This is the first part of a five part essay responding to Quentin Smith’s assertion “that the existence of gratuitous evil proves atheism.”1
Part I: On Obviously Gratuitous Evil Part II: Emotions in Motion Part III: Theism By Proxy Part IV: The Illusion of Gratuity
Part V: Atheism Makes Evil Worse
On Obviously Gratuitous Evil:
We must begin with the very concept itself: that of “gratuity” and that of “evil.”How does Quentin Smith know what is evil, how has he arrived at his definition?
How does he know that evil can be, or is, gratuitous?
Moreover, note that he is seeking to prove “atheism” so he must be seeking to prove a mere lack of god(s) belief-right? If that was the case he would mere have to say, “In order to prove atheism I will declare that I lack of god(s) belief-done!”
Apparently, he has something else in mind and I would deeply appreciate it if some of our atheist readers would email him in order to correct him on this point and to explain to him that he is misrepresenting atheism-please send me your email exchange and I will be more than pleased to post it.
It is perhaps to be stated that arguing about evil, which is to say logically dissecting the concept, is a difficult uphill exercise. This is because evil, often in the form of violence, pain, sickness and suffering, is so very real to us all that it comes across as cold blooded to deal with it as a logical question. In other words, evil is such a, rightly, emotionally charged topic that putting logic up against it seems heartless, useless or a mere intellectual exercise.How do you argue against an emotion? We are pitting tangible sensations against ethereal concepts. In such discussions atheists often tells touching tales of evil such as a little innocent child who suffers terribly for years from a disease that very slowly killed her while leaving the theist to make logical points.Do you see the disparity? Can you feel it? Certainly, upon being moved by such a story who is even listening long enough to give reason a hearing? Who could possibly argue against such harsh realities?
These are just preliminary thoughts on how difficult it is to argue against emotionally charged statements, as valid as they may be. It seemed to me vital to keep this in mind.
Quentin Smith wrote:
“The famous British philosopher John Mackie said that if there’s any miracle in the world, it’s that so many people actually believe God exists. One of the reasons Mackie thought that this is the case is that Mackie found it obvious that if there’s evil in the world, no all-powerful and perfectly good being could have created the world.”
This simple statement is packaged with various presuppositions and fallacies. I may be reading too much into the term but I found it very telling that Quentin Smith employed the term “obvious.”
Firstly, it was obvious that there is evil. This is a presumption since it is declared to simply be obvious. Atheism tends to argue to brute fact whereby things such as morality, life and the entire universe just are. It is also an esoteric appeal to the argument from outrage. Atheists often argue about morality, against evil, to the likes of “I don’t like_” or “I don’t agree with_” or “That’s just wrong” or “I have a visceral dislike of_” Of course, these are mere expressions of personal opinions which carry neither weight nor consequences when they are violated.
Secondly, it was obvious that since there is evil in the world, no all-powerful and perfectly good being could have created the world.This is presumptuous on various levels:They are claiming to know the reason or lack of reason for any and every evil event and claim to know that it was gratuitous.They are claiming that there is no possible reason for a good being could have created a world which contains evil.They are defining “good” in an unrealistically utopian manner.