Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Atheist's Own Dilemma

The argument from evil is quite popular among atheists, mainly because it is the only argument that even stands a chance against theistic evidences for the existence of God. Most of the time, it goes something like this:

1) If God exists, then He would not allow gratuitous evil to exist.
2) Gratuitous evil exists.
3) ∴ God does not exist.

Gratuitous evil is evil that has no purpose whatsoever. The argument is if God is all powerful and all good, why on earth does He not stop evil? He would if He did, in the mind of the atheist, so they conclude he must not. Well this argument is fairly easy to refute (ie free will defense; we cannot actually know if there is any gratuitous evil since we are not omnipotent and can't see what long term effects some evil may have) but I want to deal with the dilemma this argument creates for atheists.

Consider this:

4) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

There has never been any solution offered by atheists to this proposition. There are some that claim that pain is the foundation of objective values. Why? What if I think causing pain is good? What is the claim "pain is bad" founded upon? I've heard others say because we are rational, it is wrong to cause harm to each other. Why? Some people think it is good for them to hurt others. What makes them incorrect? If God doesn't exist, then morals are simply relative to socio-evolutionary contingencies, or even to individual opinion. Hitler thought it was morally good to kill Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals to rid the gene pool of their inferior genes. Why was his opinion wrong? Subjective opinions don't apply to anyone else but those who have formed them. I like chocolate, you may like strawberry. Neither of us is correct.

But if this proposition is true, then evil doesn't exist. Why? Because if God does not exist, objective morals don't exist. Right and wrong, good and evil, none of these terms actually apply to any objective reality. Things that are "evil" to you may be morally "good" to another. For anyone to actually be wrong, there has to be something beyond us that confirms its rightness or wrongness. What can the atheist propose to ground abstract entities such as morality, since abstract entities don't exist sans a mind?

So the dilemma arises for this problem of evil:

4) If God does not exist, then objective morals do not exist.
1) If God exists, then He would not allow gratuitous evil to exist.
2) Gratuitous evil exists.
3) ∴ God does not exist (modus tollens from 1 and 2).
5) ∴ objective morals do not exist (modus ponens from 4 and 3).
6) ∴ gratuitous evil does not exist (evil is a moral; contradicts 2).

This argument, therefore, is self contradictory. The argument from evil becomes useless. Either evil exists because God exists, or evil doesn't exist because God doesn't exist. But then the argument from evil disappears, since there is no evil to display that God does not exist. The reason for not believing in God, evil, has disappeared. It doesn't exist.

What shall the atheist do?

42 comments:

DonaldH said...

Excellent post. I'm also wondering about another dilemma of the atheist. If God doesn't exist, why all the book's and the debates from the atheist?

Marcus McElhaney said...

Brennon this is a great post! I'm not sure I think the Free-Will argument truly answers the dilemma, but I completely agree with your arguments about the atheists' own dilemma. It just amazes me that they don't see they have no answer for the existence of evil nor a foundation for morality without God. Thanks for this post!

bossmanham said...

Hey Donald,

Thanks much. Yeah, for something they don't think exists, they sure devote a lot of their time to Him.

Marcus,

Thank you. I think the free-will defense is a good one, but I understand why you don't. It is articulated masterfully by Alvin Plantinga in his little book God, Freedom, and Evil. It's only 121 pages. I would encourage everyone to read it.

The other defense I alluded to parenthetically in the post was that we can't know whether the evil that happens is gratuitous, because our limited persepctive could never tell if that evil didn't serve a purpose down the road. It's good if you don't like the FWD or if you want further support.

Rhology said...

What will the atheist do? Dance around, hope nobody notices, and keep expressing crocodile tears about the evil in the world.

bossmanham said...

Heh, that's been my experience.

Quasar said...

Misrepresenting your opponents arguments? Sad.

The argument from evil is quite popular among atheists, mainly because it is the only argument that even stands a chance against theistic evidences for the existence of God.
"Evidences"? I presume you mean "arguments." The two words have rather different meanings.

If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

There has never been any solution offered by atheists to this proposition.

Am I to understand that you are claiming omniscience? Or have you merely read every single responce ever made by atheists to this proposition? Or is it possible that you are claiming this proposition has not been made before now?

Objective ("not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased") morals don't exist, even amongst christians. You build your morals from an objective source (God, or possibly the Bible: the two tend to be somewhat interchangable amongst those making an argument for objective morality), but the morals themselves depend on personal interpretations, and there's a lot of those around. If there weren't, your morals would be the same as all other christians.

Likewise, we infidels can't have objective morals: but we can derive morals from an objective source. That source is empathy. "Do unto others," to quote a certain Jewish rabbi.

Humanity has a powerful sense of empathy. Individuals may not, but as a whole our species is quite capable of putting ourselves in anothers shoes. This is an objective fact, and thus an objective source for morals. Actions that require suspending empathy (any action that harms another) are wrong.

Ergo, atheists are perfectly capable of defining right and wrong beyond subjective personal opinion, by deriving morality from empathy.

we cannot actually know if there is any gratuitous evil since we are not omnipotent and can't see what long term effects some evil may have

"God works in mysterious ways..." If any evil act can be interpreted as "good in the long run", can we really justify trying to stop what we think is evil? Maybe Hitler was doing Gods plan all along?

bossmanham said...

Misrepresenting your opponents arguments? Sad

Blind assertion? Sadder.

"Evidences"? I presume you mean "arguments." The two words have rather different meanings.

Arguments can be evidence and can use evidence.

Am I to understand that you are claiming omniscience?

Nope. Maybe a slight exaggeration. But I've heard most of the attempts.

Objective ("not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased") morals don't exist, even amongst christians.

Not true. Next.

You build your morals from an objective source (God, or possibly the Bible: the two tend to be somewhat interchangable amongst those making an argument for objective morality), but the morals themselves depend on personal interpretations

Irrelevant to whether there actually exists OMV's. This gets into the epistemology of morals, not their ontology.

And if there are OMV's, then they don't depend on personal interpretation. You just begged the question.

Likewise, we infidels can't have objective morals: but we can derive morals from an objective source. That source is empathy. "Do unto others," to quote a certain Jewish rabbi.

