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Talk:Problem of evil

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Moving a thread from a talk page[edit]

The following was originally just supposed to be general navel-gazing about the nature of God and good and evil so I started it directly with a user on their talk page; however, it boomeranged right back to discussing the the problem of evil so I got permission to throw it back onto this page. We got bored with it, but other people might want to play around. This contains the "Transformative" fork of the discussion. The "Evil is like Cold" fork was copied to the other article's talk page. --Bertrc (talk) 19:24, 16 July 2017 (UTC)

Omnibenevolence vs Good[edit]

Hey Christopher, I started a thread in the "Evil is like Cold" talk page. --Bertrc (talk) 21:20, 30 May 2017 (UTC)

Moving this here, since it is a bit off topic (I am just philosophizing)
You posted: Omnibenevolent=loving everyone, how could an evil person/God love everyone? Christopher (talk) 07:22, 31 May 2017 (UTC)
For specificity, I'd say "omnibenevolence == wanting the good for everybody", rather than "benevolence == loving everybody". I think loving somebody means more than just wanting the best for them. I think it includes an investment into their well-being; tying your own happiness with theirs; driving your decisions around them, etc. --Bertrc (talk) 20:06, 31 May 2017 (UTC)
Regardless, I think we evil people can exhibit either trait. We can love everybody; we just love ourselves more than we love other people. We can want good for everybody; we just don't want to let other people's good interfere with our own good stuff. --Bertrc (talk) 18:54, 31 May 2017 (UTC)
You really are being pedantic now, I'm still waiting for how this solves the PoE. Christopher (talk) 08:02, 1 June 2017 (UTC)
He didn't want the best for amputees, or Holocaust victims. Christopher (talk) 08:03, 1 June 2017 (UTC)
Oh, I didn't know we were discussing that directly. I was just musing about the nature of and perspectives on evil. Heh, you say "pedantic", I say "precision"!  :-D  :-P~  ;-) Let's consider 3 flavors of the Problem/paradox of evil:
1) If God created everything and God is good, how can there be evil/suffering? He must not be good if he created evil or he didn't create everything.
2) If God is present everywhere, and God is good, how can there be evil/suffering? He must not be good if he is present in this evil situation or he must not be present.
3) If God is all-powerful and omnibenevolent, how can there be evil/suffering? He must not be able to stop it, or he must not be nice enough to want to stop it.
I think you are concerned with the 3rd flavour, but the "evil is like cold" theodicy really only addresses the first two. I think the "evil is like darkness" argument is also good for understanding the nature of evil. . . . Um, before we get really deep into this, are you an amputee or a holocaust survivor (or in a really bad place for some other reason?) I certainly do not want to trivialize things for you, if you are, by coldly analyzing how suffering could exist. I think the "I know what it ain't" view is the best perspective for confronting or dealing with suffering; however, that view is understandably considered avoiding the question if you just want to debate or shoot the bull. --Bertrc (talk) 19:18, 1 June 2017 (UTC)
"Precision"? That's rich — considering you won't even agree that A ⊊ B. And it goes without saying that your false analogy to "heat and cold" is far from multi-applicable; rather, it is not even wrong. Reverend Black Percy (talk) 20:50, 1 June 2017 (UTC)
(EC)I'm not in a position that means I don't want to talk about the PoE, no. The "evil is like cold" argument fails for a number of reasons: 1) It fails for religions where their God is omnipresent as nothing can be the "absence of God", 2) It fails for religions where the God is all powerful and all loving/all good/whatever because even if he wasn't everywhere he could choose to be where a homeless person is to prevent suffering. Christopher (talk) 20:55, 1 June 2017 (UTC)
Cool! I'll trust you and assume that you are not a holocaust survivor or a double amputee and that you are in a good enough place not to be upset if we smugly and analytically consider suffering while sitting comfortably in our ivory towers.  :-) I certainly agree with your second point, which I believe is referencing the third flavor of the PoE I list above; that third flavor of the PoE is better addressed by other theodicies. However, I would disagree with your first point. Let me break those up into two sections. --Bertrc (talk) 16:48, 3 June 2017 (UTC)

The existence of suffering vs a benevolent God[edit]

Even though you've given me the go-ahead, I'd like to reiterate that suffering is awful and that I think we should lean on "I know what it ain't" when we are in times of crisis. With that being said . . .

