Saturday, July 24, 2010

Does belief in evil imply belief in god?

You might find this hard to believe, but I spend a fair amount of time listening to Christian radio. Sometimes I find it enlightening, if only in the sense that it helps me understand what they think. Most of the time, though, I find it infuriating. If ever you should wonder why certain atheists speak so vocally against religion, a few hours listening to American Family Radio can be insightful.

As I tuned in one day, the apologist Ravi Zacharias was recounting a tale concerning his defeat of the Problem of Evil. As he tells it, a naive student stood up during one of his speaking engagements and question Zacharias about the PoE. Ravi responded by questioning the student about his presuppositions until the young man  tacitly admitted he believed in god and sat back down, thoroughly confused.

Though his audience found the anecdote amusing, I was incensed. Zacharias hadn't answer the question at all, he had simply tricked the student into submission. To trumpet this as a victory was dishonesty of the worst kind.

Did Zacharias have a point? Does belief in evil presuppose the existence of God? This is a common response to the problem of evil, so I must ask if it sufficient. Obviously, I do not think that is the case.

The assertion that believing in evil implies the existence of god hinges on the acceptance of the Argument from Morality.  As I have said before, I do not believe there is any merit to this argument. The existence of objective morality is questionable at best, buttressed only by our subjective desire for our moral views to be universally right.

Qualifying certain acts or states of being as good/evil does not rely on the existence of some transcendent moral pronouncer. Much more natural explanations for the development of morals abound. They may not be as satisfying for someone who longs to be unquestionably right, but that does not make them any less legitimate.

None of this, however, is particularly relevant to the Problem of Evil. The assertion that belief in evil presupposes God does nothing to answer why the two contradict. Claiming that by saying evil exist I am acknowledging God, besides being untrue, is irrelevant. The PoE is such a problem because it flows from what certain theists, particularly Christians, believe. There is an inconsistency there that needs to be addressed;  changing the subject doesn't fix that.

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