree with him at all. I do like what St Thomas A. has to say about Christ and his knowledge though and he is a declared saint. This is a quote regarding Brown.

            "St. John's University professor emeritus Msgr. Kelly in his The Church's Problem With Biblical Scholars declares that when Fr. Brown questions the doctrine of the virginal conception, "and says what he earlier called infallible, is really fallible, after all," Brown leaves his audience, if not himself, "in a squirrel cage running round and round in a circle always returning to the same place, doubt."

            Msgr. Kelly stated that the new modernist proposals are often only theories which contradict understandings from the earliest Christian days.

            Scripture scholar Fr. Gilsdorf, whose excellent two-part series in The Wanderer some years ago commenting on Fr. Brown's book, 101 Questions on the Bible, debunked many of Brown's theories, including his concept of "an ignorant Jesus," urges that before reading Fr. Brown, Catholics should forearm themselves by an open-minded reading of orthodox critics of Brown.

            "Begin with Msgr. Kelly, then Cardinal Shehan, Fr. Miguens, Fr. Most, and Fr. Laurentin," Fr. Gilsdorf says.

            Concerning Fr. Brown, Fr. Gilsdorf asked these telling questions: "Is Fr. Brown right? How much can we rely on his teaching? Are his claims to orthodoxy valid? Is he a safe guide, or, as I would judge, a major contribution to the befogged wasteland of an 'American Church,' progressively alienated from its divinely constituted center?" linkhttp://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=525

            Jesus knew who he was, and you can not take away his divine will. Fully human and fully Divine

          • Ignorant Amos

            Begin with Msgr. Kelly, then Cardinal Shehan, Fr. Miguens, Fr. Most, and Fr. Laurentin," Fr. Gilsdorf says.

            Don't forget Fr. Ted, Fr. Dougal and Fr. Jack.

            Jesus knew who he was, and you can not take away his divine will. Fully human and fully Divine

            Don't you guys realise this was theology to square the circle of a spiritual Jesus of the apostolic Jerusalem tradition of the epistles and the man of earth Galilean tradition of the four gospels and Acts invented in the fourth century?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Noel,
            Thanks for your comment. I acknowledge that i could be wrong. I often think Brown may have tried a little too hard to maintain a connection with scripture scholars of other traditions and therefore seems to become a little too "liberal" in his understandings of things. i have a few example of this, but if you know anything of scripture studies that i'm sure you can think of a few yourself.
            having said that i often think one of the problems with studying scripture is that some people think the Historical Critical Method is the only lens through which to understand scripture. if one only uses the HCM than it's like looking at a dead animal, when the scriptures aren't dead, their alive. one also need to see it through reflection and understand that it truly is the Word of God that reveals Divine truths. When one only looks through scripture through only one lens they are blinding themselves in my opinion. (Ehrman is a good example of what happens when you only look at scrupture through the HCM)
            while i don't always agree with Brown i do think he was a brilliant scripture scholar. that quote i quoted above i find to be profund. Naturally if Jesus was full human as well as fully divine than like any human being he had to grow to discover who he was and what his life's mission was all about. did he learn his identity when he was 6 years old, or in the 40 days in the desert or at the Transfiguration? it's hard to say, but i think the fact that God would submit himself to anything we may have to suffer with "faith but without knowldge (experiential) of what is beyond is truly persuasive". it tells us two important things in my opinion. that the best way for me to understand what God is like is to study the life of Jesus, for he is God translated into terms that we can udnerstand. and secondly, that the creator of the universe subjected himself to everything we may have to suffer. as brown says, "the loss of life was the loss of a great possession, a possession that was outranked only by love."

        • Peter

          If the God you are criticising for being omnipotent or omniscient is not the Christian God, why are you commenting on this site?

          The Christian God is both omnipotent and triune, the second person being divine and human, who being human has suffered not only ignorance but the terrible pains of torture, injustice and betrayal at the Passion, and has therefore attained solidarity with the rest of suffering humanity by knowing what it is like to suffer.

          The worst pain that Christ felt, however, was not in his human capacity but in his divine capacity. On the cross he was momentarily abandoned by God the Father. For humans this abandonment by God is called hell and occurs permanently after death as justice for individual sin.

          However, Jesus' divine nature had an infinitely greater capacity to suffer the abandonment by God than mere human nature. Jesus had to atone not for his own sins, for he was sinless, but for the sins of all men. And it was only a divine suffering of this intensity, and not mere human suffering, which could make reparations to God the Father for the evil of men.

          So Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, knows what it is like to suffer both in this human nature and in his divine nature. You cannot cherry pick the parts of the Christian God to criticise. If you approach the triune Godhead in its entirety there is no defect in its perfect omniscience.

