Better Never to Have Created: A New Logical Problem of Evil

(2020)

Introduction

The idea that God should have forfeited creation is not a new one. For example, Richard R. La Croix wrote, in 1974: “Perhaps God could not, for some perfectly plausible reason, create a world without evil, but then it would seem that He ought not to have created at all.”[1]

In this article I argue for the thesis that theism is necessarily false because some attributes that theists usually ascribe to God are incompatible with God’s alleged creation of sentient beings. To this end, I employ an argument used in contemporary debates on the ethics of procreation. Specifically, I try to show that a new logical argument against theism can be built upon David Benatar’s axiological asymmetry, also named “the basic asymmetry.” If the basic asymmetry is correct, then sentient beings are always harmed by being brought into existence. My argument is that if God is ultimately responsible for bringing sentient beings into existence, then God cannot be morally perfect. Since theists ascribe to God the property of being morally perfect, it follows that theism is necessarily false.

First, I introduce the basic asymmetry and underscore the relevant implications that it leads to. I then present some of the arguments Benatar gives in its favor that, in my view, are decisive. A thorough exposition of all of the arguments for and against the basic asymmetry is beyond the scope of this paper. These arguments are, however, readily available.[2] Second, I formalize what I take to be the novel logical argument against theism based on the axiological asymmetry. I call it the argument from the harm of coming into existence (AHCE). I then reply to some possible objections and demonstrate the considerable force that AHCE has against them: it renders two of the more important theodicies irrelevant and makes the remaining possible replies quite implausible.

David Benatar’s Axiological Asymmetry (The Basic Asymmetry)

Benatar takes the basic asymmetry to be a fundamental moral truth that he suspects is widely accepted by people who have thought seriously about it. Some people are inclined to deny the truth of the asymmetry, but in most cases that happens only after they realize that it leads to the conclusion that coming into existence is always a harm.[3]

Although in other places Benatar formulates the asymmetry in terms of pleasures and pains, I will present here the more encompassing version advanced in the book Debating Procreation: Is It Wrong to Reproduce? There the asymmetry is formulated in the broader terms of harms and benefits.

Benatar asks us to consider two scenarios that represent two states of affairs, one (A) in which a person X exists, and one (B) in which X never comes into existence. As he puts it:

Whereas:

  1. The presence of harm is bad; and
  2. the presence of benefit is good

an asymmetrical evaluation applies to the absence of harm and benefit:

  1. The absence of harm is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone;

But

  1. the absence of benefit is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.[4]

1 and 2 make up scenario (A), in which X exists, while 3 and 4 make up scenario (B) in which X never comes into existence.

The asymmetry can be represented in the following diagram:

Scenario (A) (X exists)Scenario (B) (X never exists)

1. Presence of harm
(bad)

 

3. Absence of harm
(good)

 

2. Presence of benefit
(good)

 

4. Absence of benefit
(not bad)

 

Two clarifications are in order. First, the judgment in 3 is made with reference to the (potential) interests of a person who either does or does not exist.[5] We may not know who that person would have been, but we can still say that whoever that person would have been, the avoidance of his/her pains is good when judged in terms of his/her potential interests.

Second, “not bad” in 4 means that 4 is not worse than 2. Thus, Benatar’s premise 4 (quoted above) could be rephrased as “the absence of benefit is not worse than the presence of benefit unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.”

From this axiological asymmetry between harms and benefits it follows that coming into existence is always a net harm for X as long as there is at least some badness in X’s life. Conversely, nonexistence is always preferable to being brought into existence. This does not imply that all sentient beings are equally harmed by being brought into existence, but it does imply that all sentient beings that are brought into existence are harmed. If the benefits in 2 greatly outweigh the harms in 1, then we should say that X was not harmed that much by being brought into existence. But no matter how small the amount of harms may be, it still follows that X was harmed by being brought into existence.

It must also be kept in mind that no matter how great the benefits in 2 are, they are not an advantage over 4 in scenario (B), because in 4 there is literally nobody who has an interest in experiencing these benefits, and therefore nobody is being deprived of them; literally nobody is missing out.

Indeed, when comparing 1 and 3, 3 has an advantage over 1 because the absence of harm is better than the presence of harm. And when we compare 2 and 4, we see 2 is not an advantage over 4 because 4 is not worse than 2. Therefore, scenario (B) has an advantage over scenario (A), which leads to the conclusion that scenario (B) is always preferable to (A).

