Posted in Agnosticism, Atheism, Blasphemy, Everyday life, Family, Human Rights, Morality, Religion, The Conscious Disbeliever

What flipped your switch?

English: Dead Sea Scroll - part of Isaiah Scro...
English: Dead Sea Scroll – part of Isaiah Scroll (Isa 57:17 – 59:9), 1QIsa b (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The road to non-belief is not straightforward, it is in most cases a slow journey. It is the lowly drop of water and not the majestic wave that slowly erodes the stone and in this way our belief in the supernatural is whittled down until one day we realize that what was once incontrovertible, now is an argument that holds no water.

It seems to me that although non-belief is the result of a long list of things that make us question the validity of that which we hold true, many times there is a first question a first doubt. In my case, I think that the first question was something that I would later learn is called the problem of evil.

When I was a kid, I would always think that nobody could ever go to Hell because God being an all-knowing, all-caring and all-powerful being would not allow it. How could he? He knew everything before it happened. He loved everybody so he did not wish bad things to happen and of course he could do anything.

He could do anything and did everything. So where did bad things come from?

What?! You mean God created evil? No way! Well, yes way.

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I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil; I am the LORD, that doeth all these things.

Jewish Publication Society Bible    YISHEYAH (Book of Isaiah) Chapter 45

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I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

 Isaiah 45:7

 King James Bible “Authorized Version”, Pure Cambridge Edition

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Evil exists and God created it. How can that be?  Well this leads us into the problem of evil.

The existence of evil is a contradiction in logical terms to a god that is omniscient, benevolent and omnipotent.

  1. God exists.

  2. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.

  3. A perfectly good being would want to prevent all evils.

  4. An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence.

  5. An omnipotent being, who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.

  6. A being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who wants to do so, would prevent the existence of that evil.

  7. If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then no evil exists.

  8. Evil exists (logical contradiction).

So following that logic. God is a logical contradiction.

And of course we also have the problem of Hell, but that is another question.

There are many defences and theodicies that theists use to get around this problem. One way that they defend this problem is through the free will argument: It is a very good thing that God has created persons with free will. God cannot eliminate evil, because in doing so he would remove the possibility of free will and making correct moral choices. 

Ok we have free will and can choose good or evil.  We are imperfect and at least one time, if not many, we will choose wrong. God being perfect and endowed with omniscience knows this before we do it, in fact even before we come into existence. Or maybe he cannot know this, but that would strip him of omniscience. Of course this would resolve the problem of evil, but would render God imperfect.

And talking of free will. The concept of free will beyond the constraints of the physical universe is childish, downright stupid. Free will must be understood within the constraints of a physical universe as we are physical beings. To think that we could have absolute free will would make us supernatural, would make us in fact gods. The matter at question is: do we have the ability to make free choices within the constraints of a physical universe? That is the true question of free will.

We do not have conscious free will as has been stated elsewhere, and that seems to destroy the free will theodicy, but we are agents capable of decisions, albeit these decisions are made in a subconscious manner.

And I never even got to the question of natural evil, that is a whole new ball-game.

So what got you started? What flipped your switch?

Portrait of Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean...
Portrait of Epicurus, founder of the Epicurean school. Roman copy after a lost Hellenistic original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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?”
Epicurus

See you next time.

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Author:

Family man, gamer, neurosurgeon, "Born Again 6.9 Atheist" and of course, Coffee aficionado

17 thoughts on “What flipped your switch?

  1. There is a logical contradiction, but not as you have stated it though most monotheists see things this way. The logical contradiction is in believing such a being as a god would be omnibenevolent. When you stop seeing gods as benevolent, there is no need to explain evil…. it simply makes sense. Of course this means you can’t say god is love either, and that ‘perfectly good being’ part is complete hogwash. When you change your position along these lines, it all starts to make sense. Jesus was YHWH acting like the wife beater who is sorry for all his violence.

    For me, it started when I noticed that speaking tongues, gods direct communication, was all about petty squabbles in the local congregation, nothing more. Then I noticed that all the praying and believing didn’t make people better than others. So I searched and found this to be true of all religions. Then I started in on philosophy and critical thinking… I gave every god bothering group a chance… they’re all fucked, so why believe in a god at all?

    The problem of evil didn’t happen until I’d already admitted to myself that there are no gods.

