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The problem of evil

For topics that are more about faith, religion and religious organisations than anything else.
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Alan H
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The problem of evil

#1 Post by Alan H » August 5th, 2011, 2:48 pm

I like flowcharts...
Image
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Dave B
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Re: The problem of evil

#2 Post by Dave B » August 5th, 2011, 2:55 pm

I like that flow chart!

There was a prog on Radio 4 earlier, So you want to be an exorcist, in which there were some weird characters and, IIRC, the statement that atheists are automatically on the evil side.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

Fia
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Re: The problem of evil

#3 Post by Fia » August 5th, 2011, 10:02 pm

Many thanks for that, Alan. It was serendipitously perfect to send on to someone I'm having an email chat with :)

Missed the R4 prog but that's probably good for my blood pressure :twisted:

thundril
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Re: The problem of evil

#4 Post by thundril » August 5th, 2011, 11:43 pm

In the school hols that included my thirteenth birthday, (Xmas 1961) I worked out a solution to this.
Lucifer and some other angels rebelled, so God created Hell for them. God knew which angels would rebel and which would not, but the angels didn't know. Both the angels that were sent to hell and the angels that were allowed to stay in heaven asked 'Why me?'
God created the earth so that the angels could, by inhabiting human bodies and experiencing temptation, understand, at the moment of death, why they deserved to go either to heaven or to hell.
When I got back to the seminary and blurted this out to some friends, I was told that this was the something or other heresy. Never did find out what heresy it was, or why it was heresy. Catholic seminaries don't encourage that kind of debate.
Still, looking back, it wasn't bad for a thirteen-year-old, was it?

petemster
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Re: The problem of evil

#5 Post by petemster » August 6th, 2011, 1:26 am

.

"An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God could and would destroy Satan".

That seems like an argument in favour of the death penalty.

Surely God, and Superman and Humanists wouldn't physically destroy the Bad Guy.

thundril
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Re: The problem of evil

#6 Post by thundril » August 6th, 2011, 1:30 am

The reason why God doesn't destroy Satan, and Superman doesn't destroy Lex Luthor, is because that would be the end of the story.
The reason why most humanists oppose the death penalty is probably more connected with reality.

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jaywhat
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Re: The problem of evil

#7 Post by jaywhat » August 6th, 2011, 6:35 am

You have to start by defining 'evil'.

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Dave B
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Re: The problem of evil

#8 Post by Dave B » August 6th, 2011, 9:30 am

thundril wrote:The reason why God doesn't destroy Satan, and Superman doesn't destroy Lex Luthor, is because that would be the end of the story.
The reason why most humanists oppose the death penalty is probably more connected with reality.
That's a good point, thundril, there has to be a concept of "evil" for any concept of "good" to have any real function as a figure that must be praised and supported.

There seems to be, in my mind, a link here with the political systems (giving one "entity" the position of authority and another the opposition) and the result of not having that system - anarchy where all people have complete authority only over themselves.

Trouble is: both states, the totally non-religious and the totally non-political require all people to be equally ethical and moral. Could get a bit boring . . .
-------------------------
Yes, as jaywhat says, how does one define "evil" unless one uses a religious concept? I have met people with what I happily call "an evil personality" as short hand for some sort of long, unqualified pseudo-phychological explanation of his/her behaviour. But it is only a kind of "slang" in that use.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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animist
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Re: The problem of evil

#9 Post by animist » August 6th, 2011, 2:45 pm

petemster wrote:.

"An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God could and would destroy Satan".

That seems like an argument in favour of the death penalty.

Surely God, and Superman and Humanists wouldn't physically destroy the Bad Guy.
definitely yes (on utilitarian grounds, not retributive)! But the free will problem applies to Satan as well as to mankind, so God would never have created Satan in the first place. The free will problem is the killer for theism; I think free will is compatible with a godless universe, but once you introduce a being which is both omipotent and omniscient, there really is no place for it.

BTW, thanks very much for the chart, Alan, I shall try and publicise it!

petemster
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Re: The problem of evil

#10 Post by petemster » August 6th, 2011, 9:49 pm

animist wrote:
petemster wrote:.

