Ye Olde Problem of Evil

Over at Uncommon Descent, Vincent Torley serves up a long post about the problem of evil. He was responding to this post by John Loftus, but Torley’s post can mostly be read independently of what Loftus wrote.

I devote a chapter of Among the Creationists to the problem of evil. I open the chapter like this:

Pride of place among theological problems must surely go to the problem of evil. That there is something incongruous in the picture of a just and loving God presiding over a world of extravagant cruelty and suffering is obvious to even the most unreflective person.

Indeed. I’ve always liked C. S. Lewis’s observation, from the opening of his book The Problem of Pain, that the reality of massive cruelty and suffering is so obvious that it is a wonder that anyone ever dreamed up the idea of a just and loving God in the first place. Alas, that was the high point of the book. Lewis’s subsequent book-length attempt to defuse the problem was not successful, in my view.

Torley offers up a few points of his own. Loftus argued that there is no moral justification for God doing nothing in the face of various sufferings and depredations suffered routinely by human beings. Just as a human is expected to intervene to prevent great evil when he can do so with no risk to himself, so too should God be held to the same standard. Torley replies:

The unstated premise in this argument is that (i) lack of power (or ability) and (ii) lack of knowledge are the only things which could possibly excuse someone from failing to help another individual in distress. But I can think of an exception right away: where assisting a victim in distress would conflict with a person’s pre-existing obligations. In my post in reply to Dr. Sean Carroll on the problem of evil, I pointed out two ways that I could think of, right off the top of my head, in which these pre-existing obligations might arise. The first way would be if God ever made a promise not to continually intervene and assist people in distress, in response to an explicit request made by the human race as a whole at some point in the past, to leave them alone and let them make their own mistakes. As I wrote in my last post:

Perhaps at some point very early on in our prehistory, our rebellious ancestors grew tired of God always watching over us like the attentive parent of a young child, and said, “Enough! We don’t need a cosmic nanny protecting us from evil night and day! Leave us alone to figure it out for ourselves! Even if we have to suffer and die, we’d still prefer that to You hovering over us all the time!” And perhaps God reluctantly complied with their wishes, and promised to refrain from continually saving us. If God made such a promise, then His hands would be tied, to some degree.

Consult the original for relevant links.

That’s a mighty strange reply, considering that “the human race” has plainly never made any such request. We should note that all manner of sufferings are visited upon religious people, and it is difficult to argue that they have asked God never to intervene. Nor have atheists ever made such a request. There is a large difference between doubting the existence of God and asking God never to intervene.

It is hard to fathom what Torley is suggesting here. To make it concrete, let us inquire into God’s attitudes toward the thousands of people who were killed in Typhoon Haiyan, and the thousands more who had their lives destroyed. Are we to believe that God reluctantly allowed the typhoon to happen, on account of a request from the Filipinos that he do nothing to stop it? Doesn’t seem likely.

As it happens, though, Torley’s argument would be unsuccessful even if humanity ever had made such an explicit request. It would be comparable to a child requesting that he be allowed to find out for himself what happens when he runs with scissors or declines to wash his hands before dinner. Why is God under any obligation to honor our requests, especially when He knows that we are requesting things that are not good for us? After all, God routinely ignores prayers and requests from His most devout subjects. Why is he suddenly required to honor this one?

Torley continues:

Perhaps Loftus will respond that even if such a “non-intervention request” were made by our ancestors and honored by God – a highly speculative proposal for which we have no evidence – previous generations of human beings would still have no right to make decisions that bind the human race today. But I would ask him to ponder this. Having gone down that fateful path, isn’t it too late for humanity to go “back to Eden” now? We have lost our innocence. Our world is already tainted by sin, and it can only be “untainted” by a radical, earth-shattering event which brings history itself to a close.

There are some mighty big assertions there that have no foundation that I can see. Why is too late to go back now? The way we got into this mess, according to Torley, is that God reluctantly honored our earlier request that He not intervene. We wanted to figure it out for ourselves, remember. Well now we have, and as a result we have now made a different request. Why does God not have to honor this request no less than the first? And why should we assume that it is only some history-ending event that can untaint the world? I think Torley is making up these rules as he goes along.

Let us move on to his next argument:

The other way in which I could imagine a pre-existing obligation not to intervene might arise is in a situation where God had delegated the immediate responsibility for overseeing certain categories of events on Earth (and other planets) to some intelligent beings who are far more advanced than we are. Assuming that there are other intelligent life-forms in the cosmos, they’re likely to be superior to us, since we’re such a young species. (Whether we conceive of these intelligent beings as aliens or angels is immaterial here, and in any case, it’s doubtful whether we could tell the difference between angels and advanced aliens, were we ever to encounter them.) By delegating responsibilities for the day-to-day control of certain categories of events on Earth to these intelligent beings, God would be voluntarily abdicating the role of having the primary responsibility for coming to the assistance of someone in distress. It would be up to the intelligent beings to do so, as God’s deputies. As I put it in my last post:

And now suppose that some of these intelligences turned out to be either too lazy to continually keep the world’s evils in check, or too inept to do the job properly. Or suppose that some of them turned out to be positively evil characters, intent on wreaking harm. The natural world would soon become “unweeded garden” filled with “things rank and gross in nature”, as Hamlet put it. It might look utterly unlike the world God originally planned. So what’s God to do, when He sees the damage that these higher intelligences have wrought, and the suffering His lower creatures (animals and humans) have inherited as a result? Having delegated some responsibilities for overseeing creation to these higher beings, should God intervene at once and fix up the mess they’ve caused? Or should He wait a while?

This is even more bizarre. We are to imagine that God delegated certain day-to-day operations to a cabal of highly-intelligent beings who turned out to be utterly unable to do the job. Worse, they are so inept, or so evil, that they routinely visit horrible suffering and cruelty on their charges, in defiance of God’s wishes. How could God possibly not be held responsible for His error in judgement? Why would He not rectify his error with all speed?

And that’s before we consider the obvious points that God, in his omniscience, should have known from the start what his agents would do. Not to mention the fact that there is not the slightest shred of evidence for this scenario.

Loftus’s point was that God establishes certain moral precepts for us to follow, but then does not adhere to them Himself. Torley’s attempts to absolve God from this lacuna are entirely unsuccessful.

Torley’s post now meanders into other territory that I shall not discuss, save to note that he presumes to lecture Loftus at length on the nature of “certainty.” I feel compelled to mention that, in light of how Torley concludes:

I wrote above that Loftus’s argument from evil fails to examine the totality of evidence, and I mentioned the pervasive beauty of Nature as an example of a very large fact that Loftus completely overlooks. It is the sort of striking fact which only the existence of a Transcendent Creator of the cosmos can satisfactorily account for.

In order to convey this point, I’d like to propose a test which I’ll call Torley’s Window Test. It’s very simple. Wherever you are on planet Earth, I invite you to have a look out your window and tell me: what do you see? No matter where you live, you will probably see a scene of great beauty…

Talk about misplaced certainty! I can’t even imagine why Torley believes that only a Transcendent Creator can account for such beauty as there is in the world. I would say that our tendency to find certain things beautiful and attractive, while other things are disgusting and unattractive, is rather easily explained by evolution, both biological and cultural. Very often our standards of beauty and disgust correspond well to things that are good or not good for us.

But for real amusement I suggest going to Torley’s post and looking at his examples of beauty. He provides photographs of things that he regards as very beautiful. Truly beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I have to say that some of Torley’s examples are, shall we say, a bit idiosyncratic. He shows a picture of Tokyo that he thinks is very beautiful, but to me it just looks like a scene of horrifying overcrowding. He describes as “undeniably beautiful” a picture of two lions feasting on the recently dead carcass of a dead cape buffalo. Personally, I find the beauty in that rather easy to deny, and I’m sure the buffalo agrees with me.

And the point of all this?

In neither case, if you look out your window, are you likely to see any evil. You almost certainly will not see animals (or people) suffering excruciating pain, or dying a slow and agonizing death. And you probably won’t see human beings performing depraved acts of wickedness, either. Which prompts me to ask: where is all the evil? Why is it almost nowhere to be seen? And why is beauty to be found everywhere?

I think Torley needs to look harder! I’m sure the world’s philosophers and theologians who have addressed the problem of evil at length are slapping their foreheads, now that it’s been pointed out to them just how easily the problem is solved. All you have to is look at things in a highly superficial manner, declare even horrifying things to be beautiful, and then the problem practically solves itself!

Time to wrap this up. The problem of evil, along with the problem of divine hiddeneness, both point to facts about the world that are difficult to square with the idea of a just and loving God who seeks communion with His creatures. In my view, no philosopher or theologian has been successful in defusing the force of these arguments. When you add in the utter lack of any good reason for believing in God in the first place, the result is a pretty strong cumulative case against His existence.

Comments

  1. #1 MNb
    December 2, 2013

    “our rebellious ancestors grew tired of God always watching over us”
    Yes, a promise made to those ancestors is totally more important than saving Elisabeth Fritzl from being raped by her father for 24 years.

    “We have lost our innocence.”
    Yes, Elisabeth Fritzl totally had lost her innocence at the age of 12, when she was locked up with the specific goal of getting raped two, three times a week.

    “delegated …. to some intelligent beings”
    Yes, and those intelligent aliens totally proved to be up to their responsibility in the case of Elisabeth Fritzl.

    “I mentioned the pervasive beauty of Nature”
    Obviously that completely compensated Elisabeth’s suffering during those 24 years.

    “Which prompts me to ask:”
    Well, Mr. Torley, why don’t you ask Elisabeth Fritzl? Or the women held as slaves, who last couple months made the headlines?
    It never ceases to amaze me how these apologists refuse to apply their arguments to concrete cases, of which there is an abundance.

  2. #2 Larry
    In my parent's basement.
    December 2, 2013

    Listen, I don’t believe in Donald Duck but I do not waste my mind wasting precious brain cells trying to figure that all out. If anything what you do is only cause the religionists to dig in their heels.

    As I see it, there is no point in debating either way. It is kind of like Republicans v, Democrats and the Emperor’s New Clothes. I am more interested in CERN, Quantum Physics and Applied Meteorology.

    As a Meteorologist of thirty some years, there are those things we cannot put our finger on it, I will rely on intuition. Proof heuristically what I cannot explain. In the long run, there is a perfectly good explanation. Then again, Particle Physics and the operation of our brains are going to open vistas so unimaginable that science fiction will appear as science fact and Big Foot will appear on Dr, Phil.

  3. #3 Joseph Shelby
    December 2, 2013

    The Fritzi case above leads to the larger issue that I have with it all these days, that of “sins of the father”. It isn’t just that I have a problem with the punishment of children over something parents did, the same reason I generally don’t support any claim of reparations for blacks descended from slaves – equal civil rights today is one thing, but back payment is something different.

    It is more the great clash that philosophical point (we all are guilty of the sins of Adam and Eve) with their overt political attempts to control the TV we watch, the movies we can see, the books we can read, the music we can hear, all to “protect the innocence of children.”

    You can not in one breath claim that all mankind is inherently guilty from something, a guilt we can never be free of, and then declare that one particular class happens to be innocent anyways.

    What, they, without changing in the slightest, suddenly become guilty at what age, 10? 12? 16? 18? 21? What magically changes from one day to another that suddenly says, “ok, you were totally innocent of anything then, but now you’re guilty as hell because of Adam and Eve and you’d better repent, blah blah”.

    Seriously, that is less logical than the Chewbacca Defense.

  4. #4 Walt Jones
    December 3, 2013

    When I look out my window, I see a house that went through foreclosure a few years ago. When I look through the electronic window we call a TV, I see war, crime, greed. When I look out my car window, I see homeless people. None of that is beautiful to me.

  5. #5 Patrick Sele
    December 3, 2013

    Much suffering is the consequence of free will. If free will is seen as something positive, one has to accept the suffering resulting from it.

    Now it can be objected that it is possible that man has free will, but that God would keep man from putting his evil intentions into practice. However, in order to prevent evil acts, God would not only have to prevent sins of action but also sins of omission. In other words, God would have to force people to do good works. But by doing this God would force people to be hypocrites even though hypocrisy is a sin (see Matthew 23,1-32, Luke 12,1, 1 Peter 2,1).

    A Biblical passage explaining why God doesn’t intervene in order to prevent moral evil may be Matthew 13,27-29. This passage obviously suggests that if wicked people were removed supernaturally this would affect other people as well. This may be explained by the fact that all people are to a larger or lesser degree wicked and that, being impartial, God cannot punish only some wicked people and not others. Another conclusion one could draw from this passage is that the greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice. Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it. A Biblical illustration of this point may be found in the description of the church in Jerusalem in the Book of Acts. Here God’s beneficial power was so great that it could heal a crippled beggar (Acts 3,1-10) yet at the same time His destructive power caused the death of two persons who committed what might be regarded a minor sin; they had been cheating (Acts 5,1-11).

    From the fact that God doesn’t intervene in order to prevent suffering one cannot draw the conclusion that one can or should behave likewise. As unlike divine intervention a sinner wouldn’t interpret human intervention on his behalf as an approval of his way of life, there is no reason for a Christian not to help. According to Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2 the good works done by Christians may even make a sinner receptive of God’s work of redemption, which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.

    From Luke 16,25 one can draw the conclusion that there will be a compensation for suffering in the afterlife. This could mean that one receives a greater amount of rewards in heaven (see Luke 19,11-27, 1 Corinthians 3,10-15) or a lesser degree of punishment in hell. As for the latter, this presupposes that there are degrees of punishment in the afterlife, and according to Scripture there are indeed such degrees of punishment, depending on one’s moral behaviour (Matthew 16,27, 2 Corinthians 5,10), and one’s knowledge of God’s will (Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48, John 15,22-25, 2 Peter 2,20-21).

    As for the death of infants one can argue that someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16-17, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. This may be the reason that God doesn’t prevent such a person’s death.

    Moreover, there are certainly cases of people who turned to God as a consequence of suffering and who wouldn’t have done so if they hadn’t experienced it. A Biblical illustration of such a case may be the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15,11-32).

    It can be objected that God could have created us as perfect beings living in heaven without first having to live here on Earth and having to suffer. An answer to this objection may be found in 2 Peter 2,4. From the fate of the sinning angels described there one can draw the conclusion that if one were able to be without sin, but nevertheless would choose sin, one’s fate would be sealed. So the fact that we are imperfect beings dwelling first here on Earth and not able to be completely without sin may be the price we have to pay that we can sin and nevertheless repent and come to God again and again. So, it may be good that God created us as imperfect beings.

    As for animal suffering, animals may be compensated for it on the “new earth” mentioned in Isaiah 65,17-25, 2 Peter 3,13 and Revelation 21,1.

  6. #6 John Justice
    Lynchburg, VA
    December 3, 2013

    Ever since David Hume wrote The Natural History of Religion there has been less and less reason to think that the idea of a just and loving god arose as a response to evidence. It is the product of the escalating flattery of ignorant and fearful people who were (rather sensibly) doing everything possible to propitiate whatever invisible power(s) might be responsible for the out-of-the-blue misfortunes that happened to them much too often to be just dismissed.

  7. #7 Patrick Sele
    December 3, 2013

    If a sinner received supernatural help from God, he certainly would interpret such help as an approval of his way of life and thus be encouraged to go on with it. But a perfectly just God certainly would never do anything that encouraged people to go on sinning. Therefore one may only expect God’s supernatural intervention on one’s behalf, if one lives a godly life (see Isaiah 59,1).

  8. #8 Joseph Shelby
    December 3, 2013

    Excepting, of course, that by virtue of the fact that just about everything is a sin, and that we have, per “sins of the father” inherited a sin we can never be free from the guilt of, and the fact that the sin is still with us even 2000 years after someone supposedly died in order to free us of that very sin, then it is clear that we can never actually live a Godly live, and therefore there should be no expectation or even hope for God’s intervention.