Then another person could say he doesn't prefer that source. He prefers the "get myself ahead at any cost" moral. Why is that wrong?

Or he could say he wants people to kick him in the crotch, so, taking Jesus' words (out of context) he goes and kicks people in the crotch because that's what he wants. He's following your moral code!

Further, what are you basing the claim that we should "do unto others" on? Why is empathy right and lack of it wrong?

Humanity has a powerful sense of empathy

Some don't. Why are they wrong?

Individuals may not, but as a whole our species is quite capable of putting ourselves in anothers shoes.

You just contradicted yourself and committed the fallacy of division.

Actions that require suspending empathy (any action that harms another) are wrong.

According to whom? Sounds like you're asserting that this is objectively true. Based on what?

Ergo, atheists are perfectly capable of defining right and wrong beyond subjective personal opinion, by deriving morality from empathy.

Looks like you aren't. Sorry.

Care to interact with my argument? You just admitted that OMV's don't exist, therefore evil is subjective, and therefore the argument from evil, which assumes objective evil, fails.

Where did I go wrong?

RD said...

Can't objective morality exist independently of a good and perfect god?

bossmanham said...

Can't objective morality exist independently of a good and perfect god?

I don't see how. That's why I gave a couple of the alternate grounds for OMV's. They don't work.

Quasar said...

Misrepresenting your opponents arguments? Sad

Blind assertion? Sadder.


Apologies. I should have provided an example:
The argument from evil is quite popular among atheists, mainly because it is the only argument that even stands a chance against theistic evidences for the existence of God.
Although that statement would more accurately be termed a “poisoning the well” fallacy, and in fact some of the statements in your reply to me are far more fitting of the original phrase.

Objective ("not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased") morals don't exist, even amongst christians.

Not true. Next.

To quote yourself: ” Blind assertion? Sadder”

Irrelevant to whether there actually exists OMV's. This gets into the epistemology of morals, not their ontology.

And if there are OMV's, then they don't depend on personal interpretation. You just begged the question.


Hmm… allow me to clarify. I should not have stated that objective moral values do not exist: rather I should have stated it is impossible to verify that any human in existence has access to them, and they are thus an irrelevant hypothesis, because in practice they would be indistinguishable from the many subjective moral values that could equally be gleaned from objective sources.

Then another person could say he doesn't prefer that source. He prefers the "get myself ahead at any cost" moral. Why is that wrong?
By the empathetic standard it is wrong. By the biblical standard it is wrong. By his personal standard it is right. The first two standards have objective sources, based on things that are not reliant on personal opinion. The latter is entirely subjective, based only on personal opinion. Which standard one chooses to follow is also subjective, but reason would imply that the less subjectivity there is in ones morals, the more stable and defensible those morals will ultimately be.

Or he could say he wants people to kick him in the crotch, so, taking Jesus' words (out of context) he goes and kicks people in the crotch because that's what he wants. He's following your moral code!

Previously I claimed that your statements in this post were far more fitting of the phrase “Misrepresenting your opponents arguments.” I now present the above quoted statement as evidence.

Empathy does not compel a masochist to hurt others, because the knowledge that others are not masochistic allows them to come to the conclusion that, were they “in the others shoes”, they would not appreciate being hurt.

Further, what are you basing the claim that we should "do unto others" on? Why is empathy right and lack of it wrong?

Empathy is the foundation of an empathetic standard of morality. The question is fundamentally illogical.

Quasar said...

(continued)

Humanity has a powerful sense of empathy

Some don't. Why are they wrong?

Read the statement again. Humanity, not humans.

Individuals may not, but as a whole our species is quite capable of putting ourselves in anothers shoes.

You just contradicted yourself and committed the fallacy of division.


I have already corrected the former statement. Humanity, not humans. As to the latter, do you deny that a sense of empathy is a function of the average human brain? If not, then a sense of empathy can be considered objective.


Actions that require suspending empathy (any action that harms another) are wrong.

According to whom? Sounds like you're asserting that this is objectively true. Based on what?


According to any standard of morality based on empathy. I am not asserting it is objectively true, as I have stated several times, merely that it is derived from an objective source.


Looks like you aren't. Sorry.
Your opinion is noted.

You just admitted that OMV's don't exist, therefore evil is subjective, and therefore the argument from evil, which assumes objective evil, fails.
Objective evil is not and has never been an assumption of the anti-theistic argument of evil: all that is required is evil that the omnipotent deity in question would consider as such. My issue, however, is not with your dispute over the argument of evil (the argument can be, and indeed has been, handwaved with the “mysterious ways” canard) but with your implication that my system of morality is entirely subjective. It is no less subjective than your own.

RD said...

How could objective morality exist independently of a good and perfect god? I think it could work like this. I'll pretend I'm a king so that I don't offend anyone by pretending to be God. As king, I have the authority to set objective moral standards, to say what's good and bad and to say what's right and wrong. The objective standards exist, and they allow my subjects to conclude that a given action is good or evil. Then, I decide of my own free will that I'm going to violate those standards. My standards say that killing and raping and stealing are wrong, so my actions can be identified as evil. I just chose to do these evil things anyway. The objective standards exist, but I'm a bad king.

You see, I think you left something out of the original argument.

You said:

1) If a perfectly good and powerful God exists, then He would not allow gratuitous evil to exist.
2) Gratuitous evil exists.
3) ∴ God does not exist.

To be good logic, shouldn't this read:

1) If a perfectly good and powerful God exists, then He would not allow gratuitous evil to exist.
2) Gratuitous evil exists.
3) ∴ A perfectly good and powerful God does not exist.

If you assume that you need objective morals to identify evil, then maybe you can't use gratuitious evil to prove that God does not exist, but you can prove that this God is not perfect and good.

bossmanham said...

Although that statement would more accurately be termed a “poisoning the well” fallacy, and in fact some of the statements in your reply to me are far more fitting of the original phrase.

It's one of only two or three arguments against the existence of God. Another is trying to show that the atributes of God are logically inconsistent or the argument from disbelief. The rest are fairly easily answered. I take it as obvious that the argument from evil is about the strongest argument you have. I am stating the truth as I see it.

To quote yourself: ” Blind assertion? Sadder”

It's simply not true that Christians rely on subjective morality. Any example you'd give would be answered that 1) either it's not an example of one of the objective morals or 2) one person is correct and the other is not. Next...again.

