A Challenge to Christians and Atheists

The problem of evil is ubiquitous. However, this argument only works against certain definitions of a god. If you believe in a particular God that is incompatible with the nature of suffering then you should throw out the definition of God. Normally this is not what happens. People either cut their definitions of God or redefine their terms and then argue with the same vehemence that they have always believed in their new adaptation.

But it is not the nature of the argument I am here to critique; I am here to discuss whether freewill necessarily permits suffering and whether God could stop our suffering without infringing on our freewill. I want also to extend the question: if ending our suffering does mean removing our freewill, should He do it? To all these I want to answer that not only could God end our suffering, but to protect our freewill He must end our suffering.

Consider, first, an analogy. At an advertising firm the Executive Director, Graham (or “G” for short and ingenious hipster irony), permits sexual harassment in the workplace because it is necessary for his employees’ creativity. G believes, and the shareholders agree, that ending sexual harassment will ruin creativity. “Sexual harassment is a part of our expression…” G explained to an incredulous collection of 12 of his peers, “… thus it feeds our creativity”. Occasionally when employees finishes working at G-Advertising the police punish the offenders, but there are no consequences during their employment.

The problem is that Jethro disagrees. Jethro is an ex-psychologist who started to work at G-Advertising 8 months ago. Holly is sexually harassing Jethro and Jethro has noticed a decline in his own psychological wellbeing and that has changed his ability to think clearly and to be creative. Although Jethro recognises G’s argument that sexual harassment appears as a spin-off from creativity, he cannot understand why G favours the creativity of those who are willing to sexually harass others over people like himself, whose creativity depends on not being sexually harassed.

To protect the creativity of Jethro and others like him, G necessary must create and enforce a policy that forbids sexual harassment. He may even consider only hiring people he believes will not sexually harass others in the office as a part of a new team development policy.

I hope the analogy stands on its own with explanation. This is how it is with God. Children will not to be abused and beaten. People will not to be kidnapped and killed. Citizens will not to be oppressed. Property owners will not to be stolen from. If our freewill were really being protected, these wills would matter. However, it is the will of the child abuser, kidnapper, oppressive government and thieves that God favours (else, none of this could happen). The world we really see is not one where we have freewill, but one where our wills are realised in proportion to our force. Sometimes this is good; the joint will of people has generated charities. However, human caused suffering appears when ill-will has more brute force or deception behind it than the strong opposing will.

One of the options for doing this is increasing our empathy so that we don’t want to cause other people harm. We already have some empathy (each of us at different levels). That empathy stops us pushing new-mothers with their babies in their pram into the road so we can walk past. If you disagree that it is empathy that stops us doing that, we can at least agree something is stopping us from committing infanticide? And whatever that is, no one has complained that has interfered with our freewill. So, more of that, please. God, if you read this, I will that all people have more of whatever this is. That should end intentional human-caused suffering.

The idea that force is what turns will into reality appears very natural. To an atheist, this is the unfortunate way of things. But it is also the pitiless indifference of nature and certainly no sign of a benevolent overseer. We have will that is recognised according to our physical strength and chance. If our freewill is to be protected, it must be realised according to a democratic system. It should not exclude the weak and the vulnerable. No matter how much one person wills to hurt me, my will and the will of those who care about me would be enough to prohibit that behaviour. Suffering would end. Because that is what we do will.

Not only could God end human-caused suffering and protect our freewill, but to protect our freewill He must end our suffering.

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40 thoughts on “A Challenge to Christians and Atheists”

  1. What is we dispense with freewill as a cause for suffering and just look at the natural world.

    All living things suffer.

    Suffering is what drives evolution.

    Consequently, without suffering, life on Earth would not exist.

    Therefore, suffering is not moral evil but a natural good since it drives creatures to survive and improve.

    Next, what determines if the choices we freely make or good or evil?

    Some choices can lead to suffering such as the stress induced from working hard at job or school. Yet the results lead to good results.

    Thus, we have reasoned out that suffering is not a universal standard for what is morally good or evil.

    That means the fundamental premise of this post is in error.

    Blaming God for the evil that men do is irrational.

    1. Interesting. So the holocaust had benefits that exceeded the costs?
      So, suffering without payout is good?
      So, there’s no other possible system that an intelligent creator could have devised?

      1. The Holocaust was a human moral evil.

        As I explained in my previous comment, moral evils are actions committee my human beings.

        And asking whether or not the God could have created a system to suit the exacting standards of Allallt, is 200 proof, single malt hubris.

        1. Oh, it’s silly to ask if things could be better?
          JZ is right, what you just argued is exactly what he argues for his malevolent God, at it makes a lot more sense that way.

          Naturalism can make sense of why nature is read in tooth and claw. Theism just just looks for excuses (or dodges the question while thinking of a good whiskey to get their sister for Christmas).

        2. Allallt,

          Yes, it is silly to ask if the universe could be better.

          Good, better, best needs a standard from which to base a judgement.

          How many universes are you familiar with in order to critique the design and function of our own.