In order to underscore these points, Benatar provides the following example:

One of the implications of my argument is that a life filled with good and containing only the most minute quantity of bad—a life of utter bliss adulterated only by the pain of a single pin-prick—is worse than no life at all. The objection is that this is implausible. Understanding the distinction between (a) coming into existence being a harm and (b) how great a harm it is, enables one to see why this implication is not so implausible. It is true of the person enjoying this charmed life marred only by a single brief sharp pain, that as pleasant as his life is, it has no advantages over never existing. Yet coming into existence has the disadvantage of the single pain. We can acknowledge that the harm of coming into existence is minuscule without denying that it is harm.[6]

Let us keep in mind the following two implications of the basic asymmetry:

Ia. Irrespective of how insignificant the harm suffered by X is after X is brought into existence, it is still better to not come into existence and, thus, suffer no harm at all.

Ib. Irrespective of how great the benefits enjoyed by X are after X is brought into existence, these benefits are not an advantage over not coming into existence.

Another important aspect that needs to be taken into consideration is the difference between starting a life and continuing a life. The above considerations apply only to the case of starting a new life, i.e., bringing sentient beings into existence. Once we exist, we do have a legitimate interest in minimizing the harms and maximizing the benefits that we experience. But this says nothing about whether a sentient being ought to be brought into existence.

Needless to say, the example above is merely hypothetical. In reality, the harms sentient beings usually have to endure are much more numerous and serious than a pinprick. In the actual world, all sentient life is replete with badness. For example, under usual circumstances human beings are bound to experience routine, stress, illness, bereavement, the ravages of old age, and death. Benatar explores such harms in detail in what he calls “The Quality-of-Life Argument.”[7] For my present purposes, however, these considerations are secondary. For my argument to hold, it is enough to understand that sentient beings are harmed by being brought into existence, irrespective of how great the harm is.

The only situation where X would not be harmed by being brought into existence is if X would not have any badness at all in her life. In that case, we should simply be neutral as to whether X should be brought into existence or not, since neither of the two scenarios, (A) and (B), has any advantage over the other one.

According to Benatar, there is a constellation of interconnecting reasons why the basic asymmetry should be accepted. These reasons are largely based on the basic asymmetry’s explanatory power. For example, it provides the best explanation for four judgments that we tend to subscribe to upon reflection. These are:

(i) The asymmetry of procreational duties
While we have a duty to avoid bringing into existence people who would lead miserable lives, we have no duty to bring into existence those who would lead happy lives.

(ii) The prospective beneficence asymmetry
It is strange to cite as a reason for having a child that that child will thereby be benefited. It is not similarly strange to cite as a reason for not having a child that that child will suffer.

(iii) The retrospective beneficence asymmetry
When one has brought a suffering child into existence, it makes sense to regret having brought that child into existence—and to regret it for the sake of that child. By contrast, when one fails to bring a happy child into existence, one cannot regret that failure for the sake of the person.

(iv) The asymmetry of distant suffering and absent happy people
We are rightly sad for distant people who suffer. By contrast we need not shed any tears for absent happy people on uninhabited planets, or uninhabited islands or other regions on our own planet.[8]

Consider (i). Why do we have a duty to not bring into existence a child who we know will lead a miserable life, but we do not have a duty to bring into existence a child who we know will lead a maximally happy life? Because the presence of harm is bad, but the absence of harm is good, even if that good is not enjoyed by anyone. On the other hand, even though the presence of benefits is good for those who already exist, the absence of benefits is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation.

The same type of reasoning applies to the remaining three judgments listed above.

Judgment (iv) raises an additional point. For suppose that, contrary to the basic asymmetry, the absence of benefit is actually bad even if there is nobody for whom this absence is a deprivation. This would mean that it is a tragedy of unspoken proportions that there is no life on other planets (that we know of) besides Earth. This problem could be amplified by orders of magnitude if the universe is actually infinite. Therefore, under such symmetry, the problem of evil would become a much more serious problem for theism than it already is.[9]

The fact that the basic asymmetry can provide a consistent and simple explanation for (i)-(iv) counts strongly in its favor.[10] Also note that the basic asymmetry is taking into consideration all sentient beings, including nonhuman animals that feel pain.

The Argument from the Harm of Coming into Existence (AHCE)

If the basic asymmetry is correct, then coming into existence is always a net harm for any sentient being given that in the real world, every sentient life contains at least some badness.

