On Reductios and the Argument From Evil

I have said that one of the most asinine Christian arguments is probably the one where it's argued I cannot use the argument from evil as an atheist without having an ultimate moral standard for good and evil, seen here. I stand by that. Let me comment on a couple of others who have weighed in on the matter...

Let's say I press the argument from evil upon the Christian theist. I argue that based upon her own beliefs (not mine) that it's improbable that her Omni-God exists. As I've already argued it's asinine to say I cannot make that argument. Even Vic Reppert has weighed in that I can do this, here, at least theoretically.

Now, over at The Prosblogion Blog we read:

The basic point here is this: The theist can always get out of the atheist's argument by rejecting something that the atheist thinks is nonsense or contradictory--and how can the atheist complain about that?

But this is just silly on a few levels. In the first place it's not an atheist argument at all, as I've argued, especially since it doesn't lead one to atheism if it's sound, and Christians themselves must deal with it even if atheists never argued for it.

Moreover, can the theist "always" get out of this problem? Many theists have become Process thinkers because of it, and many others have become atheists because of it, although it doesn't necessarily lead to atheism. No, theists cannot "always" get out of this problem. Many do, of course, but many do not. The force of the argument is pretty powerful.

Surely Trent Dougherty is talking about tactics here, isn't he? That, tactically speaking, the theist always has an out. Well, in my opinion, a Holocaust denier always has an out too, as does a Flat Earth Society member. Just because there is always an out doesn't mean much to me, for I'm talking about probabilities here, not possibilities. Is it logically possible that a good omnipotent God exists? Yes, it's probable that this is possible, although I even have my doubts about this. But given my argument it's not probable an Omni-God exists given the amount of suffering in this world, and probabilities are all we have to work with. After all, Jim Carrey in the movie "Dumb and Dumber" still thought he had a chance to get the girl of his dreams after she said he didn't have a one in a million chance, too.

Then Trent asks how an atheist can complain when the theist rejects his argument. That too is silly. In the first place, who's complaining, and about what? Besides, if the theist rejects my argument, so what? That's within his epistemic rights. Arguments are rejected all of the time. Am I then to just walk away from the argument at that point? Why should I? I still think it's powerful even if a particular theist or group of theists reject it. Do theists walk away from an argument when an atheist rejects it? No! She regroups, reformulates it better, and comes back for another go of it, and so do I.

Sheesh. Sorry, but these kind of thinking skills baffle me. Where's the substance? That's what I want to know. With thinking like this no wonder there are believers.

35 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

As far as the rest of Trent's argument goes, it reminds me of the Logical Positivists argument that to talk about God is meaningless. It's simply NOT meaningless to talk about God and evil. Just as the Logical Positivists are wrong, so also is Trent's argument, for the same reasons.

David B. Ellis said...

The word "evil" in the context of the POE means "thing that causes suffering" and not "thing that is morally wrong".

So, even if it were true that there can be no nontheistic basis for moral truths (which it isnt), this would still have no bearing on the POE.

This confusion is exactly why I wish more atheists using this argument would use the term Problem of Unnecessary Suffering rather that Problem of Evil. People who arent well-read in philosophy are naturally inclined to misinterpret the term from the start.

And, even more frustrating, to not let go of that misinterpretation even after the definition of evil in the context of the POE is explained.

John W. Loftus said...

Even if I personally think the whole concept of evil is nonsense, I can still argue my case. It's easy. I can ask the theist to explain the difficulty in reconciling the commands of God and his very own actions. Why does he command the Golden Rule and not follow it, for instance? Let's say I reject the Golden Rule. So what? My case is built on what the theist believes anyway, not on what I believe. I'm asking the theist to explain these difficulties.

Now of course, the theist will have her replies. I understand that. But I have counter-replies, and so forth.

IrishFarmer said...

The word "evil" in the context of the POE means "thing that causes suffering" and not "thing that is morally wrong".

But if God isn't morally wrong to cause suffering, then there's no problem. You need a standard.

So, even if it were true that there can be no nontheistic basis for moral truths (which it isnt),

You're discovered a secular standard for objective morality?

Why does he command the Golden Rule and not follow it, for instance?

The Golden Rule is a necessary measure of behavior, it seems, for finite, social creatures. God operates on, what I like to call, "a different level". That is, he has a much greater purview than we humans do.

My case is built on what the theist believes anyway, not on what I believe. I'm asking the theist to explain these difficulties.

In your post you appeal to statistics, in lieu of that person's point that a theist can reject something you perceive to be contradictory.

For instance, if I decide that I believe that God, being an omni-God, has good reason to allow evil even if I don't know what it is. That sort of eliminates the problem-of-evil from my pov. According to you, that isn't a rational thing to do since some other people happened to become process theologians, or atheists, or whatever.

Honestly, that seemed like a mild red herring or non sequitur or whatever.

Those statistics have no bearing on the rationality of any other theist's reasoning. It seems to me what you're doing is simply using a "wedge" strategy. Your argument doesn't necessarily work, but so long as you can get a wedge into the mind of some theists with it, and de-convert as many as you can, then it doesn't really matter whether it was the person's reason or their emotion that did it.

