Paul P. Mealing

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Saturday, 20 February 2010

On the subject of good and evil and God

I wrote a lengthy dissertation on the subject of evil, very early on in this blog (Evil, Oct.07) and I don’t intend to repeat myself here.

This post has arisen as the result of something I wrote on Stephen Law’s blog, in response to a paper that Stephen has written (that is an academic paper, not just a blog post). To put it into context, Stephen’s paper addresses what is known in classical philosophy as the ‘problem of evil’, or how can one reconcile an omniscient, ultimately beneficial and inherently good god, with the evil and suffering we witness everyday in the physical world. It therefore specifically addresses the biblical god who is represented by the three main monotheistic religions.

Stephen’s thesis, in a nutshell, is that, based on the evidence, an evil god makes more sense than a good god. I’m not going to address Stephen’s argument directly, and I’m not an academic. My response is quite literally my own take on the subject that has been evoked by reading Stephen’s paper, and I neither critique nor analyse his arguments.

My argument, in a nutshell, is that God can represent either good or evil, because it’s dependent on the person who perceives God. As I’ve said previously (many times, in fact) the only evidence we have of God is in someone’s mind, not out there. The point is that people project their own beliefs and prejudices onto this God. So God with capital ‘G’, as opposed to god with small ‘g’, is the God that an individual finds within themselves. God with small ‘g’ is an intellectual construct that could represent the ‘Creator’ or a reference to one of many religious texts – I make this distinction, because one is experienced internally and the other is simply contemplated intellectually. Obviously, I think the Creator-God is an intellectual construct, not to be confused with the ‘feeling’ people express of their God. Not everyone makes this distinction.

Below is an edited version of my comment on Stephen’s blog.

I feel this all comes back to consciousness or sentient beings. Without consciousness there would be no good and evil, and no God either. God is a projection who can represent good or evil, depending on the beholder. Evil is invariably a perversion, because the person who commits evil (like genocide, for example) can always justify it as being for the ‘greater good’.

People who attribute natural disasters to God or Divine forces are especially prone to a perverted view of God. They perversely attribute natural disasters to human activity because God is ‘not happy’. We live in a lottery universe, and whilst we owe our very existence to super novae, another super nova could just as easily wipe us all out in a blink, depending on its proximity.

God, at his or her best, represents the sense of connection we have to all of humanity, and, by extension, nature. Whether that sense be judgmental and exclusive, or compassionate and inclusive, depends on the individual, and the God one believes in simply reflects that. Even atheists sense this connection, though they don’t personify it or conceptualise it like theists do. At the end of the day, what matters is how one perceives and treats their fellows, not whether they are theists or atheists; the latter being a consequence of the former (for theists), not the other way round.

Evil is an intrinsic attribute of human nature, but its origins are evolutionary, not mythical or Divine (I expound upon this in detail in my post on Evil). God is a projection of the ideal self, and therefore encompasses all that is good and bad in all of us.

That is the end of my (edited) comment on Stephen’s blog. My point is that the ‘problem of evil’, as it is formulated in classical philosophy, leads to a very narrow discussion concerning a hypothetical entity, when the problem really exists within the human mind.


The Atheist Missionary said...

Paul, I'm interested to know if you have read Colin McGinn's The Mysterious Flame: Conscious Minds In A Material World. If not, I bet you would love it.

Paul P. Mealing said...

Thanks TAM,

I'll see if I can get hold of it.

Regards, Paul.