Does God exist?
Debate Rounds (3)
1) If God exists, gratuitous suffering does not exist
2) Gratuitous suffering does exist
3) Therefore God does not exist
The above argument is logically valid, therefore one of the 2 premises will have to be shown to be false or else the conclusion will follow necessarily.
Premise 1 is true by definition. If an all powerful, all knowing, and perfectly good being exists, then he does not allow his creations to suffer needlessly. If one of his creatures is suffering then he knows about it, has the power to stop it, and has motivation in the highest degree to stop it.
Premise 2 is (to me) an obvious fact about reality. Just take a stroll down the ICU of any child hospital or take a trip to a third world country where children needlessly starve to death every day or die of preventable/curable diseases. These children die horrible and agonizing deaths for no apparent reason. But the evidence is not limited to child suffering. Life on this planet has been evolving for billions of years, and for all this time, species have been needlessly suffering and dying out- mass extinctions. Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and plagues have been causing suffering of animal species for billions of years. This massive amount of suffering over such an enormous period of time seems to be good evidence against the existence of God.
Just one instance of needless suffering is all that is necessary to demonstrate that God is either not omnipotent, not omniscient, or not all loving and therefore does not exist. The theist will have to provide a necessary justification for all the suffering that we observe in our world to demonstrate that gratuitous suffering does not exist. I very much look forward to someone to take up this challenge as this argument is what lead me to finally abandon my faith. I consider it one of the strongest evidential cases against the existence of God.
I thank my opponent for creating this debate.
I will lay out my case here as the burden of proof is shared.
Now, my opponent’s case is based entirely on the assumption of gratuitous suffering existing even under the alleged presumption that there is a god. However, I propose to show that gratuitous suffering does not exist under that same presumption
Judging by the attributes he has associated with God, I can only assume he is talking about the Christian God, so that is what I will be defending and using for my argument.
His argument is logically valid (As far as I can tell.), but I will attack the truth behind his second premise. Judging from the structure of the syllogism he’s presented, if I can topple that premise, his whole argument falls apart.
But that will be for the next round. For now, I will present my opening argument.
Premise 1: If God exists, gratuitous suffering does not exist.
Our arguments both appear to share the same first premise, assuming we’re still talking about the same god. If there is an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent being, needless suffering would not exist.
Premise 2: Gratuitous suffering does not exist under the presumption of there being such a deity.
Now, we are entertaining the possibility of there being a deity; there’s no contesting that part. So we’re focusing on whether or not gratuitous suffering would exist. However, contrary to my opponent’s argument, I will present this on a philosophical level rather than a material level.
In the Bible, it is said that suffering came about the world when Adam first sinned. In the Bible, that is shown to be the cause of sin and the Fall of Man; Satan’s temptations and man’s then-fallible nature.
My first argument is that suffering would have to be essential for free will on earth. Would the opposition really say that as humans, we should not feel grief and suffering? The fact that we have free will debunks the problem of needless suffering, as it is needed on earth in order for us to have free will.
My second argument is that suffering is a result and punishment of man’s original sin. After the Fall of Man, sin entered the world and it was no longer perfect, being passed down through the generations. With the sin in the world today, suffering is a currently lasting punishment for original sin.
Remember, this debate is under the presumption that a god could exist. Therefore, suffering on a philosophical level is not needless.
Premise 3: Gratuitous suffering would be nonexistent under a god, thus invalidating any arguments for “the problem of suffering”.
If my opponent even accepts the possibility of scriptural truth, his whole argument then falls apart, as I have just demonstrated how that problem is debunked in the Bible.
Under the traditional Christian god, gratuitous suffering cannot exist; it is a logical contradiction and an incoherency. I look forward to hearing his rebuttals.
