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Digital Subscriptions > Skeptic > 24.4 > God is Not a Moral Being

God is Not a Moral Being

A Response to Gary Whittenberger on the Problem of Evil

I WOULD LIKE TOTHANK GARYWHITTENBERGER FOR RESPONDING to my article from the previous issue of Skeptic. My article was a response to Michael Shermer who had argued in his piece that examples of evil in the world demonstrate God does not exist. His basic point was that if God exists, he would not allow evil. In short, my response was that we don’t have knowledge of what God is. We can’t assume that God is like humans. We cannot say a priori that God is a moral being. Thus, it would be wrong to say (without argument) that God is beholden to human standards of behavior. Thus, it would be presumptuous to say what God would or would not do.

Whittenberger affirms if God exists, then he would be a moral being. Before I respond to that I think it is pertinent to address two definitional issues. First, in defining evil, Whittenberger appears to think I reject Shermer’s definition for my “older concept.” If he is rejecting my position simply because it is older, that is an example of the fallacy of chronological snobbery. I do not reject Shermer’s definition, though. I simply think it is too narrow. I certainly agree that intentional harm (by humans) against sentient beings is evil. I also do not think that natural disasters in themselves constitute moral evil. However, they could cause evil by harming sentient creatures. Although this would be in the category of what philosophers call physical evil, not moral evil.

While Whittenberger seemingly denies natural disasters are evil, his first argument against God’s existence is from a natural disaster. Apparently, his response would be that it is evil only if it is intentional and that if God did exist, then he wouldn’t create the very conditions for such events. However, such begs the question. Whittenberger’s definition of God already posits that God would have to behave like a human. However, the whole thrust of my last article was to argue that God is not required to act like we do; after all, he is not a human. My point is that Whittenberger seems to have an underlying view that natural disasters are evil (even if not in the moral sense) in that they bring about death and suffering. But such harkens back to the “older concept” of evil.

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UNDERSTANDING FLAT EARTHERS WHO SAYS THE EARTH IS FLAT, AND WHY? COLUMNS The SkepDoc: Water Fluoridation: Public Health, Not Poison, by Harriet Hall, M.D. • The Gadfly: Are You in the 43 Percent?, by Carol Tavris DEBATE Does God Exist? A Rebuttal of Theologian Brian Huffling • God is Not a Moral Being: A Response to Gary Whittenberger on the Problem of Evil ARTICLES Understanding Flat Earthers • Shroud of Turin Update • The Girl Who Smelled Blue: The Colorful Case of Willetta Huggins • How to Navigate Contentious Conversations • How Much Longer Will Cancer Screening Myths Survive? • Nationalistic Pseudohistory in the Balkans • “Prove that I am Wrong!” What QAnon, Descartes, and Brains in Vats Have in Common REVIEWS Reviews of Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness • The Human Swarm: How Tolerance of Strangers Creates Society • Darwin’s Apostles: The Men Who Fought to Have Evolution Accepted, Their Times, and How the Battle Continues • Forensic Science Reform: Protecting the Innocent • The Psychology and Sociology of Wrongful Convictions: Forensic Science Reform • Blinding as a Solution to Bias: Strengthening Biomedical Science, Forensic Science, and Law JUNIOR SKEPTIC Victorian England’s Jurassic Park, by Daniel Loxton