          • Ignorant Amos

            If the God you are criticising for being omniscient is not the Christian God, why are you commenting on this site?

            What?!...what aRe ya on about?

            I've nothing to say about the rest of your coment because it makes no sense to me....sorry.

          • Peter

            The nature of divine omniscience is not as simplistic as you make out in your original comment.

  • tz1

    I don't think that "Job" is a satisfactory answer except for those who already believe. His many children were killed - he got new children. Would that comfort any real person you know that lost even one child? It does demonstrate that someone suffering can have many idiots accusing the sufferer.

    But the post's argument is weak, or only starts at a serious evil long after the buildup happened. I'm in WA now where there was a terrible mudslide. But within living memory there was a similar mudslide in the same area with the same accompanying loss of life. There's Mt Ranier, Hood, and Adams that might do a St. Helens at any moment. NOLA is below sea-level, and Galveston was hit around 1900 (Issac's Storm). It is one thing to hold God responsible for suffering. It is another to stick your hand into a fire and complain that God did not prevent you from getting burned. There are many diseases that result from disobedience of the commandments.

    I don't think it is reasonable to insist that God alter creation so that man, no matter how stupid, angry, or evil causes no harm to himself or others. He gave us the light of reason, but some prefer darkness, but intentional ignorance does not give lasting bliss.

    WW1 was Christendom's suicide. Some applauded. Wilson changed a stalemate that might have ended in peace to a lot of extra bloodshed that ended with the Treaty of Versailles, the Weimar Hyperinflation that destroyed morals, eventually the rise of Hitler (with the only Papal encyclical published not in Latin - but German), and lots of other opposition along the way, none of it effective. Good men did nothing, Evil triumphed.

    Instead of asking why God didn't stop something that could have been stopped at any point by sufficient men of good will over two decades, perhaps you should ask what evil today are you silent on if not supporting. Hitler ended crime and unemployment, was it a good trade? We have no-fault divorce and the abortion holocaust (and abortion holocaust deniers).

    What are you, now, today, not stopping, not speaking up against, but would insist God would intervene and stop, or worse, complain that God is horrible for stopping "a woman's right to choose", or a "businessman's right to free association", or debauchery, perversion, and the destruction of the family?

    You would only want God to stop evil as you define it yourself - not as God himself defines, and then you only complain in retrospect. "I don't think that was evil" would be your alternative objection if God actually stopped everything he has revealed is sinful. God is damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't. Because your standard is ambiguous, incomplete, contradictory, and ad-hoc.

    Seriously, God has defined and revealed the correct idea good v.s. evil. In your own heart (Natural Law, CS Lewis "Abolition of Man" for a short version) For the sake of argument, consider the Catechism as the standard - which condemns contraception in marriage as a grave sin, but also anything outside of marriage, considers divorce impossible, and allows only one-man and one-woman. There are other terms. Not your idea of Good v.s. Evil, but his revealed one.

    Consider an alternate universe where God had intervened since recorded history to enforce HIS law (and he is smarter and knows good better than you). Constant intervention to prevent evil as he has revealed it - but known to all creatures. Would you not consider him an oppressive tyrant, and say you can't believe in a God which was so much a killjoy, which abridged free will (in this case not to allow potential grave sins to become actualized), and which didn't let you work out your own salvation?

    While I get your point about not believing in a God that fails to prevent evil, If by some other method you would believe he EXISTS, you would reject that he is good because of this failure. By the same standard I doubt you would desire a God that actually does prevent evil, because every hour or day there would be some kind of subtle or strong "ZAP!" you would feel when you wanted to do something sinful. You might equally believe in this God because of being zapped, but you would also hate him and consider him evil because you wanted to do X, which he says is a sin, but you don't think it is, and think yourself better or smarter than God.

  • Moussa Taouk

    Good to see an article from an atheist perspective!

    Typically, you should not allow children under your care to get beaten and molested. Perhaps there could be an exception to this rule, probably in what I’m guessing is a farfetched scenario. But, it is still a rule...

    Is the fact that there is a rule, and that you're sure there is a rule, not an indication that this rule has a source? From the atheist perspective, how do you explain the source of the moral law?

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Part social development; part biological.

      • Moussa Taouk

        Part social development; part biological.

        For social development to develop towards something, there needs to be a standard towards which this movement moves. Otherwise it's arbitrary and can't be properly called a standard. And therefore can't properly be called development. What is that standard?

        If it's bilological, how does biology relate to the moral law?

  • Moussa Taouk

    If (P) is true, it affords what seems to be a powerful argument against God’s existence, because it’s absurd that God has done what he would not do...