    In other words: what’s the point. You’ve made the case that there should be no hope, wish, or expectation for intervention (in this life, at least), so the clear question in reply then is why should one even bother?

  9. #9 sean samis
    December 3, 2013

    If someone gave me Torley’s hypotheticals, I’d have to reply that they’re nice but why would anyone believe them? How did humanity collectively ask God to butt-out? Did they elect delegates? How? And why isn’t this in the Bible; seems important. Why would I believe there’s an alien race God put us under the authority of? Seems to be another thing you’d expect to be in the Bible.

    If these ideas are not in the Bible, what evidence does he have for them? It seems Torley’s inventing things because he has no other answer to the Problem of Evil, and like all such inventions, they are nonsense. He offers us fantastic explanations for which he offers no justification. Why would any person accept them? No reason I can think of.

    Torley’s idea that humans may have asked to be left alone (why would anyone believe that?) or that he delegated our welfare to others (why would anyone believe that?) can both be disposed of by the same facts. Not only is there no basis for them; if God is omniscient, then God knew that either of these two decisions would lead to evil outcomes. This is something which God supposedly hates. Knowing that fact, foreseeable evil makes God’s inaction morally indefensible regardless of why God chose to be inactive. Torley, like many other theistic apologists, does not really understand what Omniscience and Omnipotence mean; they mean God has no excuse.

    The Problem of Evil does not disprove God, but it does limit our choices to one of these four:

    1. There is no god.
    2. God exists, is Good, but has limited knowledge and power. Evil is instrumental or unavoidable because God is not Omniscient nor Omnipotent.
    3. God exists, is all-powerful but evil. Evil exists for its own sake; this must be if God is omnipotent.
    4. God exists, is Good, is all-powerful and is Totally, Completely outside human comprehension or logic.

    If God is perfectly Good, Omniscient or Omnipotent, then only the first or the last are possible. If the last is preferred, then you can no longer say “God did this for that reason” because the last option puts God totally outside human comprehension.

    God is either fictional, limited, evil, or totally incomprehensible. Exclusive “or”; one or another but not two or more.

    sean s.

  10. #10 sean samis
    December 3, 2013

    Patrick Sele;

    Free will cannot explain evil or suffering; God (if a god exists) must have free will yet he is believed to be perfectly good. Further, God (if a god exists) is said to be omniscient, which means such a God would have foreseen suffering and evil, and yet permitted it. This makes such a God (if a god exists) guilty of that suffering and evil. Any free will we might have is not to blame.

    “… in order to prevent evil acts, … God would have to force people to do good works.” Two responses: “Yeah, so what?” and “if God is Omnipotent, God does not labor under the pall of necessity, an omniscient God could create us so that we WANT to do good and KNOW what is good to do.” This latter one completely negates your hypocrisy argument which is false anyway, doing something you don’t want to do because you were forced to is not hypocrisy.

    It also addresses the claim that God would have to “remove wicked people”. The very existence of wicked people argues against God’s goodness: WICKED PEOPLE ARE MADE WICKED BY GOD.

    “From the fact that God doesn’t intervene in order to prevent suffering one cannot draw the conclusion that one can or should behave likewise.” Love It! Because you think God is evil by omission, doing evil by omission is OK! I’m not buying that and I think the Gospels disagree too: see Matt. 25:42-45.

    “the fact that we are imperfect beings dwelling first here on Earth and not able to be completely without sin may be the price we have to pay that we can sin and nevertheless repent and come to God again and again”. As before, unless you deny your God is omnipotent, there is never a necessity that requires God to do things a certain way. If God can create the universe by merely speaking, God could create us perfect and sinless without effort.

    What should we make of a God (if a god exists) who WANTS evil? Hmm.

    sean s.

  11. #11 sean samis
    December 3, 2013

    “From the fact that God doesn’t intervene in order to prevent suffering one cannot draw the conclusion that one can or should behave likewise.”

    OK, I acknowledge I misread that.

    sean s.

  12. #12 sean samis
    December 3, 2013

    Let me add that if God behaves in ways that we are not supposed to, that makes God a hypocrite.

    sean s.

  13. #13 Larry
    December 3, 2013

    Sean why do you care? Afterall, God doesn’t exist.

  14. #14 Larry
    December 3, 2013

    Walt, so you are forced to not right the back of a horse? You are forced to live in climate control environments and most of all you eat meat. And even if you don’t, you do not like seeing animals brutally slaughtered.

  15. #15 Walt Jones
    December 3, 2013

    Sorry, Larry, I don’t get your point. I was reacting to this challenge:

    “In order to convey this point, I’d like to propose a test which I’ll call Torley’s Window Test. It’s very simple. Wherever you are on planet Earth, I invite you to have a look out your window and tell me: what do you see? No matter where you live, you will probably see a scene of great beauty…”

  16. #16 Blaine
    December 3, 2013

    Once free-will vanishes, the problem of evil and god vanishes too ( _The Self Beyond Itself_ ).

  17. #17 Pierce R. Butler
    December 3, 2013

    In a more ecclesiastical age, Torley’s speculations would earn him guest-of-honor status in a downtown auto-da-fé (bring the kids! fun for the whole family!).

  18. #18 Jim Harrison
    December 3, 2013

    Metaphysical versions of free will do not now and never have made much sense. We cling to them because we believe, falsely I think, that only absolute free will would justify the punishment of criminals. I can damned well understand why some actions are rightly called voluntary and therefore my responsibility without going off on some riff about quantum mechanics as if we were all a bunch of Berserkers in a Saberhagen novel. You only have to concoct philosophical romances about the freedom of the will if you’re trying to reinterpret a myth, i.e., the Garden of Evil bit. Myths can’t be rationalized. That’s their defining characteristic. And if you stop trying to make sense of freedom, you go a long way towards dealing with the problem of evil.

  19. #19 Roman Dawes
    www.the-problem-of-evil.com
    December 3, 2013

    It would make absolutely no sense for God to take care of people. If God guaranteed health and safety with no input from us, nothing would become of humankind because everything we have from culture and institutions we owe to the human compulsion to nurture and protect life. The alternative is nothing but wilderness as described in Eden, which would be a different world, but definitely not a better one.

    Compelling us to live as mortals means allowing us to suffer and die and not making regular exceptions. Life is best left in the hands of the living, and God would know that.

  20. #20 sean samis
    December 4, 2013

    “why do you care? Afterall, God doesn’t exist.”

    I care because those who believe in God/gods affect the world I live in. I care because, if they are right that would be an enormously important thing, and if they are wrong it is important to speak for that fact.

    sean s.

  21. #21 sean samis
    December 4, 2013

    Regarding “It would make absolutely no sense for God to take care of people.” That’s absurd. It makes no sense for some god(s) to ignore the people he/she/they created, especially if they reserve the right to demand things of them; unless these gods are evil themselves.

    The suffering of humanity may be the impetus for our culture or institutions, but genuinely good god(s) would know that those do not justify the imposition of suffering on us. With or without suffering, we mortals would still find ways to order our lives and relationships. Without suffering our culture and institutions would be different, but we’d still HAVE culture and institutions.

    One of the biggest differences would be that—without suffering—our culture and institutions would not be CONTRIBUTORS to suffering, as they often have been.

    sean s.

  22. #22 Larry
    December 4, 2013

    I see your point. That Nativity Scene must really oppress you. Or subjecting your child to a prayer at a football game. Otherwise I do not see it. I think creationism as as science is totally bogus but aside from that, there is nothing I can do but let time take it’s course.

  23. #23 sean samis
    December 4, 2013

    Larry, Nativity Scenes are as inoffensive to me as some Hindu display. Meh. If folks at football games want to pray, as long as it’s not officially promoted, who cares? Not I; not my children. Freedom of religion is not freedom FROM religion. It’s just the right to not participate or contribute.

    Creationism is not a science in any sense of the word, but we can do something about it, we can speak up. The fading of religion is not inevitable, relying on things “taking their course” often leads to unpleasant surprises.

    sean s.

  24. #24 MNb
    December 4, 2013

    @5, 7 Patrick Seele: how exactly was Elisabeth Fritzl’s suffering the result of her own free will?

    “If a sinner received supernatural help from God”
    What sin exactly had Elisabeth Fritzl committed at the age of 12 to deserve 24 years of being locked up and raped?
    You confirm my point – apologists using the free will argument never ever apply it to a concrete case like this one. And there are many of them.

  25. #25 Patrick Sele
    December 5, 2013

    sean samis: “Two responses: “Yeah, so what?” and “if God is Omnipotent, God does not labor under the pall of necessity, an omniscient God could create us so that we WANT to do good and KNOW what is good to do.”

    If God created us so that we always would want to do good, we no longer would have free will. As for the objection that God could create us so that we know what is good to do it seems to me that this is indeed the case, as can be seen from the following contribution:

    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2006/01/10/2003288343/1

    sean samis: “This latter one completely negates your hypocrisy argument which is false anyway, doing something you don’t want to do because you were forced to is not hypocrisy.”

    I define “hypocrisy” as “wanting to appear morally better or more godly than one really is” and consequently, someone who does not want to appear morally better or more godly than he really is is not a hypocrite. However, if one is forced supernaturally to do good or to live a godly life one is in this sense forced to be a hypocrite. Furthermore, being forced to do good without being able to withstand such force certainly violates one’s free will.

    sean samis: “The very existence of wicked people argues against God’s goodness: WICKED PEOPLE ARE MADE WICKED BY GOD.”

    I don’t see why this is supposed to be the case.

  26. #26 Patrick Sele
    December 5, 2013

    sean samis: “Free will cannot explain evil or suffering; God (if a god exists) must have free will yet he is believed to be perfectly good.”

    I think it is somewhat misleading to say that our free will consists of being free to act morally. From Galatians 5,16-18 one can draw the conclusion that we are not free to act morally but that we are free to turn to God, and the relationship with God resulting from this act enables us to act morally. If free will is thus defined as “having the freedom to turn towards God or fail to do so” it is clear that this is a kind of freedom God cannot have.

  27. #27 Sean T
    December 5, 2013

    Patrick Sele,

    Given an omnipotent God, why would his power to do beneficial works necessarily be accompanied by a destructive justice? Could not an omnipotent God do things to benefit humanity without unleashing destruction? He is omnipotent after all, right?

  28. #28 sean samis
    December 5, 2013

    Patrick Sele,

    Wanting to do good does not deprive us of “free will”; an ability to choose is not negated by any particular preference. If it were, then we could not have “free will” at all because we all have preferences.

    Regarding how you “define ‘hypocrisy’ as ‘wanting to appear morally better or more godly than one really is’ and consequently, someone who does not want to appear morally better or more godly than he really is is [sic] not a hypocrite.” I can accept that.

    But then you write: “However, if one is forced supernaturally to do good or to live a godly life one is in this sense forced to be a hypocrite.”

    That is senseless because it fail to fit the meaning of hypocrisy that you yourself supplied. If you are forced to be good, but don’t want to appear more good than you are, that is in no sense hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is a form of dishonesty, you cannot be “forced” to be dishonest; dishonesty is a choice.

    Then you write: “Furthermore, being forced to do good without being able to withstand such force certainly violates one’s free will.” If I understand correctly, God (if there is a god) commands certain behavior under a threat of severe punishment; that coercion already violates any “free will” we might have. However, if God (if there is a god) simply forces us to not harm others, then whatever violation of “free will” that entails is more than justified by the prevention of harm and suffering to others.

    sean s.

  29. #29 sean samis
    December 5, 2013

    I wrote, “The very existence of wicked people argues against God’s goodness: WICKED PEOPLE ARE MADE WICKED BY GOD.”

    You replied, “I don’t see why this is supposed to be the case.”

    Unless there’s more than one Creator making people, God (if there is a god) is the one who makes everyone, the good and the bad. If they are good or bad (wicked) they are made so by God. If this God is also Omniscient then that God knows which persons will be wicked. If that God goes ahead and unleashes the wicked on the rest of us, this God is an accomplice to the evil done by these wicked persons WHOM HE MADE AND SET UPON US.

    One way to exonerate this God is to say he/she/they didn’t know what would happen; that they were not Omniscient.

    The only other way to exonerate this God is to say he/she/they are unable to avoid making and releasing evil persons; that they are not Omnipotent.

    Patrick, do you say your God is not Omniscient or Omnipotent?

    sean s.

  30. #30 sean samis
    December 5, 2013

    Patrick,

    Your reading of Galatians is pretty loose and creative, but futile. If “free will” consists only of “turning to God” or not, then it remains as we have been saying: “free will” would be the ability to choose what to do (morally or otherwise).

    So does God (if there is a god) have “moral freedom” or not? If we humans have “free will”, do we have an ability your God does not? If so, that would be surpassingly strange.

    If giving us this unique freedom leads to sin and suffering, was your God unaware of that outcome? If your God is Omniscient, he/she/they knew they were creating evil and chose to do so. If a human chose to create evil, we’d call them evil; what should we make of a god who chooses evil? Do we hold your God to a LOWER standard than mere mortals?

    sean s.

  31. #31 sean samis
    December 5, 2013

    Eric;

    I don’t think the data Coyne published undermines Mooney’s position; it’s not clear to me how the data even relates to Mooney’s position.

    The correlation between religious belief and acceptance of evolution is weak; different countries of similar religiosity show a wide variance in acceptance of evolution. Religious belief is NOT a strong predictor of acceptance of evolution; not according to Coyne’s data, even if Coyne fails to see that.

    Something else must be involved. Standards of education or something else. It would be helpful to know what countries the other data points represent.

    sean s.

  32. #32 sean samis
    December 5, 2013

    Sean T asks a valid question; “Given an omnipotent God, why would his power to do beneficial works necessarily be accompanied by a destructive justice? Could not an omnipotent God do things to benefit humanity without unleashing destruction? He is omnipotent after all, right?”

    It’s ironic all the things an Omnipotent God is supposed to be unable to do; all in the name of rescuing that God from the responsibility for his actions.

    In the long and bloody tale of human spiritual growth, there is only one character–one actor–who is supposed to have complete knowledge and freedom of action, and this one character (God) is the only one who escapes blame for his acts. Why? He would have no excuse.

    The rest of us, laboring under ignorance, weakness, and fear are blamed for everything we do wrong regardless of our constraints, regardless of our valid excuses.

    If God exists and is called Perfect, is that because God is held to a LOWER moral standard than humans? How would that be just?

    sean s.

  33. #33 eric
    December 5, 2013

    If God created us so that we always would want to do good, we no longer would have free will.

    But some people act more good than others. Why didn’t God just make all of us as good as the most good human? Give us the proclivity for nonviolence of a Ghandi or MLK, and never give us the craziness of a Charlie Manson? Under the free will defense, you must still accept that either (1) God could have given us all the nonviolent tendencies of MLK without stripping away our free will, or (2) MLK had no free will. Which of those positions do you want to defend?

    A parallel argument can be made about suffering. Even if suffering is a ‘necessary’ part of free will or learning, some people suffer more – a lot more – than others. This difference cannot be defended by saying suffering is necessary for salvation, learning, or free will. Presumably, Elisabeth Fritzl would not have “lost” her free will or ability to be saved if she had instead had the life of Cameron Diaz. You must either admit that any suffering more than what Diaz has suffered is theologically unnecessary for growth/salvation/whatever (and thus not defended by the free will argument), or you have to say Diaz is going to hell for not suffering enough. Which of those positions do you want to defend?