Though, I might be missing the mark.

David B. Ellis said...


But if God isn't morally wrong to cause suffering, then there's no problem. You need a standard.


You and I have discussed this on several occasions, Irish, so by now you should realize that the POE only needs to point out the inconsistency between the supposed character of the entity in question(caring, loving) and his inaction in the face of pointless extreme suffering he could easily prevent.

The problem for the credibility of theism resulting from this stands whether moral truths exist or not.


You're discovered a secular standard for objective morality?


You have solved the Euthyphro Dilemma?

My own meta-ethical views do not create the sort of philosophical difficulties (such as the Euthyphro Dilemma) that yours does.

But we've discussed that at length before and I'm not going to get sidetracked into meta-ethics when I've already shown it to be irrelevent to the subject under discussion.

Sean Vedder said...

You have solved the Euthyphro Dilemma?

He hasn't solved it, but this is the standard Christian response.
I would simply ask IrishFarmer what his theistic standard of morality is.

Perhaps he derives his morality from this passage of the "Holy" bible :

Numbers 31

17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

18But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.


If there is no standard of good and evil apart from God, how do you know your God is moral? Oh, I know, because he said so. That certainly is "objective".

The truth is, Christians have it backward, because if morality is whatever God says it is, then it is entirely subjective. Unless there is an independent standard to point to, the Christian is no more objective about the matter than anyone else, and in fact can never come to any firm basis for moral behavior because everything is subject to his god's whims.

zilch said...

C'mon, Sean, you know the answer to that: this delectable sample of God's morality only applied to the Israelites in those particular circumstances. God wants us to be nicer than that now, since the Midianite problem is taken care of.

Steven Carr said...

IRISH FARMER
'For instance, if I decide that I believe that God, being an omni-God, has good reason to allow evil even if I don't know what it is. '

CARR
There is probably a very good reason for God to allow hackers to hack your web site.....

I just hope you won't complain when it happens.

After all, there is a very good reason for your web site being trashed in the next few days....

exapologist said...

Check out MIke Almeida's new post at prosblogion.ektopos.com on the issue at hand. It's worth a look.

IrishFarmer said...

You and I have discussed this on several occasions, Irish, so by now you should realize that the POE only needs to point out the inconsistency between the supposed character of the entity in question(caring, loving) and his inaction in the face of pointless extreme suffering he could easily prevent.

The problem for the credibility of theism resulting from this stands whether moral truths exist or not.


Again, is there something wrong with God allowing suffering? If so, then you're admitting that we need a standard. If you say there is no standard, and there isn't necessarily anything morally wrong with it, then it really doesn't matter whether or not God allows or prevents suffering. Its a morally neutral thing.

Let me put it this way, without a moral standard on the issue, what motivation should God have to prevent suffering?

If you say, "Because God should stop suffering," you're begging the question by harboring the hidden assumption of a moral standard which God has a duty to follow.

You have solved the Euthyphro Dilemma?

Euthyprho's dilemma has been avoided for some time, by grounding morality in God's nature. The only problem theists have besides that is whether or not "good" is arbitrarily defined.

My own meta-ethical views do not create the sort of philosophical difficulties (such as the Euthyphro Dilemma) that yours does.

I very much believe that - but like all secular moralities I think its safe to assume that your system of ethics begs the question.

But we've discussed that at length before and I'm not going to get sidetracked into meta-ethics when I've already shown it to be irrelevent to the subject under discussion.

Again, it occurs to me that you're projecting a moral duty on God to prevent suffering, though you deny that morality is involved in any way whatsoever.

He hasn't solved it, but this is the standard Christian response.

As I've stated. If objective morality is grounded in God's nature, it circumvents Euthyphro's Dilemma. It just leaves me with an arbitrary definition of good, though there is a way around that. I don't want to get into that here. You can debate me on the issue over at CARM where I started a topic on my argument in the Philosophy forum.

Perhaps he derives his morality from this passage of the "Holy" bible :

Numbers 31

17Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him.

18But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

If there is no standard of good and evil apart from God, how do you know your God is moral? Oh, I know, because he said so. That certainly is "objective".


Actually, considering the circumstances of that biblical event, it isn't as much of a moral atrocity as you seem to think it is.

IRISH FARMER
'For instance, if I decide that I believe that God, being an omni-God, has good reason to allow evil even if I don't know what it is. '

CARR
There is probably a very good reason for God to allow hackers to hack your web site.....

I just hope you won't complain when it happens.

After all, there is a very good reason for your web site being trashed in the next few days....


...Um...

Ok, so in response to my argument, you appeal to my emotions?

I'd almost be surprised if I haven't been participating in online debate for so long.

David B. Ellis said...


Again, is there something wrong with God allowing suffering? If so, then you're admitting that we need a standard.


I did not argue that God's behavior is wrong. I argued that his behavior is inconsistent with his loving nature.

Whether it also is wrong is a separate and irrelevent question which I won't allow the discussion to be diverted by.