I should have stated it is impossible to verify that any human in existence has access to them

Really? The same argument can be used against the existence of the external world. We apprehend them in the same way we apprehend the material word, through experiencing them.

But again, it doesn't matter how we come to know them on the moral argument. What matters is their ontology, their ground of being. How we can come to know them is a different issue. For the argument I'm proffering, if you claim that God can't exist if evil exists, then you're defeating your own argument.

and they are thus an irrelevant hypothesis

Is the Copernican principle irrelevant since we can't verify it empirically? See logical positivism has failed.

because in practice they would be indistinguishable from the many subjective moral values that could equally be gleaned from objective sources.

This isn't relative to whether they exist or not. Even if we couldn't distinguish good from evil it wouldn't follow that they don't exist.

By the empathetic standard it is wrong.

Okay. But that does nothing for the person who doesn't adhere to the empathetic standard.

By the biblical standard it is wrong.

I agree.

The first two standards have objective sources, based on things that are not reliant on personal opinion.

You don't understand what an objective moral value is. The material world is objective. There is a tree in my front yard that is there whether you think it is or not. There is a planet called Pluto whether NASA says so or not. Likewise, whether the Bible or several people say so, there is an objective morality. If it is only in the Biblem then it is subject to the people who want to adhere to the Bible. If it is based on what Buddah said, then it is subject to his whims and those who choose to follow him.

Likewise, the Nazis had an source they saw as objective, namely Hitler's commands. But they were subject to Hitler.

Objective morality is true no matter what anyone else thinks. When the Catholic church pursued the atrocities of the crusade, it was wrong even though the church controlled much of the western world and told them it was right. It doesn't matter how many people say it's right. It's only right if it corresponds to the locus of moral values.

bossmanham said...

but reason would imply that the less subjectivity there is in ones morals, the more stable and defensible those morals will ultimately be.

Why? Reason implies that if it isn't objective, no one is bound by it.

Previously I claimed that your statements in this post were far more fitting of the phrase “Misrepresenting your opponents arguments.” I now present the above quoted statement as evidence.

You said "do unto others" is a good moral code. If this guy wants to be kicked in the crotch, why is that wrong?

Empathy is the foundation of an empathetic standard of morality.

But there are other standards of subjective morality. Why is the empathetic standard the correct one? You're beginning to hand wave.

As to the latter, do you deny that a sense of empathy is a function of the average human brain?

No, I think there are far too many human atrocities to claim such a thing. And even if they did, it still doesn't tell me why it is the right moral code to follow.

According to any standard of morality based on empathy.

Right. Your ethic. The Nazi ethic was supress empathy for Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals. They did right according to their ethic. You can't hold them to your ethic, because it's subject to you only. You have no more justification to tell them they are wrong then they have to tell you you are wrong.

I am not asserting it is objectively true, as I have stated several times, merely that it is derived from an objective source.

This is actually the first time you said that, but if it isn't objectively true then it doesn't apply to anyone else. The objective source is ultimately subject to who chooses it.

Objective evil is not and has never been an assumption of the anti-theistic argument of evil

Then it holds no sway, because what you think is evil and what God thinks are evil may be two different things, and therefore Him allowing what you think is evil is irrelevant to whether He exists or not.

Now please, we aren't going to get anywhere unless you quit telling me about your ethic and tell me why the others are wrong.

bossmanham said...

I'll pretend I'm a king so that I don't offend anyone by pretending to be God.

But by definition, you aren't the greatest conceivable being and therefore couldn't be all good. Furthermore, a human being, you, isn't omniscient or omnipresent. So you wouldn't have all knowledge of objective moral values and you also wouldn't be everywhere, so moral values would only exist where you are in your mind...making them subjective.

As king, I have the authority to set objective moral standards

But, as a human, they only your citizens are subjct to those laws. On the other hand, everyone would be subject to the greatest conceivable being who sustains the universe in being.

The objective standards exist, but I'm a bad king.

Here's another problem with this example: as you meant for the king to be God, we'll ignore the problems I listed above and humor you for a second. Let's consider if God can be evil. If we are God's (the king's) subjects, then He issues commands to us that we are obligated to fulfill. But God (the king) doesn't issue commands to Himself. He isn't bound by an outside source, for, as your example posits, he is the source of the moral values. So, if our moral duties come about because of the commands of God (the king) then we are obligated to follow those commands. So I have no right to take an innocent life, for example, because God (the king) has said so. However, God does not issue moral commands to Himself because He is the locus of morality. He can give and take life as He chooses. That's why we accuse people who think they have that right with "playing god." God is under no obligation to allow anyone to live any longer than He chooses.

Now notice, I used your example and showed why it wouldn't even work to support your own position. If I were you, to remain consistent, I'd become a theist.

You said:

1) If a perfectly good and powerful God exists, then He would not allow gratuitous evil to exist.
2) Gratuitous evil exists.
3) ∴ God does not exist.

To be good logic, shouldn't this read:

1) If a perfectly good and powerful God exists, then He would not allow gratuitous evil to exist.
2) Gratuitous evil exists.
3) ∴ A perfectly good and powerful God does not exist.


The definition of God is the greatest conceivable being, which means perfectly good and powerful. If that being doesn't exist, then God doensn't exist by definition.

but you can prove that this God is not perfect and good.

Then, by definition, it isn't God, so God doesn't exist. You're playing with definitions here.

However, even if God could possibly be not perfect and good, then we've lost the locus of morality again. We've lost the grounds for objective moral values, because it shows that this being would be under the moral values He is breaking, but if God isn't the basis of objective moral values, then there is no basis for objective moral values, and the argument from evil is, yet again, dead in the water.

RD said...

I think that if God is not bound by or measured by an outside source, then you could call God's action "evil" just as easily as you could call God's actions "good". Or, since God is not bound or measured by an outside source, maybe it would be more accurate to say that God's actions can not be assessed for either their goodness or their evilness. They're just actions. If God is not measured by God's objective morality the way an earthly king is measured by objective morality, then it's impossible to assign any moral value to God's actions. If God is above the law, then the words "good" and "evil" don't really apply.

