Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Why the problem of evil is the most popular argument for atheism

Suppose we could, at no cost to ourselves, prevent the painful death of a deer in a forest fire. All things being equal, this is what we would be obligated to do. Now we might decide that we have to consider our own safety, or our own limited abilities, in determining whether to rush into a burning forest to save a deer. But, if we could save a deer by pressing a button on our computer, woudn't we do so? When we see some unfortunate thing happen, like the disaster in Haiti, we certainly are inclined to hold anyone accountable who could have prevented the tragedy at no cost and failed to act.
But what about God? God had the ability and the knowledge to prevent any catastrophe that happens. So if He knows about them in advance, he has the ability to prevent them (this is entailed by omnipotence and omniscience), the only conclusion, apparenlty, is that he doesn't want to prevent them.
Suppose we were to find out that a multi-billionaire, who has recently died,  had a room where he could go with all the latest computer equipment, and he had the power to stop any of the world's great tragedies of the last 10 years. He could have pushed a button and spared us from 9/11, maybe by causing the hijackers to throw up in the bathroom instead of charging the cockpit with box cutters. He had the ability to send Hurricane Katrina back out into the Gulf of Mexico and away from the city of New Orleans. He had the power to spare Haiti from the earthquake, and the Asians from the 2004 tsunami. But he did nothing. Would we think well of this person? Yet, God is supposed to be perfectly good.
Now I don't buy this argument, surely, but it is important to see the force of it. It's the number one reason atheists will give you for why they are atheists.


unkle e said...

I agree it is the strongest argument against the existence of God. Can you tell us why you don't buy it?

Mike Darus said...

It is self-defeating. People have the responsiblity of preventing evil only because it is delegated to them. If God had the same obligation, He would prevent all evil and people would have no opportunity. Our sense of moral obligation to save the deer from the fire cannot exist in a world where an all powerful God is also obligated to save the deer. He would beat us to it every time.

Anonymous said...

It is the strongest argument against the existence of a benevolent God, so it's not really an argument against Yahweh.

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

One of the fundamental issues involved here is whether we are in a world that is in rebellion against God. If human beings are basically good it is difficult to explain the existence of evil in the world. But if in our rebellion against our maker we have let loose evil onto the earth this could produce far reaching and unintended consequences that cannot be done away with by the push of a button.

Victor Reppert said...

Of course I'm not rebelling against God. You can't rebel against Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy. --Richard Dawkins. (Not a literal quote).

Walter said...

Is it rebelling against God if one simply does not believe biblical mythology due to a lack of evidence?

Are atheists and agnostics evil and wicked due to our beliefs or because we barbeque kittens and engage in cannibalism?

Blue Devil Knight said...

If I believe in the Greek Gods the argument from evil doesn't bother me in the least. I've always known they have many of the imperfections that humans have. Also, what if I believe in a supernatural being that is omnimalevolent, but is not omnipotent/omniscient (otherwise there would be a problem of Good)? The problem of evil doesn't apply to him.

Christians with their concept of an omnipotent, perfectly benevolent and omnicient being, really saddle themselves with the problem of evil.

I am now an advocate of intelligent design, but the design features point to a designer that is far from omnipotent and omnicapable. All those kludges and inelegant structures, vestigial organs, chickens with genes that produce teeth, all this is evidence of either a practical joker or one who needs to take an engineering class. That is, the designer is more like the Greek gods than the modern western version of God.

Ken Jacobs said...

Atheists will argue that God does or allows evil according to theists' own concept of evil and so Christian God and Christianity is contradictory. The problem with that is the definition of Christian evil is indeed in Christians' hands and God is slipped a "get out of jail free" card.

An improved version is a part of a general argument from disparity. God created the world, but he ultimately creates the post world "end times" and this world we live in is really only the process of creation. God's final goal seems to be x amount of souls in heaven and y amount of souls in hell, for eternity, certainly long after the Earth is gone. Why is that a desirable end, why would a benevolent being create such a huge disparity of fate? Of course it is again up to the Christian to decide whether there is a hell or not and the goal posts might be moved.

mattghg said...


