I wrote my Evolutionary Argument Against God partly in response to Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, and William Lane Craig's fuck up on animal suffering.
On a recent Q&A on his website, ReasonableFaith, Craig addresses the problem of gratuitous suffering. A writer asks Craig about his debate with Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (which I reviewed here) where Armstrong made an argument that gratuitous evil is incompatible with god:
your response to the problem of gratuitous natural evil seems to create a problem for people who want to be moral. I perceive a baby dying of a painful disease as a moral evil and I judge God to be an immoral monster for allowing that to happen. But your response suggests that my judgment is in error: how do I know God does not have some greater reason for allowing that suffering?
Now onto Craig's response. He says,
gratuitous suffering exists, then what information does the theist have that the atheist cannot know that allows the theist to say that it doesn't? Scripture? Unproven dogma written by Iron-age people full of superstition? I have not heard a reasonable case that didn't deviate tremendously from standard Christian ethic to justify millions of years of animal and pre-human hominid suffering with god, none of which was necessary. Now the issue Craig is addressing here is a human baby suffering. Craig says it's perfectly consistent with god's character and has justified this belief elsewhere because he says that baby can get a chance to go to heaven. But here he's equating compensation with justification.
On consequentialism if your torturing and raping a little girl would somehow ultimately redound to the benefit of mankind, then not only is this action morally permissible for you, but you are morally obligated to do it!
On Craig's divine command theory, if god commands that you sacrifice your son or commit genocide against the neighboring tribe and take their land and underage girls, "then not only is this action morally permissible for you, but you are morally obligated to do it!" Craig willfully ignores how absurd his divine command system of ethics is.
As a theist, I see our moral duties as grounded in God’s commands, which are reflections of His holy and loving character, not in the consequences.
That's exactly the problem Craig, you've outsourced your morality to a book written by men at a time before they knew anything about the true nature of biology and reality. One can argue that god is a consequentialist too. Why would god use a long slow evolutionary process to bring about man that required millions of years of suffering if not for the principle that the ends justified the means? The Bible is also full of accounts where god's commands appeal to consequences. For why would god command the wholesale slaughter of thousands of men, women and children if not to punish them and achieve a greater good for the Israelites?
As for God’s own actions, I don’t think that God has any moral duties to fulfill, since He presumably doesn’t issue commands to Himself! So it is meaningless to speak of the moral rightness or wrongness of God’s actions.
I take particular offense to this common belief among theists like Craig. To say that god can do whatever he wants as he is not morally obligated to behave "good" or conform to his own commands which Craig just told us are "reflections of His holy and loving character," then by what sense can we call god good? How can we assess god as good if he can break all the rules, and act contrary to his own holy and loving character? It seems as if god's policy is "do as I say, not as I do." Such a god cannot by definition be good.
Craig tries to address this:
What we can ask is whether His acting in a certain way would be consistent with His character. Would it be consistent with His character, for example, not to intervene to save a baby from dying of a horrible disease or someone from perishing in a tsunami? And I think the answer is, yes, God can have good reasons for not intervening in such situations and so does not act contrary to His character.
What would be the purpose of creating a world knowing that it will involve so much suffering? Craig's answer is that the purpose of this world is to know god. So god creates and designs this world, designs humans through the evolutionary process that he knows will embed certain "sinful" characteristics into our very nature, then he punishes all people for one man's sin (that never happened) and as a result, all people are destined to go to hell by default unless they believe, on faith, a bunch of absurd stories that requires incredulity and a suppression of critical thinking and skepticism. Give me a break.
Craig responds directly to the writer's question:
we do not discern our moral duties by trying to look into the future and determine whether the consequences of our action are on balance good or bad. Rather (i) God has written His moral law upon our hearts (Romans 2.14-15), so that we have God-given moral intuitions to direct us; (ii) God has revealed to us His moral law in Scripture, e.g., the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount; and (iii) God has created man in His image, so that every person is invested with intrinsic moral worth and therefore to be treated as an end and not a means.
It is impossible to assess our actions without conceiving of their consequences, and we all do this every day, including Craig, so he's wrong on that point. (i) If we have "God-given moral intuitions to direct us" then how does Craig explain millions of sociopaths and the mentally ill who cannot feel compassion for the suffering of others and are therefore not fully equipped to make moral decisions? (ii) There are many other commandments god allegedly gave us in the Bible, like "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." (Exe 22:18) and "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ." (Eph 6:5) (iii) Sure every person is to be treated with moral worth unless god commands you to kill them, and it is perfectly alright if you purchase them as slaves for life. (Lev 25:44-46) It is obvious from god's own commands that some people can be used as means to man's end and god's end. Another case of god contradicting himself.
In short, if consequentialism were true, then you would be absolutely right that we could never determine our moral duties...Some action which appears horrible in the short run could turn out to be a great boon to mankind, and an action that appears to be beneficent could turn out to be disastrous in the long run. We can be thankful that God has not abandoned us to such moral chaos but has given us resources to help discern His moral will for our lives.
I too have criticisms of consequentialism, but no one is obligated to adhere to such a moral philosophy unbending. When accessing the consequences of our actions we have to make them using the best available information we have. To outsource your morality and refer it upward to a supreme ruler is the lazyman's approach to morality. It allows one to conclude something is right or wrong merely because the Bible says so. No further thinking required. That's why we can't move forward on our moral progress.
It's a good thing we don't live in a society where people base their morality entirely on the Bible, and we all know Christians cherry-pick the hell out of their morals from the Bible but enjoy paying lip service to it to appear like "good Christians." If it weren't for philosophy, science and the enlightenment which lead to secularism, we'd be a nation awash in the "moral chaos" of scripture.
Click here to read my question to William Lane Craig
Click here to read my question to William Lane Craig