Monday, October 02, 2017

What If Evil Didn't Exist?


Soon I'll begin teaching the atheistic argument from evil against the existence of God in my Philosophy of Religion class at MCCC. 

Atheist J.L. Mackie, in his logical argument from evil against the existence of God, affirms that evil does exist, and from this concludes that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God could not coexist with evil.

Mackie goes on to say that if evil did not exist, then there would not be a "problem of evil," any more than we have a "problem of unicorns."

"Evil," in the philosophical discussion, is usually defined as "gratuitous suffering," aka "pointless suffering." If value is added to suffering it is not gratuitous. If the suffering is needed to allow for a greater good to happen, or to prevent a greater evil from happening, then the suffering is not gratuitous, but redemptive.

Now Mackie says evil exists. But atheism-as-metaphysical-naturalism says "evil" does not exist. Metaphysical naturalism does not contain the word "ought." Science only tells us what "is," but from "is" you cannot derive "ought." ( To believe you can derive "ought" from "is" to commit "the naturalistic fallacy.")

Atheist Richard Dawkins seems to recognize this, and denies that evil exists. Dawkins

"In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference... DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music."

On Dawkins' version of atheism, "evil" and "good" do not exist. He is correct, if atheism is true. But this means the "problem of evil" is only a so-called "problem," akin to "the problem of unicorns." Because, as Mackie has said, if evil does not exist, then there is no "problem of evil." 

Again, Mackie believe the statement evil exists is true. Dawkins says it is not. Thus, Mackie-type (and Rowe-type) arguments from evil are, seemingly, in trouble. Objective evil  must exist for there to be an argument from evil.

Most of us believe objective evil exists. Bill Craig takes the statement evil exists and gives an argument from evil for God's existence. It is:

1. If there is no God, then evil (objective evil) does not exist.
2. Evil exists. (Mackie's third premise)
3. Therefore, God exists.

Therefore, atheism has a problem when it comes to morality. On the one hand, atheistic naturalism has no place for value judgments like "good" and "evil." On the other hand, atheists like Mackie use the existence of evil in an argument against God's existence. Further, if objective evil does exist, it then seems that God exists (Craig's argument).

Does evil exist? I believe so. I woke this morning to hear of the worst mass shooting in the history of America. What the shooter did was evil. The thoughtful atheist will be unable to affirm this. The atheist alternative of utilitarianism is devoid of value judgments, giving us only pleasure and pain, happiness and unhappiness, not right and wrong.