Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Certainty of the non-Existence of God

Louise Antony, a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, stated in a NYT interview:

  • I claim to know that God doesn’t exist… the question has been settled to my satisfaction. I say “there is no God” with the same confidence I say “there are no ghosts” or “there is no magic.” The main issue is supernaturalism — I deny that there are beings or phenomena outside the scope of natural law.

Antony makes an unusually strong claim about a realm that she admits transcends her direct experiences and perceptions. Upon what then does she base such dogmatism? She claims that the very evident presence of evil in this world has dealt a knock-out blow to the idea of an “omnipotent and benevolent” God:

  • I find the “argument from evil” overwhelming — that is, I think the probability that the world we experience was designed by an omnipotent and benevolent being is a zillion times lower than that it is the product of mindless natural laws acting on mindless matter. 

Antony didn’t attempt to explain how the presence of evil argues so definitively against such a God. Nevertheless, there are several problems inherent in this statement alone.

For one thing, an atheist has no logical right to resort to an absolute moral concept like evil. By denying God, the necessary basis for all unchanging, authoritative moral truth, she also denies the existence of evil. Hence, Antony uses what can only come from God (the concept of objective evil) to disprove God. However, by denying God, she can only make a subjective statement:

  • “This feels like evil to me, and I don’t feel that a benevolent and omniscient God would conduct himself that way.”

While this modest statement would be permissible, Antony lacks the grounds to use her sentiment as an objective argument against God’s existence. There is also an unwarranted assumption - “Such a God could not possibly have a good reason to allow evil and suffering” - buried within Antony’s claim.

However, can we rule out such a God because He fails to conform to the way we would do/create things? Such a judgment would be both arrogant-to-the-max and absurd. It would be like saying:

  • “God, I tripped and fell and broke my leg. This wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t created gravity. I know better than you how things should have been created,” or “We age and die, and that stinks. If you knew what you were doing, you could have made us so that we wouldn’t die.”

Such statements suggest that we possess a greater knowledge than we do. Actually, we live in a world of profound mysteries.

Perhaps instead, as many have asserted, we need hardships, and that an easy life brings out the worst in us. Besides, despite the evil and suffering, most of us cling to life. I think that says something in favor of its Designer and the goodness of His creation.

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