Tag Archives: Theodicy

“Free Will” Can’t Solve Theodicy.

Recently a Christian named Jordan told me that God had to have created a world with evil, because otherwise we wouldn’t have free will.

Here is my response.

Jordan, you are now implying that the ability to choose evil is more important than avoiding evil, in the eyes of God.

A bold assertion.

And yet a necessary one, probably, if one believes a “benevolent” (when it does not limit the ability of Creation to do evil), omnipotent god exists.

Still, I hold it makes no rational sense at all. We wouldn’t call god “good”, then, should we. We should call him evil-enabling, since that is what — by your own argument — he values more than goodness!

Since when has free will (or the illusion of it) needed the ability to do evil, and since when is free will more important than morality or general happiness? This is why I can never, ever respect theology. Each answer reveals more contradictions and absurdities.

A Run-In with a Street Preacher

I ran into a street preacher, whom we’ll call Fred, a week ago. He dropped some pretty crazy gems that I just had to share. (Note I’ve tagged this entry with “Responses,” indicating it contains answers to common conversion efforts.)

Starting Off with Atheists in Foxholes

Fred begins by saying something generic and attempting to hand me a flyer for his church. “I’m an atheist,” I say, taking care not to begin with “Sorry” — I’m not going to apologize for my rationality!

“Oh, we’re all atheists!” Fred exclaims, then leans forward: “But if you jump out of a plane, who do you think you’ll be praying to?”

Never mind I’ve been skydiving, no gods involved. I play along. “Perhaps, but it wouldn’t necessarily be your god I was playing to.”

Fred maintains his conspiratorial stance and shares his Secret with me: “Well, there’s only one God, you know!”

“But there’s no proof,” I say.

“Exactly,” Fred says in an attempt at argumentative Aikido. “That’s why it’s all about faith!

Being a guy who attempts to have rational beliefs this doesn’t sit well with me. But at least this guy knows, in theory, that faith a the lack of evidence… or does he:

“But if you look at all the prophecies…”

Not a Real Christian

One of my absolute favorite things to hear Christians say is “Oh, they aren’t real Christians.” (That’s the No True Scotsman fallacy, and for whatever reason, Christians, especially evangelists, love it.)

Our friend Fred doesn’t let me down.

After Fred encourages me to just take the flyer and consider converting, I mention that I was raised Christian, I know the stories, and I’m never converting, and he becomes a bit excited. “What were you raised as?” he asks. “Because I thought I was raised Christian too, but I wasn’t!”

“Catholic.”

“Me too!” Fred shares. “Well that’s something we have in common!”

“If Catholics aren’t true Christians,” I ask, “Tell me, what religion would you have been in, say, 1,000 A.D.?”

Fred didn’t have an answer, but religious fragmentation and the chronologically & geographically determined nature of faith are things I’ve thought about before.

The Loving God’s Hellfire

We discussed theodicy in an amusing way.

“If God loves me, as you say,” I asked Fred, “Why would he make me, knowing I, as a rational thinker, would have to reject Him, causing my damnation? Why would he make so very many people who would just go to hell? Heck, how could Native Americans go to heaven before Europeans came over?” I asked rhetorically.

“Well we have to choose. Do you want us all to be boring automatons?” Fred started. I could see where this was going already. The spectre of “free will” is always used as a counter to the problem of evil.

“Here’s the thing,” I say. “You clearly believe that for us to have free will, we have to be able to hurt each other.”

“Yes.”

“Why is that necessarily true? Wouldn’t a perfect God be able to create a world with free will, without letting us hurt each other?”

Fred isn’t convinced — that isn’t, of course, how our world works, but if you’re an omnipotent, loving creator… “I don’t think so,” Fred says.

“But isn’t that what Heaven is?”

“No, everyone is Heaven is sinless.”

“Tell me, Fred. Are you going to heaven?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever hurt anyone?”

“Well, I’m sure we’ve all said some things —”

“So are you just going to be an automaton in Heaven, then? Or can you hurt people in Heaven? See how I just made you argue against yourself? It just doesn’t make any sense,” I say, referring to Christianity.

I consider this a slam-dunk argument against typical Christianity, proving my point about theodicy and free will and how a loving, all-knowing, all-powerful god can’t exist in this world. Yet our preacher friend is wholly unfazed, resolute in his mission to convince others that something he knows is unprovable is not only the Truth but also the Only Way.

“The Holocaust was God’s Plan”

“You know why the Holocaust happened? Because the Jews – well, most of ’em – refused to recognize their own Messiah, their own savior,” Fred shared.

I was so shocked by this claim of Fred’s that I have a hard time remembering what prompted it. Perhaps it stemmed from our discussion of why there is evil in the world.

“You know what I think? I think the Holocaust happened because this guy Hitler used the Jews as a political tool,” I counter. Never mind the role the Catholic Church played in this atrocity for now. Never mind that Hitler was a Christian.

“You’re thinking little picture, I’m thinking ‘big picture,’” Fred says.