    Why is it absurd? Love is of such a nature that because one loves, one very often does that which one would not do.

  • Moussa Taouk

    If suffering serves some good purpose then there's no point asking why God allows it.

    If suffering is merely evil with no good purpose then why does suffering exist from the atheist perspective?

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Because of the way the universe works.

      • Moussa Taouk

        Because of the way the universe works.

        Do you mean that suffering is an inevitable result of the universe's existence?

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Given the way the universe works, yes.

          • Moussa Taouk

            Is the universe and the way that it works good? or evil? Or indifferent?

            If good, then the necessary evil that exists within the universe must be good.

            If evil, then is it the suffering contained in it that makes it evil?

            If indifferent, why call certain things (like suffering) "evil"?

          • Susan

            If indifferent, why call certain things (like suffering) "evil"?

            To the extent that agents can be held accountable for suffering, then failure to take suffering into account is not moral progress.

            In the most obvious cases, we have words for these actions of for these lack of actions. We call them evil actions That word is a call for better thinking on the subject and clearer terminology.

            Evil is not an entity. (Unless you've got evidence for an evil entity).

          • Moussa Taouk

            To the extent that agents can be held accountable for suffering, then failure to take suffering into account is not moral progress.

            So there is the suffering that results from an agent (I suppose here you mean a living being?) and there is suffering that is let's say a brute fact (natural disasters, sickness etc).

            I think the first type doesn't pose much of a problem for theists or atheists. It's something that we out to work to minimise either because of objective goodness for theists, or because of... some other reason (altruism? gut feel?) for atheists.

            But the second type is the one that seems to pose the larger problem. If suffering is a brute fact then why question the reason why God would permit it? It's then like asking why God permits gravity or molecules to exist.

            Also, what is this "moral progress"? to where are we supposed to be progressing?

          • Susan

            If suffering is a brute fact then why question the reason why God would permit it?

            Why posit a good agent if suffering is a brute fact,then make up all sorts of justifications that dismiss most suffering to rationalize the existence of that agent?

            Also, what is this "moral progress"? to where are we supposed to be progressing?

            There's no "supposed to be". Nothing on this site has ever appealed to morality without invoking consequences (real or imaginary) . Consequences are fundamental but we have learned that consequences aren't enough. We have to sift through the consequences and do the best we can, better than we are doing. Your church makes ultimate claims without evidence about an omnipotent being who created a world of suffering.

            In the meantime, there are evidenced beings who suffer and we need to take them seriously.

            Unless you have evidence that your choice of deity is real, despite the tendency of humans across the ages to believe in countless, contradictory supernatural agents

          • Moussa Taouk

            Why posit a good agent if suffering is a brute fact...

            I DON'T think suffering is a brute fact. I think suffering has (or at least can have when viewed in light of Christ's suffering) purpose. No doubt it's a mystery that isn't fully accessible to my mind. But I'd say it's not a brute fact.

            But as an atheist, if suffering is a brute fact that is the natural and inevitable consequence of the univers, then it makes no more sense to question why God would allow suffering than it does to question why God would allow anything at all to exist.

            There's no "supposed to be".

            Yes, I can understand that atheists would hold that position. But if that's the case then moral progress is not possible because there's no standard towards which one is supposed to strive (and hence progress). And if moral progress is not possible, then (by your first response) there's no point differentiating between suffering and non-suffering.

            But the fact that we all insist on the obligation to eliminate suffering (particularly that caused by agents) is an indication that there is a standard of goodness to which we can morally progress. And that standard is somehow intertwined with God's nature.

            At least that's what makes sense to me.

          • Susan

            I DON'T think suffering is a brute fact. I think suffering has (or at least can have when viewed in light of Christ's suffering) purpose. No doubt it's a mystery that isn't fully accessible to my mind. But I'd say it's not a brute fact.

            Got e

          • Michael Murray

            The universe is indifferent.

            Personally I'd rather just call suffering suffering than evil but people seem to call it the problem of evil not the problem of suffering. I often find the rest of the world is wrong like this but I struggle on :-)

    • TwistedRelic

      The universe/nature is neither cruel, evil or malevolent, just indifferent.

  • Fr.Sean

    Steve,
    Hey I thought i remembered reading that you were in the seminary, or that you studied Theology? If that's true did u study wisdom literature, or specifically the book of Job?

  • Peter

    God is independent of whether or not anyone believes in him. God is independent of anyone who has faith or lacks it. That's because God is known with certainty through his creation, seen and unseen, by reason alone.

