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itsjustcruel's avatar

Do you think that Natural evil proves that God is non-existant?

Asked by itsjustcruel (387 points ) November 1st, 2011

Do you think natural suffering(Not moral evil)proves God does not exist?

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54 Answers

itsjustcruel's avatar

An explanation of your answers would be much apreciated

Qingu's avatar

Depends on which god we’re talking about, but I don’t find this to be a very convincing argument against the Biblical god.

Largely because the Bible describes Yahweh often as an amoral, if not immoral by our standards, force of nature; Yahweh in the Old Testament very much resembles angry, jealous polytheistic deities. We are talking about the deity who makes a bet with his underling (Satan) that he couldn’t torture a man enough to make him stop worshiping; Yahweh commands genocide for unbelievers; Yahweh says he will “take delight in destroying” people who don’t follow his laws, selling them into slavery, causing men to rape their wives, and starving them so they eat the flesh of their kids and miscarriages (Deuteronomy 28).

So basically I don’t see how the existence of natural suffering would mean that Yahweh doesn’t exist when Yahweh is described as causing and even “taking delight” in such suffering.

mazingerz88's avatar

The existence of evil in my view cannot prove nor disprove the non-existence of any God.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I don’t believe that suffering due to natural causes is, in and of itself, evil. I don’t believe that a creative deity interferes so much in the affairs of the universe as to define things by good and evil.

Pandora's avatar

No. I think both are necessary to exist. How would you know what is good if you don’t know what is evil and vise versa. I go with the whole yin and yang. Most things in life have a polar opposite. Or at least I can’t think of anything that doesn’t in some form.

SuperMouse's avatar

No I do not believe natural suffering proves God does not exist. As we have discussed so many times on this site, it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God. For me this quote from Bahá’u’lláh “sums up the view I try to take of natural suffering. Though I admit, it is sometimes quite difficult for me to see life’s tests as “healing medicine.

flutherother's avatar

Natural suffering is quite different from natural evil but neither proves God’s existence. Nor do they disprove it.

JLeslie's avatar

I use that explanation a lot I guess. I don’t like the idea of a God that allows suffering. I would not say it proves anything necessarily.

Qingu's avatar

@SuperMouse, saying you can’t “disprove” the existence of God is like saying you can’t “disprove” the existence of the pink invisible dragon that hangs out in my garage.

Which is to say: the burden of proof is on the person who’s asserting the existence of said being. And there’s as much evidence for the existence of any given god as there is for the dragon in my garage.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Qingu : Your “burden of proof” statement presupposes that @SuperMouse feels the need to prove anything. I got no such impression from her post, and also nothing to indicate that she has any interest in convincing anyone of her beliefs. However, there are many threads on this site where that particular debate is ongoing and your dragon analogy will be welcomed by and seen as an amusing addition by those who share your point of view.

Blackberry's avatar

No, it’s mainly the lack of proof. The “evil” on this planet seems a natural by-product of nature.

Qingu's avatar

@JilltheTooth, whether or not Supermouse in particular has an interest in convincing people of her beliefs does not mean the content of those beliefs is valid. She said that “you can’t disprove the existence of God” ... well, you don’t need to, since just like fairies and pink dragons, the default conclusion we should logically draw about gods is that they don’t exist in the absence of any evidence of their existence.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Qingu: Really, You have to go there again? That old saw is so overused here. Never mind.

SuperMouse's avatar

@Qingu I am not going to go at this again. I am about as interested in discussing this as I am in attempting to prove or disprove the existence of the pink invisible dragon that hangs out in your garage. You don’t believe in God. I do. Draw your default conclusion and as long as you don’t call me ignorant, stupid, or informed for believing what I believe I got no beef with you.

CWOTUS's avatar

I don’t believe in an activist god or gods, but in order to answer your question I’d have to know what you mean by “natural evil”. “Evil” is a subjective term. What is evil to you may be a wondrous miracle to other humans, to other animals, to the planet itself or to other beings in the galaxy that we don’t even know about.

I believe that if there is a god or gods, then the “knowingness” of that being is so far beyond our collective consciousness and understanding that we’d never be capable of “understanding” what it does, or why.

Luiveton's avatar

Au contraire.

ucme's avatar

I don’t think a “natural evil” exists, it’s defined by circumstance & environment.
As far as god is concerned, i’ll continue to sit on my agnostic fence.

Coloma's avatar

No, and I agree with @ucme

“Evil” is a combo plate of nature and nurture and culture and ignorance.

It has nothing to do with god/source, the universe, nature.

Mental illness, brain abnormalities, immaturity, pride, ego, and unconsciousness are the root of all evil, not “God.”

Aethelflaed's avatar

The problem of evil only comes up if one believes in a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient. If the deity perhaps is not always good, or has some restrictions on their power, or has limits on their knowledge, then there is no problem.