“Oh, so what then, God leaned down — ” I cup my hands to my mouth and bend forward — “and whispered, ‘Hey, Hitler! Have you heard about these Jews? They’re really pissing me off!”

“Well, no, I don’t believe God talked to Hitler.” Of course not. Hitler couldn’t possibly be a true Christian, could he? It’s cognitive dissonance in action: Fred likes God and Christianity; he hates Hitler, thus he can’t imagine Hitler being Christian or supported by God, even when it logically follows from what he’s just said.

By now I’ve had enough of this offensively uncritical guy. “So God just caused the Holocaust indirectly, with magic? I don’t believe in magic. Have a nice night,” I say, walking off.

Proof the Christian God is Evil

You know those ridiculously sensationalist headlines that promise the world and don’t deliver? Post titles that make a claim, but end it in question marks so as to deny all liability?

This isn’t one of those posts.

Proving God is Evil

First we have to define our terms.

Definitions

God

The triune god-head of mainline Christianity including Catholicism and most or all Protestant religions, consisting of Jesus (who is God), God the Father, and the Holy Spirit (who is also God). This God is revealed in the Bible to be un-changing. See: Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Psalms 102:26; Malachi 3:6; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 6:17,18; and James 1:17. For example:

Malachi 3:6 – “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”

God, in one manner or another, created the entire Universe, as implied by Genesis 1 (or described by it, if you take it literally).

God does not ever lie.

Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.”

This God is also all-powerful or omnipotent. The most cited verse is Matthew 19:26: “With God all things are possible.” We concede that logical impossibilities are not possible for God (e.g. making a rock so big he cannot move it), though since God created everything, including logic, that’s a debate for another day.

Lastly, God is all-knowing or omniscient. This is proclaimed in Deuteronomy 29:29 and elsewhere. We take this to mean he knows the past, present, and future, and furthermore knows the results of all his decisions before he makes them. (We ignore the likely truth that someone can not be both omniscient and omnipotent because they would not be able to change their future mind.)

The Bible

The collection of writings Christians call the Bible. King James, NIV, Catholic? doesn’t really matter for our purposes. We shall take it mostly literally, except for parables and much of Genesis; this is what most Christian religions do. We also assume this is God’s primary or only means of reliable communication with humankind (ignoring forgeries and legitimate Bible scholars, not to mention intra-Biblical contradictions).

I am teasing you with definitions before the proof. But a definition of terms is important. The next one is perhaps more interesting, so bear with me.

Good

Doing unto another as one would have the other do to them. This, the “Golden Rule,” is widely held as Jesus’ most important teaching. It can be found in Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.

Evil

Knowingly doing the opposite of good.

Sin

Evil acts.

Humankind

Sinners. Taken as a the most basic tenet of Christianity, Jesus’ supposed sacrifice makes no sense otherwise.

You can’t wait, can you? On to the good stuff.

Proof, version 1

  1. God created everything (given).

  2. God created humankind (by 1).

  3. Humankind is composed of sinners (given).

  4. Sinners create evil (given).

  5. Humankind creates evil (by 3 and 4).

  6. God created evil (by 2 and 5).

  7. God knew the consequences of creating everything, including humans, before he did it (given).

  8. God knew he was creating evil (by 5 and 6).

  9. Thus, God sinned, himself, by definition, as a sinner knowingly commits evil acts.

I dare you to find a hole in that logic, given those definitions.

You want more? Okay. But let’s define another term or two.

More Definitions

Free Will

The ability to choose between two or more options. This does NOT mean omnipotence.

Conscious Beings

Entities that have at least the illusion of free will. This includes humans.

Proof (version 2)

  1. If I were to create a universe and conscious beings, I would create a universe where they cannot hurt each other.

  2. In fact, I wish all humans had free will but could not hurt each other.

  3. It is not logically impossible for conscious beings to have free will without being able to hurt each other. Proof by contradiction / counter-example:

    • Assume free will requires the ability to hurt other conscious beings.
    • Universe X is populated by beings whose only choice is to appear green or purple to observers. This does not inhibit others’ choices or harm them.
    • (Implied: Universe X denizens have no language, as communication involves choice of a message.)
    • Universe X denizens have free will, because they can make a choice; omnipotence is neither required nor granted.
    • This is a counter-example to our initial assumption.
    • Thus, free will does not require the ability to hurt other beings.
  4. God did not do unto me as I would have done to another conscious being.

  5. God defined evil through the Bible (from given).

  6. God did evil according to his own definition.

  7. Thus, God is evil.

I like this second proof a lot, though it did require a sub-proof. I double-dare you to poke a hole in this one, too!

Well, that was easy.

I hope you enjoyed these proofs as much as I did. For more, see this eloquent rebuttal of an apologist (which the apologist attempts to rebut, but has nothing solid to contribute); it illustrates how an omniscient God is necessarily evil. That “problem” is called theodicy. You may also be interested in this wonderful article on God’s immutability.

What’s that? The soft sound of Christian readers not being swayed? “Well, this post must be wrong, because of course God can’t be evil. He is benevolent!” they think. Yet they ignore the alternative: that He does not exist at all.

Much love,

Mr. Atheist