• rickyk95
    40
    I was speaking with a theist friend of mine the other day, and he found an interesting way to counter the problem of evil. His arguement went:

    Since God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, onle he knows why things happen. Despite the fact that you, or me, as mortal humans might witness many seemingly evil things happen, we just see it that way because we do not have enough perspective towards the future, in reality those seemingly evil acts will turn out to have been good in the future, we just dont know it yet, only God knows it.

    This line of argument seems logically coherent, but I knew there was something fishy about it. So I decided to turn the problem of evil on its head, with the following thought experiment:

    Suppose Im parting from the premise that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-malevolent. With all the evil and suffering that we see in the world, it doesnt seem like such a crazy conclusion. I am, however, confronted with a certain amount of good things that go on in the world, which presents an obstacle to the existence of an all evil, all powerful, and all knowing God. I then proceed to say, that since God is omniscient, only he really knows what effect these "good" events will have in the future. In reality, all these seemingly good things that are happening just look good to us, because we dont have his perspective towards the future, in reality, these good deeds will further down the line, end up bringing the greatest amount of suffering possible.

    It seems to be that if I can justify an all evil, all knowing, and all powerful God with the same line of argument my friend used, then there must be something wrong with it.

    What is it?

    Is there some flaw in my thought experiment?

    Please enlighten me
  • aletheist
    771
    The existence of evil is insufficient to disprove the reality of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God. However, by itself, this does not justify the belief that there is such a God.

    Likewise, the existence of good is insufficient to disprove the reality of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnimalevolent God. Again, by itself, this does not justify the belief that there is such a God.
  • darthbarracuda
    2.9k
    Like aletheist said, philosophical arguments for/against the existence of God are almost always insufficient to prove God (does not) exist. They're more like indicators of his existence, or lack thereof. Jumble enough of these arguments together and you're bound to fall on to one side of the board.

    Anyway I think it is an interesting counter-argument, although I'm not entirely sure if it works:

    If an omnibenevolent God exists, one wonders why he allows evil to exist. This might be defended by a number of means, like appeals to free will, appeals to divine compensation after death, etc. Theodicies.

    If an omnimalevolent God exists, one wonders why he allows good to exist. How can this be defended?

    The trouble is that I can imagine a universe that is better and worse than the universe I live in. Theodicies try to explain why the universe is not better than it could be. I see no method of doing so for an omnimalevolent God and explaining why the universe is not as bad as it possibly could be. Theodicies defend an omnibenevolent God against the problem of evil, while there doesn't seem to be any defense of an omnimalevolent God against evil. An omnimalevolent God would not care about free will, or divine compensation, or any of that. Why would he wait to inflict pain and suffering and evil? Why not do it now, and forever?

    Now, of course, we could see God as a wrathful, vengeful, or manipulative trickster who takes pleasure in other people's pain but likes to watch the story unfold for dramatic affect. This is surely an evil God but not an omni-malevolent God, who would instead inflict evil upon the world for the sake of inflicting evil upon the world.
  • unenlightened
    2.6k
    His argument...rickyk95
    ... is indeed a weak one, that works just as well backwards as forwards.

    Try instead the argument from freedom.

    Moral good (distinguished from aesthetic good, perhaps) only arises from moral freedom. One is not morally good if one cannot do otherwise. Therefore the possibility of evil is necessary to moral good.

    As to God, an evil god must be endured if such is the case, but has no impact that I can see on morality or religion. If the Arsehole is in charge, one must do the best one can, which will be little enough. In this sense, faith in a good god is more of a declaration of allegiance than a declaration of fact. Similarly, to say "I believe in justice" is not to claim that justice invariably prevails but that I will that it should prevail.
  • andrewk
    1.5k
    You may be pleased to know that at least one academic philosopher sees this as a serious argument:

    Stephen Law's 'Evil God' challenge
  • Bitter Crank
    6.3k
    Good things happening to bad people (perhaps) jar's people's trust in God to do the right thing more than bad things happening to good people.

    there was something fishy about itrickyk95

    There is something fishy about all arguments concerning the existence or nature of God.
  • Chany
    351


    I do think you might have an interesting point. Your argument might work if it is further developed as a way to make some theists drop the type of counterargument you presented without further explanation on part of the theist.

    However, two issues:

    1) It appears, intuitively, easier to imagine how things could have been worse then better. It is very easy to create plans that involve the entire population of earth that make things horrible. It is much harder to create a plan that turns out good.

    2) The skeptical theist can accept that both criticisms are valid. Remember that the problem of evil is a positive argument against the existence of God. One only needs to provide a defense against the argument. It needs to show the problem is evil argument, however formulated, is somehow invalid or unsound. The skeptical theist presenting the skeptical response probably has other reasons to believe God exists, so any potential explantion or way to get around the argument without creating problems for their beliefs are fine, including accepting the argument you presented.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k
    Suppose Im parting from the premise that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-malevolent.

