The God of Eth (part 3)
In The God of Eth, I point out that many of the popular arguments for belief in God (e.g. intelligent design, fine-tuning, first-cause, etc) are actually just as much arguments for an all-evil creator as an all-good one, for they give us no clue at all as to God’s moral character.
In response to The God of Eth, some (e.g. Richard Swinburne, in conversation) have suggested that there is an important asymmetry between the evil God and good God hypotheses. There is, they suggest, powerful evidence for a specifically good God that is not mirrored by evidence for an evil God.
Here are two examples:
The argument from miracles. There is evidence that miracles occur. People receive miraculous cures of afflictions and diseases, for example. The Catholic Church has investigated and confirmed many examples. Why would an evil God perform them?
Argument from religious experience. People have religious experiences. And what they report of the experience is invariably positive. They report an experience of something immeasurably good, for example. Not pure evil.
So here we have evidence for a good god not mirrored by evidence for an evil one.
How strong is this evidence?
Well, even if we admit that these miracles are legit and that the experiences are indeed of supernatural origin, I would question whether they support the good god hypothesis more than the evil god hypothesis. Here’s why.
Assuming there is an evil god, he may not want people to know he is evil. It may be in his interests to pretend to be good. In fact, he might mess with our minds in the following way:
First, appear to these people over here. Appear in a very positive way, in religious experiences, visions and so on. Provide proof of your existence by performing positive miracles. Say, “I am the one true God who alone must be believed and obeyed.”
Second, appear to those people over there. Appear in a very positive way, in religious experiences, visions and so on. Provide proof of your existence by performing positive miracles. Say, “I am the one true God who alone must be believed and obeyed.”
Also, tell them some things which contradict what you told the first group (say, that Jesus wasn’t God, just a prophet).
Now just stand back and watch the entirely predictable carnage as each group attacks the other confident that they have the all-powerful, all-good god on their side. Huge amounts of suffering result! Just what evil god is after.
When we look at how religious miracles and experiences are distributed throughout the world, well, this is exactly how they are distributed, isn’t it?
If I was a good god, the last thing I would do is behave in such a way – especially as, being omniscient, I would know what would happen.
So it seems to me that miracles and religious experiences are better evidence for an evil god than for a good god.
So who wants to maintain that, while belief in an evil God is just silly (which it surely is), belief in a good god is still fairly reasonable? If so, why?