    This is a time of great flux. Our comprehension of the cosmos grows by leaps and bounds, of what we can see and of what we can never see. The more we learn, the more we realise that this knowledge, which has been waiting for aeons for us to discover, is uniquely formatted for our comprehension. There are vast swathes of knowledge still waiting for us to uncover which have been specially configured for our understanding since the beginning of time.

    Who prepared all that knowledge in anticipation of our arrival, and laid it out in a manner wholly accessible to our comprehension? To do so is to command not only space but also time. Who is the Creator of space and time if not God?

  • Thanks for another interesting, thoughtful post Steven. Your argument, of course, is very similar to the problem of evil, which is a very old problem with a whole host of standard intellectual moves. I've already said just about everything I can say in response here at Strange Notions (and incidentally, use some of the same examples of evil you do here):

    https://strangenotions.com/cinematic-problem-of-evil/

    I'm looking forward to reading Brandon's response - and I know you both will have a lively back-and-forth in the comments!

  • TwistedRelic

    "Disbelief in the God of Abraham does not require that one search the entire cosmos and find Him absent; it only requires that one consider the evidence put forward by believers to be insufficient." .....Sam Harris.

  • fightforgood

    Thanks for allowing the post SN, and Thanks Steven. Well done.
    Where I would counter is on your explanation in P2. You move from God would not do one of these things to 'permission'.
    Permission and 'God doing' are two different things. I can do the dishes, or I can give permission for my 4 year old to do the dishes, who will do them correctly?
    Thus, God creates, Man screws up (sins, does the bad things, etc.).

    • David Nickol

      Permission and 'God doing' are two different things.

      It seems to me when you are not only the Creator, but also the necessary force that keeps all things in existence from one picosecond to the next, the distinction between doing and permitting is difficult to make. When you have total control over any and all situations, don't you bear responsibility for everything that happens? Suppose I am alone with someone I consider an enemy (a rival at work, say) and he falls to the floor gasping and clutching his chest, apparently having a heart attack, and then stops breathing. I have a cell phone handy, but I just watch him without calling an ambulance. I know how to perform CPR, but I don't do it. I watch and wait for a half hour until my enemy dies. It is true that I didn't cause the heart attack, but don't I bear some responsibility for his death?

      • fightforgood

        Thanks for your time. I don't find it difficult at all to keep 2 different actions distinct. I find it normal.
        Are you responsible for the man’s heart attack? Have you been feeding him suicide burgers daily?
        Considering the expected outcome of a heart attack is death, your CPR if done correctly might reduce death as the outcome by 10%. Get a defib there and that % shoots to ~60-80% I believe (pending unknown variables). But the expected outcome is still death. (I just finished my re-certification this week, good timing)
        Is God responsible since he can help and doesn't? (a guess at the next question) if Jesus is as defined by Catholicism, then God did help (or is helping). The ball is in the human’s court to learn what we can do to mend and build the relationship. I don’t know a relationship where only one person is involved.
        We so often think of God as our servant.
        What if God cleaned up all the complaints one could possibly think of – perfect sunny days, no wars, no hurt, or pain…would that then satisfy the human? Who serves who in a God – creation relationship?
        Ease of pointing a finger doesn’t create a new truth. If he exists, he certainly doesn’t think like we do. We should be glad for that, because we sure expect a lot from Him.

        • David Nickol

          Is God responsible since he can help and doesn't?

          In a very real sense, I think the answer has to be yes. Remember that in my analogy, I am a human being, and there is much about my enemy's predicament that I am not responsible for. But God is responsible for everything. It is not merely that he watches events and declines to intervene. He is the reason there are events. Anything that happens is something God—in some sense—wants to happen. Nothing can happen that is against God's will. If I choose to harm one, perhaps God does not will that I harm the person, but God gave me free will and willed that I make the choice to harm the person or not to harm the person.

          I know absolutely nothing about this web site, but I am borrowing a paragraph that I think explains things well:

          This understanding of His sovereign will does not imply that God causes everything to happen. Rather, it acknowledges that, because He is sovereign, He must at least permit or allow whatever happens to happen. This aspect of God’s will acknowledges that, even when God passively permits things to happen, He must choose to permit them, because He always has the power and right to intervene. God can always decide to either permit or stop the actions and events of this world. Therefore, as He allows things to happen, He has “willed” them in this sense of the word.

          You can't get God off the hooks for the evil that happens, particularly because Catholicism has as one of its fundamental assumptions that God can and does intervene to prevents some evil. (Otherwise, why pray to avert the death of a sick loved one, or have an "election novena," or pray for the victims of a natural disaster?)

          The most you can argue about the evil God chooses to allow is that it is worth it. You have to have faith that all the terrible things that happen were worth the choice of God to create a world in which human beings are free to choose evil.

