Friday, April 13, 2007

The God of Eth (part 3)

In The God of Eth, I point out that many of the popular arguments for belief in God (e.g. intelligent design, fine-tuning, first-cause, etc) are actually just as much arguments for an all-evil creator as an all-good one, for they give us no clue at all as to God's moral character.

In response to The God of Eth, some (e.g. Richard Swinburne, in conversation) have suggested that there is an important asymmetry between the evil God and good God hypotheses. There is, they suggest, powerful evidence for a specifically good God that is not mirrored by evidence for an evil God.

Here are two examples:

The argument from miracles. There is evidence that miracles occur. People receive miraculous cures of afflictions and diseases, for example. The Catholic Church has investigated and confirmed many examples. Why would an evil God perform them?

Argument from religious experience. People have religious experiences. And what they report of the experience is invariably positive. They report an experience of something immeasurably good, for example. Not pure evil.

So here we have evidence for a good god not mirrored by evidence for an evil one.

My response

How strong is this evidence?

Well, even if we admit that these miracles are legit and that the experiences are indeed of supernatural origin, I would question whether they support the good god hypothesis more than the evil god hypothesis. Here’s why.

Assuming there is an evil god, he may not want people to know he is evil. It may be in his interests to pretend to be good. In fact, he might mess with our minds in the following way:

First, appear to these people over here. Appear in a very positive way, in religious experiences, visions and so on. Provide proof of your existence by performing positive miracles. Say, "I am the one true God who alone must be believed and obeyed."

Second, appear to those people over there. Appear in a very positive way, in religious experiences, visions and so on. Provide proof of your existence by performing positive miracles. Say, "I am the one true God who alone must be believed and obeyed."

Also, tell them some things which contradict what you told the first group (say, that Jesus wasn't God, just a prophet).

Now just stand back and watch the entirely predictable carnage as each group attacks the other confident that they have the all-powerful, all-good god on their side. Huge amounts of suffering result! Just what evil god is after.

When we look at how religious miracles and experiences are distributed throughout the world, well, this is exactly how they are distributed, isn’t it?

If I was a good god, the last thing I would do is behave in such a way – especially as, being omniscient, I would know what would happen.

So it seems to me that miracles and religious experiences are better evidence for an evil god than for a good god.

So who wants to maintain that, while belief in an evil God is just silly (which it surely is), belief in a good god is still fairly reasonable? If so, why?

9 comments:

Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

I imagine it was this kind of thinking that preceded the emergence of some of the more prevalent gnostic heresies. The Albigensian heresy in particular betrays signs of a similar reasoning process to the one which you outline here; ultimately concluding that the god and creator of the material world must surely be evil. As you explain, the idea is not hard to swallow based on historical observation.

None of this really bothered the ancient Hebrews unduly; they seemed quite content to follow a god with an ambiguous sense of morality. God's Will was God's Will, for good or ill. It was only with the profound influence of Greek notions of good and evil that things started to get complicated (and lead to a lot of violent disagreement such as that above). Arguably the notions of good and evil that come down through philosophy simply cannot be reconciled with the theology of revealed religion. In which case, blind faith may be the only reliable escape route.

Glen Williams said...

It seems to me, a mere novice, that your premise about an Evil God is slightly flawed.
1) Would an Evil God create a universe or would he(she) be more inclined to try to destroy an existing one?
2) If the universe then exists, has it always been so or was it created? If it always existed, how do you explain the intelligent design behind the DNA molecule and how the coded information got there randomly?
3) If the universe was indeed created, then who created it and why?
These are the real questions to answer. So far, only the Bible has provided a satisfactory answer backed by scientific evidence.
This can also be summed up as in Pascal's wager. If believing in a Good God results in salvation and believing in an Evil one results in Destruction, what is the harm in believing in the Good God? If you are wrong and an evil God exists, you will still be dead.

Stephen Law said...

Didn't know that about the Albigensians...

Glen - the idea is that there's no good god only an all-powerful all-evil one. He created the world (to create suffering, which he likes).

He fine-tuned it and is the intelligence behind it. Fine tuning and and intelligent design exist - but they are the handiwork of my evil god. An all-evil god explains FT and ID just as well as an all-good god.

See the original God of Eth article by checking god of eth link on sidebar.

R C Sharma said...

Glen Williams said...

It seems to me, a mere novice, that your premise about an Evil God is slightly flawed.
1) Would an Evil God create a universe or would he(she) be more inclined to try to destroy an existing one?


Comment: There seems to be no logical reason why god cannot be evil and still create a world. An evil god will create an evil world, and th world is jam packed with evil. If a god punishes countless generations for the "sin" of their progenitor, it is an evil not a just god.


2) If the universe then exists, has it always been so or was it created? If it always existed, how do you explain the intelligent design behind the DNA molecule and how the coded information got there randomly?

