Some of you are really stuck with the existence of God eh?
How would you suggest we go about discussing the intervention policy of a non
-existent god? I for one think it's high time Santa Claus did something about climate change. After all, it's gonna be his
little workshop that ends up in the drink when the ice caps melt!
They cannot fathom a discussion where this subject do not come up at one point or another. They are so limited in their imagination that they must, and I emphasis in must, post something about the existence of God when clearly the subject is not about his existence or not.
I find it sad.
You're missing the whole point of the Argument From Evil, which is what your question addresses. From your responses in this thread so far, it looks to me like you're attempting a reductio ad absurdum, something along these lines:
LUK: How much should God intervene against evil? Should it be systematic?
ATHEIST: Well, it would have been nice if he'd cured smallpox, or maybe not made it in the first place. People suffered and died horribly en masse for thousands of years, until we finally figured out how to get rid of it ourselves.
LUK: OK, but what about pneumonia? People die from pneumonia too...
ATHEIST: Sure, why not?
LUK: OK, what about the common cold?
And so on, until you can get us deep enough into the realm of First World Problems that you can say (or at least think to yourself) something along the lines of,
LUK: You atheists are such spoiled brats! It's like you think God is supposed to be your personal genie or something. You're just mad at God because He won't give you a sparkly flying pony!
But that misses the point of the Argument From Evil entirely. As atheists, we already know and accept that the human species is on its own; that if we want there to be help and care, it's up to us to provide it. If we want there to be justice, it's up to us to establish it. The only force available to intervene against evil (both human and natural, such as disease and disaster) is: us
. Since we don't think any gods exist, we don't expect
anything from them, at all.
The Argument From Evil is about anticipated consequences
. Let's say you and I are having coffee at Starbucks one day, and I somehow manage to convince you that there's an elephant in your living room. You rush home, knowing full well that the presence of an elephant in your living room for any significant amount of time will have consequences
, at least some of which you consider highly undesirable. Maybe it will knock over the display case holding your collection of antique Chinese vases. Maybe it will step on the cat, or even your child if you have any. It could take a huge dump on your couch. Or it could panic and rampage through your house as it tries to escape the confined spaces.
So, you reach your house and carefully open your door, tensing for the sight of whatever damage might have already happened, trying to figure out how you're going to get the elephant out of your living room...and you see everything exactly as you left it, no sign of any elephant. No elephanty smell, no elephant-print depressions in the carpet, and most obviously, no elephant standing in the middle of your living room.
So you call me to say "What the hell?!" and I say, "Oh, no, it's an Astral
elephant! It can only be seen by the eyes of the truly spiritually awakened. It has no effects on mere material things, but I assure you it's there." At this point, you would probably be rather irritated at me, and more than a little skeptical of my claims of the existence of Astral elephants. If I go on to say, "Well, how do you think an Astral elephant should
intervene in your living room? And why are you getting so hung up on the existence
of Astral elephants, anyway? I find that sad," would you think that perhaps I was missing the point of why the claimed existence of an elephant in your living room mattered in the first place?
Just as with elephants in living rooms, claims for the existence of one or more gods and/or goddesses have anticipated consequences
. And just as with elephants, if those anticipated consequences
are not present, it is also safe to say that the deities aren't there, either.
Also, I am not stating anything here. I am asking questions and am looking for answers in the community. Please use your own definition of God or the one you would give to him if he existed, you might have misunderstood my definition of God. And it shouldn't matter in this discussion anyway.
Imagine a box with three dials. One dial is for Benevolence
, one is for Capability
, and the third is for Presence
. "Benevolence" refers to the amount of care a given deity or cooperating pantheon of deities is said to have toward humanity and life on Earth. "Capability" refers to the aggregate of the claimed deity or deities' powers, intelligence, foresight, clairvoyance, etc., the measure of how well it/they can achieve its/their goals.
"Presence" refers to how close a claimed deity or deities is/are to being "here" (in terms of awareness of our world and ability to act within it) on a humanly conceivable time scale.
For any given alleged deity, the dials can be set to different levels, yielding different degrees of anticipated consequences in local reality. For example, imagine an extraordinarily loving and powerful Goddess who lives in the heart of a distant quasar. Her "Benevolence" and "Capability" dials are set high, but Her "Presence" is set to zero. There are no anticipated consequences on Earth for the existence of such a deity, because She's so far away that She doesn't know we even exist, and is in no position to help. A God of unlimited Capability and direct Presence, but with a Benevolence dial set to zero (i.e., a non-interventionist Deist god) could have no anticipated consequences in terms of the Argument From Evil simply because it's not interested in us. Or, we can imagine a minor Patron Deity of Travel, a small god that loves you very much, and does its best to give you as many green lights and good parking spaces as it can. It could have very high Benevolence and Presence settings, but its Capability is at the low end of the spectrum, so the anticipated consequences of its existence might just be a small, but statistically significant increase in the amount of green lights and good parking spaces you get compared to other drivers.
So, take whatever hypothetical deity or deities you like, and set the dials accordingly. It's possible for a deity to have no anticipated consequences as long as at least one
of the dials is set to zero. However, once you've got all three dials into positive territory, anticipated consequences increase as you raise the settings. You Abrahamic monotheists crank all three dials to infinity
(though definitions of "Benevolence" can vary by sect). This is terrific for winning "My God can beat up your gods!" contests with Pagans, but it turns your god into a wooly mammoth in the phone booth of the Universe, forcing you to go to great lengths to explain to yourselves and unbelievers why everything happens to look exactly the way it would if no such God existed.
The Argument From Evil is simply a way of pointing at the absence of your alleged wooly mammoth so as to make it obvious.