I think that you play with definitions as much as I do when you say "the definition of God is the greatest conceivable being, which means perfectly good and powerful". It's just as easy to conclude that the greatest conceivable being could be perfectly evil, at least, I have no trouble conceiving of such a a being. "Great" can refer to greatly good or greatly evil or even both the greatest evil and the greatest good.

Is your definition really the only available definition of God? I understand that you consider "God" to be synonymous with "good and powerful", but is this the only definition? I think it's useful to include the qualifier that I added to your argument, because I don't think that everyone would agree with your definition.

bossmanham said...

I think that if God is not bound by or measured by an outside source, then you could call God's action "evil" just as easily as you could call God's actions "good"

If He is the source of good, how could anything He dies be evil? That's like saying there can be a married bachelor.

Or, since God is not bound or measured by an outside source, maybe it would be more accurate to say that God's actions can not be assessed for either their goodness or their evilness.

You're pretty much correct. If God is the good, which is what theists have claimed for millenia, then He simply is good. It's logically impossible for Him to do evil, because evil is what does not correspond to His nature. You can't measure His goodness, because He IS the standard of goodness, just as you can't measure the standard of the meter, the distance travelled by light in free space in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second, against something else to see if it's a meter. It is THE meter.

It's just as easy to conclude that the greatest conceivable being could be perfectly evil

You'd be hard pressed to get 'evil' into a 'great' being. To avoid confusion, we'll say "maximally good" from now on. That is the definition of God that the theist wants to use. Anything else would be arguing agains a straw man.

Is your definition really the only available definition of God? I understand that you consider "God" to be synonymous with "good and powerful", but is this the only definition?

It's the classic definition. But if this isn't it, then we're left, again, without a locus of morality, and your argument from evil again fails.

RD said...

What is the basis of the theist's claim that God is good? Do all theists say that God is good? How are you defining the word "theist"? I'm not sure that theists saying something for thousands of years makes it true.

I don't understand why it's so hard to get evil into "greatest". Why assume that God is maximally good? Why not maximally bad or maximally both? I understand that you are claiming maximally good, but I don't understand why you are restricting God in this way.

I don't understand why the "locus of morality" must be good. The nature of the entity creating rules could be good or bad. We create rules all of the time, and we're not all good. The ability to create rules doesn't seem to be restricted to just the good. Once you say God is beyond the rules, you can't conclude anything, but you keep insisting that God is good.

RD said...

You said that God IS the standard of goodness, and you can't measure this standard just as you can't measure the standard of the meter. However, we created the meter, the meter did not create itself, we decided what a meter would be and meter sticks measure physical objects, not abstract concepts, so I don't think that the comparison is a good one. This does tell us that if we created the meter that can't be measured against anything else, then maybe we also created the another standard that can't be measured against itself like the standard that God is good.

bossmanham said...

What is the basis of the theist's claim that God is good?

There are several. Reasoning that a being which no greater could be imagened is one, since our moral intuitions tell us that evil is a fault, and this perfect being cannot have a fault. Special revelation being another. Etc.

Do all theists say that God is good?

I think all monotheists do. Probably most polytheists as well, not all, however.

I'm not sure that theists saying something for thousands of years makes it true.

I didn't claim that. That was to show what the common and classical view of God has been among theistic thinkers.

I don't understand why it's so hard to get evil into "greatest".

A perfect being would be faultless. Evil is a fault. So a perfect being could not be evil.

Why not maximally bad or maximally both

It would be logically incoherent for such a being to be both. The concepts are polar opposites.

I don't understand why the "locus of morality" must be good.

Because as such, anything that ran afoul of the good would be evil.

The nature of the entity creating rules could be good or bad.

No it couldn't otherwise it wouldn't be the nature as there would be something else determining if it were good or bad.

We create rules all of the time, and we're not all good.

That doesn't mean there isn't an objective morality. If there isn't, then your argument from evil fails, and you'd need to posit another reason to believe God does not exist. But then I still have a reason to believe in God and morality.

The ability to create rules doesn't seem to be restricted to just the good.

No, but if they didn't line up to the good, they wouldn't be good.

Once you say God is beyond the rules, you can't conclude anything, but you keep insisting that God is good.

This claim seems odd. Wouldn't I be able to conclude that things that agree with the standard of good are good? I'd be able to conclude that things that don't would be evil. That's like saying I wouldn't be able to conclude that the distance travelled by light in free space in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second is a meter.

bossmanham said...

So, care to deal with the argument?

bossmanham said...

However, we created the meter, the meter did not create itself,

This was an example to prove a point, and one which I assumed you'd latch on to to try to advance the sophistry you've been attempting since you got here. This line of reasoning is not really of consequence to my argument.

so I don't think that the comparison is a good one

All the comparison is meant to show that a standard of measuring is not measured against anything else, nothing else. Can you follow that simple line of reasoning?

RD said...

Isn’t “special revelation” kind of a subjective thing?

I don’t understand why God must be perfect. I think that this is something that you decided must be or it’s something that you want to be, but that’s just your choice. Maybe God is great, but is not actually perfect or the greatest thing imaginable. You’ve decided that God must be the greatest thing imaginable, but that’s your personal choice.

Why evil is a necessarily a fault? I think that this is something that you decided must be, but it doesn’t have to be. Evil might be the opposite of good, but “fault” is a different, separate property. You could say that our OMV say that evil is a fault, but we can only use our OMVs to evaluate humans, so how do we know it’s a fault with respect to God?

I also don’t understand why God can’t be both good and evil. Humans can be both good and evil, even though good and evil are opposites. Conscious, moral entities can be both good and evil.

I can follow a simple line of reasoning, and I understand your argument. But where does this argument lead? If you don't like it leads, maybe you should reconsider your argument.

God exists.

God created OMV, so objective moral values exist.

OMV let human determine which actions are objectively good and which actions are objectively evil.

I think that you would agree up to this point.

This raises the possibility that humans can use the OMVs to evaluate the goodness of God, and if we use our OMVs to detect gratuitous evil, then we can draw the conclusion that God is not good.

You don’t like that possibility, so you say that we can’t use our OMVs to measure God, because God is the standard and you can’t measure the standard.

Fair enough, but then we also can’t determine if God is good or evil or both. If your definition of God demands that God be good, then it’s a coin flip as to whether or not God exists. Maybe OMVs exist and maybe they don't.

