It is reasonable to not believe in God on the basis of the problem of evil.
By "reasonable" I mean judging solely on the performance of me and my opponent over the course of this debate.
I will argue for the resolution, Con against it. He or she has to show how evil/suffering can coexist with God. This debate will be limited to theodicies like free will, et cetera. No other objections may by used that somehow backdoor the problem.
BoP is shared.
using other arguments for or against the existence of God,
no noncognitivism of any sort,
claiming there is no evil/suffering in the world,
claiming that evil/suffering are not bad on God's or any other (moral) standard,
or accepting without permission
will lead to a seven point loss.
This debate should be impossible to accept. Please leave a comment if you are interested.
Round 1: Con - presents his objections
Round 2-4: Rebuttals
Round 5: Pro presents his final rebuttal; Con waives
God: An omnipotent (allpowerfull), omniscient (allknowing), benevolent (allgood/loving) transcendental creator
Evil: Any moral wrong doing, any physical/emotional harm, any (unnecessary, avoidable, etc.) suffering will be considered "evil"
The coherency of these definitions is assumed.
The Problem of Evil
P1) If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
P2) If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.
P3) If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.
P4) If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.
P5) Evil exists.
P6) If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn’t have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn’t know when evil exists, or doesn’t have the desire to eliminate all evil.
C) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.(1)
Thank you Fkkize for this debate and good luck.
Objections to the POE
Contention 1: Omnipotent, morally perfect, and Free Will.
P1) "If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect."
This premise creates an interesting balance. Morality addresses what actions should or should not be taken. Omnipotence addresses capability. Thus this premise leaves the possibility that there are some things an omnipotent and morally perfect God would be capable of doing but due to perfect morals would not.
Thus if eliminating evil requires an action itself that would be immoral then God would not eliminate evil. Such is the case.
Free Will: In order to eliminate evil, God would have to destroy or severely limit free will.
If we accept the premise presented, and that we have Free will, than it can be concluded that evil is a result of choices made by people exercising their free will. If Free will is a moral good(which I assume you agree) then we can conclude that a God would not restrict free will in such a way as it would be a moral negative. Thus if God created a world with no free will/ or a world with no evil that would itself be inherently evil.
Thus we see that If God exists, is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect evil would exists due to the moral good of free will.
P2) If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.
Agreed, though again the power or ability to do so does not make the required action moral. Could an omnipotent God take free will away… yes. Would a morally perfect one? No.
Contention 2: Opposition in all things
“For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things… righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, …. having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.” (Book of Mormon)
There is no such thing as good if there is not bad. How could a morally perfect God exists if there is not good and bad. Morals themselves are about good and bad/ right and wrong. Arguing that there could exist a morally perfect being with no evil is paradoxical at best. You cannot have “morals” exist without right and wrong. Thus if there is a God, and he is morally perfect. Evil is the natural alternative without which neither could exist.
Conclusion of contention:
If the first premise is accepted as laid out then it is accepted that there are things that God could do, (being all powerful) but would not do. (being morally perfect.) Therefore, if eliminating evil requires an action that would be immoral, such a God would not do it despite being able. There is no such thing as good with-out evil. The POE clearly does not disprove the existence of a God.
Thanks to kasmic for accepting my challenge.
Objection 1: Free Will
In his first objection my opponent deploys the free will defence: the idea that God would not infringe with our ability to choose, therefore we are free to do evil. I will present two responses to this defence.
1. Unexplained Suffering
Free will does not explain a vast number of evils in this world, like the suffering of animals or natural disasters.
God gave man free will, but did he give it to animals, too? The answer to this question does not actually matter, because even if we accept the idea of animals freely choosing to harm human and non-human animals, it still does not free God of his charge for creating carnivores. What God creates beings who need to kill others and feed on the flesh of their corpses? Even if he gave them free will and does not interfere with it, the curse he placed on them still contradicts the definition of a perfectly good God.
But we can ignore everything I just said about the suffering of animals and look at rather human-centered suffering not chosen for by anyone. Earthquakes, tsunamis, diseases, volcanos, lightning. None of them is a consequence of anyone's choice and yet innumerable people have lost everything to them, family, friends or possessions. They are the very definition of gratuitous suffering, they are examples par excellence for things a good God would not allow to happen.
2. Libertarian Free Will
The Free Will Defence commits the theist to libertarian free will (1).