    Augustine and, Aquinas more specifically, thought that evil is a privation, not just the absence of good but the deprivation of good, G creation is good. They also thought along with the Bible that man's ability to see what G's plan is is not possible. G asks Job, where the hell were you when I put this all together, G sees all that is, was and will be, we don't know how evil events may fit into his plan.

    If the essence of G is perfection, perfect power, perfect knowledge, perfect evil (?). I wonder if perfect evil is logically possible. Is perfect evil a coherent possibility, or does the idea fail. If the essence of evil is imperfection itself, then the notion of perfect evil fails itself. Aquinas quotes Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethic "Therefore, the Philosopher says (Ethic. iv, 5) that "if the wholly evil could be, it would destroy itself"
  • Cabbage Farmer
    165
    It seems to be that if I can justify an all evil, all knowing, and all powerful God with the same line of argument my friend used, then there must be something wrong with it.rickyk95

    The problem of evil begins from the assumption that God is benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent: Assuming that God is so, how is it possible that evil exists? The task of solving that problem need not involve finding justifications for the assumption that God is so. It need only involve providing an account of what is called evil that is consistent with the assumption that God is so.

    Likewise your problem of good. The problem of good begins from the assumption that God is malevolent, omniscient and omnipotent: Assuming that God is so, how is it possible that good exists? The task of solving that problem need not involve finding justifications for the assumption that God is so. It need only involve providing an account of what is called good that is consistent with the assumption that God is so.

    Accordingly, your solution to the problem of good does not provide any justification for the claim that a malevolent God exists. It only provides (or aims to provide) an account of good that is consistent with the assumption of a malevolent God.
  • Baden
    6.5k


    This is one I came up with myself too a while back. I presumed some philosopher had advanced it, which @andrewk has confirmed. Anyway, the idea that this is the worst possible world and ruled over by an omnimalevolent being is hardly less absurd than its contrary. At least advancing the argument seems a fair riposte to the old panglossian chestnut it subverts.
  • Baden
    6.5k
    (So, like un, I don't consider this a serious position but rather a way to shut up the bourgeois religious freak whose response to the horrors of life is "It'll work out fine in the end. Mine's a cheeseburger.")
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Just playing along...

    Assuming heaven and hell exist, an omnibenevolent god can create hell - for justice. But an omnimalevolent god cannot create heaven - a place of eternal bliss.

    And since such a god can't create heaven he wouldn't be omnipotent. This implying he is lesser than the omnibenevolent, omnisicient, omnipotent god we're familiar with. We already have such an entity - Satan
  • Marchesk
    2.2k
    The existence of evil is insufficient to disprove the reality of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God. However, by itself, this does not justify the belief that there is such a God.aletheist

    Maybe not disprove, since the theist can always appeal to God's mysterious ways and divine perspective being different from ours, but it sure seems like a rationalization to me, not a good justification for evil existing.

    Basically, if people want to believe in an omni-god, then they'll find ways to make the argument work. But it comes across as sophistry to someone who doesn't begin with the premise that such a God must exist.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    I guess you didn't see my post. So, I'm reposting it for you and others who might be interested. I'd really like a comment on what I have to say.

    An omnimalevolent being cannot create heaven - a place of eternal bliss. Therefore it cannot be omnipotent. Therefore it cannot be a GOD, who must be omnipotent.

    The omnibenevolent, omnipotent, omniscient god doesn't face this problem because this god can create everything, including hell - to dispense justice.

    Perhaps my argument is not that good. However, I think it makes sense.
  • Baden
    6.5k


    An omnipotent X has the ability to create any particular thing but isn't obliged to create any particular thing. Absolute malevolence and absolute benevolence weigh equally as logical constraints here.
  • Wosret
    3.2k
    God never claims to be omnibenevolent, but the ultimate cause of all things " I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things" - Isaiah 45:7

    God doesn't claim to be omniscient either : ""Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." - Genesis 22:12

    If you actually read the Bible you'd see that God is a vengeful, judgmental jealous uncompassionate ass. Even in Jesus' head, he pleads with God to forgive everyone, because they don't really understand what they're doing. Moses pleads with God to not just kill all of his peeps for the golden calf thing. People have to be good, and actually ask God for things to happen, otherwise they're implied to just take an uninvolved natural course. Like when someone is going to die, they can pray to have their life extended. One needs to be a holy dude, doing the work of God. God just lets things happen pretty much otherwise, or worse, just would fucking extirpate everything that rubs him the wrong way, without the human prophets giving a case for moderation, and leniency.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    If an omnibenevolent God exists, one wonders why he allows evil to exist.darthbarracuda

    It might be the cost of anything happening. Stuff usually occurs in pairs - up/down, north/south, day/night. And you can't have one without the other - you can't have ONLY mountains, because without valleys, it would be simply a vertical plane. and so on.

