The social argument against the problem of evil

Connectedness is something that is highly prevalent in today’s society. It’s almost become the core of our culture now. Smart phones, the internet, social networking, etc. Everything we do seems connected to everything else we do, and it’s all posted on Facebook or Twitter.

But that’s not the type of connectedness I’m talking about. Think about it this way: how many people do you know? How many of those people do you have strong ties to, minor ties to, or interact at all with on a regular basis? Our lives are intertwined with the lives of others, Things that happen in our lives and to us affect those around us. 

One thing that really hit me in the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy are the reactions of the perpetrators’ family and friends. The older of the two brothers had a wife and small son. They have parents. While the whole world was reeling from the tragedy, these people were mourning the loss of their sons, father, and husband.

Shortly after this I read a particular passage of the Bible in the book of Matthew:

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ” ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 ” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ “

(Matthew 13:24-30).

One of the things this parable states is that in the world there are good people and bad. No duh, right? Often I have wondered why God doesn’t strike down those who do evil. A lot of people wonder that. It’s often argued that God and evil cannot coexist. That if God is all loving and all powerful, then He would not allow evil to happen. I’ve addressed this issue in some of my previous posts, In short, God cannot both preserve the free will of human beings and restrict their decisions, such a thing is a logical contradiction, and logical contradictions cannot exist. For the sake of argument, let’s grant this (meaning if you got all in a harrumph over what I just said, uncross your arms and suspend your disbelief for a second….), and then we can wonder “Well, okay, if God doesn’t prevent evil things from happening, why not strike down evil people before or when they do evil?”

This is where the parable comes in. We are all interconnected. Nothing happens to us without affecting others. The Boston bombers got what they deserved, but in doing so it crushed their family, people not in any way guilty for what happened. The bad people, the weeds, are so entangled with the wheat, the good people, that there is no way to pull up the weeds without puling up some of the wheat with it. God told Lot that He would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if even one righteous person lived there. If God were to blot out an evil person, how many righteous would be affected? Wipe out the son, and it crushes the mother. Wipe out the husband, and it crushes and irrevocably affects the child and wife for the worse. God doesn’t wipe out the evil person, people curse Him. God wipes him out, and people curse Him also. Sounds like a tough situation to me.

Perhaps the reason an all-loving God doesn’t wipe out the evil-doers, is because He is all-loving.

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The problem of Truth

I’ve noticed a lot of very heated feelings with regards to various aspects of the infamous science vs religion debate/issue/soapbox. I first noticed it while following the Creation/Evolution debate, then in the Intelligent Design/naturalistic evolution debate, then further in the rise of what’s called the “New Atheism”. At the core of this debate is the concept of truth. Both sides claim to know the truth, either in part or in whole, and defend the idea of their view being propagated in schools or other educational settings. One thing that has always struck me is the level of emotional fervor not just on the side of religion but also on that of science. As time has gone by, in fact, I have seen little if any difference between the two sides except in the content of their message. I see the same level of emotion, dedication, outrage, insistence on being the only exclusive truth, and even the archetypal roles of saints, evangelists, preachers, and heretics exist with little or no difference on both sides. But we ultimately always arrive back at the issue of truth.

At the core of the debate is the concept that truth is good. Not just good as in it’s nice to have, like a subjective preference, but that is an objective, moral good. Truth is good, and whatever else is evil. Not only that, but the act of spreading and convincing others of a viewpoint that is not truth is morally evil. Some may try to deny this, but their emotional fervor belies a different idea. If knowing and spreading the truth were not considered an objective truth by them, in my opinion, there would be no problem. If they really believed it was a subjective moral good, though they would greatly prefer their truth be taught, they would have no grounds on which to insist it be.

So, then, if we have both sides believing their side is objectively true, and that the acceptance and spread of this truth is objectively good, we have a problem for the side of atheists. This stance is perfectly understandable for the side of religion, and is something they fully embrace and preach. But if you have something that is objectively true, then you have an objective morality, which is a non-material, abstract thing. Though it is not necessarily true that all atheists disavow the existence of abstract, non-material things, it poses a severe problem for their worldview. It is well known and widely accepted within the field of philosophy that if there is an objective moral law, then there is an objective moral law giver. More is available on that here:http://www.reasonablefaith.org/can-we-be-good-without-god , but I also have some of my own reasons for this as well (though I doubt they’re original). The level of specificity of moral laws indicate a pre-awareness of humanity and the human condition. In other words, for the moral law “Don’t commit murder”, there had to be the information that sentient beings would exist, be such that they were likely, at some point, to commit murder, and that a law had to be established to declare this morally wrong and establish a moral duty to not murder. The best explanation of this is an intelligent being capable of establishing moral laws and holding sentient beings within this universe accountable to them. Hence, we arrive at God.

This is what gets me especially when I hear about debates over legislation brought regarding what should be taught in science classes in schools. Atheist and science groups become enraged when this issue rears its head, and launch a crusade to squelch it. They become inflamed because they are worried that students will be lied to, won’t be taught the truth, and this is morally bad.