Let me put it this way, without a moral standard on the issue, what motivation should God have to prevent suffering?


The motivation to prevent suffering is his loving nature. Even if there are no moral truths it is still inconsistent with a perfectly loving nature, by its very definition, to stand inactive while others suffer unnecessarily agonies which could be easily prevented.


Euthyprho's dilemma has been avoided for some time, by grounding morality in God's nature.


In Divine Command Theory, what is good is determined by God's command.

Leading to the form of the Euthyphro Dilemma asking "but if God commanded cruel and sadistic acts, it then follows that cruel and sadistic acts would be right. Which makes them arbitrary".

Theologians have tried to avoid this by saying objective morality is based on God's nature and not his commands.

However, this doesn't solve the dilemma. It just involves a slightly different variation of it:

If God's nature is what makes something right or wrong it follows that if God had been sadistic and cruel then sadism and cruelty would be right. It logically follows from your meta-ethical theory, different things are morally right in different logically possible worlds---depending on the character of the divinities that create them).

In my meta-ethical theory though, what is morally right is morally right in all logically possible worlds.

So which of us is on the shaky ground in meta-ethics?

Sean Vedder said...

IrishFarmer said...

As I've stated. If objective morality is grounded in God's nature, it circumvents Euthyphro's Dilemma.

Saying you've avoided the dilemma and actually doing so are two different things. One can ask instead why God's nature is good, because it is God's nature or because there is an independent standard of morality to point to? This kind of "solution" is typical of theology.

Actually, considering the circumstances of that biblical event, it isn't as much of a moral atrocity as you seem to think it is.

So it's a moral atrocity but just not as bad as I think? I guess murdering childern is okay depending on the "circumstances".

In Numbers 31 the atrocity takes place after the Midianites have been defeated. You can't argue that there was a good reason to kill all the childern because they are ordered to keep alive all the virgin girls for themselves, and I think we all know what that implies. Maybe you also think rape isn't always a moral atrocity either?

zilch said...

sean, you persist in ignoring the silver lining that God provided for the ex-virgins: of course their rapists had to marry them (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

Jennifer said...

Actually, considering the circumstances of that biblical event, it isn't as much of a moral atrocity as you seem to think it is.

This is a crucial point in this discussion. How can this be glossed over? I hear that God is a monster for not intervening, yet He's a monster for ridding the world of evil behavior. Not sick and misunderstood people, but who don't have the same morality.

The conscience is mostly developed by the age of 10. Morality instilled before the age of 10 is what usually sticks with a person. We would have to reach all children before the age of 10 with an ideal morality I suppose.

If we are intelligent enough to judge God's seeming negligence then we must, collectively, be intelligent enough to know what should be done and then do it. If God is being judged from the armchair it's no judgment at all, it's just scoffing and mocking.

Sean Vedder said...

Thank you, Zilch! I had overlooked this. The verses you site also state that the rape victim has the comforting assurance that her new rapist husband can never divorce her. Added bonus, her father is 50 shekels of silver richer, courtesy of his new son-in-law's bank account. Bible God isn't all bad after all!

Jennifer said...
Actually, considering the circumstances of that biblical event, it isn't as much of a moral atrocity as you seem to think it is.

This is a crucial point in this discussion. How can this be glossed over? I hear that God is a monster for not intervening, yet He's a monster for ridding the world of evil behavior. Not sick and misunderstood people, but who don't have the same morality.


So killing the children was okay then? The Midianites had already been defeated, and as I pointed out, you cannot argue that killing all the children was somehow necessary, because they don't kill the girls! Unless you suppose that being female they didn't absorb that nasty Midianite morality. The truth is, Jennifer, that you can rationalize all you want to, but it doesn't change the fact that killing children is wrong. That you think it is sometimes right only proves that Christians have no objective moral standard.

zilch said...

If God is being judged from the armchair it's no judgment at all, it's just scoffing and mocking.

Scoffing and mocking, jennifer? Some things are so horrible that one must make fun of them; to consider them seriously would drive one to despair. Consider Woody Allen's jokes about Hitler. As the Bullfrog Blues has it, laughin' just to keep from cryin'.

No, it is not good to order the killing of children and the rape of virgins, and God ordered it. That is, unless the "good" of 99.999% (conservative estimate) of all human beings presently alive (for we have come a long way in the last couple thousand years) has nothing to do with the "good" of God, in which case it is highly misleading to use the same word for both.

So either Jehovah is a rather nasty character, or the Old Testament is not the work of God but rather of a rough, battle-toughened superstitious folk. I think the latter is rather more likely.

But jennifer: when you say:
If we are intelligent enough to judge God's seeming negligence then we must, collectively, be intelligent enough to know what should be done and then do it.

It doesn't take much intelligence, or moral sense, to condemn killing children and raping virgins. But as far as knowing what should be done, and doing it, that is much harder. And you are right: merely criticizing someone, or some religion, from an armchair, and not doing something about the hungry children and abused women, and the destruction of the environment, and all the other terrible things happening in the here and now, is hypocritical. If one does good, human good, it doesn't really matter in whose name it is done.

cheers from rainy Vienna, zilch

Jennifer said...

