The Problem of Evil and the existence of God
Debate Rounds (3)
Believers claim that their God is all-powerful, all-powerful, and all-loving. If God is all powerful and all-loving, then it could prevent evil from happening. Evil exists. Therefore, God is either:
Willing, but not able
Able, but not willing
Unwilling and Unable.
This is a debate around the Logical Problem Of Evil.
I am Pro and will take the position of the argument above.
Con will refute this claim.
Round 1 is for accepting and optional opening statement from Pro.
I would like to ask Pro to define for us all, so that there is no equivocation of terms, what "evil" is, and subsequently upon what foundation he has for that definition.
So is smoking a cigarette evil?
What if someone kills a home invader that was about to rape his wife? It is harmful to all parties involved (physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically) and I do not think anyone "desires" to suffer a home invasion that results in death. So is that evil?
Is that really your definition?
Look, let's just go with this. This is an age old argument. I am not going to pretend like I am the one who came up with a "theist's" response to this argument.
So just try and refute this:
"Firstly, God is all-powerful. God could eliminate evil from the world. This is true and accurate.
Secondly, God is "all-loving" or infinitely compassionate. This is true, but there is an implicit third premise in this argument " that infinitely compassionate means that He would wish to prevent "evil" acts and is prepared to take the necessary steps to do so.
Thirdly, the term "evil" is never defined in this argument " what is evil? Asking the atheist will not get a clear answer " given the fact that the only clear definition is "that which is against God" and the atheist denies the existence of God. The atheist will probably give examples of evil " the Holocaust, child rape, murder, war, starvation. All of these things are certainly unpleasant, and many of them are actively evil (some of these things are simply the natural results of evil, selfish actions, and others " like hurricanes and floods " are just natural disasters).
The unspoken premise in this argument is that an all-loving God will intervene to prevent what the atheist defines as unpleasant. This is a key issue " if God interfered prevented everything that was genuinely evil (i.e. what He saw as evil) then no-one would be able to deny His existence, no-one would be able to have premarital sex, no-one would be able to advocate or have an abortion and so forth.
This would result in the complete subjugation of free-will. This is a necessarily logical step " God cannot prevent evil without removing free-will from people (and removing it not just to a degree of coercion " i.e. "Do as I say or you will suffer" - but rather totally removing it so that humanity has no free-will whatsoever and cannot choose to do anything.)
If there is no free-will and humanity cannot choose evil, then humanity cannot choose good either. A rock has no free-will; it is not a moral thing, but neither is it amoral. It simply exists.
So, what does it mean for God to be all-loving? It means that He wants us to choose Him and choose the good. He wants us to reject evil. God's highest good is the correct exercise of free-will to choose Him. He sees death and suffering as, while very unpleasant for humanity, not evil in and of themselves. Death and suffering are often the results of evil actions, but they are not evil themselves.
God is both infinitely loving and infinitely just; in His love He gives everyone the chance to know Him and respond to Him, the chance to choose good. A person who has chosen God and who is killed by an evil man is in a better position than the evil man; he is going to Heaven. God is interested in allowing humanity to choose Him, not in trampling over their wills and turning them into inert objects who have no ability to choose good or evil."
^ From www.catholicbasictraining.com
Your first point makes no sense and it falls at the first hurdle. Simply stating back to me the argument's premise that 'God is all-powerful. God could eliminate evil from the world.' and tagging on the phrase 'This is true and accurate' without any definition or evidence as to why you think this is so, is not an argument that it is so. It is just dodging the question. You use this tactic again when talking about an all-loving god. You have yet to present any substantive argument as to why you believe these things to be so. When you later respond by saying that there is an 'implicit third premise' that 'infinitely compassionate means that He would wish to prevent "evil" acts and is prepared to take the necessary steps to do so.' This is not implicit. This is part of the actual premise itself and is made EXPLICITLY clear in the original argument. So much for copy and paste. This is why it would have been good for you to take it seriously. I was under the impression that you would actually debate with me. But I, at least, will happily share my own thoughts with you.
Before I start, let me clear my throat on one thing. That is, your straw-manning of my definition of 'evil'. It was defined using a deliberately broad brush so as to elicit a healthy debate. To upbraid my use of it as a 'vague definition' and to then go on to state that the only clear definition of 'evil' is 'that which is against god' is somewhat stretching the definition of the word clear. Especially when all you've done is to structure the same meaning within your own religious framework.
But that's the boring bit done with.
With regards to god being both willing and able to to prevent evil, we see no evidence of this at all. One need only look at how the world in which we live effects us. And, yes, why not use the Holocaust, child rape, murder, war and starvation as examples? What about the person that has been subjected to rape? Are we to give relief to them by saying 'You should know that this is part of god's blessing for your life. God could have stopped it, but he let you suffer so that your reward in heaven will be great'? And what of the Holocaust survivors? Do we tell them that god was able to stop the genocide of their family tree and that he could have intervened at anytime he wished? How can we say 'Take heart! because a loving god has allowed the decimation of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in order to show us his love.'? It should be crystal clear to anyone that these are not the action of an all-loving and all-powerful deity, these are the actions of a demented and capricious psychopath. When we look to our world to find any footprint of a loving and all powerful god, all we can see are those that have been trampled beneath it.
