This 2021 book edited by acclaimed author John W Loftus boasts some of the greatest writers on the subject of religious truth.  They find it's claims about a God letting evil happen in his plan wanting for there are some instances of suffering that you merely need to look at to see is definitely intolerable even for a God.

This offering, God and Horrendous Suffering

# successfully shows you cannot fit a God of absolute love and power together with gratuitous (eg the worst suffering of the most innocent of us is clearly excessive and unnecessary) suffering

# points out that there is suffering so degrading that this is impossible - we cannot imagine what it was like for the worst case ever and we degrade that person or creature by special pleading arguments such as, "If it happened it fits God."  That is a trick for each person knows that if you say, "John would never molest a child" and a victim comes forward you don't say, "That proves John would never do it for the victim is wrong".  It's a game to get dismissing any case that proves you wrong or may prove you wrong.  Rather than respect for people and their suffering, the special pleaders have made up their minds beforehand while trying to look as if they have not.  They want us to think awareness and sensitivity and evidence have led them to their position.

# shows that God belief thrives on how we cannot exactly know what evil and suffering really amount to - we are not all sufferers - and this is shown by religion's inconsistent and incoherent definitions of evil

# shows that God needs to be justified in letting suffering happen and offering compensation or turning it to good later does not make it right to allow it.  I would point out that believers are not really concerned about helping you to see how your suffering can be good but about rationalising the terrible long delay before things get better.  Much of the world has not seen any improvement yet.  "It will take time to unfold or bear fruit" is only an excuse for why help is not there.  God's plan is to make us better people and then make us happy and healthy and safe forever according to the Christian faith.  The excuse is all they can say when you ask why we are not in a Paradise right now. It is something that evidence should say. We should not be saying it for words are easy and words are cheap.

Somebody loving you may make no difference to your wellbeing.  The believer just with a fiat says your suffering is needed for God is love and gives you nothing to help you get the benefit there might be in it.  There might be none for you.  They make this is about glorifying God.  But what about you?  To look at suffering and care only that God is not shown in a bad light is disgraceful and ideological.

The most important part of this book, the one essential point, is that skeptical theism can and should be overthrown. It should be called contrarianism not skeptical theism!

Skeptical theism argues that no matter how much evil there is we should affirm God and be skeptical about assigning a poor or low probability to the love of God on the basis of evil happening. For them no evil however gratuitous it is can reduce the probability of God’s existence and his love at all.

The question it raises can be asked in this way, "If a child is about to be agonisingly mutilated and left to die a slow death, then how can God be good if he is not stopping it?  I am better than God for I would stop it."  Or, "Hypothetically, if I could force God to help, I would force him.  If he is good then he does not need to be forced.  I am better than God if I would force him."  As faith is faith and reality is reality, you would have to force help to happen.  A child is not a belief.  You may not know what you are forcing or if it is God and you should not care.  So you must be prepared to hate God if it helps a child.  We naturally are.  If God does not make mistakes then why does the normal person do that?  A God who has a purpose and asks us to trust him is shown by this example to be denied by what we are.  Atheism is just letting you be the message that God will not be God to you and cannot be.  Chance obviously made you not God.

Is this any better than assuming that some evil is so bad it shows there probably is no God? Aren't you guessing if you say that and equally guessing if you say it probably does not show there is a God?

Ockham's Razor says that if you get a selection of explanations for something the simpler one of them is the one you should take as it is the most likely to be true.  It is simpler to assume that what seems to be totally uncalled for and totally intolerable evil is not part of any good plan.

Hitchen’s Razor as the book says, explicates that anything that is asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. “Hitchen’s Razor has to do with the need for objective evidence.”  This relates to the fact that possibilities do not count. A person saying, “Maybe Jesus did rise from the dead despite the poor evidence” may as well say nothing. Why? Because there is another implicit maybe. “Maybe he did not”. So it is good for nothing. An argument that is married to its own counter-argument is not an argument but hot air. If x is saying something is true then it is up to x to back that up. 

Maybe I should introduce the notion of, “Your big claims, magical claims, amazing claims come with great responsibility.  If you are not taking it then grow up and take it and give me reasons why your behaviour is justified.”  It's irresponsible to treat terrible realities such as suffering to make religious guesses about.  These things show why we should dismiss skeptical theism.