Hi Zilch,
Glad to hear it's raining..it is here in Washington too so I'm not quite as jealous about you getting to live there. ;)

Well...this isn't going to be popular, but this is the view I take.

I, personally, cannot imagine actually killing someone. I don't condone harming or killing innocent people. I can, however, see the reality of human nature as playing out in history and the present (which is just a continuation of the past) and it paints a rather grim picture of man when left to his/her own devices.
From God's perspective there is a time to kill. From a human perspective there is a time to kill. When and why is the judgment call. I think God made a good and hard judgment.

There is one part in the article I'd like to comment on now. The author describes "bliss" for the children. I do not see this as him excusing the gravity of what happened, but agree with him in that death is not something to be feared or that is bad. A long, painful, suffering death is something different. God never ordered torture.

David brought up a good point as well when he specified that at the crux of the POE is evil being defined as "thing that causes suffering". That's a broad brush and this is just where morality does make a difference. What people do and believe about suffering is what makes the difference. That does take a standard of morality doesn't it?

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Oops, here it is.

Jennifer said...

I can't seem to link to the article. Here is the address:

http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/586

Excuse me :o/

IrishFarmer said...

I did not argue that God's behavior is wrong. I argued that his behavior is inconsistent with his loving nature.

But the problem is, that it isn't against His nature by necessity.

My parents not only allowed, but introduced, pain and suffering into my life despite their loving nature.

I think at this point, it might help if you define what you mean when you say, "God is loving." What does it mean to be "loving"?

That's not a trick question, I just think we need to make sure we're on the right page.

The motivation to prevent suffering is his loving nature. Even if there are no moral truths it is still inconsistent with a perfectly loving nature, by its very definition, to stand inactive while others suffer unnecessarily agonies which could be easily prevented.

So it seems you define, "loving", as "preventing unnecessary suffering". That problem seems to nip itself in the bud. If God is loving, which is an assumption that you allow, then we have no reason to think there is unnecessary suffering.

Our cognitive faculties are far too limited to say, "We know which suffering is, and is not, necessary."

In Divine Command Theory, what is good is determined by God's command.

You're mixing up two categories here. "What is good" with "what our moral duties are". If good is God's nature, then our moral duties are based on his nature, which means they aren't good just because He says so, and they aren't based on any higher standard. Hence, dilemma circumvented. Sure, it leaves us with an arbitrary definition of "good", but there are ways around that.

Leading to the form of the Euthyphro Dilemma asking "but if God commanded cruel and sadistic acts, it then follows that cruel and sadistic acts would be right. Which makes them arbitrary".

Theologians have tried to avoid this by saying objective morality is based on God's nature and not his commands.

However, this doesn't solve the dilemma. It just involves a slightly different variation of it:

If God's nature is what makes something right or wrong it follows that if God had been sadistic and cruel then sadism and cruelty would be right. It logically follows from your meta-ethical theory, different things are morally right in different logically possible worlds---depending on the character of the divinities that create them).


Something only needs to be true in all possible worlds if it needs to be a logically necessary truth, such as "squares have four corners which sum 360 degrees". I never claimed that my system of morality is logically necessary. It does, however, work in our actual world.

To put it another way, humans need morality, and even atheists know this. Our moral nature is based on intuition, and my argument is that it can only be fulfilled in God. Our intuition is what breaks the circular, arbitrary definition of good left by saying good is found within God's nature.

In my meta-ethical theory though, what is morally right is morally right in all logically possible worlds.

What is your ethical system?

Saying you've avoided the dilemma and actually doing so are two different things. One can ask instead why God's nature is good, because it is God's nature or because there is an independent standard of morality to point to? This kind of "solution" is typical of theology.

Which is where our moral intuition comes in. :)

So it's a moral atrocity but just not as bad as I think?

I wasn't speaking literally. That is, I didn't agree that it was a moral atrocity.

Furthermore, on what standard are you judging the moral actions of God or others?

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/midian.html

I guess murdering childern is okay depending on the "circumstances".

If you're a moral absolutist, no, but I doubt you are.

In Numbers 31 the atrocity takes place after the Midianites have been defeated. You can't argue that there was a good reason to kill all the childern because they are ordered to keep alive all the virgin girls for themselves, and I think we all know what that implies. Maybe you also think rape isn't always a moral atrocity either?

Although this discussion really has nothing to do with that actual discussion, the text no where implies rape/pedophilia. That link is a great start on that subject, I simply don't have the time or the patience to argue a moral atrocity against an atheist, who has no standard on which to judge God.

Thank you, Zilch! I had overlooked this. The verses you site also state that the rape victim has the comforting assurance that her new rapist husband can never divorce her. Added bonus, her father is 50 shekels of silver richer, courtesy of his new son-in-law's bank account. Bible God isn't all bad after all!

I'm sorry, but until any of you actually demonstrate that you have some authority to speak on an ancient text like the bible, then I don't see why myself, or anyone else for that matter, should listen to your modernist commentary.

