Thursday, July 14, 2005

Conversations with Angie: The argument from evil assumes the objective reality of evil

Angie,

Before it even makes sense to raise the problem of evil, there first has to really be such a thing as evil. If nothing is evil, then there's nothing to question God for.

It seems obvious to me that there are some thing we question God about and some things we don't. We never say, "Why would a good God allow people to be comfortable and have enough to eat?" The fact that people are comfortable and well-fed never causes us to doubt God's existence. But we DO sometimes say things like, "Why would a good God allow people to starve slowly?" and that DOES raise doubts about God's existence.

I think it would be impossible to make these distinctions unless we had an idea of what good and evil are. We recognize that being well-fed is good and starving is evil, so one observation raises questions about God's goodness, and the other doesn't.

Suppose, though, that our sense of good and evil are relative. Good and evil aren't qualities that are really had by events; rather, they are our own subjective feelings ABOUT those events. In that case, you may look at some event and call it good, and I may look at the same event and call it evil. But neither of us is right since the event itself is neither good nor evil. It's like one person saying hot dogs taste good and another saying hot dogs taste bad. There's no objective truth to the matter. "Good" and "bad" are just subjective preferences. When people say "Hot dogs taste good," they're not talking about hot dogs so much as they're talking about themselves--how they feel about hot dogs.

If that's all good and evil are--just our subjective (or cultural) preferences--then questioning God about them would basically amount to objecting to God on no other grounds than that he seems to disagree with our preferences. But it would have no bearing on God's goodness or God's existence. Why should God be obligated to live consistently with moral values that we've basically just made up?

It seems, then, that it only makes sense to question God's goodness if good and evil are objective realities. If there really is a difference between good and evil that's true whether we know about it or not, then it makes sense to question why a good God would allow evil. So the problem of evil assumes that good and evil exist as objective realities.

to be continued...

Conversations with Angie:  The incoherence of arguments from evil

5 Comments:

At 7/14/2005 5:02 AM , Blogger Steve said...

"Evil" is a religious concept to begin with. In a world of scientific explanations, evil has no meaning, and "right" and "wrong" are relative. Evil implies some larger scheme of morality which is religious in nature. To me, Evil implies God because it refers to some larger picture.

Secondly, I would extend your reasoning to say that good and evil are not necessarily objective realities from Gods perspective, even if they are from our perspective, because He is all things. Things which appear absolute in our sense may be relative in His sense. Satan and his ways are evil to humanity, but necessary from Gods perspective. Of course, one finds it difficult to understand the necessity of child molestation, or rape, so it does challenge ones assumptions about right and wrong, and what God stands for in the Universe.

 
At 7/14/2005 10:51 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve,

If "Evil implies God," as you say, then how can evil be an argument against God? If "right" and "wrong" are relative, then why raise the problem of evil?

Sam

 
At 7/15/2005 5:38 AM , Blogger Steve said...

In my admittedly amateur opinion, evil does imply god, and i agree with you, i do not think it disproves god.

It does, perhaps, disprove that there is a kind and benevolent God.

However, I think this is really a semantical debate, since I aknowledge the presence of terrible acts may disprove God, just not evil acts. (Perhaps the source of the difference in what we are saying).

"Evil" has a moral tone which is related so much to Satan and God that I think one cannot really say that something is universally wrong, across space and time, such as evil is, without admitting there is a higher power.

 
At 7/15/2005 9:19 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Evil can't prove or disprove anything if there is no evil in the objective sense, because then there would be no evil to do the proving or disproving.

Whether evil disproves a kind and benevolent God is something I'm going to address in another blog on Monday or Tuesday.

Sam

 
At 7/15/2005 3:41 PM , Blogger Steve said...

I agree!

From my perspective, evil does not exist.

 

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