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An Argument against God's Existence

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  • An Argument against God's Existence

    I saw someone bring this up on r/debatereligion, and this is essentially their quarrel in premise form.

    1. God is morally perfect
    2. So, God must act in a morally perfect way
    3. If morally imperfect things exist, then God doesn't exist
    4. Morally imperfect things exist
    5. Therefore, God doesn't exist

    P2 It seems to be that if a morally perfect being acted in a way that was less than perfect, then that being cannot really be morally perfect, for how could a morally perfect being fail to act in the most perfect of ways? I'm not sure if I could give a deductive defense of this, however, it seems intuitive.

    P3 Since all things are in existence because of God alone, then it follows that if those things are morally imperfect, or even some of them are, then God cannot exist, for then he would have acted in a morally imperfect way, which would be contrary to the very definition of God.

    P4 Hitler, rapists, child molestors, etc

    I think the first thing I would appeal to is that the end by which all things might come to may indeed perfect. However, I think that may be too broad. Then God is justified in murdering millions of innocent children, insofar as everything ends up all right.

    My other issue would be that there seems to be no objective moral standard by which someone is claiming something is morally imperfect, or not. One could appeal to intuition, but I am not sure what else.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    "Morally imperfect" seems terribly vague. When do we classify something as morally imperfect? Would my tendency to eat too much sugar or become spiteful be classed as morally imperfect? Can the most mundane slights against moral perfectitude lead us to conclude that there is no God?

    With P3, why must we assume that God, being morally perfect, can only create morally perfect things?

    Also is God alone morally perfect? If so, would this argument really be claiming that the fact that, on a moral scale, if anything less than God exists, God does not exist? IOW, since we exist, God does not exist.

    Comment


    • #3
      RomanJoe
      Something is morally imperfect if it's actions would be considered morally impermissible. For example, if I were to punch you in the face for no good reason, I would be considered morally imperfect, for I've done something (which most would consider) morally impermissible. I am not sure if your tendency to eat too much sugar, or perhaps even none at all, could be considered morally permissible or not. I would lean towards its being a morally neutral tendency. I am not sure if even the slightest hint of morally imperfection could really demonstrate God's nonexistence, but this is how I've understood the argument.

      I don't think I could give a deductive defense of P3. To me, it is prima facie the case that anything which flows from morally perfect being couldn't be anything less than such. It seems to be that we measure the morally quality of something (or someone) based on the effects it produces, so if the effects from a being are morally imperfect, it what sense could be say this being is morally perfect?

      God is moral perfection as such, although, I don't know if the antagonist would agree. I suppose that is the argument, but it doesn't seem entirely obvious to me that it is flat out wrong. Perhaps some premises need to be tweaked. For, again, how could God, moral perfection, produce things that aren't morally perfect, or really, that are morally imperfect (assuming P3 is correct)? What is the justification for allowing such morally imperfect things like rape?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by ClassicalLiberal.Theist View Post
        RomanJoe
        Something is morally imperfect if it's actions would be considered morally impermissible. For example, if I were to punch you in the face for no good reason, I would be considered morally imperfect, for I've done something (which most would consider) morally impermissible. I am not sure if your tendency to eat too much sugar, or perhaps even none at all, could be considered morally permissible or not. I would lean towards its being a morally neutral tendency. I am not sure if even the slightest hint of morally imperfection could really demonstrate God's nonexistence, but this is how I've understood the argument.

        I don't think I could give a deductive defense of P3. To me, it is prima facie the case that anything which flows from morally perfect being couldn't be anything less than such. It seems to be that we measure the morally quality of something (or someone) based on the effects it produces, so if the effects from a being are morally imperfect, it what sense could be say this being is morally perfect?