So, I feel the "Transformative" theodicy (with a smattering of the vaccination analogy) is the strongest apologetic argument to address the third flavor of the PoE I listed above (If God is all-powerful and omnibenevolent, how can there be evil/suffering? He must not be able to stop it, or he must not be nice enough to want to stop it.) Essentially, the idea is that a God with infinite power and ability could transform and redeem any magnitude of evil/suffering.

My favorite analogy is when I trained for a marathon: There is one incline that I hated; that's no hyperbole; I loathed it. However, sometimes, when I reached that top and started on the straight away, I would realize that the entire run, up to that moment, was awesome. I don't just mean reaching that top; I don't mean that achieving that goal and taking in that view was better because it contrasted to the suffering of that bloody incline; and I don't mean that the suffering of that incline was balanced out because the result was so spectacular. What I mean is that the entire run -- leading up to the incline, running the incline, cruising along the straightway at the top -- was somehow transformed retroactively into an amazing, wonderful experience even though I had been suffering and wanting to give up just moments before.

This transformation and redemption of suffering is reflected by countless other experiences. Trivially: Would you want to have been able to put that jig-saw puzzle together without having gone through the work and, at times, frustration of having had to hunt for each of those friggin' pieces? More strikingly: Do you wish you had never had any of the uncertainty, drama, and trauma you went through wooing your spouse, now that you are together? Is your joy over the process of coming to understand quantum relativity or Green's theorem diminished by the nights of having banged your head against a wall due to some misunderstanding? (So long as the head banging was figurative) I don't have an artistic bone in my body, but I assume that painters/composers/musicians/sculptors/etc. sometimes suffer as they try to get it just right, but feel unable to do so; I'm willing to bet that sometimes, when they finally do succeed in their vision, they do not think: "This would have been so much better if I had just gotten it right immediately from the start."

Now I'm not saying that this transformation happens every time in all these circumstances and I certainly wouldn't say a tearful, heart breaking fight with the love of my life was as painful as what my cousin went through when his mother died of cancer. However, it does happen sometimes, and I would propose that if my minor sufferings can be transformed/redeemed though the natural processes of this world, within my lifetime, then an all-powerful God of infinite ability could ultimately redeem and transform any magnitude of suffering in a similar or analogous manner. --Bertrc (talk) 16:48, 3 June 2017 (UTC)

So God gives people Ebola, but he magically turns Ebola into a Good Thing™ so everything is fine? Surely it's a lot simpler to just say "the Christian Gods (and other similar Gods) don't actually exist"? Christopher (talk) 17:14, 3 June 2017 (UTC)
Heh, nice try. I see what you did there!  :-P~  ;-) --Bertrc (talk) 00:08, 5 June 2017 (UTC)
First, you said "So God gives people Ebola" but God does not give people ebola. That's a dialogue tree we will probably run into in the "Evil is like Cold" analogy, above, and will have to split out into its own section. --Bertrc (talk) 00:08, 5 June 2017 (UTC)
Second, you asked "Isn't it simpler to say God does not exist" but the transformation theodicy (and theodicy in general) is not meant to prove that God does exists; instead, the purpose of theodicy is simply to debunk the PoE as a means of proving God cannot exist. Whether God does exist is probably yet another section. --Bertrc (talk) 00:08, 5 June 2017 (UTC)
Really nice try, though!  :-) --Bertrc (talk) 00:08, 5 June 2017 (UTC)
Addressing the part of your statement that is actually on point, I would counter that it is not magical. Consider the pain during my run up that blasted incline, or the anger trying to find the friggin' correct piece of blue sky in a jig-saw puzzle or the tears during a fight with my spouse or the mind-numbing frustration trying to grasp Green's theorem or the nights of terror thinking I won't be able to provide for my family after being jobless or, heck, even the desire to throw my computer out of the window because I can't figure out how to kill the prismatic dragon with my gnome illusionist. Is it magical that those instances of suffering get transformed and redeemed right now in this natural world? --Bertrc (talk) 00:08, 5 June 2017 (UTC)
@Bertc What's with you and the making of incomprehensible analogies? Seriously; I could cite your whole last post back to you as example of this. The best part is, you give poor Christopher a nipple twister for allegedly rambling off-point just as you present the following word salad as 'corrective':

