God: Can the God of the Bible Exist?
You are reading God: Can the God of the Bible Exist? by Steve McRoberts
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Chapter 2: Excuses for God's Existence in the Face of Evil

Christians maintain that their god is all-powerful and all-good in the face of apparent evil in the world.  How can this be?

Here are four answers which theologians have put forth:

1. The "evil" in the world is necessary for the greater good.

2. Evil exists because humans have free-will and freely chose evil over good.  

3. Evil is permitted to demonstrate how bad life is when humans don't yield to god's rule over them.

4. There is no evil in the world; this is the best of all possible worlds.

We will examine these "answers" one at a time.

1. The "evil" in the world is necessary for the greater good.

The Rationale of this argument: We experience pain from getting a shot from a hypodermic needle.   But, if that shot inoculates us against a deadly disease, then the momentary "evil" from the pain of the shot is more than compensated for by the good which results.   So, too, all "evil" in the world is actually necessary for a greater good to be accomplished.

This argument falls apart as soon as we pick up a history book or today's newspaper.

While individual instances of "evil" may result in greater good, this argument demands that this be true for all evil always (unless God doesn't exist sometimes.)

Have there ever been instances of evil which did not result in a greater good?

On September 1, 1942, a German Shepherd licked the face of a baby.   That baby happened to be Jewish.   The owner of the dog was an SS guard.   The location of the incident was the Treblinka concentration camp.   Thinking that his dog had shown a sign of affection to a Jew, the guard gave the dog a savage beating.   Then the guard trampled the baby to death.

The above was just one of millions of acts of unspeakable cruelty and murder which occurred during the Holocaust.

In 1918 the Spanish Influenza killed 20 million people. Then, just as mysteriously as it appeared, it went away.   We never learned its cause or its cure.

Today, approximately 20,000 children will die.   The majority of these children will die from one of the most agonizing deaths imaginable: starvation.
What "greater good" resulted from the above samples of evil?   What "greater good" results from a child contracting leukemia, or from a baby being born with AIDS?

Even if it could somehow be successfully argued that greater good did result from the above incidents, what sort of a person would accept this "greater good" on these terms?   What sort of god would build them into his "divine plan"?

Let's say some devil appeared to you and made you an offer: everlasting life, floating in the clouds and blissfully strumming a harp in exchange for one child's slow and agonizing death by leukemia.   Assuming you believed this devil was fully capable of delivering on his promise, and was inextricably bound by the terms of the agreement, would you go for it?   If you answered Yes, there is no point in your continuing to read this book; you are beyond hope.

If you answered No to the above question, then you understand the immorality of such a bargain.   Why then should we assume that such an offer is moral just because it is believed to have come from a "god" instead of a "devil"?

It may be that from a theologian's ivory tower such a bargain makes sense: permit evil in order that good may result.   It may sound great on paper, but we see just how repulsive such an argument is the moment we stare real flesh-and-blood evil in the face.

You see a man beating a second man, and you ask him why.  

"He will feel so good when I stop," he replies.  

If we call the first man "God," it doesn't make the scene any less absurd.

Why would an almighty being have to stoop to evil in order to bring about good?   Why couldn't such a being just bring about good to begin with?   If God created everything, including the laws of nature, then he could've chosen to create a universe in which evil was unnecessary. He could've created a universe in which good begat good.

In fact, we see that good does beget good far more often than evil begets good.   One could say that evil begetting good is the rare exception to the rule.   This means that evil is not necessary to bring about good, and so this argument is baseless.

2. Evil exists because humans have free will and freely chose evil over good.  

The Rationale of this argument: God did not create evil, nor did he intend humankind to suffer from evil.   But God gave humans freewill, and humans chose evil.   God is not to blame for the evil in the world, nor is he responsible for it; we are.

The Failure of this Argument: I didn't choose evil. Did you?

This argument fails because most sane people do not choose evil.   Most people would prefer the world to be at peace, and to see an end to starvation and disease.

These are also the things many people pray for: peace and an end to suffering.   So, are we to picture all of these supplicants meeting up with a god who stubbornly turns a deaf ear and says, "No, no; you chose evil, so that's what you're going to get.   I wash my hands of the whole affair"?

Christian theology holds that evil exists because the first man and woman disobeyed God.   But, since there were no theologians around to witness this event, how do we know that it occurred?   Because it says so in the Bible?   I have given abundant evidence in my previous book (Can the Bible be God's Word?), that the Bible cannot be trusted as a source of truth about anything.

Even so, let's take a look at the Biblical story for a moment.   After Adam and Eve ate the "forbidden fruit" from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil", we read:
Gen:3:22: And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
Gen:3:23: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.

This means that Adam and Eve were not "as one of us, to know good and evil" prior to having eaten the fruit from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

Since Adam and Eve did not know the difference between good and evil at the time that they "disobeyed God," then they did not know that it was evil to disobey God: they didn't know that it was wrong.

