The Odds of an Evil God & The Truth of Moral Questions

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Stephen Law Discusses His Interesting Thoughts on Morality, His “Evil God Hypothesis,” and His Views on Religion. Listen to the program at the link below.


Philosopher Stephen Law challenges theists to explain, “. . . why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god. Theists typically dismiss the evil god hypothesis out of hand because of the problem of good – there is surely too much good in the world for it to be the creation of such a being. But then why doesn’t the problem of evil provide equally good grounds for dismissing belief in a good god?” Law is the editor of the Royal Institute of Philosophy journal THINK. He has published several books and is senior lecturer in philosophy at Heythrop College, University of London. His books include Believing Bullshit, The Philosophy Gym, Humanism, A Very Short Introduction, and The War for Children’s Minds. During our conversation, Law shares his interesting views on morality, discusses how science relates to morality, and challenges both theists and non-theists to think.

Written By: Alan Litchfield
continue to source article at malcontentsgambit.com

12 COMMENTS

  1. The Evil God challenge is an OUTSTANDINGLY cunning part of any good atheist’s arsenal of arguments. It’s the answer to almost theodicy (rationalisation for evil’s existence) that the religious come up with for their supposedly omniscient, omnipotent and completely benevolent God.

    Ever heard of arguments like, “The evil in the world exists to teach us lessons” or, “The evil in the world exists because God gave us free will”? Such arguments, while implausible to us, may actually seem quite reasonable to the religiously warped. By FAR the best response to them, in my view, is the Evil God Challenge alluded to here.

    It’s well worth a read: http://lawpapers.blogspot.com/2009/06/evil-god-challenge-forthcoming-in.html

  2. I completely agree. It is far easier to make a case for an evil God than a good one, and I have had occasion to test it out to some ‘success’, success in this case meaning: quickly bringing a stupid conversation to a close.

  3. The gods are as “evil” as the indoctrinated meme programmes and the interpretations, by the brains that they occupy.

    “Gods coming before consideration of human and living environments”, is intrinsically evil, because it prioritises the spreading and enforcing of the meme before considering reality!

    Therefore any benefit to humans, is purely coincidental.

  4. The former church that I belonged to was a “good God” church to the extreme. No sin, no devil, no angry belittling God. God was LOVE and only love. In order to make this possible, the philosophy needed to get away from literal interpretation of the Bible and cherry pick other religions. Since the Biblical God strangely sounded human in all his petty ways, the God of the Bible was considered a projection of human traits and limitations onto the Divine. God was not the Abrahamic God (though the church was still technically considered Christian – but not completely), but more of a deistic God – one which was ALL that there is. We are God. All evil and strife in life came from our turning away from God and forgetting our divinity. God, a loving God would never reject us, we were the wayward ones. We created any problems that are considered “sin.”

    As I look back on the views, I realize why I had such difficulty accepting much of what was taught. It took several years to get the whole picture. Pieces’parts of it were wonderfully positive, life affirming, and motivating. The people were warm, friendly, and accept for a few nuts – pretty together. This was a liberal to hippy type crowd. I can see how much of the beliefs are a result of finding answers to the inconsistencies or untruths of the Christian religion. Point out a flaw in the Bible and my former church was the response.

    In order to create an all loving God, you need to take a step out of reality, because the reasoning that is needed cannot fully make sense in reality as we know it.

  5. He spoke wittily at my local BHA branch.

    His approach is Socratic, no pronouncements just questions, keeping theists on the back foot all the time.

    It isn’t easy, but it can be learnt, and it works.

  6. Could someone please define Good and Evil for me? I’m not being willfully obtuse or playing coy. In my experience what is good for one may have negative repercussions for another and the same holds true for evil. For example, I just finished an article that said that wealthy westerners appetite for the Andean grain quinoa has made this staple foodstuff unaffordable for the poorest people in Peru. So, is this Good for westerners hearts and waists Evil for the Andeans’ health? Or, take a hurricane that batters the U. S. Gulf coast. It may kill scores and leave thousands homeless, but it might also alleviate a drought farther north and save many livelihoods in Illinois. And the list goes on. I am of the opinion that Good and Evil are plastic terms without any real validity in the universe.

  7. I don’t agree with the hypothesis of an Evil God even when it is expressed as just as a likelihood of a good God. At best we have indifference. Morality and altruism can be clearly observed in humans and not only that, moral laws are propagated and supported by biology. For example the feel good factor when we do something kind, how rationality trumps fear as a way to live life , how we enjoy human socialisation , how positive actions beget positive actions , how love makes us feel secure. The list goes on.

  8. In reply to #9 by Scrivener:

    Could someone please define Good and Evil for me? I’m not being willfully obtuse or playing coy. In my experience what is good for one may have negative repercussions for another and the same holds true for evil. For example, I just finished an article that said that wealthy westerners appetite for the Andean grain quinoa has made this staple foodstuff unaffordable for the poorest people in Peru. So, is this Good for westerners hearts and waists Evil for the Andeans’ health? Or, take a hurricane that batters the U. S. Gulf coast. It may kill scores and leave thousands homeless, but it might also alleviate a drought farther north and save many livelihoods in Illinois. And the list goes on. I am of the opinion that Good and Evil are plastic terms without any real validity in the universe.

    To a degree, within each culture good and evil are relatively subjective constructs which morph into traditions, and are therefore impossible to define precisely, but beyond a certain degree they become universally recognized as as one or the other by everyone.

    At a very early age we have an innate understanding of fair and unfair which is free from any cultural baggage.

    Then the powers that be and tradition begin to impinge on our consciousness and behaviour, and we are told what is good and what is bad.

    That’s where the trouble starts.

    I spend much of my time trying to sort out what makes sense and what doesn’t, unlike when I was nipper when injustice was, or at least seemed to be, clear cut.

    So, I don’t have a clue what good and evil are, but I’m a good bullshitter.

    Had you going there!

  9. The idea of good and evil is only necessary for and, essentially, boils down to successful and proper human interaction or, at least, in order to make it possible. Once you remove yourself from people, you are no longer defined by how you treat people or by how they treat you.

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