Monday, March 3, 2014

Skeptical Theism: A Few Thoughts

Skeptical theism is view that we are not in a position to know god's reasons for acting or refraining from acting in particular situations. It is often invoked in response to the problem of evil, whereby it is argued that god has morally sufficient reasons for permitting or allowing moral evil or even causing suffering, but we are not in a position to know why.

There are several problems that many atheists have brought up to the skeptical theistic position. For example, if we are in no position to tell why god has allowed evil and suffering, then if someone were to see a person suffering, it's possible for one to reason that it's all part of god's plan that in the end will make sense and that they should not interfere. This, as we can imagine, could lead to indifference toward's human moral evil and suffering. Why should I stop a murderer, or help prevent suffering, if god is using it as a means to an end? The skeptical theist who says that we should never think in these terms, or that the purpose of the other person's plight was to motivate you to help or prevent it, presumes to know what god wants us to do in a particular situation, which is inconsistent with skeptical theism.

So why should we prevent suffering and evil? Wouldn't this thwart god's plan to draw people closer to him? And if we are to prevent suffering, as some theists argue we have a duty to do, it seems to have a long term affect of secularizing the population and increasing the number of atheists and agnostics. A look around the world at the richest and most advanced countries with the highest standards of living shows a correlation with decreased religious belief and worship. This further supports the view that if we grant the skeptical theistic approach, it could be argued that we are not in the position to know we have the duty to prevent suffering in particular instances; it could be part of god's plan.

It looks like this:

Skeptical Theist: God uses/allows suffering and evil to draw people closer to him.

Atheist: Then we shouldn't prevent suffering and evil.

Skeptical Theist: Oh no we should. It is a duty from god.

Atheist: Then it thwarts god's plan. And if we prevent it, it will help turn people away from god.

Skeptical Theist: God uses you to prevent the evil and suffering he allowed.

Atheist: It doesn't make sense. God uses suffering to draw people towards him, and that's his plan, but when I prevent the suffering, his plan is to inspire me to prevent it? It's as if god's plan changes on the fly.

Since suffering is the one of the most common reasons why people turn away from god, I'm not sure it even makes sense for the theist to argue that god uses suffering to drawn people towards him. I personally think skeptical theism is a one-size-fits-all excuse out of any situation or fact inconvenient to theism. The theist doesn't have to justify it with any data. All they have to do is insist that god has morally sufficient reasons for doing or allowing what he does. This is partly why I developed my evolutionary argument against god. It circumvents the usual skeptical theistic approach to human moral evil and suffering.

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