• About TWIM


    The Warfare Is Mental (TWIM) reflects the mental warfare of an author, screenwriter, publisher and member of the Writer's Guild of America. Family, friends, health, humor, art, music, science, faith, fun and knowledge are some of the things that are important to me.



    TWIM is the first and only theist blog listed on the Atheist Blogroll, which currently contains over 1,000 blogs. It goes without saying that I don't endorse hardly any of the views of any of them. Contact Mojoey for more information.



    Ironically, TWIM won an award for "Best Atheist / Skeptic Site" from this site. Much obliged.



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    You and your commenters are a feast of thinking — great stuff.

    -C.L. Dyck
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I have no need to engage with racists, so will ignore cl’s further diatribes.

    -faithlessgod,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

    -Hermes,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [faithlessgod and Hermes] fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls.

    -JS Allen,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. I’ve been following him for quite some time and he’s one of the most effective Christian trolls out there. No one can completely destroy a conversation as effectively as he does, and with such masterful grace and subtly that he rarely gets banned. This isn’t a blunt-force “U R Hitler!” troll, this is the Yoda of trolling.

    -Eneasz,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

    -al friedlander,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...I wanted to get a message to you outside of the context of specific discussions on CSA. You make good, insightful contributions to that site, and since I often agree with you I'm glad there is someone else there defending my positions better than I sometimes can. However I don't think anything of value would be lost if you stopped engaging in personal combat with juvenile snipers.

    -Zeb,
     CommonSenseAtheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thank you for your wonderful response - so reasoned in the race of [Waldvogel's] blustering.

    -Annie Laurie Gaylor
     Freedom From Religion Foundation
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Thanks for a great Op-Ed.

    -Marianne Ratcliff
     VC Star
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...as atheists we need to make sure that someone like cl and any Christian readers of [An Apostate's Chapel] don’t come away with the perception that the atheists caved in or were incapable of responding. I’m sure that a lot of Christians who find cl incomprehensible at times and don’t even bother reading him themselves will come away with an assumption that cl is that sort of rare intellectual theist who can prove that gods exist. And that’s how those inane rumors about the feared xian intellectuals start…

    -bbk
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are in so over your head here, you are embarrassing yourself...
    I am well versed in many aspects of evolution biology, through my academic background, and my professional life. Unless your academic degrees and background match mine, cease and desist. Return to philosophy and rhetoric, or whatever it is you perceive your strengths to be. They are definitely not science, even at the high school level.

    -R.C. Moore
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You're doing a fine job.

    -Prof. Larry Moran
     Dept. of Biochemistry
     University of Toronto
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Phyletic change and vicariance (or, drift and selection versus population isolation), as cl points out, are much better ways of describing what are unfortunately more commonly known as micro- and macro- evolution, respectively.

    -Dan
     Biology postdoc
     Univ. of Cyprus
     re: R.C. Moore & others
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl says, “The minute you call yourself a Christian or an Atheist or whatever the heck else, you automatically get painted by other people’s interpretations of those words, which are almost always different and almost always distorted.” cl’s point couldn’t be more on. As cl points out there is an important reason for not claiming any real religious (or lack thereof) belief. It puts logical constraints on one's arguments due directly to the bias of the individual that is translating the English to mind ideas of what it means to be religious.

    -Bobaloo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Just who in the bloody hell do you think you are, you Christian piece of garbage, to come here barking out orders? You're an arrogant, condescending piece of shit. You seem to think you're an intellectual of sorts, when all you are is a Christian who's read a few books. John, everyone, this really is the limit. BR, I'm more than a little annoyed that you continue to engage him. I'm out of here. I have better things to do than to waste my time with these cretins.

    -Cipher
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    How old are you CL? I'd guess you have not yet experienced much life. I'd say you were under the age of 21, too young to be here. I don't give a damn what you think of me or my deconversion at all. You're too stupid to realize that regardless of it you must deal with the arguments in the book. They are leading people away from you [sic] faith. I'm seriously considering banning you cl, as I've heard you were banned on other sites. You are much too ignorant for us to have a reasonable discussion.