    1. Very true. The problem of evil is only a way of explaining to ourselves things that we already believe or in this case disbelieve. This problem does not exist for deists or polytheists, only for monotheists.
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment my post.

  2. Nice post. Unfortunately, any attempt to describe the Absolute with human terms is doomed to failure not unlike science which cannot prove what may or may not exist beyond space and time by simply observing Nature. As the Pascal Wager states, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.” As for Epicurus, his logic is flawless but he poses the wrong question and in the end he throws up his arms and simply says “then why call him God.” It’s true that religion’s take on God is flawed as well which is why theists and philosophers like Epicurus are almost always at odds.

  3. Good post!
    When theists argue for free will the question to ask them is if the same god is responsible for possibilities so that he could have created human beings with free will but our choices would be between degrees of good.
    What set me on the path of doubt was bible contradictions. A place I was led to by a Muslim friend of mine. I got into philosophy thereafter and has been a case of refining my thoughts and reasons each day!

  4. Both the bible and the quran..of which I followed both for different periods of my life…have verses in which god says (paraphrasing), ask of me anything and I will give it to you. Meaning, pray to me for your needs, desires, wishes, etc. and I will give you because I am god and nothing else on earth can grant it to you…or prevent it from you.

    In the beginning I was ardent and very believing in prayer. I asked god for whatever I needed. If it came, ok..if it didn’t…that was ok too. When I had my first child all my prayers focused on one thing only…god, protect my child (and later children)…keep her (them) safe. Period. The end. That is what all my prayers consisted of.

    20 years into my marriage to a “very religious” man…I learned that my ex had been sexually abusing our children all along. Besides the devastation that knowledge brought…it created an anger in me towards god that nearly consumed me. You had ONE job, god…to protect my children. You told me to ask of YOU anything and that was ALL I asked for…and you failed.

    Eventually I realized that it was all b.s.. I depended on god to do what I should have been doing all along…protecting my own children. When I learned that my ex had been praying (in his way) not to be discovered. I nearly hit the roof. The nail in the coffin for my belief in god. Not only did the god I worshipped and believed in with my whole heart NOT hear my prayers of follow through on his promise…he apparently heard my ex’s and gave him what he wanted…secrecy and continuance of his disgusting act for years.

    The absolute last straw was the number of religious people who insisted that “everything happens for a reason” according to god’s plan. So my children had to suffer sexual abuse, and my ex was able to hide his acts for years because it was all part of some Big Plan…and who was I to question god’s reason?

    I was done and never looked back.

    Sorry for the long comment and I came upon your blog via Critical Thinking’s blog btw. These sorts of questions always encourage me to take time to answer.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. It is so sad that you and your children had to go through such things. I hope things are better now and that your ex does some jail time, even though that will not erase the bad he did.
      Once again thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

  5. – “Evil” is an objective, absolute moral concept.

    – In a sheerly material world, there can be no concept of evil or of absolute moral values.

    – You clearly believe in evil.

    – Therefore, you don’t believe in a sheerly material world.

    1. ““Evil” is an objective, absolute moral concept.
      – In a sheerly material world, there can be no concept of evil or of absolute moral values.
      – You clearly believe in evil.
      Therefore, you don’t believe in a sheerly material world.”

      I do believe we live in a material world and there has been no demonstration of evidence to change this point of view.

      Morality and its counterpart evil are determined by the agents to which it is of importance, that is, humans.

      Evil begins with inhumanity: the disrespect for, the denial and destruction of human choice, individuality, and dignity.

      The existence of evil only makes the possibility of an omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent deity a logical contradiction.

      I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
      Isaiah 45:7 KJV
      Our morality was not given to us by an external agent, but has come to us through the ages by evolution and reasoning.

      Zigong asked, “Is there a single saying that one may put into practice all one’s life?”
      The Master said, “That would be ‘reciprocity’: That which you do not desire, do not do to others.”
      Confucius(551–478 BCE) Analects XV.24

      Even animals can demonstrate simple forms of empathy and compassion that are the basis of morality, as we have seen in the work of Frans de Waal.

      “Either one’s motives for following the moral word of God are moral motives, or they are not. If they are, then one is already equipped with moral motivations, and the introduction of God adds nothing extra. But if they are not moral motives, then they will be motives of such a kind that they cannot appropriately motivate morality at all … we reach the conclusion that any appeal to God in this connection either adds to nothing at all, or it adds the wrong sort of thing.”
      Sir Bernard Arthur Owen Williams

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