          Not only God, but anyone who can help but doesn't is in some way responsible for what they allow to occur. This raises a number of troubling questions about how much those of us who are affluent enough to afford more than the necessities of life owe to those who are dying in extreme poverty.

          • fightforgood

            Thanks for your time.
            This is great. We have a couple things to address. But to save time I’ll copy in what I wrote then deleted from my last note before posting. This was regarding the responsibility to ‘help if able’…
            I probably can but don’t help every homeless person I pass daily. I’m certainly not perfect. To be perfect with the homeless I pass, would it be fair to say - at some point before I start walking past them, I would prepare for the homeless and provide for all I pass?
            Might God question my lack of help when I die (if He exists)? Certainly, but he knows I am not Him, perfect.
            .
            Now let’s move back to your point of control over everything – Would you agree that your idea of control from a Godly figure could be different than what the real God is (if he exists)?

            The ‘willing evil’ part is very interesting. (I see a few folks liked that one too!) The foundation of the ‘control over everything’ hooks you here, I see, but if you and God differ in scope and definition in control, you can’t support the ‘willing evil’.

            Not so sure about a helpful God is a responsible God. So the one who cleans the mess (or comforts) is responsible for the mess?

            Taking it back to Church teaching though, do you really think the Church teaches God wills evil simply because he helps? I’d be interested in that source.

        • M. Solange O’Brien

          Just to be clear: you are arguing that I am not morally culpable for a mans death if there was some I might easily have taken and didn't? Really?

          Ouch. In any case, the problem for you is somewhat worse than it appears. God, by Christian doctrine, stands outside of time and created the universe. God sustains the universe every instant. This means that every joy, every sorrow, every happiness, every pain, every moment is at is it because god wants it that way.. God is responsible, knowing in advance that the universe he created contained auschwitz and dachau and the Boxing Day tsunami, for every moment of suffering and horror they entailed.

          God - by Christian doctrine - truly is the author of all evil.

          • Ignorant Amos

            God - by Christian doctrine - truly is the author of all evil.

            And there are folk teaching children that their ultimate goal is to achieve an eternity with such an entity....sheesh!

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I suspect most people don't think much about god, logically. Religion is just cultural baggage for most folks.

          • fightforgood

            Thanks for taking the time. I’m not sure what you meant to put at first, maybe you just missed the word ‘class’? Your conclusion on a general scale was not what was being discussed. With heart attacks there is nothing others can do most of the time. With CPR it gives us a semblance of hope (with help on the way). It also gives us a sense that we did everything that we could do to help.

            'because god wants it that way'…This has been very interesting.

            Why do you dismiss key aspects of ‘God’ when dictating to people about Him?

            You can’t marry Love and Evil into God. He either loves, or he does not.

            If he didn’t love there would be no good, because he is god and ‘controls everything’ right?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Your response is not clear. You claim that even if there was a chance I could save the man, I am not morally culpable if I just let him die?

          • fightforgood

            Specific to a heart attack - the cause of death is 'heart attack', not 'heart attack with M. Solange O'Brien not helping'.
            Even God can't pin a death on you that you did not cause (or any sin of another person, for that matter).
            Did you refuse to help? Then there could be a moral issue at play and a sin at hand, but not the sin of killing someone.
            How do we measure our moral culpability in a situation? Probably the easiest to identify is guilt. A cold hardened heart may not feel guilt immediately. Of course that doesn't remove a moral wrong. For the situation presented, it is impossible for us to know if CPR would have changed the expected outcome, but if we do CPR, we can at least live knowing that we did what we could to the good, for the dead person. This doesn't eliminate the guilt as we must live with having experenced the situation. Perhaps the death helps the viewer with their bigger moral problem, hate (assuming the earlier example by David). We might make an effort to evaluate why we hate and try to change that aspect of our life.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Did you refuse to help? Then there could be a moral issue at play and a sin at hand

            Excellent, then we can agree that God is a sinner - since he could help (save babies in the Boxing day Tsunami, for example) but refused to help.

          • fightforgood

            I'm so sorry you are so confused. Perhaps it would help if you read an entire post, thought about it, related to other posts, thought some more. Instead of taking one liners and conjuring up conclusions that contradict yourself. As you have done here. only minutes apart you mention "Obviously, whatever god chooses will be perfect." and then offset it with the above.
            This goes back to what I said about dismissing things. Depending on the one line, you are dismissing a whole lot to conclude a contra to one line.
            This type of thought would be very confusing.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I do rests entire posts. What I pointing out (too indirectly, I'm afraid) is that your position and your claims about god are inconsistent.