On the other hand, if we can modify our definition of God, then we can save God and our OMVs. I'm guessing that you don't want to do this, so you've turned the existence of God into a "maybe".

With respect to sophistry, I admit that I can’t hold a candle to your ability in this area.

bossmanham said...

I don’t understand why God must be perfect.

Pretty simple, RD. If He isn't, then by definition, He isn't God. We'd have to compare this slightly less than perfect standard to another standard to ground our being, reason, morality, etc...but then that being would be...God.

Why evil is a necessarily a fault?

You're welcome to think it's not, but that is what we who hold to OMV's call what does not adhere to the standard and nature of the good. But if this good does not exist, then the evil does not exist, and your question is meaningless, as is this argument you still haven't been able to defend.

I also don’t understand why God can’t be both good and evil. Humans can be both good and evil, even though good and evil are opposites

Same way a meter can't be a foot as well...and humans aren't perfect beings.

I can follow a simple line of reasoning, and I understand your argument. But where does this argument lead?

Well I made it pretty clear. "Either evil exists because God exists, or evil doesn't exist because God doesn't exist. But then the argument from evil disappears, since there is no evil to display that God does not exist." Why would that bother me?

Fair enough, but then we also can’t determine if God is good or evil or both.

No, that wasn't said, but it's not surprising to see such intellectual dishonesty from one of the amazing WeAreSmrt guys.

We can't measure His goodness aganst something else because He IS the good, and Him doing evil is a logical incoherence, as would be a married bachelor. Try to keep up here, though I know it's difficult for sophists such as yourself.

On the other hand, if we can modify our definition of God, then we can save God and our OMVs

No, because the moment we say God is less then good, we have lost the ground of OMV's, since to say He is less than good we would have to have a different standard by which to judge that. But if that happens, then the argument from evil is gone as well, giving me no reason to think this good God does not exist. What are you going to do?

We've hashed that out and shown you to be a dishonest sophist, now deal with the argument or back out.

RD said...

Um, I'm not one of the WeAreSmrt guys.

I think I understand. After holding up OMVs as the great tool for assessing good and evil, you take this tool away when it suits you. Your argument is basically "by defintion", specifically, "by your definitions". You control the argument by controling the definitions. You've chosen to restrict the defintion and nature of God so as to make God pleasing to you. You're free to do this, of course, because it's your blog, but I don't think you're convincing many skeptics.

I'm the dishonest sophist? Look what you've done with your sophistry. You've created God.

I will now back out.

bossmanham said...

After holding up OMVs as the great tool for assessing good and evil, you take this tool away when it suits you

How so? If they don't exist then your argument fails. To exist, they bust be based in something. If God doesn't exist, then they don't exist and the argument from evil, the supposed proof of God's non-existence fails. So for the argmuent for evil to work, God has to exist.

Your argument is basically "by defintion", specifically, "by your definitions".

Words have to have definitons for language to mean anything. Take that up with God, or evolution, whichever you prefer.

You control the argument by controling the definitions.

I'm following the definitions. A less than perfect being is simply not God, just as a mile is simply not a light year.

You've chosen to restrict the defintion and nature of God so as to make God pleasing to you.

I'm sorry that language has to mean something for communication to work. I didn't make it that way.

I will now back out.

Well, one failure to deal with the argument. Next?

RD said...

I see that you also have your own definition of failure.

bossmanham said...

I see that you also have your own definition of failure.

Nope, just saw your lack of defense of the argument from evil as a failure to meet the challenge. If you don't think that's failure, there's a deeper problem with your linguistic comprehension than I thought.

bossmanham said...

On the silly atheist forum, Quasar says:

Suffice it to say, bossman seems to have a very fluid definition of the terms objective and subjective (a traight he shares with presuppositionalists: his argument makes more sense when you realise that he is using "objective" to mean "absolute"), and whenever I make it clear that empathy is an objective source of morals, he points out that the choosing to adhere to the empathy standard isn't objective. Oh my god, really? People have free will and can choose not to follow an objective source of morals? STOP THE FREAKING PRESSES!

Quasar, you are clearly confused here. When someone speaks of objective moral values, they are speaking of it as they would any objective reality, it is true whether anyone agrees with it or not. It is true that there is a tree in my front yard whether you agree with it and/or know about it or not. It is objectively true there are different ethical theories that exist, but are they objectively true (for instance is it objectively true that utilitarianism it true)? Is it true that it is always wrong to torture children. Some people don't think so.

Now that you understand this, you can quit with your little red herring that doesn't address the issue.

bossmanham said...

I'm amazed at the sophistic ability of the internet infidel types--I really am.

Godlessons said...

If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
You make this statement as though it's true, probably because WLC likes to state it this way, and you also say, "There has never been any solution offered by atheists to this proposition." You have obviously not done your homework. There was even a debate between WLC and Louise Antony, where she actually makes an argument for objective moral values. On top of that, she almost got him with the Euthyphro dilemma. Her problem was to let him off by trying to change the scope to moral ontology. Moral ontology can be overcome as well though, I have done it in a youtube video here.

Now, as for showing that there are objective moral values, I would suggest you look around. Apparently you haven't even done a search yet. I put in the question, "how atheists account for objective morality" and found this as the second result.

I am not sure where I stand on the matter, but I know that since God can't be the source for true morality, there must be some other explanation.

bossmanham said...

There was even a debate between WLC and Louise Antony, where she actually makes an argument for objective moral values.

I heard that debate, and even listed it among the options I have heard here. Her only offering was that we are rational animals, and that's what makes morality objective....um what? What does that even mean? Why, just because we are rational, would that mean objective moral values exist? Where do they exist? What are they made of in this purely material universe?

On top of that, she almost got him with the Euthyphro dilemma.

You don't "almost" get someone with a dilemma. The euthyphro dilemma states that either morality exists because God says what morality is, or it exists separate from God and He recognizes it. The solution for centuries has been, morality exists because God IS moral. God's nature is what is moral. God doesn't determine His nature. But you know that.