  34. #34 sean samis
    December 5, 2013

    Eric wrote, “Even if suffering is a ‘necessary’ part of free will or learning, …”

    If God exists, and is Omnipotent and Omniscient, then that God never acts under any constraint. If some God could create an entire universe merely by speaking, that God can enable his creations to exercise “free will” and to learn, grow, thrive without any suffering. For an Omnipotent God, there never is an “X requires Y” situation. An Omnipotent God can achieve anything directly; no process or procedure can be required of him/her/them.

    In short: if evil (which includes suffering) is necessary and instrumental, then God (if any god exists) CAN NOT be Omnipotent or Omniscient. Is such a person even a God?

    Don’t even get me started on Hell: it would be the most extravagant expression of evil, and precludes any God being Good.

    sean s.

  35. #35 deepak shetty
    December 5, 2013

    . The first way would be if God ever made a promise not to continually intervene and assist people in distress, in response to an explicit request made by the human race as a whole at some point in the past, to leave them alone
    Huh. He should read up some eastern religions. For e.g. in the Mahabharata there is one character prone to making promises and keeping it against all odds (Bhishma) – Because of his promises he has to stand by watching a woman(Draupadi) getting raped who admonishes him that his promises are useless when they lead him to be inactive in the face of evil. Reasonable people would agree.

  36. #36 eric
    December 5, 2013

    If some God could create an entire universe merely by speaking, that God can enable his creations to exercise “free will” and to learn, grow, thrive without any suffering.

    If some theist wants to argue that free will is logically incompatible with nonsuffering (and therefore, asking for it is like asking for God to create a rock he can’t lift), I’ll grant the point for sake of argument. My counterpoint is, even if this is the case, ‘free will’ does not explain the suffering or evil we see in the world. It only explains the sufferin of the least-suffering person and the evil of the most good person. The excess suffering and evil must be unnecessary to human free will, since there are free willed humans that don’t experience it.

    Imagine some preacher came along and said sickle-cell anemia was necessary suffiering; you can’t possible have free will without it. Given the number of humans that don’t have it, it seems a pretty silly statement, eh? But that is the case of most suffering and most (proclivities for) evil; in both cases there are groups of humans that don’t have it, so how can it be theologically or philosophically necessary?

  37. #37 sean samis
    December 5, 2013

    Deepak,

    Your point is quite valid: “promises are useless when they lead him to be inactive in the face of evil. Reasonable people would agree.”

    Ironically, we think keeping promises is important for moral or ethical reasons, yet to bind oneself by a moral obligation to do nothing about a moral violation is an absurdity, especially when the moral violation is foreseeable.

    The duty to keep a promise cannot trump the duty to oppose violence and harm to others. Trying to explain evil by supposing some moral duty by God to stand by clearly shows that Vincent Torley doesn’t really have a good understanding of morality itself.

    sean s.

  38. #38 Patrick Sele
    December 5, 2013

    Sean T: “Given an omnipotent God, why would his power to do beneficial works necessarily be accompanied by a destructive justice? Could not an omnipotent God do things to benefit humanity without unleashing destruction? He is omnipotent after all, right?”

    God’s omnipotence may be limited by a concept called “divine simplicity”. Philosopher Edward Feser explains this concept as follows:

    “The doctrine of divine simplicity holds that God is in no way composed of parts. … There is also no distinction within God between any of the divine attributes: … Talking or conceiving of God, God’s essence, God’s existence, God’s power, God’s goodness, and so forth are really all just different ways of talking or conceiving of one and the very same thing. Though we distinguish between them in thought, there is no distinction at all between them in reality.”

    (Source: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/11/william-lane-craig-on-divine-simplicity.html)

    If God’s power, God’s love and God’s justice are indistinguishable, it means that God cannot make use only of one or two of these attributes.

  39. #39 Patrick Sele
    December 5, 2013

    MNb: “how exactly was Elisabeth Fritzl’s suffering the result of her own free will?”

    It was not the result of HER free will, but of HER FATHER’S.

    MNb: “What sin exactly had Elisabeth Fritzl committed at the age of 12 to deserve 24 years of being locked up and raped?
    You confirm my point – apologists using the free will argument never ever apply it to a concrete case like this one. And there are many of them.”

    I wouldn’t say that Elisabeth Fritzl committed a sin that made her deserve 24 years of being locked up and raped. I would say that in her case applies what I said with respect to Matthew 13,27-29, as Elisabeth Fritzl was beyond any doubt a sinner, even if not to the extent her father was.

  40. #40 Patrick Sele
    December 5, 2013

    sean samis: “If I understand correctly, God (if there is a god) commands certain behavior under a threat of severe punishment; that coercion already violates any “free will” we might have.“

    No, in this case one is still able to disobey the command, either by not believing that such punishment will happen (as there are many people who are not afraid of hell) or by being ready to face the unpleasant consequences of one’s acts.

    sean samis: “However, if God (if there is a god) simply forces us to not harm others, then whatever violation of “free will” that entails is more than justified by the prevention of harm and suffering to others.“

    The problem is that one can also contribute to a person’s suffering by not acting on behalf of him. If someone sees someone who is severely injured but doesn’t help him, strictly speaking he doesn’t inflict any harm on the person in need, but he nevertheless acts in a way that is certainly regarded by most people as immoral. Theologically speaking he commits what is called a “sin of ommission” (see Matthew 25,41-45, James 4,17). But why should God only prevent the evil acts people commit actively and not prevent such behaviour as well?

  41. #41 sean samis
    December 6, 2013

    Patrick Sele wrote (#38) that, “God’s omnipotence may be limited by a concept called…”. You should have stopped right there, Patrick. Two big problems jump out right away.

    The first is indicated by your use of the phrase “may be”. This indicates that this explanation is a total invention. Perhaps it’s Edward Feser’s invention and you are just repeating it, but like all such invented explanations, you or Feser need to tell us WHY we would believe this invention; something you do not do. It “may be” that Feser is right. It “may be” that Feser totally made this up. WHY should we agree with you and the Good Professor? That’s not explained. And for reasons given next, Feser’s “concept” seem ridiculous.

    (BTW, as a rule, I don’t follow links in comments; I don’t debate with URLs. If you can’t explain here why we should believe you or Feser, then even you don’t know why we should believe you or Feser!)

    The second big problem is in the idea that “God’s omnipotence may be limited”. Omnipotence cannot be limited by anything; limited omnipotence is an oxymoron. If God is truly Omnipotent, then there can be NO limit to his actions. Omnipotent power is limited only by the inability to do logically impossible things; i.e. George Carlin’s famous question: can God create a rock so big even God cannot move it?

    You finish, Patrick by writing that “If God’s power, God’s love and God’s justice are indistinguishable, it means that God cannot make use only of one or two of these attributes.” Really? So your God lacks the ability that ordinary persons have? Why would I worship your god?

    sean s.

  42. #42 sean samis
    December 6, 2013

    Patrick Sele wrote (#39) that, “Elisabeth Fritzl was beyond any doubt a sinner, even if not to the extent her father was.”

    If Elizabeth Fritzl was a sinner, it was because God (if there is an god) made her a sinner; no one deserves to suffer for the decision some God made. An person’s status as a sinner fails to explain—much less justify—their suffering.

    sean s.

  43. #43 sean samis
    December 6, 2013

    in #42:

    Any person’s status as a sinner fails to explain—much less justify—their suffering.

    I need an editor.

  44. #44 sean samis
    December 6, 2013

    Patrick Sele wrote (#40) that “No, in this case one is still able to disobey the command, either by not believing that such punishment will happen (as there are many people who are not afraid of hell) or by being ready to face the unpleasant consequences of one’s acts.”

    If there is a God, he/she/they could make us so that we wanted to not sin. This would not make us hypocrites or violate any “free will” because even in that case “one is still able to disobey”.

    Patrick also wrote “one can also contribute to a person’s suffering by not acting on behalf of him. If someone sees someone who is severely injured but doesn’t help him, strictly speaking he doesn’t inflict any harm on the person in need, but he nevertheless acts in a way that is certainly regarded by most people as immoral.”

    Very true, and God (if any god exists) can create us to want to do what is good, which includes avoiding sins of omission as well as commission, and in doing so, this God would not make us hypocrites nor violate any “free will”.

    So the problem remains: God (if any god exists) could have made us to want to be good. That such a God did not causes (by omission) evil to exist.

    sean s.

  45. #45 Sean T
    December 6, 2013

    Patrick Sele,

    Sean Samis in post #41 pretty much summed up my objection to your answer to my question. The concept of limited omnipotence seems to me to mean more like possessing great, but limited power. If that’s the case, then how is God at all distinguishable from some rogue alien from a very technologically advanced society that has the power to shoot a “death ray” at anyone here on earth who fails to obey him, has the power to influence the mental state of humans to have them write his “divine words” in the form of the Bible, and has the technology to perform the various miracles heretofore attributed to God? If that’s really true, then why, besides the fear of being punished if we piss off this alien, should we worship such a being?

  46. #46 deepak shetty
    December 6, 2013

    God’s omnipotence may be limited by a concept called “divine simplicity”
    why does God not behave like Superman then :) ? (lets not get into the contradiction inherent in “limited omnipotence”

  47. #47 MNb
    December 6, 2013

    @39 Patrick Sele: “It was not the result of HER free will, but of HER FATHER’S.”
    So your god values the free will of her father the rapist higher than the suffering of his victim. Her own free will doesn’t matter anyway. So much for a righteous god.
    Also note that an omnigood, omniknowing, omnipresent and omnipotent god easily could have found a way not to affect the precious free will of a rapist and still give victim Elisabeth the chance to get free. Wait – your god actually did. I wonder why waited for 24 years. Maybe your omni-everything god actually enjoyed Elisabeth’s suffering and decided to remain a passive bystander? In a civilized country we consider that a crime too, you know. Yup, you’re worshipping a criminal god.

    “I wouldn’t say that Elisabeth Fritzl committed a sin that made her deserve 24 years of being locked up and raped”
    Then why did your god punish her for all those years? I have made two suggestions. The first one is that he is not righteous, the second one that he is a criminal himself. My third one is that he is not there. What’s your pick?

    “If God created us so that we always would want to do good, we no longer would have free will.”
    Where was Elisabeth Fritzl’ free will during her 24 years stay in her father’s basement?
    It seems that you value the free will of Daddy Fritzl to rape or not rape his daughter higher than the free will of the victim. So much for christian compassion.

  48. #48 Patrick Sele
    December 6, 2013

    sean samis: “The first is indicated by your use of the phrase “may be”. This indicates that this explanation is a total invention. Perhaps it’s Edward Feser’s invention and you are just repeating it, but like all such invented explanations, you or Feser need to tell us WHY we would believe this invention; something you do not do. It “may be” that Feser is right. It “may be” that Feser totally made this up. WHY should we agree with you and the Good Professor?”

    “Divine simplicity” is a philosophical concept that has been around for a long time in Western philosophy. The following contribution is very informative in this respect:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/div-simp/

    A good philosophical argument for this doctrine can be found in the following book:

    Edward Feser, The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism, South Bend 2008.

    sean samis: “Omnipotence cannot be limited by anything; limited omnipotence is an oxymoron. If God is truly Omnipotent, then there can be NO limit to his actions.”

    As for omnipotence, this concept can entail the following three propositions:

    (1) There are no physical limits to God’s power.
    (2) There are no logical limits to God’s power.
    (3) There are no moral limits to God’s power.

    In my view only (1) applies to the God of Christian theism. Those Biblical passages that in one way or another express the idea that God can do anything, such as Genesis 18,10-14 or Luke 1,26-28, clearly point to (1). But there are also passages that express the idea that there are things that God cannot do (see 2 Timothy 2,13, Hebrews 6,18), which is explained on the basis of God’s moral nature, and so (3) is ruled out. As for (2), you yourself concede that omnipotence is limited by the inability to do logically impossible things.

  49. #49 Patrick Sele
    December 6, 2013

    sean samis: “If we humans have “free will”, do we have an ability your God does not? If so, that would be surpassingly strange.”

    If God is a morally perfect being this means that He, unlike us, is unable to do anything immoral. So, in this sense we have an ability that God doesn’t have.

    sean samis: “If giving us this unique freedom leads to sin and suffering, was your God unaware of that outcome? If your God is Omniscient, he/she/they knew they were creating evil and chose to do so. If a human chose to create evil, we’d call them evil; what should we make of a god who chooses evil? Do we hold your God to a LOWER standard than mere mortals?”

    You seem to suggest that God shouldn’t have created humans, as they would abuse their free will to do evil acts. Using the same logic begetting children is an immoral act, as it is beyond any doubt that one’s child will commit evil acts. If you think that parents are not wicked people because they begot children, you cannot accuse God of having acted immorally, either.

    sean samis: “If there is a God, he/she/they could make us so that we wanted to not sin. This would not make us hypocrites or violate any “free will” because even in that case “one is still able to disobey”.”

    There is a contradiction in your statement. Free will implies that we are in a position not to want what God wants us to do. If God made us so that we always would want what He wants, we would be automata without free will.

    Apart from this, according to Ezekiel 11,19-20, John 8,34-36, Romans 8,29, 2 Corinthians 5,17, and Galatians 5,16-18 God indeed provided us with the possibility to attain a state in which we want to do what God wants. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to be in such a state. But one must be willing to be in such a state (Romans 6,11-14, 12,2, 13,13-14, Galatians 5,16-18, Ephesians 4,17-24). God will give the Holy Spirit to anyone asking Him (Luke 11,13). We may even expect that one day the vast majority of humankind will be in such a state here on Earth (Isaiah 2,1-5, 11,1-10).

  50. #50 Patrick Sele
    December 6, 2013

    eric: “But some people act more good than others. Why didn’t God just make all of us as good as the most good human? Give us the proclivity for nonviolence of a Ghandi or MLK, and never give us the craziness of a Charlie Manson? Under the free will defense, you must still accept that either (1) God could have given us all the nonviolent tendencies of MLK without stripping away our free will, or (2) MLK had no free will. Which of those positions do you want to defend?”

    But even in that case there still would be evil around. This could only prevented if God had made us morally perfect. However, in my first comment I gave a reason, why God may not have made us that way. Apart from this in my previous comment I pointed out that God provided us indeed with the possibility to attain the utmost possible degree of goodness, however, not a state of absolute moral perfection (see 1 John 1,8).

    eric: “A parallel argument can be made about suffering. Even if suffering is a ‘necessary’ part of free will or learning, some people suffer more – a lot more – than others. This difference cannot be defended by saying suffering is necessary for salvation, learning, or free will. Presumably, Elisabeth Fritzl would not have “lost” her free will or ability to be saved if she had instead had the life of Cameron Diaz. You must either admit that any suffering more than what Diaz has suffered is theologically unnecessary for growth/salvation/whatever (and thus not defended by the free will argument), or you have to say Diaz is going to hell for not suffering enough. Which of those positions do you want to defend?”

    According to what I wrote in my first comment, Elisabeth Fritzl may benefit from her suffering either by receiving more rewards in heaven or by being punished less severely in hell.

  51. #51 Patrick Sele
    December 6, 2013

    MNb: “So your god values the free will of her father the rapist higher than the suffering of his victim.”

    This objection could be put forward with respect to any instance of moral evil. As I pointed out in my first comment, if free will is seen as something positive, one has to accept the suffering resulting from it.

    MNb: “Her own free will doesn’t matter anyway.”

    If having free will meant that nothing ever happened to us that we don’t like, nobody has free will.

    MNb: “Also note that an omnigood, omniknowing, omnipresent and omnipotent god easily could have found a way not to affect the precious free will of a rapist and still give victim Elisabeth the chance to get free. Wait – your god actually did. I wonder why waited for 24 years. Maybe your omni-everything god actually enjoyed Elisabeth’s suffering and decided to remain a passive bystander? In a civilized country we consider that a crime too, you know.”

