has created an article on Atheism which is enjoying a healthy amount of
Internet traffic at around 600 views a day. Christian apologetic
websites and creation science websites have started to feature the
I have a
question for the
atheists of Investigator Magazine in relation to the
Conservapedia atheism article:
What are your
relation to the existence of evil and the words of Dr. Rhodes on the
and the Existence of Evil
commonly state that the existence of evil is a problem for theism which
holds to a good and powerful God.  Theodicy is the branch of study
in theology and philosophy that defends the goodness of God despite the
existence of evil.  In traditional Christianity and Judaism the
book of Job is used to explain the existence of evil.  In recent
times Christian apologists often cite Alvin Plantinga's free will
defense in regards to the existence of evil.   The work of St.
Augustine is also cited in regards to theodicy. 
from the Scriptures Ministry states regarding this issue regarding the
existence of evil in relation to atheism:
distinguish evil from good unless one has an infinite reference point
which is absolutely good. Otherwise one is like a boat at sea on a
cloudy night without a compass (i.e., there would be no way to
distinguish north from south without the absolute reference point of
the compass needle).
for distinguishing good from evil can only be found in the person of
God, for God alone can exhaust the definition of "absolutely good." If
God does not exist, then there are no moral absolutes by which one has
the right to judge something (or someone) as being evil. More
specifically, if God does not exist, there is no ultimate basis to
judge the crimes of Hitler. Seen in this light, the reality of evil
actually requires the existence of God, rather than disproving it."
and the Existence of Evil' #121, pp 12-14
122, 2008 September)
means as well-grounded as he seems to believe. For a start, most
atheists who ask why a good and powerful god would tolerate evil in the
world are focusing on natural evil or on harm generally, without
particular attention to the issue of whether or not human perpetrators
are involved or what their character and motives might be. Rhodes
focuses rather on moral evil.
of natural evil is considerably less fraught than that of moral evil,
given the relative ease of definitions in this area and the lack of
focus on motive etc. Atheists thus have a more coherent case here
than Rhodes indicates. And in any event the two issues, as should
already be clear, belong to different categories.
logical/definitional issue of how (moral) evil could be said to exist
if there were no god. Atheists are dealing with the very different
ethical-cum-factual issue of how a powerful god regarded as good (if
any such existed) could permit (chiefly natural) evil happenings, as
normally classified. The relevance of Rhodes' remarks, while not
absolutely null, is thus marginal.
And even in the
covered by Rhodes' comments his case appears inadequate. Some atheists,
while accepting the existence of natural evil, simply deny the reality
of objectively-defined moral good and evil (they are
relativists/subjectivists). This is of course an unsettling stance, as
Rhodes emphasises, but that does not itself show that it is false or
invalid. More relevantly, some other non-religious thinkers such as Ayn
Rand seek (successfully, as some think) to ground notions of moral good
and evil objectively but not in the existence of God. (Some – not all –
of these thinkers may consider that it is impossible for humans to know
these specific objective moral truths; maybe we can attain only
approximate or doubtful awareness of them. But they might still
in stating that God is the only possible reference point for
objectively-defined moral good and evil. And, in any case, many
philosophers (notably Bertrand Russell) have argued cogently that the
views and commands of God, if he exists, cannot form the basis for
moral good and evil.
and evil either is tautological (and thus subject to rational
questioning or rejection by those espousing other definitions) or
involves appeal to a source of ethical principles logically prior to
God. If this argument holds up, Rhodes and other believers have
no better ground for their ethical positions than atheists have, even
if their god does exist.
Atheism, Evil & God (Reply to Mr Miller)
What follows is
on the subject. It is not meant to be a definitive exposition on the
philosophy of atheism, nor is this an attempt to ridicule the theistic
position or to convince believers to abandon their faith. Personally, I
doubt that God (and by God I mean a supernatural intelligence credited
with the creation of the universe) exists for the same reason that I
doubt unicorns exist — namely, that there is no sound evidence that
supports the affirmative contention.
right of religionists to believe in what they think is true, but am
unable to agree with them, and shall outline some of my reasons through
an analysis of the Conservapedia quotation (refer to indents in italic)
appearing on page 13 of Investigator No. 121.
distinguish evil from good unless one has an infinite reference point
which is absolutely good."
