Ebonmuse at Daylight Atheism was recently blogging about this apologetic: he’s written about it well and thoroughly, more than once, and I don’t have a huge amount to add. But I do have a particular take on it, and I’d like to share it with the rest of the class.
Let’s take two people: Person A, and Person B.
It’s pretty well- documented that B is more likely to do bad things — to commit crimes, and make bad, even evil choices — than Person A. It’s not a guarantee, of course: Person A may wind up being a meth dealer or a mugger, or indeed a banker who bilks ordinary people out of their life savings in a mortgage scam; Person B may wind up being an epidemiologist or a social worker, or indeed a janitor who treats his neighbors and family well and volunteers at the rec center on weekends. But the odds are much more in favor of A than B. I think few people would argue with that.
Let’s get back to free will, and to God.
Does that mean that Person A doesn’t have free will?
And if not — if Person A has free will — then why on earth doesn’t God make everybody a Person A?
If relative comfort and security are not incompatible with free will, then why didn’t God create a world in which all of us have that? And if evil is really necessary for free will, then why didn’t God create a world in which all of us live in poverty, violence, and hopelessness?
According to this apologetic, we need to be presented with the choice to do evil in order for our choice of good to have meaning. And yet, if you believe in this particular version of God, then you have to accept that he has created a world in which people are presented with these choices in wildly different degrees. For many people, the choice to do good is relatively easy; for many, many others, that choice is far more difficult. Why the discrepancy? If all these people are equally free, despite having such wildly different opportunities and motivations to choose evil, then doesn’t that put a gigantic hole in the idea that the opportunity and motivation to choose evil is necessary for free will?
Does that make any kind of sense at all?
If evil is necessary for free will, then are these people actually doing harm by reducing evil and thus diminishing free will?
And if these people are actually doing good, then why doesn’t God do good in the same way?
And don’t argue “mysterious ways” or “we have no way of understanding what ‘good’ means to God.” If you say that God is still good despite behaving in ways that we would call despicably evil in humans, you’re essentially rendering the whole concept of good and evil meaningless.
which I now can’t find again — if anybody has a link, please let me know link found — thanks, Adele!) that explains this beautifully. A woman is brutally raped and murdered on the street, and twelve policemen stand by, watching and doing nothing. When asked why they did nothing, they each say things like, “This evil act gave some passerby the opportunity to do good by stopping it.” “This evil act is necessary for both the victim’s and the rapist’s spiritual growth.” And — most pertinent to this discussion — “People have make their own choices in order for free will to be meaningful: if I stopped this rape, it would negate the rapist’s free will.”
It’s laughable. At best. Unremittingly wicked and grotesquely irresponsible at worst.
And if it’s laughable, irresponsible, and wicked for the policeman, then why isn’t it for God?
If evil is a necessary part of God’s plan to give us free will, then we should all have roughly the same exposure to evil, and roughly the same opportunity and motivation to commit it. We clearly don’t. And the fact that we don’t makes this apologetic a complete joke.