    Again I have to draw your attention to my first comment where I suggested a possible reason why God doesn’t prevent people from putting their evil intentions into practice. Moreover, from the following quote by C. S. Lewis one can see that if God acted this way, this would, taken to its logical conclusion, result in the loss of free will:

    “We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried out to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted to frame them.”

    (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_evil)

    MNb: “Then why did your god punish her for all those years?”

    If it is true that as a consequence of what she went through Elisabeth Fritzl will either receive more rewards in heaven or be punished less severely in hell, one cannot say that what she experienced can be seen as God’s punishment.

  52. #52 Patrick Sele
    December 7, 2013

    A very elaborate formulation of the argument that God could only have created heaven, so that we don’t have to suffer in this life first can be found in the following paper entitled “Evil, Freedom and the Heaven Dilemma”, written by philosophy professor Simon Cushing. It can be found in the following link:

    http://spruce.flint.umich.edu/~simoncu/heaven.pdf

    In the following I’m going to answer to some of the arguments put forward in the paper.

    Excerpt from Simon Cushing’s paper: “Saintly freedom (so named because it is presumably the freedom exercised by moral saints) is genuine freedom that in fact never results in evil. But if there can be a state of existence with truly free beings but no evil, then an omnipotent God could have given us all that saintly freedom here on Earth, thereby both giving us freedom and preventing evil, and a God who was both omnipotent and omnibenevolent would have done so.”

    As can be seen from what I wrote in comments 49 and 50 God indeed provided us with the possibility to attain that saintly freedom here on Earth, at least to some degree (1 John 1,8), by offering to us the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    Excerpt from Simon Cushing’s paper: “According to metaphysical libertarianism, my truly free action is genuinely undetermined by the sum of facts about me (and indeed the entire universe). That is, you could imagine two parallel universes with completely identical histories up to a particular point where I, a free being, am making a choice; the metaphysical libertarian insists that the nature of freedom allows that it is perfectly possible for me to make one choice in one universe and my counterpart another in the other, and that both would be rightly endorsed by the “me” in that world as the choice that he fully intended to make. But if this is so, then it does not matter which action I perform—whichever act I perform will be equally a free action. This point in itself could be enough to subvert the supposed relationship between freedom and desert that T12 seems to require. Surely I only deserve punishment if something about me determined my choice of evil. But if for every evil choice I make there is a good choice that I, with exactly the same history, beliefs, desires and current mental state could have made, then in what sense would I deserve condemnation for the evil choice or praise for the good? Neither is a product of me or a reflection of my character.”

    I don’t think that we can always at any time choose any act we want. In my view it’s more that by choosing to act in a specific way we create circumstances which gradually make it more likely that we act in a specific way. The following analogy can illustrate my point: Someone walking on a crest is deviating from the path. The further he goes away the steeper the ground becomes and the more difficult it becomes to walk upright, until there is some point of no return and consequently he is falling down the mountain.

    Excerpt from Simon Cushing’s paper: “However, even if the libertarian can block this apparent implication of his view, there are further problems for the theist who wishes to use this libertarianism to respond to the Heaven Dilemma. For it would appear that it implies that God could prevent all evil without disrupting freedom. Let us suppose, for example, that I am contemplating a heinous murder. I raise the knife. At this point I could genuinely go either way – stab or not. The future where I go ahead and kill is as possible as the future where I put the knife aside, and both are equally consistent with everything about me up until this moment (so that, on Swinburne’s view, not even God can predict which would happen). Suppose, at this point, God intervenes and ensures that I do not kill, and that therefore evil is averted. Has he subverted my freedom? I do not see that he could be said to have. This action is just as in keeping with all of my character and intentions as the evil action. I can endorse it as my choice just as willingly as the action of committing murder, and with just as much justification. It is possible that I would have done it anyway, but if I had, it would feel no different to me from the case where God intervenes. Nobody can claim that God has altered my character or intentions or made me do anything against my will. But if all that is true, then it is surely within the power of an omnipotent God to have a world of free beings without evil, provided he is prepared to intervene (which, as an omnibenevolent being, he certainly should be).”

    An answer to this objection can be found in my first comment here.

  53. #53 Patrick Sele
    December 7, 2013

    As for the suffering and the death of immature persons such as infants and their importance with respect to the argument from evil, sociologist Gregory Paul deals at length with this issue in the following paper:

    http://gregspaul.webs.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf

    Excerpt from Gregory Paul’s paper: “It was not possible to be a heaven-aspiring Christian for about 98 percent of the time since the evolution of the first humans, and half of all humans were born before Christ allegedly delivered the PSCI’s vital message for making the crucial choice (Haub 1995/2004). Even then, large portions of the global population remained entirely unaware of the pertinent information until recent history.”

    If one assumes that one’s knowledge of God’s will has an impact of one’s degree of punishment in the afterlife (see Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48, John 15,22-25, 2 Peter 2,20-21), one cannot rule out the possibility that a person who has never heard the Gospel message will be better off than a person who is aware of it but has refused to act according to it.

    Excerpt from Gregory Paul’s paper: “Turning to the paradise option, it is presumed herein that all souls who reside in heaven are perpetually happy, and love and worship the PSCI, and that no dissent occurs. If tens or hundreds of billions of souls arrive in heaven without choosing to do so, then many or the great majority of souls get free access to paradise, which is consequently populated by enormous numbers of the very type of mind controlled, robotic automata that advocates of divine free will go to lengths to decry as violating a major requirement of the creator.”

    I think that from the fact that one hasn’t chosen to be in a certain place it doesn’t follow that one’s stay in that place is involuntary. We didn’t choose where we were born and where we spent our first years. Nevertheless it is possible that one arrives at the conclusion that one wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, even if one had the opportunity to do so.

    Excerpt from Gregory Paul’s paper: “If countless billions are entering heaven with limited or no practical earthly experience, then the premise that submitting to the positive and negative aspects of dwelling on the planet is important to making humans suitable for paradise cannot be true.”

    There may be a balance concerning the advantages and disadvantages those who die as immature humans and all other humans face, respectively. As for the former, they may have the advantage to get to heaven automatically, but have no opportunity to earn rewards in heaven (see Luke 19,11-27, or 1 Corinthians 3,10-15). As for the former, they may have such an opportunity, but run the risk of not getting to heaven.

    Excerpt from Gregory Paul’s paper: “In Christian theodicy suffering not only gives adults the opportunity to perform positive deeds and learn life lessons as it alerts humans that they need to be rescued by the creator, the contrast is also seen as necessary for human souls to fully appreciate how wonderful divine happiness is. But some fortunate adults never experience significant suffering, yet are entirely capable of making a mature free will choice about their after life, so suffering is not a necessary aid for humans to make a correct decision. Utilization of such a motivator is actually a reduction of true free choice, because the latter is degraded if it is in some way forced. And is a happy eighty-year-old who never suffered adversity in their entire life really less happy and with a lesser set of life lessons than the eighty-year-old person who has? Especially since both have equal access to paradise?

    The last point brings us to why the pro-suffering argument is not applicable in a divine paradise where all inhabitants are perfectly happy. If the latter is true then past experience is irrelevant, and earthly suffering is egregious cruelty, especially when inflicted upon children.”

    From Luke 16,25 one can draw the conclusion that there will be a compensation for suffering in the afterlife. This can mean that one receives a greater amount of rewards in heaven or a lesser degree of punishment in hell. So, if someone suffers more than someone else, the former may not be worse off than the latter. Moreover, there are certainly cases of people who turned to God as a consequence of suffering and who wouldn’t have done so if they hadn’t experienced it. A Biblical illustration of such a case may be the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15,11-32).

    Excerpt from Gregory Paul’s paper: “If it is correct that all immature souls have automatic access to heaven, then it follows that all pregnancies should be terminated because that would guarantee that every blameless soul attains paradise, and with minimum distress. If a soul reaches maturity then it is at substantial risk of making a decision that excludes it from paradise, and this after considerable suffering. In that case saving children from an early death increases the risk that their souls will not be received in paradise. These absurdities illustrate the internally contradictory illogic of the hypothesis that all immature souls reach paradise due to the grace of a creator that desires that all humans reach paradise after choosing to go there.”

    If all pregnancies were terminated, this would not only prevent more people from going to hell, but also more people from going to heaven. Moreover, if one believes that Isaiah 2,1-5 and 11,1-10 will come true and that one day the vast majority of humans will be redeemed, there is no reason to terminate all pregnancies, as the ratio between the number of those in heaven and the number of those in hell would be higher if one refrained from acting like this.

    Excerpt from Gregory Paul’s paper: “The Holocaust of the Children is so large in scale and depth that it poses such insurmountable problems for the classic Christian free will and best of all worlds hypotheses that they are falsified.”

    If one assumes that immature deceased humans go to heaven, the vast majority of all humans will be in heaven. If that is the case, couldn’t this world be “the best of all worlds”?

  54. #54 Patrick Sele
    December 7, 2013

    If one says that God should have prevented specific instances of evil such as the Holocaust or the case of Elisabeth Fritzl, the question arises why God should not have prevented other, less terrible, instances of evil as well. If one says that God should only prevent the most terrible evils, but should not intervene with respect to other instances of evil, one concedes that there are acceptable instances of evil, which means that even from an atheist point of view the existence of evil as such is not incompatible with the existence of God. Moreover, if one has such a view the problem arises where one should draw the borderline between acceptable and unacceptable evil without doing so arbitrarily. However, if one says that God should indeed prevent all instances of evil, we eventually will end up with the idea that God should force people to act morally (see comment 1) as well as with the idea that He should even prevent evil thoughts (see comment 51). But both ideas imply that God should abolish free will.

  55. #55 Patrick Sele
    December 7, 2013

    Apart from natural evil and moral evil there is also what the philosopher Ted Poston has called “social evil”. This category of evil includes acts which, if committed by a single person or only a small number of persons, do not cause suffering, but which, if committed by a large number of people, indeed result in suffering. The following link contains Ted Poston’s description of this kind of evil and its importance with respect to the argument from evil:

    http://www.baylor.edu/content/services/document.php/128457.pdf

    Unlike what Ted Poston suggests, the existence of social evil is more supportive of theism than of atheism, as it shows that even with the best intentions people can bring about evil results, which can only be avoided if there is an omniscient and omnibenevolent being telling them what to do or, theologically speaking, if there is God’s guidance (see Isaiah 30,21, Romans 8,14). Consequently, God is necessary for morality.

  56. #56 MNb
    December 7, 2013

    “If having free will meant that nothing ever happened to us that we don’t like, nobody has free will.”
    This is a non-sequitur. The point you conspicuously circumvent is the question of balance. You do this because you can’t explain why violating the free will of the offender is worse than the suffering of the victim plus the free will of that victim. That’s also the reason why you prefer not to apply your clever arguments – which in their abstract form sound plausible enough indeed – to concrete cases like Elisabeth Fritzl or any other victim.
    As I’m a nasty atheist I get even more concrete. Imagine you’re a pastor. You have studied your theology, you are sincerely convinced your belief system can provide consolation and you have thought about the Problem of Evil.
    Now Elisabeth Fritzl walks in.

    EF: Father, my dad has locked me in his basement when I was 12. He has raped me two, three times a week for 24 years; as a result I gave birth to seven children. My father took away five of them. Only because of a silly oversight I was able to escape.
    Where was god during all that time? What did he do to help me? Why didn’t I receive any help from him? Why didn’t he make my father make that silly mistake many, many years before?
    Father PS: Child, your suffering was horrible. But you see, my god values the free will of your father so highly that it would have been far worse if he had intervened. That would have turned him into a moral zombie. You wouldn’t have wanted that, would you, my dear?
    EF: But what about my free will? It was completely restricted during all that time.
    Father PS: If having free will meant that nothing ever happened to you that you don’t like, nobody has free will.
    EF: But why does this apply to me, not to my father? He certainly wouldn’t have liked it to become temporarily impotent a while after he locked me up. That would have enormously helped me though. Even better – my father wouldn’t have liked it to become temporarily forgetful (about locking his doors for instance). Then I could have exercised my free will to stay or to leave.
    Father PS:Your suffering is by far not as bad as to restricting the free will of your father.
    EF: And my free will? To escape, something I couldn’t for 24 years?
    PS: Isn’t relevant in the grand scheme of things, ie the free will of your father.

    Your god – or rather you – sets his priorities wrong. The core issue is clear. If you’re serious about this (and it seems you are) your brand of christianity is not about the weak, the vulnerable, those who suffer, but about the strong, the powerful, the violent, the Josef Fritzls. Your god – or rather you – values their free will above anything else. That’s why you have spend so many comments on their precious free will on this page and have paid hardly attention to their victims.
    Yours is christianity version SchutzStaffel. Your version of the christian god was with them too for way too long or so they thought, like with Daddy Fritzl. The only way to avoid this striking similarity is by keeping things abstract. Alas for you I won’t let you get away with it. The worst thing for you is that your apologetics flatly contradict what early christianity was about. Read the Gospels: most of the time Jesus is talking about social justice, about the rights of the weak and protection from the strong.
    Your god consistently takes side with the abusive, strong, violent, powerful offenders with their precious free wills and has no qualms screwing the victims. Very unchristian, I say.

  57. #57 sean samis
    December 7, 2013

    Patrick, you’ve been busy. Your posts exceed 3700 words, and refers to 5 papers out there in the cloud. I can’t speak for others on this thread but I will peruse these papers (I wonder how many pages of dense text they include!) but it will be some time before I could respond in detail.

    But a quick read of your many comments (and their sheer length) leads me to two possible conclusions: the first (which is uncertain) is that you’ve been building up these comments and links for some time and now you found an opportunity to use them.

    My second conclusion (pretty certain) is that you still don’t understand what’s being debated on this thread; perhaps you’ve been writing too fast to think about it.

    This topic challenges the reliability of biblical accounts and claims at the same time that it questions the existence and nature of God. Therefore biblical accounts and claims have little or no evidentiary value here. In spite of that, you cite a lot of Biblical verses as if they proved something; they do not. If biblical claims are in doubt, biblical claims cannot prove much. The Bible is not self-verifying.

    This is not my first time at this rodeo; I am pretty sure what a reading of the .pdfs you link to will show: many speculative, imaginary, and fantastical conjectures robed in the language of academia, a lot of “possible reasons”, many “an argument can be made” qualifications and so forth. Even your comments contain these: many false certainties instead of recitations of facts and evidence.

    No matter how deeply one thinks about it, an elaborate mythology remains a mythology; explanations about the Bible without extra-biblical justifications are mere speculation or religious beliefs without force of reason or logic. In short: academic works relying on scripture carry no weight on this topic; they are preaching to the converted, and many here are not converted.

    Perhaps your hope was to smother this topic in your many words and links; good luck with that. As I say, this is not my first time at this rodeo.

    More later.

    sean s.

  58. #58 sean samis
    December 7, 2013

    Patrick,

    A few observations about two of your many comments (#49-55)

    In #49, even you acknowledge (implicitly) that the Bible is not reliable; you wrote that there are “Biblical passages that in one way or another express the idea that God can do anything” and “there are also passages that express the idea that there are things that God cannot do”. You wrote there also that “In my view only [the absence of physical limits to power] applies to the God of Christian theism.” So apparently you do not trust those biblical passages that imply “moral limits” to God’s power

    Yet in #50 you wrote that “If God is a morally perfect being this means that He, unlike us, is unable to do anything immoral. So, in this sense we have an ability that God doesn’t have. ” This is a straight-forward contradiction of your statement in #40 that moral limits to God’s power are “ruled out”. If your God is capable of creating creatures (like us) who CAN act immorally, then God IS capable of immoral actions; he would be an accomplice to our immorality.