"An all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good God could and would destroy Satan".

That seems like an argument in favour of the death penalty.

Surely God, and Superman and Humanists wouldn't physically destroy the Bad Guy.
"definitely yes (on utilitarian grounds, not retributive)! But the free will problem applies to Satan as well as to mankind, so God would never have created Satan in the first place. The free will problem is the killer for theism; I think free will is compatible with a godless universe, but once you introduce a being which is both omipotent and omniscient, there really is no place for it".

- - - - - -

It's interesting that you don't see a moral dilemma here. So an "all-good" God would simply destroy Satan even though he could easily decide to give him life imprisonment - with solitary, so that he couldn't create any more mischief.
Thundril makes a good point, that Satan's destruction would mean the end of the story, but that would still be fully
consistent with the theistic belief in the end of the world and the consequent Day of Judgement. After that event Satan
would no longer be necessary. He'd better watch out.
(Yes, I know this discussion is becoming increasingly irrelevant and unreal).

I'm not sure that the problem of evil is a killer for "theism" although it is certainly a killer for "omni-benevolence"
And I'm no expert on religion but is it not the case that Christianity, of the big three monotheisms, is the only one that
proposes that God is all-good? Don't the others accept that their God can be a real bastard at times?

However, it does raise further fundamental questions about the nature of this "God". It is claimed that God is perfect
in every way. (Can you say "omni-perfect?")
But we might ask, why did God create everything. This implies that at one time there was nothing in existence except
God alone. So he must have become lonely and bored so he created the angels even though he knew that some of them
would turn bad and rebel. So God through his creations is responsible for the existence of evil. So he can't be all-good.
And it creates the "problem of evil".

Also, we are told, he then created us humans so that we would love and worship him, and tell him how great he is.
Which means that God commited the sin of pride - excessive love of one's own excellence - even before humans arrived.
In other places we are told that God can succumb to feelings of jealousy and anger. All of which contradicts the claim
that God is perfect in every way.

So I wonder if anybody could do a flow chart to illustrate the many imperfections of "God" and to demonstrate the
logical absurdities of the many claims made by the theists.

thundril
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Re: The problem of evil

#11 Post by thundril » August 6th, 2011, 11:57 pm

This problem with God and his relation to good and evil can be looked at another way: If God is said to be good because he is thought to be behaving in a way consistent with what is good, this implies that 'goodness' exists prior to God. OTOH, if goodness is whatever God says it is, then he can declare the behaviour code for us, without being bound by it himself, but this means that God himself isn't good. Which, as Petemster suggests, is what the other religions almost universally believe.

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jaywhat
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Re: The problem of evil

#12 Post by jaywhat » August 7th, 2011, 6:06 am

I sincerely hope that admin does not get into the habit of encouraging discussion about this 'god' thing. I always thought this was a humanist forum.

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animist
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Re: The problem of evil

#13 Post by animist » August 7th, 2011, 8:37 am

jaywhat wrote:I sincerely hope that admin does not get into the habit of encouraging discussion about this 'god' thing. I always thought this was a humanist forum.
that is a strange thing to say IMO. It's a bit like saying that a Marxist forum should not debate capitalism

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animist
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Re: The problem of evil

#14 Post by animist » August 7th, 2011, 8:41 am

thundril wrote:This problem with God and his relation to good and evil can be looked at another way: If God is said to be good because he is thought to be behaving in a way consistent with what is good, this implies that 'goodness' exists prior to God. OTOH, if goodness is whatever God says it is, then he can declare the behaviour code for us, without being bound by it himself, but this means that God himself isn't good. Which, as Petemster suggests, is what the other religions almost universally believe.
I don't think that's true is it, ie that other religions say that God is not perfectly good? Any evidence? I know that the Old Testament shows him behaving in ways that appear not to be good but that's a different matter. What you seem to be stating, apart from this one point, is the Euthyphro dilemma, which is a challenge to divine command theory, but of course the theists try to get round this.

