I will be taking the con position that I believe God is not perfect, and in fact is capable of doing wrong or creating something imperfect.
God - A supernatural, cosmic, conscious entity with the ability to influence our world in some way. I do not refer to any specific god, instead just to the concept of any deity at all.
Perfect - Flawless, completely free of any fault, as good as it possibly could be.
Please note that I am willing to debate with anyone of any religion or lack thereof. I myself am a follower of the Ancient Egyptian religion, Kemetism, and so will be arguing the imperfectness of god using the example of my patron deity, Ra.
I look forward to an enlightening and productive debate.
First of all, I want to thank my opponent for this debate. I have to admit that my burden of proof is much higher than that of my opponent's. That's because I have to prove that God is always perfect. My opponent on the other hand has to only show that God was imperfect once to support his contention. But I accept this challenge and I look forward for an engaging debate.
I would like to start by setting certain necessary criteria to properly evaluate this debate and my approach in explaining why my contention is true:
1. We must all view this issue from a realistic, logical and rational perspective. We must put aside our assumptions, biases, presuppositions and world views.
2. This debate presupposes that God exists. I accept the definition of God as stated by my opponent.
3. My God inhibits additional characteristics: He's all loving (omnibenevolent), all knowing (omniscient), all powerful (omnipotent), and has free will.
I want to note that my opponent stated that "God is capable of doing wrong or creating something imperfect". I won't argue this statement because I don't disagree! The ability to do something evil doesn't means you can't be perfect and not do it. In fact, God wouldn't be perfect without this capability. Would you blame a bullet for killing someone, or would you blame the murderer. God is perfect, because despite His capability to do evil, He never does evil.
Can God be perfectly good? I say yes, here's why:
Before I can prove that God is perfect, I have to prove that God can be perfect. But what does "being perfect" mean in the first place? According to Oxford dictionary, "to be perfect" means to be "as good as it is possible to be" (1).
If there are a number of possible choices (c(1), … ,c(n)) to be made in a given situation (S), God, being all knowing, has the knowledge which choice is the best possible choice (denoted as c(g)). God, with His free will, can always make the best choice c(g). Therefore God can be perfect if he chooses to.
Does God want to be perfectly good?
We all have gone into situations where we had the ability to do the right thing, but we knowingly and intentionally didn't want to do it… whether it's due to selfishness, indifference, jealousy, laziness… or simply because we were evil.
I demonstrated above that God has the capability to be absolutely and perfectly good. But does God always want to be perfectly good? I argue yes. An all loving being must always want to be perfectly good. If God doesn't make the best choice, how can he be all loving? If I claim to be a loving person, but I don't help a fallen woman on the street, how loving of a person would I be? An all loving being would always want to do the best thing possible in any given situations.
I demonstrated that God can be perfectly good, and that God wants to be perfectly good. I argue therefore that God must be perfectly good and do no evil. For my opponent to defeat my argument, he will have to show that either my two premises are false, or that my logic doesn't follow (non sequitur).
(1) Oxford dictionary - http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...
I would like firstly to thank my opponent for providing me with a very thought-provoking answer, although I would like to just point out that I am actually female. I only point that out to correct the two uses of the term "he" when referring to me, but it is of no consequence.
I will simply argue that the Gods are imperfect (please feel free to substitute plurals for singulars to fit with your beliefs accordingly) because suffering and inequality exists in the world.
My opponent states that "If I claim to be a loving person, but I don't help a fallen woman on the street, how loving of a person would I be? An all loving being would always want to do the best thing possible in any given situations."
This is a very good point which I shall relate to my argument. The fact that there is so much pain and suffering in the world, I think, serves to demonstrate my belief that the Gods are not perfect, as they are not always capable of helping a fallen woman on the street.
I would now like to quote the often used philosophical argument often attributed to Epicarus:"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 cometh evil?
Is He neither able nor willing?
Then why call Him God?"
