The Problem of Evil (Or The Old Story of How God Loves Him Some Free Will)

Well, this is a post that I’ve been dreading doing for a long time, but I’m going to get something down here if it kills me. Here we go….

So, if there’s a god that really loves us then why is there so much evil in the world? The answer from believers, it seems, is always free will. If god gave us free will then he has to allow for not only good, but also bad. If this freedom weren’t allowed then it would not really be free will.

Fair enough. I understand the argument. What I’d like to do now is show why it’s a weak excuse for a god that allows such massive atrocity and devastation to visit individuals as well as massive groups of people.

It seems that god holds free will in such high regard that he’d rather a woman raped and killed or a child molested than intervene and stop the offender. The rapist is exercising his free will to rape and maim. It wouldn’t be free will if he wasn’t allowed to after all.

What always struck me was that nobody considers the free will of the victim. You know, their desire of not wanting to be raped and fighting back against their attacker? Does this not factor into god’s decision to intervene or not?

Imagine that you’re walking along a city street late at night and you take a turn down an alley. In the alley you see a man attacking a woman and it’s clear that he’s going to attempt to rape her. What would you do? Would you do like god does and just not intervene because you know….free will. He’s exercising his ability to rape. If god holds it in such high regard then maybe you should as well. Or would you help the woman and scare off the attacker?

I hope that any level headed person would attack the attacker or call for help in an attempt to stop the attack. If you agree that you’d stop the attack then I think it’s safe to say that you’ve more moral sense than god. Or maybe you just think you know better than your god?

If you think that god put you there to stop the rape I think you’re scapegoating the issue. If your god really were all powerful he could simply wipe that guy out or remove the sickness from his brain that makes him want to rape. Why would he even allow such an atrocity to take place? So that we can have a measurement of how evil people can be? So we can know good from bad?

There’s 2 good points in the bible where god shows he really doesn’t think so highly of free will after all. The first example is good old Pharaoh.┬áTurn with me if you will to Exodus 9:12:

“But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.” – NIV

This is a story that every kid knows inside and out if you’re raised in the church as I was. What this verse means is that god ultimately acted upon the Pharaoh to get the outcome he desired whether Pharaoh wanted to or not. Then, because god is ultimate justice, he punished the Pharaoh and Egypt for the choices the Pharaoh made that he may not have actually wanted to make. What?!

What justice is this? Would this ever pass in any court? If you were injected with a drug that made you not in control of your own actions, but made you obey the whims of the madman that gave you the drug, would any court punish the victim that was forced the drug? No. You punish the man administering the drug!

To me this is a clear violation of the Pharaoh’s free will followed by the extremely unjust punishment given to him for doing something he was forced to do.

Let’s say I gave you 50 bucks. I told you that it’s your 50 bucks and you can do whatever you want with it, but then I controlled what you did with it. Would it really be your 50 bucks? Or what if I let you spend it where you wanted and then punished you if you didn’t spend it how I saw fit? Would you really have been “free” to do with it what you want? Was it really a gift?

This analogy falls directly in line with god doing one of his most awesome acts of “check out my guns, man!” In case you haven’t guessed it yet I’m talking, of course, about the Great Flood.

God, being unhappy with the choices his creation has made, floods the earth and kills all men, women, children and babies (except for a few people that repopulate the earth through incest….again) because people weren’t doing what he wanted them to with their free will. Does this not seem like a contradiction? God gave us free will and then when we didn’t use it how he liked he killed us off. Stay classy, god!

One of the most outrageous crimes I’ve ever heard was the story of Elisabeth and Josef Fritzl. Josef Fritzl kept his daughter, Elisabeth, locked in the basement for 24 years and raped her almost nightly. She gave birth to 7 kids by him. 24 years?!

Can you imagine how much she cried out to god to help her? Sadly, god again seems only to care for the free will of the attackers or the strong. Does this not seem silly to anyone else?

Now imagine this happy scenario, say that a rape victim loses faith in god because of the horrible trauma they were forced to suffer. They can’t imagine why a god would allow such a thing to happen so they eventually reach the conclusion that there are no gods. She dies years later and goes to hell.

Meanwhile the rapist, having been caught and thrown in jail, finds Jesus and accepts him into his heart. When the rapist dies he goes to heaven.

This, to me, is the ultimate morally revolting idea of Christianity. That it’s not about what you do, but what you believe. The ultimate injustice carried out by a “loving” god that has shown he will intervene in free will, but only if it’s to further his glory.

I guess pedophiles, murderers and rapists are all just part of a larger plan that we’ll never comprehend to bring about some greater glory that we don’t have the mind to understand.

It’s a notion that I’ve gladly wrung my hands of.

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Absolute and Objective Morality – My Response

Since becoming an atheist there’s been a handful of go to arguments for believers to try and show me how wrong I am. Far and away the one that’s most common, and that I’ve grown most weary of discussing, is absolute/objective morality. For the sake of my sanity I’m writing my response to that argument here.