        3. Perfection is a concept. You can compare reality to expectation. This universe is not perfect for anything. It’s strength, I would say, is appearing entirely natural. But it’s not perfect, even in that regard, because some people aren’t convinced it is.
          Perfection is a model that predicts outcomes. The data can be compared to that.

      1. John,

        Assigning one of your clever labels to something is definitely not an example of a rational argument.

        For the sake of Christian Western Civilization, please try again.

        1. No, he’s right. You made the argument for the malevolent God described in his book.
          You were acting as an apologist not for a loving God, but a hateful one.

  2. I do not like the word “evil” just as I do not like the word “sin.” A sin is an act unforgivable by people, only forgivable by a god … otherwise known as the full Employment Act for Priests. What is evil? Where on the sliding scale of negative behaviors does it start? Certainly it is outside of “naughty” and “real bad” and probably “reprehensible,” but how does one define this word exactly? I think the words “sin” and “evil” were designed in support of religious solutions for ordinary events (according to the FEAP).

    Also, most discussions of free will limit the discussion to “conscious free will,” which is ludicrous. We live the bulk of our lives based upon subconscious actions, while our conscious minds are floating around thinking about anything but reality. Consciousness is an emergent property of human brains, but we seem to think it “is us.” As a contrarian, I believe that a belief in “free will” is really a philosophical statement about how one chooses to live one’s life and interpret the actions of others. It does not necessary require a biological basis in fact, nor does it need a conceptual basis in philosophy. It is a choice.

    1. So what steve. Guess what? Rats don’t like darkness either.

      The truth of darkness is not hindered by the rats lack of appreciation for the reality of darkness…………

      The fact that you do not ‘like’ sin or evil……………..hardly makes the reality disappear.

        1. I see you have brought your reindeer games over here.

          To date, ‘PRESIDENT’ Trump has not offered one word.

          But of course you live in an alternate reality that says ahem, the Exodus of Moses and his people never occurred.

        2. Trump did say it:

          I mean, in context, he probably worded it carelessly and his actual point (personal as it is) is a good one.
          But, he absolutely did say it.

        3. C’mon Allalt, agree with me, it won’t hurt. You won’t lose any credibility.

          It is this carelessness of reading that gets people in trouble. Thanks for pointing out to zande though that his nonsense is boring.

          Now follow this one last time. PRESIDENT Trump has not uttered one word yet.about anything……….

          PRESIDENT Trump is mute. PRESIDENT Trump does not exist.

          Dare you argue with logic and common sense, or will you pretend that words do not mean things, such as your defense for your other friend, who apparently cannot speak for himself.

          Sin and evil are as obvious as water is wet.

        4. Colourstorm has been trying to justify why he voted for him… but is now not so very keen on someone, me, quoting him.

          Seems the evangelicals are, all of a sudden, a little confused about their own hypocricy.

        5. Yeah, the ‘putting a wife to work’ comment is about having your wife work for you — you can find the full interview and it isn’t that bad. President elect Trump is creepily keen on his own daughter, but that’s not a political point.
          The political points are the economic reviews of his tax plans (bad, really bad, worse than Hilary), views on NATO, or how he’s back pedaling rapidly.

        6. He’s a shocker across the board… and garnered 81% of the white evangelical vote. To put that in perspective, George W. Bush got 79%.

          Funny, though, to watch all his campaign positions evaporate. “Drain the Swamp” has become, “Hire the Swamp Monsters.”

        7. Yes, he’s awful. But I don’t know why we’re discussing him here, or missing the mark by discussing the person and not the politics.

        8. Mischief. Flow-over from another thread… and it’s not as if CS contributes anything even vaguely interesting (or remotely rational) to a discussion.

        9. John,

          Obviously you don’t remember the time when families could live well on only one income.

          If John can’t remember it, it must be sexist, racist, bigot, homophobe!

      1. You seem to have missed the point. So, acting to form.
        Steve isn’t arguing bad things don’t happen or that there isn’t a scale of bad things: he is arguing that those particular labels (“sin” and “evil”) lack utility.

        1. Evil lacks utility? So the people who store dead bodies in their fridge to make sandwiches are not evil???????????

          Stealing penny candy or embezzling millions is not sin?

          (by the way, many ate waiting for you to slap jz upside the head for his circus antics here; and by so doing, you will be bidding adieu to evil…………..

        2. If I let your comments, SOM’s comments and, when she popped over, insanity bytes comments through, why would I hit JZ up side the head for his?

        3. Why?
          There is this thing called relevance. If you notice, my first observation had to do with your post directly by way of pointing out the facts to your other guest.

          Now zande, he has a habit of ‘directing’ a thread into his field of weeds. Any unbiased mind must agree.

          And you should have defended what is right, but hey, it’s your blog. ‘PRESIDENT’ Trump has not said one word…………

          His clock has been cleaned repeatedly, and you too are ignoring the wrong time.

    2. I don’t think believe in freewill is a choice.

      But I also don’t agree that sin and evil are useless words. Your argument seems to succumb to the ‘how many grains of sand make a pile?’ thought, and concludes that piles don’t exist. Yes, scaling things with woolly boundaries does complicate issues. But I don’t think it does away with the concept of the scale altogether.

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