It’s hard to know how to put a charitable spin on John Loftus’ latest post.
Is he dense, dissembling, or forgetful to the point of senile dementia?
“This argument is touted recently by the Maverick Philosopher which Vic Reppert links to, who merely asks the question of whether or not he's correct. It's used by C.S. Lewis, Norman Geisler, Paul Copan, and others like Steve Hays and David Wood. It concerns the problem of evil and whether or not the atheist can make that argument without an objective standard to know evil. Now I don't usually call Christian arguments asinine, so hear me out...”
Of course, I never said that an amoral atheist cannot mount an argument from evil.
“The fact that there is suffering is undeniable.”
Tell that to Paul and Patricia Churchland.
“I'm talking about pain...the kind that turns our stomachs. Why is there so much of it when there is a good omnipotent God? I’m arguing that the amount of intense suffering in this world makes the belief in a good God improbable from a theistic perspective, and I may be a relativist, a pantheist, or a witchdoctor and still ask about the internal consistency of what a theist believes.”
How does that contradict anything I’ve written on the subject?
“The dilemma for the theist is to reconcile senseless suffering in the world with his own beliefs (not mine) that all suffering is for a greater good. It’s an internal problem for the theist and the skeptic is merely using the logical tool for assessing arguments called the reductio ad absurdum, which attempts to reduce to absurdity the claims of a person. The technique is to force a claimant to choose between accepting the consequences of what he believes, no matter how absurd it seems, or to reject one or more premises in his argument. The person making this argument does not believe the claimant and is trying to show why her beliefs are misguided and false to some degree, depending on the force of his counter-argument. It’s that simple.”
I myself have repeatedly drawn the distinction between internal and external versions of the argument from evil.
However, to make good on the internal version, Loftus needs to identify instances of suffering which, say, Bible writers would regard as instances of gratuitous suffering. Where has he ever done that?
“What counts as evil in my atheist worldview is a separate problem from the Christian problem of evil. They are distinctly separate issues. Christians cannot seek to answer their internal problem by claiming atheists also have a problem with evil. Yet, that’s exactly what they do here, which is an informal fallacy known as a red herring, or skirting the issue. Christians must deal with their internal problem.”
I’ve repeatedly addressed the internal as well as external versions of the argument from evil.
“That this is a theistic problem can be settled once and for all by merely reminding the Christian that she would still have to deal with this problem even if I never raised it at all. That is, even if I did not argue that the existence of evil presents a serious problem for the Christian view of God, the Christian would still have to satisfactorily answer the problem for herself. So to turn around and argue that as an atheist I need to have an objective moral standard to make this argument is nonsense. It’s an internal problem that would still demand an answer if no atheist ever argued for it.”
True, but unconvincing. Loftus wouldn’t get this worked up over the issue if he were an amoral atheist.
“The problem speaks for itself.”
A philosophically contemptible assertion.
“There is nothing wrong with a Christian who wishes to evaluate the internal consistency of her own belief system. To say otherwise is to affirm pure fideism.”
Why would an amoral atheist even care about Christian fideism? Why would an amoral atheist even care about the problem of evil?
The only reason to care if Christians are intellectually consistent is if you think that it’s wrong to believe falsehoods. But an amoral atheist doesn’t think it’s wrong to believe falsehoods. So Loftus’ body language betrays his rhetoric. The guy would make a lousy poker player. He perspires too much.
Steven Carr said...
“When faced with a knock-down argument like why their alleged god passes by on the other side when a screaming child is burned to death in a Kenyan church, what can you expect theists to do other than try to evade answering the question? They are as heartless as their alleged god, and the deaths of children being burned alive, don't trouble their beliefs in the slighest. 'That child died for a greater good', they will say.”
Commenting on anything Steve Carr has to say always feels a bit like taunting a boy in a wheelchair. It doesn’t seem quite fair. But at the risk of overtaxing his atrophied capacity for rational analysis, I’ll make a few brief observations:
i) How is the existence of “heartless” Christians relevant to the internal argument from evil? Isn’t that supposed to be an attack on the coherence of the Christian belief-system?
ii) If the critic who is mounting this argument is an amoral atheist, why would he cast the issue in such emotive and moralistic terms?
iii) Assuming that Christianity is heartless, how is the Christian worldview any less heartless than the secular worldview? What is the moral significance of a screaming biochemical machine? How is burning a biochemical machine to death any worse than roasting marshmallows over a campfire?