          • fightforgood

            I apologize for the incosistency (actual or percieved). I tend to think of myself as one who reasoned myself into faith and am very comfortable with my foundation. So if I did not clearly pass along my foundation, I apologize.
            I have enjoyed the back and forth though. I did get too caught up in the heart thing, but I was trying to keep the focus to david's point. Obviously not seeing this great conversation break out ahead of time.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            It happens. But to my point: am I morally culpable if I fail to save the life of someone, when I could, with no effort do so?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            Clearly you're getting hung up on the details of the heart attack case.

            The general case is, am I morally culpable if I could save someone from an unnecessary death and failed to do so?

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            What "key aspects" of god am I dismissing? I am pointing out a logical consequence of Christian doctrine: god is responsible for all evil.

          • fightforgood

            I laid them out below my question. If God exists and he made you, (since he has ultimate control) so did he do so for a good reason or an evil reason?
            Do we agree if God exists, that he is perfect? Free from all error, or what he does, is always perfect, because he is he, god?
            It is impossible to marry Love and Evil to perfect. It would be self-refuting and completely illogical.
            If God is perfect, what he does is either perfectly good or perfectly evil.
            So if God is responsible for evil and is perfect, in 'perfectly evil' there can be no good. This is not a teaching of Christianity.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I laid them out below my question.

            Ah, that wasn't clear.

            If God exists and he made you, (since he has ultimate control) so did he do so for a good reason or an evil reason?

            There is no way to tell. Nothing in the bible gives clear to support to why god made man.

            Do we agree if God exists, that he is perfect? Free from all error, or what he does, is always perfect, because he is he, god?

            How are you defining perfect? Free from error? How do we know what error is? How do you resolve the Euthryro dilemma?

            It is impossible to marry Love and Evil to perfect.

            I don't understand what you're trying to say here.

            It would be self-refuting and completely illogical.

            It will be when you make clear what you're trying to say.

            If God is perfect, what he does is either perfectly good or perfectly evil.

            Why? All you've offered is the hypothesis that if god exists, god is perfect. That says nothing about god's choices. Obviously, whatever god chooses will be perfect.

            So if God is responsible for evil and is perfect, in 'perfectly evil' there can be no good. This is not a teaching of Christianity.

            I just quoted the bible. You don't agree with what the bible says?

          • fightforgood

            I'm not sure how confusing the statement I made could get with regard to marrying Love and Evil into perfect. But perhaps this will help, Take a red marker and blue marker and draw a circle with one and then draw another circle with the other color, right on top of the first. Now evaluate if you see specifically red and specifically blue.
            If there is a change, you don't have either anymore.
            Any change would contradict 'perfect'.
            Now contrary to God, you and I can change, we can deliver food to the food pantry, then come back here and bark at each other, in not so kind terms.
            We are not perfect.
            I hope that helps a little.

          • M. Solange O’Brien

            I'm still not sure where you're going; but I get the point you are asserting. But what about the bible; it says god creates good and evil.

            And if god can't change, then the bible is false again: it talks of god changing his mind.

          • fightforgood

            Thanks for the reply!
            With regard to this (and in general if you haven't noticed my tendencies) I am not a big fan of throwing quotes from the Good Book at folks because the Church teaches that IT is the interpreter of the Bible. Problem with Christianity is that a printing press has allowed everyone to become interpreters and forget the rule set forth early on which is, do not interpret yourself, use the professionals.
            That being the case, if you find the quote or line, I would be happy to seek out a professional answer. If there is a line specific to what you say, I know there is an explanation for it that will not support that God is evil as well as good. I'm sure the answer will go back to the translation and lack of specific terminology from original text, etc. etc. and or emphasis on different aspects as well as taking into context, so reading a few chapters before the line and a few chapters after the line and how it relates in other areas of the bible.
            Happy to help if you desire.
            Take care,

          • fightforgood

            In an extra effort for clarity on my last here. So the way the bible should be viewed is in light of at least 1 other 'thing' (but reality is more). When it is used as an authoritative book for a person, the person has a tendancy to do their own interpretation which lacks the guidance provided by centuries of study and interpretation by those tasked with the job.

          • fightforgood

            So after all of that and just doing a quick search to see what people end up with on the internet, I think I found a pretty good answer that is NOT directly from the church. I do not know who Mr. McKenzie is on the link I'm giving here, but his answer I don't think contradicts anything the Church would explain. Though the Church might have more detail. Maybe have to hit a Vatican.va site.
            https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100213195704AASsfnI

            I have not reviewed the other answers. His seemed fine and interesting in that evil is not what we think it is in the passage.