Consider the pain during my run up that blasted incline, or the anger trying to find the friggin' correct piece of blue sky in a jig-saw puzzle or the tears during a fight with my spouse or the mind-numbing frustration trying to grasp Green's theorem or the nights of terror thinking I won't be able to provide for my family after being jobless or, heck, even the desire to throw my computer out of the window because I can't figure out how to kill the prismatic dragon with my gnome illusionist. Is it magical that those instances of suffering get transformed and redeemed right now in this natural world?

I rest my case. Facepalm.png
@Christopher Bertc's "Gene Ray-isms" aside... Notice the amount of mental contortionism the guy is willing to put in, just to be able to claim the good stuff (e.g. divine guidance in locating the perfect parking spot) as sign of God's loving presence — while at the very same time, billing all the bad stuff (e.g. parasitic flies injecting their worms into the eyeballs of malnourished infants) to a different account?
Ergo; God gets thanks for all the good — and any bad? Why, that's just 'cause it didn't have (enough of) God in it! Amen! Reverend Black Percy (Reverend Black Percy) 12:22, 5 June 2017 (UTC)
@Reverend Black Percy, I'm not sure how you consider the Transformative theodicy to mean God is putting things on somebody else's bill, particularly since, according to the theodicy, He actively undoes all the brokenness and evil . . . Did you mean to put that in the "Evil is Cold vs a Creator God who is Everywhere" section? --Bertrc (talk) 14:33, 12 June 2017 (UTC)
@Christopher, are you confused as to why I would bring up instances where suffering is transformed/redeemed in our normal (natural) world when I am opposing your claim that I am proposing a "magical" (supernatural) solution to the PoE? --Bertrc (talk) 14:33, 12 June 2017 (UTC)
I'm not sure which post you're replying to, your basic argument seems to be "some bad things "become" good things later on, therefore AIDS, the Holocaust and Ebola become good things in the afterlife", "some things do this, therefore some other things do this" is clearly not a valid argument. Christopher (talk) 15:01, 13 June 2017 (UTC)
Well, before you moved my responses, my replies were under the posts I was responding to!  ;-) Heh, once again, I see what you did, there; nice try, though. I never said "Some things do this, therefore some other things do this." I said "This can be done to some things that are small, therefore it is possible that this can also be done to other things that are immense" and that is clearly a valid argument [1]. eg. I've never been able to generate enough heat to melt steel, but I have been able to melt tin; tin, with a small melting point, can be melted so it is possible that steel, with an immense melting point, can also be melted. In my life, small experiences of suffering (and even many big ones) have been transformed so that they no longer were experiences of suffering. I hold this up as evidence that retroactive transformation of suffering can happen -- eg. I am suffering while running up that hill, but at some point in the future, that experience will no longer have been an experience of suffering (ugh. Tenses get really screwed up when you talk about changing the past! Perhaps "At some point afterwards, that experience no longer was an experience of suffering" is better) -- If this limitted broken world can transform small (and big) experiences of suffering, then it is possible that an Omnipotent God is able to transform immense experiences of suffering. --Bertrc (talk) 22:36, 16 June 2017 (UTC)
Beuller? So, does that explain better how the "Transformative" theodicy addresses the classic PoE flavor. --Bertrc (talk) 01:06, 25 June 2017 (UTC)


  1. My "clearly" is said tongue in cheek. I'm just poking fun at your use of the word.  :-P~  ;-)

A missing theodicy[edit]

There’s one answer to the problem of evil that seems hard to dismiss, albeit one that seems to dispel the rest of Christianity.

Heaven is infinite joy. Compared to that, any finite joy we get in this world is meaningless. It’s not even an analogy to or a taste of what’s to come, it’s literally no different from suffering (aleph null + 900 is no bigger than aleph null - 900). Of course we’re unequipped to see that until we get to Heaven, but God can see it, and therefore be quite rightly doesn’t care at all about our suffering in this world any more than you care about someone you love losing an infinitesimal amount of something.