there is in fact such a reference point — namely, God and, furthermore,
that God is the ultimate source of ethical values. The problem is that
there are many religions in the world claiming access to this ultimate
reference point, yet many disagree on how we should behave. For
example, something as seemingly innocent as a bathing costume can cause
problems — swimwear that is considered acceptable by Christians in
Australia would be considered extremely immodest by Muslims in Iran,
and any woman caught wearing a bikini in that country would be severely
is yet to
be demonstrated which of the world's religions is the One True Faith
(if in fact there is such a thing). Indeed, most believers maintain
their religion is true to the exclusion of all others. However, for the
purpose of this essay I will focus on the Christian religion and the
Bible on which it is based, and the implied claim that the Biblical God
is the epitome of moral values. Therefore, I ask that my readers
consider the following:
"Thus says the
hosts, 'I will punish what Amalek did to Israel in opposing them on the
way, when they came up out of Egypt. Now go and smite Amalek, and
utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill both
man and woman, infant and suckling ox and sheep, camel and ass.'" (1
Samuel 15:2 3)
Is it a good
commit genocide? How many people reading this article would obey God's
alleged command and slit an infant's throat? Consider the following
parallel, and suppose Hitler had said something like this to his fellow
"I will punish
for opposing me. Now go and attack them and destroy all that they have,
do not spare them, but kill men, women and even children."
In both cases
is the commission of an atrocity, with the only difference being that
in one case God is alleged to have issued the command, and in the
other, a human being.
If something is
is it so merely because an authority commands it? But if this is the
case then morality is purely arbitrary, depending as it does solely on
what authority (man or God) commands.
know if God's command to kill children is good we must have a pre
existing knowledge of what goodness is. This, of course, means we have
a knowledge of goodness independent of God. Therefore, no infinite
reference point is needed.
If something is
evil, then it must be so for a reason other than what God allegedly
commands. In other words the definition of good and evil must be
independent from the nature of God if either concept is to have any
real meaning, for if we say God's actions are good no matter what, then
we are merely saying that God's actions are God's actions, for if there
is no independent ethical reference point to which these actions can be
compared we cannot determine if they are good or evil.
In the light of
alleged order to kill children (and its complete lack of rational
justification), it becomes difficult to view this being as good, and
therefore unwise to base our actions on such divine examples. If this
is so where can we look for guidance as to what is good and evil? I
think the solution lies in an examination as to what is conducive to
the wellbeing of the individual in particular and society as a whole,
and ultimately only verifiable empirical evidence can provide the
answer to such questions.
need to ask
ourselves what is the evidence that demonstrates slitting children's
throats is conducive to the wellbeing of the individual in particular
and society as a whole.
"If God does not
then there are no moral absolutes by which one has the right to judge
something (or someone) as being evil."
The author of
statement is assuming that we do need moral absolutes to make such
judgements. First of all, are there moral absolutes, and are they known
to Mankind? My previous reference to the diversity of belief shows that
the issue is far from settled.
are not needed if one appeals to empirical evidence. For example, if
God did not exist, would this make paedophilia suddenly acceptable? The
answer is no because there is significant evidence of the harmful
effects the crime has on victims in terms of psychological dysfunction.
Imagine a society in which every child was subjected to sexual abuse of
the most horrific kind. How long do you think such a society would last
considering that all its members would be dysfunctional?
If God did not
that make rape and murder suddenly acceptable? Imagine a society in
which rape and murder prevailed. Under such conditions do you think
this hypothetical society would survive given that no one would be safe?
defined not by what God is alleged to have condoned or condemned, but
by what is conducive to the wellbeing of the individual and society. In
the end it is testable evidence, not God, to which we must appeal.
Of course it
argued that our moral judgement is so corrupt that we must rely on God
as the sole arbiter for concepts of good and evil (this, of course,
would have to be proved). However, if our judgement is so corrupt, then
how can we rely on it when we conclude that God is good? Indeed, we can
know nothing of goodness, but must blindly and unthinkingly obey God's
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Exodus 22:18)
craze of the 16th and 17th centuries thousands of women were tortured
and executed on the basis of this injunction — it was in the Bible, the
Bible was thought to be the word of God, and therefore the will of God.
death of so many women could have been avoided had believers
investigated the existence of witches and witchcraft using their reason
rather than relying on a literal and uncritical acceptance of the
Bible. Clearly, blind adherence to the alleged word of God can be
dangerous. Therefore, even believers must use their reason, fallible
though it may be.
actually requires the existence of God, rather than disproving it."
logically valid. There is no sound reason why evil and virtue cannot
exist without God and therefore the claim that evil proves the
existence of God is invalid. Evil is a human concept. It is a word
representing an idea developed by the human mind to describe things
felt not conducive to the wellbeing of the individual and/or society.