False dilemma!

Tom said...

One religious solution to this problem is to blame the victim. So it's people who are responsible for evil by making sinful choices. It's a reasonable argument in cases like murder or robbery but it's difficult to see that in cases of natural disasters like Haiti. The only mistake that many of those people made was to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I think it would be ok to blame the victim if the victim was responsible for their choices. So for example God could give us a sense of incoming disasters. If we decided to ignore them then I would agree that in that case we could be to blame (assuming that we had a means to get out of the way). But God decided to tie our hands and not give us that sense. Some believe he gave it to some animals (like rats), but not us...

The Bible says: Isaiah 45:7 "I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." It paints a picture not of a passive observer who can prevent disasters if he wishes but the active participant, the originator.

The problem of evil is not only the most popular argument of atheist but it's also the biggest reason people lose their faith. That's how Darwin lost his faith for example, years after he discovered the evolution.

Edward T. Babinski said...


1) What keeps people in heaven from committing evil, or making someone else suffer in some way? Anything preventing people in heaven from doing that? Or can Christians in heaven later commit evils, create suffering, maybe even wind up damned?

2) Does God have free will? Is so, then can God choose to do evil? If not, why not? A related question, is the free will of human beings to do evil, something that even God lacks? And if so, doesn't that make human free will something new, in a category by itself, something even God does not possess?

3) Are there other things that God lacks? Can God "suffer?" Did any "suffering" ever exist inside God before He created the first sentient angle or human being? Or is "suffering" something new that only arose after God created sentient beings?

4) Did God create solely out of His own will, intelligence, power and love? Then how could anything that came solely out of perfect intelligence, power, and love, wind up like this cosmos, with life only possible on a tiny sliver of one planet's shaky surface, with life eating life, and with suffering that includes mass extinction events and all living things eventually dying? Life, at best, is in equlibrium with death in our cosmos, that's it, that's all we know for sure. We do not see people popping out of graves after being dead for three days, nor people rising into the clouds, nor cities descending out of heaven above.

5) What's the point of arguing with HELL-BELEIVING CHRISTIANS OVER THE PROBLEM OF EVIL? According to Christian orthodoxy, THE PROBLEM OF EVIL/SUFFERING is writ even larger in the next life than in this one. And since so many Christians take for granted eternal suffering and are willing to justify it as part of what they are taught "in the Bible," then what's the point of arguing about suffering with a Christian like that? They already justify eternal suffering in their own minds, so no tsunami or mass extinction is going to sway them otherwise.

Personally, I see Christianity as a roach motel of the mind, or like Chinese handcuffs, i.e., people are attracted by the outward love and trappings, and then once inside, they can't get their minds out again, because of fear of eternal suffering. Doubt itself becomes a sin. So they wind up justifying every pain and evil, including eternal suffering.

I think you'll find that those Christians who DO come to doubt the logic of etneral suffering are the ones most likely to turn to some version of Christian annihilationism, or universalism, or at least a broader, more inclusive hope for salvation, and find those types of answers more comforting than belief in an orthodox hell of eternal suffering in which a jealous God punishes people for eternity.

Edward T. Babinski said...

In the "Contending With Christianity's Critics" book (in which Vic Reppert has a chapter) the last chapter (not Vic's) is about HELL as if all the previous chapters in the book did not "contend" fully enough with all the "criticisms" the reader might have about Christianity.

I suppose piling on eternal HELL at the end is like saying, "You got a PROBLEM wit anyting in dis book?" while pounding fist into open palm of opposite hand *smile*

The conclusion of the book and chapter is that "Hell is locked on the inside."