This is obviously incompatible with thanking God for all the joy in your life, since that’s just as meaningless as the suffering. And it means it’s impossible to derive any morality in this life—it’s no more evil for me to torture babies than to devote my life to curing cancer, just as it’s not evil for God to let the Holocaust happen. Also, this pretty much requires that everyone go to Heaven—if unbaptized babies go to Hell (or just die) then God is evil, and so am I if I could know that fact and ever do anything but baptize babies. And so on.

But if you throw away the rest of Christianity, doesn’t this allow for an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god?

I feel like I must be missing something here, or I would hear this more often in response to the “no theodicy is possible” arguments. (Presumably a Christian could say: Obviously this theodicy is wrong, but it proves that theodicy is not in-principle unanswerable, or even in-principle unanswerable for human minds to solve, so we should keep trying to solve it.) —157.131.152.164 (talk) 13:28, 15 February 2018 (UTC)

I think that falls under "I'll make it up to you, I promise". --Bertrc (talk) 18:14, 27 February 2018 (UTC)

Issues to be considered[edit]

'Evil' and 'things going wrong' are two distinct 'things or aspects.' (AsteroidDinosaurTerminator was as neutral as the planet Theia.)

We are not God and cannot see from (deity/ies pronoun(s) of choice)'s perspective. Perhaps allowing 'the universe or multiverse' to operate according to laws that are deducible by the inhabitants thereof maximizes God's omnipotence (rather than having to spend much time keeping everything stable and working and remembering what happens where etc) and allowing those sentient entities which emerge the freedom to choose is a sign of omnibenevolence. (Micromanaging does not work and what is the fun/benefit if you know how the script will develop and pan out?). Anna Livia (talk) 19:21, 27 February 2018 (UTC)

I think you have to define what "things go wrong" means. If "going wrong" means what we did not anticipate or want, then I think having the "wrong" thing happen is often "good". I usually lump the terms "evil", "sin" and "brokenness" together under a "not fully centered on God" umbrella. --Bertrc (talk) 17:53, 7 March 2018 (UTC)

Does God #choose# to be omnipotent and omnibenevolent - or does (deity pronoun) prefer to see what happens? Anna Livia (talk) 19:21, 27 February 2018 (UTC)

Personally, I assume God simply is omni -potent, -scient, -benvolent. If He has those attributes, I'm not sure the word "choose" is even applicable; God simply "is" (particularly if God is really outside of time so that all times are the same and existent for Him) Perhaps an analogy can be seen in our appreciation of Art -- There are some sculptures and paintings that I appreciate and enjoy simply by virtue of their existence. I don't necessarily appreciate them by virtue of what will happen to them or what I will uncover or learn or see in them; instead I appreciate and enjoy what I already see in them. If you want to throw a temporal angle into the art analogy, think of movies. There are some movies that I appreciate and enjoy watching, just to see what I know happens, happen; I love them for the artistry that is there, not for what I may someday uncover. -- In a similar vein, I think God sees everything about us (What has happenned, what is happenning and what will happen) --Bertrc (talk) 17:53, 7 March 2018 (UTC)

Does God violate his own morality[edit]

@GrammarCommie, et al: Taking the discussion of my previous proposed changes to the talk page.

My trouble with saying that "God is known to violate His morality" is that I, and many others, disagree that such a fact is known. I find such a belief typically comes from pop-culture's gross over simplification and cherry picking of the Bible. The entire "Because I'm God, Darn It" section is claiming we can't know God. That's where the later contradiction comes in (If you can't know God, then how do you know He is good?)

Yes, from somebody's bounded/limited view/understanding, God may seem to violate His own morality, but, because our view is limited, we might be incorrect (assuming God exists)

Separately, I don't think my second edit sounds stupid. I actually like the poetry of using "apparent" in a straight manner, then using "apparently" in a snarky manner within the same sentence. I concede that your mileage may vary; my first edit was simpler and more straight forward.

