My father so enjoyed last week's contest that he suggested another one. He'll be adjudicating again.

Proposition: The problem of evil is as great for atheists as it is for believers.

This week's prize is a handsome 1953 Buick Skylark in matador red or one of two handsome Ricochet glory badges. There are three doors, behind one of which is the Skylark. Say you pick Door 1. I open Door 2 to reveal a Glory Badge. Do you want to switch your pick?

Joined
Oct '11

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

to claire and david, "what a great combo", additionally thanks to Peter for a wonderful interview ..must get the book... lane

Joined
Jun '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

Both atheists and believers accept that free will exists. And if I have free will, I have the freedom to either hand you a hundred-dollar-bill and say "enjoy," or stab you in the stomach. If I'm a bad guy, and I always choose to stab people in the stomach, and God always prevents me from doing it, because it's evil, then I don't really have free will, do I? So if I (hypothetical evil me) retains my free will, somebody is going to get stabbed in the stomach. I think we could define that as evil. And for the bleeding man, whether I'm an atheist or believer, or he's an atheist or believer, doesn't materially change his experience of encountering evil.

Joined
Jul '11

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

You always want to switch your pick.  While the common sense approach says no difference or I'll dance with who brung ya, the actual common sense lies in knowing that it is not a 50/50 proposition but a 2/3 1/3 proposition.  You had a 1/3 chance of picking correctly and the two remaining doors had a 2/3 chance of holding the skylark.  When one of those two non picked doors is removed as a badge(and I want one after this) then the odds still remain 2/3 that the skylark is there.  Therefore you should always switch. If there were ten doors and nine badges.  You picked a door and 8 of the remaining 9 were opened as badges then the odds of success by switching becomes 90%.

Joined
Jul '11

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

Yes nearly everyone is bothered by evil in an intimate way.   No group lays claim on its psychological impact in my mind.

Joined
Aug '11

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

The line between good and evil is the lie.  Once we pass over the line between truth and lie, we open ourselves to evil.

Joined
Oct '11

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

so true, tom paine and I think D. Berlinski would agree

Joined
May '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

The atheist says there is no God because an all knowing, loving, powerful God would not allow evil and suffering. The believer says God allows suffering and evil to bring about a greater good humans can't fathom. The atheist says there is no such greater good. Why? Because there is no God. The atheist's argument is circular.

Joined
Jun '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

 DocJay: You always want to switch your pick.  While the common sense approach says no difference or I'll dance with who brung ya, the actual common sense lies in knowing that it is not a 50/50 proposition but a 2/3 1/3 proposition.  You had a 1/3 chance of picking correctly and the two remaining doors had a 2/3 chance of holding the skylark.  When one of those two non picked doors is removed as a badge(and I want one after this) then the odds still remain 2/3 that the skylark is there.  Therefore you should always switch. If there were ten doors and nine badges.  You picked a door and 8 of the remaining 9 were opened as badges then the odds of success by switching becomes 90%.  · Oct 7 at 9:48pm

DocJay, I concur with you analysis. In the presence of new information always switch.

Joined
Jun '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

Christianity offers a rich and substantial account of evil.  I can't hope to do it justice in so few words but consider the fall of the rebel angels, original sin, Job, the temptation of Jesus in the desert, and above all God Himself suffering with and for us on the cross.  We do not claim to understand evil, but we at least are given the tools to face it, endure it, and ultimately conquer it.
For atheists evil is simply baked into the structure of the universe.  Life ain't fair and bad things happen to good people.  The only possible responses are stoicism or launching a utopian project to try to eradicate evil by engineering a perfect society and a perfect man.
Therefore I conclude that evil is a greater problem for atheists than for believers.

Joined
Jun '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

P.S. DocJay is correct, you should always switch your pick.

Joined
Aug '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

You should only switch your pick under the following conditions:

1. Claire knows where the good prize is.

2. She always opens one of the booby prize doors.

In that case, you are improving your odds from 1/3 to 2/3 by switching.  On the other hand, if Claire just picked a door at random and happened to pick one of the booby prizes, it doesn't matter.  It's still 1/3 either way.

Joined
Aug '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

Evil is not a problem for atheists, because evil can not exist for the atheist.

"Evil" is a descriptive term for intentional human actions.  It requires intent, choice, and a binary morality to apply.  (Accidents and nature can not be evil.)

Removing God from his debater's toolbox, an atheist has left only the tools of science, the "natural" descriptive language of the world, and the reason of man.

• Science is amoral, not immoral, and can not describe morality.
• Natural descriptions can describe human actions, but can not describe choice or intent.
• Man's reason can understand intent and choice, but is incapable of creating a consistent morality applicable to human action.

Briefly, the act of defining morality using man's reason is itself a human action, and may itself be immoral.  The act of applying morality to other actions is a human action, and subject to recursive moral scrutiny.  Any morality constructed using pure reason must either assume an exogenous first principle, or contain an internal contradiction.