I have often seen this point used by people who try to prove God does not exist, but I believe I can alter the argument it is often used to support slightly. The first two lines explain my point. If God is willing but not able, then He is not omnipotent. This is what I believe, and what I intend to argue, that the Gods are willing but not able, that they are not omnipotent.
I have therefore chosen my answer. For God to be perfect according to my opponent's definition, He must be both able and willing. So I should therefore ask my opponent, "Then whence cometh evil?"
I have spent many years contemplating this question, and came to the conclusion that I do not believe the Gods to be omnipotent, simply because they must maintain the balance of nature. There must always be light and dark, good and evil, order and chaos, for one cannot exist without the other for contrast and balance. There must be both pleasure and suffering, and the Gods are bound to maintain them. They cannot prevent suffering, because doing so would destroy the balance. I then would like to make the point that if the Gods are unable to prevent suffering, for whatever reason, how could we honestly call them perfect?
I would next like to cite the existence of diseases such as malaria, smallpox, the black plague, cancer and diabetes, and ask that if this world was perfectly designed by a perfect God, what purpose do these things serve? Surely the existence of cancer and diabetes, conditions caused by malfunctions of our own bodies, are proof that we are not perfectly designed? And if the Gods were incapable of designing us perfectly, how can they be perfect? Or maybe they were capable, but chose not to. Does this not contradict my opponent's argument that God is all-loving and must always want to be perfectly good and make the best choice? Is this not ignoring the woman in the street, or more to the point, being the one to trip her in the first place?
Personally, I believe these exist simply as genetic flaws and the results of evolution, which by the requirements of maintaining balance, the Gods are restricted from interfering with too deeply. I personally hold the belief that we became sapient and able to form such abstract and fascinating concepts as Gods and philosophy due to divine intervention, but I also believe that the Gods are incapable by their own natural laws of eliminating things such as harmful microbes. The reason for this being that the Gods must allow nature to take its course for the sake of the balance. If they begin smiting any lifeform they deem harmful to other lifeforms, what hope do we have?
Simply, I argue that suffering must exist for pleasure to exist, just as evil must exist for there to be good. However, if God is truly all-loving and all-powerful, and perfectly designed this world according to His whim, where did the suffering and evil come from? And if God is its creator, can we truly call Him all-loving when people die so young of things he supposedly created?
Finally, I would like to add on a personal note that if my opponent is capable of proving to me that God can indeed be perfect in a world that appears so imperfect, I will hold much gratitude for it. I hope this will be a genuine learning experience, and I would like to think that if my opponent proves his point to be correct and convinces me of it, then I will have gained much from this debate.
I want to thank my opponent for her response. I felt a personal touch to it, and almost a feeling of sorrow. I really hope that my response here helps answer some of the questions, but I'm not naïve to assume that it certainly will.
I also want to reiterate my earlier apology for using "he" instead of "she". That was unintentional and presumptuous of me. So I sincerely apologize for that error.
My opponent stated that God is imperfect because suffering and inequality exists in the world. Let me add to the list of evil in the world: rape, murder, bigotry, hatred, theocracy, greed, jealousy, genocide, the holocaust… I'm not helping my case, am I?
My opponent also asked very valid questions. Is God not willing to prevent evil but able? Or is He willing but unable? My opponent believes in the latter and therefore concludes that God is simply not omnipotent. She (I used "she" correctly here!) also claimed that "For God to be perfect according to my opponent's definition, He must be both able and willing. So I should therefore ask my opponent, 'Then whence cometh evil?'"
Give blame where it's due
I have a little girl and I love her very much… so much you couldn't possibly imagine. I would do anything for her to be happy… But if she does a dangerous thing (grabs a knife or a sharp object for example), I would stop her without any hesitation. She would cry, and feels very hurt. I would try to explain to her why I did what I did, but she would give me a crushing look and say: I want it back… daddy. She sometimes goes into a tantrum and gets very mad at me. She doesn't understand why I am being evil to her! But was I evil? or was I loving?