Hibernate's avatar

Guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The premise of natural evil who lies in every person doesn’t really mean God doesn’t exist, no matter what name you want for this God.

bkcunningham's avatar

What is natural suffering, @itsjustcruel?

ragingloli's avatar

Well, in the book it proudly proclaims to be the cause of “natural evil”.

poisonedantidote's avatar

Bad things, such as bone cancer in children, the little effort required to snap a spine, parasites, and other such nasties would be evidence that any god that exists is not benevolent, but it would not totally disprove a gods existence.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

I agree with those above who said that they don’t prefer to worship or believe that a god exists and allows horrible things to happen in the world, when the power to stop it or prevent it from every happening should be no problem (according to many religious texts.)
However, I don’t think that it is possible to disprove that god(s) exist. I base my disbelief in god(s) on a lack of evidence, not evidence to the contrary.

wundayatta's avatar

Of course not. You can’t prove the non-existence of anything, including invisible dragon-like photon creatures that lick stars for sustenance.

lillycoyote's avatar

First, as @wundayatta points out, you cannot prove the non-existence of anything. Secondly, evil doesn’t exist as some kind of separate, disembodied force, on it’s own, in my opinion. It isn’t something like gravity or magnetism. Evil exists solely as the result of people acting, people choosing to do evil things or failing to act, looking the other way when evil things are done. Slavery in the U.S. and the Holocaust, for example, are two of the greatest evils that have ever occurred in the history of mankind and those evils were entirely the work of human beings; entirely the result of the choices and the actions of human beings. God has nothing to do with it.

Qingu's avatar

@lillycoyote, worth pointing out that the god of the Bible explicitly commands both slavery and genocide (Deuteronomy 20).

bkcunningham's avatar

The OP said, “natural evil” and “natural suffering.” Specifically NOT, “moral evil.” What does that mean?

rojo's avatar

There is not such thing as good or evil, there just is. It is a totally egocentric point of view that determines good or evil.
So I guess how you look at things determines whether or not you believe there is or is not a god.

Mariah's avatar

Like pretty much everyone else said, it doesn’t prove a lack of God. You can’t prove nonexistence. The existence of “natural evil” doesn’t touch deism, for example, which says that maybe a god set the universe in motion but doesn’t meddle in day-to-day affairs. It does, however, make me question the idea of an omnipotent, benevolent god. There’s a quote, goes something like…

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able but not willing? Then He is not benevolent. Is He willing and able? Then whence cometh evil? Is He not willing nor able? Then why call Him God?” The tone of this quote is a little more incendiary than I mean to invoke but it gets to the point.

Many theists will respond to this quote by saying that evil occurs because men are sinners and they have free will. But your question touches on an important point: you can’t pin all evil on man. Natural disaster, genetic disease… why do these things happen?

It’s a good question. I’m sure theists can answer it to their satisfaction. For me personally, I have a hard time getting around it.

bkcunningham's avatar

@Mariah, what is natural evil?

Mariah's avatar

I think what the OP is getting at (how I interpreted it anyway) is suffering that occurs outside of man’s control (I gave two examples in my post – natural disaster and genetic disease).

JilltheTooth's avatar

I don’t think “evil” as a concept is at all dependent on a belief in a deity. I think evil is a human concept. I believed that evil existed when I was an atheist, I believe evil exists now that I believe in a creative deity.

JilltheTooth's avatar

There’s a lot about me that would seriously surprise you, @Blackberry .

digitalimpression's avatar

This question seems incomplete without some more information.

Blackberry's avatar

@digitalimpression They’re asking if the fact that bad things happen to good people, people suffering, dying needlessly etc explains gods nonm existence. Basically, why would god let these things happen?

digitalimpression's avatar

Part and parcel with free will. It’s a blessing and a curse.

If it’s simply the question: Why do bad things happen to good people if there’s a God” then it’s been asked in abundance here on fluther.

bkcunningham's avatar

It has been asked since the dawn of time.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I don’t believe that anything natural can be evil, so… no.

lynfromnm's avatar

Without knowing how you are defining “natural”, “evil” and “god” it’s hard to give a definitive response. For myself, the existence of evil is probative; the existence of a god isn’t.

rojo's avatar

Playing devils advocate here, can we define “natural”, “evil” and “god” as one and the same and save us all some time.

itsjustcruel's avatar

The reason I didnt’t define ‘natural’ ‘evil’ and ‘god’ was so that I would be able to get many different answers from many different people. Im sorry if thats confusing, but I only wanted to see how you interpreted what I was saying thats all.

SavoirFaire's avatar

Putting professor hat on.

As @Aethelflaed said, the traditional problem of evil only arises when we’re concerned with a God who is (a) omnipotent, (b) omniscient, and (c) omnibenevolent. Now, @Qingu has noted that this description may not describe the Biblical God. This is a matter of some debate, however, and it is at least the case that the tripartite definition given here and by @Aethelflaed is the one typically defended by philosophers and theologians.

Given this definition, the theist is then challenged to account for two things: the existence of evil, and the amount of evil—i.e., why is there any evil, and why is there so much evil. It doesn’t matter whether or not the person pushing the objection believes that God or evil are coherent concepts. The problem arises as a matter of consistency for people who believe in both God and evil (or who at least believe that the two notions are consistent with one another).