Moral ontology can be overcome as well though

....Um, what? Moral ontology isn't a position. It's speaking of what the origin of morals are. Ontology is the study of what existence is based in or how things are related. When we distinguish between moral epistemology, and moral ontology, we are distinguishing between how we know what moral values and duties are (epistemology) and what moral values and duties are based in (ontology).

Now, as for showing that there are objective moral values, I would suggest you look around. Apparently you haven't even done a search yet.

I've heard several unsuccessful attempts. What is it that makes morality objective? Where do these values exist? What makes us accountable to them?

Godlessons said...

When we distinguish between moral epistemology, and moral ontology, we are distinguishing between how we know what moral values and duties are (epistemology) and what moral values and duties are based in (ontology).

I fully understand what the difference is. The problem is, there is no accounting for the ontology if you say it is merely God's nature. We must ask why it is god's nature. What is the reason that God is moral. Why is God not immoral? What stops God from making rape, murder and torturing children moral? If it is nothing, it is arbitrary since it is only God's will that could be the reason. If it is arbitrary, it is not objective. If it is not arbitrary, that means there is a reason for it outside of God. That would mean that if it is objective, God is not the source.

Now, you may not like any of the explanations given for secular objective morality, and to be honest, they may all be wrong. It is also possible that there is no objective morality at all. The problem is, God can't be the source for objective morality if it does exist, so there is some explanation besides the one you give. You might as well start looking for it now.

bossmanham said...

The problem is, there is no accounting for the ontology if you say it is merely God's nature.

Not really. The very person of God is what we measure acts against to know if they are good or not.

We must ask why it is god's nature. What is the reason that God is moral

Because that is what it is by definition. We similarly don't ask why a bachelor is unmarried. It's simply the definition of the term. God is moral because it is a necessary aspect of His essence.

Why is God not immoral?

If He is the moral, the good, then this is an incoherent question, like asking why a circle is round.

What stops God from making rape, murder and torturing children moral?

He couldn't because it would violate His nature, which states that rape and murder are evil. Rape and murder are counter to the nature of God, just as unassisted flying is counter to the nature of a human.

If it is nothing, it is arbitrary since it is only God's will that could be the reason. If it is arbitrary, it is not objective.

And it's neither of those things. It's a necessary aspect of the person of God. Hence, the horn-splitter of the Euthyphro dilemma.

Now, you may not like any of the explanations given for secular objective morality, and to be honest, they may all be wrong

It's not that I don't like them, it's that they fail to offer an ontological ground for morality. They fail to posit what grounds the truths of these morals. Not to mention, there's nothing there to hold us accountable to any moral standard.

It is also possible that there is no objective morality at all.

You're correct, and if that's the case, then the problem of evil fails, as I've shown.

The problem is, God can't be the source for objective morality if it does exist,

Eh? How does this follow from any of what you've said?

Incidentally, you want to work off of the emotion of God allowing evil in the problem of evil, but I say it is far more scandalous to have a system where evil people can prosper and then never face any sort of retribution. Most wrongs will never be right. Most murderers and rapists will die never having faced justice, and will never face justice. That's your atheism.

Given that that's unconscionable, and there are good ways to reconcile God and evil existing together, I think the latter is far, far more plausible.

Godlessons said...

God is moral because it is a necessary aspect of His essence.

You declare this by fiat, there is no evidence or even good argument that shows this is the case.

And it's neither of those things. It's a necessary aspect of the person of God. Hence, the horn-splitter of the Euthyphro dilemma.

It is not a horn splitter by any stretch of the imagination. You declare God to be the source/ground of morality without giving a reason for it. If I say that the US Treasury is the source of US currency, I can say why. If I say that My mind is the source for the things I write, I can say why. If I say that my car is blue, I can say why. There is a reason for everything if it is one thing but could be another.

We know that evil exists, and because we know evil exists, there is a reason that anything is good instead of evil, including God.

Anyway, you're still just asserting it as true. This is also a quite presuppositional position, which is no more valid and has no more explanatory power than my coffee pot.

You're correct, and if that's the case, then the problem of evil fails, as I've shown.

Subjective morality doesn't make evil cease to exist. At its core, anything that I believe harms me is evil, therefore evil happens to me whether or not you think it's evil. Voila, evil exists with subjective morality.

Eh? How does this follow from any of what you've said?

Well, we can say that a law created by God is objective in the same way that law created by the government is objective, but the idea that morality is objective otherwise would cease to be true.

I say it is far more scandalous to have a system where evil people can prosper and then never face any sort of retribution. Most wrongs will never be right. Most murderers and rapists will die never having faced justice, and will never face justice. That's your atheism.

My answer to that is, "Oh well." I say that opposed to the "S*** happens", that I would normally say on my own blog.

If there is no God, there is no ultimate consequences for people that do bad things, but it would be pointless to me for someone to suffer consequences after they are dead, and I would never find eternal hell to be an appropriate punishment for most things anyway.

A much better thing to happen would be for evil to never happen in the first place.

Given that that's unconscionable, and there are good ways to reconcile God and evil existing together, I think the latter is far, far more plausible.

It's more plausible because it makes you feel uncomfortable? Holy crap that's the worst argument I have ever heard.

I also don't accept that you have reconciled evil and God existing together either.

bossmanham said...

You declare this by fiat, there is no evidence or even good argument that shows this is the case.

Yet if it's true, then that would be the solution. There is nothing incoherent about the statement, and thus is the soluton to your question.

It is not a horn splitter by any stretch of the imagination. You declare God to be the source/ground of morality without giving a reason for it

As long as it's possible, then there are more than just two options, hence the dilemma is no longer a dilemma.

If I say that the US Treasury is the source of US currency, I can say why. If I say that My mind is the source for the things I write, I can say why. If I say that my car is blue, I can say why. There is a reason for everything if it is one thing but could be another.

What is the relevance of this supposed to be?

We know that evil exists, and because we know evil exists, there is a reason that anything is good instead of evil, including God.

If there's no standard that says things are evil, then how would evil exist?

Subjective morality doesn't make evil cease to exist

It does in the case of the argument from evil, because what's evil to you is different than what's evil to me, and different from what's evil to God. So if God doesn't consider the things that you do evil, then the argument from evil has no force. The argument from evil requires objective morality.

At its core, anything that I believe harms me is evil, therefore evil happens to me whether or not you think it's evil. Voila, evil exists with subjective morality.