    You wrote in #50 that “If you think that parents are not wicked people because they begot children [who will do wicked things], you cannot accuse God of having acted immorally, either.” This is a common rationalization: even though God is supposed to be Omnipotent and Omniscient, you suggest that he should be given a pass because humans, being limited and weak are given a pass on what they cannot foresee or control. In short: your God is regarded as “morally perfect” because you hold him to a lower standard that we hold ourselves. Your God is supposed to be capable of perfect foresight and complete freedom of action, so he like us must be held accountable for his negligence and indifference to evil. Being more powerful and capable, he must meet a higher standard, not a lower standard.

    You wrote in #50, “Free will implies that we are in a position not to want what God wants us to do. If God made us so that we always would want what He wants, we would be automata without free will. ” No. any “free will” we might have implicates the ability to choose, not our preferences. A person who wants to be good does not have less freedom than a person who doesn’t care. Both are capable of the same choices, the same actions.

    Your many biblical citations at the end of #50 indicate you are not thinking about the topic deeply.

    I looked at the web site you included in #49 with the details of “divine simplicity” theory; when you see theory invented with a “Motivation” other than stating the truth, you know it is a fabrication. Lacking the same motivations as the theorists, their fable carries no weight.

    More later.

    sean s.

  59. #59 Art
    December 8, 2013

    Evil isn’t a problem, it isn’t even a category. Nature knows nothing of fairness, loyalty, justice, or any other so called virtues. An elk is cornered, maimed and eaten alive by wolves doesn’t, as far as anyone can tell, feel offended or betrayed by any divine being, or the deal it got.

    All those supposed virtues are artifacts of culture or how the human brain is wired. That doesn’t mean that we can’t strive for more fairness and justice, and/or all the rest. Even if we are the only beings capable of fully appreciating the distinction, to the point of imposing the frame upon our ideas of invisible friends, we can still work toward getting more of what we like.

    Assuredly many other human beings seem to enjoy, and openly applaud the advancement of those virtues, but don’t for a second think that the universe cares. You advance the cause of justice on your own dime, on your own authority, for your own reasons. If you are lucky someone might buy you a beer and slap your back, but don’t count on it.

    Evil isn’t a problem, any more than dancing leprechauns are a problem. If you see leprechauns, and like leprechauns, you are free to promote the proliferation of leprechauns.

  60. #60 MNb
    December 8, 2013

    “don’t for a second think that the universe cares”
    Or any god for that matter. Which is quite unlike the vast majority of christian god images.

  61. #61 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick, in #50:

    Regarding, “in my first comment I gave a reason, why God may not have made us that way”. In other words, you gave us a S.W.A.G. What you did not and cannot give us is a reason to accept your rationalization. And don’t think even for a moment that the rest of us don’t know your “reason why God may not have made us” morally perfect is just a rationalization.

    Regarding, “Elisabeth Fritzl may benefit from her suffering”; yet another rationalization. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. What is known is that you cannot give us a reason to believe your rationalization is anything else.

    More later.

    sean s.

  62. #62 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick, in #51:

    Regarding “if free will is seen as something positive, one has to accept the suffering resulting from it.” Another rationalization. For what reason would anyone think “free will” is positive? It is regarded as the root cause of manifest evil and subsequent suffering, and eternal damnation. It sounds anything but positive.

    Since no one requested “free will” then no one is morally obligated to accept its evil results; those have been unjustly imposed on us by God (if any god exists).

    Regarding “I have to draw your attention to my first comment where I suggested a possible reason why God doesn’t prevent people from putting their evil intentions into practice.” A rationalization repeated an infinite number of times remains a rationalization. Lacking any reason to accept the truth of your rationalization, it remains dubious.

    Regarding the quote from C. S. Lewis, it like others puts God (if any god exists) in the role of constant fire-fighting. God could have given us the ability (whether a knowledge, character trait, etc.) where we would realize what is evil and not want to do it in the first place. Any “free will” of ours would remain intact, and no freedom violated.

    Regarding “one cannot say that what she [Elisabeth Fritzl] experienced can be seen as God’s punishment.

    If your God was aware of Fritzl’s suffering and did nothing, your God is an accomplice to that evil and guilty of participation, or at least willful, culpable inaction. If a neighbor was aware of the situation and did nothing, we would conclude they had sinned Big Time. God (if any god exists), being even MORE CAPABLE than any human is far, far guiltier than any human could be.

    More later.

    sean s.

  63. #63 Patrick Sele
    December 9, 2013

    MNb: “This is a non-sequitur. The point you conspicuously circumvent is the question of balance. You do this because you can’t explain why violating the free will of the offender is worse than the suffering of the victim plus the free will of that victim.”

    If you think that the prevention of suffering at all costs is more important than free will, you are certainly right. However, in my first post I wrote that if free will is seen as something positive, the suffering resulting from it has to be accepted.

    MNb: “That’s also the reason why you prefer not to apply your clever arguments – which in their abstract form sound plausible enough indeed – to concrete cases like Elisabeth Fritzl or any other victim.”

    I did refer to the case of Elisabeth Fritzl in the comments 39, 50, 51, and 54.

    MNb: “As I’m a nasty atheist I get even more concrete. Imagine you’re a pastor. You have studied your theology, you are sincerely convinced your belief system can provide consolation and you have thought about the Problem of Evil.”

    The question is not if my belief system can provide consolation, but if it can provide a plausible solution to the Problem of Evil. Providing consolation may be a side effect of it.

    MNb: “Now Elisabeth Fritzl walks in.

    EF: Father, my dad has locked me in his basement when I was 12. He has raped me two, three times a week for 24 years; as a result I gave birth to seven children. My father took away five of them. Only because of a silly oversight I was able to escape.

    Where was god during all that time? What did he do to help me? Why didn’t I receive any help from him? Why didn’t he make my father make that silly mistake many, many years before?”

    My impression is that people, atheists and theists alike, usually don’t apply the Problem of Evil to their own sufferings, but to the sufferings endured by other people. I think there is a plausible psychological reason for this: Unless one is a paragon of virtue and godliness, asking why God allowed one’s suffering sounds hypocritical and self-righteous. One cannot ignore God to a large extent in one’s everyday life and not care much about His commandments while one is fine and as soon as one is affected by suffering present oneself as a virtuous and godly man and cry out to God, as did Job. Consequently, I think your scenario is rather hypothetical than real.

    MNb: “Father PS:Your suffering is by far not as bad as to restricting the free will of your father.”

    The question is if any suffering is worse than the free will of those who cause it. If one answers this question in the affirmative, this results, as I pointed out in comments 5 and 51, in the loss of free will. However, if one thinks that the free will of wrongdoers should only be restricted in some very horrible cases, such as the case of Elisabeth Fritzl or the Holocaust, one would have to explain where one should draw the borderline between acceptable and unacceptable evil without doing so arbitrarily.

    MNb: “If you’re serious about this (and it seems you are) your brand of christianity is not about the weak, the vulnerable, those who suffer, but about the strong, the powerful, the violent, the Josef Fritzls.”

    Again, I think that if one thinks that free will is something positive, one has to put up with the fact that there are cases when the weak and the vulnerable suffer by the acts of the strong, the powerful and the violent.

  64. #64 Patrick Sele
    December 9, 2013

    sean samis: “But a quick read of your many comments (and their sheer length) leads me to two possible conclusions: the first (which is uncertain) is that you’ve been building up these comments and links for some time and now you found an opportunity to use them.”

    This is indeed the case.

    sean samis: “My second conclusion (pretty certain) is that you still don’t understand what’s being debated on this thread; perhaps you’ve been writing too fast to think about it.”

    To me it looks that it is the Problem of Evil that is debated here, and all of my comments and the contributions I mentioned in them are about this issue.

    sean samis: “This topic challenges the reliability of biblical accounts and claims at the same time that it questions the existence and nature of God.”

    I don’t see that Jason Rosenhouse’s blogpost is about the reliability of the biblical accounts; words like “Bible” or “Biblical” do not even appear in it.

    sean samis: “Therefore biblical accounts and claims have little or no evidentiary value here. In spite of that, you cite a lot of Biblical verses as if they proved something; they do not. If biblical claims are in doubt, biblical claims cannot prove much. The Bible is not self-verifying.”

    If the issue is if God as described in the Bible can be said to exist in view of the suffering we see in the world it is legitimate to point to Biblical passages in this respect.

    sean samis: “This is not my first time at this rodeo; I am pretty sure what a reading of the .pdfs you link to will show: many speculative, imaginary, and fantastical conjectures robed in the language of academia, a lot of “possible reasons”, many “an argument can be made” qualifications and so forth.”

    The papers concerning the Problem of Evil that I mentioned here were written by people who see the existence of evil as an argument against God’s existence.

    sean samis: “No matter how deeply one thinks about it, an elaborate mythology remains a mythology; explanations about the Bible without extra-biblical justifications are mere speculation or religious beliefs without force of reason or logic. In short: academic works relying on scripture carry no weight on this topic; they are preaching to the converted, and many here are not converted.”

    Again, what is at issue here is not whether or not what is written in the Bible is true, but whether or not the existence of suffering refutes the idea that God as described in the Bible exists.

    sean samis: “In #49, even you acknowledge (implicitly) that the Bible is not reliable; you wrote that there are “Biblical passages that in one way or another express the idea that God can do anything” and “there are also passages that express the idea that there are things that God cannot do”. You wrote there also that “In my view only [the absence of physical limits to power] applies to the God of Christian theism.” So apparently you do not trust those biblical passages that imply “moral limits” to God’s power”

    You seem to refer to comment 48, not 49. Neither implicitely nor explicitely do I acknowledge there that the Bible is not reliable. You clearly misinterpret what I wrote. My point is that when the Bible expresses the idea that God is omnipotent, this does not mean that there are no moral or logical limits to God’s power, but only no physical limits to it.

    sean samis: “Yet in #50 you wrote that “If God is a morally perfect being this means that He, unlike us, is unable to do anything immoral. So, in this sense we have an ability that God doesn’t have. ” This is a straight-forward contradiction of your statement in #40 that moral limits to God’s power are “ruled out”.”

    I just don’t see where in comment 40 I expressed the idea that moral limits to God’s power are ruled out.

    sean samis: “If your God is capable of creating creatures (like us) who CAN act immorally, then God IS capable of immoral actions; he would be an accomplice to our immorality.”

    I think God created us in a way that we can only be good if we are in an untroubled loving relationship with Him. But love can only be voluntary. One cannot force someone to love another person. So, not even God can force a person to love Him. If one thinks that love is something positive, that it is good that we humans are able to love (and fail to love) one has to accept the fact that there are people who are not willing to enter into a loving relationship with God and as a consequence of it fail to be as good as God wants them to be.

    It seems to me that you think that good and evil are on a par, which means that evil can exist without good, just as good can exist without evil. But in my view evil is just a lack of good, and evil cannot exist on its own. So, not even God is able to create evil as such, as evil as such cannot exist.

    One feature that in my view shows very clearly that there is an asymmetry between good and evil is the observation that it is possible that people do the good for the sake of good, out of sheer obligation, but that they seemingly never do the evil for the sake of evil. Moreover, unlike good evil has an inherent tendency to destroy itself, which can only prevented if there is at least some amount of good. A community can only be stable if its members strive at least to some degree for the good. Good can exist without evil but the evil not without good.

    The following thought experiment may show that the claim that evil cannot exist without good is true:

    In a world without love parents certainly would have no reasons to take care of their children, but instead would abandon them and let them die after their birth and use the time and the money thus saved for their pleasures. Now one might object that they might not take care of their children out of love for them, but for selfish reasons, in order to make sure that their children would take care of them when they would be old and infirm. But why should the adult children take care of their elderly parents and not instead abandon them and let them die and use the time and money thus saved for their own pleasures? From this one may see that in a world completely devoid of love humanity wouldn’t survive for a long time and so after a while evil would disappear simply because there would be no one around who could act immorally.

    As for the view that evil is just a lack of good, the book I mentioned in comment 48 contains further arguments in favour of it.

    sean samis: “You wrote in #50 that “If you think that parents are not wicked people because they begot children [who will do wicked things], you cannot accuse God of having acted immorally, either.” This is a common rationalization: even though God is supposed to be Omnipotent and Omniscient, you suggest that he should be given a pass because humans, being limited and weak are given a pass on what they cannot foresee or control.”

    It is certainly within a human’s ability to decide not to beget children.

    sean samis: “You wrote in #50, “Free will implies that we are in a position not to want what God wants us to do. If God made us so that we always would want what He wants, we would be automata without free will. ” No. any “free will” we might have implicates the ability to choose, not our preferences. A person who wants to be good does not have less freedom than a person who doesn’t care. Both are capable of the same choices, the same actions.”

    It is simply a fact that there are people who refuse to enter into a loving relationship with God.

    sean samis: “Your many biblical citations at the end of #50 indicate you are not thinking about the topic deeply.”

    You seem to refer to comment 49 and not comment 50. As you don’t say how you have arrived at such a conclusion I’m not in a position to go into it.

    sean samis: “I looked at the web site you included in #49 with the details of “divine simplicity” theory; when you see theory invented with a “Motivation” other than stating the truth, you know it is a fabrication. Lacking the same motivations as the theorists, their fable carries no weight.”

    Again, you seem to refer to comment 48, and not 49. Whether or not a view is true does not depend on the motivation those who developed it had. Either the arguments put forward in its favour are convincing or they are not.

  65. #65 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick;

    Simon Cushing’s paper (and your responses to it in #52) seem of no particular importance, except they do remind me of another question:

    Patrick, is there “free will”, suffering, or evil in heaven?

    sean s.

  66. #66 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick, in #53:

    Regarding “large portions of the global population remained entirely unaware of the pertinent information [about Christ’s message] until recent history.

    If these persons were denied “salvation” then that was a manifest injustice to them.

    Regarding “one cannot rule out the possibility that a person who has never heard the Gospel message will be better off than a person who is aware of it but has refused to act according to it.

    In other words, you think the Gospels brought evil to the word. What kind of “Good News” is that? It’s good that you phrased that as speculative (i.e.: one cannot rule out the possibility), it means even you sense the absurdity of it.

    Regarding “In Christian theodicy suffering not only gives adults the opportunity to perform positive deeds and learn life lessons as it alerts humans that they need to be rescued by the creator”.

    God (if any god exists) could have made sure we all knew life’s lessons without evil and subsequent suffering; so this explanation carries no weight. As for the “need to be rescued by the creator”: rescued FROM WHAT? From things believers claim their God did! God’s salvation is rescuing us from the God who is supposedly the one who put us in peril! How absurd.

    Regarding “contrast [between good and evil] is also seen as necessary for human souls to fully appreciate how wonderful divine happiness is”.

    Again, God (if any god exists) could have created us with the full appreciation of “how wonderful divine happiness is”.

    Also, if this God is Omnipotent, then nothing is or can be “necessary” for that God. If that God created us with this need, then the consequences of that need were chosen by that creating God; in other words, evil was God’s DESIRE. If it were unintentional, then this God is not Omnipotent. Obviously this God (who desired and created evil) cannot be perfectly Good.

    Much of the rest just repeats variations on the above errors. Repeating an error over and over does not make them correct.

    sean s.

  67. #67 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick;

    Simon Cushing’s paper (and your responses to it in #52) seem of no particular importance, except they do remind me of another question:

    Patrick, is there “free will”, suffering, or evil in heaven?

    sean s.

  68. #68 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick, in #53:

    Regarding, “large portions of the global population remained entirely unaware of the pertinent information [about Christ’s message] until recent history.

    If these persons were denied “salvation” then that was a manifest injustice to them.