Comment: In fact random process alone can explain freaks like extra fingers on hands, people with other than the strict male/female genders etc. With an intelligent designer and maker such creations cannot occur. In fact such "freaks" prove that "intelligent" creator has got run down and imperfect tools of creation. If the creation is due to god's will, as Christian claim, then that will is flawed.


3) If the universe was indeed created, then who created it and why?

Comment: A good question. Christians say WHO= God. Accepted. But why?? Some answers:
1. He was impelled to do so. Then the impeller too must have been impelled. Soon you get to infinity. This INFINITE regress has not been liked by Christians, who tend to claim that infinity is ILLOGICAL. Kant too said that, but then Kant did not understand concept of INFINITY. More sometime later.

These are the real questions to answer. So far, only the Bible has provided a satisfactory answer backed by scientific evidence.

Comment: I would be interested in a list of such answers from Bible.

R. C. Sharma
rcescwc@yahoo.co.in

Rhowryn said...

Glen said: This can also be summed up as in Pascal's wager. If believing in a Good God results in salvation and believing in an Evil one results in Destruction, what is the harm in believing in the Good God? If you are wrong and an evil God exists, you will still be dead.

Er, Pascal's wager is flawed for a very large reason, which he acknowledged: There are literally hundreds of thousands of Gods worshipped in the past and present; more are likely to be created.

How do you know that your one god out of thousands is the correct God to worship? It's not a 50/50 chance for success. It's one in around 500,000.

Don't give me, "But where do these other Gods get their authority from? The Bible tells us that God is the only God, and it's from God!"

Yeah? That may be so, but I have two issues with that.
a) You say, "The Bible is right, because God wrote it!"

How do we know that God wrote it as fact?

"Well, we know God wrote it, because the Bible says he did!"

Uh huh. And how do we know the Bible is right?

"Well, the Bible is right, because God wrote it!"

How do we know that God wrote it as fact?

"Well, we know God wrote it, because the Bible says he did!"

Riiight. So all you have is a very short circle of appeals that cannot be proven or justified. I don't need to prove your god doesn't exist; you need to prove that he does. Extraordinary claims necessitate extraordinary evidence that is NOT self-authorizing.

b) The bigger issue, of course, is that most big Gods (Zeus (Greece), Thor (Norse) Xian God, Brahman (Hindu)) has its own version of why it's the only God. All are self-authorized, and none can be proven (yet). Why is yours so special?

Take, for example, the Qur'an's authority against the Bible's.
Qur'an: Dictated by 'God' in exact words to Mohammad.
Bible: God-inspired/directed writings by disciples, people, etc.

We have to first beleive that between Mohammad and the writers of the bible, one was not lying. Both could easily be lying, but both could not be right. Hence the separation of Islam and Xtianity.

I'm tired, might pick up tommorrow. It's 10PM D:

Anonymous said...

Another counter to the argument from miracles would be to consider the miracles of evil.

The person who lives a health conscious life only to be struck down by a rare form of cancer.

The person who, a short way into recovery from a minor ailment, suffers an unforeseen complication and dies.

The image of the face of one of the God of Eth's prophets appearing in a skirting board shortly before the owner of the home falls ill and dies.

The Catholic Church documents miracles of good, perhaps the Etholic Church would document miracles of evil.

Similarly, in a world where most consider their god to be evil, people might be predisposed to feel absolute horror and revulsion during a religious experience or at least to label an occasion where horror was felt for no apparent reason as a religious one.

Calum

Anonymous said...

You certainly wouldn't want to visit the Eth equivalent of Lourdes!

Calum

DisComforting Ignorance said...

I'm only a year late, but Calum stole the comment I was going to make. Miracles are, basically, just an unexaplainable stroke of good luck. Why not, for an evil God, miracles are the unexplainable stroke of bad luck? I think miracles of an evil God are much better supported and documented.

"Frank's son is being held hostage by kidnappers who have demanded $10,000 to be delivered to them by 4:00pm, or else they will kill the boy. Frank has collected the large sum of money by the generosity of the community and is making his way there. It is 3:30 and he will be there in five minutes.

As he's passing by a building, a piano falls from being hoisted seven stories up, crushing Frank and the money also blows away. Not only is Frank dead, but his son will be killed and the community has lost all it's money."

PRAISE GOD OF ETH! IT'S A MIRACLE!

Toby Aldridge said...

Enjoy:
Whilst I was reading the bible I came accross something... Don't know where it was from.

I came down to this: Don't believe in other Gods, because I am a jealous God.

Which means that God innately has the flaw of jealousy. That means that God could have other flaws too.

Therefore the Christian God IS FLAWED. This means that the christian god could be almost completely good, neutral, or evil. But not compeltely good.

Note: I am not christian.