But if Pete doesn't think it's evil, and if Pete has a desire to harm you, who are you to judge Pete's morality? Are you going to make your morality objective?

Well, we can say that a law created by God is objective in the same way that law created by the government is objective, but the idea that morality is objective otherwise would cease to be true.

Which is why God's laws are based on His nature, which is not contingent at all.

My answer to that is, "Oh well." I say that opposed to the "S*** happens", that I would normally say on my own blog.

Then why are you complaining about evil that God allows?

It's more plausible because it makes you feel uncomfortable? Holy crap that's the worst argument I have ever heard.

Which is why I appeal to other arguments. You act as if this is the only argument I've offered.

I also don't accept that you have reconciled evil and God existing together either.

Which you haven't shown.

Godlessons said...

Yet if it's true, then that would be the solution. There is nothing incoherent about the statement, and thus is the soluton to your question.

There is something incoherent about the statement. It is not an answer to the question. It is a circular argument.

I originally asked:
We must ask why it is god's nature. What is the reason that God is moral

You replied:
Because that is what it is by definition. We similarly don't ask why a bachelor is unmarried. It's simply the definition of the term. God is moral because it is a necessary aspect of His essence.

What it is by definition isn't an answer to why it is what it is by definition, which is what I am asking. You can't give any reason, and are trying to say in essence that God is moral because God is moral. That is not adding any information and is therefore question begging.

As long as it's possible, then there are more than just two options, hence the dilemma is no longer a dilemma.

It is not possible that there are more than two options to the question I asked. I am asking about the reason for the ontology, not the reason God is moral. Why is it God's nature? In essence you are saying it is God's nature because it's God's nature.

If there's no standard that says things are evil, then how would evil exist?

It is entirely possible for there to be countless standards. My opinion is one standard.

But if Pete doesn't think it's evil, and if Pete has a desire to harm you, who are you to judge Pete's morality? Are you going to make your morality objective?

A perfect omnipotent creator that is all good and all powerful couldn't make sure that people's ideas of morality didn't step on each other's toes? All he would have to do is not create the individuals that would have a different idea of morality.

You are really weak on this subjective morality argument. I know you love it, but you're simply wrong. Time to put it in its grave.

Which is why God's laws are based on His nature, which is not contingent at all.

If they are not contingent, they are arbitrary.

Then why are you complaining about evil that God allows?

First, let's not get mixed up. God doesn't exist.

Second, people say that God is all good. I am saying that the fantasy of God that Christians use can't be good and be the creator of everything.

bossmanham said...

There is something incoherent about the statement. It is not an answer to the question. It is a circular argument.

I'm not sure that you understand what is going on here. You claim that the euthyphro dilemma somehow presents a problem for my view of morality. The Euthyphro dilemma consists of two horns; that's what a dilemma is. It's a situation that leaves you with only two equally unsatisfactory options. I present a third possibility, and you claim I am arguing in a circle. How is that even possible, when I'm presenting another possibility?

What it is by definition isn't an answer to why it is what it is by definition, which is what I am asking.

You ask "what is the reason God is moral." I answer, "it's true by definition."

Asking why God is moral is tantamount to asking why a circle is round. It's true by definition.

You can't give any reason, and are trying to say in essence that God is moral because God is moral.

That's not what I said. I said God being moral is included in the definition of God. It is a necessary property of His existence. I apologize that words actually have to have definitions.

It is not possible that there are more than two options to the question I asked.

I just presented a third possibility. I don't think you even know what you're saying now.

I am asking about the reason for the ontology, not the reason God is moral. Why is it God's nature?

Because if it weren't, we wouldn't be talking about God. Just as if part of a circle's nature weren't to be round, we'd no longer be talking about a circle. It's part of the essential attributes of diety.

In essence you are saying it is God's nature because it's God's nature.

No, I'm saying it's true by definition.

It is entirely possible for there to be countless standards. My opinion is one standard.

Then I can't believe you still use the argument from evil, because I could simply say that God's standard of evil is different than yours. So He's fine with things that you think are evil existing, because He doesn't think they are evil. I love it when an atheist saws off the branch he's sitting on.

A perfect omnipotent creator that is all good and all powerful couldn't make sure that people's ideas of morality didn't step on each other's toes?

I'm not claiming that morality is subjective. And how does this answer my question at all? If morality is subjective, then why would it be wrong for Pete to harm you? Asking your silly question is irrelevant here. Answer that.

ANd how could God create separate moral systems if His nature is what determines His moral commands?

You are really weak on this subjective morality argument. I know you love it, but you're simply wrong. Time to put it in its grave

No, for this discussion to go on, you need to answer my question.

It's quite obvious who's grasping for straws here.

If they are not contingent, they are arbitrary.

Do you even know what arbitrary means? Arbitrary decisions ARE contingent. God's moral commands are based on His nature. His nature is not contingent.

First, let's not get mixed up. God doesn't exist.

You haven't demonstrated this. You're saying He doesn't exist because evil is so awful, a perfect God wouldn't allow it. Then you say, when I say it's unconscionable that evil men will never be punished, you say so what? I'm asking, if that's your true stancce on evil, then why is it so bad that God would allow it, IF He exists?

Second, people say that God is all good. I am saying that the fantasy of God that Christians use can't be good and be the creator of everything.

Which you haven't been able to establish, at all. You're just flailing around incredulously now.

Godlessons said...

You ask "what is the reason God is moral." I answer, "it's true by definition."

No, I asked why is it God's nature to be moral. That is a totally different thing. God's nature is the ontology, and that is why we had that ontological/epistemological discussion earlier, where you didn't understand what I was asking.

I am attempting to get to the reason for God's ontological morality. You are saying that God's nature is to be moral because God's nature is to be moral, assuming that I am asking the question as Euthyphro did. I have enhanced it with asking about God's nature instead of his actions.

Asking why God is moral is tantamount to asking why a circle is round. It's true by definition.

No, it is not true by definition. If you show me a circle, and I ask you why it is called a circle, you can say because it is round, and circles are round. We have defined that round shapes are circles.

You can say that God has the property of morality, but you can't say God is the definition of morality or that morality is the definition of God. The two (three) are not interchangeable. If God were the definition of morality or morality the definition of God, one would have to be omniscient, omnipotent etc. in order to be moral.