Come on, I am trying to get rid of the strawmen so that, a little later, I can make a great euphemistic play-on-words about how we regularly tell God to go violate Himself!  :-) --Bertrc (talk) 19:41, 9 July 2018 (UTC)

While it is true that the triple O (Omnibenevolent, Omnipotent, and Omniscient) God is a ridiculous oversimplification of the Biblical God, it also bears pointing out that most Christians believe such nonsense, as do most Biblical literalists, and almost all Creationists. In addition, changing the meaning solely so you can make a dirty joke? Really? ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 19:51, 9 July 2018 (UTC)
@GrammarCommie (et al), I'm not trying to change a definition. I'm actually a Christian who believes in the triple-O; I feel pop-culture oversimplifies God's morality, not His triple-O description. Since I do not believe that God violates His morality, I feel that unequivocally claiming He does violate His own morality is a strawman that weakens the entire section. I want to change the wording to eliminate the strawman and strengthen the section . . . Yes, I am trying to strengthen the section primarily so that I can make a dirty joke, later, but is that a problem?  :-) --Bertrc (talk) 20:19, 9 July 2018 (UTC)
@Bertrc The problem here is that there are two separate versions of God (One could even argue two separate deities altogether since they share so little in common.) and that the Problem of Evil (and by extension the article) is arguing against the one that is argued to exist, i.e. the "triple-O" God. Hence the Biblical God is arguably not involved, ergo, there is no strawman. As to the argument that the "triple-O" God cannot violate his own morality... well... both the PoE and the article address that point. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 20:35, 9 July 2018 (UTC)
@GrammarCommie (et al), Okay, but that seems to be a comment on the overall article. I am simply addressing this one sentence. Yes, from somebody's bounded/limited view/understanding, God may seem to violate His own morality, but, because our view is limited, we might be incorrect (assuming God exists). If God actually exists and has designed the universe in some way so that He is not violating his own morality (which should be within the abilities of something that can do anything) then we are incorrect. ie. God only seems to violate his own morality from our bounded perspective when in reality, He might not be violating it; just as a tile design can make a floor seem to be buckled when in reality it might not be buckled. I want to remove the absolute claim and to let people make their own decision based on the rest of the section. --Bertrc (talk) 20:49, 9 July 2018 (UTC)
@Bertrc That would be adding an Escape hatch based on Special pleading. That argument also dodges the issue rather than face it, since it cannot win without rendering morality moot. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 21:01, 9 July 2018 (UTC)
Okay, so I'm trying to take on the strawman from the other side. Try not to be lazy. Either edit a change or, at least, discuss in the discussion before blindly rolling back. Heck, you didn't even include an edit comment!  :-P~ --Bertrc (talk) 12:52, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
That would be because you ignored discussion, just like you're ignoring the fact that the article addresses most if not all of your points and refutes them. God is a fictional jackass, get over it. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 13:00, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
Dude, you sound like Trump! There's not much I can say if you're just going to lob insults like he does.  ;-)  :-P~ I'm not ignoring the discussion; I am altering what I write to try and take in your thoughts. I am not just reverting (Like a certain lazy person I could mention.  :-P~ ) You didn't like my initial change, so I nuanced it. You didn't like the poetry of that phrasing, so I started a discussion. You couldn't countenance any divergence from your absolute statement, so I tried taking on the strawman elsewhere by changing a bogus response that almost no Christian would raise into an actual obvious response. You wanted to keep the nice, made up response that is easily knocked down, so I provided a section with actual Christian beliefs. I know I'm being a little snarky, here, but we're not wikipedia. Also, we're not Conservapedia; we are not an echo chamber; we edit, discuss and respond! (Although, things are heating up out here in meat-space, so I might not be able to respond for a bit) --Bertrc (talk) 13:28, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
@Bertrc I have tried to explain that the "we can't comprehend God's plan" and "God works in mysterious ways" arguments are addressed in the article, and that you're ignoring them. If the article doesn't strike you as reliable you could try reading several philosophy websites on the topic and compare the results. As for the accusation that I sound like Trump, well... I don't. I stated the facts, as I understand them (and I do understand them) , and you don't like that. I apologize if I came off harshly, but from where I sit you appear to want to change the article to agree with you, merely because you disagree with it. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 13:42, 10 July 2018 (UTC)
Sure, you're just stating facts . . . The New York Times is failing, Mika Brzezinksi is dumb as a rock, God is a fictional jackass, James Comey is a nut job and Mexican immigrants are all rapists and murderers . . . sad.  ;-) (BTW, your father is a hamster.  :-P~ ) Anyhoo, this whole article has overlap. It can't be avoided. The section we are talking about is a different perspective on mysterious ways so there would be similar responses. Still, far be it from me to claim absolute knowledge. I'll break out my two main issues. --Bertrc (talk) 03:28, 11 July 2018 (UTC)
This debate is over, you have lost, and I am sorry that you cannot come to terms with that. The reason this debate is over is that you have decided to put words in my mouth, which I cannot stand, from anyone on any topic. ☭Comrade GC☭Ministry of Praise 03:45, 11 July 2018 (UTC)
I'm not really good at reading into things. I'll jump over to user talk pages to try clear up any tension, but please do let us know your thoughts in the sub sections, below. (that goes for anybody else, as well) --Bertrc (talk) 20:55, 11 July 2018 (UTC)
Okay, we're back! For the record, in my defense, lumping the insulting of God in with Trump's insulting of . . . well . . . just about everybody . . . is not "putting words in your mouth." One might have a case for "unacceptable hyperbole" and I certainly could be chastised for insulting GC much worse than he had insulted God. However, I think I have a strong case for calling shenanigans on the accusation that I "put words into [your] mouth"!  :-P~  :-) --Bertrc (talk) 14:17, 13 July 2018 (UTC)