Libertarian Free Will (FW): "the view that a person is free with respect to a given action if and only if that person is both free to perform that action and free to refrain from performing that action; in other words, that person is not determined to perform or refrain from that action by any prior causal forces."(1)
This is not to be confused with the political notion of libertarianism. The FW-libertarian holds that [1.] we have free will and [2.] that determinism is false, our decisions are uncaused by physical determinations.
The evidence however, suggests otherwise. Think about ordinary criminals or immoral people for that matter, is there something many of them have in common? Exactly, many of them were raised in poor households or had a difficult childhood in some other way (I am of course not generalizing here) (2). It is the upbringing of people which determines their personality (genes might be involved, too, but that is disputable and if true would contribute to my case anyway). Therefore, if you bring someone who had a rough childhood, who wasn't cared for by his parents and who committed some lesser crimes before in a situation which might only anger the average citizen, chances are this person might become violent. He did not choose his action freely without any determination, it was the result of his upbringing. The same applies to (stereotypical) psychopaths or others who face a mental condition responsible for their compulsive actions.
By now the reader might ask why this kind of free will is necessary for the FW defence. If God gave man say compatibilist free will (freedom of will is the freedom to do what I desire), then he would be guilty of allowing for mental conditions like psychopathy or troubling childhoods, because they shape an agent's desires in a way that makes them more likely to commit immoral acts. Evidentially this is the case, meaning that the FW defence does not get off the ground.
Objection 2: Opposition In All Things
In his latter objection Con argues that evil is necessary for there to be good and if there could not be a morally bad act then there could not be a morally good act either. Here I will again present two responses to this objection.
1. How much Evil? (4)
For this first response I can accept the necessity of evil, but then simply ask: how much evil is needed for us to recognize the (morally) good?
In 2013 malaria caused an estimated 584 000 deaths, most of which were children (3). This is makes about 1600 children who die from a preventable disease every day. Do we really need this much suffering? Imagine an Inuit who never heard about Africa or malaria. Is he not able to distinguish the good from the bad? We don't even need to imagine such a far-fetched example. I assume most people here have [1.] heard about similar numbers, yet [2.] think they could act morally even without this unnecessary suffering. If we do not need this incomprehensible evil in our world, then how much is the minimum?
P1) If God exists then he knows this minimum amount of evil, he has the power to prevent evil from exceeding this amount and he wants to prevent this excess.
P2) If God exists there would not be the gratuitous amount of suffering described above.
P3) There is such a gratuitous amount of suffering.
C) Therefore, God does not exist.
My opponent's objection raises a number of strange metaphysical question he needs to answer before anyone should accept his defence.
2. Linguistics and Ontology (4)
It is quite true that if evil would stop existing tomorrow / never existed at all then we would over time loose our / never develop linguistic conventions to describe good and evil. However to say if there is no property "badness" instantiated then there is no property "goodness" instantiated either is a non-sequitur:
P1) p & q
There is something capable of instantiating "goodness" and there is something capable of instantiating "badness".
There is nothing capable of instantiating "badness".
Therefore nothing is capable of instantiating "goodness".
The non-sequitur should be apparent to everyone. To illustrate this, consider some analogies:
1. No Light
Imagine a world in black where noone knows the difference between brightness and darkness simply because there never was any light. Now, looking at this world from our perspective we can certainly say there is no property "brightness" instantiated, but claiming the property of "darkness" is never instantiated makes no sense.
2. No Shadow
We can make the same analogy the other way around by imagining a perfectly spherical room with a point light at it's center. It makes sense to say that the property "darkness" is never instantiated, but to say "therefore "brightness" is never instantiated, too" is really just a non-sequitur.
In this first rebuttal I have presented strong responses to Con's objections and I await his subsequent arguments.
(4) J.L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism Chap. 9
"1. Unexplained Suffering"
Pro states “Free will does not explain a vast number of evils in this world, like the suffering of animals or natural disasters.”
Pro outlined my burden in round one stating “He or she has to show how evil/suffering can coexist with God.”
I have done this. What is not included in my burden is to show that each and every case of evil my opponent lists can coexist with God. Thus this contention is irrelevant. The same can be said with Objection 2: 1 “How much Evil” as my burden is to show any amount of evil and suffering could coexist with such a God.
So far as my opponent calling my “opposition in all things” contention a non sequitur rather he is presenting a straw man. All of the examples he gives are of “instigating…” Rather my argument was the reference of good and evil themselves.
to call one thing good and another bad is to accept there is a difference between the two. If there is no such thing as good or bad, then there is no such reference to be made. Therefore, if we claim that there is a morally good (being in reference to a comparison) God, then it follows there is such thing to make a distinction to… bad. (evil)
This leads us to the only real contention.