Next I want to start with some clarifications, so my opponent and I understand one another and avoid talking past each other. I want to first clarify the form of my argument is logically valid by Modus tollens:
1) if P, then not Q
3) therefore not P
Where P=God exists
And Q= Gratuitous evil exists
Therefore the conclusion that God does not exist will be logically necessary if both premises are true. My opponent correctly states that if he can undermine the truth of Premise 2 then my argument won't work. At this point I want to state contrary to what my opponent has said about premise 2. This argument is an evidential argument- meaning I'm using evidence to establish that premise 2 is more probably true then not. That means this argument can only establish that God probably doesn't exist, not that it is logically impossible for God to exist- I'd need to present a logical problem of suffering for that. This becomes important because premise 2 is not an assumption nor is it the case that we are arguing whether or not gratuitous evil would or would not exist if God existed. I grant that gratuitous evil would not exist by the definition of a God. It is because of the evidence for the existence of gratuitous suffering that I can logically conclude that God does not exist. My opponent will have to defend the position that gratuitous evil does not exist by given justifying reasons why God would permit the sufferings we find in the world that are also evidence for gratuitous suffering that I presented to defend premise 2. It is also worth noting that I only need to provide the possibly of a single instance of gratuitous suffering existing in the world to call into question god's omnipotent, omniscience, or omnibenevolence and conclude that god does not exist.
My opponent also seemed to be drawing an important distinction between a philosophical level and a material level. I'm not saying this discrimination isn't valid, but that I don't understand it. I'm presenting a philosophical argument, so I don't understand the distinction.
I next want to deconstruct the form of my opponent's argument as I believe it is invalid. I'll start with premise 1 as we both have the same premise:
Premise 1: If God exists, gratuitous suffering does not exist.
The truth of this premise follows by definition of God, and I'll explicitly demonstrate this:
-omnipotence: unlimited power to act
-omniscience: unlimited knowledge
-omnibenevolence: wholly good
-An omnipotent being would have the power to eliminate or prevent any gratuitous suffering, otherwise he would not have unlimited power to act.
-An omniscience being would know of any gratuitous suffering, otherwise he would not have unlimited knowledge.
-An omnibenevolent being would want to prevent or eliminate gratuitous suffering, otherwise he would not be wholly good.
I think both my opponent and I can agree that this is necessarily true for us to have a coherent definition of the word "God."
Premises 2 and 3: I want to draw out that there is no functional difference between my opponents 3 premises. To say that "under the presumption that such a deity exists," is no different then "if God exists." It's just different words to say the same thing. The same is true for "gratuitous suffering would be non existent," is the same as "gratuitous suffering does not exist." So no new information has been given in any of the 3 given premises. I will assume for the sake of argument that my opponent wishes to establish that gratuitous evil does not exist as he attempted to provide evidence for the truth of this claim, and by doing so would undermine my argument. So my opponents argument must take the following form:
Premise 1: if god exists, gratuitous suffering does not exist
Premise 2: gratuitous suffering does not exist
Conclusion: therefore god exists
But this argument is not logically valid. This argument commits the fallacy known as affirming the consequence. The conclusion does not follow necessarily even if both premises are true. Let me give an example:
Premise 1: If I take an Advil, I will not have a headache
Premise 2: I do not have a headache
Conclusion: Therefore I took an Advil
It should be obvious by my example why neither argument is logically valid and affirming the consequence is a logical fallacy. If my opponent wishes to meet his burden of proof and defend the thesis that "God does exist," then he will have to present a valid argument or else demonstrate how I have misrepresented the form of his argument.
I want to now turn my attention to the defense my opponent gave of his Premise 2 as I think it is directly relevant to the truth of my premise 2. My opponent has introduced the concept of Free Will in order to justify sufferings in the world, but this presents many philosophical problems. Out of respect for my opponent, I do not want to attack any version of free will that he has not presented. I would ask my opponent to clearly define what he means when he says that humans have Free Will. Issues in a free will theodicy arise when you make a distinction between sufferings inflicted by humans and sufferings inflicted by nature. Assuming humans are capable of free will, we cannot say that hurricanes, diseases, or tsunamis have free will. These would have to be sufferings inflicted by God, but God by definition is a wholly good being incapable of permitting suffering. An appeal to free will does not solve the issue. There is also an issue of animal (non-human) suffering. I am not aware of any theological doctrine that states that animals have free will, but animals certainly suffer- and seem to suffer needlessly. The billions of years of non-human, seemingly needless suffering and mass extinction is powerful evidence that gratuitous suffering DOES exist. Remember I only need one incidence of gratuitous suffering to conclude that god does not exist. These lines of evidence give me a powerful case that it is vastly more probable that gratuitous suffering exists then does not exist even when not taking human free will into consideration.