Now what about diseases? Are they necessary? Do people have to suffer? I'll use my little son for the rescue here! (I'm exploiting my kids apparently!) When the doctor gave him a vaccine shot… it really hurt, and he cried. My son thought it was evil and gave my wife an astonished look… My wife cried when she saw her son in pain. Was my wife evil for not saving him? She had the power to prevent him from this pain, and she definitely didn't want him to go through any pain… so whence cometh evil?
The moral of the story is that we don't understand this world. We are very tiny in the grand scheme of things. The universe is 13.74 billion years old, and our average life span is around 75 years. It may appear to us that God could have done better… He could have prevented evil. But just like how my kids thought that we wronged them when we didn't, we often blame God for evil when we shouldn't. We may think that there must exist a better option… But how can we be sure? Remember, my daughter and son thought that there much exist a better option, didn't they?
Whence cometh evil?
I strongly believe that most people don't fully understand the meaning of omnipotence (all powerful). Just because God is all powerful, it doesn't mean that He can create or do what's logically impossible. God can't make something that He won't be able to understand… He can't make 3 smaller than 2... He can't make something so strong He couldn't possibly break…etc.
Now what about evil? Is god unable to stop it? The answer is yes and no. Allow me to explain!
God gave humans free will. He created us and wanted us to be free. Freedom is an amazing thing. I am free to help the fallen woman, but I'm also free to leave her helpless. Humans have the ability to murder, rape, lie… and do all the evil things I mentioned before. Now you may ask, "If God is omnipotent, can't He stop those evil acts? If He's omnibenevolent, doesn't He want to stop this evil?" The problem is that because God gave us freedom, He cannot prevent us from exercising our freedom. Anything else would be logically impossible. It is not because God doesn't have the power, but if God exercised that power, we would simply be pre-determined puppets or robots with no freedom and no free will.
So to respond to your comment: "For God to be perfect according to my opponent's definition, He must be both able and willing. So I should therefore ask my opponent, 'Then whence cometh evil?'" God is not willing to take away our freedom. He loves us so much, that's why He created us free.
How about diseases and natural disasters?
You may justifiably wonder: What about the evil not inflicted by humans? Why cancer, Ebola and AIDS? Why the suffering? Why the horrible deaths? What about tsunamis, hurricanes and earthquakes? Wouldn't a loving God, with all His mighty power, stop them?
To answer this, let me bring a very peculiar example to illustrate my case. We all agree that killing an innocent person is horrible and evil. But let's imagine that if you kill someone, the person would be resurrected 2 minutes after! But imagine that this time around they'd be stronger and healthier. If that would be true, killing wouldn't be a horrible crime… would it? In some cases, killing might be a virtue!
Why do I mention this example? To us, death is considered an end of life… a loss of life. It's hard to imagine losing a loved one. But to God, it's a relocation of a soul from point A to point B. If there was no afterlife, then I would have to agree with you that this couldn't be possibly good. But what if our life here on Earth was simply a journey? An infinitesimal journey compared to eternity?
But you might argue and say: But even if it's so little, why is there any suffering of any kind? Wouldn't we better without these diseases and natural disasters?
I argue again that this world is beyond our understanding and comprehension. The flapping of the wings of a distant butterfly could potentially cause a hurricane three weeks later (1). I could only speculate why these diseases and disasters could potentially be beneficial for us. For example, I don't doubt that it helps us to be more compassionate for each other. If you recall my earlier example, my son thought that his mom hurt him when he got his vaccine… he thought it was evil, even though the pain of a needle is a little sting in the grand scheme of things. My wife saw that it was good for my son to go through this pain. I argue that my wife could have prevented my son's pain altogether. Couldn't she have? As twisted as this may seem, it is not the case that God allows these terrible things to exist because He doesn't want to help us… He allows them because He loves us.
What I mentioned previously is compatible with most beliefs that believe in an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God. But I apologize because this section below pertains to Christian theology.
Signs of omnipotence and omnibenevolence
I demonstrated above that we are like little children. We don't understand why God allows evil in this world. But to help us understand, God gave us many signs to demonstrate his omnipotence and omnibenevolence. If God (the Creator of this universe) exists, you couldn't argue that creating this universe, the planets, our Earth and our lives is beyond comprehension and requires amazing power. I argue that this is a sign of God's omnipotence.
Also I argue that God showed us signs that He is omnibenevolence. God is very frustrated with the choices that we make! He did almost everything possible to make us change our actions "on our own accord". That's the caveat… It has to be completely done on our own because we are free. He sent messengers to advice us to be good, but we still chose to be evil. But because He's omnibenevolent, He did the unspeakable... Jesus Christ came to Earth, lived our lives and professed a life of love, hope, kindness and humility. He was then tortured a terrible torture, was humiliated and then crucified. God shared our pain and our suffering. I argue that if the God of Christianity is true, this is definitely a compelling message to us that He is omnibenevolent.
(1) Butterfly Effect - http://en.wikipedia.org...
It appears I may have made this debate two rounds too long, although I am at least thankful for this space.
I have contemplated my opponent's argument, and I concede that I have no rebuttal. I would call myself defeated, had I not already stated that I would benefit from such an eventuality. I would like to thank my opponent for it.
Although I cannot immediately picture a way in which the premature death of an innocent person due to disease or natural disaster could be a cog in the machine of a perfectly designed world, my opponent made the very compelling argument that I am not to know, that I cannot know. This is a point I must concede against, as I will confess that my opponent is correct. I do not know. I suppose, overall, it could be a means of population control. If we were all immortal, after all, there would be much more suffering than there is due to disease. If the Gods created these methods of controlling the population numbers without necessarily directing them at specific targets, I can see how that would be the lesser of two evils, and how that could work as part of a perfect design. After all, a perfect design would simply be one that is the best it could possibly be. If the lesser of two evils is indeed the best the Gods could have made it, then it does indeed fit that definition.
I would like to congratulate my opponent and also thank him. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your argument, and I feel you have taught me a lot, philosophically. I've been given a lot to think about, and ultimately, that is far more valuable to me than winning.
At this point, although I know the voting has not yet commenced, and there is still a round to go, I would like to declare my opponent the winner in spirit, and I thank him for this great debate.
I also admire how my opponent sees perfection in his religious beliefs, and I have to say that I can relate. The Kemetic mythology discusses many creator gods, but as Ra is my patron, His version is my favourite, stating that he rose from the primordial water as a great phoenix, and sang the song of creation which brought everything into existence by the power of its name. Although this is simply a figurative and alegorical story, I have to say I see a lot of beauty in the idea of Ra singing life into existence.
And, like how you talked about seeing God's love in how He sent His son, or came to us in human form, whichever interpretation you personally follow, I see the gods love for us in so many things. Even if there is suffering, there is also hope, love and happiness, and these are gifts we must always cherish. I know I am very far off-topic now, but I feel so moved by my opponent's last statement that I just had to speak my mind about this. Though I may not be entirely convinced that the gods are omnipotent, you have reconvinced me of something I already knew - that the gods are omnibenevolent, regardless of how much power they hold.
You must see a great deal of beauty, and feel a great sense of happiness through your relationship with your God. I know I do with mine.
Thank you, pro, for a truly enlightening debate.
Di ankh Ra mi djet, give eternal life like Ra.
And I wish you also ankh, udja, seneb. Life, prosperity and health.
I want to thank you for a very exciting debate. I have not felt this intrigued in a very long time. It's unfortunate that the debate appears to have ended. But as you said, learning from each other ultimately "is far more valuable […] than winning". Thank you for this learning experience.