Creationist Wisdom #594: The Problem of Evil

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Journal Gazette/Times-Courier. They don’t disclose where they’re located, but it’s probably Charleston, Illinois. The letter is titled To atheists, what is ‘good’ is what ‘I think’. The newspaper has a comments feature.

Unless the letter-writer is a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. But today we’ve got a preacher — Ron Thomas. He preaches at the Highway Church of Christ in Sullivan, Illinois. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Some atheists like to accentuate what they perceived to be the problem of evil in society and its relationship to an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good God. To them, there is an incompatibility, even a contradiction. The incompatibility (contradiction) is not obvious to anyone, so the atheist has to make an extended argument on what they think is a contradiction.

The rev spends a couple of paragraphs describing the Problem of evil — an ancient theological question of how to reconcile the existence of evil with that of a deity who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. We are fortunate today, dear reader, because the rev has it all figured out. He says:

There is no necessary incompatibility in the construct of this atheistic argument – it is merely asserted.

Huh? Let’s read on:

What atheists try to do, then, is form a moral standard of some sort where the formulator of that standard is in position to judge something else. They try to formulate what “good” is and what it does. This is nothing more than an “I think” approach based upon an opinion. One person might argue in “rocket-science” terms that it should be obvious as to why inflicting pain and suffering is wrong. Yet, no atheist can tell us why – they only assert it.

Oh, we get it. The only people who pose the problem are atheists, and they wouldn’t know evil if it beheaded them. The rev continues:

The best an atheist can do is to find some common features or qualities in humanity and then assert them as a collective in a moral code that others should follow. For instance, one atheist said with regard to a law that says it is acceptable to extinguish another human being based solely on their race/religion, “I personally would asses that law to be wrong because it involves pain and suffering.” That’s it? Yes, that is it. It is the only basis on which he can judge, and does judge. No atheist can do better at offering a reason.

The rev can do much better than the atheist, of course. He doesn’t even bother explaining it to us because it’s so obvious. He knows what’s evil because the bible tells him. The atheist, on the other hand, knows nothing. Here’s more:

Some atheists assert they know what “good” is and how it operates. In this assertion, it is nothing more than an “I think” approach based on subjectivity.

Ah, but unlike the squishy subjectivity of the atheist, the rev has an objective guide. And now we come to the end:

There is no “I know” to it because atheists have no objective moral standard by which to judge.

So there you are. The rev has solved the problem of evil, which has bedeviled theologians for millennia.

Wait — you have a question? You say the rev didn’t explain, on his own terms, why there is evil in the world? Hey — now that you mention it, he didn’t explain it. But he made it clear that it’s only people like you who ask that question, and he doesn’t have to answer because you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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13 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #594: The Problem of Evil

  1. No atheist can do better at offering a reason.

    It might do the rev a bit of good to discuss this topic with an atheist or two rather than just making himself look stupid by shooting his mouth off.

    Just sayin’.

  2. Isn’t it obvious that the reason there’s evil in the world is because the rev’s favorite sky fairy is a mean, sadistic character who allows it to happen and indeed the writings alleged to have been inspired by him/her/it encourage it?

  3. The Good Rev says:

    For instance, one atheist said with regard to a law that says it is acceptable to extinguish another human being based solely on their race/religion, “I personally would asses that law to be wrong because it involves pain and suffering.”

    1) What law?
    2) What atheist?
    3) “I would personally asses“… yes, you would, Rev. This is probably the most intelligent thing you’ve said in your entire diatribe, even if it wasn’t really YOU saying it.

  4. There is no “I know” to it because atheists have no objective moral standard by which to judge.

    God protect us from people who “know” what is moral.

  5. Dave Luckett

    Oh, dear, theodicy. No doubt Prof T could give a far more learned appreciation of the problem than I could possibly. But it is an intractible one for a monotheism that teaches the omnipotence, omniscience and benevolence of God.

    One can attempt a solution along the lines of putting all evil down to the universal depravity of Man – but that is manifestly inadequate, for there are many “evils” that are obviously not caused by any human action. The only recourse, at the last, is to throw up one’s hands, as the good Rev does above, and trust in God. Meh.

    But beyond that, the Rev is in a spectacularly poor position to decry atheists relying on their inward sense of what is right. At least the atheist can say that pain and suffering are to be minimised where possible, simply because s/he would avoid them, given the option, and empathy would indicate that others would, too. This understanding is mutual. Ameliorating the suffering of others is generally sound, then, simply because it is reciprocated. Empathy and reciprocity provides sufficient rational grounds for doing it, therefore. The Rev’s assertion that atheists don’t have rational grounds for compassion is thus obviously unsound.

    Worse, the Rev’s own Holy Book says that humans acquired the knowledge of good and evil. Well, if he believes that, why does he find it strange that even an atheist would have it? Why would he think that such knowledge would be faulty?

    So not only is the Rev’s assertion false to fact, it’s in violation of his own principles.

    What is it with these people, that they can’t think?

