The Talking Lion

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Semi-regular argument for atheism #1

Ok, I'm going to get going with a trope, the "Semi-regular argument for atheism." Every few days/weeks I'm going to post a new argument for atheism. I don't want to offend, just foster debate. They won't be all exactly for atheism as such; sometimes just against a certain theistic idea, or a clarification. I'm not going to always cite where I got these arguments, I'll just point you in a general direction, although this first one is from the basic assumptions of the Raving Atheist. For more information you might want to check out The Secular Web (infidels.org).

What I'm going to argue against is the idea that God (and here I'm drawing on the theology I learned in twelve years of Catholic school) can possess the following three properties:
1. omnipotence (all powerful)
2. omniscience (all knowing)
3. omnibenevolence (all good)
and that the following proposition can obtain:
p. There is evil in the world.

It's not that God couldn't be any of these things, it's just that the three together are logically incompatible, without totally uprooting the standard meaning of the four terms involved (powerful, knowing, good, evil).

1) p
2) Assuming 1 & 2, 3 must be false because if God knows all evil, and has the power to stop all evil, then omnibenevolence obliges him to do so.
3) Assuming 1 & 3, 2 must be false, because if God has the power to end evil, and is obliged to do so by his omnibenevolence, then he must not know about all of the evil that exists.
4) Assuming 2 & 3, 1 must be false, because if God knows all evil and is obliged to end it, he must not have the power to do so.

Now, I want to nip some theological contortions in the bud before I let in comments. First, I am construing evil as suffering, injustice, and immoral acts. Second, one cannot claim that a balance between good and evil is necessary to God's plan, or that God allows us to do evil because to not do so would deny us free will; there are many things which humans are precluded from by our basic biology, and it is very clear that the capacity to do evil is part of our biological make-up. There are many things, like flying and breathing under water, that we cannot choose to do. God simply could have made us the sorts of creatures who don't sin. Evidently, he chose not to. Have at it.

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