Evil is the absence of God

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Part of the series on

Logic and rhetoric

Icon logic.svg
Key articles
General logic
Bad logic

Evil is the absence of God is a supposedly logical argument that attempts to solve the problem of evil by explaining that "evil" does not exist as a positive, but is simply the relative lack of God.

The argument also is used to address the apparent contradiction that arises from combining the existence of an omnipresent, omnibenevolent God with the existence of evil (since, if God is in all things and if God is 100% good, one would not expect patently evil things to exist...).

This thinly veiled sleight of hand also has the added benefit that if "the absence of God" is indeed allowed to share definition with "evil", then atheism inherently becomes evil, without the need to argue for or against the specifics of atheism.


[edit] Syllogism

The "argument" itself basically follows like this.

Question: Does evil exist?

  1. Darkness is not a thing, in and of itself. Darkness is simply what we call a lack of light.
  2. In the same way, cold does not exist. It is simply an area that lacks enough heat (energy).
  3. Equally, we can say the same about evil. Evil itself does not exist, it is simply a lack of God.

This argument has been used by Jehovah's Witnesses to explain why the world is falling apart[citation needed], by Ray Comfort to address the fact that God would not actually be a bad dude[citation needed]- but if you reject him, you cannot do Good, and by other feel-good Christians[citation needed] who want their "all good God", but still look at a world where evil clearly exists.

[edit] Einstein

Perhaps the most famous rendition of this argument is in the urban legend that circulates in e-mail and social networks which tells of a young student in smart-alec debate with his strawman atheist professor.[1] After explaining to his idiot professor that cold and dark do not actually exist (they are merely the absence of heat and of light), the bold young student goes on to explain that despite his professor's foolish belief to the contrary, evil does not exist either (it is the absence of God). The strawman professor is dumbstruck. That and top things off... that student's name was Albert Einstein.[citation NOT needed]

[edit] Criticism of the argument

The argument relies on a fallacy known as mistaking the map for the territory. The principal error is that even though cold does not exist as a physical quantity, the sensation of cold, as perceived by humans, clearly does exist. Similarly, regardless of the dubious definition offered in the argument, the perception of evil does exist. Moreover, there is no fundamental physical quantity one could identify with good - both good and evil are human perceptions, and so the analogy does not apply at all . . . although "How can the perception of evil exist if there is an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God?" does not exactly roll off the tongue easily.

Applying this argument to actual instances of evil results in really bizarre statements. If someone murders a man's wife, the apologists would tell him that his wife did not experience evil; while the killer was stabbing her with a knife, she was just experienced a situation that did not include God enough (well, hopefully, the apologists would simply tell him "Dude, that sucks" but among themselves, they would say this). Anyway, the man still experiences suffering and his wife is still dead, regardless of how the apologists describe this event. In the opinion of most mere mortals, an omniscient and omnibenevolent God would not absent himself/herself/whatever in ways that cause or allow suffering.

One doesn't even need examples to show the oddity. Applying this argument at a conceptual level is sufficient: If evil is the comparative lack of God's inclusion in a situation, then what is the baseline? How much light do we need to see? How much heat do we need to feel warm? How much God do we need to be good?

[edit] Examples of how this logic fails

  • Widespread poverty comes from a lack of money, social programs and moral character. Poverty isn't really poverty but a lack of means to support yourself...meaning poverty doesn't actually exist but is just a lack of wealth. The state in the end is a kind, caring compassionate perfect government that wants to take care of its children but sometimes goes a little over budget...and makes cuts to social services which we puny humans cannot properly understand in the grand scheme of national budgeting.
  • Systemic homophobia isn't abuse but is in fact a lack of tolerance. When a group of jocks punch in the face of a gay teenager before dunking his head in the toilet, it isn't fag-hate but a lack of kindness and understanding. Homophobia is thus an illusion and the real problem is a temporary blip in human decency.
  • Constipation isn't a blockage in your bowels but is a lack of a well-functioning colon. When you are constipated it isn't an inflated organ you are dealing with (that's just a misunderstanding): it's really an absence of well-performing bodily functions. Eating more fiber and taking regular enemas will make that illusion of constipation disappear since your problem wasn't really encountering a blockage, but was temporarily lacking body regulation.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

Personal tools