Class Warfare Blog

March 30, 2020

Further Muses Upon the Problem of Evil and Free Will

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:08 pm

I wrote in “The Problem of Evil and Free Will”:

If you are unfamiliar with the “Problem of Evil” the earliest record we have of it is from the philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BCE) and it goes like this:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence comes evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Among all of the arguments for the existence of a god or gods, this is the most powerful one against the existence of a god or gods, so this is a favorite of atheists.

The apologists have many answers (really many) but the first and foremost was the defense of Free Will, which goes like this:

God gave mankind free will and if one human wants to harm another God can only prevent that by taking a way his free will, something of greater value, so He does not do that.

Basically people doing evil is a tradeoff for free will. Many atheists take the approach to grant that this is a good argument, but then point out that this only addresses evil created by humans, nor by other animals or Nature (earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, etc.)

My counter to this argument for this god allowing evil to exist, again still avoiding natural disasters which actually I do not attach good, bad, or worse labels to, is that not allowing evil does not turn us into robots, slaves to Yahweh’s will as it were. All that is needed is to remove the will to do evil, and all of the other aspects (99+% of the rest of free will), can be kept. So, Yahweh is allowing evil so that he doesn’t have to give away the free will to do evil, which makes Yahweh’s case even weaker.

But this doesn’t address how to do this. I assumed that since Yahweh is all powerful, He would know how to do it. But Dr. Richard Carrier, one of my favorite historian/philosophers came up with the exact way to do this and it is perfectly feasible without the use of magic or a deity’s powers. The universe just needs one small tweak and that is if anyone does evil to another animal, human or not, you suffer. And the greater the evil, the greater you suffer. Either doing evil makes you ill or injuries you some how. This can be done today a number of ways, the most prominent might be psychological conditioning. Now if this conditioning were left to human teachings, we would still be in jeopardy because the education system has holes in it that people fall through all of the time. So, this needs to be hard-wired in, maybe with CRISPR editing of our DNA. Or maybe there are other ways, like Antabuse for Evil™.

We would still need to develop robust descriptions of what evil is or isn’t. Soldiers killing soldiers in an army invading his country are not common murders, but we would have a really good head start at avoiding human-on-human evil. Maybe wars just wouldn’t get started.

It is not hard to imagine such a universe and it would have been child’s play for an all-powerful deity to make it this way, or just our small corner of the universe, say.

This is yet another instance on which the concept of such a deity falls short of its description. He loves us but sends plagues to kill and maim. He loves peace by urges genocide. He plays both sides during wars, e.g. the famous Nazi belt buckle “Gott Mit Uns.”

I used to joke that I gave up religion for Lent one year. Actually that would be a good idea for everyone to do.

After Note I used to insist that one should not remove any institution without knowing what to replace it with. I now realize that in some cases, you need to remove the thing to see what we come up with as a replacement. A perfect example of this was the American experiment we call “Prohibition (of Potable Alcohol).” We eliminated the sale and production of alcoholic beverages. What replaced those, in short order, was the illegal sale and production of alcoholic beverages. The offenses of these criminal activities and recognition that people basically did not want Prohibition led to the repeal of the Constitutional amendment creating it. Other solutions to the alcohol problem are still on the table: treatment in clinics, social approbation, criminal penalties for excessive use, etc.

So, lets eliminate religion and see what replaces it. (I fully acknowledge that many thesis can only imagine that a Zombie Apocalypse is the only result of that. But I hope they realize that the poor opinion of mankind behind that was promoted by their very own religion. Most atheists seem to be kind and good citizens, no more likely to commit a crime that theists are. So, there is a natural experiment going on right now about how people will behave without religion. Just study the a-religious atheists. (Some atheists are religious, in case you didn’t know. And some churches don’t require a belief in any god to be a member, so there are “churched” atheists! <gasp>)

10 Comments »

  1. Naturally…

    Liked by 3 people

    Comment by john zande — March 30, 2020 @ 1:55 pm | Reply

    • Brilliant! Lately I have been enjoying Republican Jesus memes. I’ll attach one if I can figure out how.

      On Mon, Mar 30, 2020 at 1:55 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — March 30, 2020 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

  2. “I used to insist that one should not remove any institution without knowing what to replace it with.”

    My favorite analogy on this is “If you cure someone of cancer, what do you replace it with?” And of course you don’t want to replace it with anything, you just want to not have it.

    I’ve also claimed to have given up religion for Lent. Maybe this year we could get people to give up church attendance for Lent?

    Like

    Comment by Ubi Dubium — April 1, 2020 @ 11:51 am | Reply

    • We could start asking the question I asked about when, as school children, we recited the pledge of allegiance every damned day of grade school. The question I asked was “Does it wear of … the pledge … after 24 hours and thus need to be reinforced? If so what about over summer vacation and weekends are we pledge free in that time?

      The same question about church attendance would be “If I miss church one time am I no longer a Christian? Does it wear off and need to be reinforced?”

      On Wed, Apr 1, 2020 at 11:51 AM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 1, 2020 @ 12:09 pm | Reply

  3. I think we can replace church with a free Sunday morning.

    Like

    Comment by List of X — April 2, 2020 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

    • Hey, it worked for me! I generally worshiped on an archery range, you know, out in God’s creation! :o)

      On Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 2:17 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

      >

      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 3, 2020 @ 8:29 am | Reply

  4. The “problem of evil” is, of course, only an argument against an omnipotent, benevolent god. Not that I believe in another kind either, but this particular argument doesn’t work against a god that has any sort of limitations. (And in fact, Epicurus himself is the earliest person I know of to have even mentioned an omnipotent one. It’s certainly never been a common belief among polytheists.)

    Like

    Comment by D.T. Nova — April 2, 2020 @ 9:40 pm | Reply

    • Yep, I was just poking more holes in the free will defense of the Problem of Evil.

      On Thu, Apr 2, 2020 at 9:40 PM Class Warfare Blog wrote:

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      Like

      Comment by Steve Ruis — April 3, 2020 @ 8:31 am | Reply


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