    -John Loftus
     Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I admired the way you handled yourself in the discussion on John's blog. I'm not patient enough to keep my sarcasm in check with some of them blokes, but appreciate those who are.

    -David Marshall
     re: Debunking Christianity
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    cl, I have to say, while I fundamentally disagree with you, you are an individual which I highly respect. I think your responses are always well thought out and your insights always well thought out and pertinently derived.
    [Y]ou have made me a stronger atheist in my regards to critical thinking and debating. I really can’t wait to hear more from you. Hell, I’d even buy you a drink, good sir. Cheers!

    -Parker
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Bottom line? Sometimes I think he's right about certain arguments, and I don't have a problem admitting that. Other times, however, I think he's wrong, and I've called him on that. But I have found he can be pretty reasonable if you (1) don't overstate your case, (2) make concessions when you have, and (3) insist he do the same.

    -Lifeguard
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I like it when [cl] makes me stop, think and question if I am making unfounded assertions or if I am being sloppy. What has been annoying me about cl of late is that he is being excruciatingly anal...

    -seantheblogonaut
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I really can't thank you enough for catching me on my error in rhetoric. I always love a good debate! And I always enjoy your posts, as well! Keep up the great writing and the excellent eye for detail!

    -BZ
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You make me smarter...

    -Mike G.
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ..thank you, cl. I discovered your blog on a random web search and saw it as an oasis amidst a vast desert of seemingly intractable theist-atheist debate.

    -Sung Jun
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    It's good to be able to discuss with people who are open and respectful, and know that disagreement does not mean disrespect... You are to be congratulated, not only for your patience, but also your ability to hold an ever-growing debate together with an impressive degree of structure.

    -Ritchie
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    My tone is derogatory... [cl is] ignorant and credulous and deserves to be mocked... In the time he's been here, he's shown a consistent pattern of antagonizing everyone he comes in contact with, monopolizing threads, derailing discussions with perpetual complaints, quibbles and demands for attention, and generally making arguments that display a lack of good faith and responsiveness... it's become intolerable. I'm not banning him, but I'm putting in place some restrictions on how often he can comment.

    -Ebonmuse
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    This is no defense of the annoying cl, but what a self-righteous, prissy atheist you turned out to be, Ebonmuse. I'm disappointed in you, stealing a strategem from the theists.

    -The Exterminator
     to Ebonmuse
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I certainly didn't get any bad impression about cl, and I can't relate his comments with any of the things (Ebonmuse) said above. I actually thought it was quite interesting to have him around.

    -Juan Felipe
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Please continue to allow
    cl to post his views and make it clear that he is still welcome. And let me be clear, cl is not a lunatic.

    -Curtis
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    With one exception, you are the most coherent and intelligent theist I've seen on this site...

    -Steve Bowen
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I'm rooting for cl. I hope he perpetually manages to skirt the rules enough to do his damage, forcing rule revision after rule revision, ad nauseum. Awesome! Let's watch as Ebon, ever more frustrated, continues to struggle to figure out how to keep his precious private blog neat and tidy as cl keeps messing up his papers while one by one, readers leave due to an every increasing administrative presence. Outstanding! Well I won't go. The thought of this sounds like the most entertaining thing that probably would have ever happened on Daylight Atheism. Hot damn!

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Your visit has been something of a reality check to me. It seems that when you present rational arguments and criticisms, many commenters feel territory slipping and then work up vaporous or leaky responses. I also want to remark that your presence here has considerably moved me to try being a more careful and understanding debater...

    -Brad
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I do have a lot of respect for you too. You seem to be a very intelligent and thoughtful individual with a knack for getting to the bottom of a problem, cutting through all the bullshit rhetoric on the way down. The fact that many other atheists seem to unreasonably despise you bothers me a lot, because I think that maybe they aren’t acting in good faith.

    -Peter Hurford
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am not going to waste any more time parsing your comments to decide if they've crossed the line or not... So I banned you.