Unless you like arguing against strawmen?

As it stands, you guys are begging the question, and using an appeal to emotion.

akakiwibear said...

“I have said that one of the most asinine Christian arguments is probably the one where it's argued I cannot use the argument from evil as an atheist without having an ultimate moral standard for good and evil,” - John I agree with you, you can use whatever argument you like, your moral frame of reference does not preclude you advancing weak arguments.


The Argument of evil trots out the tri-omni God model in an attempt to discredit God based on the existence of evil - ho hum boring! – JWL rightly points out that the issue of an absolute standard of morality is a red herring.
If there is an absolute universal standard for good/evil then why should we presume to know it?
How misdirected to say JWL can’t use his pet AoE because he may not subscribe to objective morality – JWL should not use AoE because it is so deeply flawed!


The starting premise of the atheist argument is the tri-omni God. If we accept, for the sake of argument, that God is omniscient then the manner in which God exercises benevolence and power is by definition the best - by definition the omniscient God knows best, even if you, John or I may think we know better!


It poor argument to cite an apparent contradiction between omni-benevolence and the existence of evil to disprove a tri-omni God while conveniently ignoring omniscience -
It is patent arrogance to argue that one knows better than an omniscient God - it is just silly to use that as the basis for demonstrating that such a God does not exist!


The AoE is defeated on numerous counts such as having flawed presumptions and being irrational – but I don’t have the energy or tolerance for boredom to plough through its failings again.

Sala kahle - peace

Sean Vedder said...

Zilch said...
It doesn't take much intelligence, or moral sense, to condemn killing children and raping virgins.

Zilch, are you saying IrishFarmer has no intelligence or moral sense? I think he does, but he is blinded by his narrow bible worship, and so must defend these bible atrocities by rationalizing them or denying they are atrocities at all.

IrishFarmer said...
...the text no where implies rape/pedophilia.

Let's forget about rape for a moment. The text clearly states that the killing of children was ordered. Was that killing morally right or wrong? You said: "I wasn't speaking literally. That is, I didn't agree that it was a moral atrocity." So we know that you believe that it is sometimes okay to kill children. Thank you.


William Lane Craig has said:

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

Would you then commit rape or murder on God's command? If not, why?

I simply don't have the time or the patience to argue a moral atrocity against an atheist, who has no standard on which to judge God.

Where does an objective morality come from? How do we determine if a certain action is good or evil?
Right and wrong can only be objective if they are based upon reality and the needs of human beings, and this is true because reality exists independently of any individual consciousness. My standards are grounded in reality, which is subject to the wishes and whims of no one, while yours are based on the subjective wants and demands of your imaginary invisible god. That's why Christian morality is completely subjective and can never be anything but.

I'm sorry, but until any of you actually demonstrate that you have some authority to speak on an ancient text like the bible, then I don't see why myself, or anyone else for that matter, should listen to your modernist commentary.

I have the authority as a human being to determine if the things described in the Bible as commands of God are things a reasonable person would find evil. The fact that you do not find them so simply shows your unreasonableness. Of course you don't want to listen, your mind is made up and you can't stand the idea of people thinking for themselves instead of blindly following the arbitrary rules and demands of your god.

Sean Vedder said...

Akakiwibear said...
It poor argument to cite an apparent contradiction between omni-benevolence and the existence of evil to disprove a tri-omni God while conveniently ignoring omniscience -
It is patent arrogance to argue that one knows better than an omniscient God - it is just silly to use that as the basis for demonstrating that such a God does not exist!


Dear Akakiwibear. It is precisely because of that supposed omniscience that the argument from evil arises, so no one is "ignoring" it. You are simply begging the question, though I do congratulate you on perfecting the art of circular reasoning.

I would also suggest you not accuse others of "poor argument" and "arrogance" while engaging in such things yourself.

IrishFarmer said...

Let's forget about rape for a moment. The text clearly states that the killing of children was ordered. Was that killing morally right or wrong? You said: "I wasn't speaking literally. That is, I didn't agree that it was a moral atrocity." So we know that you believe that it is sometimes okay to kill children. Thank you.

You're hitting a difficult subject, even for a Christian. Now, I can spend the next 3000 words explaining that situation in depth, but all I'll be doing is restating the thoughts given in that link I posted above.

Here it is again.

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/midian.html

The way you put it, I wouldn't say its ever "ok" to kill children. Its always a sad state of affairs, its always a bad thing. Let's say, for instance, that I say that we were morally justified in dropping the atomic bomb on japan. Yes, we killed women and children and men who were civilians, but the point is: even if I claim we're justified, I am not then saying, "Its a good thing they died" or even that, "its ok that they died."

However, I cannot deny that I believe it would be a 'morally justified' event.

On divine command theory, then, God has the right to command an act, which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been sin, but which is now morally obligatory in virtue of that command.

Would you then commit rape or murder on God's command? If not, why?


That's too complicated a question for a yes or no answer.

First off, I don't think you should be quoting Dr. Craig's arguments out of context and attributing them to me. He has a Q&A section on his site, that you can ask him about.

