The Instigator
Devils_Advocate
Con (against)
Winning
34 Points
The Contender
bookworld
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points

There is an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent being.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/14/2007 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,470 times Debate No: 453
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (8)
Votes (13)

 

Devils_Advocate

Con

The existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent being (attributes usually associated with the Christian deity) is negated by empirical evidence.

The existence of non-human caused suffering is inconsistent with a being who is benevolent and can prevent that suffering. (By non-human suffering, I mean natural disasters, such as fires and mudslides which kill children.)

Consider the example of a baby who suffers an agonizing and slow death by being burned by a fire caused by lightning. This surely cannot be a desired occurrence by any entity who has the power to prevent it and would also be deserving of the adjective "benevolent." As a thought experiment, imagine a being who has the power to prevent the agonizing death of the baby, and knowledge to understand the consequences of fire, ...yet does nothing to stop it. It is not reasonable to label this being as benevolent, by any normal definition of "benevolent."

However, these types of natural-based sufferings do occur on almost a daily basis. Therefore I conclude that such a being does not exist.

Note: "free-will" does not come into play here, this argument only takes into account non-human caused suffering.
bookworld

Pro

Okay, I'm new to this site, so sorry in advance if I stray from proper protocol, but here it goes. As I understand it, your position is that the existence of a 3-O god (omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent) is irreconcilable with unnecessary suffering, or even more broadly, evil in general. In order to successfully counter that point, I believe I must show that it is possible for a 3-O god and evil to co-exist. So here it goes.

First off, indisputably, evil exists in the world. It just does. There are plenty of senseless acts of natural violence and destruction to point to without even having to bring man into the equation, but when you consider the capacity for evil men have displayed for centuries, the conclusion is irrefutable. So evil exists.

Secondly, I firmly believe that men have free will. Now this assertion is fairly easy to defend: atheists don't really have much ground to stand on in disputing this fact, and theists must make the case for a deterministic world that would be little more than God's Rube Goldberg machine. So if I may, I'd like to move forward under the premise that men have free will.

Now we come to the tough part: how can a 3-O God, evil, and free will all exist at the same time on Earth? Well here's my best shot: God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, and He did in fact have both the power and the proclivity to create a perfect world. That world is Heaven. The truth of the matter is that in His perfection, anything God comes in contact with is perfect. Think about it: an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful being cannot help but make whatever environment He finds himself in perfect. That is simply the nature of God.

So now let's try to go back and think about what that world was like when God first created everything. Men (or their souls or whatever you want to call all of us) were created by God along with everything else, and were in His presence. Now here's the interesting part: because we were in God's presence, we weren't really free. I'd be very interested to hear a logical rebuttal to this supposition, but at the end of the day I maintain that no man (or angel or soul or whatever) would be able to act against God in His presence. Why not? Well rather than going the route so many religions unfortunately travel down, which is power or fear or authority, I would like to suggest that the love of God is what deprives those in His presence of their free will. The unconditional, absolute, inexplicable love that God has for each and every one of us is overwhelming, and to feel that directly, to be in the lord's very shadow is to be enveloped by that love entirely. In Heaven, or whatever you want to call the perfect world that God resides in, there is no hurt or pain or anger or anything of the sort because that darkness simply cannot take hold in the presence of the lord's blinding light. So in Heaven, everyone was happy, but there were a number of problems.

First off, think about your perception of light. You understand it, you appreciate it, you know what it means. You can fully conceive of what I mean when I say "light", and the reason is because you have not only experienced light, you have experienced darkness as well. Now without that experience of darkness, you would not fully appreciate what I mean when I say "light", nor would you be able to appreciate the sun's blinding rays after a week of cloudy skies. Without the clouds, the sun loses its power; without hunger, food couldn't taste as good as it does after a long day's fast; without having felt alone, how could we ever fully appreciate what it means to be loved? The point is that when we were all in God's presence, everything was perfect, and no one but God could know what that perfection truly meant.