        God is moral perfection as such, although, I don't know if the antagonist would agree. I suppose that is the argument, but it doesn't seem entirely obvious to me that it is flat out wrong. Perhaps some premises need to be tweaked. For, again, how could God, moral perfection, produce things that aren't morally perfect, or really, that are morally imperfect (assuming P3 is correct)? What is the justification for allowing such morally imperfect things like rape?
        I just don't know how you would go about proving P3. Why can't a morally perfect God create morally imperfect beings? A metaphysically simple God can make metaphysically composite beings. Is it possible for grave evils to exist which culminate in some greater good? Is it possible that only through grief and pain do we realize our need for the spiritual? Is it possible that God permits evils so man may come to know him, or that man may show compassion, mercy, love to mitigate such evils? I don't think we, as finite beings trappped in our temporal sliver of reality, have the epistemic vantage point to judge all of creation as merely riddled with senseless evils.

        The argument from evil is powerful and convincing. Even something as cosmically small as a homeless child frostbitten and dying of asthma evokes a sense of existential grief that no pithy reminder that God is good can lessen. Emotionally the problem of evil wins, logically probably not.
        Last edited by RomanJoe; 05-29-2019, 10:43 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          RomanJoe
          ​​​​​​​"Why can't a morally perfect God create morally imperfect beings?"

          I don't know if it is necessarily the case that morally perfect being cannot create morally imperfect beings, but it seems likely. I feel thats like saying, why can't I still be a morally good person and kill someone for no good reason? Maybe not a perfect analogy, but it gets across my concern, I believe. The moral quality of the thing is dictated by that effects it produces, as far as I can tell.

          "Is it possible for grave evils to exist which culminate in some greater good?"

          I'm sure, but I feel like that is a slippery slope. Then God is justified in doing absolutely anything, insofar as the end is morally good, which I don't know if it really is the case that anything is justified if the end is morally good.

          "Is it possible that only through grief and pain do we realize our need for the spiritual?"

          I suppose.

          "Is it possible that God permits evils so man may come to know him, or that man may show compassion, mercy, love to mitigate such evils?"

          I suppose.

          "I don't think we, as finite beings trappped in our temporal sliver of reality, have the epistemic vantage point to judge all of creation as merely riddled with senseless evils."

          I don't know if we can judge all of creation, but from what we can observe, there is most defintely, or seemingly, senseless evil.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by ClassicalLiberal.Theist View Post
            I don't know if we can judge all of creation, but from what we can observe, there is most defintely, or seemingly, senseless evil.
            Precisely my point.
            ​​​​​
            Last edited by RomanJoe; 05-30-2019, 02:28 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              That's just the problem of evil, and in its weakest form - as the logical problem of evil, pretty much. There is simply no way for us to judge God could never have any morally sufficient reasons for creating this world (with morally imperfect beings). In principle, it seems perfectly possible that a morally perfect being could create a world like ours, and could have morally sufficient reasons for it (free will defense, soul building theodicy, whatever). At least we can't say it's impossible, so I find the argument very weak.

              A stronger version would be the modal problem of evil - given S5, it would be impossible for there to be any possible world with horrendous gratuitous evil. But it seems possible for there to be a world with gratuitous horrendous evil with no compensation. Therefore God (as a necessary being) would not exist. This argument is stronger, but I'm not persuaded by it either, since we (arguably) don't have that good a grasp on the possibility of horrendous gratuitous evil (never anything that makes up for whatever is going on? Nothing? Not any soul building, free will defense, whatever?) - in particular, the theist can bite the bullet by grounding possibilia in God's power. And another issue is that the whole thing can be offset by modal arguments for God - such as ontological arguments for a perfect being, or modal cosmological arguments, etc. I don't think the modal problem of evil makes any differnce in the end, though it is stronger than the logical standard version.

              The strongest version of the argument from evil, to me, remains the evidential/probabilistic one. You could claim the amount of evil in this world would be unexpected given a perfect God. I think this argument can lower the probability of God's existence. But at the end of the day, theism would remain much more probable than atheism given "the balance of probability"; all the positive arguments (cosmological, design, consciousness and reason, morality, religious experience, etc) plus the possibility of different theodicies. It would simply depend on how one assesses the positive case for theism versus atheism - to me, theism is quite obviously true from natural theology, so even though the evidential problem of evil can have some strength, it is insufficient.

