Happy Thor’s Day
I still very much embrace Deism as the most rational way to approach the subject of the divine. I think the notion that there is no god is just as irrational as the theist or religion who thinks he/she has god locked down. The great challenge for me as a deist is to deal with the subject of the divine using only reason and natural revelation as a guide. Heavy emphasis on the reason part because natural revelation is still subject to human interpretation.
Epicurus’ argument against God is pretty well-known and I still have some of the same problems with it as I had as a Christian. In fact much of my arguments against it have not changed because even back then the defense against philosophy is not theology, it is more philosophy. Most notably Epicurus assumes his definition of all-powerful, etc. are locked down and cannot be challenged. He seeks basically to win the argument about god through definition which is an argument from authority based on the authority of the definition. What his argument does do is present the rational contentions about the divine that need to be addressed very concisely and in a logically sound manner.
This is actually one time where the Eye lines up pretty good with each part of Epicurus’ argument. So….
Time to Look Through the Eye:
If he is able but not willing? He is malevolent
I find it interesting that Epicurus engages in faith at this point. He has faith that there is such a thing as malevolence or beneficence and assumes that god must be one or the other. Such definition really lose their meaning if you dismiss notions of good and evil and realize there might be a rational reason why a supreme being might create and then move on. As George Carlin points out – God may simply not give a shit. He may be a creator, but it does not imply that he is malevolent simply because he refuses to do something about ‘evil’. He may simply also look at humanity and say – “you did this shit to yourselves and you have the capability to get yourself out, take responsibility for the ‘evil’ and suffering you have caused and fix it yourselves.”
I actually think this is the strongest argument for polytheism. That the reason we see so many problems in the world, is it was created by a committee. Just saying.
My faith is that if there is a god or gods or whatever, that they are creators but not necessarily cosmic babysitters. Like good parents he/she or they want us to grow up and tackle our own problems and we can’t learn how to do that effectively without struggle.
If God is neither able or willing, then why call him God?
Actually because the definition of ‘god’ is much broader than “Omni” classifications. We also use the term ‘god’ to describe beings of great power and use a small ‘g’. It is religion that paint god as all-powerful in the sense that he can do anything, but there may be laws to the universe that prevent the divine from acting and they may as pointed out above, not give a shit. It doesn’t stop them from being more powerful than anything else and thus deserving the title of ‘god’.
If God is wiling to prevent, but not able. Then he is not omnipotent.
I like to point out at this point that Epicurus does not eliminate god with this statement as some atheists claim. It just shows that perhaps human conception of the ideas of omnipotent, omniscient, etc. might not be properly defined. So such a god could exist with all the power that actually exists, knowing everything in the way it is knowable and be present in all places that actually exist. Yes, these ideas create a powerful being worthy of being called god, but there are limits here. Such limits make the normal understanding of omnipotence in need of adjustment, but it doesn’t make such a god not possible or lacking in existence. All this statement really does is point out that our definitions might be in need of change.
If he is both able and willing? Where does evil come from?
Moral evil is easy to justify if you use freewill as a defense and a god who does not interfere because he wants humanity as a whole to learn and grow. It may not be logically possible to have freewill without suffering. Natural evil is a little harder to justify. Other than if god is still bound to the laws of the universe, then the laws of physics make natural ‘evil’ simple existent and God may very much be a powerful being who fights these forces but cannot do everything. Rationally, the god that actually exists might have limits – both because the laws of the universe place those limits or those limits might be self-imposed because it is not always wise to interfere.
I am not saying Epicurus is wrong. He may very well be right and God is a figment of human imagination. I respect the atheist position but I find it personally a little extreme because of human ignorance of the universe. His argument actually forms a lot of rational response for deism as it must address these issues to have a rational reason for belief in the divine’s existence. His argument guides the search for the rational god because the questions are valid. That said, I do, as a theologian, see the irony of accepting certain theological definitions in order to make your argument against the existence of god, when those definitions themselves can be challenged.
For me the search for the rational God is part of the journey that I walk. But as a pagan, it is not my only criteria.
Continuing to Walk the Path,
The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.