We had never felt anything but love; we had never seen anything but light; we had never wanted for anything at all, and thus our ability to fully appreciate what was in front of us was drastically diminished. So one reason for creating the world was to give us a theater wherein we could experience everything, the full range of action and emotion, a corporeal world wherein we are supplied a body, given a relatively small amount of time to run around, and granted the boundless ability to do whatever we want.

That leads me to my second point: free will. Let's think about this in the frame of a real world example - how would you like to find your soul mate, that one other person in the world that is absolutely perfect for you? Would you rather a) grow up on a deserted island with one other person and just always know that they were the one, or b) go through life constantly searching, and have good relationships and bad relationships and crazy experiences that you never saw coming and then one day, through a crowd, catch the eye of that one special person and know in a heartbeat that you have just found the man or woman that you are going to love for the rest of your life? If I haven't already given it away, my choice is b, and the logic between this reason and my first one about opposites is the same. How can one be right if they've never been wrong? How do you have courage or honor if there's never cowardice or shame? How can men consider their actions to be moral if they could never be anything but? In order for us to be anything more than automatons, God had to grant us free will, and in order to give us that free will, He had to create a world where He was not necessarily present (i.e. present out of necessity). And so He created Earth, and gave men (or more probably their souls) the ability to come live in this finite, corporeal, free realm.

And so we came, and we live, and we make decisions everyday that God does not control. Some of those decisions are bad ones, and men, not God, are responsible for them. God created the canvas and the paint and the brushes, but we are the artists of this world, and what we make of it is our own doing. So that accounts for man-made evil, but what about the natural stuff? What about hurricanes and tornados and forest fires that kill innocent people? I would respond that these are simply rules of the game we are playing: in order for our world to be cogent and logical, God could not reverse weather patterns or smother lightning sparked blazes because then He would ostensibly be cheating on our behalf, and he would be cheating us out of the soul-enriching nature of this earth. There's no question about it, we are roughing it out here, and this is as bad as it gets (Hell is an entirely illogical proposition, and I'd be more than happy to tackle that one later), but that danger and achievement and survival we secure for ourselves every single day is all part of what life is about.

Now I can already predict that somebody is going to call me out for being a wuss on this topic. "Sure," my potential critic will say, "forest fires and people being mean are easy. But what about babies that die for no reason? What about rape and torture and all the really bad stuff?" Well, it exists, and I don't know if I can perfectly describe the reason, but I'll try. Without experiencing the loss of a child, how can you ever appreciate forever holding one in your arms:; without being burned by a fire, how can one cherish the soothing balm of God's touch?; without seeing the very worst of man, how can you ever truly comprehend the perfect one? I have no doubt that God has tears roll down His face every single day, but He allows it and He remains in his heavenly realm not for His benefit, but for our own. In the infinity of space and time, this world is but a speck, and so for us to take a millisecond in order to gain perspective on the lord and the perfect reality we will be spending the rest of eternity with is time well spent. Evil exists so that we may experience it and learn from it and grow closer to God. God loves us always and forver, and He always will
Debate Round No. 1
Devils_Advocate

Con

Hi bookworld, and thank you for taking on this debate.

I purposely didn't use the word "God", my argument isn't necessarily theological, but it usually turns out that way. So for shorthand sake, and since you are using "God" in your argument, I will also use "God" interchangeably with "a being that is omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent."

You say:<>

My initial claim for debate explicitly excludes "free-will" induced suffering. Much of the beginning of your argument discusses free-will and its relationship to the existence of evil, and although interesting, I will move on to debate your later paragraphs regarding natural caused suffering. Even if I grant the "free-will" rationale you put forward, we still have the contradiction of natural caused suffering and the 3-O God.

You say: <>

The problem with this argument is that you are denying God the quality of "omnipotence." [Omnipotent means all-powerful: there is nothing that an omnipotent being cannot do, an omnipotent being has no limitations.] God could have created a reality in which these dangerous natural events do not exist. I'm not sure what you mean by "soul-enriching nature"... but that is irrelevant. An omnipotent being has the ability to provide both a "soul-enriching" experience AND a state of non-suffering caused by natural events. To deny that this is true is to deny the omnipotence of God.