Therefore no atheist can contemplate evil, because he does not have the language to do so.  Any atheist making the attempt is merely expressing personal preferences using incorrect terms.

Joined
Jun '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

If by "as great a problem" you mean explaining evil or accommodating evil philosophically, I would suggest the atheist has the greater problem. An atheist is forced into one of two explanations for the evil men do: 1) psycho/medical or 2) social/educational. There is, of course, a hybrid of the two, but there remain only these two explanations.

The theist on the other hand can and often does fall back on the two atheistic explanations to which he adds a third: Evil as a force in the world. But evil doesn’t get the theist very far, so he adds divine judgement and retribution.

As Dr. Berlinski has pointed out, the question becomes, why be good at all? We all know why we choose to be good to our intimate relations, but the same reasons do not obtain like purchase on a social scale. In society the theist’s answer to the why-be-good question is obvious: God not only demands goodness but rewards it. For the Atheist the answer would seem to decoct into some variant of game theory that projects win-win as the highest social good.

Edited on October 8, 2011 at 9:51am

Joined
Oct '11

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

Knowing evil is knowing the truth north on the compass, not that you necessarily need to go their, but without reference navigating in the meander of life becomes hazardous.

Believer or atheist, we all risk to get lost without a compass, busily doing what we think is good, but not even realizing that we are evil ourselves.

Joined
Apr '11

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

For the religious, there is a shared understanding of evil.  While not all Christians have the same definition of evil, the definitions all come from a similar set of principles.  The same is true of any other religious group.

There is not a set of shared guidelines or principles for atheists.  That is not to say atheists can’t have principles, or to say all religious people follow the principles their faith adheres to.  It does mean atheists don’t have a common definition of evil.

For example, in the Judeo-Christian faith, to murder is evil.  The basis of this guideline is the Ten Commandments.  An atheist might believe to murder is evil, or killing is the natural order, therefore murder is not evil.  There is no guideline to what constitutes “evil”.  This becomes a problem when deciding acceptable behaviour in society or even identifying with it.

The problem of evil is greater for the atheist because the believers have a shared set of guidelines and the atheists are left without these guidelines leaving them unable form cohesive groups.  Therefore, I believe the problem of evil is greater for atheists than it is for believers.

Joined
Nov '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

That a theist has a problem with evil is well-known. His problem is to reconcile the existence of a perfectly good God, in Whom he is inclined to believe, with the existence of patently undeserved misery, which he cannot deny.

Tentative reconcilations exist (e.g., virtue is not logically or practically possible without evil). However, only a rare theist is fully satisfied by them. For most, evil remains a problem, endurable only by hope and faith.

That an atheist also has a problem with evil is less well-known. Clearly, not believing in God, the atheist lacks the theist's problem.

Yet he has another. It is not specific to evil, but to many aspects of human nature, of which evil is merely representative. It applies equally to goodness, and to the fact that human being have awakened out of a brute physical world to interrogate its meaning in the first place.

Why is there something (and not nothing)? Why is it one particular way (and not another)? Why do we puzzle over it (as opposed to not being around)?

Evil is part of this flabbergasting mystery. Theism conscientiously aims at making it intelligible. Atheism complacently shirks that obligation.

Edited on October 8, 2011 at 12:00pm

Joined
Nov '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

Katie,

Must an atheist argue that there is no such greater good because there is no God?

Can he not (and might he not in practice) avoid circularity by arguing that there is no greater good because he instead finds it hard to understand how--and perhaps morally offensive to suggest that--say, the random death of innocent children in a violent earthquake could ever conduce to some notional greater good?

Indeed, is it not the theist who, by believing in God, assumes by extension that there must some notional greater good justifying any and every palpable enormity visited on the innocent by the natural world?

I think so. But is that bad? I think perhaps not.

 Katie O: The atheist says there is no God because an all knowing, loving, powerful God would not allow evil and suffering. The believer says God allows suffering and evil to bring about a greater good humans can't fathom. The atheist says there is no such greater good. Why? Because there is no God. The atheist's argument is circular. · Oct 7 at 10:05pm
Edited on October 8, 2011 at 2:32pm

Joined
Nov '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

 BlueAnt: Evil is not a problem for atheists, because evil can not exist for the atheist.

Can evil exist for an agnostic? Or does it only exist with a particular probability, or only on those days when he is more theistically inclined?

Joined
May '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

1.) I don't fully understand the proposition. In what way do atheists and religionists disagree with regard to it?

2.) How about defining our terms, e.g., atheist, agnostic, etc? Last time this debate turned into a dispute over nomenclature, not concepts.

Joined
May '10

### Re: Weekend Contest: The Devil is in the Details

 Katie O: The atheist says there is no God because an all knowing, loving, powerful God would not allow evil and suffering. The believer says God allows suffering and evil to bring about a greater good humans can't fathom. The atheist says there is no such greater good. Why? Because there is no God. The atheist's argument is circular.

The atheist? Atheism does not commit one to the above argument.

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