    A lot of complaints about God are anticipated by Lewis' book title 'God in the Dock'. They act like the world is this hotel or set of managed apartments, and God is the manager. 'Hey the service is terrible here. The taps are leaking, carpet is mouldy, I WANT TO SEE THE MANAGER'. In other words, unless life is like a perfectly stage-managed spectacle full of happy endings and healthy people, then there must be something the matter with whoever is in charge.
  • Baden
    6.5k


    And there it is, the horribly glib attitude of the bougeois religious in the face of evil. We ask how can an omnibenevolent God preside over, for example, the sexual torture of trafficked children? And cometh the answer: "Meh, day/night; now stop complaining, it's not a hotel around here."
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    Last I heard, sexual trafficking of children was done by persons. As, for that matter, was the Holocaust, and indeed all of the deaths in the Second World War, and all the other wars. Seems to me plain obvious that by far and away the most obvious cause of evil in the world is actually h. sapiens.
  • Baden
    6.5k


    If you think nothing people do is relevant to the problem of evil then that's a novel philosophical position to say the least.
  • Wayfarer
    6.5k
    I simply wonder why the occurence of such evils is regarded as 'theodicy' when in fact they are done by humans.

    Natural evils are things like epidemics, natural calamities, famines, and the like. And they don't seem 'evil' to me either, any more than a landslide is. It seems to me, you can't have a world where nobody dies, nobody gets sick, where there are no carnivous animals and no diseases.

    So in short, I think most or all of the evil that is so freely attributed to deity nowadays, is more likely the work of man.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    An omnipotent X has the ability to create any particular thing but isn't obliged to create any particular thing. Absolute malevolence and absolute benevolence weigh equally as logical constraints here.Baden

    Either the omnimalevolent (let's call it x) being can or cannot create heaven.

    If x can create heaven x can't be omnimalevolent because there is some good in it that allows x to contemplate such a thing as heaven.

    If x can't create heaven then x isn't omnipotent
  • Baden
    6.5k


    Doesn't work. Knowledge of good does not morality constitute. And further, consciousness of ability is not a necessary existential condition thereof.
  • Baden
    6.5k
    (I suppose presuming omniscience makes the second point inapplicable in this case, but the first point is sufficient disproof anyhow).
  • mcdoodle
    995
    It's odd to me that early on in the argument you quote (Law on evil) Law distinguishes 'moral' from 'natural' evil, i.e. human-initiated versus suffering caused by natural forces. Nevertheless he allows both categories to merge in 'gratuitous' evil, which I take to be evil without 'good' reason. This seems a shoddy argument to me: 'gratuitous' is too vague and contested a term to hold up as part of a premise.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Well, I'd like to get at your first reply to my post.

    There you make a distinction between ability (the power to create heaven) and obligation (loosely translated as intent) to create heaven.

    You state that this omnimalevolent being (call it x) can create heaven but is not obliged to do so.

    Well, in this case it seems x is obliged, by virtue of its omnimalevolence, NOT to create heaven. Since x is under obligation NOT to create heaven it loses its claim to omnipotence - x is under an obligation NOT to do something (create heaven).
  • Baden
    6.5k


    By definition in that case (unless it serves a greater evil). Just as by definition an omnibenevolent God is obliged not to do evil (unless it serves a greater good). This is a logical constraint of the thought experiment.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    4.3k
    The nature of "good" is such that what is good is particular to the specific situation. There is no general "good" which is applicable to all situations, as the good is something particular, and determined in respect to each individual situation. An omniscient God would know the particular good which is applicable to each and every situation. How would a human being know each particular good?

    An omnipotent and omniscient God could ensure that only the best things happen in every situation. But then we'd have no free choice. And free choice is essential to the human nature, so if God wanted to ensure that only the best things happen in every situation, there would be no human beings. If God is omnibenevolent as well, then it must be the case that creating human beings, and allowing human beings to exist, and have free choice to make mistakes and even create evil, is better than not creating human beings.

    This is how God gives of Himself, in the act of creating. He has determined that it is better to create situations in which He will restrain His omnipotence because he has decided through His omniscience, that it is better to have such situations. Therefore He takes from His own omnipotence, to give to us the power of free choice by means of restraining His power to act. He has determined that allowing us the power of free choice is better than exercising His omnipotence. And so He has acted, through His omnibenevolence to suppress His omnipotence, to create us and allow us to exist with freedom of choice. This is why God's gift of creation is so special, because he actually takes from Himself, His omnipotence, by restraining Himself, to give to us the freedom of choice. It is the highest selfless act, which is to willfully take from yourself, to give existence to another.
  • Baden
    6.5k


    You could of course dispute the compatibility of omnipotence with omnibenevolence/omnimalevolence, but that wasn't what our disagreement was about originally. It was your assumption of an asymmetry (which by its nature needed to take the principle of that compatibility for granted) which I argued against.
  • Baden
    6.5k
    In other words, what's sauce for the omnibenevolent goose is sauce for the omnimalevolent gander.
  • Baden
    6.5k


    God created man in his own image and so on. But I'm less interested in the theology than the psychology here.
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