I want to now draw focus on my opponents second objection, that some suffering is do to "the fall." We already have discussed how this objection will not work to justify suffering because of natural causes nor justifies animal suffering, but I think the issue is much deeper here. Regardless of my opponents definition of Free Will, there is a major issue in God giving man free will to supposedly bring about greater goods through suffering. My opponent has not even justified why having free will is supposedly better than not having free will. But for the sake of argument, assuming free will is necessary for greater goods, it is logically possible for a human to always choose good. If it is logically possible for humans to always choose good, then we are left with a crucial question:
Why didn't a god create humans in such a way that they always choose good?
Note what this question is not asking. I'm not asking why doesn't god intervene or control us as puppets to always choose the good, I'm asking why weren't we created in such a way that WE ALWAYS FREELY CHOSE the good. If God cannot do this, and it is not logically impossible, then his omnipotence is called into question. If he does not want to do this, then his omnibenevolence is called into question. And if it is logically impossible for god to create humans in such a way that they always choose good, then we are left with a paradox of free will:
Can God create a human so free that he cannot control it?
If you answer yes, then he can do the logically impossible and thus becomes an incoherent concept much like a square circle. If you say no, then he is not omnipotent. All three of theses scenarios will lead us to conclude that god does not exist and leave the whole concept of "The Fall" meaningless, as it never should have happened.
I want to some up what needs to be addressed by my opponent:
1) my opponent needs to present a valid argument for the existence of God and clarify between a philosophical level and a material level.
2) my opponent needs to demonstrate why the statement "gratuitous evil exists" is more probably false than it is true by providing supporting evidences and not by appealing to the incoherency it has with the definition of God. The incoherency is why I conclude that god does not exist.
3) my opponent needs to clearly define what it is he means by free will, as this could present other complications or be reduced to a smokescreen to try to justify suffering in the world.
4) my opponent needs to address both natural sufferings and animal sufferings and how they are compatible with the existence of a god and not evidence for gratuitous suffering.
5) my opponent needs to clearly address how free will is supposed to bring about greater goods and why it is logically impossible for god to create humans in such a way that they could always choose the good.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your responses.
Now, his argument is logically valid as far as structure goes, and what he says about Modus Tollens is true; so I"m not going to focus on the structure of his argument.
However, I will attack the truth behind it after I clarify the distinction between a philosophical and material level of suffering, since his entire argument would fall apart if I could prove gratuitous suffering is nonexistent under the presumption of a deity. My refutations of his rebuttals will also serve to refute his main argument.
Difference between Philosophical and Material Levels of Suffering
For the most part, this is a distinction of the size and scope of the purpose of said circumstances. I"ll get right into the clarification of it here.
If a child"s arm gets broken, and no good comes from it, that"s suffering, but is it gratuitous on a material level? He may learn to be more careful to not break his arm the next time, or will have the experience of knowing what a broken arm feels like to tell to others in order to help them avoid it. There are no philosophical implications of material suffering and material suffering happens as a result of the circumstances of what is in the material world and nothing more.
Here"s the interesting part. Gratuitous suffering on a philosophical level would be suffering without a greater purpose for it. If we actually look at the definition of gratuitous suffering, we see that it means suffering without some kind of a grand purpose or a necessity behind it. I"ll get into that here in my defense of free will.