    Regarding “one cannot rule out the possibility that a person who has never heard the Gospel message will be better off than a person who is aware of it but has refused to act according to it.

    In other words, you think the Gospels brought evil to the word. What kind of “Good News” is that? It’s good that you phrased that as speculative (i.e.: one cannot rule out the possibility), it means even you sense the absurdity of it.

    Regarding “In Christian theodicy suffering not only gives adults the opportunity to perform positive deeds and learn life lessons as it alerts humans that they need to be rescued by the creator”.

    God (if any god exists) could have made sure we all knew life’s lessons without evil and subsequent suffering; so this explanation carries no weight. As for the “need to be rescued by the creator”: rescued FROM WHAT? From things believers claim their God did! God’s salvation is rescuing us from the God who is supposedly the one who put us in peril! How absurd.

    Regarding “contrast [between good and evil] is also seen as necessary for human souls to fully appreciate how wonderful divine happiness is”.

    Again, God (if any god exists) could have created us with the full appreciation of “how wonderful divine happiness is”.

    Also, if this God is Omnipotent, then nothing is or can be “necessary” for that God. If that God created us with this need, then the consequences of that need were chosen by that creating God; in other words, evil was God’s DESIRE. If it were unintentional, then this God is not Omnipotent. Obviously this God (who desired and created evil) cannot be perfectly Good.

    Much of the rest just repeats variations on the above errors. Repeating an error over and over does not make them correct.

    sean s.

  69. #69 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick, in #54:

    Regarding,

    “If one says that God should only prevent the most terrible evils, but should not intervene with respect to other instances of evil, one concedes that there are acceptable instances of evil, which means that even from an atheist point of view the existence of evil as such is not incompatible with the existence of God.”

    … but only if an atheist agrees with the premise.

    I am not an atheist, and I don’t accept the premise, so this is inapplicable to me.

    God (if any god exists) could have prevented evil (as distinct from suffering). No instance of evil is acceptable nor necessary.

    Regarding,

    if one says that God should indeed prevent all instances of evil, we eventually will end up with the idea that God should force people to act morally as well as with the idea that He should even prevent evil thoughts. But both ideas imply that God should abolish free will.

    No, they don’t.

    God could have made us want to do good, want to help others, want to avoid evil. These do not run against any “free will”. “Free will” is about the ability to choose; preferences are about the desire to do or avoid things. Abilities and desires influence each other, but neither negates the other.

    sean s.

  70. #70 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick, in #54:

    Regarding,

    “If one says that God should only prevent the most terrible evils, but should not intervene with respect to other instances of evil, one concedes that there are acceptable instances of evil, which means that even from an atheist point of view the existence of evil as such is not incompatible with the existence of God.”

    … but only if an atheist agrees with the premise.

    I am not an atheist, and I don’t accept the premise, so this is inapplicable to me.

    God (if any god exists) could have prevented evil (as distinct from suffering). No instance of evil is acceptable nor necessary.

    Regarding,

    if one says that God should indeed prevent all instances of evil, we eventually will end up with the idea that God should force people to act morally as well as with the idea that He should even prevent evil thoughts. But both ideas imply that God should abolish free will.

    No, they don’t.

    God could have made us want to do good, want to help others, want to avoid evil. These do not run against any “free will”. “Free will” is about the ability to choose; preferences are about the desire to do or avoid things. Abilities and desires influence each other, but neither negates the other.

    I’m almost done with your earlier comments.

    sean s.

  71. #71 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick, in #55:

    Regarding,

    even with the best intentions people can bring about evil results, which can only be avoided if there is an omniscient and omnibenevolent being telling them what to do or, theologically speaking, if there is God’s guidance

    When humans, acting with the “best intentions” bring about an evil result, that is because of ignorance. Why are humans so ignorant? Supposedly we have been created that way, by some God. The foreseeable consequences of our ignorance render that creator God guilty of negligence. If this God actually did tell humans what to do, if that God actually gave us guidance, these unintentional evils would not happen. That they do happen is a condemnation of that God.

    OK, that’s about it for now.

    sean s.

  72. #72 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Please forgive the broken blockquote.

    sean s.

  73. #73 sean samis
    December 9, 2013

    Patrick, in #63:

    The question is … if my belief system can provide … a plausible solution to the Problem of Evil.

    True enough, but it fails on that standard. Your “solutions” are barely possible, they are certainly not plausible.

    if one thinks that free will is something positive, one has to put up with the fact that there are cases when the weak and the vulnerable suffer by the acts of the strong, the powerful and the violent.

    No one who values the good can think “free will” is valuable enough to justify this rationalization. Unless your God is not omnipotent, your God does not have to choose between “free will” and the good; an omnipotent God could give us free will and the sense to avoid evil.

    If the issue is if God as described in the Bible can be said to exist in view of the suffering we see in the world it is legitimate to point to Biblical passages in this respect.

    Biblical passages, in this respect can only describe your position, but they have zero persuasive value, they do not prove anything, not even about any God; they only describe your position. If you are trying to explain why we should accept your position, you must not rely on biblical passages.

    The papers concerning the Problem of Evil that I mentioned here were written by people who see the existence of evil as an argument against God’s existence.

    Irrelevant. The point is the papers are little more than theological speculation; they do not provide logical facts but advocate “motivated” theological positions. What they lack is explanations why a neutral observer would believe them, they hardly explain why a Christian would believe them.

    but whether or not the existence of suffering refutes the idea that God as described in the Bible exists.

    True enough, but in that case biblical passages have no persuasive value because the validity of biblical claims are themselves disputed.

    Neither implicitely nor explicitely do I acknowledge there that the Bible is not reliable.

    I agree you do not acknowledge the unreliability of biblical passages. But you did write that “Biblical passages that in one way or another express the idea that God can do anything” and you also wrote that “there are also passages that express the idea that there are things that God cannot do”. Those two comments are contradictory; you might not acknowledge that contradiction, but the rest of us are quite aware of it, and unless you can explain them away, the contradiction leaves all biblical passages unreliable. Your failure to acknowledge this harms your reliability.

    You also wrote in #49 that “If God is a morally perfect being this means that He, unlike us, is unable to do anything immoral. So, in this sense we have an ability that God doesn’t have.” This is a straight-forward contradiction of your statement in #48 that moral limits to God’s power are “ruled out”. (in my post #58 I misreported which comments you made these contradictory comments in. The numbers here are confirmed. Sorry for the error.)

    I think God created us in a way that we can only be good if we are in an untroubled loving relationship with Him.

    Perhaps, but since your God made sure our relationship with him would be rife with trouble and ignorance of him and his wishes (if he even exists) your God sabotaged our relationship. This does not sound like the act of a moral person, much less a Morally Perfect God.

    in my view evil is just a lack of good, and evil cannot exist on its own.

    You have it backwards. The question should be whether Good can exist without evil. If Good can exist without evil, then your God could make us Good without creating evil or depriving us of any “free will”.

    Good and evil need not be “things” that need one another to exist, “good” and “evil” are best seen as nothing more than terms we use to refer to events and consequences. If a person does an intentional act that causes harm and is not justified by need, that is an evil act. Acts of omission also fall under this. If some God created persons who never acted without justification, then evil acts would not exist, but good acts could: Good without evil. This does not exclude suffering (a different thing) but it would still lead to a world without Evil and with less suffering. You don’t have to accept my concept of good and evil, but it does prove Good can exist without Evil.

    Your thought experiment fails. It argues that where there is no good, evil would exterminate itself, but if there is no evil, good would not exterminate itself.

    Under the terms of your thought experiment, humanity would not fail, humanity would never exist in the first place. Other creatures could, and they could do good. If your God made them able to act only when necessary or when harmless, good would exist and no evil would occur.

    It is certainly within a human’s ability to decide not to beget children.

    You’re evading the point. The issue is not whether humans can decide not to have children, but whether they are guilty of their children’s sins. In #49 you give human parents a pass when their children do evil and imply that God deserves the same. The problem is that human parents cannot completely anticipate nor control what their children do; God (if a god exists) is capable of complete anticipation and control. God therefore is not deserving of the same consideration as mere humans; those to whom greater powers are given, greater accountability is expected.

    Whether or not a view is true does not depend on the motivation those who developed it had. Either the arguments put forward in its favour are convincing or they are not.

    Arguments based on nothing more than the motivation to prove some point are intrinsically unpersuasive in this context (if not always!). Arguments that rely on a prior agreement about scripture are intrinsically unpersuasive in this context where the validity of scripture is disputed. There is no rational reason for accepting “divine simplicity” if one seeks reasoned understanding of the Problem of Evil.

    sean s.

  74. #74 MNb
    December 9, 2013

    “if one thinks that free will is something positive, one has to put up with the fact that there are cases when the weak and the vulnerable suffer by the acts of the strong, the powerful and the violent.”
    addition: plus when free will of those weak and vulnerable are negligible. Because Elisabeth Fritzl hadn’t any for 24 years in her basement. According to PS’ logic the offender’s free will outweighs the free will of their victims. Their suffering is only a negative bonus.
    Apologists typically never address the free will of the victims. When they talk about free will it’s always about the free will of the offenders.

  75. #75 Patrick Sele
    December 10, 2013

    sean samis: “Patrick, is there “free will”, suffering, or evil in heaven?”

    2 Peter 2,4 seems to suggest that there IS free will there and that free-willed agents dwelling there, namely some angels, decided to act against God’s will. But by behaving like this, obviously their fate was sealed. They had no excuse for it, as they were fully aware who God is and were also able to be without sin. At the same time they couldn’t know what it means to be excluded from God’s presence. We humans, however, are in a different situation. We are not fully aware who God is and, as we have no untroubled relationship with God, not able to be without sin and therefore have an excuse when we decide to act against God’s will, which means that our fate is not sealed when we behave that way and we can repent and come back to God time and again. Moreover, unlike the angels, humans know what is like to live without God and therefore, despite having free will, they would nevertheless never sin in heaven. So, God may have been inclined not to put us in heaven immidiately.

    sean samis: “If these persons were denied “salvation” then that was a manifest injustice to them.”

    The question is whether or not we deserve salvation. I think what we deserve with respect to our deeds is a fair trial, but not salvation, which is the equivalent of an amnesty.

    sean samis: “In other words, you think the Gospels brought evil to the word. What kind of “Good News” is that?”

    To those who accept the Gospel it’s good news, to those who don’t, it’s bad news (see 2 Corinthians 2,14-16).

    sean samis: “God (if any god exists) could have made sure we all knew life’s lessons without evil and subsequent suffering; so this explanation carries no weight.”

    What you write here is a reply to a passage from Gregory Paul’s paper, which does not in every part reflect my point of view.

    sean samis: “As for the “need to be rescued by the creator”: rescued FROM WHAT? From things believers claim their God did! God’s salvation is rescuing us from the God who is supposedly the one who put us in peril! How absurd.”

    God rescues us from being punished for our evil deeds.

    sean samis: ““Again, God (if any god exists) could have created us with the full appreciation of “how wonderful divine happiness is”.”

    It might be that if we knew how wonderful divine happiness is, we wouldn’t want to live according to God’s will out of a concering for justice, but simply out of selfish reasons, in order to attain that happiness.

    sean samis: “Also, if this God is Omnipotent, then nothing is or can be “necessary” for that God. If that God created us with this need, then the consequences of that need were chosen by that creating God; in other words, evil was God’s DESIRE. If it were unintentional, then this God is not Omnipotent. Obviously this God (who desired and created evil) cannot be perfectly Good.””

    Again, you refer here to something written in Gregory Paul’s paper, which does not in every part reflect my point of view.

    sean samis: “God could have made us want to do good, want to help others, want to avoid evil. These do not run against any “free will”. “Free will” is about the ability to choose; preferences are about the desire to do or avoid things. Abilities and desires influence each other, but neither negates the other.”

    If our evil inclinations are the result of our not being in a loving relationship with God, God cannot make us strive after the good, as love is something voluntary, and not even God can force someone to love Him.

    As I pointed out in comment 25 God has provided us with the knowledge of good and evil (see also Romans 2,14-16). Moreover, God has also provided us with the knowledge of Him (Romans 1,18-21). Scientific evidence in favour of the latter view is provided by the following book, in which it is argued that man has an innate inclination to believe in God or gods:

    Justin L. Barrett, Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief, New York et al. 2012.

    A summary of the content of this book can be found in the following link:

    http://www.tothesource.org/5_2_2012/5_2_2012.htm

    Respective evidence from ethnology can be found in the following book:

    Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts: Startling Evidence of Belief in the One True God in Hundreds of Cultures Throughout the World, Ventura 1981.

    If we don’t use our knowledge of good and evil and our knowledge of God to seek God and try to overcome our evil inclinations I don’t think that we can blame God for this.

    sean samis: “If this God actually did tell humans what to do, if that God actually gave us guidance, these unintentional evils would not happen. That they do happen is a condemnation of that God.”

    I’m convinced that God does provide us with His guidance, if we wish it.

    sean samis: “True enough, but it fails on that standard. Your “solutions” are barely possible, they are certainly not plausible.”

    My points don’t have to be plausible given atheism, they only have to be plausible given Christian theism.

    sean samis: “No one who values the good can think “free will” is valuable enough to justify this rationalization. Unless your God is not omnipotent, your God does not have to choose between “free will” and the good; an omnipotent God could give us free will and the sense to avoid evil.”

    As I pointed out above, I don’t think that this is the case.

    sean samis: “Biblical passages, in this respect can only describe your position, but they have zero persuasive value, they do not prove anything, not even about any God; they only describe your position. If you are trying to explain why we should accept your position, you must not rely on biblical passages.”

    With respect to the Problem of Evil Biblical passages only have to prove that what is written in the Bible cannot be dismissed on the grounds that there is evil in the world. It may be dismissed on other grounds, but that is a matter apart.

    sean samis: “Irrelevant. The point is the papers are little more than theological speculation; they do not provide logical facts but advocate “motivated” theological positions.”

    What are “logical facts”? I think these authors would not be very happy if they knew that they are said to advocate theological positions, as they argue against God’s existence. You should read these papers before writing about them.

    sean samis: “True enough, but in that case biblical passages have no persuasive value because the validity of biblical claims are themselves disputed.”

    What are in your view the Biblical claims that are disputed?

    sean samis: “I agree you do not acknowledge the unreliability of biblical passages. But you did write that “Biblical passages that in one way or another express the idea that God can do anything” and you also wrote that “there are also passages that express the idea that there are things that God cannot do”. Those two comments are contradictory; you might not acknowledge that contradiction, but the rest of us are quite aware of it, and unless you can explain them away, the contradiction leaves all biblical passages unreliable. Your failure to acknowledge this harms your reliability.”

    To put what I wrote slightly differently, from Genesis 18,10-14 and Luke 1,26-28 one can draw the conclusion that there are no physical limits to God’s power, and from 2 Timothy 2,13 and Hebrews 6,18 one can draw the conclusion that there are moral limits to God’s power. I don’t see that these two views contradict each other.

    sean samis: “You also wrote in #49 that “If God is a morally perfect being this means that He, unlike us, is unable to do anything immoral. So, in this sense we have an ability that God doesn’t have.” This is a straight-forward contradiction of your statement in #48 that moral limits to God’s power are “ruled out”.”

    In comment 48 I didn’t write that moral limits to God’s power are ruled out, but that the statement “There are no moral limits to God’s power” is ruled out. Consequently, I hold the view that there ARE moral limits to God’s power.

    sean samis: “Perhaps, but since your God made sure our relationship with him would be rife with trouble and ignorance of him and his wishes (if he even exists) your God sabotaged our relationship. This does not sound like the act of a moral person, much less a Morally Perfect God.”