Oh joy, God's not to blame at all! And I have all eternity in which to torture myself! And neither God nor angels are going to ever help me out of there, because they can't, I'm as powerful as they are, as powerful as the greatest teacher (God) given all the time of eternity. My puny human will will never have the chance to learn anything new or better, never see what the solid truth of things is compared with the merest shadow of unreality, no one will ever even attempt to help me get out of hell, and my free will will also apparently dry up. Nice.

You know what I think?

I don't think "Hell is locked on the inside."


The brain-minds of Christian apologists for eternal suffering appear to be locked on the inside, locked into thinking that they have to believe in eternal suffering for anyone unfortunate enough not to believe excatly as they do concerning the intertestamental origins of demon lords and eternal hells as later adopted by first century prophets like Jesus.

Steven Carr said...

God is not obligated to save children screaming to him for help as they burn alive in blazing houses.

God loves children.

Love carries no obligations with it.

God is no more obliged to save people from Satan's clutches than he is obliged to answer prayers for help in finding parking spaces.

Tom said...

And what good is such a God or belief in such a God to the believers? If God is not obliged to do anything then believing in him doesn't matter. That's what I felt for a long time, your statement just made it clearer.

It reminds me of a Jewish saying, if God lived on earth he would have all his windows broken :)

Steven Carr said...

This alleged God is alleged not to be under any obligation to tell the truth.

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

If you let lose a ferocious tiger into a room it can have consequences beyond the person who opened the cage. There is no such thing as a fair evil any more than a round triangle. As for Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy I am not clear on what Mr. Dawkins means. If he means God is imaginary he is simply begging the question. If he means the God is simply a merely some vague goody-goody like Santa Claus he is disbelieving in a God I would reject. I admit it is very difficult to reconcile the existence of evil with a Santa Claus view of God.

Tom said...

A tiger loose in a room. an interesting analogy. Then who is responsible for the disaster? The person who bought the tiger, the person who build the flimsy cage, the person who brought the whole thing into the living room, the child who opened the cage, the person who with a single whistle can call the tiger back or the person who knew that the whole thing is going to happen and planned it by sending somebody to help the child open the cage?

Who would you blame?

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

The question is whether evil was let into this world by an innocent accident or carelessness on the part of the creator. I have characterized the cause of evil as clear and deliberate revolt of human beings against their maker and that is the position I would defend not that it was stumbled into by accident. Nor do I believe such a revolt or its results can be called back with a whistle or any easy method. I would hold that the creation of an independent thinking being entails the potential of such a rebellion. The point of my tiger analogy is once the revolt had begun and the evil was released it would not impact people in a fair manner resulting in little children dieing in catastrophes while mafia dons die in their bed in old age.

Tom said...

I think an all powerful God can do anything with a whistle or a word for that matter. That's what we are talking about here. Why do you believe containing evil is beyond God's abilities?

In my analogy I didn't mean that what happened was an accident. It was a willful act of the part of the child the same way it's willful when a child sticks a fork into an unprotected outlet.

On the other hand what evidence do you have that it was an act of rebellion. If we are to trust the biblical account it was hardly that way. Adam and Eve ignored the tree for the most part, that is until the snake turned their attention. Was the snake the first evil in the garden? Did God design and create it knowing full well what it's going to do?
In the story God says "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Adam and Eve did not die on that day or on any of the thousands that followed. The snake exposed that statement to be untrue and used it to convince Adam and Eve. Was that first untrue statement the first fissure in the perfect world?

What happened does not look like a rebellion to me. There was no scheming, no malice, no anger. To me it looks like an act of curiosity. I does not negate the fact that did happen. God however is the judge and can decide what results from that act. Nothing is irreversible and nothing is unforgivable in the world under God's control. Humans act, God decides the results (or sometimes steps in before they can act). In this case the act was unforgivable. If curiosity is unforgivable how can we hope to be forgiven for much worse transgressions?

Today there are many trees with fruit that will kill you the same day you eat it. I assume God turned some trees to be poison after the fall. Why would he do that? Why would he make those poisonous fruits look delicious and often undistinguishable from the edible ones killing mostly curious and unsuspecting children?