Any statement that begins with: "Yes, but God HAD to do this because..." denies the omnipotence of God. An omnipotent God is not limited to certain decisions.

You say: <>

My mother has never experienced the loss of a child... are you saying that she did not appreciate holding her children in her arms? I don't believe it, you should provide some evidence to back up this claim.

Let me assume to generalize what you are stating: "Humans cannot experience pleasure without knowing what suffering is."

I don't believe this is true. I don't believe that the experience of suffering is somehow integrated into the concept of pleasure/joy. (Perhaps you really mean "relief" instead of pleasure.) However, for the sake of argument, let's say that I accept your statement as true. Now we are back to the problem of omnipotence again. An omnipotent being, by definition, DOES have the ability to create a reality in which one can indeed experience joy without knowing pain. It would necessarily have the ability to allow someone to appreciate holding a child in one's arms WITHOUT requiring the suffering of experiencing the loss of a child. If you deny this ability of your God to create such a reality, then you are limiting the powers of your God, and thus your God is not omnipotent.

An all-powerful being has the ability to create a reality in which humans do not suffer through natural causes. An all-knowing has the knowledge to use this power. A benevolent being would use the power and knowledge to create a reality in which there is no human suffering via natural causes. And yet, here we are, living in a reality in which humans suffer by natural causes.

Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent being does not exist.
bookworld

Pro

bookworld forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
Devils_Advocate

Con

Since bookworld didn't respond, I think I'll take this round to say a few things about bookworld's discussion of free-will, which is off-topic for this debate.

The precise meaning of free-will is all over the map in many discussions, so it makes debate about it difficult. However, it seems to me that omniscience and free-will do not mesh.

Free-will, from the perspective of an omniscient (all-knowing) being, cannot exist. An omniscient being (let's call it "God", for brevity) knows what I will eat for breakfast tomorrow. For example, God knows that I will eat my Lucky Charms for breakfast tomorrow.

Tomorrow rolls around and I look into my cupboard and see Lucky Charms and Post Blueberry Morning cereals. I think I'm exercising my free-will when I choose Lucky Charms, but really I'm not. It's an illusion of free-will. When I stare at those two cereal boxes, I "have" to choose Lucky Charms, otherwise God was wrong. And God can't be wrong, because Omniscient Beings are not wrong, by definition.

If God exists, we have the illusion of free-will; just like a computer program "thinks" it is making the choices on its own, but really the software programmer knows exactly what the program will do based on the state of the machine.
bookworld

Pro

bookworld forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
Devils_Advocate

Con

Note to self: all debates can be effectively argued in 3 rounds. This one is dragging on forever.

My argument apparently must be more than 100 characters in length.
bookworld

Pro

bookworld forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by longjonsilver 9 years ago
longjonsilver
Wow. Thanks Rob and Devils Advocate. You brought some new and very interesting things that I hadn't thought of before.

Yet another response to Christian sophists.
Posted by freckles14 9 years ago
freckles14
Hm. I basically think that people need to learn to live in the "now" and forget about thinking about what happened millions of years ago. It's pointless and frustrating, since all it has done for us is encourage hate for other people, when we really should just accept what other people think, and just chill out. Not to sound like a hippie or anything.
Posted by Devils_Advocate 9 years ago
Devils_Advocate
<<Omnipotence is self-contradictory>>

If that's true (and I don't hold a firm belief that it is), it would definitely validate my argument! :)
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Same with omniscience, something omniscient would have to know how to change it's mind :D
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 9 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
Omnipotence is self-contradictory, nothing is more powerful than omnipotent but something omnipotent would have to be able to create something more powerful than itself :D.
Posted by Rob 9 years ago
Rob
In the same way, it is perfectly possible to be good without ever having been bad, and the fact that you have a harder time comprehending your goodness does not, in itself, make that goodness any less good.

7. "I would respond that these are simply rules of the game we are playing" - Why? The fact that they are rules of this "game" doesn't _justify_ them. You need to explain why God would create natural evil, would craft the "rules" so as to make suffering unavoidable in this life no matter what we choose.