"Premises 2 and 3: I want to draw out that there is no functional difference between my opponents 3 premises. To say that "under the presumption that such a deity exists," is no different then "if God exists." It's just different words to say the same thing. The same is true for "gratuitous suffering would be non existent," is the same as "gratuitous suffering does not exist." So no new information has been given in any of the 3 given premises. I will assume for the sake of argument that my opponent wishes to establish that gratuitous evil does not exist as he attempted to provide evidence for the truth of this claim, and by doing so would undermine my argument. So my opponents argument must take the following form:
Premise 1: if god exists, gratuitous suffering does not exist
Premise 2: gratuitous suffering does not exist
Conclusion: therefore god exists"
My opponent is attempting to strawman my argument; I never said that it would automatically lead to the conclusion that God exists, I was attacking the truth behind the Argument from Suffering. So I didn"t commit any kind of fallacy. That was the point behind my taking the Pro stance for this debate; if he wanted me to argue for and prove the existence of God specifically and only through morality itself, he should"ve been more specific from the outset in the first round.
Rebuttal to refutation of my Premise 2
I already made the clarification between material and philosophical suffering, and that it was the result of the Fall. Now I will defend my appeal to free will.
Now, free will is defined universally as the freedom to choose to do and think as you wish. As human beings, suffering and grief are necessary for free will to do as you choose. Whatever your actions, since you are free to choose them, there will always be consequences. Without suffering of some kind, free will on earth as we know it cannot make sense. Therefore, suffering is necessary. The fact that we have free will would serve as evidence of God"s goodness, rather than Him controlling us like puppets or never letting us experience grief and suffering. If we were to be created only to do good, that would be a violation of free will and would be a logical contradiction. I"ll get into more of that in my last rebuttal here.
Now, onto natural disasters, I stated the differences between suffering earlier. My opponent states that they are caused by God, but how? Is he saying that they are allowed to happen, or is he saying that God directly caused them? I await a response to this so I can argue appropriately.
I find it interesting that my opponent also says that animals and humans suffering in relation to evolution ,while ignoring my appeal to the different kinds, of suffering is needless. How could evolution by natural take place without death? We would owe a lot to those that had died before us in order for us to be here. Natural selection cannot work without death, and by extension, neither can life itself. From the first examples of natural selection to what we are today, no suffering is gratuitous from this material standpoint.
Rebuttal to Paradox of Free Will and the question of creating humans to only do good.
This whole thing is a poor revision of the omnipotence paradox, and a total non-sequitur. Omnipotent means unlimited power; or in other words, all the power that is, not all the power that isn"t. If something is logically impossible, it"s existence and concept is invalid and outside the realm of logical possibility. This is similar to asking if 2+2 will equal 5, or if a circle has 8 sides, rendering the point moot.
The question of whether or not God can create a human so free He can"t control it doesn"t follow from the question of a logical impossibility for God to create humans that always choose good. I await a response as to why it should.
No offense, but my opponent"s arguments do not appear to hold water as they are logically contradictory. I eagerly await my opponent to prove otherwise.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
1) If God exists, gratuitous evil does not exist
2) Gratuitous evil does exist
3) Therefore, God does not exist
I have successfully established that this argument is logically valid and that premise 1 is true. The only contention is the truth of premise 2. The strength of my position will rely on how well I can demonstrate that premise 2 is more probably true then false. All I have to do is make it reasonable to accept that at least 1 instance of gratuitous suffering has existed at any point, so I will turn my focus now on my opponents rebuttals of my evidences.
My opponent first attempts to establish a distinction between suffering on a material level, and on a philosophical level, though he did so in a way that did not make any intuitive sense. And after further clarification, it still does not seem to make any sense. In fact, if you search for this distinction online, there is no known distinction between philosophical and material levels. There is an analytic/synthetic distinction, a materialist/idealist distinction, and a material/abstract distinction, but none of these undermine my position. The only thing I can do now is appeal to the definitions of my premise, and the examples he gave that attempted to clarify the distinction.
Gratuitous suffering: mental or physical pain that is not necessary, arbitrary, needless, or not justified.