    As you are not more explicit I can reply to your objection.

    sean samis: “You have it backwards. The question should be whether Good can exist without evil. If Good can exist without evil, then your God could make us Good without creating evil or depriving us of any “free will”.”

    As I pointed out above, as evil has not an existence of its own, God cannot have created it.

    sean samis: “You’re evading the point. The issue is not whether humans can decide not to have children, but whether they are guilty of their children’s sins. In #49 you give human parents a pass when their children do evil and imply that God deserves the same. The problem is that human parents cannot completely anticipate nor control what their children do; God (if a god exists) is capable of complete anticipation and control.”

    If it is true that God provided humans with free will, He is not capable of complete control concerning human actions.

    sean samis: “Arguments based on nothing more than the motivation to prove some point are intrinsically unpersuasive in this context (if not always!).”

    To me what you write here just doesn’t make sense. Proving some point is what an argument is about. Can there be an argument that is not supposed to prove some point? Moreover, I simply don’t see why the motivation to prove some point is supposed to invalidate an argument. After all, the argument from evil is based on the motivation to prove that God doesn’t exist. Does this fact alone invalidate the argument?

    sean samis: “Arguments that rely on a prior agreement about scripture are intrinsically unpersuasive in this context where the validity of scripture is disputed.”

    I simply don’t see where in this context the validity of scripture is disputed.

    sean samis: “There is no rational reason for accepting “divine simplicity” if one seeks reasoned understanding of the Problem of Evil.”

    There is a rational reason for accepting “divine simplicity” if one arrives at the conclusion that the philosophical arguments in favour of it are sound. By the way, the doctrine of divine simplicity was not formulated with respect to the Problem of Evil.

  76. #76 sean samis
    December 10, 2013

    Patrick,

    I think I should thank Eric for his comment #37 on the “a-quick-note-on-skeptical-theism” thread. I think it helps me see that you and I are writing about the same thing from two radically different perspectives. We both write about the Problem of Evil (POE); but I write from the perspective of a non-believer. You write from the perspective of a Christian believer. Since we differ completely on fundamental positions, we are mostly talking past each other. I am not blaming you; this just happens sometimes.

    As I have written in the past (#9 on this thread, and elsewhere), the POE does not disprove the existence of God, but it does limit our choices to one of these four:

    1. There is no god.
    2. God exists, might be Good, but has limited power. Evil is instrumental or unavoidable by God.
    3. God exists, is all-powerful but evil. Evil exists for its own sake; this must be if God is omnipotent and logically explicable by humans.
    4. God exists, is Good, is all-powerful and is Totally, Completely Outside human comprehension or logic. Neither logic nor reason (to the extent they are different) can explain anything about God or why God does or permits anything.

    Divine Simplicity” is a Type 2 theory: your God is unable to do certain things, your God is not even approximately omnipotent. I acknowledge that you think “Divine Simplicity” merely limits your God’s omnipotence; but “limited omnipotence” is an oxymoron. Even I have “limited omnipotence”! So do you. You wrote that “If it is true that God provided humans with free will, He is not capable of complete control concerning human actions.” Good Grief! It is an abuse of language to call your God powerful, much less omnipotent!

    This being said, your arguments based on biblical scripture do you no good; non-believers like me not only doubt the existence of gods, but all scriptures claiming to tell us about gods; the Bible included. As you wrote, “the Bible cannot be dismissed on the grounds that there is evil in the world. It may be dismissed on other grounds, but that is a matter apart.” The Bible can be dismissed on the grounds that it is supremely vague and leads to contradictory conclusions. After nearly two millennia, even Christians don’t agree as to what it means. If they ever come to agree, then I’ll re-evaluate it. I’m not holding my breath.

    You wrote “I simply don’t see where in this context the validity of scripture is disputed.” and you asked, “What are in your view the Biblical claims that are disputed?” I don’t know how to be clearer: Nearly every biblical claim is disputed, not only by non-believers, but even by persons who claim to be Christians! It would be less work to list which biblical claims are not disputed. Certainly any claim regarding the existence or goodness of God are very much disputed on this thread. You don’t dispute them, but that is because you are not replying to my non-belief.

    Given that your “points don’t have to be plausible given atheism, they only have to be plausible given Christian theism” and I am outside your theism, it seems pointless to reply much further.

    It is telling that Christianity has no coherent response to disbelief.

    sean s.

  77. […] latest post from Jason Rosenhouse on the problem of evil was the latest in a debate “chain” if you will, of him responding to […]

  78. #78 Larry
    December 10, 2013

    Listen. It is not imperative for Christians to give on any point, except that you too are decent people. If they do not do that, they are not way they say they are.

  79. #79 Patrick Sele
    December 11, 2013

    MNb: “Apologists typically never address the free will of the victims. When they talk about free will it’s always about the free will of the offenders.”

    By “free will” I mean the ability to take moral decisions. In this sense Elisabeth Fritzl wasn’t deprived of her free will. If you take the view that she didn’t have free will, because she was confined in a certain place for 24 years and had to endure things that she didn’t want, then you would also have to take the view that a prisoner, who has been in prison for 24 years, but would rather be free, hasn’t free will, either. And before you argue that the prisoner deserves to be in prison, while Elisabeth Fritzl didn’t deserve what she had to endure, let us imagine that the prisoner is innocent, but has not been able to prove his innocence.

  80. #80 sean samis
    December 11, 2013

    I’ll let MNb address loss of “free will” if MNb wants; if a God allows suffering caused by unjust acts, that God is as guilty of the resulting evil as would be any mere human who knew about it, could have acted to end it, and chose not to. Probably we should say that God’s guilt is greater because Gods have greater abilities.

    sean s.

  81. #81 Patrick Sele
    December 11, 2013

    sean samis: “As I have written in the past (#9 on this thread, and elsewhere), the POE does not disprove the existence of God, but it does limit our choices to one of these four:”

    If in your view the Problem of Evil doesn’t disprove God’s existence that’s fine. However, as far as I can see, most atheists regard it as a strong argument against God’s existence. This is certainly the case with Jason Rosenhouse, which can be seen from the following statement from his blogpost:

    “The problem of evil, along with the problem of divine hiddeneness, both point to facts about the world that are difficult to square with the idea of a just and loving God who seeks communion with His creatures.”

    sean samis: ““Divine Simplicity” is a Type 2 theory: your God is unable to do certain things, your God is not even approximately omnipotent. I acknowledge that you think “Divine Simplicity” merely limits your God’s omnipotence; but “limited omnipotence” is an oxymoron. Even I have “limited omnipotence”! So do you. You wrote that “If it is true that God provided humans with free will, He is not capable of complete control concerning human actions.” Good Grief! It is an abuse of language to call your God powerful, much less omnipotent!”

    I’m not happy with the word “omnipotence”, because in my view it conveys a false impression of God. The morphem “omni” is derived from the Latin word “omnis”, which means “everything” or “anything”, and “potence” from the Latin word “posse”, which means “to be able to”. So, omnipotence means “ability to do anything”. But if God is a morally perfect being, there are clearly moral limits to what He can do.

    sean samis: “This being said, your arguments based on biblical scripture do you no good; non-believers like me not only doubt the existence of gods, but all scriptures claiming to tell us about gods; the Bible included.”

    Your objection is also irrelevant because I could reformulate what I wrote in comments 5 and 7 without any reference to a Biblical passage. Such a reformulation could look as follows:

    “Much suffering is the consequence of free will. If free will is seen as something positive, one has to accept the suffering resulting from it.

    Now it can be objected that it is possible that man has free will, but that God would keep man from putting his evil intentions into practice. However, in order to prevent immoral acts, God would not only have to prevent our immoral acts but also the instances when we don’t act morally even though we are supposed to. In other words, God would have to force people to do good works. But by doing this God would force people to be hypocrites even though hypocrisy is a sin.

    One could say that God should intervene in order to prevent moral evil by supernaturally removing wicked people from Earth. However, as to larger or lesser degree all people are wicked, God being impartial, cannot punish only some wicked people and not others.

    Based on the philosophical case for divine simplicity it can be argued that the greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice. Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.

    If a sinner received supernatural help from God, he certainly would interpret such help as an approval of his way of life and thus be encouraged to go on sinning. But a perfectly just God certainly would never do anything that would encourage people to sin. Accordingly, one may only expect God’s supernatural intervention on one’s behalf if one lives a godly life.

    From the fact that God doesn’t intervene in order to prevent suffering one cannot draw the conclusion that one can or should behave likewise. As unlike divine intervention a sinner wouldn’t interpret human intervention on his behalf as an approval of his way of life, there is no reason for a Christian not to help. The good works done by Christians may even make a sinner receptive of God’s work of redemption, which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.

    It cannot be ruled out that there will be a compensation for suffering in the afterlife. This could mean that one receives a greater amount of rewards in heaven or a lesser degree of punishment in hell. As for the latter, this presupposes that there are degrees of punishment in the afterlife, and these degrees of punishment may depend on one’s moral behaviour and one’s knowledge of God’s will.

    As for the death of infants one can argue that someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil, faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. This may be the reason that God doesn’t prevent such a person’s death.

    It cannot be ruled out that there are cases of people who turned to God as a consequence of suffering and who wouldn’t have done so if they hadn’t experienced it. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s suffering.

    It can be objected that God could have created us as perfect beings living in heaven without first having to live here on Earth and having to suffer. It cannot be ruled out that if one were able to be without sin, but nevertheless would choose sin, one’s fate would be sealed. So the fact that we are imperfect beings dwelling first here on Earth and not able to be completely without sin may be the price we have to pay that we can sin and nevertheless repent and come to God again and again. So, it may be good that God created us as imperfect beings.

    As for animal suffering, animals may be compensated in one way or another in the afterlife.”

    sean samis: “As you wrote, “the Bible cannot be dismissed on the grounds that there is evil in the world. It may be dismissed on other grounds, but that is a matter apart.” The Bible can be dismissed on the grounds that it is supremely vague and leads to contradictory conclusions. After nearly two millennia, even Christians don’t agree as to what it means. If they ever come to agree, then I’ll re-evaluate it. I’m not holding my breath.”

    In the book I referred to in comment 48 in my view a good arguments in favour of God’s existence are put forward. Once one accepts these arguments one has to find an answer to the question, whether or not it is necessary that God reveals Himself to humanity. Once one has established the necessity of a divine revelation, one has to ask where one can find this revelation. In my view this is most likely in the Bible, as there are characteristics in the Bible that, as far as I know, other writings claiming to be divine revelations lack. One of these characteristics is what has been called “undesigned coincidences”. As for this phenomenon the following talk by philosopher Timothy McGrew is very informative:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wUcrwYocgM

    What is meant by “undesigned coincidences” is explained from 0:07:31 onwards.

    sean samis: “Given that your “points don’t have to be plausible given atheism, they only have to be plausible given Christian theism” and I am outside your theism, it seems pointless to reply much further.”

    You set the bar for a theodicy to be successful unreasonably high. For a theodicy to be successful it only has to show that the suffering in the world doesn’t make God’s existence impossible or at least improbable. But in your view a theodicy has in addition to that to provide a proof of God’s existence. But that’s not what a theodicy is supposed to provide.

  82. #82 sean samis
    December 11, 2013

    Patrick, in #81;

    Regarding, “ if God is a morally perfect being, there are clearly moral limits to what He can do.

    No. Moral limits do not limit what someone CAN do, only what they SHOULD or WILL do. If your God is omnipotent in any meaningful sense, your God can do evil; if your God is also morally perfect, your God just chooses not to do evil.

    Regarding, “by doing this [forcing people to be good] God would force people to be hypocrites

    Again, No. It is not hypocrisy to be forced to do something you don’t want to do; hypocrisy is “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense”.

    Hypocrisy is a sin because it is dishonest. Being forced to do something you don’t want to do isn’t dishonest nor a pretense.

    Regarding, “One could say that God should intervene in order to prevent moral evil”.

    An omnipotent, omnibenevolent God need not “intervene”; that God need only create a world where evils do not occur in the first place; then no intervention is required.

    Regarding, “God’s destructive power due to His justice.

    Justice, Gods’ or anyone else’s, need not be destructive if it guides their creative efforts from the beginning. God (if any god exists) is not limited to remedial action but would be capable of proactive prevention. Justice would incline him to create a just world.

    Regarding, “From the fact that God doesn’t intervene”.

    That there is some God who happens to not intervene is not a fact, it is an unsupported claim. The only fact we know is that we don’t see any intervention by gods. From the observable lack of intervention, one can reasonably conclude there are no gods or whatever gods exist don’t care about our welfare.

    Patrick, you use a lot of highly tentative language: “one could say that”, “it can be argued that”, “it cannot be ruled out that”, “this could mean that”, “may depend on”, “it can be objected that”, etc. These phrases demonstrate that even you don’t know, that you are grasping at rhetorical straws. Your obvious uncertainty undermines your entire argument.

    After all, it cannot be ruled out that there is no God. The existence of evil could mean that God is evil. It may be that no gods exist. Speculation is cheap; evidence and justified beliefs are hard.

    Similarly you wrote that “God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s suffering.

    Reply: God may not be inclined to care.

    Similarly you wrote that “it may be good that God created us as imperfect beings.

    Reply: It may be evidence of God’s poor craftsmanship that we are imperfect beings. Or that our imperfection may be evidence that there is no God.

    Similarly you wrote that “animals may be compensated in one way or another in the afterlife.”

    Reply: Animals may be unimportant to God and their suffering a matter of no concern to him.

    Regarding, “In the book I referred to in comment 48 [are] in my view a good arguments in favour of God’s existence are put forward. Once one accepts these arguments…

    Why would anyone accept these arguments? Arguments without evidence are just noise. There is ZERO non-religious, objective evidence of gods, and without that evidence there is no reason for a rational, reasonable person to accept these arguments.

    Regarding, “proof of God’s existence [is] not what a theodicy is supposed to provide.

    If no God exists, then no one cares if God is good or bad; theodicy itself becomes nothing more than a rhetorical exercise. We may as well debate how many imaginary angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    It is easy to prove a non-existent God “is good”, or that they would be if they existed. I can do that. And that God could be Zeus, or Odin, or Baal, or Q.

    Proving that your God is innocent, omnipotent, omnibenevolent AND REAL is the thing that makes this topic matter.

    This is where I need to remind you of all that tentative language you use, where “one could say this” or “it can be argued that” or “it cannot be ruled out that”, and so forth. This language demonstrates that, even though you are a believer, you are not sure what’s going on. Why should non-believers be persuaded when you are uncertain too? If you cannot prove that your God exists, then everything you say is dubious.

    sean s.

  83. #83 MNb
    December 12, 2013

    “by doing this [forcing people to be good] God would force people to be hypocrites”
    Once this is again a remark that sounds plausible when formulated in this abstract, general way, but fails when applied to a concrete case like Elisabeth Fritzl.
    Joseph Fritlz was lackluster one time after 24 years so Elisabeth could escape. No way it had turned him into a hypocrite if a supposedly omni-everything god had made him lackluster after a week or a month instead.

  84. #84 sean samis
    December 12, 2013

    MNb: “a remark that sounds plausible”

    Nah, it’s not even potentially correct; it certainly gets the meaning of “hypocrite” wrong; and as you say it is nonsense in concrete application.

    sean s.

  85. #85 Patrick Sele
    December 12, 2013

    sean samis: “hypocrisy is “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense”.”