Skeptical theism is not an argument at all though it says it is.  It is lying and isn't God supposed to condemn lies?  It's a guess.  It cuts both ways. You may as well say gratuitous evil does not make God unlikely as say it that it makes him likely.  It is self-eliminating, self-refuting and totally uninspiring.  You may as well say nothing.  The argument is not concerned about evidence so it is inherently anti-truth and anti-science.  Skeptical theists should be agnostic on whether evil is inexcusable or not for a God.  And openly.

Is saying evil shows God is unloving or uncaring equal to saying it doesn't?  Either way you appear to have a circle. 

1 "Evil does not fit God and it shows there is no loving God for it does not fit God." 

2 "Evil does fit God and can show there is a loving God for he can tolerate it for his good reasons in which we have to trust." 

If you are stuck with the circle then you will not know if you should go for 1 or 2.  You have to be agnostic.  That rules out Skeptical Theism for it calls for belief not neutrality.

There is a difference between 1 and 2.

With 1 the atheist is not risking.  Evil seems less terrible if there is a God but that risks not seeing how bad it is.  You need to see clearly if you want to support and understand the suffering person.

2 is the evil of begging the question.  Begging the question means you are making up your mind before you speak and pretending the argument makes up your mind for you - it's a lie.  The difference is that if you need to lie to defend God that means that faith is fundamentally a lie.  A lie always seeks to rob you and others of the truth.  A moral God needing a lie to defend him is not a conundrum but a contradiction, an absurdity.

All circles are deceitful and some are worse than others.  You know then what the most deceitful circle is.  It is 2.   Thus you show that to consider God as valid and true you fall into the pit of lying and that leans in favour of the view that evil probably does refute God and makes it unreasonable to say anything different.

The atheists however avoid circular arguments when they realise that the evil itself is what is telling us that it should not be tolerated if there is anything to tolerate it.  The argument is worded like it is circular but it is not the same thing as using bias to blind yourself to what evil is and telling yourself it is part of the path to a greater good.  You don't see that good yet or have any reason to think it will come.  The atheist just looks and the believer puts on faith spectacles to look.

The fruits of believing suffering is part of divine benevolent providence so far are corrupting.  Believers who say gratuitous evil does not happen need to grapple with that.  If their doctrine is so good why is it so corrupting?  Human nature with its already heavy tendency to self-centredness does not need that vitamin shot!  Most believers in God could do more for suffering people but seem to be subjects of some kind of faith placebo that makes them tend to leave the real work to others.

The book points to how God not intervening to save an innocent child from grave harm and abuse conflicts with what the ethicist Kant would say, “Everybody must intervene save children.” It makes a rule, “No person should intervene to stop a child from being tortured to death.” The presumption here is that if God is a person then he is subject to the same rule as us.  If you disagree fine but you are saying that God then does not have morals in the way we do so how can he be relevant?  He cannot.  He cannot be inspirational.  Only a boaster says they love this great relevant God.  It is false humility if you say that you do good because of God and your relationship with him.  Your good is from you and not your God or religion or faith.

There is another issue as well.     You may say it is different for God for he rules all and evil will be defeated by him.  But as your hate for another says more about you than them, so your speaking for another says more about you than them.  You agreeing with God not helping makes you a problem for the simple reason that this is too much about you.  It says too much about you.  Sorry a child's suffering is about the child not your projections and not your faith.

There are many arguments that are sound but not that convincing. Religion will have to take the position when faced with horrible wanton suffering that it’s a sound argument against the love of God but not convincing.  Now that seems fair enough but what if we find that people who rage against a God letting suffering happen feel empowered by their anger to go out and do all they can to remove it?  Religion will not like that and is clearly more concerned about getting God praised than people helped.

Projection means that when you hate or love something, it says more about what you are like than the object of hate or love. One can serve a God who bears too much of a resemblance to what they would want him to be or to do for them. For that reason, crusading for the love of God can be hugely about self-love in the guise of God. For that reason crusading against sin can be about your guilt over wanting to sin that way. The evil you battle outside of you is already within. You don't have a God to be your psychiatrist and root it out of you. It is no wonder God and sin are too much about your inner aspirations and image of yourself.

