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Premise 1: If God is omnipotent, then he is able to prevent every instance of evil.
Premise 2: If God is omniscient, then he is aware of every instance of evil.
Premise 3: If God is omni-benevolent, then he wants to prevent every instance of evil
Thus, 4: If God exists then he would prevent every instance of evil.
Premise 5: There are a great many instances of evil.
Conclusion: There is no omnipotent, omniscient, omni-benevolent God.
During class discussion of this argument, a couple of students pointed out, correctly, that God does not come across as omni-benevolent in the Bible. One very bright student said that he never was told that God is all-loving and asked why it matters whether he is or not. “Ah” I said, “If God is not omni-benevolent, then why should we worship him? Can a being that commits or allows evil be worthy of worship?” Standard question, stock response.
But then the student says, “We worship him because we want to get into heaven.”
“So it doesn’t matter whether God is uncaring or callous, we should worship him for the reward?”
I probably shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised by this answer. “Isn’t that self-centered in a way that completely contradicts the message of the gospels?” I asked.
“Well we care about others and want them to be forgiven also, so that is why we spread Jesus’ message.”
A wonderful solution to the problem of evil. The conclusion is fully embraced, there is no omni-God; but there is a God who created us, expects certain things from us, and can punish us for failing to live up to his expectations. So why don’t more theists take this way out?
Those that believe tend to believe in a God that is good. Why?
Well, the Bible and tradition have said that God is good. God created us, why would he hate his creation? God loved the world enough to send his son to die for our sins.
I’m sure there are other answers. But they all reveal a troubling lack of imagination. Of course the Bible says that God is good; because the Bible was inspired by an evil God who wants us to believe that he is good. Of course the Holy Spirit inspired the Church fathers with an image of divine love, because God wanted them to transmit a false message. His only interest was to get people to believe in God to bring about the inevitable power struggles and wars that would be fought over the correct characterization of this belief. He knew that people would be reached by a message of divine love and redemption. Once the ball got going, he could just sit back and enjoy the chaos.
Of course he sent a man to earth who preached a revolutionary message of love and forgiveness and of course he wanted this man to die. He made sure that people would believe that this man was their savior and the their sins could be forgiven so long as they believed in him. Isn’t it so obvious that this emphasis on belief as the defining element or religious faith would facilitate the coming battles between groups that had different understanding of what that belief must consist in? -“We believe that Jesus is both the son of God and also identical to God.” -“But that’s not possible. We believe that Jesus is God’s son but then he can’t literally be God.” -“Well, you’re a heretic.” And God knows what we do with heretics.
A good God would not make it a condition for avoiding eternal torment that we believe that a man born 2000 years ago was both the son of God and also God and that he died for our sins. This is just too much to ask of a person who could not possible know any of these things directly. It is much more likely that this is the work of a divine troublemaker.
Alright. This is only partially facetious. I do believe that positing an evil God who has been systematically deceiving humanity since the beginning is at least as consistent with the facts as the supposition of a good God. So what decides the matter? Why believe in the good God rather than the bad one?