    -Greta Christina
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Be rude... cl invites rudeness. Would you want an incontinent little puppy coming into your house?

    -(((Billy))) the Atheist
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Note to all my regular readers: Since An Apostate’s Chapel is a free-speech zone, I don’t censor conversations.
    As it appears that cl is a troll, please note that I will not be responding to him any longer. I ask that you refrain from doing so, as well. Please don’t feed the troll!

    -The Chaplain
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    …I can’t reconcile being a "freethinker" with banning speech. [cl's] comments are not offensive in the normal understanding of that term, and he poses absolutely no threat except perhaps to some imagined decorum. Why can’t atheists lighten up, for no-Christ’s sake?

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Is it going to distract from my meal when crazy uncle cl starts blathering out nonsense, pick his ears with a carrot or start taking his pants off? No. In fact, it might actually heighten the experience in some amusing way. So no, I don't see cl's work as damage.

    -PhillyChief
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I am beginning to suspect that you are a troll cl. Albeit an evolved troll, but a troll nonetheless. Perhaps we should all stop feeding the troll?

    -GaySolomon
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl is] is either a sophist or an incompetent when it comes to the english language... (sic)

    -ThatOtherGuy
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I’d say cl is pretty sharp... it may be tempting at times to think that “the other guy” is arguing out of some personal character flaw rather than a sincere desire to acknowledge the truth, I still think it’s better to debate respectfully... It is disrespectful to make unsupported accusations against people, e.g. by suggesting that their views are caused by an intrinsically corrupt and immoral nature.

    -Deacon Duncan, 3-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [cl] cannot refute my facts, so he needs must find (sic) some scapegoat in order to claim that he has confronted the enemy and proven them wrong... cl, sadly, has proven himself to be the sort of guest who comes into your living room and sneaks behind your couch to take a crap on the floor, just so he can tell all your neighbors how bad your house smells and what an unsanitary housekeeper you are... an interesting case study in the negative effects a Christian worldview has on a reasonably intellectual mind.

    -Deacon Duncan, 6-17-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I strongly discourage discussion of the character, abilities, motives, or personal ancestry of individual commenters, as tempting as such comments may be at times. I discourage the posting of comments that make frequent use of the pronoun “you,” as in “you always…” or “you never…” or “you are just so…”, when directed at a specific individual.

    -Deacon Duncan, 4-9-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I won’t be publishing your most recent comment because it’s a return to the same sort of schtick you’ve pulled here before: re-writing other people’s arguments to make yourself look misunderstood and/or unfairly accused, taking “polyvalent” positions so that when people address your points you can claim to have said something else, distorting other people’s arguments, trolling for negative reactions, and so on.

    -Deacon Duncan, 10-8-09
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    [E]gomaniacal troll.
    You win... You’re a disingenuous sophist through and through, cl. And a friggin’ narcissist to boot! Since I’ve thoroughly and purposefully broken the Deacon’s rules of engagement, I shall consider my right to post henceforth annulled, and move on - dramatic pause, lights out.

    -jim
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He either thinks in a very weird way or he's quite the con artist.

    -mikespeir
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I will gladly admit that I have a boner for cl. Maybe some day I’ll even earn a place of honor on cl’s Blog of Infamy.

    -Eneasz
     Evangelical Realism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Long time reader first time poster... I like reading what you
    have to say over at Daylight Atheism so I figured I'd pop in here.

    -Pine
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    He's just a jerk
    that likes to argue.

    -KShep
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You’re not a reasonable thinker in my book. You’re simply an arguer, for better or worse. I’m Michael Palin, you’re John Cleese. You’re just a disputation-ist, bringing everything into question...

    -jim
     Reason vs. Apologetics
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    Motherfucker, this is an interesting blog... Quite the group of commenters.

    -John Evo
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are very articulate, and I can only assume that it's a result of high intelligence; an intelligence that's interested in, and can understand, healthy debate. However, at every turn, that's not what I or others seem to get.