          • NicholasBeriah Cotta

            So really the issue you have is the contradiction between the free will of human beings and the omnipotence and omniescence of God. A God who would not allow you to do evil is not really giving you a choice is He? That God is not creating a free willed being.
            Yes, he permits evil, but does this make him the author of evil? If you write a story in which a character murders someone, are you condoning murder? Authors who write about rape control the entire story yet when you speak with them, would you say, "Why did you have your characters rape someone else? You should have just made the characters do only good things that you know are good." You wouldn't because you know for characters to be good and believable, they must be separate and free from their author, and freedom would entail that they can do something contrary to the will of the author (even though the whole time, we know who controls and sustains the entire story.)

        • Danny Getchell

          What if God cleaned up all the complaints one could possibly think of – perfect sunny days, no wars, no hurt, or pain…would that then satisfy the human?

          I really don't know. But if you're following this thread, God, why not experiment with this idea for a day or two, just to see what happens?

          • Ignorant Amos

            World peace? Now there's an interesting concept for the religious to ponder.

            But then there would be no cliché for pageant queens, maybe.

        • Michael Murray

          perfect sunny days,

          When I look at the photograph at the top of the page I don't think it's lack of sunshine that disturbs me.

          Maybe I will be drummed out of the Atheists International (second Dawkins revision) for saying this but I have to admit that if God could cut back the evil in the world to just the odd cloudy day I'd cut Him some slack. But rain only overnight of course.

          • fightforgood

            It is a pretty sad picture. And of course, I get the sense it should be clarified that not blaming God - does not make the sutuation ok to the person who will not blame God.
            Of course, atrocities are such.
            Your second kind of leads me here - without the God-creation relationship (if god exists) creation will continue to blame God.
            How about: "Wipe away atrocities God!
            **God does**
            Thx (God doesn't get the courtesy of the full word today)
            Now it's raining during the day God!
            Now it's snowing in the spring God!
            Now my pants won't fit, God!
            Now someone just invaded a peaceful country God!"
            Having a mindset that God making himself known (in creations desired way) and fixing things would - fix things is a dead end lobby. as there will be the next complaint or atrocity.

    • Michael Murray

      Surely with a four year old you encourage them to "help" while keeping them away from anything sharp or breakable and making sure there are some towels handy to soak up the overflow from the sink?

      So God creates tsunamis, earthquakes, asteroids, Loa-loa worm, ... etc.

      • fightforgood

        Excellent. Thank you for your time. Isn't it interesting that we don't thank God for helping us? But as similar to the father in the dishes scenario, He doesn't seem to be seeking praise either.
        He's got to have thick skin with all the blame he takes though.

        • David Nickol

          Isn't it interesting that we don't thank God for helping us?

          You must not watch the news or the Miss America Pageant. Every time there is a natural disaster, the survivors interviewed on the news thank "the Lord" for saving them. Actually, I haven't watched the Miss America Pageant in decades, but the winners always used to thank their parents and God for making them what they were. I have always liked this Robert Frost poem:

          “Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee
          And I'll forgive Thy great big one on me.”</blockquote?

          • fightforgood

            I like Robert Frost too! The Road Not Taken, or some refer to it as the Road Less Traveled is great.
            It is interesting to notice those times when folks thank God for their success, or health. Of course from my perspective I like to see it, but only God would know what is in the person's heart. Surely some are informed by a publicist that it's good for a career.
            Obviously, the earlier point was simply to lay in another piece of the picture as it seems in a creator-creation relationship- to be grateful to a creator would seem to be the logical move of creation.
            What we see though in creation is not that gratefulness, not even neutrality, but disgust. It just doesn't come across logical to hate that which gives you, you.

        • Michael Murray

          Your analogy with fathers and God is interesting. Of course one of the comforts of belief in God, besides His utility as an omni-gap filler, is it recaptures that lost feeling of protection and comfort many of us had from our parents during childhood.

          • fightforgood

            Surely. I think this is why Jesus taught the 'Our Father' as the key prayer. I mean, if He was God, why not just teach the 'Our God'.
            The key in the whole mystery is relationships. We can relate to God easier in family. The problem is the family is no longer a source of protection and comfort many times, thus our desire to reject it.
            Father's have an integral role for their children in that if they preach good, but act bad toward the children, it shouldn't be a mystery the children abandon the parents beliefs.