However, by coincidence I do agree with Craig's statement. That said, if I heard a voice in my head telling me to rape someone, there are many reasons why I would know it isn't God.

Cheif amongst which is, when God asks someone to do something "evil", its for a reason. I don't see how raping someone could ever be purposeful. Especially the way you state it, as if the rape is an end in itself.

I simply don't have the time or the patience to argue a moral atrocity against an atheist, who has no standard on which to judge God.

Where does an objective morality come from? How do we determine if a certain action is good or evil?


Objective morality doesn't "come from somewhere" anymore than numbers come from somewhere.

My point in arguing for objective morality is not that we'll automatically know what is right or wrong in any given instance, only that we'll know that good and evil exist objectively. Yeah, we're going to disagree on some points, in fact on many points, but objective morality does not require that humans agree on every moral issue, or even any moral issue.

We recognize objective morality through intuition, and furthermore our intuition must be satisfied by God's nature.

Right and wrong can only be objective if they are based upon reality and the needs of human beings, and this is true because reality exists independently of any individual consciousness.

I don't see how that's so. In reality, we have to deal with issues of morality, and finally my system of morality is based on the needs of human beings. Our intuition tells us that there really is objective right and wrong, and ultimately our intuition will never be satisified except in God's nature.

My standards are grounded in reality, which is subject to the wishes and whims of no one, while yours are based on the subjective wants and demands of your imaginary invisible god. That's why Christian morality is completely subjective and can never be anything but.

That's not quite an accurate portrayal, but how does your morality stem from reality?

I have the authority as a human being to determine if the things described in the Bible as commands of God are things a reasonable person would find evil.

Yes, but when I hear people wantonly accusing the Israelites of rape (and ultimately pedophilia), it demonstrates that they haven't spent a single second understanding the Bible outside of reading "godsucks.geocities.com".

Although I know that criticizing the Bible despite being completely ignorant is the modus operandi of atheism, it doesn't fly with me. I'll need to see some sober understanding before I take someone seriously on the issue.

The fact that you do not find them so simply shows your unreasonableness.

This is exactly what I mean. I don't have the space here to provide a proper response, so I referred everyone here to a decent resource, and instead of bothering to read up on it, you insist on telling me I'm wrong because you say so.

Of course you don't want to listen, your mind is made up and you can't stand the idea of people thinking for themselves instead of blindly following the arbitrary rules and demands of your god.

No, as it turns out if the event in question is a moral atrocity, which could never be commanded by a loving, just, sovereign God, then I can just ignore it in the Bible. Even if that one part, or many parts, weren't inspired by God, it doesn't render the rest of the Bible irrelevant to my beliefs.

So, no, unlike you I don't have any commitments to my argument. You, on the other hand, need something to be wrong with the Bible, otherwise you're going to have a hard time justifying your unbelief.

Emily said...

"You, on the other hand, need something to be wrong with the Bible, otherwise you're going to have a hard time justifying your unbelief."

There are many ways to justify unbelief that are perfectly logical, which do not rely on the absurdities, contradictions and vile fictions found in the Bible(s).

You could deny Hinduism without reading any of its sacred texts in depth, without a problem, I'm sure.

I am an unbeliever because, being raised outside of any Faith, I have never been given any good reason to believe any theist system--by anyone, ever.

Christianity in particular doesn't seem to be required for moral living, by any stretch. It doesn't accurately explain how the world physically works to me, it has a deity that requires obedience but is "on a another level"--meaning beyond comprehension. And, even though that god supposedly loves me, He will torment me forever in hellfire if I don't accept him as my personal savior.

Yikes, you can keep him--what good does this fiction do us?

akakiwibear said...

emily, you say "There are many ways to justify unbelief that are perfectly logical, which do not rely on the absurdities, contradictions and vile fictions found in the Bible(s).
"
.

then you say " even though that god supposedly loves me, He will torment me forever in hellfire if I don't accept him as my personal savior.

Yikes, you can keep him"


This is somewhat of a contradiction to your earlier position. It seems that like many atheists you too rely on misrepresentation to justify your non-belief.

Sala kahle - peace

Shygetz said...

So, irishfarmer, you are too incompetent to decide if every minute of suffering and death an innocent child swept away in a tsunami is necessary for a greater good, even though God never offered you an explanation. However, you are perfectly competent to second-guess your internal voice of God if it told you to do something "evil" which does not seem justified to you. So, "evil" is justified by presumption until God wants to use you as His tool, in which case he owes you a little more exposition?

I simply don't have the time or the patience to argue a moral atrocity against an atheist, who has no standard on which to judge God.

I certainly do; I have my own intuitive morality, which is shared by most humans. Perhaps without acknowleging it, you have fallen squarely in Euthrypro's dilemma; the implication of your claim is that anything God commands is the definition of good, and our intuition is incapable of determining what is good. Therefore, saying God is good has no moral meaning to you; you are simply saying God is God. So where would you get off demanding an explanation for an internal command from God ordering you to rape or murder? You have "no standard on which to judge God."

