Is the moral objection to the existence of God valid?

A couple of things before we begin. I am a practical agnostic and a practical atheist, so I’m not about to argue in favor of any deity existing (not even Athena). But nor is it my intention, at least at this juncture, to argue the contrary. My dislike of rhetorical questions is unabated; I phrased the thread title as a question because I am hoping for a response. Okay?

Anyhow, here is what I am thinking. There are many reasons not to believe in God: the dearth of evidence for such a being, the logical contradictions inherent in an omnimax* being, and so on. But the moral objection-- the idea that if God existed, evils such as the Holocaust, the civil war in Rwanda, the earthquake in Haiti, et cetera – strikes me as flawed. All those things certainly weigh against a benovelent, New-Testatment-type creator existing, but not against ANY creator.

Cann anyway argue that the contrary? If so, I’d be pleased to hear it.

There are plenty of hypothetical gods that are consistent with the existence of evil:
The Problem of Evil is a useful argument against the type of god usually put forward by the Abrahamic religions – a benevolent omnipotent being that takes an active interest in the world. It’s not a useful argument against gods in general.

Ah, but disclaimers to the contrary, very few people are actually arguing for some sort of generic creator. They want God. Omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient. Generic versions of “God” that aren’t benevolent (or lack other popular divine qualities) almost never show up except as an argument against skeptics; and are rare even then, usually the “mere mortals can’t understand God’s morality” argument is preferred.

Plenty of arguments against “God” work this way; they aren’t arguments against all conceivable versions of God, but against the ones people actually believe in because those are the only versions that actually matter.

There’s no reason to believe that a Supreme Being would have be compatible with human standards of morality.

I agree exactly with this, and I’ve said so before in debates: I find Lovecraftian deities much more plausible than the god of Jesus, because I can understand how our world is compatible with Nyarolathotep, but not how it’s compatible with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent god.

That’s not to say that it’s absolutely incompatible: for all I know, the Lord really does work in mysterious ways not mine to know. But if they’re not mine to know, neither are they yours (you being the generic Christian), so I see no reason to posit that this mysterious God is benevolent, and some pretty good reasons to posit one of the alternatives to a benevolent God.


And I gave up years ago trying to argue the point as it relates to other conceptions of god/desses in threads around here, because all the atheists are interested in is shouting down is the Abrahamic omniomni god.

BUT, I don’t know that it’s entirely out of place in the Abrahamic religions, either. The best tool I’ve been able to use to grok their god and reconcile him with the existence of evil is that Free Will thing, which goes hand in hand with their vision of him as the ultimate parent figure. I love my kids, but I let them have free will, and that means that sometimes they make choices that hurt them, hurt those they love, hurt total strangers and, yes, hurt me. Allow humans free will, and they’ll sometimes destroy one another, begin fascist regimes, build houses in flood zones, etc. The only “evil” this doesn’t account for is disease, but that’s where the “mysterious ways” or “life lessons” or “suffering as martyrdom” concepts come in.

I don’t think that makes sense, though. I have a daughter who I love, but I can’t shape her heart. God supposedly shaped my heart (and my adrenal gland, and my gonads, and my brain, etc.)

If I were to shape my daughter, from a position of omnipotence, I’d do some things differently. For example, I’d make her totally immune to diseases, or at least immune until the age of six, probably til the age of 18. I’d give her instant healing powers. I’d remove the pain of teething.

And if I were to shape her heart, I’d also do things differently. I wouldn’t give her self-destructive impulses, and I wouldn’t give her irrational fears (she recently decided the book Skippyjon Jones is terrifying), and I wouldn’t give her a long memory of accidental slights.

I love her dearly, of course, with all her wonderful weirdness. But I could take away the self-destructive impulses, and the irrational fears, and the ability to hold a grudge, without taking away her free will (stipulating that the idea of free will is logically coherent, something I dispute in other circumstances).

Because, as Der Trihs has pointed out, that’s the conception of god most believers bring to the argument.

I promise not to mention the PoE the next time a pagan is witnessing in GD.

Human parents don’t have the luxury of omnipotence. I sometimes make my children temporarily unhappy or let them suffer minor negative consequences because it seems to be the best way to prevent greater unhappiness or more severe negative consequences in the future. But if I had the power teach them to be happy and responsible adults without ever causing them a moment’s pain or distress, I would do so.

A father who repeatedly spanks his kids when he doesn’t have to isn’t “the ultimate parent figure”. He’s just a sadist.

And yet, the New Testament itself, though it wasn’t aware of those particular examples, certainly is aware of the existence of evil, suffering, and persecution, but it still affirms the existence of a “New-Testament-type creator.”

Labels often become meaningless because people like to give their own connotations to terms, which are seldom shared with anyone else.

What does “practical” agnostic or atheist mean? Are there “theoretical” agnostics too?

It’s simple: If you would accept the existence of a supernatural being under any circumstances then you’re a theist. If you don’t you’re an atheist. Agnostics are theists even though they don’t explicitly support the existence of a god. They implicitly do.

There can’t be a moral objection regarding questions of existence. Morality is a code of behavior within a social group or society in general. Questions of existence are factual not preferential or circumstantial.

Since there is no god, there is no evil either. Evil presumes a supernatural entity that is directing, causing or benefiting from violent or anti-social acts. It’s the opposite of a benevolent god, therefore a god, therefore Evil is a theistic term.