Concepts of good
vary from culture to culture. Ways of life, beliefs and modes of dress
acceptable in one society may be unacceptable in others. In some cases
evil is subjective. In other instances the belief that something is
evil may be supported by sound empirical evidence. Ultimately, it is to
the evidence for a thing's wrongness (in terms of the harm it is proven
to do) that we must appeal, rather than the alleged word of this
divinity or that.
THE REALITY OF EVIL AND
Conservapedia: Atheism in #121)
John H Williams
bent are often chronically incapable of distinguishing what is true
from what they'd like to be true." (R. Dawkins, The God Delusion p 108)
religious believers don't all speak with the same voice, and one can
find variation in the views of, say, Richard Dawkins and Christopher
Hitchens, two of the best known.
I would advise
Miller to peruse both best-sellers by the above-named, The God Delusion
and God Is Not Great, for segments which would illuminate what seems to
be some kind of theodicical/philosophical dilemma some have regarding
many definitions (of evil) but the ones most relevant are "morally
wrong or bad" and "a force or power that brings about wickedness or
In Dr Ron
from the Scriptures Ministry statement, he uses the name "God" five
times in his last paragraph quoted (p13). All atheists reject the idea
of such a being, regarding it as a delusory belief. The impact of evil
behaviour is real, while the supernatural deity some believe in is not
so, and it thus has no credibility in any debate about evil.
We believe that
being is irrelevant to any argument about "an infinite reference point
for distinguishing good from evil", whether "God alone can extinguish
the definition of absolute good", and whether "the reality of evil
actually requires the existence of God". This pack-of-cards house rests
on a genie for which there is no direct evidence.
It's annoying to
of a god's name and its supposed existence and actions without any
rationale or explanation, with the writer assuming that assertion and
speculation, often accompanied by biblical quotations, are sufficient.
thinking, has convinced him/herself. The atheist is just as convinced,
via the argument from improbability and that useful question, 'Who made
God?', a god that "though not technically disprovable, is very
improbable indeed" (Dawkins TGD, p 109).
A key question
be asked by believers is, 'Are atheists and skeptics deluded in their
unbelief?' My answer is that I doubt it.
ETHICS, GENOCIDE and
In #121 Robert
endorsed the argument:
impossible to distinguish evil from good unless one has an infinite
reference point which is absolutely good;
The first two
cannot be proven. Therefore the third, the conclusion, does not follow.
infinite reference point can only be found in God;
reality of evil requires the existence of God.
is to note that biblical ethics are objective — intended to promote
health, longer life, sound mind, peace and prosperity. Biblical ethics
can then be assessed statistically according to whether these benefits
response to Miller, repeated again his misunderstandings regarding
genocide and witch hunts that he's had for at least 10 years.
Straughen never cited various biblical principles that saved hundreds
of millions of lives (such as opposition to infanticide).
Calling it "genocide" is silly as legislation against "genocide" did
not exist for another 3,500 years. Straughen's comparing "God" to
Hitler ignores context. His error is similar to asserting "democracy
commands the burning and mutilating of children" because Allied bombing
in WWII, acting on orders, burned and mutilated children.
Ten years should
sufficed for Straughen to think the case of the Amalakites through.
I've only given a few clues on that topic over the years, preferring
instead to research the scientific accuracy of the Bible, establish
hundreds of points correct, and thus provide data anyone can
Today (Nov. 2006) shows that various prominent
opposed Heinrich Kramer and his book Hammer of Witches. Kramer
correction and looked for others more easily deceived. I commented on
witch hunts in #113 and explained the misuse of Exodus 22:18 but
Straughen, like Kramer, merely digs his heels in.
Reply to Anonymous on Biblical Genocide (#124)
Genocide & Witch Hunts (Inv. 124, page 3) and am unable to agree
I ask readers
question - is it silly (as Anonymous claims) calling the massacre of
the Amalakites genocide because legislation against this crime did not
exist at the time? If legislation against genocide were to be abolished
today would it suddenly make such acts morally acceptable? Besides, God
(if such a thing exists), being all-knowing (if in fact God is), would
have been well aware of the immorality of crimes against humanity, so
it can't plead ignorance.
We can call this
wanton murder anything we like. It doesn't change the fact that killing
innocent children is barbarous, repugnant and immoral. How many of my
readers think otherwise? Very few, I'd wager. If something is truly
wrong, then it is wrong because of the harm it does, not just because
legislation says it's wrong.