"2. Libertarian Free Will"
"The Free Will Defense commits the theist to libertarian free will" (1).
To accept Pro’s argument here is to take away all accountability for peoples actions. Which, he does saying “Think about ordinary criminals or immoral people for that matter, is there something many of them have in common? Exactly, many of them were raised in poor households or had a difficult childhood in some other way…”
While people do act upon each others free will, (which is my contention for a type of evil that can coexist with God) we accept these actions to be immoral and those who commit them responsible for their actions. The very idea that people can and are held responsible for their actions supports the concept of free will. Thus to accept my opponents analysis of free will here is to undermine truths accepted in society at large. People do have free will, they are held responsible for their actions.
If we accept the concept of a omniscient omnipotent and morally perfect God, and that we have Free will, than it can be concluded that evil can be a result of choices made by people exercising their free will. If Free will is a moral good(which I assume you agree) then we can conclude that a God would not restrict free will in such a way as it would be a moral negative. Therefore I have shown “how evil/suffering can coexist with God.”
Therefore I have filled my burden in this debate.
1. Opposition In All Things
Con argues that he fulfilled his burden by showing how (any amount) evil can coexist with God. This would be true if "God" was a loose term, unfortunately for him, it is not.
God: An omnipotent (allpowerfull), omniscient (allknowing), benevolent (allgood/loving) transcendental creator
It is his burden not only to assert a random amount of suffering as necessary, but rather to explain why a loving God would allow for this incomprehensible amount of suffering and no less.
In his latest rebuttal he argues that it is not the instantiating of properties like "goodness" or "badness" that is valuable, it is to be able to make a comparison between the two. But this is exactly what I addressed in How much Evil?.
1) We could without a doubt still distinguish good from bad and recognize a good God as such, if there were no natural disasters.
2) If natural disasters are not necessary for this distinction then God (as defined for this debate) would either not allow for them or does not exist.
3) But natural disaster happen all the time.
4) It is therefore either the case that no such God exists or that natural disasters are in fact necessary for us to be able to make this distinction.
My opponent has to explain why the latter is the case for his opposition in all things-defence to be successful.
Moreover, to get around my Linguistics and Ontology response he has to demonstrate why the ability to differentiate good and evil is somehow valuable or rather more valuable than the plain existence of "goodness".
Until any of this is done, his objection falls flat on its face.
2. Unexplained Suffering
This sub-response was merely intended to demonstrate why LFW alone is not a sufficient condition to account for all the unwilled suffering in this world. My opponent does not contest this, as such How much Evil? and Linguistics and Ontology gain even more force.
3. Libertarian Free Will
In his main contention kasmic presents a demonstrably false dichotomy.
He claims that we either have LFW or no FW at all (hard determinism) and thus nobody could not be held accountable for her actions. In my response to the FW defence I already listed another option: compatibilism; freedom of will is the freedom to do what I desire (this is just one possible formulation).
Two things come to mind.
First, I would argue that LFW does get rid people's responsibility just as much as hard determinism and propose compatibilism as the only sensible form of FW (1) (2). But this would be off topic and I won't engage further into defending compatibilism, but rather stick to arguments against LFW. This form of FW is his proposal and as such it is his burden to demonstrate it.
Secondly, he is making an argumentum ad consequentiam, an appeal to consequences. Even if it was the case that rejecting LFW would rid us of any responsibility, it does not follow that it is therefore true. Perhaps society would break down as a result of accepting the problem of evil and denying free will entirely (which I am not doing). However this is not proof of the veracity of LFW.
Hence the FW defence still does not get off the ground.
My opponent dismisses some of my responses to hasty and I contend, I fulfilled my burden.
(1) J.L. Mackie, Ethics. Inventing Right and Wrong, Chap. 9
(2) Richard Carrier, Sense and Goodness without God
Pro says “It is his burden not only to assert a random amount of suffering as necessary, but rather to explain why a loving God would allow for this incomprehensible amount of suffering and no less.”
Pro is attempting to change the burden required in this debate. I refer you to round one where Pro states the burden I accepted in this debate “He or she has to show how evil/suffering can coexist with God.”
I have shown that evil produced through free will of man is how evil and suffering can in fact coexist with an omnipotent, omniscient, moral perfect God and thus fill the burden necessary in this debate.