Hitch, you later go on to say that 'if God interfered prevented everything that was genuinely evil (i.e. what He saw as evil) then no-one would be able to deny His existence'. If you want to talk about divine command theory here, then please elucidate further. What is is that god sees as evil? Are morally good acts willed by God because they are morally good, or are they morally good because they are willed by God? If we look to scripture, then we see that whatever god commands to be good is good. This includes, rape, pillaging, torture, patricide, matricide, infanticide, bride-price, slavery, genocide and human sacrifice to name but a few. We are told that without god, society can do what it likes and get away with it. It seems that the reverse is actually true; With god on your side, everything is permissible. This shows a god that has neither the will nor the ability to stem evil. This is a morally reprehensible god that is not able to do anything about the problem of evil simply because the problem of evil is the problem of his own nature.
In the matter of free will, I bow to Christopher Hitches when he says 'Of course I have free-will. I have no other choice but to have it.'
The Secret Antitheist.
"Thank you Hitch for posting something from a website as your entire response."
First of all, my name is not hitch. Secondly, my entire response was not from a website. The first portion was highlighting how inadequate your "Definition" of evil was. If you had maybe consulted a source, like a dictionary or another ontological argument you might not have sounded like an amateur. Furthermore, the part I did take from a website is just showing intellectual honesty. The purpose of me getting on this website, is to spread the new Evangelization. It is exposing you to new sources you probably do not go to, and yes, this debate is AGES old. There is nothing new here. Anything I am going to say on my own, is either going to be derivative of something I read, or said not as well as someone else. So why would I pretend to be original in an argument that is not? Why would I not quote someone who has already said it, or says it better than I can?
Hey, I could be like you and just an off the cuff definition of evil and look terrible.
"Simply stating back to me the argument's premise that "God is all powerful..."
What is the point of this debate if we cannot agree upon a premise? YOU started the debate and gave us that premise, I am agreeing with it. This is DEBATING 101. You set the premise, I accepted the challenge, and we move on. Any other kind of clarifications I thought we needed (e.g. define evil, which you totally sucked at) I asked for, and we moved on. You gave the premise that God Is all powerful, and are trying to make it seem like I am wrong for agreeing with the premise you proposed for this argument? I do not have to prove the premise you proposed for the real issue of "the logical problem of evil" GIVEN an all-powerful, all loving, God.
Seriously, do you not see how silly of a complaint that is for you to make? You've totally shot yourself in the foot. You're arguing with what YOU wrote in Round 1. The question of this debate is: Given that God is all-powerful and all-loving, why is there evil in this world?
The answer I give for that is that to not allow evil and free will would defeat man's capacity to not only commit evil, but to actually do good and love. My answer should actually have little to do with proving that God is all-powerful, because that is not what the debate is about. I was simply agreeing with your premise.
"To upbraid my use of it as a 'vague definition' and to then go on and state that the only clear definition of 'evil' is..."
OK. Again going back to DEBATE 101. Having clear, concise, and narrow definitions of the terms essential to your arguments and premise is paramount in having a good debate. Having vague terms is the opposite of that. Here is something for you to think about...how do you seriously know if something is evil? How can you, as an atheist, prove to the rest of humanity that human life is unique, and that there is such a thing as morality? How can you really objectively call something evil? If there is nothing beyond the material world in which we live, how can you say one system of thought is really better than another, or this action is moral and this action is not moral?
Do you think maybe, in a debate about "Evil", you would really want to know what it is you are really talking about?
"If you want to talk about divine command theory here, then please elucidate further. What is it that God sees as evil?"
Well, you already got upset that I gave a definition of Evil "in my own religious framework", but now you're asking for me to give you a definition of evil...in my own religious framework. You're just...really bad at this.
This comment of yours, and this one...
"If we look to scripture, then we see that whatever god commands is good...rape, pillaging..."
Are good questions to ask, but they require me to start quoting the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and seriously taking at length about in depth topics that would stray from the original argument. And if I quoted those sources, you would just dismiss them as rubbish, because you're an atheist, and do not subscribe to the Bible. So we would end up talking a lot about something you're not going to pay attention to anyways.
But since we are talking about scripture, the Book of Job and Ecclesiastes, which are almost 3000 years old, address the very issue of "Why does Evil happen to good people" at length. This is not a new topic for people of faith, just for you apparently.
And finally, you ask if we should comfort people who suffer by telling them that this is all part of a larger plan. Well, lots of people who go through suffering end up feeling that way. It's called providence. Do you really think you can see the greater good for all people and all creatures on earth? One way Christians comfort people when tragedy strikes, is to carry out the corporal works of mercy and spiritual works of mercy...we do not just walk by a rape victim and say, "Well, God wanted this...see ya."
Here is a short video on Providence:
I'm sure you won't watch it though, because atheists hardly actually look at the sources presented to them.
Thanks for debating, hope you get better at it.
Things you failed to counter or explain with regard to this argument:
1. That free will would be destroyed, if God allowed us to make no evil choices
2. That true love and true faith would also be destroyed
3. You have not given an actual definition of what you think evil is, even though you presented this argument
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