Granted, in case the bad things in one’s life are trivial, Benatar thinks that it might be permissible to bring sentient life into existence under certain conditions, by considering, for example, the benefits others would experience as a result of a child coming into existence. But although this may be relevant when talking about human procreation, in the context of theism, such a possibility is blocked right from the start. A perfect being does not lack anything that could be obtained by creating sentient beings. God is by definition perfectly self-sufficient and does not need sentient beings to provide him any kind of benefit. According to classical theism, God created sentient life for its sake, not his. Since bringing sentient beings into existence does not serve any purpose in the context of theism (is not a benefit for the created beings, nor for God), it follows that it is an unnecessary harm.

Theists maintain that God brought sentient beings into existence. Exactly how God is supposed to be involved in the creation of sentient beings is unimportant: some theists take the Genesis story from the Bible to be literally true; others claim that God fined-tuned the universe so that sentient life could emerge; and others still claim God guided the evolutionary process. Regardless of which option or combination of options the theist adheres to, she agrees that God is ultimately responsible for the existence of sentient life. However, if God is ultimately responsible for the coming into existence of sentient beings, and if bringing sentient beings into existence is morally wrong because it is an unnecessary harm, then God is morally flawed. But since God is, by definition, morally perfect, he cannot exist.

Formalized, AHCE proceeds as follows:

AHCE:

(P1) If the basic asymmetry is correct, then God unnecessarily harmed sentient beings by bringing them into existence.
(P2) The basic asymmetry is correct.
(C3) Therefore, God unnecessarily harmed sentient beings by bringing them into existence. (from P1 & P2 by modus ponens)
(P4) If God unnecessarily harmed sentient beings by bringing them into existence, God is not morally perfect.
(C5) Therefore, God is not morally perfect. (from C3 & P4 by modus ponens)
(P6) If theism is true, God is morally perfect. (by definition)
(C7) Therefore, theism is false. (from C5 & P6 by modus tollens)

A precise definition of theism is not of any special interest to AHCE. That is because in order for my argument to hold, it needs only three properties that theists usually attribute to God. Indeed, all three are accepted by virtually all theists. The first attribute is that God is ultimately responsible for the existence of sentient life. The second is that God is perfectly self-sufficient, and thus did not gain any personal benefit from bringing sentient beings into existence. The third is that God is morally perfect. AHCE is neutral on whether God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable, exists by necessity, or is in or outside time. Theists may take any position that they wish on these matters. As long as they think that God has the aforementioned three properties, AHCE shows that their God cannot exist.

AHCE is a deductive argument that attempts to establish the thesis that it is logically impossible for both sentient life and a creator God to exist. Since the first clearly exists, it follows that God does not. That is because moral perfection is logically incompatible with causing unnecessary harm. Indeed, (P4) rests on the uncontroversial view that causing unnecessary harm is morally wrong. This view is not only compatible with, but also supported by, virtually any ethical theory, such as deontological or utilitarian normative theories.

Even though, as I have already said, the idea that God should not have created sentient beings is not new, it seems to me that this criticism of theism has received overall too little attention. Most of the literature on the problem of evil takes scenario (A) as a given and restricts all or almost all discussion to it. For example, philosophers have pointed out that in many cases, the harms in 1 greatly overweigh the benefits in 2, a fact that is at least improbable if God were to exist. But the basic asymmetry gives us a good reason to include scenario (B), too, in our evaluation of God’s moral character. And once we do that, we see that not only many sentient lives are at least sometimes afflicted by extreme and what seems to be gratuitous harms, but the very fact they were brought into existence is an unnecessary harm. Thus, theists now face two difficult problems: the problem of the excessive harms some sentient beings have to endure, and the more fundamental harm of being brought into existence that affects all sentient beings.

Combined, these two problems pose an enormous challenge to theism. However, the second problem is not dependent on the first. Even if the extreme evils endured by some sentient beings could be somehow harmonized with the existence of God, theists still have to explain how the existence of sentient beings is compatible with the existence of God. In other words, theists have to explain why God chose scenario (A) instead of scenario (B). The theistic assertion that being brought into existence is a benefit and life is a gift from God is now turned on its head. Instead of tipping the scale in favor of theism, it actually disproves it.

Remember that the basic asymmetry encompasses all sentient beings, including nonhuman animals that are capable of suffering, so a theist who wishes to deny AHCE has to explain not only why human beings were created by God, but also why (other) sentient animals were harmed by being brought into existence.