There seem to be many kinds of evil, though, and so there may be different explanations for them. The technical term for an attempted solution to the problem of evil is “theodicy.” The free will theodicy, for instance, is often used in conjunction with the greater good theodicy to argue that God is not to be held accountable for evil acts committed by humans because we commit those acts of our own free will and it is better for us to have His gift of free will than it would be to go without it (despite the evil acts in the world).

Note, however, that this cannot be used for cases of natural evil (where natural evil is understood as things like natural disasters or evils brought on by natural animal behaviors). Thus we need a different answer to why hurricanes, earthquakes, parasites, and the like exist and cause the sorts of problems they cause. Some attempt the greater good theodicy again, though this means that every freak accident, every case of flu, and every infant’s death, and so forth must somehow be for the greater good.

(This notion was famously parodied in Voltaire’s Candide after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 caused him to reject Leibniz’s notion that we lived in the best of all possible worlds.)

There are other possible arguments, of course. Some argue for a theodicy in which natural disasters are punishments for our sins or warnings against future sin. This is what someone like Michele Bachmann is embracing when she says that the Virginia earthquake this past August was a sign from God. Alternatively, one might argue for a theodicy that claims God has no other (or no better) alternatives than to create parasites that bore into the eyes of children and make them blind.

Despite the implausibility of these options, however, I would not say that natural evils prove the non-existence of God—even under the tripartite definition. An increasingly popular response to the problem of evil these days is the Irenaean theodicy, which argues that suffering is necessary for the spiritual growth that makes one worthy of Heaven. There are responses to this one as well, of course, and I think there are even better options out there. Still, it is not an entirely implausible way of responding to the problem.

lillycoyote's avatar

O.K. So, once again (!!!) I have misread a question. I really need to start reading every word, not just some of them:-( So…

Personally, I have never thought that “natural evil” is a valid concept to begin with. The universe, and the planet we live on, Earth, is governed by natural laws and the results of hundred of years of biological evolution and other types of development. When contemplating the notion of natural evil, I think one needs to address why some of these things, some the things that are generally placed in the category of “natural evil,” occur.

If you were of a certain mindset, you might find that events that are categorized as natural evil might just as well provide evidence for the existence of a God as against. These natural events are essential to the way our planet functions, the planet that sustains us, and support life far more than they destroy it. Humans are inhabitants of the planet, not the reason that it exists.

Take hurricanes, for example. Among the many beneficial “services” that hurricanes provide, allowing our planet to sustain life, including human life are:

They are one of the best ways that the planet has of maintaining thermal equilibrium

Hurricanes also help phytoplankton in the oceans ‘bloom’. Phytoplankton are an essential part of the food chain in the world’s oceans, and thus, an essential part of the food chain that sustains human life.

Hurricanes also help replenish wetlands by depositing silt, new sediment in wetlands.

Wetlands provide wildlife habitat, erosion control, help to reduce the risks of flooding, recharge aquifers and purify water.

Wetlands also act as a buffer, a “speed-bump” as the article puts it, that can slow a hurricane down, because hurricanes lose force when they hit land and wetlands accomplish this basically as well as dry land.

The relationship between hurricanes and wetlands is such that, if hurricanes were sentient beings capable of volition they might be saying “Look, I don’t want to hurt you, I don’t want to kill anyone, really. Here, see, we are going to replenish your wetlands so that so that they will be strong enough and big enough so that future hurricanes will be less dangerous and maybe not cause so much flooding.”

So, at least when it comes to hurricanes, they sustain life to a far greater degree, by several orders of magnitude, than they destroy it. Where is the “natural evil” there?

SavoirFaire's avatar

@lillycoyote I think the rebuttal there would be to ask why an omnipotent and omniscient being wasn’t able to come up with a better way. It’s a rather thorny issue, I think, and rightly so. Earnest philosophers and theologians on both sides of the issue have admitted this. While I know I tend to get lumped in with the Fluther atheists, I’ll just note again that I don’t think these objections are decisive with regard to the larger issue.

ragingloli's avatar

@lillycoyote “Where is the “natural evil” there?”
It destroys human property and kills humans. Remember that the entire universe revolves around them.

lillycoyote's avatar

@SavoirFaire I’m sorry. First of all, my comment was in no way meant to be decisive. Secondly, I felt that you and @Aethelflaed had already addressed, pretty well, the issue that “the traditional problem of evil only arises when we’re concerned with a God who is (a) omnipotent, (b) omniscient, and© omnibenevolent.” Perhaps, it would have been clearer if I begun my argument by restating that.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@lillycoyote I have no problem with your response and meant only that I don’t think the rebuttal I gave is decisive. While I’m trying to give the other side, I don’t want to give the impression that I think there is a clear answer on this issue.

lillycoyote's avatar

@SavoirFaire It was unclear, to me at least, what the antecedent of “these” in “these objections” was. Obviously, I thought you were referring to my objections, rather than your own. You usually have quite a bit more to say; I believe I may have been thrown off by your brevity.:-)

SavoirFaire's avatar

@lillycoyote No worries. I should have been clearer.

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