The atheist debate notes have asked us to conjure up the evilest God possible. What do I think of their findings?
“If we were to try to imagine the most evil God possible, we might come up with a psychopathic monster who would predestine his creations to be pointlessly tortured for all eternity. But to be even more cruel, perhaps this evil God would first have most of those creations live a few relatively pleasant decades, just long enough to experience love, happiness, joy, and all the other good things in life…only to then snatch it all away and leave them to be tormented by memories of that life during their eternal suffering. To further accentuate this betrayal, perhaps this evil God would have promised his creations a heavenly afterlife, contingent upon following the right religion…but then remained hidden from his creations so well that thousands of conflicting religions developed, ensuring that the vast majority of his creations would choose the wrong religion and thus inadvertently damn themselves. And what about those few who did manage to choose the right religion? Well, assuming this evil God was a narcissistic megalomaniac, he might allow them to spend eternity worshipping him, stroking his ego. The thing is, this description of the ultimate evil God fits the God of the Bible perfectly.”
This hypothetical scenario is supposed to correlate with the Christian God but as we’ll see there are a number of glaring issues with it. I’ll display in bold each section in error and I’ll proceed to answer it in plain text below.
If we were to try to imagine the evilest God possible.
The first major problem is that the author fails to properly define his usage of God. Are we talking about a lowercase god (i.e. Zeus, Thor, Mithra, etc.) or are we talking about the uppercase God (the God of the Bible)? I bring this up because properly defining God is vital if we’re going to make a case against Him. The scenario asks us to conjure up an “evil” God but if we’re defining God as an eternal, all-powerful, self-sufficient, infinite being, rather than a temporal being which could have supernatural powers, the argument simply falls apart for such a scenario isn’t even possible.
I’ll repost my response to a critic who claimed that we can be good without God,
“He (Thomas Aquinas) says that all things aim for perfection. They aim to be, and this is called actualization. In Aquinas’s eyes, all created things have potential and actuality. Potential is the possibility of change and actualization is when that change takes place. Goodness then, for Aquinas, is pure being. It is the essence of all created things. If it is, it is good. This is why evil is described as “inhumane,” as it’s the act of taking essentially good traits (desire, intelligence, passion) and misusing them for acts that take and defile away our being, who we are.
So how does this relate to the skeptic’s objection? God is described as “I AM,” in other words, pure being. To know what it means to be one only need look at God, the limitless actualization of that which we all aim for.”
Evil is described as the misuse of good or that which is good in and of itself. It is self-contradictory. A being who contradicts itself is not infinite because he essentially cuts off the branch he stands on. The term “evil God,” in this case, is an oxymoron because the author uses (or else assumes, it is something he hasn’t clarified otherwise) a definition of God that is infinite, all-powerful, and self-sufficient. The God of the Bible. As Aristotle once said, “Evil destroys even itself.”
….we might come up with a psychopathic monster who would predestine his creations to be pointlessly tortured for all eternity.
This argument is mostly made moot by our view of Hell as a place of shame that is self-inflicted, not physical torture from an unseen hand (see the link below). Additionally, the author confuses his argument with his definition of God (we are assuming he has the God of the Christian faith in mind here). He implicitly argues that predestination isn’t fair or moral but by his definition of God this is simply not possible. If we define God as infinite then it follows that God knows the hearts and desires of each and every individual, thus God knows who will want Him under each and every possible circumstance and who will never want Him under the same. God does not create or manufacture their rebellion, however, the reality of such a choice is a consequence of free will. He will not force a heart to change or desire Him. I believe it is this knowledge and grace that predestination is based on. He lets each individual travel the road they have decided for themselves (and even then God calls us to Evangelize, warn, and reason with them).
But to be even more cruel, perhaps this evil God would first have most of those creations live a few relatively pleasant decades, just long enough to experience love, happiness, joy, and all the other good things in life…only to then snatch it all away and leave them to be tormented by memories of that life during their eternal suffering.
One has to wonder what alternative the debate notes are suggesting exactly. Our actions have consequences and basic ethics doesn’t exactly agree with erasing them. In our view of Hell, you may recall your memories of your life here and deeply regret not being able to continue that life of joy, peace, and love because you chose to reject the source of it for your own self-fulfilment, pride, and greed. The suffering is the shame and regret of rejecting what you claimed to cherish.
Furthermore, the author is doing nothing more than describing his understanding of the Bible, claiming that it’s the worst (without giving us a reason to believe it isn’t the best), and using that as an argument. I can just as easily say “imagine the dumbest person possible and we might come up with someone who doesn’t believe God is real” and use that as an argument against atheism. However, I know that atheists aren’t necessarily the absolute dumbest, it’s just a rhetorical tactic to make the position look stupid.
To further accentuate this betrayal, perhaps this evil God would have promised his creations a heavenly afterlife, contingent upon following the right religion…but then remained hidden from his creations so well that thousands of conflicting religions developed, ensuring that the vast majority of his creations would choose the wrong religion and thus inadvertently damn themselves.
On one hand, he still defines God as an infinite and self-sufficient being, but on the other, he equates Him to the “thousands of conflicting religions” which undoubtedly include the lowercase gods. The author also says nothing in the way of the thousands of Muslims continually coming to Christ in the Middle East, or the many missionaries preaching the Gospel and leading them and others to Christ, or God Himself intervening in their lives (see Tom Doyle’s Dreams and Visions, for example). This objection paints the picture of a hopeless and irredeemable reality but that is far from the truth. We can easily examine the evidence for the Resurrection, the many logical arguments for the existence of God, and the thousands of miracle testimonies and see that God is clearly not hidden or, at the very least, appears to be working in thousands upon thousands of lives.
It is also worth asking what the author would count as being “not hidden” because, as of now, that has been left unsaid. Until the author gives us a reason to believe that God is hidden the objection is only empty words.
And what about those few who did manage to choose the right religion? Well, assuming this evil God was a narcissistic megalomaniac, he might allow them to spend eternity worshipping him, stroking his ego.
I refer readers back to my quote under the first objection. If God is defined as pure being He is therefore defined as perfect and good. This objection becomes nonsensical if we applied it elsewhere. For example, if a plane takes us safely from one destination to another shouldn’t we recognize it as a good thing? Or should we refuse to stroke the company’s ego by telling everyone that it wasn’t safe? To worship is to recognize that God is good and perfect and if we constantly do that for other things in our every day lives here what’s the problem?
The problem is these debate notes aren’t actually arguments. They’re projections of what they want the Christian God to be but because they don’t have a proper understanding of how to define the Christian God they end up being contradictory observations instead.