Tom said...

The question is not whether evil acts affect good, innocent people. We can all see that from everyday life and it's almost the rule as far as evil acts go. The question is not even why. We know that too. An innocent child got killed on the way to church in a gang shooting because a gangster aimed badly and a bullet struck her head.

The questions should be is it just and should these things happen in a just world with a perfect and all powerful judge presiding over it. Or is justice relegated after you die?

Surveillance cameras are in fashion now to control crime. Crime drops drastically in places where they are installed. More and more neighborhoods are begging for them. Why do cameras have such an effect? It's because the criminals feel tangible and swift justice. Are we doing God's job here?

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

It is impossible to know the motivations of Adam and Eve but lets look at our own motivations today. I used to question the existence of God but now I believe in Him. In neither case did I feel like a naughty child who was putting a fork in a light socket. One can argue that I was right it the first place. It may be good and reasonable to argue against God if He is just a false idea. But on either side I feel like a thinking adult who is responsible for my actions.

Tom said...

You are right, we can never be sure what others are thinking but what indicates to you that Adam and Eve where in rebellion?

If you did wrong things on purpose or even through negligence you are held responsible and you should be punished, regardless if you believe in God or never even heard of God. Nobody questions that (at least I haven't seen it come up).

The real question we are all grappling here is whether it is just for innocent bystanders to pay for your bad decisions. So is it just?

BTW, I used the "child" as an analogy because in the face of God we are less than babbling newborns. God did not create us perfect. Wouldn't you agree?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Tom's smokin' it up in here very well said.

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

If I decide to become a God and replace God this seems to me to be rebellion. It I decide to start a revolution and overthrow our current government am I not rebelling. The question is if God created independent being who could think and choose for themselves can He by sheer omnipotence force them not to rebel without destroying what He created? And if we are responsible for our actions and actions have consequences will not those consequences affect others?

Tom said...

Do you mean Adam and Eve tried to become Gods and replace God? What godlike qualities did they pursue and acquire? Did God ever feel threatened?

How is preventing somebody from rebelling equal their destruction? So you believe that putting the tree of knowledge outside the garden, or better yet making it inedible stone of knowledge, would destroy Adam and Eve. Can you explain?

God gave us some freedom but limited it very severely. If we were really free to choose anything we wanted we truly would be Gods. I would choose to be a math genius and solve complex differential equations in my head. Alas, as it stands now i am limited to a simple multiplication table :( I would also choose to live forever, however, God only allows me to choose to die (but then tells me not to do it) :( God lets us choose destruction but makes rebuilding very difficult and often impossible. God lets us choose to cut limbs off but not to regrow them (he gave that choice to salamanders instead). God lets us choose to kill but not to resurrect (he denied snakes and rabbits the choice of killing their own kind for some reason). God gave us very limited mental powers and wants us to use them to guess the future and consequences of our actions. Why not give us the ability to see the future? How many people would choose to do evil if they saw clearly what the consequence are going to be? Would Adam and Eve eat the fruit?

If God created this world he also created the laws and rules that apply in it. God decided that gravity is going to affect everything that travels through space. God also decided that evil beings and their deeds will have effect on innocent ones. He could have decided on different rules but he didn't. We often go against this rule and try to shield the innocent. Are we going against God's designs?

You still didn't answer the question. Do you think that the rule that the evil corrupts and destroys the innocence is good or just?

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

I believe that existence of beings who can make their own choices and be responsible for their actions is good and just. One of the potential results of that is they may make the wrong choices or may be corrupted by others to make the wrong choices. This issue is not whether we can hurt God when we rebel against Him but the damage we do to our own character when we try. To simply remove the tree or make the fruit inedible misses the point. The whole thing was a test to see if they would be subject to God's rule. If they had not rebelled in this way they could have rebelled in some other. Yes God could have made it so they could not rebel but it would have taken away the possibility of their being responsible being having independence of thought and action. But if we say God is unjust what standard are we measuring by. If there is no God can there be any standard of justice. All I am left with is what is convenient to me.