As a famous biologist has said, that I’m not sure of his name right now, violence and mass death is a common state of being on this planet. Calling a lion evil because it tears a gazelle apart is meaningless. Same thing with human beings. The Catholic Church was blessing and promoting slavery for 1,500 years not because they’re evil, but because they wanted to satisfy their ego and their religious mental disorder of superiority. What people do is of behavioral or psychological interest, not divine.

I think you can look at it one of two ways.

To argue against a benevolent god we must suppose we know what is good for us. Imagine you are a child and your parents won’t let you have candy. Or they make you do your homework and chores. To the child they might think benevolent parents would let them have sweets and play. The child cannot understand that in the bigger scheme her parents are being benevolent making the child do things they view as not good.

Hard to square with the atrocities we see in the world but it may be there is something bigger at work we cannot fathom.

That or god is not benevolent. I cannot attribute outright evil to a god either so I’d say at best god is ambivalent in the extreme. God set things running and then is content to let the chips fall where they may.

FTR I am agnostic. Just pointing out some possibilities. I am not advocating any of them with this post.

The Problem of Evil is not supposed to rebut the existence of any gods at all, only an omimax God. In that regard, yes it works and has never been successfully countered.

The free will defense is a common attempt, but fails miserably for multiple reasons (not the least of which because the entire concept of free will is nonsense).

The POE isn’t supposed to be applicable to those other gods, and never gotten the impression that atheists are any more interested in “shouting down the Abrahamioc God” (whatever that means…how do you shout down something that doesn’t exits?) than any other gods. If you think you’ve got some theistic paradigns that will hold up any better, I’d be quite happy to utterly destroy those arguments as well. I don’t discriminate.

Nonsense. An atheist is one who has not accepted the existence of God or any gods. That there might be some hypothetical set of circumstances in which said atheist might change his mind does not make him a theist, any more than a guy who might, if he met the right woman, get married, ceases to be a bachelor.

Also nonsense. While some non-theists (or liberal religionists) may be vaguely uncomfortable with terms like “evil”, there is no reason why it must be defined in terms of God.

The “mysterious ways” defense. It fails because God is omnipotent and does not require means to ends. Anything he can accomplish with evil, he can accomplish without evil. It is impossible for evil to ever be necessary for an omnimax entity.

I think the problem of evil is a poor argument against the existence of God, but a fine argument against the worship of God. I don’t believe that God exists - Occam’s Razor slits that gentleman’s throat quite neatly, in my view. But if I did, I would be horrified at the suggestion that I should worship the fellow. If he’s the Abrahamic God, then his atrocities are well-documented, with the genocides alone sufficient to earn him a permanent room at the Hague. And even if he’s some other deity, so long as we assume omnipotent, his tolerance of evil is certainly monstrous. (The “free will” argument is nonsense - if I tackle a man before he stabs a passer-by, that’s not an assault upon his will, merely upon his person, and an entirely proper one.)

God, if he existed, would belong in the dock, not in our churches.

This assumes god is trying to “accomplish” something.

Why must that be so?

Maybe god is bored and is playing with its ant farm.

Set up the initial conditions then see what happens. Hands off after that.

See…I wouldn’t. Even if I could. Because, as silly as it sounds, sometimes nothing feels as good as the relief you feel when you stop hitting your head!

That is, I think my daughter would be a very boring, bored person if she never had anything to struggle against, to learn from, to grow with. I just can’t fathom the point of a sanitized, struggle free existence. I really can’t. It’s pain and suffering that makes me love life and joy and laughter and sex and baby toes all the more.

I’ve tried periods of hedonistic “perfection”, or as near to this world comes to it. Long weekends of good food and sex and my favorite books and long hot showers and…I don’t think I could stand it for a month. Seriously. It’s boring. Sooner or later, if nothing else, I’m back on the Dope arguing with you fine fellows. It’s the arguments, the struggle, the mistakes, the failures and the embarrassments that make me feel really alive. And make me enjoy the bliss in between even more.

…And this is now way off topic, isn’t it? Oh well. Suffice it to say that I can understand that sort of god, because it’s a lot like me. I don’t have much interest in worshiping it, but I can understand why it allows us to suffer so that we can exercise Free Will and grow as spiritual beings.

There’s no other way. There’s Nature and then there’s the fantastical entities humans call supernatural. Otherwise there would be an additional level of existence that evil exists in and causes all the bad things in human societies.

There’s only Nature or Reality or the Universe. Anything else is absurd and irrational and making distinctions between deities, good or bad, is useless.

Atheism is only the specific anbsense of belief in theistic entities (“gods”), atheism does not technically preclude any supernatural beliefs at all. You can be an atheist who believes in karma and reincarnation, for instance.

Agnosticism is not a position on the existence of gods, but a position on the evidence. Agnosticism is the position that we have insufficient evidence to determine one way or the other whether gods exist, but that position does not actually preclude either theism or atheism “I know the existence of God can’t be proven, but I believe it” is both an agnostic and theistic.

Incorrect. You can use moral objections when moral characteristics are part of the definition of the entity.

Evil presumes no such thing. “Evil” is a human descriptor for certain kinds of observed behavior and phenomena. There is nothing supernatural about it.

“Good and bad” are perfectly valid descriptors for things that humans commonly have pleasant or averse emotional responses to.