Objections and Responses

AHCE’s most controversial premises are (P1) and (P2). Most of the objections discussed below aim to show that, contrary to (P1), God did not cause human beings an unnecessary harm by bringing them into existence because they get to experience goods like libertarian free will, improved moral character, happiness, or a loving relationship with God.

The skeptical-theism response to (P2) asserts that the basic asymmetry might be wrong. Other objections directed against the basic asymmetry exist in the literature. Even though it seems to me to be intuitively true and is supported, among other things, by its massive explanatory power, the basic asymmetry is by no means a universally accepted axiological truth. As I have already said, however, rebuttals to most if not all of those objections are readily available.

If it is better for sentient life never to have been, the usual replies to the problem of evil like the free will theodicy and the soul-making theodicy become irrelevant. For example, it shouldn’t matter whether it is better for existing sentient beings to have libertarian free will instead of not having libertarian free will. The key question is: Why is it good to bring sentient beings into existence in the first place? The basic asymmetry points in the direction that not creating sentient life is the morally superior option as it is the only one that guarantees the absence of harm.

Consider the soul-making theodicy, according to which harms are necessary for achieving higher order goods, like an improved moral character. The basic asymmetry provides a new reason to reject this theodicy. Insofar as soul-making presupposes harm, that harm is bad yet its absence is good, as 1 and 3 point out. And if something good comes out of that harm, then the theist has to deal with 4, which states that the absence of a benefit is not bad unless there is somebody for whom this absence is a deprivation. Therefore, the proponent of the basic asymmetry would respond that nonexistence if preferable to an existence where harm is needed in order to secure a benefit.

Now a theist who also happens to be a positive utilitarian, that is somebody who thinks there is a duty not only to minimize suffering, but also to increase net happiness might say that, contrary to the basic asymmetry, God is required to bring new sentient beings into existence if by doing so he would increase the net happiness in the world. There are, however, two problems with this line of thought. First, there is no guarantee that bringing new sentient beings into existence would indeed increase the net happiness in the world. But more importantly, we can agree with the positive utilitarian that while it is good to make existing sentient beings happy, it does not follow that we should make happy sentient beings. The latter implies that sentient beings have merely instrumental value towards the goal of increasing net happiness. But surely sentient beings are not merely instruments towards a goal. They are ends in themselves.

A somewhat related objection was provided by an anonymous reviewer of a previous version of this paper. As the reviewer puts it, “The theist could perhaps claim that being in a loving relationship with God is good in itself (even though it is not good for anyone), and that this good makes it permissible (though perhaps not required) for God to create people (and angels).” There are, however, multiple problems with such a reply. First, it is hard to understand how a relationship can be good in itself if it is not good for anyone involved. Second, this reply still faces the problem outlined above in that it regards sentient beings as means to an end instead of ends in themselves. Third, it leads to the conclusion that God needed sentient beings in order to achieve something valuable. It implies that the world prior to creation, which consisted only of God, is not perfect because is missing this certain valuable relationship. But if God is perfect, then the world where only he exists should also be perfect, i.e., not lack anything that is important and good in itself. The objection, however, suggests that a world with only God is less preferable to one where beings are added. Fourth, even if the objection is sound, it doesn’t explain why should sentient beings experience any badness at all? If the loving relationship between God and his creations is the goal, God could have created beings that willfully engage in this relationship without having to experience any harms in their life.[11]

Some Christians might reply that, contrary to (P1), God did not harm the two human beings he brought into existence, Adam and Eve, since they were without sin and placed in the idyllic Garden of Eden where there was no pain and suffering. Therefore, 1 from scenario (A) is neutralized so we should be indifferent with respect to whether the original pair should have been brought into existence. But if God has middle knowledge, he would have known that Adam and Eve will fall into sin and so he created them knowing of all the subsequent harm of being brought into existence that will affect billions of subsequent sentient beings in the fallen world. If God doesn’t have middle knowledge, he could still infer is was very likely that human beings would eat from the tree of knowledge, because (1) the tree was put in the middle of the garden, (2) the original pair did not know what death is, so God’s warning was virtually meaningless to them, (3) they did not have basic knowledge of good and evil, and thus were no match for the Devil’s power of persuasion, and (4) the fruits looked extremely appealing (Genesis 3:6). Thus, even if initially scenario (B) had no advantage over scenario (A) in the case of the original pair, if (A) presupposes a significant risk of harm for billions of sentient beings, then the rational and moral option is to choose (B). Moreover, in Genesis 9, God commands Noah to be fruitful and multiply in what was the already fallen world. Thus, God is indeed ultimately responsible for the fact that at least some sentient beings were brought into existence in the fallen world by those who took his command seriously.