    -ex machina
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a troll, a liar, and a useless sack of shit. Not only that, but you're still wrong even after moving the goal posts and trying to re-write history. So, you can stop cyber stalking me now and trying to provoke me. I know what you are doing, and you are doing it so that you can whine about how I'm being irrational and mean to you and stroke your pathetic martyr complex. You're a pathetic attention whore and I've already given you too much attention. So, back the fuck off, stop following me around the intarwebs and trying to provoke me, and fuck off.

    -OMGF
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I would just like to say that, OMGF, having read the debate as a neutral observer, some of the things cl says about your style of argument are true, IMO. It is quite hasty, which means you occasionally haven't got the central point cl is trying to make...

    -John D.
     Daylight Atheism
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    ...this is a difficult question that deserves more than a kneejerk reaction, not to imply that you're kneejerking. You're the least kneejerking person I've met.

    -Quixote
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    If you’re here playing devil’s advocate, then, hey, you do a great job at it, it’s a service, keep us sharp... You’re a smart guy, but those are exactly the ones who give the worst headaches!

    -Lifeguard
     An Apostate's Chapel
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    You are a waste of time, cl. A big fat black hole of bullshit sucking in everyone who comes into contact with you.

    -Spanish Inquisitor
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    As for all that harsh invective that's come your way, umm... I gotta say, I've seen some of the invective, but I haven't seen the behavior on your part that called for it. Maybe I've just not seen enough? I don't know... from what I've read, I can tell that you're a smart person, and whether you deserved any of that treatment or not is quite frankly immaterial to me; I just want to deal with the smart person at the eye of that storm.

    -D
     She Who Chatters
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    I now think that you’re an atheist, just having fun at other atheists’ expense. If that’s the case, kudos.

    -The Exterminator
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    
    

The POE Drama Continues: Can It Get More Naïve?

Along the lines of what we’ve been talking about, I’d like to highlight a selection from the blogosphere that I think is typical of the atheist position. To a commenter who challenged the Muehlhauserian use of emotional imagery to score rhetorical points in the POE, an atheist blogger who’s name is not worth repeating recently wrote,

The problem with your logic is that you fail to acknowledge the assumed premise. In this case, the assumed premise is that God is good. No. Better than good. He’s perfect. He is goodness exemplified. He is omni-benevolent. He is who all goodness tries to emulate. A good god insures that there is only goodness in the world. etc. etc. blather blather, etc. IOW, with a benevolent god there should be no evil.

LOL! The thing that really gets me is that this is perceived as “logic” and “rationalism” in atheist circles. Go team atheism! Let’s use those canned arguments! Seriously though, could one possibly construct a more simplistic approach to things? Talk about failing to acknowledge the assumed premise! It is this anti-theist blogger who fails to acknowledge the assumed premises in his own “argument.” Specifically, this:

A good god insures that there is only goodness in the world.

Why? Because this anti-theist blogger with an axe to grind says so? This is exactly what I mean when I recently wrote that all POE arguments I’ve seen reduce to an argument from incredulity, i.e., “I can’t fathom why God would allow such evil, therefore it’s more likely that my atheism is true.”

It saddens me to see so many people falling head-over-heels over incredulity. It really does.

 

A POE Related Question

Would you accept the presence of evil as evidence of an evil, but not necessarily omnipotent god? Why or why not?

The Obligatory Bloody Nose

Many years back when I was not yet in high school, I used to get in fights with my cousin every so often. Since we were young, they were never really real fights, more like little skirmishes that most similar-age family members can identify with to one extent or another. I mean yeah, we got physical, but it was usually just your average preteen headlock with a few wild punches thing. The obligatory bloody nose was the worst it ever got.

One day when we got into another skirmish, my dad got sick of it and decided he was going to teach us a lesson. He said something to the effect of, “You guys wanna hurt each other? You guys think it’s cool and tough to beat up on each other. Okay then, get your shoes on and come with me.”

He then proceeded to take us out to the garage, where he said, “Go ahead! But if you fight, you’re going to fight until one of you can’t get up.”