Objective morality is the idea that certain systems of ethics or moral judgements are not just true according to subjective opinion, but factually true. People that think along this way would say that murder is wrong in the same way that 1 + 1 = 2.

The theist argument goes like this: If objective morality exists it has to come from a god. Objective morality does exist, therefore god exists.

Please note that the theist can’t do anything more than assert that objective morality exists. They can’t point to it or go to it for reference. It’s a feeling they have. A very subjective feeling as it seems that not everyone agrees that murder or rape is wrong.

They then almost always go on to tell me that if there’s no objective morality then what’s stopping us from raping and killing anyone and everyone? If there’s no absolute truths then why live morally at all?

What a sad way to view the value of human life.

So, you’re telling me the only thing keeping you from raping and killing people like Ted Bundy is because you believe in the god that authored an ancient text that damns people to hell? The same god that condones slavery and genocide and you dare to say you have a moral high ground? Do people not see a contradiction here?

Some non-believers argue for the existence of objective morality, but that it’s not given by a god. That science can tell us what is objectively moral. I don’t particularly agree with that point either, but my contention may be more of a case of semantics than anything else.

The only morality I believe in is subjective morality. I do believe that there can be an agreed upon “best fit” in terms of morality for a society. You could even argue that the best fit is objective morality, but I wouldn’t take it that far. Even a society where human sacrifice was common practice had a basic understanding of right and wrong.

Subjective morality is what’s allowed us to evaluate current moral standards and move away from them once we realize how immoral they are. Moving away from the barbarism of the bible, like stoning unruly children at the city gates, killing non virgins, killing rape victims, owning slaves and even killing people of different religions, has taken a subjective viewpoint.

Is god moral because he does things that are good or is he moral because he’s god and anything he commands, by nature, is good (Divine Command Theory)?

If god gives us the source of this objective morality then why would he himself allow something like child rape to happen? Does he let kids get raped so that we have a standard by which to say it’s wrong? If god does this then is he worthy of worship and why would you accept a moral code given by a provably immoral being?

If the world received proof tomorrow that god doesn’t exist would you then conclude that the rape of children is morally acceptable?

If god gives us morality how do we know this code is actually moral? If god tells you that child rape is wrong how do you know he’s correct? Or do you admit that you don’t know and that you’re just following what god says? If so, then by your own admission, god hasn’t given you moral standards by which to comprehend right from wrong. He’s just given you a list of rules to obey without any understanding being necessary. What’s so moral about obedience?

People will usually bring up how the Problem of Evil exists because god gave us free will to choose to love him or not. You can’t have free will without the potential of evil. I’ll save my problem of evil response for another post, but for now I’ll say that god has shown he’ll intervene in free will as he did when he hardened the pharaoh’s heart. So, to the god of christians at least, he’s proven to step in and change a man’s mind against the man’s will.

My point is that if christians argue for the existence and following of an objective moral code from their god, that they really don’t have a concept of what morality is.

If believers really think that if there’s no objective moral truths, that we should all just rape and kill then, by all means, give it a go! See how long you last in a world where people have decided that rape and murder deserves imprisonment or death in return.

The truth of the matter is that evolution has bred in us traits of altruism and cooperation. The societies where these tendencies were more prevalent would’ve been more likely to survive not only the elements, but against other groups that were hostile.

If objective morality really exists how come it seems that so many people didn’t get the memo? The Nazi soldiers (Godwin’s Law just entered the post) felt they were in the right when pushing Jews into the showers to be gassed. The things that people claim to be objective usually coincide with what they feel subjectively to be true.

And finally, if you insist on the existence of objective morality how do you determine it’s actually your god that gave it? How do you separate your god from the thousands of others, both living and dead, that have existed?

When people ask me how I determine what’s moral my response is about as simple as it gets. I ask myself, “is what I’m about to do going to help or harm anyone?” If there’s a possibility of harm coming to a conscious creature (humans) then it’s probably not moral and shouldn’t be done.

It’s really as simple as that.

The Suffering of Children

Every few weeks I’ll run across a heart breaking story like this 2 year old boy with only weeks to live.

The family, in order to celebrate his life, is moving their wedding date forward so that Logan can be the best man.

Is there anything more emotionally devastating than seeing terminally ill children dying or afflicted like this? Not to me.

A staggering 9 million children die every year before the age of 5. How can anyone reasonably argue that there’s a god that cares for them with suffering of this magnitude?

Even when I believed I was still struck with the impotence of god in these matters. People would always tell me about the Age of Accountability. That these kids would go to heaven because they died too young to realize what god did for them and to accept him in their hearts. Unfortunately, the bible isn’t very clear on this matter. All we have is conjecture not unlike most of how people interpret the bible.

What a sad way to make ourselves feel better at the suffering visiting these families and children. A way for us to be okay with a god that seems to have no regard for what should be the most precious of his creation.

Makes me sick to my stomach.