8. "in order for our world to be cogent and logical," - Another unjustified assumption: why does having a cogent world outweigh having a good world in goodness? You have to show that it is possible for an _omnibenevolent_ being to exist, not an omnilogical being.

Besides, you haven't justified this assumption either: God wrote the rules for this world's natural laws, so he could have simply written them differently, if he is omnipotent, to eliminate weather altogether. (Or, better yet, to make weather entirely a product of people's desires, so as to make all natural evil simply a result of free will.) Why would he not have done so?

9. "and he would be cheating us out of the soul-enriching nature of this earth" - Cheating us out of the most horrific evil and suffering and sorrow imaginable? Wow, what a kind God you're describing. Again, you've brought up free will, so you need to explain why God wouldn't simply give us the option of experiencing or not experiencing that "soul-enriching" torture at our whim. People can't "opt out" of suffering in this life, so your premises contradict reality and must be revised.

10. "Without experiencing the loss of a child, how can you ever appreciate forever holding one in your arms" - Yes.
Posted by Rob 9 years ago
Rob
And most cripplingly of all, people are born ignorant, the victims of their environment: would not a God who respected free will let everyone start with at least a modicum of information, and let people choose the entire course of their lives rather than so often being victims of circumstance and outside forces?

You can't just pick and choose when God likes free will and when he doesn't; if he cares about it with respect to the problem of evil, then he must also care about it with respect to the problem of ignorance: not giving us the freedom to make an informed decision from the start turns our "free will" into a flimsy sham, a show. It's like giving someone the freedom to choose between two doors, without telling them what is behind those doors: it's technically giving them a choice, but not a meaningful one. Likewise, any choice God gives us without letting us fully comprehend what each option entails, is not a true choice at all. In some cases, it's no more than a glorified coin flip, a mockery of free will.

5. "If I haven't already given it away, my choice is b" - Yes, it is. Your choice is b.

... Your choice?

Actually, option a isn't even available to you, is it? No matter how much you might want option a, you simply can't have it. So, why is that, exactly? You say God cares about free will so immensely that he values it above even perfection: yet nobody has the freedom to choose a, even if they wish to. They are forced to choose b. Why? Just because you like b doesn't mean everyone does.

6. "How can one be right if they've never been wrong?" - By being right. You're making the error of confusing "recognizing x" with "being x". It is perfectly possible to be right without ever having been wrong; just because one can't appreciate or understand it as well, doesn't mean that one is any less right for that.
Posted by Rob 9 years ago
Rob
Problems with your counterargument:

1. You point out that one can't fully comprehend light/good without having comprehended darkness/evil. But.. so what? For this to matter, you have to prove that _comprehending_ good is _more_ good than good itself. In other words, you have to show that something with 100% goodness is _worse_ than something with 1% goodness, because somehow the mere ability to recognize that good makes up for all the evil needed to make that possible. Why do you ascribe such crucial importance to the ability to recognize goodness, placing it above goodness itself? And by that logic, isn't God itself imperfect, since he, by your reckoning, lacks the ability to appreciate goodness through contrast?

2. If God was able to "know what that perfection truly meant" even before evil existed, why couldn't anyone else? Remember, we posit that God is omnipotent: if it is _possible_ to comprehend perfection without evil (which you seem to assume it is, since you think God can comprehend it), then God must be able to grant that comprehension without appealing to evil.

3. Consider that you say things like "without hunger, food couldn't taste as good as it does after a long day's fast". But what you should really say is "without hunger, food _wouldn't_ taste as good"--because you haven't shown that the status quo is a necessity. You can conceive of a world where food tastes just as good when you haven't gone hungry, can you not? So, why couldn't God create such a world? More generally: if people require evil to appreciate good, they only have that requirement because God made them with that requirement. If God was unable to make them without that requirement, then is God truly omnipotent?

4. You say we have been "granted the boundless ability to do whatever we want". Yet clearly we have not. People throughout their entire lives find themselves unable to do what they want, find most options closed off to them no matter how hard they try.
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Vote Placed by U.n 1 year ago
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