Tom said...

I am glad we agree on something. What you call a test many would call a setup or an entrapment. But I won't quibble about the words. In our world those tests run in different flavors. They range from an officer buying drugs from a street dealer to an officer enticing a minor ecstasy pusher to get him a kilo of cocaine, something that he never did or even thought about until the officer showed up with a wad of cash. The story in the Bible indicates that it's more of the second kind of test.

The opinions on those tests range but everybody agrees that they are dishonest but many still think that they are justified, a necessary evil.

Why did God have to stoop to those tactics? He didn't need to perform the test to find out any new information. He knew what Adam is going to do even before the world was created. After all he created him to be naive, gullible yet curious. He also created talking snakes that were smarter than him. So the outcome of the test were preordained. The only thing that makes sense to me is that the test was not for the God's benefit but for ours. It was supposed to teach us about our own nature that God gave us. But then why the harsh punishment?

Many of us will look at God's actions with our puny human logic and see them as unjust. But maybe in the vain of Nixon and Bush, if the president does it it's not illegal, if God does it it's not unjust. But then how do you build a morality on that foundation, where any act no matter how atrocious can be justified as the will of God?

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

I find your perspective interesting. We have not responsibility to God, but He has every responsibility to us including somehow preventing us from choosing to doing anything wrong by preventing the opportunity from doing so. According to Christianity God has gone to great lengths to ultimately if not immediately get us out of the mess we have gotten ourselves into but this is not enough for you. He had to somehow stop us from making any wrong choices. Perhaps we all need to make ourselves a sign that says "I'm a victim too". You have pictured humanity as a bunch of naughty children who do not know enough to keep our forks out of light sockets and cannot really be held responsible for our actions. (You bridled at this but it is confirmed continuously in everything you say.) I'm sorry but though humility is a Christian virtue I afraid I'm just not that humble. As for a test amounting to entrapment is then every school teacher in the world guilty of in entrapment. Also the purpose of a test is not primarily to show the teacher something but to show the pupil about themselves based on whether they pass or not. Is forbidding of one tree out of many that unreasonable a request by the One who made all the trees in the first place? If they could not keep that simple request are we to assume that by not making the request He would prevent them from ever opposing Him in anything else. But I do admit I believe in a God who has standards, who requires things of the beings He created. Has I wrote earlier I think it very difficult to explain the existence of evil if you have a Santa Claus idea of God. If that is the kind of God you do not believe in, I agree. I do not believe in Him either.

Tom said...

You are right, I find God responsible for his design. I think it's similar to when we find Microsoft responsible when windows keeps crashing or we find parents responsible when their small kids do something bad. You contend that we can't blame God for giving us the freedom of choice because that's something good. But as I said before he didn't give us a blanket freedom. He picked the freedoms very specifically and I think it's fair to analyze God's design choices.

I am not saying that God needs to prevent us from making any wrong choices. But if we are to be judged the playing field should be leveled. The way I see it the odds are staked against us because many choices are already made for us.

You would agree that we don't have the freedom to choose absolutely anything, right? Adam and Eve did not have a freedom not to see the tree or to find its fruit unappetizing or to be smarter than the snake or to not to be curious. Those choices were made for them by God presumably for the purpose of the test. The choice they were left with was whether to give in or resist the God given urges.

So since God makes the majority of choices for us it's fair to ask what good God's choices do us, isn't it? Let's take a look at one freedom that God granted us, the freedom to kill our own kind. What benefit would you say is that particular freedom to us? Can you think of other freedoms that you think WOULD be beneficial but God withheld from us? I think the freedom of seeing the future would be hugely beneficial, wouldn't you agree?

I have a problem comparing Adam's test to a school exam. Kids don't need to be tricked to take exams, they know when the exam starts and ends and they are clear about the rules of the exam. In the end they are faced with a grade and not expulsion from the school. If you want to keep school analogy I would say Adam's test was more like a psychology experiment where students are lured in to participate with a small amount of money and they are lied about what the experiment is really about. But even in that case they are not expelled from school even if they chose to electrocute some innocent people during the experiment.