  6. Rev, one doesn’t need to “believe in God” to understand the wisdom of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    And frankly, isn’t this directive at the heart of Christianity? Certainly more so than if one “believes” in a six-day creation, Adam & Eve, global flood, etc.

    Moreover, the Golden Rule is actionable — one can consciously decide to act in accordance. However, as Dave Luckett (I believe) pointed out in an earlier post, you cannot will yourself to “believe” something. Either the evidence is there to convince you of its truth, or it isn’t.

    So, in a nutshell, I can most certainly be an agnostic or an atheist and still follow the Golden Rule. And I would follow the Golden Rule just because I can see it is the right thing to do, and not because I fear going to hell or not acquiring heaven if I don’t.

  7. I am waiting for where the rev explains how he knows the atheist is wrong

  8. “Some atheists like to accentuate what they perceived to be the problem of evil in society”
    Oops – our preacher immediately gets it wrong. The PoE also refers to stuff like earthquakes. In fact it was the earthquake that hit Lissabon in the 18th Century that induced the still ongoing discussion about the PoE.

    “To them, there is an incompatibility, even a contradiction.”
    That’s one version. There is also a version that merely says that the PoE decreases the probability of god. Our preacher doesn’t really know his stuff.

    “The incompatibility (contradiction) is not obvious to anyone”
    Eh? It was immediately obvious to my son. Sure, he didn’t really know his stuff either, but he had the excuse of being 14.

    “One person might argue in “rocket-science” terms that it should be obvious as to why inflicting pain and suffering is wrong. Yet, no atheist can tell us why – they only assert it.”
    Well, yes. But if our preacher is gong to tell us that inflicting pain and suffering is a good thing we atheists even have a better reason to maintain that his god is a piece of [edited out]. WLC falls in that trap as well with his Divine Comman Theory justifying the Canaanite Genocide.

    “one atheist said with regard to a law that says it is acceptable to extinguish another human being based solely on their race/religion”
    If this atheist is meant to be Hitler the question rises if our preacher is not only ignorant but also malevolent. Hitler was an anti-atheist.

    “No atheist can do better at offering a reason.”
    Yeah. Just forget all the unbelieving philosophers who wrote about ethics, to begin with Jeremy Bentham.

  9. Ron Thomas seems to be suggesting that the argument of Epicurus:
    “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?
    Is trivial, and easily refuted by…ummm…ahhh…the absolute morality given by the god who…ummm…ahhh….refutes these things.
    The fundamental problem is not even addressed. to say that god provides absolutes does raise the question of ‘which god’? I feel sure that it was an atheist who said “with regard to a law that says it is acceptable to extinguish another human being based solely on their race/religion” it is wrong. History tells us that only athiests place human rights above scripturally supported immorality.

  10. waldteufel

    Apparently, the good rev gets his morals out of an old book that expressly promotes slavery, stoning unruly children to death, glorifies genocide . . . .
    He can keep his holy book and wallow in his bronze/Iron age “morality”‘
    Meanwhile, the civilized world marches on with ever improving regard for human rights, the outrages of homicidal and oppressive monotheistic religions notwithstanding.

  11. waldteufel:
    “Meanwhile, the civilized world marches on with ever improving regard for human rights, the outrages of homicidal and oppressive monotheistic religions notwithstanding.”

    That says it all, waldteufel.

  12. I apologize for restating this point over and over again.

    The first First Council of Nicaea determined that having an omniscient deity removed all meaning from existence.

    The official solution was to declare that their invisible friend had chosen to limit it’s own omniscience just enough to not know every outcome from the moment of creation forward.

    This allowed for people to be judged on their choices and prevented a deity from being reduced to a divine robot trapped by it’s own knowledge.

    You can probably imagine how much romance, other worldliness and grandeur would be lost from the story if the head of the pantheon was simply a machine producing existence.

    How many of these ketchup lovin hick preachers even know the First Council of Nicaea was a key moment in the evolution of their brand of mysticism?

  13. Some atheists assert they know what “good” is and how it operates. In this assertion, it is nothing more than an “I think” approach based on subjectivity. . . .
    What atheists try to do, then, is form a moral standard of some sort where the formulator of that standard is in position to judge something else. They try to formulate what “good” is and what it does. This is nothing more than an “I think” approach based upon an opinion. One person might argue in “rocket-science” terms that it should be obvious as to why inflicting pain and suffering is wrong. Yet, no atheist can tell us why – they only assert it.

    And creationists’ standard is better? “I know because God says in the Bible, which I know He wrote personally because my pastor says so,” and never mind all the funny stuff about how, for instance, prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, a gang of men surrounded Lot’s house in Sodom and demanded he send out his three guests (angels in disguise) to be, er, sodomized, and this righteous man offered them his virgin daughters instead, to use as they wished. (see Genesis, chapter 19.) And God doesn’t even blink, but allows Lot to escape the divine nuking of his former home town (though his wife is killed for daring to look back at it). This book is supposed to be the gold standard of morality?