If we wish to
worthy goal, then every act aimed at achieving that goal must be in
itself morally acceptable. If we attempt to justify an atrocity on the
grounds that it will lead to a morally desirable outcome, then I think
we are deluding ourselves, for the outcome has been contaminated by the
evil acts that have led to its achievement.
biblical principles saved lives, as if this claim can negate the
biblical god's barbarous command. This is simply a distraction. It's
similar to a defence lawyer pointing out the virtues of his client
while ignoring the fact that the man has cold bloodily murdered three
people with an axe. If these events actually happened, then the
biblical god has the blood of innocent children on its hands, for
whoever orders the commission of an atrocity is just as culpable as
those who carry it out.
HORRIFYING IMAGES. The link below leads to a photograph of children
killed by the Japanese during WWII. I challenge anyone to look upon
this gruesome image and then claim killing children, even in war, is
justifiable. I know this sounds terrible, but we must squarely confront
Anonymous' implied claim that such actions are morally acceptable.
Am I "digging my
as Anonymous suggests? If a man states the obvious - that evil is evil
rather than good, then can it be fairly claimed he is digging his heels
The link to the
of slaughtered children is from documentary evidence of Japanese war
crimes - specifically, the infamous "Rape of Nanjing." The URL for the
website on this atrocity is given below for those desiring further
Chinese People Killed, 20,000 Women Raped
ETHICS AND CANAANITES
Genocide (#132, p. 17) Mr Straughen says: "If we
wish to achieve a worthy goal, then every act aimed at achieving that
goal must be in itself morally acceptable."
philosophy classes that I attended examined each ethical
theory in turn and tested it by considering its consequences in various
situations. One test for Straughen's statement above would be a
lifeboat situation. The lifeboat is full, another few kilos would swamp
it, the ocean is icy cold, and another person wants to clamber aboard.
Saving this person's life will save it only for a few minutes at the
cost of killing ten.
the person away from the lifeboat, even breaking his fingers if
he persists, is "morally unacceptable", but saving him for only a few
minutes at the cost of many lives is much more morally
Canaanite Apocalypse (#132) gives a biblical
explanation showing how the demise of the Canaanites was necessary for
the good of the human race — the health, lives and prosperity of
billions of people were at stake in the long run.
indirectly mentioned in that article is that sparing the
Canaanites would have entailed Israel's extermination by the Canaanites
with surviving Israelites facing enslavement, buggery and other sexual
misuse, physical mutilation, and forced worship of Canaanite idols. How
"morally acceptable" would that have been?
Straughen needs to examine "Canaanite Apocalypse" and reconsider
what is "good" and what is "evil".
(Investigator 134, 2010
I refer to
Anonymous' Ethics and Canaanites (pg. 7, No. 133). It's very
easy to justify atrocities on the grounds that those who are the
victims of the atrocity deserve to die. For example:
The Nazi rationale
behind ethnic persecution and extermination was
twofold. First, according, to the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, in
a speech to the SS Major Generals at Posen in 1943, the mass
extermination of Jews was necessary, although it was a very difficult
task, because Jews, due to their religion, were against the Nazi war
efforts, acting "in every town as secret saboteurs, agitators and
trouble-mongers"; and second, because of the Nazi racial theory about
the existence of a pure, "superior" race, the Aryans (Europeans
descended from the Saxons), which should be protected from
miscegenation with non-Aryan "inferior" races, which were gradually
polluting and degrading the Aryan race. Therefore, Jews in particular,
and all persons having at least one Jewish grandparent, should be
attitude to the Jews was based on a combination of prejudice
and pseudoscience, and I think Anonymous' defence of the atrocities
against the Canaanites derives from similar causes. He attempts to
stereotype all Canaanites as bent on homosexual rape. There may well
have been homosexual rapists among these people. But how many of
Investigator readers would classify a two year old child as a
Canaanites as bad as Anonymous claims they were? We have only
the Bible's word for it. Perhaps homosexuality was accepted among these
people, as it was amongst the ancient Greeks. Does anonymous seriously
maintain that homosexuals are evil people just because of their
sexuality? As far as rape is concerned: That is evil, but does
Anonymous seriously believe that every Canaanite was a rampaging rapist
with a predilection for sodomy? If so, then what independent evidence
(no Bible quotes please) can he present that they were?
Opinion it is more likely that the authors of scripture demonized
people that they considered their enemies by attributing to them (as
Hitler did to the Jews) all manner of evils.
seems to be suggesting that the commission of an atrocity is
acceptable if it leads to a greater good. But is this necessarily the
case? Let us consider the medical experiments conducted on children by
Josef Mengele, the notorious Nazi doctor at Auschwitz, who performed
various surgeries on them without anaesthesia. These included organ
removal, castration, and amputations. If Mengele's experiments resulted
in discoveries that saved billions of lives would that justify them?