I am sure you remember the phrase "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." So if you have a problem with my father/child analogy maybe you pick it up with Jesus ;)

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

I don't know you claim to know how a God you don't believe in must have designed human beings. But I do not think the ability to make independent responsible choices is a flaw in the design though it makes wrong choices possible.
I don't get where you get that this fruit is somehow irresistible. It looked good but there is no reason to believe it was any more irresistible than any other fruit in the garden. As for the serpent do you believe everything someone you just met happens to tell you, especially if it contradicted what you had already been instructed. I see no reason to believe they had to make that choice or were compelled to make that choice or that they could not have made the other choice. Are you perhaps seeing the whole thing as an allegory for sex. I realize if you are a Freudian or a character in a Dan Brown novel you read sex into everything. But apart from such a universal dedication to the shrine of sex I see no basis for reading it in here. Adam and Eve are presented as husband and wife and are commanded to multiply and fill the earth (they had permission). Granted you can always come up with some perversion (there are always animals) there does not even seem to obvious candidate for that particular wrong choice. I see no basis for reading that in here.
But tell me if there is no God who then is responsible for evil. Granted a certain part of it is physical disasters which you can claim just happen, the most common and most pervasive type of evil is human evil. It sure looks like we are still responsible. The question seems to be whether there is someone who can help us overcome it. That may be wishful thinking, but either way it sure looks like we are responsible.

Tom said...

One can analyze how things were made and judge if they were made well even if one was not present at the moment of creation. Or do you think reverse engineering is impossible? I also don't think free choice is necessarily a design flaw if accompanied with some other feature so it can be enjoyed responsibly. What would you say of a creature with long, super sharp claws for defense and heads made out of balloons that itch all the time. On one hand it's a great idea on the other hand a great disaster. A disaster that can be easily averted by giving the creatures a thick skull. If the skull is not present one can't help but wonder what the designer was thinking.

I definitely agree, the fruit was not irresistible. Adam went on resisting it for who knows how long, that is until the snake showed up. You say that you wouldn't trust just anybody. You say it from your experience but the garden was a more innocent place, people didn't lock their doors, Adam was never lied to before as far as he knew, that is until the snake exposed God's dishonesty.

Any of those factors on their own would not get people to disobey but God combined them all to design his test. Like you said God designed the test not to find out what's going to happen, he knew that already, he designed it to expose the human nature to Adam and Eve.

In this particular situation it seems to me God would be responsible for what happened as he was in control of all the factors, he designed all the pieces that went into the test and he was certain of the test's outcome while he was designing and setting up the pieces. When there are no external forces manipulating the situations we are in we are left as the only actors making the decisions therefore we are responsible for the actions. I think our judicial system does a pretty good job assigning the responsibility.

I don't understand why you bring sex into this. Is sex a sin?

My argument here is not to prove that God doesn't exist. My argument is to show that God is the source of good as well as evil. And I thought the point would be moot with this quote from the Bible:
"I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

Mike The Mad Theologian said...


This has been an interesting discussion but it is clear we have highly different perspectives and are simply going over that same basic ground over and over again. I feel it is reasonable that;
An omnipotent God could create an independent being who could make their own choices even if they are wrong.
God without being draconian could require them not to eat of one out of a multitude of fruit trees. (Human beings regularly require such things of other human beings and hold them accountable for performing them.)
That breaking such requirement especially on the conceit that they could become Gods (I don't see an basis for saying they were too ignorant to see two contradictory statements could not both be true) could have consequences.
Obviously you think these unreasonable. I suspect we approach not only the question of God but life in general from highly different premises. Perhaps at some point one or the other of us gain further light.
But I am uncomfortable continuing to impose on Mr. Reppert's by holding a perpetual running discussion on his blog, especially as we don't seem to be getting anywhere nor does it look like either of us will convince the other in the near future.
If you would like the last word be my guest.