When someone does not know the difference between right and wrong, our courts of justice do not hold them accountable for their actions.

Are we to expect less justice from the "God of justice and righteousness"?   Of course not.   Therefore, God would not have punished Adam and Eve.

If it wouldn't have been fair to punish Adam and Eve for their disobedience, how much less fair would it be to punish you and I for their disobedience?   Elsewhere in the Bible, it states that God will not punish children for their parents' sin:
Ezek:18:20: The soul that sinneth, it shall die.   The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.

Yet, punishing the descendants for their ancestors' sin is what Christianity is based upon: "Original Sin."   It is the rationale for the sacrificial death of Jesus.   It is the reason Christians claim that we all have to be "saved": they assure us that the God of justice intends to punish us all unless we believe that God killed his son in order to forgive us for something we didn't do!

I tried to come up with an analogy for this, but it is difficult to dream up anything that is anywhere near as ludicrous without stretching one's credulity to the breaking point.   So bear with me:

Let's say that during the Salem witch trials, your great-great-great-great grandmother was accused of being a witch, found guilty, and executed   (despite the fact that the guilty verdict was based solely on the word of two hysterical teenage girls who later were discovered to have perjured themselves).   From that day to this, each generation of your family has been punished for being the descendents of a witch.   Unable to get decent employment, your family has lived in poverty and misery.   At a certain age every member of your family has been sent to prison simply for the "crime" of having been born into your family.

But, I have some "good news" for you: there is hope for you!   A hundred years ago, the then president of the United States, out of the goodness of his heart, decided to provide a way to forgive you.   He sent his only son out to be killed.   Now, all you have to do is believe that the death of the president's son absolves you of the crime of having been born into your family, and you will not have to go to prison!

If the above seems absurd to you, just remember that it is simply Christianity with the supernatural element removed.   This is the sort of nonsense we are expected to believe in order to reconcile an all-good God with the existence of evil.

What does it mean to say that evil exists because people have chosen evil?   If a man chooses a life of crime, then his criminal actions are an evil (to others).   This would account for evil committed by humans.   However, it does not account for the evil that is not committed by humans.  

When a tornado tears through a town, killing young children, it is not because any human chose evil.   When disease kills young children, it is not because any human chose evil.   So, why do tornados and diseases exist?   Why would a God of love create such things?   Since no human action causes such things, we cannot account for them by human freewill. An all-good God would not have created such things, and an all-powerful God would not allow them to hurt the innocent.   Since such things exist and since such things harm the innocent, it follows that an all-good all-powerful God does not exist.

But let us consider human-chosen evil one last time.

Let's say that I am a muscle-bound bodyguard, licensed to carry a gun, and trained in the martial arts.   Okay, so I'm stretching your credulity again, but for the purposes of this analogy I'm one bad dude you don't want to mess with.   Let's say that I also have an exceptionally high moral standard.

One day I'm strolling down the street when I see an overweight middle-aged man abduct a young girl.   He is not armed, and it takes all his strength to cover her mouth and drag her -- as she struggles -- into an alley.   I follow them and watch.   I have my gun in my holster, and I could easily overpower this man. But, instead of doing anything I stand and watch as he rapes her and then murders her and then runs away.   Then I just walk away.   I don't get help, I don't report it, I just walk away.

Is there something wrong with the above scenario?   Either I lied about my physical prowess, or I lied about having a "high moral standard."   What sort of a person could just stand and watch such evil taking place before their eyes without lifting a finger to help (when they had it in their power to help)?   What would you call such a person?   Evil? Sub-human?   Morally degenerate?   Insane?   Could you even find words foul enough to describe your anger at such a monster?

That is the type of person the theologians expect us to believe the all-seeing all-powerful God is.

3. Evil is permitted to demonstrate how bad life is when humans don't yield to god's rule over them.

Satan challenged God to prove that humans loved him for himself rather than for the nice things God did for them.   God responded by allowing Satan to rule over the earth for a time.   We are still in this time where Satan is ruling.   Satan's rule leads to the evil in the world. In the future, evil will cease when God appoints his son as king and deposes Satan.

On what basis do we know such things?

This is one specific interpretation of the Bible.   Since we have already proven that the Bible is not a source of truth, there is no valid basis for this argument.

No one knows more about the unknowable than anyone else. No one could possibly know the details this argument assumes.

But does the argument even make sense?   Does God's supposed response to the challenge seem appropriate or "loving"?

Let's say we live in a kingdom which has a very popular king.   All the people love him, and the kingdom prospers under his wise leadership.   But one jealous subject challenges him, claiming that the king is not really loved by his people.   What do you suppose such a wise king would do?   Abdicate the throne to the jealous rival and abandon his people to the whims of this man?   That would not be the action of a wise and loving king.
A theologian desperately attempting to prove his religion may grasp at such straws and claim that any feasible justification for God's permission of evil proves that God exists.   But reasonable people will not swallow lies while calling them truth.   The fact that some sort of explanation is possible does not make the explanation probable or even palatable.   