Pro does not contend this point, just attempts to change the burden of proof required and wanting me to provide evidence to support whatever it is that he perceives as evil. Arguments of “How much evil” etc have nothing to do with the burden I accepted in round one.
Pro’s full resolution states “It is reasonable to not believe in God on the basis of the problem of evil.” I have definitively shown how evil/suffering can coexist with God. Thus, it is not reasonable to not believe in God solely on the basis of the problem of evil. The resolution is negated. Vote Con!
I am not attempting to change the burden.
"He or she has to show how evil/suffering can coexist with God"
This is the burden Con has to fulfill. He tried to do so by raising two objections, I countered with a total of four responses. I continued to defend all of them while my opponent only really addressed one, namely my response to the FW defence. He claims that he was successful in doing so but he ignored every criticism pointed against it. Never did he justify the kind of FW that not only he but professional philosophers, too, agree is necessary for the FW defence to achieve anything(1). However he still argues that I do not contend this.
I assume some of this arises due to not taking into account everything I actually said in round one:
1. God: An omnipotent (allpowerfull), omniscient (allknowing), benevolent (allgood/loving) transcendental creator
2. He or she has to show how evil/suffering can coexist with God.
Of course he has to use the definition of God established under 1.
3. The Problem of Evil
He completely ignores the fact that natural disasters, diseases, etc. all contradict this definition of "God" and therefore pose a serious challenge to the claim that he has "definitively shown how evil/suffering can coexist with God".
How much Evil? is absolutely relevant to his burden. I don't think I have to reiterate the PoE to make clear that a God as defined above would not allow for evil. My opponent objected that some evil is necessary. This poses the question of how much evil is necessary, because a God as defined above would not allow for evil to exceed this necessary minimum.
However it is obvious to anyone who took a look at our world to see that the current amount of evil and suffering is not a necessary minimum for us to know the difference between good and bad, right and wrong. Hence, as stated multiple times before, a benevolent God would not allow for the unnecessary and needless evil to exist. Therefore it is up to my opponent to contest the apparent conclusion that God does not exist. To do this he has to show why the unnecessary evil does not in fact contradict the definition of God, for example by showing that for some reason this amount is necessarily needed. I don't think this inconsistency is hard to see or anything less than striking.
However he never addressed this and instead simply claimed that there is no inconsistency.
Or in other words, even if he manages to succeed with the FW defence he completely forgets that "evil" was defined as "Any moral wrong doing, any physical/emotional harm, any (unnecessary, avoidable, etc.) suffering will be considered "evil"".
When he says that he demonstrated how evil can coexist with God, he is essentially saying that:
he demonstrated how unnecessary and avoidable suffering can coexist with a morally perfect being.
But frankly, he did not do this. This does not fall under the cover of the FW defence and remains a serious problem for the existence of God.
Whether or not
"wanting me to provide evidence to support whatever it is that he perceives as evil"
is a violation of the rules
"claiming there is no evil/suffering in the world, claiming that evil/suffering are not bad on God's or any other (moral) standard [...] will lead to a seven point loss"
is up to the reader.
1. Unexplained Suffering - never addressed and dismissed
2. Libertarian Free Will - never defended against several objections
3. How much Evil? - never addressed and dismissed
4. Linguistics and Ontology - never addressed and dismissed
Therefore I conclude that "It is reasonable to not believe in God on the basis of the problem of evil."
Conclusion of this debate:
“1. God: An omnipotent (allpowerfull), omniscient (allknowing), benevolent (allgood/loving) transcendental creator
2. He or she has to show how evil/suffering cancoexist with God. Of course he has to use the definition of God established under 1.
3. The Problem of Evil”
I think the biggest issue with this debate is what may or may not have been assumed but not explained in round one.
“He (being me) has to show how evil/suffering can coexist with God.” I have definitively shown how evil/suffering can coexist with God. It is important to note the words “how” and “can.”This burden is a hypothetical, not literal. My burden is not to show “that”evil “does” coexist with God as pro defined him… rather “how” evil “can”coexist.
I said that Pro "wanting me to provide evidence to support whatever it is that he perceives as evil"
He claims that is a violation of the rules
"claiming there is no evil/suffering in the world, claiming that evil/suffering are not bad on God's or any other (moral) standard will lead to a seven point loss.”
I did not at any point in this debate claim there is no evil/suffering… and have therefore not broken the rule.
1. Unexplained Suffering - never addressed and dismissed due to being irrelevant
to the burdens in this debate.