God has more properties than morality, therefore morality is separate from God.

If morality is subjective, then why would it be wrong for Pete to harm you? Asking your silly question is irrelevant here. Answer that.

Because I would feel that it causes harm. (remember the definition.)

God, being all good, all powerful and all knowing, would not want anyone to feel they were harmed. In that regard, he would make sure that nobody and nothing could make anyone feel harmed in regard to their subjective definition.

ANd how could God create separate moral systems if His nature is what determines His moral commands?

There would essentially be only one system, but it would still be subjective. Each person would come to their own conclusion, but by not producing people that would come to a moral conclusion that would violate anyone else's idea of morality, God would essentially be making one system where nobody harmed anyone else, but he would not be forcing anyone to do anything they didn't want to do.

You haven't demonstrated this. You're saying He doesn't exist because evil is so awful, a perfect God wouldn't allow it. Then you say, when I say it's unconscionable that evil men will never be punished, you say so what?

I don't see how those two viewpoints are contradictory. If there is no God, there is no ultimate punishment. If there is a God, he is not good because he makes people that should be punished. Just because I don't get upset about things I can do nothing about doesn't make it contradictory.

I have always question the true morality of people that think that the only reason to be good is because they either fear punishment or desire reward. I think that people that are that way are evil people at heart, and if there were a God, I would want them in hell too.

That's a huge problem with Christianity though. If those people were to all go to hell, there would be no Christians in heaven. There is no reason to be a Christian except for fear of punishment or desire for reward. I find that irony rather funny.

bossmanham said...

No, I asked why is it God's nature to be moral. That is a totally different thing.

I'm going to quote you, since you thrive on intellectual dishonesty: " What is the reason that God is moral. Why is God not immoral?" That was your question.

You can do a control + f search and see that that's exactly what you said.

Now you ask why it's God's nature to be moral, and think it's a different question. That is almost as silly as asking why it's a bachelor's nature to be unmarried.

I am attempting to get to the reason for God's ontological morality.

If God exists necessarily, which if He does would be the case, then there isn't an outside reason for His existence. He is a brute fact.

If you show me a circle, and I ask you why it is called a circle, you can say because it is round, and circles are round. We have defined that round shapes are circles.

............If you show me God, and I ask you why it is called God, you can say because maximally good, and God is maximally good. We have defined that maximally good beings are God.

Because I would feel that it causes harm. (remember the definition.)

And, if morality is subjective, then Pete's morality may be that his causing harm is good. He's not wrong, because morality is subjective. It's pretty simple.

God, being all good, all powerful and all knowing, would not want anyone to feel they were harmed. In that regard, he would make sure that nobody and nothing could make anyone feel harmed in regard to their subjective definition.

Are you serious? Then that creates an OBJECTIVE MORALITY, namely that harming others is wrong.

There would essentially be only one system, but it would still be subjective.

Dude, that literally is the most ridiculous statement I have ever read. Stop embarrasing yourself here.

God would essentially be making one system where nobody harmed anyone else, but he would not be forcing anyone to do anything they didn't want to do.

If there's one system, then it is objective. Also, forcing people to do something has nothing to do with the conversation. You are clearly seriously confused here.

I don't see how those two viewpoints are contradictory. If there is no God, there is no ultimate punishment. If there is a God, he is not good because he makes people that should be punished. Just because I don't get upset about things I can do nothing about doesn't make it contradictory.

It's exceptionally inconsistent.

Godlessons said...

I'm tired of playing with you. I posted the video I made about this topic in the first post I made. If you didn't see it, here it is:

Religious Morality? - Seriously?

If you think I didn't say nature in there, I say you are a liar.

You have still not dealt with this. Let's go further into what you are saying.

If you show me God, and I ask you why it is called God, you can say because maximally good, and God is maximally good. We have defined that maximally good beings are God.

Who's definition of maximally good are we using?

First of all, there is no necessity for a god to be good. Long before the Hebrews, there were ideas of mischievous gods that harmed people. So, to be specific, your god is maximally good based on a standard that you can't put your finger on.

In my mind a maximally good being would not say that homosexuals should be put to death. A maximally good being would not condone slavery, and would not enjoin slaves from throwing off the yokes of their masters. In my mind, a maximally good being wouldn't allow natural disasters, much less allow people to die in them.

I can think of all sorts of maximally good things that your view of God doesn't fit with, so where do we get a standard? Who creates that standard? Again, in order for your God to be the source it has to be God himself that creates the standard. It can't be that God just is moral. That has no explanatory power whatsoever.

Needless to say, you are stuck with circular reasoning to explain morality, and you can't get out of it.

This is another point I will not argue anymore. You have not shown a single point where I was wrong. You claim by fiat that you are right without showing evidence.

I apologize for expecting evidence and argument without logical fallacies from you, because I know there aren't any.

Anyway, I'm not out here to convert believers. You're going to believe what you believe, and you're going to stay wrong. I imagine that you are going to continue being dishonest as well, since lying for Jesus is okay.

I know what I have said is correct, and I'm not going to address anything more until you make a point that actually refutes me. In other words, this topic is dead to me.

Have fun.

bossmanham said...

I'm tired of playing with you

Typical.

I'm not going to watch your silly video. Make your argument here or don't make it.

Who's definition of maximally good are we using?

Utterly good, as in impossible of being bad, as in necessarily good. Try not to be obtuse.

First of all, there is no necessity for a god to be good.

We're speaking of the God of classical monotheism. This is an attempt to divert an issue you are losing on. Ignoring the rest.

I can think of all sorts of maximally good things that your view of God doesn't fit with, so where do we get a standard?

Then your silly standard does not match up to the objective standard. It happens sometimes. You may need to adjust your standards. Fact remains, the argument from evil fails if there is no evil.

It can't be that God just is moral. That has no explanatory power whatsoever.

Then neither does the standard of anything. Anything we call a meter is based off of the objective definition of what a meter is. Anything we call good is based on the objective standard that is the moral nature of God.

This is another point I will not argue anymore. You have not shown a single point where I was wrong. You claim by fiat that you are right without showing evidence.

Typical. It's a reluctant concession, but a concession nonetheless.