God is good and loving. We all know that, right? In fact, some theists ‘know’ that so vehemently that if God were to kill everybody in a global flood, or create a worm that must burrow into human eye balls, said theist will find defining the words “good” and “loving” much more flexible than the assertion “God is good and loving”. Many theists go a step further, saying that God is necessarily good and loving. Their argument is often derived from the ontological argument, where a ‘maximally great being’ is defined as existing.
Although I can see why goodness is, y’know, good‒great, even‒it is not objectively so. Being good and loving is subjectively great. Even if I change the ontological argument to talk about ‘maximally positively great’ beings, we don’t get around the issue of goodness being subjective. By changing the argument to talk about ‘positively great’ beings, we remove my temptation to talk about the more flippant “maximal” qualities. After all, aren’t maximal ignorance and impotence qualities that work make the ontological argument work? The answer is yes. But ignorance is the absence of knowledge (the reverse “knowledge is the absence of ignorance” cannot be meaningfully defended), knowledge is the positive quality, a being with maximally positive attributes is omniscient, not ignorant. (This, entertainingly, leads to a god who is also infinitely hot and infinitely dense and infinitely big…)
Whereas abilities, knowledge, heat, density and size are all objective positive qualities, “good” is subjective. We have no way of evaluating whether airing “I’m a Celebrity…” is good on a celestial or universal scale. You cannot believe God is good until you know what “good” means. You should not define “goodness” as “Godliness” because that is completely content-free; it tell you nothing about how to test the goodness or badness of a thought or action.
Enter: Evil God. Fewer claims needs to be made to support an evil God than a good one. A good God needs promises of unseen redemption and unsupportable claims that all of your suffering will be repaid “an hundredfold”. A good God requires secret intent and behind the scenes settlements and plea bargains. Evil God needs one claim: “there can be no true despair without hope” (Bane, The Dark Knight Rises). With that single claim, an evil God makes sense. We don’t need the Fall or redemption or all the other unsupported claims that make Occam’s razor cut so fiercely against a ‘good God’. An evil God creates cancer, parasites, necessary competition and suffering in nature, death, the psychology of loss, our physiological capacity for pain, personally indifferent natural disasters…
In fact, in a theistic world an evil God accounts for our suffering better, and accounts for parts of our psychology a good God simply doesn’t. When it comes to being happy, we have two big obstacles: habituation and contrast. Habituation is about the diminishing return of happiness from the same thing, we have to seek greater stimuli for the same happiness; contrast refers to the fact that we compare stimulus which could make us happy to ‘peak stimulus’, which dampens the happiness we receive. It is difficult to be happy. That is not something a good god would build.
I consider this an atheist argument, although it relies on the theist doing a share of the work. This argument makes the claim that a god does exist, but It is evil. It is not a claim I believe, I do not believe in gods. However, to dismiss this argument and save God from being accused of being evil, one must refute this argument without making a claim that can simultaneously refute arguments for God’s goodness or existence. My expectation is for calls on faith or ‘but I believe in a good God’, neither of which are good enough. I look forward to your responses.