Class Warfare Blog

July 28, 2016

The Problem of Evil … Solved!

Uh … well … no. Sorry.

Christian apologists have always been drawn from the pool of small caliber intellectuals and their arguments often show this. Recently a noted apologist by the name of Alvin Plantinga (of the same stature as William Lane Craig or as I prefer to call him “Bill”) authored a massive formal logical defense of the solution to the problem of evil that centers on the existence of free will. He “proves” that an all-good, omnibenevolent god is perfectly compatible with the existence of evil.

For those of you whose heads are spinning a bit, recall that the “Problem of Evil” is simply a contrast of the supposed existence of an “all-good, omnibenevolent” god who created this system with the fact that evil is all around us. That god is responsible for all of that evil, and therefore isn’t really “all-good,” no?

Now I do not want to get bogged down in the philosophical fine points. For example, some philosophers break “evil” down into types, even describing a “natural evil” in the form of earthquakes, forest fires, landslides, etc. I think this is sort of silly because I consider nature to be neutral. If you happen to die in a landslide, it may be sad but there was no intent on the part of nature to do you in, it just happened. So, gliding gracefully over trivial sticking points, I proceed. Let’s get to the core of the matter.

Plantinga and Craig and all of the others use school boy logic up to and including very refined philosophical logical systems to make their points. But they all, Plantinga included, make basic mistakes that are quite appalling. They state premises like “you can’t have good without evil.” Uh, really, says who? Such a premise is loaded and cannot be the basis of a sound conclusion.

Consider the parallel argument: you can’t have the rich without the poor. Well, there are countries in which poverty has been virtually eradicated (there are always a tiny minority of the poor which fall between the cracks but not a big enough cohort to supply the wherewithal to support a class of rich people). In these countries without significant poverty, have rich people disappeared? In fact, would this not be a way to deal with inappropriately powerful rich people? Get rid of poverty and their wealth would collapse. Yes, it is a ridiculous statement because it is a ridiculous premise for any discussion, as is “you can’t have good without evil.” Dichotomies of opposites were popular a couple of thousand years ago and still have a lingering power, but sheesh!

I am a science-fiction buff, so allow me a flight of fancy. Intrepid ’Merican space jockeys reach a number of alien planets and on one they discover a society in which there is no evil. Bad things happen all of the time but none of them have evil intent on the part of any alien. For example, a youth was swimming in a lake and got a cramp and drowned. An adult witnessed this but did not jump into the water to try to save the drowning youth. Surely that is evil. But, actually the adult could not swim herself and would have drowned, too, if she had jumped into the water to attempt a rescue. The adult frantically tried to find a flotation device, a rope, or a boat to effect a rescue, but none was available. This was a sad event. It was “not good.” You see “not good” is the opposite of “good,” not evil. You do not need the extreme contrast of evil to be able to identify “good,” there is plenty of contrast in the “not good,” the absence of good. It would have been good to be able to save that alien youth’s life, as it was it was not good; if you unsure, ask his mother.

On this planet, nobody ever has the thought to run into a church and blaze away with a gun, killing as many people as they can. None thinks to strap explosives to their bodies, then go into a crowded theater and detonate them. No one thinks that it would be a good idea to butcher their neighbors for meat to feed their dogs or kidnap young females and keep them as sex slaves in their basement. These thoughts just never occur to the aliens.

Our philosophers seem to think that evil is the cost of us having free will. That if we don’t have totally, completely, awesomely free wills, we would be diminished beyond repair. The aliens in my little fantasy have oodles of free will. They get to decide what they want to train for in the way of a job, which jobs to apply for, where to go on vacation, how many kids to have or whether to have kids at all, which church they want to belong to, which sports teams to root for, which car to buy … <pant, pant, pant>. Do you get the idea? They just don’t have the will to do evil things.

Are we better off having the part of our totally awesomely free will that causes us to commit evil acts or are we better off without it? Is the cost of not just free will, but the part of free will that enables us to do evil so precious that it is worth the price you see? The apologists think so. I suspect that normal people do not. They would prefer to live in a world without evil.

The Christian apologists are black and white absolutists. You can’t have good with out evil. You can’t have any restrictions on free will otherwise we are just robots, etc. Then they top it off and say things like their god loved us so much that He gave us free will including the evil part, you know, so we could have some good, too. They even indicate that He couldn’t have done it any other way, that a society without evil results in us being without free will and therefore being robots having no reason to live (in their minds the reason to live is to be able to freely, and without coercion, worship their god).

They say this while making the contradictory claim that their god has already done exactly that: He created a world in which evil doesn’t exist yet humans will enjoy immensely. He called it “Heaven.” The philosopher-apologists responded with “Well, Heaven isn’t really a world…,” yeah, right.

Let me make it simple. If I can imagine a world in which there is only good and not good, filled with happy people free to make myriad choices about how to live their lives (aliens are people, too), why couldn’t their god?

I’ve got to tell you, sometimes my people (intellectuals) embarrass me. To them, the truth is pretzel dough to be twisted into the shape desired for today’s eating.

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