Needless to say, my cousin and I exchanged quite the bewildered look. After that, I think I gave my dad some choice words, then ran out the side of the garage to the end of the alley, where I sat thinking about what had just happened. It is because my dad did this that I truly understood what “wrongness” or “evil” was. Yet, those times when the adults told us not to fight, all we could think about was fighting more. In a way I can only explain as weirdly ironic, by allowing us to really hurt each other, I realized that, well… we could really hurt each other. I understood the ramifications of physical violence more deeply than I ever had before.

I’m not quite sure how this story is relevant to the POE yet, but I feel like it is. Perhaps readers can elaborate if they see any potential connections.

The Problem Of Evil: Where I’m At Today

While I’ll still gladly engage anybody on the issue, these days, I’m leaning towards the conclusion that the atheist’s problem of evil arguments are fatally flawed. In the end, all variants I’ve encountered reduce to incredulity: reasoning from premises derived at via conceptual analysis and intuition, the atheist disbelieves that a morally sufficient reason can exist: “There’s no way a good God would allow this much evil in the world.” That’s it. I’ve not seen a single POE argument that doesn’t reduce thus, and I’ll leave it to you to decide whether disbelief is sufficient to warrant skepticism in this regard. I say no. I mean, people said the same thing about QM and all sorts of other stuff: “There’s no way light can act as both particle and wave!” “There’s no way an airplane can fly!” “There’s no way man will walk on the moon!” Etc. This is why I like what they attribute to Archimedes: with a long enough lever, one could move the Earth.

Is anybody aware of a POE argument that doesn’t reduce thus?

PE/QS vs. O^3 God: On The Problem Of Evil

Also referred to as the Question of Suffering, the Problem of Evil (PE/QS) is an axiom in philosophical and religious circles which claims the fact of evil existing in our world is incompatible with God as described by most Christians: a God that is at least all-powerful, all-loving and all-knowing, also described as omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient (o^3). Also referred to as the Epicurean Dilemma, the argument itself has been around a few millenia, advanced 2400 years ago by Epicurus (341 – 270 bce).

Epicurus offers three options:

“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; Or he can, but does not want to; Or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how come evil is in the world?”

It’s an admittedly difficult proposition that a homeless mother can get raped and beaten to death in a dark alley when an allegedly all-powerful God exists. Something reasonably describable as sin or evil clearly exists in our world, but some believers claim their God is all-powerful, all-loving, and all-knowing. Wouldn’t such a God eradicate evil if truly all-powerful? Shouldn’t such a God have to eradicate evil if truly all-loving? Couldn’t such a God eradicate evil if truly all-knowing? I believe the answer to all of these things must be an emphatic yes, whether you are a believer or not, and I believe this should be the first mutual agreement of our little discussion here: That an o^3 God is obligated to remove evil and put an end to suffering.

DEFINITIONS:

One crucial reason atheists and theists rarely achieve common ground in the PE/QS dialog is due to differences in definition of the relevant terms. Discourse addressing the PE/QS can easily become an unfruitful exchange of strawman argumentation, with each side arguing misconstrued definitions against one another, thus ruling out any potential for common ground from the outset.

As we should ask in any professional argument, what are the appropriate definitions, and are there any given premises? In the PE/QS, what are the biblical foundations for the existence of evil? Where in the Bible does it say or reasonably imply that God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, or omniscient? I’ve seen dozens of papers addressing the PE/QS, and not a single one I’ve seen has ever listed the biblical precedents for both of these claims. After all, one might reasonably object to the o^3 depiction of God.

A) Biblical foundation for o^3 claim: So what is the biblical basis for the o^3 God? Regarding omnibenevolence, the closest thing I’ve found is the following verse from Romans which says, “God always works for the good of those who love him.” Regarding omnipotence, Jesus said with God all things are possible. Do these justify the o^3 claim as commonly argued? Are there other verses we might factor into our discussion?