For further details of Mengele's horrific crimes refer to the following
hacking Canaanite children to death with swords save billions of
lives any more than Mengele's horrific experiments? I can't help but
feel that Anonymous, in his attempts to demonstrate that the Bible is
the inerrant word of God, is prepared to sacrifice the morality of the
deity on the altar of Biblical literalism. In my opinion this amounts
to bible-idolatry, resulting from the confusion of the sacred text with
the object of worship.
references to Nazism are not intended as a personal attack on
Anonymous, and must not be construed as such.
ETHICS and CANAANITES 2
(Investigator 135, 2010
Mr Straughen (#134
Ethics & Canaanites—A Response) compares the
Israel/Canaanite conflict with the "Nazi rationale" for ethnic
persecution based on racism, prejudice and pseudoscience.
(#111) that the Bible teaches that all humans originate from
one "mother" and (in #128) that all people everywhere fail God's
standards of goodness. These two ideas are anti-racist, making the
Bible an anti-racist book. That racism is a delusional ideology is now
confirmed by science (i.e. genetics). Hundreds of millions of racists
who ignored the Bible were, therefore, wrong.
The Israel/Canaanite conflict had nothing to do with racism. It was,
from one perspective, warfare fought by the accepted standards of the
time — except for Israel being under laws that precluded buggering the
defeated or raping the women. The biblical perspective is that the
extermination of certain Canaanite tribes was also divine judgment
based on moral grounds (Leviticus 18:27; Deuteronomy 9:4-5) to prevent
Canaanite depravity becoming the worldwide norm and to instead bring
"blessing to all the nations of the earth". (Genesis 18:18)
sexual abuse, sex between close relatives, and homosexual sex
in Canaan normal and common? (Leviticus 18) Or does the Bible
another area of misconduct — Assyria's torture, physical
mutilation and other atrocities against prisoners of war. I wrote on
what the Assyrians did in this regard in #70. The Bible, however, is
fairly quiet on this topic — rather than exaggeration there's
restraint. I suggest the Bible shows similar restraint regarding the
20th century child abuse, despite being illegal and punishable,
afflicted about 15% of youngsters. When child abuse is not illegal,
when instead it's part of normal life as in ancient Canaan, its
occurrence would be greater. This is an obvious point despite
Canaanites not taking surveys and keeping statistics.
"atrocity" "acceptable" if it leads to greater good? That would
depend on whether the target for "atrocity" approves, and demonstrates
approval by having done similar things. If a killer starts killing
hostages and is therefore shot dead by police that's an acceptable
"atrocity". If he has his own child with him and it dies too, that's
better than many hostages dying. Whether "acceptable" or not depends on
the situation and who initiated it, the numbers, the probable
consequences, what laws are involved, and which participants are guilty
or innocent. By Straughen's logic the police would be murderers and
many hostages having been saved doesn't count.
concerns me when people misrepresent the Bible and search it for
statements they can misuse to justify their atheism is the potential
harm. Every day the newspapers report on ruined lives when people acted
contrary to the Bible. And I wonder how many were influenced to ignore
the Bible, and toward self-destruction, by Bible critics?
the blessing to "all the nations of the earth" is one basis
for charity, and I've previously listed many individuals and
organizations doing great deeds of good. I wonder, however, how much is
not being done because atheists misrepresent the book that inspires
good deeds. Such atheists are as wrong as all the racists who had to
reject, or misrepresent, the Bible to maintain their racism.
information readers should consult #134 & #132
REBUTTING ASPERSIONS ON GOD
(Investigator 135, 2010 November)
hoping that a Christian would offer some rebuttal of Anonymous'
position on the "Canaanite Holocaust" since his claims seem to cast
aspersions on the concept of a loving and merciful God.
like to think this deafening silence is not because the
majority agree with what to me is a debased and evil theology.
I find the
situation worrying. The world already has enough fanatical
Muslims who believe people should be killed for one reason or another.
It is all
very well for skeptics such as myself to point out that
religious violence is wrong, but do you know of any Christian minister
willing to write an article rebutting Anonymous' claims?
just a point scoring exercise. What happens if Anonymous'
writings influence impressionable minds and lead them to believe God
sanctions violence against children?
arguing for a more balanced view that is representative of
mainstream Christianity rather than that of a fanatical minority.
Is the Bible "Inspired
of God"? Get answers
on this website: