Monday, May 27, 2013

The problem of evil no problem at all

Epicurus was a an ancient Greek philosopher who lived around 341-279 BCE. He is often credited with what is known amongst believers and atheists alike as the Epicurean Paradox or its more common name today 'The problem of evil.' The best way for me to tackle this so called imaginary problem is to just lay it out for you and commence to expound upon it till I reach what I think is the obvious and most logical conclusion.

The Epicurean Paradox/Problem of Evil

Some atheists like to use this argument to disprove the existence of the biblical god.  But personally, I think that this argument doesn't do that at all. It all boils down to definitions and what ones perception of a god is. According to the Bing dictionary a god is defined as: 'supernatural being: one of a group of supernatural male beings in some religions, each of which is worshiped as the personification or controller of some aspect of the universe' 

If we define the biblical god as a supernatural being who exists outside of time and space and is eternal as expressed in the Bible then we have a rational starting point. He is called the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all things. He is also defined in the scriptures as having no beginning but being eternal. Based on these theological assumptions Christians believe him to be the prime mover or uncaused cause that created the universe ex-nihilo (out of nothing) and everything in it. 

One of the major problems I have with the problem of evil is that it assumes right from the start that God is good. In fact, not only is he good he is the ultimate good; he is omnibenevolent. I believe that anyone who would take the time to read the bible would easily see that this view of the biblical deity is incorrect. The bible clearly demonstrates through the concept of anthropomorphism that God's attributes are many and amongst them is evil. 

evil:
  1.morally bad: profoundly immoral or wrong
  2.harmful: deliberately causing great harm, pain, or upset
  3.causing misfortune: characterized by, bringing, or signifying bad luck 
 
 Pantheon of Greek gods and godesses
 
Why do people assume that God is good? Man has been creating gods since time immemorial and has created both evil and good gods as demonstrated in the Pantheon of Greek gods. Based on the above definition as provided by Bing dictionary and a careful reading of the scriptures we see that God fits the description of evil because of the acts ascribed to him. The story of the so called worldwide flood as narrated in Genesis chapter 6 in my view qualifies as the perfect example of evil perpetrated against mankind by a deity. Sodom and Gomorrah is another example of a  god acting against mans misconception of what he is supposed to be like. 
 
"See now that I myself am he! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand. Deuteronomy 32:39
 
But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath. Jeremiah 10:10
 
As you can see from the above citations that the authors of the scriptures did not simply perceive their god as good but as evil something to be feared. Today's Christians struggle with this because they do not see this duality in the nature of their god, or they dare not call God evil. Either way they are in denial as to the evil nature of God. This is understandable because throughout the scriptures man is led to believe that God's acts are just because of the "wickedness of man." In other words every evil that has befallen us is basically our own fault and the consequences of our rebelling against God by not living in a manner that is pleasing to him.
 
4“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6 
 
It's interesting that the author of the so called ten commandments has God describe himself as jealous. I find this interesting for the simple fact that I consider the emotion known as jealousy as a negative emotion. Like the biblical deity, because of jealousy man has committed many atrocious acts against each other even against those they claim to love such as a domestic partner or spouse. 
 
  1. envious: feeling bitter and unhappy because of another's advantages, possessions, or luck
  2. suspicious of rivals: feeling suspicious about a rival's or competitor's influence, especially in regard to a loved one
  3. watchful: possessively watchful of something
The Bing definition above helps put our argument into perspective even further. Being that jealousy and anger are not positive personality traits I have come to the conclusion that the idea of the biblical god being omnibenevolent (all good) is a false one. In fact the bible states that we are created in God's image, but in all reality it is the other way around for it is man that has created the gods. The biblical deity more often than he is credited for demonstrates the duality of man in his words and his deeds.

 The duality of man

One of my favorite classical tales that demonstrate the duality of man best is that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. All of us are capable of evil or even of harming another human being under the right circumstances. Sometimes we are forced into a position where our life depends on our hurting or even killing another in defense of ourselves, our loved ones, or a friend. What's God's motive for killing and or harming humanity? Disobedience!

I define the biblical god with three words: megalomaniac, dictator, and tyrant! His only reason for harming or hurting mankind is disobedience. God wants absolute power over and unquestioning loyalty from his servants. Christians give him that by calling him good despite the many flagrant violent acts attributed to him in the scriptures. The bible even has a name for it; it's called blasphemy. 

blasphemy:
  1. disrespect for religion: disrespect for God or sacred things
  2. something showing disrespect for religion: something done or said that shows disrespect for God or sacred things
 This is one of the major problems I have with apologetics and so called philosophical arguments about God. If you are going to argue about the biblical deity then you must extrapolate from the bible itself what it has to say about him. Arguing for example about the attributes of God without considering the bible's description of what those attributes are is nonsensical and misleading.

This reminds me of the battered girlfriend or spouse who after being beaten by the one she loves goes out of her way to justify his actions; often blaming herself for what he has done to her! Like Christians/Jews/and Muslims they justify the evil actions of their god by taking the blame for his actions upon themselves. Like the battered wife stuck in an abusive relationship they claim: "he beats me because he loves me!'" Believers are stuck in an abusive relationship with an imaginary being of their own creation. Nothing could be more ironic than that.

It is my conclusion that contrary to Epicurus's statement:"Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent" I am convinced that this premise is false. It is based on the assumption that God is all good which a reading of the scriptures without fear and bias will clearly demonstrate to be wrong. God is like all men the possessor of both evil and good. Once this is recognized the so called problem of evil goes away.

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version and all word definitions are from the Bing dictionary online.

13 comments:

  1. What this argument comes back to, and amply demonstrates, is simply that the reason many (most?) christians worship their god is FEAR of the cruel bastard, not out of "love" for him.

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    1. Fear and superstition are the pillars of any religion that requires the subjugation of your will to an imaginary deity.

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  2. I don't the argument assumes God is good; I think that perfect goodness and omnibenevolence are characteristics generally ascribed to the Christian God. It's true that the problem of evil can't be shown to prove that God doesn't exist, but it can be used to show that the traits ascribed the Christian God are logically contradictory.

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    1. "I think that perfect goodness and omnibenevolence are characteristics generally ascribed to the Christian God."

      At least Christianity assumes that God is perfectly good but the Old Testament clearly demonstrates that this is not the case at all.

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  3. Far from arguing against Epicurus, I think you're making his point.

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    1. Not exactly, the entire argument is based on the assumption that God is good. But whoever said that to be a god you had to be good? History is full of gods that have been both good and evil or one or the other. The biblical deity if we are to be led by the narratives in the scriptures is actually a bit of both. He is neither entirely good nor entirely evil. In fact, he is responsible for both types of acts. By this alone Epicurus's argument falls apart and is no longer a dilemma.

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    2. The entire argument is based on the assumption that God *is said* to be good. Granted, by our standards the god of the Bible is both good and bad. However, I doubt you'll find many Bible believers who will accept that God is both good and bad. Instead, they insist he's good, no matter what he does. That attitude (not the specific god in question--Epicurus did not have Yahweh in mind, of course) is what the argument attacks.

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    3. I agree that Epicurus did not have the biblical deity in mind, but atheist and Christians still use this argument for or against the existence of God. Today's believers attribute sin to mans disobedience to God.So all that they are doing is deflecting the blame from where it rightfully belongs. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides a thorough analyses of this argument here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

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  4. It is obvious from the multiple personality traits that god is a not good. It amazes me that even some Christians that believe in the punishment that carries over to the next generation is just. How can you say this is just and then still call god good. Maybe the don’t have this problem as they believe in original sin which is ridiculous in itself.

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    1. I agree, original sin is a ridiculous notion. Christians overlook the evil that God has done in the scriptures and try to justify it by his being God. Perfect, loving, and just ruler and judge of the world.

      They say that we have the free will to choose right from wrong which entails worshiping him so our fates are our faults! They talk about being responsible for your own actions but somehow God is not held accountable for his by reason of who he is.

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  5. Good post...

    It is just impossible to reconcile the god of the bible with the concept of an all-loving, morally perfect being. What Christians do to get around this, is that they simply "define" god as good, so that by definition everything he does is good. But this amounts to nothing but wordplay and sophistry.

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    1. By defining God as good they are thoroughly defeated by Epicurus due to the contradictory nature of God's goodness with the existence of evil. So in its original form the argument is sound and rational.

      The so called goodness of God is also in question by the biblical narrative itself.

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    2. Since in the OT god punishes certain tribes/peoples vicariously through other people, it is not totally inconceivable that god could have been passing judgement on the Jews during WW2 and used the Nazis to do so. The Christian would have no defense in calling the holocaust wrong because whatever god commands would automatically by definition be right. That's why defining god as good is meaningless wordplay.

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