              There isn't much more to add, I think.

              Comment


              • RomanJoe
                RomanJoe commented
                Editing a comment
                I'd be interested in an argument that goes from consciousness to God.

                Woah, kind of awesome that we can start branching comment threads. I had no idea.

              • Atno
                Atno commented
                Editing a comment
                Well, God can be the best explanation for the existence of finite consciousness/souls/correlations between mind and body. 1) Since God Himself would be like an infinite mind, infinite consciousness, and necessary, under theism consciousness would be foundational and not a recent mysterious addition to the universe, so the very existence of mind can be given an explanation under theism; 2) God being personal would also have reasons to create other persons, finite consciousness and such, so it would also predict the existence of finite conscious beings with a reasonable probability; 3) God could explain the correlations between mind and body (or, if you think hylomorphism already does that, just change it to the fact that God can explain the presence of and orientation of matter towards mind; the fact that we got both immaterial mental forms and bodies adequate for those mental forms), etc.

                Consciousness of course can't be reduced to matter. See zombie argument, knowledge argument, etc. If you think hylomorphism succesfully naturalizes consciousness, I happen to disagree (I wrote a thread way back explaining why I think the hard problem cannot be naturalized by hylomorphism), but you can instead use "reason", the immaterial faculties of the mind, as a substitute in the argument.

            • #8
              Originally posted by ClassicalLiberal.Theist View Post
              I saw someone bring this up on r/debatereligion, and this is essentially their quarrel in premise form.

              1. God is morally perfect
              2. So, God must act in a morally perfect way
              3. If morally imperfect things exist, then God doesn't exist
              4. Morally imperfect things exist
              5. Therefore, God doesn't exist

              P2 It seems to be that if a morally perfect being acted in a way that was less than perfect, then that being cannot really be morally perfect, for how could a morally perfect being fail to act in the most perfect of ways? I'm not sure if I could give a deductive defense of this, however, it seems intuitive.

              P3 Since all things are in existence because of God alone, then it follows that if those things are morally imperfect, or even some of them are, then God cannot exist, for then he would have acted in a morally imperfect way, which would be contrary to the very definition of God.

              P4 Hitler, rapists, child molestors, etc

              I think the first thing I would appeal to is that the end by which all things might come to may indeed perfect. However, I think that may be too broad. Then God is justified in murdering millions of innocent children, insofar as everything ends up all right.

              My other issue would be that there seems to be no objective moral standard by which someone is claiming something is morally imperfect, or not. One could appeal to intuition, but I am not sure what else.

              Thoughts?
              I can see a potential problem with P2.

              1. If a morally perfect being acted in a way that was less than perfect it cannot be morally perfect.
              2. Benevolence and willing the good of others is part of moral perfection.
              3. A morally perfect agent will desire as much good for others as it can, and will do all that it is able to realise this good for them.
              4. God is infinitely powerful, has a perfect will and has infinite knowledge.
              5. God must will an infinite amount of good for any 'others', God has the ability to create or produce an infinite amount of good/perfection.
              6. The existence of anything less than infinitely good and perfect in all respects shows that God does not exist.

              It is somewhat similar to the point which Joe made earlier. Something which is infinitely perfect in all respects couldn't be differentiated from God Himself, therefore, to qualify as morally perfect God can't create any creatures.

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by RomanJoe View Post

                I just don't know how you would go about proving P3. Why can't a morally perfect God create morally imperfect beings? A metaphysically simple God can make metaphysically composite beings. Is it possible for grave evils to exist which culminate in some greater good? Is it possible that only through grief and pain do we realize our need for the spiritual? Is it possible that God permits evils so man may come to know him, or that man may show compassion, mercy, love to mitigate such evils? I don't think we, as finite beings trappped in our temporal sliver of reality, have the epistemic vantage point to judge all of creation as merely riddled with senseless evils.