    In my view apart from one’s behaviour also one’s attitude or one’s thoughts can amount to being a hypocrite. So, if someone claims to love a person, and his behaviour conforms to this claim, yet in his thoughts he detests the respective person he is in my view a hypocrite. However, maybe you are right, and the word “hypocrite” is somewhat misleading in this respect and therefore, in order to avoid the word, I’ve reformulated what I wrote as follows:

    “Now it can be objected that it is possible that man has free will, but that God would keep man from putting his evil intentions into practice. However, in order to prevent evil acts, God would not only have to prevent sins of action but also sins of omission. In other words, God would have to force people to live a godly life. But by doing this God would force people to appear to be godly without really being godly, even though He detests such behaviour (see Matthew 23,1-32, Luke 12,1, 1 Peter 2,1).”

    sean samis: “Hypocrisy is a sin because it is dishonest. Being forced to do something you don’t want to do isn’t dishonest nor a pretense.”

    However, being forced to do something can also be regarded as some kind of suffering. So, there would still be suffering around and the Problem of Evil wouldn’t be solved.

    sean samis: “That there is some God who happens to not intervene is not a fact, it is an unsupported claim.”

    If the statement is reformulated as follows, you should no longer find any fault with it: “Proceeding from the assumption that God exists, from the fact that God doesn’t intervene in order to prevent suffering one cannot draw the conclusion that one can or should behave likewise.”

    sean samis: “The only fact we know is that we don’t see any intervention by gods. From the observable lack of intervention, one can reasonably conclude there are no gods or whatever gods exist don’t care about our welfare.”

    Now this isn’t a fact, either. Just because YOU don’t see any intervention by God or by gods, this doesn’t mean that there is no such intervention. After all, there are many people who claim that God has intervened in their lives.

    sean samis: “Patrick, you use a lot of highly tentative language: “one could say that”, “it can be argued that”, “it cannot be ruled out that”, “this could mean that”, “may depend on”, “it can be objected that”, etc. These phrases demonstrate that even you don’t know, that you are grasping at rhetorical straws. Your obvious uncertainty undermines your entire argument.”

    I don’t claim to know anything here, I just try to show that the existence of suffering doesn’t have to make God’s existence impossible or improbable.

    sean samis: “Speculation is cheap; evidence and justified beliefs are hard.”

    With respect to a theodicy speculation is legitimate and there is no need to present any evidence in favour of it. After all, the aim of a theodicy is not to prove God’s existence, but just to show that the existence of suffering doesn’t have to make God’s existence impossible or improbable.

    sean samis: “Reply: God may not be inclined to care.”

    Irrelevant objection.

    sean samis: “Reply: It may be evidence of God’s poor craftsmanship that we are imperfect beings. Or that our imperfection may be evidence that there is no God.”

    Irrelevant objection.

    sean samis: “Reply: Animals may be unimportant to God and their suffering a matter of no concern to him.”

    Irrelevant objection.

    sean samis: “Why would anyone accept these arguments?”

    It may be because one thinks that they are convincing.

    sean samis: “Arguments without evidence are just noise.”

    There can also be purely logical arguments. Mathematical proofs count among such arguments.

    sean samis: “There is ZERO non-religious, objective evidence of gods, and without that evidence there is no reason for a rational, reasonable person to accept these arguments.”

    What is “non-religious, objective evidence of gods” supposed to be and why shouldn’t one accept purely logical arguments without such evidence?

    sean samis: “If no God exists, then no one cares if God is good or bad; theodicy itself becomes nothing more than a rhetorical exercise. We may as well debate how many imaginary angels can dance on the head of a pin.”

    If there are arguments apart from the argument from evil that conclusively prove that God doesn’t exist you are right, but I doubt that there are such arguments.

    sean samis: “Proving that your God is innocent, omnipotent, omnibenevolent AND REAL is the thing that makes this topic matter.”

    As I pointed out before I think there are good arguments for God’s existence.

    sean samis: “This is where I need to remind you of all that tentative language you use, where “one could say this” or “it can be argued that” or “it cannot be ruled out that”, and so forth. This language demonstrates that, even though you are a believer, you are not sure what’s going on. Why should non-believers be persuaded when you are uncertain too? If you cannot prove that your God exists, then everything you say is dubious.”

    I applied my tentative language to reasons about possible reason God may have for allowing evil and not to the question whether or not God exists. As I have not even tried to prove God’s existence here, you are not in a position to know whether or not I’m capable of it.

  86. […] in comments sean samis’ response to my reply to Jason Rosenhouse’s recent post on the problem of evil. (I have found over the years that comment post battles are not worth my […]

  87. #87 sean samis
    December 13, 2013

    Patrick,

    Your view of “what hypocrisy is” is a peculiar muddle and very different from the ordinary understanding if the word. If you’re going to redefine common words and give them bizarre new meanings, you should at least tell us what you are doing.

    The hypo you provide to illustrate your peculiar definition of “hypocrisy” is not clearly even an evil situation. No one is harmed. If there is no harm, why would anyone say this behavior was “evil”? Odd for sure, but “evil”? I’m just not seeing that.

    There are many kinds of “love” and English does a poor job distinguishing them. Most Christian thinkers, when discussing the Gospel’s call for love of one another, refer to the Greek word “agape” which means an unconditional spiritual love. (I hope you’ve not redefined this one too.)

    This matters because the Gospel’s call to love (agape) would include love even of those you detest, and to behave in conformity to that love (agape). The hypo you provide—instead of illustrating an evil—seems to describe the kind of love (agape) Christians are supposed to exhibit. So you can understand why I conclude your idea of “hypocrisy” is a muddle; it uses an example of charitable behavior to describe a sin.

    sean s.

  88. #88 sean samis
    December 13, 2013

    Patrick,

    MNb has written several times that you think your God values the interest of evil doers over the interests of victims. Your explanations support MNb’s position.

    You wrote that “being forced to do something can also be regarded as some kind of suffering. So, there would still be suffering around and the Problem of Evil wouldn’t be solved.

    It is often said that God will make the evil suffer in some afterlife, how would making them “suffer” by preventing their evil be worse? And why would it be acceptable for innocent persons to suffer at the hands of the evil-doer rather than make the evil-doer “suffer” by preventing them from doing evil in the first place?

    You wrote that if your God forced people to behave, they would not really be good; they’d merely appear to be good and your God “detests such behavior”.

    This merely shifts the problem and makes it worse. Not only does your God allow evil because he detests the appearance of goodness in those who are not good, but your God allows innocents to suffer just so he can avoid being unhappy. If a human did this, you’d call them manifestly evil. Why would anyone give God any different verdict?

    There is a flaw in your thinking that pops up frequently. Apologists for gods assume (as you do) that the only way their god can rid the world of evil is remedially, by interfering with the actions of evil-doers. That is a very sloppy way to look at it.

    Instead, your God could keep people from having evil intentions in the first place. Then your God would not have to interfere with evil intentions and there would be no “falseness”. If your God is really omnipotent; he could make sure that people never became evil-doers in the first place. They would not need to be “interfered” with and your God could take some time off.

    Being created as a good person is within your God’s power, prevents the need to intervene in their evil, and violates no one’s rights or “free will”. But your God does not do that, indicating that your God wants or likes evil.

    sean s.

  89. #89 sean samis
    December 13, 2013

    Patrick,

    You have written at great length speculation intended to prove that if your God exists it could be that “the existence of suffering doesn’t have to make God’s existence impossible or improbable.” These speculative ideas might succeed at that goal, but only at the cost of confirming the likelihood that your God would be evil.

    You suggested that your God may not be inclined to prevent the suffering of persons who only turned to God because of their suffering.

    In other words, your God acts like a thug, demanding our love or he’ll hurt us, in violation of our “free will”.

    You suggested that God is unable to create us without sin, and then say that his poor craftsmanship is a good thing because it makes us suffer and turn to your God whose sloppiness is the cause of our suffering in the first place. This speculation is just senseless.

    You suggest that your God might “compensate” victims of evil (and animals) “in one way or another in the afterlife”.

    The purpose of compensation is to make up for evil done, so your speculation implies that you know your God has done evil and now needs to make up for it. Whatever your God sought to accomplish with this evil could have been accomplished directly, so the evil would definitely be a wrong on your God’s part. Why would anyone trust the promises of an evil God?

    The price of your speculation is that it’s possible your God exists, but almost certain that if he does, he is Evil or incompetent. Your arguments are quite convincing if your goal is to convince us that your God is evil.

    If your God is real, and omnipotent, and Good, then no evil is necessary, our “free will” would not require sin, and your God could have put us into a perfect, sinless paradise from the get-go.

    sean s.

  90. #90 MNb
    December 13, 2013

    “your God could have put us into a perfect, sinless paradise from the get-go.”
    Yeah, forgot about that one. According to christians and muslims such a realm exists. It’s called Heaven. At this point I always propose a deal.
    As an atheist I am not afraid of not-existing. So let god put an end to this vale of tears called earthly life, send me into oblivion and nothingness and send all deserving believers like Patrick to Heaven now. I’m pretty sure many atheists are willing to join me; it’s no big deal.
    But I’m not holding my breath until this deal is closed.

  91. #91 Patrick Sele
    December 14, 2013

    sean samis: “Your view of “what hypocrisy is” is a peculiar muddle and very different from the ordinary understanding if the word. If you’re going to redefine common words and give them bizarre new meanings, you should at least tell us what you are doing.

    The hypo you provide to illustrate your peculiar definition of “hypocrisy” is not clearly even an evil situation. No one is harmed. If there is no harm, why would anyone say this behavior was “evil”? Odd for sure, but “evil”? I’m just not seeing that.”

    Maybe “falseness” is a more appropriate word. I think most people regard falseness as a kind of evil, even if no one is harmed.

    sean samis: “It is often said that God will make the evil suffer in some afterlife, how would making them “suffer” by preventing their evil be worse? And why would it be acceptable for innocent persons to suffer at the hands of the evil-doer rather than make the evil-doer “suffer” by preventing them from doing evil in the first place?”

    But the evil person would not only suffer by their inability to put their thoughts into practice, but also in the afterlife by being punished for their evil thoughts.

    sean samis: “This merely shifts the problem and makes it worse. Not only does your God allow evil because he detests the appearance of goodness in those who are not good, but your God allows innocents to suffer just so he can avoid being unhappy. If a human did this, you’d call them manifestly evil. Why would anyone give God any different verdict?”

    As I pointed out above, I think even humans regard falseness in general as something evil, and if someone is forced by someone else to act in a certain way most people certainly would regard the latter person’s behaviour as evil.

    sean samis: “Instead, your God could keep people from having evil intentions in the first place. Then your God would not have to interfere with evil intentions and there would be no “falseness”. If your God is really omnipotent; he could make sure that people never became evil-doers in the first place. They would not need to be “interfered” with and your God could take some time off.”

    According to Jesus the most basic commandments are to love God and to love one’s neighbour (Matthew 22,34-40). However, love cannot be but voluntary. Not even God can force people to love Him and their fellow humans.

    sean samis: “Being created as a good person is within your God’s power, prevents the need to intervene in their evil, and violates no one’s rights or “free will”. But your God does not do that, indicating that your God wants or likes evil.”

    If to love God and to love one’s neighbour are the most basic commandments, to fail to obey these commands are the worst sins. But, again, God cannot force people to love Him and their fellow humans, which from the Biblical point of view makes one a good person.

  92. #92 Patrick Sele
    December 14, 2013

    If God prevented people from putting their evil intentions into practice and, in addition to that, made them live a godly life against their will, this would mean that one’s thoughts would be entirely detached from one’s behaviour. There would be no connection between one’s mind and one’s body. But one might ask, what purpose in such a case a body would serve. God may as well have created unembodied minds instead of embodied humans. But these unembodied minds would at least be able to commit sins of thought, for which God would have to punish them.

    Now, according to the Bible God did create unembodied minds capable of sins of thought, namely the angels. However, from the fate of the sinning angels mentioned in 2 Peter 2,4 one can draw the conclusion if one had an untroubled relationship with God and was only capable of sins of thought and one would indded commit such sins one’s fate would be sealed. So, as we are not in an untroubled relationship with God and therefore not able to be morally perfect, this state may be the price we have to pay that we are in a position to commit sins and nevertheless repent and come to God again and again.

    Now one may concede that free will is something positive and it may lead to inevitable evils, but that God could at least have prevented the most terrible evils, such as the Holocaust or the case of Elisabeth Fritzl. However, as I pointed out in comment 54, the question arises why God should not have prevented other, less terrible, instances of evil as well. If one says that God should only prevent the most terrible evils, but should not intervene with respect to other instances of evil, one concedes that there are acceptable instances of evil, which means that even from an atheist point of view the existence of evil as such is not incompatible with the existence of God. Moreover, if one has such a view the problem arises where one should draw the borderline between acceptable and unacceptable evil without doing so arbitrarily. However, if one says that God should indeed prevent all instances of evil, we eventually will end up with the idea that God should force people to act morally (see comment 1) as well as with the idea that He should even prevent evil thoughts (see comment 51). But both ideas imply that God should abolish free will.

  93. […] Ye Olde Problem of Evil [EvolutionBlog] (scienceblogs.com) […]

  94. #94 sean samis
    December 14, 2013

    Patrick;

    Regarding, “Maybe ‘falseness’ is a more appropriate word [instead of hypocrisy]. I think most people regard falseness as a kind of evil, even if no one is harmed.

    So at least we’ve gotten past the falseness of your “hypocrite” claim. Good. Falseness is an evil, but hypocrisy is something different.

    Regarding, “the evil person would not only suffer by their inability to put their thoughts into practice, but also in the afterlife by being punished for their evil thoughts.

    You’re the one who wrote that if evil doers are “forced to do something good, that can also be regarded as some kind of suffering. So, there would still be suffering around and the Problem of Evil wouldn’t be solved.” Now you minimize the “suffering” of being forced to be good. Are you pulling-back from that flawed line of reasoning? You should; it places the interests of the evil doer ahead of their victims.

    Regarding, “I think even humans regard falseness in general as something evil, and if someone is forced by someone else to act in a certain way most people certainly would regard the latter person’s behaviour as evil.

    No, I’d bet that most people would consider complying with a command under the threat of force as not evil.

    If X forced Y to do something, I doubt anyone would think Y did evil just because Y hated doing it.

    If X forced Y to do something so as to prevent Y from doing an evil act, few people would think X had done evil. They’d thank X.

    Regarding, “Not even God can force people to love Him and their fellow humans.

    You’re really hung up on the idea of “force”. Do you have two hands? Did your God force them on you? Probably you’d say not; you’d probably say your God gave them to you. Like having two hands, not being hateful or evil can be innate, which is something your God could give. Wanting to love others can be innate, which is something your God could give.

    And if your God is omnipotent, he can force people to do anything, including love each other. If he can’t, he’s not omnipotent. I’ll let you pick one.

    I cannot speak for others, but no god has ever given me any command; so if I did fail to love others, there’s no command given to me which I’m disobeying. I know that some people tell me their god has issued such a commandment, but these same people fight with each other over what commandments exist and what those commandments mean. When they sort out their beliefs I’ll reconsider their claims, but that’s not happened yet.

    However, I also know that I don’t need some deity’s commandment to tell me that I should love (agape) my neighbors.

    sean s.

  95. #95 sean samis
    December 14, 2013

    Patrick;

    If God prevented people from putting their evil intentions into practice and, in addition to that, made them live a godly life against their will, this would mean that one’s thoughts would be entirely detached from one’s behaviour. There would be no connection between one’s mind and one’s body. …

    Blah, blah, blah.

    If your God gave everyone the gift of wanting to avoid evil and to love one another, then all your problems are solved. And this gift would be within the power of your God to give.

    Regarding, “the question arises why God should not have prevented other, less terrible, instances of evil as well.

    The real question is why would any god need to prevent any evil? A bona fide god could give all his/her/its/their creations the desire and ability to live as that god wants. The whole question of “which evils to prevent” and “which evils to allow” is misdirection and error. A bona fide god can prevent any and all evil without depriving anyone of any “free will”.

    sean s.

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