Friday, 17 May 2013


I was pondering the problem of evil recently, particularly in relation to WLC’s attempt to wriggle out of it.  (Of tangential note, it occurred to me that WLC has had masses of debates.)

His arguments are:

Without a god, there’d be no concept of good or evil, so evil proves god, rather than presenting any problem at all; and

We simply are not in a position to judge whether god has sufficient justification to allow evil.

A major contributor to the apparent success of these arguments is the fact that they ignore the formulation of the problem of evil.

Let me explain …

Other gods, such as Zeus and the gods of Olympus, did not have the same qualities as the Hebrew god.  They weren’t omnipotent (Zeus commissioned Prometheus and Epimetheus to create the current batch of humans), they weren’t omniscient (Hera, Athena and Aphrodite had to appeal to the human Paris to ascertain which of them was the most beautiful) and they weren’t omnibeneficient (they were capricious instead, and had to be appeased).

WLC’s god, however, is painted as having these qualities and this is how the problem of evil arises.  According to the argument, god himself is omnibeneficient and therefore not capable of evil so evil doesn’t come from him, and he is actively inclined against evil – often railing against it in the Old Testament, wiping out cities for indulging in it and even flooding the entire planet at one point.  The idea of sacrificing his only self-son to forgive us our evil is an indication that he, god, is not the source of evil.

An argument based on a lack of awareness of evil might have worked on with the Greek gods, since there is a sense in which they were pure and untainted, unlike (adult) humans.  The Greek gods were like enormously powerful children, unrestrained in their actions and often acting without having thought it all through.  It is possible to argue that they would not have understood the concept of evil, which results from the impurity of the human state.

WLC’s god doesn’t have this escape clause.  An omniscient god knows (and one would assume understands) all.

Finally, there is the argument that the gods cannot act to prevent or eliminate evil.  For the Greek gods this is a perfectly workable argument.  The gods were not all-powerful, they worked within a framework of fate and were occasionally reported as seeking the words of the oracles as eagerly as the more frail humans do.  Zeus’ father, Kronos (alternatively Cronus, a Titan, who should not to be confused with Chronus, the god of time), swallowed all his children immediately after birth due to a prophecy predicting that he would be deposed by a child greater than he.  Zeus received a similar prophecy; that he would be deposed by the second, male child of Metis (his wife before Hera) but he managed to escape it (by swallowing Metis who was pregnant with Pallas Athena – the gods were apparently good swallowers).

The gods, and their precursor Titans, were also subject to the personified Fates, the Moirai – and dabbling in the affairs of the Fates was a dangerous business even for Zeus.

Again, WLC’s god can’t appeal to an inability to control his destiny or his actions.  An omnipotent god is able to do as he wishes, when he wishes, to whomever he wishes.

The question then is why an omnipotent and omniscient god who doesn’t like evil would let it continue.  Human evil is easily, if not overly convincingly, explained away via the free will defence – human evil is merely a necessary side-effect of giving humans self-determination, allowing them to freely choose good or evil.

Natural evil, however, is somewhat harder to explain.  It is in response to natural evil that WLC claims that we puny humans are not in a position to judge god’s choice to allow, or deliberately inflict us with, all the calamities that beset us; disease, earthquakes, droughts, floods, death in child-birth, “reality” television and so on.

Well sure, if god exists and is significantly grander than us, then we aren’t in a position to understand but, as Austin Dacey pointed out in a debate with Craig, a significantly superior being such as god would be expected to explain why these things happen to us and provide comfort to those who suffer as part of his great plan.  But he doesn’t.


By far the best escape route from the problem of evil is provided by Mr Deity – god (also known as “El”, the supreme being who went rogue and broke away from the Consortium) turned off his omniscience early in his reign due to what we could euphemistically refer to as “all that monkey spanking”.


Being mathematically minded, I thought I might just work out the figures.

There are about 1.4 billion teenagers in the world at the moment, slightly more than half of which are male (the more frequent offenders are supposedly male and they supposedly grow out of the habit).  Let’s assume that “monkey spanking” takes about 15 seconds, I know I’m being generous here but to make up for that let’s say that monkeys are spanked by the average male teenage no more frequently than once every second day.  Assuming a uniform distribution, this means that at any one time there are about two million monkeys spanked every minute.

And this is if you only count humans.  The number rises when you add in all the chimps (who call it “shaking hands with the human” – and don’t go getting all hot and bothered about chimps not being monkeys because monkeys call it “choking the chimp”, so it all balances out).

Of course, Mr Deity is a parody.  There is no indication whatsoever that god even can turn off his omniscience, let alone that he does.

Consequently, when WLC is next debating, he should perhaps take advantage of this research and argue that the reason god allows all the evil in the world to go ahead is because he’s too busy dealing with the constant and simultaneous corporal punishment of vast numbers of simians and the requirement to organise the unfortunate demise of one hundred and twenty million puppies every hour.

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