New York Magazine columnist Jonathan Chait recently published his argument against what he calls the “inversion of victim and victimizer” that occurs when political correctness reaches extremes. It is a piece that demonstrates the privilege–thoughtful as it is–underlying defenses of free speech from insensitive remarks. Continue reading
Over the course of years, I’ve grown a bit suspicious of the so-called “free thinkers,” including the Center for Inquiry, for their lack of tact and historical insight when dealing with sensitive issues. When discussing terrorism, for example, folks like Sam Harris and Michael Shermer do a horrendous job of placing Islamic radicalism within its historical context. Continue reading
Justin Schieber of one of my favorite podcasts, Reasonable Doubts, recently laid out a great philosophical disproof of the concept of a god. As a long-time follower of their show, I was surprised to hear a new one. In short: the existence of the universe disproves god.
Reasonable Doubts is perhaps the finest podcasts on the philosophy of religion and science. Its hosts talk about determinism, politics, morality, philosophy, and religion as all interconnected, and do it with a clarity and quirky aplomb that I hope to emulate in my own writing. Recently, Justin Schieber, teen pop sensation (inside joke), debated Jared Orme, a Christian apologist radio host, on the existence and non-existence of the Christian God. (Side note: the term “apologist” is not a pejorative.)
Now, I am, by virtue of having been a follower of their podcast since about 2008 or 2009, well-versed in most of the arguments for and against god. With this show, however, I was extremely interested to find a new volley in the exchange from Sheiber’s court. Unfortunately, Jared did not have anything new to offer other than rehashes of seriously-dated arguments such as the cosmological argument–which, he argues, is the foundation of his belief (oy).
The argument doesn’t seem to have a name that I can find on Wikipedia, so email me if you know it. Since I am not a trained philosopher, let me lay the argument out as I understand it in the only way I can: in laymen’s terms.
- God is “good” and strives to bring about more good
- No being can surpass god in goodness
- The universe exists, and god created it
- Evil exists, or at least various shades of good that cannot equal or surpass god’s good
None of these, I don’t think, are very controversial ideas. The first one may be, however, given the Old Testament God’s wrath. Still, the general portrayal and belief is that the monotheist god that is popular among Christians today is morally good in sum, and that no being can possibly surpass god’s goodness.
It would seem quite absurd that humans can be more morally righteous than god. Refuting this, I think, undermines all of Christian morality.
Because the universe exists and god created it, there must have been a time that the universe did not exist, and all that existed was god. In this scenario, there was only god, who is good and not evil. Since god is the pinnacle of all things good, and we submit that evil now exists in the universe and did not before, things must have been infinitely more morally good before the universe existed than after it. If god created the universe, he created both evil and beings far less good than god. Since god strives to bring about good, why would he have created the universe? Therefore, there is no logical, philosophical reason that a god would have wanted to create the universe.
The universe’s very existence disproves god.
I love this argument because it accepts some quite absurd things–such as god having no cause–to surrender ground to apologists while still showing god’s logical absurdity. At the root of it all is what kind of god you want: good, evil, in between? Most people, I think, would argue that god is good. But if they’re so good, why did they create the universe and all of its suffering, all of its less-good beings, the vast emptiness of it all? How is that in any way better than just the existence of an all-good god? At the root of it all is what I think is the most damning problem of religion: evil.
Quantity or Quality?
I can imagine that an apologist would retort by arguing that creating the universe must have created more good than evil, and thus is a net overall good. However, if we accept this (empirical) premise, there are still problems with god. An apologist who pleads this case is arguing that a god, as evidenced in their creating the universe, is more concerned with quantities of good, rather than the quality of good. In this situation, there is no moral difference between complementing someone’s haircut and spending one’s life feeding the hungry. They both add good to the world.
This idea is also incompatible with the idea that god is the pinnacle of all good. By this rubric, god can create more and more good that is distinguishable from god. A priest, for example, is good, but less good than god. If this is the case, then god should be able to create more good than himself. One priest might not be more good than god, but two thousand priests are. If god cannot create more good than god, it violates omnipotence and the potential to create good. If god can create more good than god, this is a logical impossibility of monotheism and violates the premise of god striving toward more good: if god could create more gods better than him, then why wouldn’t he? How is it the pinnacle of good to not maximize good by creating so much good that even god’s goodness is no longer the most good?
Similarly, if one argues that god did not create more good, but rather all of the universe emerged out of the good that already amounted to god, there is still a predicament. Why would he arrange the universe in such a way as to have pockets of good, less good, and evil? Why is it better to go from (no universe) perfect good to (universe) good, gray, and evil? A god has no reason to create the universe by rearranging it’s own good, since that rearrangement can never be as good as god-without-universe itself.
As for the Debate
Skip it unless you’re bored. Jared offers nothing new and Justin tears up pretty much everything except Jared’s argument from experience. To paraphrase an RD commenter, Jared is reduced to this argument: “you will understand that the Christian god is right when YOU experience the christian god as being right.” He did not enter the debate willing to discuss the flaws in his argument, or to identify the flaws in Justin’s.