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Same Ol' Same Ol' (argument From Evil)

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Posted by S.H. Le on October 12, 1999 22:44:40 UTC

Salutations, Atheist argument #0021. I assume that the traditional definition of God (all good, all powerful, all knowing) applies. I'll also assume that free will exists.

Ever thought to think why evil exists in the world? I'm sure you all have considered this. It seems to me, that theists are forced to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a loving and caring God. Many have tried by appealing to free will. But this is insuffient. The existence of free will doesn't explain all the non-human caused evils that exist: earth quakes, famines due to poor crops, diseases, etc. There are many problems that not caused by humans. Consider this example. Think of a man that died in his apartment building because lightning hit the house and burned him to death. The man dies a slow and painful death due to smoke inhalation and and 3rd degree burns. The man is deemed clinically dead 3 days later in the hospital. How could God have allowed this to happen to his "beloved child?" Being God, we know that he could have prevented it because he both knew about it prior to its occurance and had the power of preventing it. In this case it won't do to say now that the man has endured such enormous suffering, that now he'll go to heaven. Either the suffering was necessary or it wasn't. If it wasn't necessary to undergo the suffering, then it wrong for the man to experience it (ie. God could have simply sent the man to heaven without the suffering because he's all powerful).

Now, there are several ways to attack this argument. It is possible to deny that God is all powerful. However, it's unlikely that this would be effective, seeing as the fire department, and medical doctors (if they reached the man in time) could have saved the day. Could God, who was powerful enough to create the universe be conveniently less powerful than the fire department and doctors? A god should at the very least be as powerful as a man. Second, you could deny that God is all knowing. This implies that God would have saved the man if he'd only knew, but again this argument runs into the same problem. Is God so detached from human affairs that he doesn't know when we need him? This renders the act of praying usless (except for theraputic or meditative reasons). Third, you might deny that God is all good. In this case you encounter the idea that God isn't perfect, but is flawed just as man is. It's now possible that God actually inflicted the suffering out his own sadistic enjoyment, or toys with humans for the twisted pleasure of it. This also wouldn't be inconsistent with the idea of sending sinners to an eternity of hell. But most theists would not find comfort in such a God.

Finally, if everything in the universe was created by God, then God is the ultimate cause of all evil. God created Satan, he created disease, earth quakes, etc. The idea of free will now becomes irrelevant. God could have created a bunch of people that were saints, that were always inclined to do good regardless of temptation, but instead he created sinners (or people that were flawed enough to become sinners - adam and eve). Does a sinner somehow have more free will than a saint? Does one punish the flawed creation, or criticise it's maker?

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