4. There is no evil in the world; this is the best of all possible worlds.

The Rationale of this argument : The world is as perfect a world as there can be.   Either "Evil" is just a word men have invented and mistakenly apply to events that interfere with their own selfish desires, or it is simply impossible to create a world without evil in it.

The Failure of this Argument : We can easily imagine a better world.   In our minds, we can easily design a world without tornados, earthquakes, or disease.   We can easily imagine a world in which no poverty exists, there are no birth defects, and men do not solve their differences by means of guns or bombs.

People who have imagined these things have been able to bring about improvements through their hard work.   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for instance, made great strides in reducing the amount of racial prejudice in America.   To say that the world was already "perfect" would mean that Dr. King did not really accomplish anything (how could he improve something that was already perfect?)

The fact that the world can be improved means that the world is not perfect.

If ordinary mortals such as Dr. King can make the world a better place, why can't the Almighty God?   Or, better yet: why didn't God make it better in the first place?

It is not "selfish" to dream of a world without hunger, war, or birth defects, or where children do not suffer from leukemia.   Such a world would be better than ours, so our world is not "the best of all possible worlds."

Theologians may respond that this is the best world it is possible for God to make, and that our well-being may not be his top priority. If that's true, then why do these same theologians encourage us to pray for children suffering from leukemia?   Why pray at all if God is incapable of making the world any better?   Of what use is such a God to us?   It seems our time would be better spent up off our knees searching for the cause and prevention of the diseases God created.

What would you think of me if I told you that I neglect my dog?  

"I'm busy with other more important matters," I explain, "I'm a very important person, and my dog is not my top priority."  

What if you found out that I had left my dog alone at home for over a week without enough food or water?   Perhaps you would say something like the following:

"The dog may not be his top priority, but he should at least take proper care of it.   There's no reason to neglect it like that.   He can have other more important things to worry about and still provide minimal care for the dog he's responsible for.   There's no excuse to let the poor thing suffer.   If he can't take better care of it, he should never have gotten a dog in the first place!"

To imagine that God doesn't have time for us -- because he has other more pressing priorities -- is to limit God's power.   If he is all-powerful, humankind could be a lesser priority and still receive adequate attention from him.   Just as I could attend my "important meetings" and still find time to keep evil from befalling my dog if I had any sense of moral responsibility.  

The alternative would be to say that God is not able to do two things at once (a skill most mere mortals possess.)   This would deny God's omnipotence.

If he were all-knowing, then God would've known ahead of time that he wouldn't have time for us and that we would suffer evil from his neglect.   So if God were all-good ("omnibenevolent") he never should've created us in the first place (just as I should never have gotten a dog in the first place if I don't have time to take care of it properly.)  

On the other hand, if God has the power to give us adequate attention, but doesn't care to, then he is not all-good.
Remember that this argument is an attempt to reconcile God's omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence with the existence of evil. But, in the process it denies God's omnipotence and/or his omnibenevolence and/or his omniscience!   So, any way you look at it, the argument self-destructs.


Theologians may dream up all sorts of inventive excuses to try and resolve the contradiction between the existence of an all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing God and the existence of evil.   They claim that their job is done at that point.   But is it?  

It is true that any explanation resolves the logical conflict (as long as the explanation does not contain a contradiction.) But does that mean that the explanation is true?   Hardly.   Something can be perfectly logical and perfectly false.  

I could dream up some excuse for Widget not making it rain when I asked him to (you'll recall that I claimed that Widget would always do whatever I asked).   I could say:

"There is asking, and then there is asking.   Widget reads my heart and knows what I really need to ask.   So he may ignore my words when they conflict with my heart."

Following the theologian's line of reasoning, we should now believe in Widget since we have just resolved the logical conflict.   But is this reasonable?  

You will recall that the rain test was performed in order to prove whether or not Widget existed.   However, even had the test succeeded it could not prove that Widget existed (it might've rained due to natural causes rather than by Widget's command.) All the test could really do was disprove the existence of Widget (as I defined him) if it failed to rain.

Since the rain test failed, the existence of Widget would seem to be disproved.   If I now ask you to accept a further attribute of Widget (namely that he "reads my heart") it cannot possibly prove Widget's existence.   All I have done is ask you to accept another attribute of Widget on faith.   I have taken two steps backwards while asking you to believe that we have taken a giant step and a leap forward.

When theologians dream up excuses for the existence of God in the face of evil, their job may be done, but ours is not.   We must examine the excuses to see whether they are logical and reasonable, and whether they correlate with our experience of the known world.  

If in resolving the contradictions and allowing our beliefs to pass the tests of logic we have had to swallow enormously ludicrous fantasies, then we haven't shown our belief to be any more reasonable than a belief in the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

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