B) So how might we reasonably define evil? In a related thread, one atheist said, “Anything that brings about human suffering is evil.” I think this definition is rather Homo-centric, don’t you? What about that which brings suffering in the animal kingdom? Are oil spills evil? Veal farms? Killing a flea? What about natural disasters? I am considering the question of whether natural disasters constitute evil a different discussion altogether, for the moment. Whether asserted by an atheist or a Christian, sans reasonable support, offering Isaiah 45:7 as scriptural support for the notion that God created evil gets no clearance here.

What do we mean when we use the word evil? To me, the best analogy is light and darkness. As darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good. In the case of light and darkness, I think it’s fair to say that ‘light’ is in fact an arrangement of photons, things, a positive proposition. Thus, ‘darkness’ is a negative proposition, an absence of photons.

To be clear, as used in this post, evil is used as an adjective, loosely synonymous with the biblical sinful, and at a bare minimum refers to a human decision that results in suffering, which is used as a noun, and refers to any of the various states of sensory or psychological privation – physical pain, emotional sadness, psychological guilt, etc.

C) And what of the o^3 qualities themselves? How, for example, might we define omnipotence? Merely the power to do anything? Can an all-powerful God create a rock so heavy it cannot be lifted? Indeed, the idea of omnipotence is not easy to define. For the sake of a fair PE/QS discussion, omnipotence simply means that God at least retains the ability to end evil and suffering at any time through any suitable variety of employable means.

What, then, becomes of omnibenevolence? Can an all-loving God allow a being to become so evil it cannot be redeemed? Can an all-loving God render punishment without contradiction? Is tolerance of evil and/or suffering in any degree and for any duration incompatible with omnibenevolence?

Lastly, how should we define omniscience? Seriously. Please think about the inherent difficulties in defining omniscience.

How should we think of the prefix omni? As in, literal unlimited supply of some quality? As the ability to do anything that can be done? Can God do that which can’t be done? Does that which can’t be done exist? Or is the idea that God can do anything that can be done acceptable? I don’t mean to ramble like a buffoon there, just thinking of the many offshoot and related questions that might be at work here.

As used in this series, an o^3 God 1) Has the power to end suffering; 2) Desires an end to suffering; and 3) Knows how to end suffering. Proceeding from definitions and contexts as delineated above, I shall now attempt my case that in PE/QS vs. o^3 God, Epicurus’ argument contains free lunches and is a form of the either-or fallacy, which manifests in many forms but always forces the observer to make a choice based on limited options. I will support this claim by attempting to demonstrate that other viable options exist which do not violate logic or reason as we understand them, and I will consider this piece a success if one atheist concedes one or both of these points. Note that a success in this respect does not mean I’ve got things figured out, either.

1) GIVEN PREMISES, LATENT FALLACIES:

Nearly all arguments contain assumed premises, and Epicurus’ is no different.

One assumed premise the Epicurean Dilemma contains is that the conclusion God has not abolished evil flows from the existence of evil in this universe. In other words, I do not think that the existence of evil and suffering in the universe means God did not make a decision to abolish it, or that God in fact did not already abolish it. Evil existing is not necessarily tantamount to lack of decision or action on God’s behalf.

The idea is admittedly counter-intuitive, as I’ve already conceded that evil does in fact exist in the world. Is existence of a quality sufficient evidence said quality has not been abolished? I argue that the existence of a quality is not necessarily synonymous with it being allowed to exist. But an omnipotent God wouldn’t have to allow anything, right? So if evil exists in the world, on what grounds might one claim God may have already abolished it?

If I might entertain an admittedly human example that I do not offer as a valid analogy, but proffer simply to illustrate a principle, let’s say we call the act of sleeping in excess of seven hours ‘evil.’ When the leader of a state’s affairs issues an official decree abolishing sleep in excess of seven hours for all the peoples in all the states and provinces, at that moment, the leader has abolished evil in his kingdom. No definition of ‘abolish’ I’ve found to date includes instantly as a criteria, and one definition offered ‘to decay little by little.’ That our leader abolishes sleep in excess of seven hours, and that all sleeping over seven hours automatically ceases, are not both instantaneous processes. Also note that in our example, our leader has in fact taken a stand against said offense, and declared it an abomination to the people, demonstrating a correct sense of moral responsibility.