Religion says that seeing and hearing and witnessing evil has an effect on you.  It plants seeds for we all have an inclination to evil and to doing new evils.  It's like a virus that we have to stop allowing to take a hold.  As evil always involves a lie or deception, it may be that evil is making me think the evil is just outside me when in fact some of it is in me too. I see the evil for I have evil eyes as it were.  For example, somebody is suffering to the hilt and I sense and am convinced just by observing that this is evil.  How much of my diagnosis is about me?  If evil is a lie I will never know the answer to that.  So what if I see the evil as meaningless wanton evil?  The good thing about that is you are putting yourself off it completely.  What if you hold that it has meaning and is a defeated foe in the sight of God?  If evil is a lie it will want you to think that if it is not true.  You are giving evil trust and a compliment if you heed it.  Human nature then is better to see evil as futile and banal and vain and so useless that no God can allow it to happen.  Skeptical theism is not a written into what we are.  It is whitewash.  If God made us then God agrees with us!  Skeptical theism is hubris!

Evil the lie may have you thinking, "My God has a reason to tolerate evil.  He is not letting it happen to give us compensation later.  He really is just right to let it happen" when in fact your motivation hidden from even yourself may be, "I don't care what God allows to happen as long as he makes it up eventually."  It is impossible to believe that religious people look at the horrendous suffering of children and think, "God has his good reasons" and don't actually mean, "Who cares!  Someday he will reward them for what they endured".  That is not a stance that values the sufferer.  If you are treated like dirt, you cannot trust the abuser to treat you like royalty any time in the future.

The book points out that stating evil is not an existent entity or a positive quality or as Davies said. “Evil suffered occurs as existing things fail to be as good as they could be”, amounts saying the following. The person is not suffering. The person is just not well. There are no blind people just people who cannot see. If they should see but don’t then that is evil. If they should not see and don’t that is good. This presupposes something has designed us and if we line up to the design it is good.  But we decide what the design is.  Even with a movie we think we know what the ending will be and a good movie will prove us wrong so we are making it about what we think not God.  So how can we be such experts with nature?  Remember that those who say that no evil shows God must be bad or incompetent or fictitious are lying.  If there is no murder but just stopping breathing forever and if there is no stealing just borrowing and not giving back and God belief makes us think that then incompetent and bad are not the words for God.  Useless and vile are better.

One objection to all this is that even if you say evil is not real it will feel as acute and cruel for you as it will for a person who thinks it is real. I would say that trying to feel it’s a lack and not real only adds to your struggle and suffering.  Feeling that its overbearing force is somehow not real and that that you are in some way to blame for how you misperceive it will exacerbate.

Suffering terribly means that learning to be resilient can make you worse or kill you. Suffering does not help you when it kills you.  The book  tells us that.  Christians will answer that this is too narrow-minded and selfish for we should be applauding how our suffering may benefit others not us.  Jesus said you must deny who you are, your very self for others.  Incidentally, Jesus himself with the culture of lies and death that followed him is the ultimate unnecessary and useless evil.

Skeptical theism is definitely out.  Because human nature is forced by its limitations to fail to really understand and be with others in their suffering it is inappropriate for us to say that maybe God is right to stand by and let something unspeakable happen.  Because human nature also does not need to be forced to water down what others suffer for all of us have a self-centred side we would be safer just saying the evil is too intolerable for a God to allow.  Because God belief demands that you respect God's control over life to the extent that you will or may refuse to euthanaise a person missing half their body in a bomb attack it is safer to ignore it.  The claim that some believers will euthanaise means nothing.  That God belief MAY permit such cruel moralism is enough.  There should be no PERMISSION OR IMPLIED PERMISSION!

Religion says that if you think life is that dangerous then why not blow up the world?  It says that if you think an animal or person's suffering is so terrible or will be then why not kill them?  The answer is we do agree with euthanasia and assisted suicide which contradicts the idea that God is master so it can be left to him.  And the assertion that we would advocate for an all-out nuclear war if we really cared is accusing us of seeing no good in life at all.  It is in fact endangering atheists and inciting fear and hate.  It is because life can be good that we oppose suffering and any God real or imagined that would tolerate it.

The argument that horrendous suffering or gratuitous suffering refutes God has been won.  It also refutes the wisdom and desirability of believing in God.  The book God and Horrendous Suffering has successfully shown that skeptical theism says as much about skeptical theists and religion as it does God.  And that is not a compliment.



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