No, as it turns out if the event in question is a moral atrocity, which could never be commanded by a loving, just, sovereign God, then I can just ignore it in the Bible.

How do you determine what is a moral atrocity? You have "no standard on which to judge God."

Yes, but when I hear people wantonly accusing the Israelites of rape (and ultimately pedophilia), it demonstrates that they haven't spent a single second understanding the Bible outside of reading "godsucks.geocities.com".

Although I know that criticizing the Bible despite being completely ignorant is the modus operandi of atheism, it doesn't fly with me. I'll need to see some sober understanding before I take someone seriously on the issue.


Save the sanctimony; by modern standards, Israelites certainly did practice rape, in that the consent of the woman was given no value. Pedophilia is endorsed several times over in the Talmud, which are collections of rabbinical teachings. There are even rabbinical laws stating the kethubah owed when a grown man has had sex with a girl less than 3 years old. It is present in many of the rabbinical writings, and refutes the assertion that child sex was anathema to the Israelites--on the contrary, it was sanctioned and regulated by the ancient rabbinical structure, as testified by the Talmud.

Fortunately for you, I don't require your "sober understanding" or that you have an iota of understanding of the Bible outside of www.reasonablefaith.org before correcting your misunderstandings.

akakiwibear said...

Sean, “it is precisely because of that supposed omniscience that the argument from evil arises” not so! The argument from evil is normally stated as based on the premise of omni-benevolence and omnipotence only, excluding omniscience, for precisely the reason I outlined.


It is JWL’s OP “that it's improbable that her Omni-God exists.” where I took exception to his implicit inclusion of omniscience.

Yes I know I said “The Argument of evil trots out the tri-omni God model” I was actually hoping to be challenged on that, but I guess no one fell for it – still a fun way to start the new year.

“I do congratulate you on perfecting the art of circular reasoning” Thank you sean, I strive for perfection in all I do, but I have to be modest and admit that it is not really perfectly circular.
P1 – God is omniscient.
P2 – sean has a smarter way of doing things than God
Conclusion – God is not omniscient or any other unsupported conclusion you wish to draw as the two statements are mutually exclusive unless sean is omniscient and therefore God.

It is my view that debate around the tri-omni question is futile at best as they are concepts which cannot be defined in absolute or objective terms – e.g. is omnipotent the ability to do everything (including make round squares) or to do anything the omnipotent being chooses to do or to be able to resist doing anything the omnipotent being does not want to do … etc … etc. To base any argument on a premise that is itself weakly defined is weak argument.

Sala kahle - peace

Sean Vedder said...

akakiwibear said...

The argument from evil is normally stated as based on the premise of omni-benevolence and omnipotence only, excluding omniscience, for precisely the reason I outlined.

My point is that adding omniscience to god does nothing to refute the force of the argument. It only says that the reason for evil is a mystery and that since god knows more than we do, he must have a good reason for allowing it. But this is just arguing from ignorance and offers no evidence for the assertion.

With so much gratuitous evil and suffering in the world the probability that any all-powerful, all good god (even one who is also omniscient) exists is highly improbable. Saying therefore that God still might exist doesn't mean much, for how do you know for certain that John F. Kennedy didn't survive the assassination attempt in Dallas and has been living incognito all these decades in South America? You don't know everything, so you must admit it's possible!

zilch said...

Sean asks:

Zilch, are you saying IrishFarmer has no intelligence or moral sense?

Of course not. I know you're asking this rhetorically, but sometimes I do get carried away in der Hitze des Gefechts, and have to be reminded to stay civil. I'm convinced that IrishFarmer is an intelligent and moral person, however much I may disagree with him. That said, back to the "heat of the battle".

Irishfarmer, you say:

My point in arguing for objective morality is not that we'll automatically know what is right or wrong in any given instance, only that we'll know that good and evil exist objectively. Yeah, we're going to disagree on some points, in fact on many points, but objective morality does not require that humans agree on every moral issue, or even any moral issue.

So if "objective morality" only exists as an ideal, and you admit that we cannot agree on how to implement it in some or even any cases, how is this "objective morality" any different than "subjective morality"? This is a point Christians often bring up: they accuse atheists of having no standard for morality. But as I and many others have said (on your blog, for instance) the "objectivity" of religious morals is an illusion, given the amount of disagreement even within religions on how to interpret and implement them. I fail to see how believers have it any easier than atheists do, trying to figure out how to navigate through life. Some decisions are just hard, no matter what you believe. In the end, you have to decide what to do yourself, and that renders the distinction between "objective" and "subjective" moot.

We recognize objective morality through intuition, and furthermore our intuition must be satisfied by God's nature.

That's funny: that sounds pretty much like how I recognize the morals I want to follow, if by "intuition" you mean something like "our inborn feelings" (what Darwin called our "inner monkeys") plus "reason". The only difference is that I don't think my morality comes from God.

No, as it turns out if the event in question is a moral atrocity, which could never be commanded by a loving, just, sovereign God, then I can just ignore it in the Bible. Even if that one part, or many parts, weren't inspired by God, it doesn't render the rest of the Bible irrelevant to my beliefs.

