(from Mimi and Eunice)
The Problem of Evil is an unassailable argument from the evidential standpoint, and Christians don’t even try to attack it from that perspective. Instead, they attack it from a conceptual standpoint. A common argument is that the Problem of Evil is incompatible with atheism because atheists cannot justify any conception of “evil.” I’ve already addressed this under the banner of presuppositionalism.
Jeffrey Jay Lowder quotes an attempt by Christian blogger David Wood to defeat the Problem of Evil:
For instance, atheists seem to be arguing (1) that human beings are so good that God shouldn’t allow us to suffer, and (2) that human beings are so bad that God shouldn’t have created us (or given us free will, etc.). That is, atheists are simply shocked that a good God would allow human beings to experience all sorts of pain and injustice. “Why doesn’t God intervene?” “Why doesn’t God come down here and protect us?” The point of this criticism is that God should save us from harm (i.e. God is morally obligated to protect us). Therefore, we are worth saving from harm.
To this, Lowder argues that many arguments from evil actually do not involve either of these propositions, such as the Moral Argument From Evil, by Dean Stretton, which assumes the ethical validity of God’s choices as a given.
This is a fair reply, but I think we can go a lot further against this objection. In connection to antinatalism, I’ve already explained that there is a difference between starting a new life and continuing an existing life. So what could possibly be the relation between antinatalism and this objection to the Problem of Evil?
Well, it’s pretty clear to me that (1) pertains to existing lives, while (2) pertains to potential lives. The former asks what God should do about existing humans, while the latter asks whether God should have created humans at all (i.e. brought them into existence). So this is our indication that Wood has actually confused these two levels of discourse and falsely equated potential lives to existing lives in his attempt at pointing out a contradiction.
The antinatalist answer to Wood’s objection is pretty simple: human lives should not be created, but if they are, they should be protected from suffering as much as possible. This has nothing to do with humans being good or evil, but rather with the existence of harm.
But Wood further muddles the issue by stating that atheists believe that “we are worth saving from harm.” Yet he does not establish what worth has to do with it, and that is the crux of his confusion. He’s seeing the issue with Christian eyes, and his Christian worldview says that humans who fail to prove their worth through faith “deserve” eternal punishment.
From my standpoint, that makes no sense whatsoever. Worth has nothing to do with it. No matter how wretched a human may be, ey does not deserve to suffer needlessly, and I think an infinite punishment should rather be labeled as needless.
To quote Wood further:
If humans are so awful to one another that God shouldn’t have given us the opportunity to carry out our horrendous exploits, fine. Stick with this as an argument. But don’t turn around and immediately claim that God should protect us, because your argument, if correct, shows that human beings are very, very bad.
Alternatively, if human beings are so good that God should swoop down and save us whenever something goes wrong, all right. Stick with this argument. But don’t turn around and complain that God created us or that he gave us free will or that human beings are awful.
Again we run into the same problem that Wood is trying to analyze an atheist argument through the moral lens of Christianity. Whether humans are good or awful doesn’t have anything to do with whether they should have been created, or been given “free will” (at least, the miserable Christian version of it), or been protected. It is a poor doctor who evaluates the worth of a person before deciding to treat them or not (although sadly doctors do so in certain situations such as transplant waiting lists, which is abominable). It is a poor teacher who decides the likeability of a child before deciding to help them. It is a poor lifeguard who saves only those ey deems worth rescuing. If we followed the Christian way, we would live in an even harsher world indeed.
Likewise, there is no contradiction between blaming a parent for creating a child born with a severe birth defect, and then blaming the parent for failing to provide sufficient health care for that child. I don’t think even Wood would argue that a child is “unworthy” simply by virtue of a birth defect over which the child has no control. And yet his idea of the pinnacle of ethics is to refuse to protect the child because ey should not have been born; in short, Wood’s highest good is to kill suffering children. This is a tough sell for anyone who’s not a Christian already. It certainly is not logical or rational, at any rate.
Incidentally, the reality of our world fits the Evil God hypothesis (the hypothesis that there is a god and that it is perfectly evil). It makes quite a bit of sense for Evil God to create evil beings and refuse to protect them, in order to maximize possible suffering. So it seems to me that the Evil God hypothesis is inherently superior to the Christian hypothesis, since it is not vulnerable to the Problem of Evil.
One may argue that the Evil God hypothesis falls prey to a symmetrical Problem of Good. I don’t really want to get into this in this entry, especially since someone already analyzed the symmetry, but I think antinatalist analysis provides strong evidence favoring the Evil God hypothesis over the Christian hypothesis.