Issues with "Because I'm God, Darn It[edit]

Hey everybody, @GrammarCommie and I are arguing about a few changes in the "Because I'm God Darn it" section. Point number 3) claims that God is known to violate His own morality. I disagree that He does, let alone that it is known that He does. I can understand people who do believe it, though. As such, I first tried changing it to "seems to violate His morality" and, next, tried a snarky play on "apparently". I think simply stating that God is known to violate his own morality is building up a strawman that is fun to knock down but will not create any engagement or discussion with dogmatic Christians (or, for that matter, with anybody who disagrees). Still, since I can't seem to get rid of that absolute statement (unless one o' you et al'ers wants to chime in) I am trying to address the resulting strawmen that occur later on. --Bertrc (talk) 03:28, 11 July 2018 (UTC)

What is the obvious response to the claim God breaks His own morality (and its implications)[edit]

We've claimed that God is known to violate his own morality; this means that His actions do not reflect morality; which means he is not a source of morality. We presently say that the obvious response our claim is "God is allowed to violate His own morality." I do not know a single Christian, dogmatic or not, who would come up with this response! [1] Instead, most Christians (and Jews, Muslims and Hindus) would immediately respond that God does not violate his own morality. As such, I think we should address the actual obvious response instead of a happy-happy-fun-fun strawman response. I made an edit that tried to do this. It is certainly an overlap with mysterious ways, but it is a different perspective on that. --Bertrc (talk) 03:28, 11 July 2018 (UTC)

. . . Beuller? --Bertrc (talk) 14:09, 18 July 2018 (UTC)
References
  1. Yes, I'm sure there are some simpletons out there, who would respond that God gets a pass, but I'm sure there are also atheist professors out in some remote corner of the world who try to humiliate their non-atheist students. Let's deal with the likely encounters

Is the tautology useless[edit]

We wind up, throughout this endeavor, with the tautology "Good is God and God is Good." We say that this tautology is useless. While tautology is not helpful for explaining what "good" is, the tautology is helpful in other areas. Namely, it gives a direction for how to be "good". If the tautology is true (big "if") then being "good" resolves to figuring out how to be like God. Now then, although the tautology does not tell you how to be good and like God, it is not useless in that area because it let's you know what your goal should be -- It's like the statement: "You win the game by catching the snitch; the snitch is what wins you the game". That is a useless statement for trying to learn how to catch the snitch, but the statement does have a use: Namely, it gives you a goal if you want to win the game -- I tried to capture this nuance of uselessness in a separate post]. --Bertrc (talk) 03:28, 11 July 2018 (UTC)

. . . Beuller? --Bertrc (talk) 14:10, 18 July 2018 (UTC)