My opponent uses an example of a child breaking his arm, and also that no good comes from it. Then he states that the child may learn from breaking his arm and teach others, but that's a justifying reason for permitting the suffering- a good did come from it, so was therefore not gratuitous by definition! It therefore becomes irrelevant to my argument, but I can easily change the experiment too. What if the child broke his arm and subsequently bled out in excruciating pain for several hours. An omnipotent being would certainly have the power to stop this child from suffering excruciating pain even if he still permitted him to die. An omniscient being would know of the child in excruciating pain, and an omnibenevolent would have the highest motivation to stop this child's excruciating pain- especially if there was no justifying reason for it because he's dying anyways. Why is the excruciating pain necessary? This problem is only enhanced when you think of children suffering from terminal illnesses, starvation in third world countries, natural disasters, or even to animals who needlessly suffer just from competition in their natural habitats. Unless there is a justifying reason for permitting this suffering then it is by definition gratuitous, and therefore gratuitous evil does exist. My opponent goes on to say:
"There are no philosophical implications of material suffering and material suffering happens as a result of the circumstances of what is in the material world and nothing more."
But this is obviously false, as I've just demonstrated that suffering in the material world has direct implications on the philosophical argument I have presented. Mainly that because this gratuitous suffering happens, then my premise that gratuitous suffering exists is true! Any appeal to gratuitous suffering in a material world, but not in a philosophical one seems nonsensical to me, and I think my inability to locate this distinction in any philosophical literature serves to further prove that point.
My opponent also accused me of creating a straw man, but I do not think this charge has any merit. My opponent has a burden of proof, stated he was presenting an opening argument, gave premises as if it were an argument, stated a conclusion as if it followed from premises, and even stated that the first premises of both our arguments were the same. What was I to infer from this other than that he was presenting a case for the existence of God in his opening statement? I pieced together what he presented in as intuitive and as generous a way as I could have. Perhaps the issue does not lay with my representation of his argument, but with the manner in which my opponent presented his opening argument.
I want to now move on to my opponents free will objection. My opponent seems to emphasize that suffering is a necessary component of free will, but I would already be willing to grant this to my opponent. I'm not arguing that the existence of suffering, but rather GRATUITOUS suffering is what leads us to conclude that God does not exist. My opponent goes as far as to say that humans that are created in such a way that they always choose good is a logical contradiction! But this is not true and based on a confusion. It is logically possible for me to choose good at least once if I had perfectly free will- that should be uncontroversial. It is also not contrary to logic to say that it is possible for me to have always freely chosen good. Why is it then logically impossible for me to be created in such a way that I always freely choose good? The claim is not that God controls us, but that we were CREATED such that we always freely choose good. Even God is said to have perfectly free will as my opponent defined, but if God is omnibenevolent, then he necessarily cannot choose evil by his own nature. Why is it NOT a logical contradiction that god has free will and can always choose good, but it IS a logical contradiction for humans to have free will and always choose good? Free will (as my opponent has defined) seems nonsensical here. So we are left with what seems like a nonsensical concept (perfectly free will) being used to rationalize another seemingly nonsensical concept (God's existence and apparent gratuitous suffering). This seems to amount to no more than a smokescreen for the gratuitous sufferings we observe in the world.
Next, my opponent asked whether God controls natural disasters, or allows them to happen. I would answer by saying it doesn't matter. If God cannot control natural disasters then he is not omnipotent, and if he allows them to happen then he is not omnibenevolent. In both cases I can reasonably infer that God does not exist by definition. Natural disasters inflict seemingly needless suffering in all kinds of forms such as diseases (even curable ones), tsunamis, and earthquakes. This is powerful evidence that gratuitous evil does exist and appeals to free will don't even apply even if they weren't nonsensical.
My opponent then seems to object to my evidence of evolution as gratuitous suffering by saying that death is necessary for us to be here. Again, I'd grant him this much, because my objection isn't to death, but to gratuitous suffering. 98% of species have suffered in agony only to go extinct. Why was this agonizing suffering necessary if they were to go extinct? If a baby deer is severely burned in a forest fire, and subsequently dies after several hours of intense suffering, then it seems we have a good example of how an animal suffered needlessly as it didn't pass on its genes, and nothing else benefited from it. This problem is only exponentially worsened when you realize this type of suffering has been occurring across countless species for billions of years. This is especially problematic if all we need is ONE example of gratuitous suffering to logically conclude that gratuitous suffering exists.