Of course, the obvious difference is that in our example, our human leader is not o^3. If an o^3 God desires to abolish evil, it must be instantaneous, so critics say. Why? If God’s abolition of evil is not instantaneous, does that render God less than omnipotent?

This leads me to a second free lunch in the Epicurean Dilemma, namely that the alleviation of suffering is God’s direct responsibility. Now I’ve already said God is obligated to remove evil, so no allegations of contradiction, please. God can be rightfully obligated to remove evil, and I believe God is, but such does not mean that God must roll up the sleeves, descend upon the Earth and pull some Samuel L. Jackson acts. Again, I have agreed that yes, in theory, an o^3 God would be obligated to alleviate evil and suffering, but what if said God has decreed it humanity’s duty to both detect and abolish negative, evil behavior? Would such justify God’s alleged failure to intervene?

What about hidden fallacies? Are there any latent fallacies we must commit to have this discussion? I believe that by default the discussion is entailed by one of the most foolish fallacies of all, the Fallacy of Human Omniscience, which occurs whenever an individual presumes to have sufficient knowledge from which to reason what God should or should not do in a given situation. Put simply, actions are influenced by information, and we cannot always properly judge an action without knowledge of all the information that influenced it.

This occurred to me the other day while watching one of those “Most Shocking Bedlam, Brawls, and Mayhem” shows. In the episode, we’re shown a security camera POV focused on a line in a small check-cashing facility, packed with people. A white guy on his cell phone makes a comment to his receiving party that infuriates a nearby woman, who chews the guy out, slaps him and then calls her 300-pound boyfriend in. The boyfriend proceeds to beat the guy senselessly, close to death, and of over ten people present, nobody did a thing (admittedly the offender was an over 300 pound beast, and I would have probably hesitated as well). My initial reaction was to question why everybody let this guy get beat to the point of convulsion.

The inherent problem is that my lack of complete information obscures an accurate moral judgment. Though the argument exists that nobody deserves such a beating, it is quite possible that the guy who received it asked for it. There are simply too many unknowable variables: What if these folks had prior history? What if the comments made against the woman were in reference to the woman’s ethnicity or weight? Still, one might rightly argue such a severe beatdown is wrong, but my point is to advance the idea that nearly any set of variables can justify an apparently wrong act.

As such, we should be cautious in attempts to judge others, especially God. How are we of limited intelligence supposed to wholly grasp the workings of an allegedly all-knowing, all-powerful God, unless of course that all-knowing, all-powerful God makes them clearly known? Veterans to the discussion should note that in saying this, I am not going to cop out of the argument by relying on the “God’s mysterious ways” trope.

2) WAS EVIL NECESSARY?

The question must be raised: Is existence a predicate to abolition? I think it is. We can’t abolish something that never existed. The existence of evil is a precursor to its abolition. One logical implication to this is that evil was necessary, but does that then imply God had no way around creating evil? I believe it does, and I think that would create a very big problem for the case of God’s omnipotence, but, we’re not taking into account God’s omnibenevolence, the definition of which is all-loving. Is there any possible scenario under which an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God would be forced to allow evil to exist? And does that scenario contradict any of the qualities in question?

We also can’t fairly abolish evil without some sort of persuasive case that evil is in fact detrimental to life, and thus worthy of abolition. Some raise issue about the concept of predestination, and I don’t wish to digress into arguments over predestination and free will. Some say, “Well..if God knows everything, he would know which people would choose good and which would choose evil, so why not spare everyone the trouble of going through it all in the first place?”

Well, that’s a logical question, and I can only reply with another: Would an omnibenevolent God be justified in allowing eternal separation from himself without letting somebody manifest their own destiny?

See also:

What Do You Mean By God?

Did I Violate Omnibenevolence?

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