2. How much Evil? - never addressed and dismissed due to irrelevance.
3. Linguistics and Ontology – semantics at best.
4. Libertarian Free Will – It has been demonstrated that free will is empirically obvious… though pro claims I presented the false dichotomy. Actually, he did. When I argued that man had free will, he claims “The Free Will Defence commits the theist to libertarian free will.” In other words pro sets up an all or nothing free will, not me. Being that we both accept that there is an element of free will it is moral to respect that free will.
Based on the burdens accepted in this debate and what we have come to it is clear that evil/suffering can coexist with God. That is not to say that this debate contains an argument That evil/suffering does coexist with God, just that it “can.” As This burden has been met, it is only reasonable to Vote Con per round one. The resolution is negated.
In his final rebuttal my opponent starts out by clarifying what he took this debate to be.
He takes "He or she has to show how evil/suffering can coexist with God" as a merely hypothetical, not a literal burden, meaning that he thought he only had to show a possible solution, not to show how things are in reality.
Two things come to mind.
First, the resolution is formulated like this:
"It is reasonable to not believe in God on the basis of the problem of evil."
I think it should be obvious that this in conjunction with my explanation of what I mean by "reasonable" is supposed to mean that we are talking about adopting or not adopting a certain actual belief about the existence of the classical monotheistic God if one was to base his judgement solely on our performances in this debate.
Secondly, even if it was only about proposing a hypothetical possibility, the definitions of "God" and "evil" stand and his only proposed solution, the FW defence, was rebutted thoroughly. Unless he was talking about a completely fictional world where people actually have LFW, then this objection doesn't have ground anyway. But if he thought he could argue for fictional worlds, entirely unlike our actual, then he could have just as well invoked a world where, say, only God and an omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly evil demon, who suffers a terrible headache all day long, exist.
Since he did no such thing I conclude that his clarification is an ad hoc justification for misinterpreting a otherwise clearly outlined debate.
I never claimed that Con broke the rules, I said the reader should decide how to evaluate a certain statement he made.
Unexplained Suffering, How much Evil? & Linguistics and Ontology
All three were never addressed and dismissed, because my opponent claims they are irrelevant. Over the course of two rounds I have shown why this is not the case. Unless of course my opponent drops his "Opposition in all things"-objection, which would be worse for him than for me.
He cannot argue for the vagueness of the resolution (hypothetical burden), then use an objection to the argument that, if successful, would amount to a serious demur for the PoE in reality (literal burden) and then argue that my responses were irrelevant to his ad hoc interpretation of an hypothetical burden.
I: "not A"
He: "your objection is invalid because I was talking about the number 13"
Libertarian Free Will
Here Con claims that I am the one presenting a false dichotomy and that he is not actually defending LFW.
If he is not actually defending LFW then he could have pointed that out to me as early as round 2. To present a defence using FW without specifying what kind of FW is used is ridiculous (especially if it deviates from the norm). How am I supposed to respond to such an objection if the terms are not clear at all? Moreover the FW defence does commit the theist to LFW, I have demonstrated this in round 2, but I will (again) cite the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the Free Will Defence:
"God's creation of persons with morally significant free will is something of tremendous value. God could not eliminate much of the evil and suffering in this world without thereby eliminating the greater good of having created persons with free will with whom he could have relationships and who are able to love one another and do good deeds."
This "presupposes the view of free will known as "libertarianism""
"It is the view that causal determinism is false, that—unlike robots or other machines—we can make choices that are genuinely free" (1)
We might agree that we have some kind of free will. but if I am supposed to be able to respond to this in any way shape or form, I have to assume that "we both accept that there is an element of free will" means he commits to the same view as I do (he rejects both hard determinism and LFW so compatibilism is the only remaining option).
But then the FW defence does not defend God anymore.
Not only are professional philosophers in agreement about the necessity of LFW for the FW defence, but under compatibilism it is entirely possible for God to give agents only good desires (as I have argued in R.2). Claiming that this would constitute an infringement of an agents FW is to presuppose libertarianism.
Therefore the free will defence still fails.
Minor note: he argues the freedom of our will is empirically obvious. However some would disagree and instead propose that this is an illusion (2).
Over the course of this debate I have defended all of my original responses, whereas my opponent was either not able to defend his objections or secretly dropped them (depending on your interpretation of the burden). He understood the burden to be hypothetical as opposed to literal, but I have demonstrated why this does not rescue any of his objections to the problem of evil.
The resolution is affirmed.
Thanks Fkkize for an interesting debate. Per rules I waive...