Lastly, my opponent tried to avoid the paradox of free will by appealing to the solutions of the paradox of omnipotence, but this is just a bait and switch. I grant him the solutions to the omnipotence paradox by granting his definition of omnipotence and the fact that God cannot do the logically impossible- but this solution has consequences when applied to free will has he defined. If creating a human so perfectly free that it is a logical contradiction for God to control them, then in what sense do we have a perfectly free will? And if he cannot create us to have perfectly free will such that he can't control us because it is a logical contradiction, then why can't we be created in such a way that we always chose the good? It is not logically impossible for him to do this, and because of his omnibenevolence, he should have the highest motivation to do this. Any theist who even maintains the possibility of a future state of affairs such as heaven is already committed to the idea of free creatures who will always choose the good- or else people in heaven could freely chose evil, so God must be able to make this so. My objection is that this state of affairs should have already occurred, and appealing to "The Fall" will not help here as that should never have occurred if we were originally created to always chose good. Eve could never have been tempted to eat the apple if she was created in such a way that she always chose good. All God would have had to do is create us with his necessarily good nature. If he can't do this, he's not omnipotent. If he didn't want to do this, then he's not omnibenevolent.
In closing I want to summarize the evidence that I believe gives us very powerful reason to believe that the premise "gratuitous evil exists" is more probably true then false. My opponent was not able to adequately establish a distinction that solved the issue of child suffering. We find that children suffer globally all the time from diseases, famine, and hazardous living conditions. There seems to be no apparent reason nor justification for why these children should suffer in the ways they do, and it should be apparent that appeals to free will do not serve to counter this evidence as perfectly free will seems nonsensical. My opponent also hasn't addressed the issue of suffering due to natural disasters. Whether God is in control of this or allows it to happen should be irrelevant in the case of an omnipotent and omnibenolvent being. It seems that these sufferings are arbitrary and have no justifying basis for why they occur. Lastly my opponent has not been able to justify animal sufferings due to survival in natural habitats especially in light of evolution. An appeal to death being necessary in no way justifies why these animals must suffer in the ways they do especially if 98% of them were to go extinct. The combination of these 3 evidences are powerful reasons to believe that at least one instance of gratuitous evil has existed and it is more probably true than false that gratuitous evil does exist. Therefore it is reasonable to conclude that God does not exist. My opponent has not presented any positive argument that God does exist, so is left at best in the agnostic position. I would find it very disingenuous if my opponent were to present an argument for the existence of God in the final response period as I would not have an opportunity to respond to it. In order for the debate to remain in the agnostic position (a tie) my opponent will have to refute all 3 of my evidences presented for premise 2 and present a case for why gratuitous evil does not exist. Otherwise premise 2 of my argument is more probably true then false and it follows logically that God does not exist. Thank you for your time and the chance to debate my position.
Pitbull15 forfeited this round.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Sagey 2 years ago
|Agreed with before the debate:||-||-||0 points|
|Agreed with after the debate:||-||-||0 points|
|Who had better conduct:||-||-||1 point|
|Had better spelling and grammar:||-||-||1 point|
|Made more convincing arguments:||-||-||3 points|
|Used the most reliable sources:||-||-||2 points|
|Total points awarded:||3||0|
Reasons for voting decision: Pro concentrated on the same punch line "Free Will", though did not demonstrate that Free Will exists. Free Will is most likely an illusion, we do not really possess Free Will, we are controlled by brain chemistry, and experiences that shape our brain chemistry.
You are not eligible to vote on this debate
This debate has been configured to only allow voters who meet the requirements set by the debaters. This debate either has an Elo score requirement or is to be voted on by a select panel of judges.