Mike The Mad Theologian said...

I really was going quit here and I would still like to, but I thought over what you said in your last post and felt I had to impose on Mr. Reppert's hospitality (sorry about leaving the word out last time) one more time.
Are you serious? Are you telling me you really believe in a God who sends out little children out with forks to stick in light sockets. Who puts before people impossible tasks. Who makes creatures with claws and bubble heads. Who chortles when little children die in Tsunamis. Who made people with murderous impulses. (Note Christians would hold such impulses to be the result of the corruption from the first sin. We are not as we were originally engineered.) How I think it entirely possible that you did not really mean that. That you were just ending your letter with a rhetorical flourish. But if you are serious I have a challenge if you dare accept it. As far as I am concerned our old discussion is over, but if you are serious it's my turn. This time I'll play the atheist and you explain to me how you deal with the problem of evil. Explain to me why I should consider the God you claim to hold as anything other than the devil.

Joshua Allen said...

It's the number one reason atheists will give you for why they are atheists.

Is this really true? Almost all of my friends and acquaintances are atheists, and I don't think I've ever heard this excuse used once. (maybe once, but certainly not the "number one").

I'm just curious, because I've heard it asserted several times that this is the most common cause for rejecting theism, but have no idea how that assessment was made.

Tom said...

Indeed I think it's an interesting discussion. I don't feel it's wasted time even if in the end no one manages to convince the other side. Learning the arguments from the opposite view is always valuable. I think the differences in this argument may lay in areas other than you think. You argue points that I do not contest and answer questions that I do not ask.

I will address the point that you make to show you how much I do agree with you.

An omnipotent God could create an independent being who could make their own choices even if they are wrong.
A total agreement. But my question is not whether God could or should or even if it's good to create such a being. My question is is it just to punish such beings which God equipped with such limited freedom and wisdom but equipped them with plenty of urges.

God without being draconian could require them not to eat of one out of a multitude of fruit trees.
A total agreement gain. It would not be unreasonable to ban even half the trees from human consumption. In fact in the world today I believe only 10% of plants are edible. My question is is it just to punish harshly all the generations of humanity for failing a highly contrived and controlled tree test.

That breaking such requirement especially on the conceit that they could become Gods could have consequences.
I have no problem with consequences. My question is are those consequences just. Can a God that dispenses such consequences be called just? However I do have hard time understanding how failing a tree test is causing earthquakes thousands of years later. BTW, is wanting to be more like God a sin? I was always under impression that it was a virtue...

Obviously you can see that I don't find many of your arguments unreasonable at all. I am just asking different and deeper questions.

To answer your second post I did not say I believed in any God but if one analyzes the Bible and the world at large from a theological perspective one must conclude that God is both responsible for good and evil. I am not sure why you ignore the quote I provided. Did you go back to the Bible to read it in context? Can you interpret it for me from your perspective?

You seem to be incredulous that anybody could hold such a view of God but in fact most people throughout history and even now view God that way. I haven't met one religious person who upon hearing news of an earthquake or other disaster started lamenting Adam and Eve's original sin. Instead what they say is "God works in mysterious ways" or "people suffer God's wrath" or "God punishes people" or "God tests people" or "rewards are not to be sought on this earth" and so on (where do these people get these notions, are they not mainstream Christian ideas?). This way God's evil actions and his responsibility are not denied but they are justified and our minds are simply to feeble to understand God's reasons completely.

Tom said...

Joshua, I think the problem of evil might not be the number one reason why atheists do not believe in God but they will use it readily in arguments with theists since it's the easiest argument to make, problem of evil being such a clear contradiction.

Although I don't have any data I suspect however that this contradiction is a leading reason why believers lose their faith. And it usually isn't as a result of an argument but of something terrible happening in their lives that in their minds is clearly unjust and undeserved.