What about the theist’s last resort, the skeptical defense? The skeptical theist might say that God, in his omniscience, knows that the basic asymmetry is incorrect. Notice, however, that when she employs skeptical theism (ST), the theist admits she has no arguments to refute the basic asymmetry. If such arguments were available to her, then she wouldn’t need ST to begin with. Therefore, the ST proponent admits that the fundamental moral truth entailed by the basic asymmetry is correct or at least appears to be correct.

At first glance, ST seems to be an ad hoc rationalization and a case of special pleading. However, since our intellects would truly be limited in comparison to an omniscient one, I am inclined to take this objection more seriously. But that is not to say ST is without serious problems. If the basic asymmetry seems correct to us yet God has good reasons to reject it, then our judgments regarding values are unreliable, at least to a relevant degree. Thus, we should be skeptical with regard to all our judgments and evaluations regarding harms, benefits, good and bad. But then, with what degree of confidence should we ascribe the attribute of perfect goodness to God, for example? We might think that God is all-good, but this could be an instance where a value-based judgment seems to us to be true, yet is actually false. These problems are greatly aggravated when we take into consideration other cases of moral principles that seem to us true yet we are told God thinks are wrong.[12] At this point, we might rightfully ask what could be the point of our earthly existence if our understanding and evaluation of values is so faulty.

Moreover, ST seems to produce the following problem. Deciding to procreate or refrain from procreating is, arguably, one of the most important moral decisions people make in their lifetime. But how are they supposed to make the correct decision if they adopt the skeptical-theism position in regard to (P2)? This position implies that the basic asymmetry is correct or at least appears to be so, but also that it must be incorrect for some unknown reason. What is one to do under these circumstances?

At this point, a theist might reply that the basic asymmetry and AHCE take into consideration only the earthly existence, but theism (usually) also postulates an infinite postmortem existence, including a place of everlasting bliss. However, the addition of the afterlife not only does not lower the credibility of AHCE, but actually strengthens it.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that universalism is true. This is the view that ultimately, all human beings will be reconciled with God and will enjoy the infinite bliss of Heaven.[13] As long as X suffered at least a harm during her earthly life, then the basic asymmetry applies together with the implications Ia and Ib. No matter how minor the harm was, it would still have been better to not experience it at all. And no matter how great the benefit of Heaven would be, it is not an advantage over nonexistence since in scenario (B) there is literally nobody who could have an interest in enjoying Heaven. At this point we need to remember the important difference between choosing to start a life, and choosing to continue a life. Sure, once we exist, we have the interest of continuing to exist and enjoy as much benefits as possible. But this says nothing as to whether coming into existence is better than not from an axiological point of view. Thus, even assuming the optimistic scenario that universalism is true, coming into existence remains an unnecessary harm. Admittedly, in this case it might be a small harm, but since it is a harm nevertheless, it is still incompatible with God’s moral perfection. An infinite benefit might provide a compensation for the harm of coming into existence, but that doesn’t mean inflicting the harm in the first place is morally correct.

Moreover, if humans will be at least compensated in Heaven for the harm of being brought into existence, how will God compensate other sentient animals that were brought into existence?

If the basic asymmetry raises difficult questions regarding God’s supposed moral perfection in the context of universalism, then it is even more relevant when the existence of Hell is taken seriously. In this case some sentient beings suffer not only limited harms during a limited time, but also infinite harms after they die. In other words, the addition of Hell makes scenario (B) even more preferable to scenario (A), at least in the case of some persons.

What’s more, when considering the traditional doctrines of exclusivism and Hell proposed by mainstream religions, bringing sentient beings into existence becomes even more unethical. That is because now most sentient beings will suffer not only limited harms during a limited time, but also infinite harms after they die. Christianity, for example, makes no secret that, as a matter of fact, most human beings will be damned to Hell: “For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)[14] In addition, taking into account the doctrine of predestination worsens the overall picture, because now even the theoretical possibility of avoiding Hell is absent, and some if not most sentient beings are destined to suffer for eternity.