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Dave B
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Re: The problem of evil

#15 Post by Dave B » August 7th, 2011, 9:43 am

thundril wrote:This problem with God and his relation to good and evil can be looked at another way: If God is said to be good because he is thought to be behaving in a way consistent with what is good, this implies that 'goodness' exists prior to God. OTOH, if goodness is whatever God says it is, then he can declare the behaviour code for us, without being bound by it himself, but this means that God himself isn't good. Which, as Petemster suggests, is what the other religions almost universally believe.
". . . but this means that God himself isn't good."

I seem to remember times when characters in the Bible, in fear of their lives, yell out, "God, why have you forsaken me, your faithful servant?" or similar. At those times the "victim" is obviously having second thoughts about the Almighty. Trouble is there might be a greater good and one sacrifice will go towards that. Excuse number two is, of course, that God so loved that person "he" wanted them near "him". So yes, with one viewpoint God can be a bit of a bastard, with another view of the same event he has exercised his compassion for the greater part of his flock by sacrificing a Well Beloved Follower (the WBF not necessarily being happy with the idea) or is being a bit selfish.

As soon as you start looking into this the whole thing seems to dissolve in the usual quagmire of conflicting concepts - God is neither good nor not-good because God is not. Each believer will have his or her own concept of God, as a symbol, and see "him" positioned at an arbitrary point on a scale of "good - evil".

I am coming round to the idea that one needs that "God-in-the-mind" to make the concept of an "evil" person other than merely a convenient shorthand for "of socio/psycho-pathic personality" or similar.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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jaywhat
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Re: The problem of evil

#16 Post by jaywhat » August 7th, 2011, 10:47 am

animist wrote:
jaywhat wrote:I sincerely hope that admin does not get into the habit of encouraging discussion about this 'god' thing. I always thought this was a humanist forum.
that is a strange thing to say IMO. It's a bit like saying that a Marxist forum should not debate capitalism

IMHO, whether you like or not, capitalism exists; god does not.

thundril
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Re: The problem of evil

#17 Post by thundril » August 7th, 2011, 12:18 pm

jaywhat wrote:I sincerely hope that admin does not get into the habit of encouraging discussion about this 'god' thing. I always thought this was a humanist forum.
a. Not every contributor to a Humanist forum is neccessarily a Humanist.
b. Granted that most of the regulars on TH are either humanist, atheist or agnostic, what do we have in common, other than a more-or-less active rejection of the role of religion in the world?
c. Given the harm some of the so-called 'great' religions are doing, isn't it a good idea to 'know your enemy', or at least, (to be a bit more civilised about it) 'understand the opposition'?.

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Dave B
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Re: The problem of evil

#18 Post by Dave B » August 7th, 2011, 1:49 pm

jaywhat wrote:
animist wrote:
jaywhat wrote:I sincerely hope that admin does not get into the habit of encouraging discussion about this 'god' thing. I always thought this was a humanist forum.
that is a strange thing to say IMO. It's a bit like saying that a Marxist forum should not debate capitalism

IMHO, whether you like or not, capitalism exists; god does not.
Trouble is, jaywhat, "he" does "exist" as a concept in the minds of others; some of which use "him" as a motivation and/or justification for their behaviour. "God" exists in the actions of those people, for the benefit or ill (as we see it) of the rest of humanity.

For as long as that concept is accepted I feel that we are right in discussion and exploring it. But it is only when we actually engage, face to face, with the religionistas that there is any (even if very slim) chance of conversion, of actually achieving something. Signing appropriate petitions is about the only practical effort most of us can make that may be felt outside of our immediate, personal, circle of influence.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

thundril
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Re: The problem of evil

#19 Post by thundril » August 7th, 2011, 2:48 pm

animist wrote: What you seem to be stating, apart from this one point, is the Euthyphro dilemma, which is a challenge to divine command theory, . .
Wasn't it a kind of toothpaste?

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animist
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Re: The problem of evil

#20 Post by animist » August 7th, 2011, 2:52 pm

thundril wrote:
animist wrote: What you seem to be stating, apart from this one point, is the Euthyphro dilemma, which is a challenge to divine command theory, . .
Wasn't it a kind of toothpaste?
:laughter: wish I could "cap" that!

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