  • Fr.Sean

    Steve,
    The Book of Job aims at addressing this question. in Wisdom Literature there are two wisdom movements. the first one which developed in the Torah as well as Proverbs and some of the psalms basically posited the idea that if one is faithful to God, tries to follow the law and is generous with the poor they will be blessed. if one faces a lot of suffering it is because they have sinned. The book of Job highlights the second wisdom movement. Job is a righteous man who follows the law, is generous with the poor etc. but he's suffering, in fact he has just about every every kind of misfortune occur to him. Job's three "friends" represent the earlier wisdom movement. the cannot believe Job hasn't brought this one himself. they believe if he repents God will restore him. Job continues to proclaim his innocence. At the end of the book God appears on the scene and tells the three friends they "have not spoken correctly about me as has my servant Job. He then basically tells job that he doesn't have the ability to understand everything in this life, but if he is faithful and tries to follow God will restore him in the end. Both wisdom movements are true. if we are faithful to God God will bless us, but that does not mean we won't face some form of unjust suffering, even calamities. The incarnation also address this question. it's as if God said, "i know you have to deal with this idea of unjust suffering, but in order to show you i am not above or beyond suffering, i'm going to become one of you and suffer anything you may have to suffer so that you will know i am with you in your suffering." that's why the cross isn't just about physical suffering, it's also about humiliation, misunderstanding abandonment and betrayal. Jesus may not have suffered the exact thing we suffer but he did suffer a similar type of suffering.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I like Steve Dillon's good-natured tone, the simplicity and clarity with which he states his argument (simplicity and clarity are tough to achieve), and the fact that he is engaging in the discussion here.

    However, as he wrote, "I certainly won’t pretend like this is a rationally undefeatable argument." If that is the case, Steve, what do you think defeats or at least weakens it?

    • Sqrat

      The argument presumes that the being called "God" has a particular set of characteristics. Specifically, "God is traditionally conceived of as being perfectly good and the ultimate source, ground, or originating cause of everything that can have an ultimate source, ground or originating cause." The argument says that those characteristics are incompatible with the world we see around us, ergo God must not exist.

      One way of refuting the argument is to assert the possibility that the traditional conception of God may be mistaken. He may not be perfectly good, and/or he may not be the ultimate source, ground, or originating cause of everything that can have an ultimate source, ground or originating cause.

  • mahitha .s

    okay i see that there are soo many arguments goin on about God. Let me just say I'm not gonna judge anyone for their beliefs but athiests say about all the sufferings around the wolrd. Why does no one mention the wonderful miracles that God does? and there are proofs that God exists.. if the holy spirit (a part of the trinity )exists then surely God who send the spirit exists. I've personally had very amazing experiences of the holy spirit. I know that there might be no point in arguing coz its gonna go on forever.. athiests would disagree with me nd say that all these miracles nd experiences could be a ghost or i cud be having hallucinations . Could i tell you guys just take the effort for once to talk to God Just try once with faith to talk to God nd to find out more.

  • potatoes

    okay i see that there are soo many arguments goin on about God. Let me
    just say I'm not gonna judge anyone for their beliefs but athiests say
    about all the sufferings around the wolrd. Why does no one mention the
    wonderful miracles that God does? and there are proofs that God exists..
    if the holy spirit (a part of the trinity )exists then surely God who
    send the spirit exists. I've personally had very amazing experiences of
    the holy spirit. I know that there might be no point in arguing coz its
    gonna go on forever.. athiests would disagree with me nd say that all
    these miracles nd experiences could be a ghost or i cud be having
    hallucinations . Could i tell you guys just take the effort for once to
    talk to God Just try once with faith to talk to God nd to find out more.

  • Noel

    This was a very good article and suffering is such a mystery. If one believes in God or not we all will suffer. For some, just having a cup of coffee makes one suffer, especially if it is really strong. When death has come to those I love or the evil act of murder has taken someone I love away by a vicious, violent act, it is then that my faith in God has been tested. Yet, death comes to us all, for the believer and non believer. There can be no love without suffering. The cross, the crucifix is where the focus of my vision goes. Not the type of crucifix which has Jesus looking like he had a little scrape but I seek the crucifix which shows the God/Man in total agony. Freedom, innocence and believing that God became man is what gives me the narrow path of finding God in the midst of pain. If I take the crucifix out of the picture, then God is just a cruel being who has played a very, ugly trick on the human race. Now, when I believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and that he has come to save all humanity by way of the cross and resurrection-- Well, how can I not sing one loud ALLELUIA -- this is a great web site, keep up the hard work. Also I cannot forget the woman of great faith -- Mary the mother of God.. She who stood a the foot of the cross gives me the strength to embrace suffering.

  • John Doman

    If God does not exist, why the hell should we care about the holocaust at all, any more than we care about a distant planet being destroyed by a supernova, or a rock being split by lightning? It's all just matter. Death is merely atoms becoming disorganized.