Summary

In this paper I presented a new logical problem of evil based on Benatar’s axiological asymmetry, one that I called the argument from the harm of coming into existence (AHCE). The asymmetry implies that bringing sentient beings into existence is always a net harm. One reason to think that the asymmetry is correct is that it elegantly explains four commonly held judgments. Moreover, I pointed out that, in the context of theism, the harm of bringing sentient beings into existence is unnecessary. Since causing unnecessary harm to sentient beings is logically incompatible with moral perfection, it follows that a morally perfect God cannot exist, and thus theism is necessarily false. This is the conclusion of AHCE. I defended AHCE against several objections, noting that it renders irrelevant two of the most important theistic responses to the traditional problem of evil. Bringing the hypothesis of an afterlife into the equation not only fails to defeat AHCE, but instead strengthens AHCE.[15]

Notes

[1] Richard R. La Croix, “Unjustified Evil and God’s Choice.” Sophia Vol. 13, No. 1 (April 1974): 20-28.

[2] For a comprehensive list of arguments for and against the axiological asymmetry, see the listings under the “Reviews and responses” heading on David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been companion website.

[3] David Benatar, “Every Conceivable Harm: A Further Defence of Anti-Natalism.” South African Journal of Philosophy Vol. 31, No. 1 (2012): 128-164, p. 129.

[4] David Benatar and David Wasserman, Debating Procreation: Is It Wrong to Reproduce? (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 23.

[5] David Benatar, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 30.

[6] Benatar, Better Never to Have Been, p. 48.

[7] Benatar, Better Never to Have Been, Chapter 3 (“How Bad is Coming Into Existence?”), pp. 60-93. See also Benatar & Wasserman, Debating Procreation, pp. 40-77.

[8] David Benatar, “Still Better Never to Have Been: A Reply to (More of) My Critics.” The Journal of Ethics: An International Philosophical Review Vol. 17, No. 1/2 (June 2013): 121-151, p. 123.

[9] This point is made in Chris Byron, “Why God is Most Assuredly Evil: Challenging the Evil God Challenge.” Think Vol. 18, Issue 51 (Spring 2019): 25-35, p. 30.

[10] At this point it could be replied that the idea that bringing sentient beings into existence is morally wrong is itself counterintuitive, so no matter how reasonable and intuitive the asymmetry might be, it has to be counterbalanced with the counterintuitiveness of its implications. Benatar has a plethora of responses to this objection. For example, “there are pervasive and powerful features of human psychology that lead people to think that their lives are better than they really are” (Better Never to Have Been, p. 205). One such feature that Benatar points out is the positivity bias, also called Pollyannaism, which is a tendency toward optimism that causes us to rate our lives as being better than they really are. This unjustified optimism could provide an explanation of the fact that many (wrongfully) think that bringing sentient beings into existence is good. Second, the belief that bringing sentient beings into existence is good could be passed, directly or indirectly, from parents to their children. At the same time, those who believe otherwise do not usually procreate. Thus, the widespread opinion that, contrary to the basic asymmetry, it is good to bring sentient beings into existence, could be a belief that is passed unquestioningly from generation to generation, much like religious dogmas. However, this does not make these beliefs true or morally relevant. They might be deeply ingrained prejudices, reinforced by families and culture, which would be rejected upon serious reflection.

[11] I described such a scenario in my earlier Secular Web paper “The Argument from the Existence of Nondeities” (2013).

[12] See my Secular Web paper “Theodical Individualism against Skeptical Theism” (2019) at the section titled “Problems with (A).”

[13] I shall assume here that Heaven is a coherent notion and that going to Heaven is actually desirable. For arguments to the contrary, see: Michael Martin, “Problems with Heaven” in The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death (pp. 427-440), ed. Michael Martin & Keith Augustine (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015); and Brian Ribeiro, “The Problem of Heaven.” Ratio Vol. 24, No. 1 (March 2011): 46-64.

[14] Indeed, Christian exclusivism combined with the traditional doctrine of Hell is enough to warn against bringing human beings into existence, even without appeal to the axiological asymmetry. See: Kenneth Einar Himma, “Birth as a Grave Misfortune: The Traditional Doctrine of Hell and Christian Salvific Exclusivism” in The Problem of Hell: A Philosophical Anthology (pp. 179-198), ed. Joel Buenting (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2010).

[15] I am indebted to an anonymous reviewer for making valuable and helpful suggestions on an earlier version of the paper. I also thank Keith Augustine for providing useful comments and giving this paper a suitable form for publication.


Copyright ©2020 Horia George Plugaru. The electronic version is copyright ©2020 by Internet Infidels, Inc. with the written permission of Horia George Plugaru. All rights reserved.