                The argument from evil is powerful and convincing. Even something as cosmically small as a homeless child frostbitten and dying of asthma evokes a sense of existential grief that no pithy reminder that God is good can lessen. Emotionally the problem of evil wins, logically probably not.
                Strangely, the only people I have known who have experienced things like children dying due to freezing temperatures, being enslaved, witnessing their relatives engaging in cannibalism have been a) women and b) remained strong theists, and that despite massive social pressure against theism they had to deal with.

                Comment


                • Abraham
                  Abraham commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I know this is off-topic, but are you referring to some communist country? The things you mention are pretty intense.

              • #10
                Atno
                Thanks for the response.

                Do you think that it would have to be the case the God has to have a morally sufficient reason for actualizing our world, and that without such a reason, he either doesn't exist, or isn't moral perfection?

                I also found that the modal argument from evil was more convincing than the argument I gave (I discovered this on Daniel's blog). But what do you mean by grounding possibility in God's power? Do you mean that God simply has the power to actualize such a world, given his being omnipotence, but wouldn't given his being moral perfection? Do you also think that it would be better to reject S5 as an alternative, rather than rejecting God's existence?

                Comment


                • #11
                  Originally posted by ClassicalLiberal.Theist View Post
                  Atno
                  Thanks for the response.

                  Do you think that it would have to be the case the God has to have a morally sufficient reason for actualizing our world, and that without such a reason, he either doesn't exist, or isn't moral perfection?

                  I also found that the modal argument from evil was more convincing than the argument I gave (I discovered this on Daniel's blog). But what do you mean by grounding possibility in God's power? Do you mean that God simply has the power to actualize such a world, given his being omnipotence, but wouldn't given his being moral perfection? Do you also think that it would be better to reject S5 as an alternative, rather than rejecting God's existence?
                  Yes, I do believe so, because I believe God would not allow any gratuitous horrendous evil. If God allows any evil, in particular horrendous evil, it is because He somehow has morally sufficient reasons for doing so (perhaps to allow for free will, soul building, He can compensate the victims with Heaven or something else, etc). Perhaps someone could challenge this, but I don't think it's promising; I find it very plausible that God would not allow any kind of horrendous evil unless he has some good enough reasons for doing so.


                  I would never reject S5. I mean possibilities are grounded in God; contingent possible worlds are only possible because God can create them. (Even without explicitly grounding possibilia in God, any possibilia must of course be consistent with any necessar beings or propositions that exist). In general, our knowledge of what is and isn't possible is defeasible, so the theist can simply bite the bullet here and say that a world with gratuitous horrendous evil isn't possile after all, despite our intuitions to the contrary. That would be like performing a moorean shift, switching the argument from modus ponens to modus tollens; we know there is a God (because of arguments XYZ) so a world with gratuitous horrendous evil isn't possible.

                  One can strengthen the response by observing that our modal intuitions in the case of gratuitous evil are merely picking out the (apparent) metaphysical possibility (that it might seem possible for there to be a world in which an innocent man is tortured for eternity, say). But since the issue concerns the moral agency of God, we need to consider the "moral possibility" of these scenarios given God, and then the story is a lot different. Even if we were agnostic about God, it is not so obvious that a world with truly *gratuitous* horrendous evil is possible. It is a complicated moral question, and our (seemingly) metaphysical intuitions here might be insufficient.
                  Then of course there is the issue that if someone is using S5 and modal intuitions to argue against God from possible evils, we have to also consider ontological arguments for the possibility of a perfect being, as well as other modal arguments. I don't think the modal argument from evil makes any difference to the case for or against God, in the end.

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    I can mistakenly consider something impermissible. So if someone does something I only think is impermissible, the doer may still be morally perfect.

                    Comment

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