Aha! So the Bible isn't inerrant? If not, how do you know what to believe and what not? Why should you grant any kind of special status to a source that has such falsehoods in it? If you want to pick and choose, then you might as well just be one of us atheists, and join us being horrified at the bloodthirsty parts (say, 1 Samuel 15), delighted by the poetic parts (the Song of Songs, for instance), and inspired by the wise parts (Ecclesiastes is my favorite), without having to defend the whole thing as "inspired by God".

Hi jennifer! Your news that it's raining in Washington has just about no information content. Now, if you'd said that it's sunny in Washington, that would have been news. A good friend of mine, alas no longer with us, who lived in Seattle for years, told me that the blue spaces between the clouds were called "sucker holes" there, because they led suckers to hope that it might eventually clear up. But I love Washington, and not just because I was born there.

Anyway- your "bliss for the innocents" defense of God is problematic for me. One problem: nowhere in the Bible does it say anything about the slaughtered Amalekite babies going to Heaven, and many Christians would say they went straight to Hell, since they were followers of the wrong God. Insisting that they went to Heaven is creating God in your own image, or on your own ideas of fair play, which you certainly didn't get from the Old Testament. To me, Jehovah seems more a "don't diss me, 'cause I'm the biggest and baddest God around- you mess around with other Gods, I clean your clock" sort of guy.

A similar argument I've often heard from Christians is that God must exist, in order that people get a fair shake after death if they didn't during their lives. This is the Argument from Wishful Thinking, or we could call it the Argument that Life Must Be Fair, Somehow. I don't find it very convincing, but I suspect that it is responsible for the invention of a lot of religious concepts, such as heaven and hell. But just because I miss my friend Meredeth (of the "sucker holes"), doesn't mean that she is not dead. Life is not always fair.

The other problem with the "bliss defense" is that it can be used to justify just about any atrocity, and so is very dangerous in the hands of fanatics. Indeed, if we are to survive and leave a world worth living in for our children, we need to stop making excuses for killing.

cheers from overcast Vienna, zilch

Shygetz said...

akaki, you are seriously begging the question in your defense, although you seem not to realize it.

Omniscience is always a part of the PoE. It has to be. If it's not, then a completely rational defense to any gratuitously evil act is that God simply didn't know about it, so couldn't stop it.

You claim that omniscience means that God "knows best". This is strictly true, but it does not imply what you seem to feel it implies.

The PoE (in one of its forms) states that:

1.) God is 3O.
2.) An omnibenevolent being would prevent any suffering that is not strictly necessary for greater good
3.) Unnecessary suffering exists.

Just because God knows what would prevent unnecessary suffering doesn't mean He's willing to do it. He may be evil or impotent.

You may claim that unnecessary suffering does not exist, but that is a hard claim to swallow. First of all, you must defend the seemingly absurd claim that ANYTHING is necessary to a literally all-powerful being who can change reality with a thought. Second, even if you acheive that, you must defend the absolute necessity of the multitudes of suffering that have no possible apparent use. Did a child swept away in the tsunami need to suffer every single microsecond that she did drowning after being ripped away from her parents? Just one instant of suffering beyond what was necessary for an omnipotent being to acheive some "greater good" violates the 3O God.

What you are doing is declaring without argument that all apparent unnecessary evils must be necessary solely by assuming a 3O God. In doing this you are begging the question/engaging in a circular argument, which is illogical.

I am not the greatest geometrist in the world, but if Euclid himself told me a triangle had four sides, I know enough to doubt either his sincerity or his sanity. Same with God--I may not be omniscient, but I'm smart enough to have a really good idea that not every single instance of suffering is strictly required by a 3O being to acheive some greater good that could not be acheived in some other manner with less suffering. I cannot infer by the PoE if God is ignorant, impotent, or evil (although I have my ideas which I have made quite public here), but I can infer that he must not be 3O.

zilch said...

shygetz says:

I cannot infer by the PoE if God is ignorant, impotent, or evil (although I have my ideas which I have made quite public here), but I can infer that he must not be 3O.

Unless- and this is a big unless- The Greatest Good is a divinely entertaining movie. Maybe Jehovah is a movie producer for the gods. He created the Earth as a movie set, and we humans are like characters in Matrix, many of whom have to bite the dust in various unpleasant ways to move the film along. If Jehovah gets all the other gods to laugh, that's serving the Greater Good.

Now, this may sound a bit silly. But how do we know it's not the case? It's no more farfetched than any other attempt to justify evil as serving some unknown and unknowable Greater Good.

Shygetz said...

Ah, but zilch, and omnipotent God could create so-called Philosophical Zombies to star in His movie--creatures that seem to love, hate, and suffer but really don't.

I don't know about you, but I really suffer.

zilch said...

Ah, but shygetz, zombies won't do for an audience of gods. They're omniscient, so they can tell when they've been sold a bill of goods. Besides, even if we are zombies, since Jehovah is omnipotent, he could have made zombies that think they suffer. How do you know you really suffer? Is that air you're breathing?