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Logic

Horrendous Evil and Christian Theism: A Reply to John W. Loftus

In his recent article, "God and Horrendous Suffering," John W. Loftus argues that what he calls horrendous suffering is incompatible with traditional theism. The extent of horrendous suffering in the world, he says, "means that either God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is not smart enough to eliminate it, or God is not powerful enough to eliminate it." For Loftus, however, the problem is not simply evil, but horrendous suffering, a particularly acute form of evil which renders theism completely untenable. Here I will argue in reply, first, that because horrendous suffering is itself a form of evil, it cannot be easily reconciled with naturalism, since naturalism actually precludes the existence of evil. Then I will argue that horrendous suffering is not only compatible with theism, but is best explained in the context of Christian theism in particular. Finally I will suggest that because God's work of creation is not yet complete, we have good reason for maintaining hope even in the face of horrendous evils.

God and Horrendous Suffering

The evidential problem of horrendous suffering is one of the most powerful refutations of the theistic God as can be found: if there's an omni-everything God, one who is omnibenevolent (or perfectly good), omniscient (or all-knowing), and omnipotent (or all-powerful), then the issue of why there is horrendous suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason why is that a perfectly good God would want to eliminate it, an all-knowing God would know how to eliminate it, and an all-powerful God would be able to eliminate it. So the extent of horrendous suffering means that either God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is not smart enough to eliminate it, or God is not powerful enough to eliminate it. The stubborn fact of horrendous suffering means something is wrong with God’s goodness, his knowledge, or his ability. In this paper John Loftus argues that horrendous suffering renders this omni-everything God unbelievable.

Defending Weak Naturalism: Not a Trivial Position

In "Trivial by Nature: A Critique of Hugh Harris' Weak Naturalism," Gary Robertson claims that there are major flaws in Harris' case for "weak naturalism" that render it either trivially true or internally inconsistent. In this three-part response Harris defends his concept of weak naturalism as a coherent, nontrivial position, and further reflects on how his argument could be strengthened. Harris outlines his initial argument to provide some context before addressing Robertson's specific objections to his thesis. At the same time, Harris also identifies several flaws in Robertson's initial critique that muddy the waters concerning what actually constitutes Harris' argument for weak naturalism.

Trivial by Nature: A Critique of Hugh Harris’ Weak Naturalism

In this response to Hugh Harris' earlier Secular Web Kiosk piece "Proposing Weak Naturalism," Gary Robertson reviews some major flaws in Harris' case for what he calls "weak naturalism," which Harris by Harris' definition renders it either trivially true or internally inconsistent. In addition, the scientism, evidentialism, and arguments from ignorance undergirding Harris' arguments are incommensurable and, in the case of scientism, discredited. Furthermore, Harris applies a double standard in requiring scientifically verifiable evidence of his opponents' positions, but not of his own position. Finally, Harris' appeal to a perceived lack of decisive evidence to the contrary amounts to an appeal to ignorance.

Psychic Epistemology: The Special Pleading of William Lane Craig

In this paper John Loftus aims to expose the special pleading inherent in William Lane Craig's psychic (or spirit-guided) epistemology. After questioning the need for apologetics and warning about the monumental challenges to it, Loftus urges Christian apologists to become honest life-long seekers of the truth, to get a good education in a good field of study, to accept nothing less than sufficient objective evidence, and especially to determine how to know which religion to defend. He then goes on to sharply contrast these recommendations with the modus operandi of today's Christian apologists.

The Demon, Matrix, Material World, and Dream Possibilities

René Descartes searched for certain knowledge, a goal that was long ago abandoned by most philosophers. But a lack of certainty does little to undercut the need for sufficient evidence before accepting a proposition about the nature of our experience in this world. All we need to do is think inductively rather than deductively, think exclusively in terms of probabilities, and understand that when speaking of sufficient evidence what is meant is evidence plus reasoning based on that evidence. I know as sure as I can know anything that there is a material world and that I can reasonably trust my senses. I conclude that the scientific method is our only sure way for assessing truth claims.

A Lesson Learned

Based on conversations with religious family members, Bob Harriet outlines key takeaway points about rational deliberation about religion with the faithful. He concludes, for instance, that fundamentalists reside in a bubble that cannot be penetrated from the outside by philosophical arguments, the results of biblical scholarship, or other such academic concerns. Thus, unless freethinkers particularly enjoy engaging in argument for its own sake, or have other reasons for offering up arguments, it is best to simply live and let live given (as Harriet sees it) the futility of attempts to change the beliefs of the faithful.

An Examination of the Christian God

At the core of Christian dogma is the faith-based belief that God exists. This faith-based belief and the foundation on which it stands constitute a cornerstone of the religion. This essay discusses the implications of belief in God, looks at whether this belief is logical or illogical, and analyzes how that determination affects Christian dogma and Christians who believe and obey it.

The Fine Tuning Argument–What’s the Big Deal?

Fine-tuning arguments in favor of the existence of creator-gods garner a certain amount of respect, even beyond the theological circles where you would expect them to be influential. In this essay I show how testing the assumptions of the fine-tuning argument can cause it to produce unsatisfying or bizarre conclusions, and how a reevaluation of the probabilities at its heart negates the argument entirely.

Animal and Extraterrestrial Artifacts: Intelligently Designed?

The "Intelligent Design" movement claims that the scientific community has neglected the possibility that the features of living things are the product of intelligent design. Although the intelligent-design hypothesis is sometimes viewed as a Trojan horse for introducing certain theological hypotheses into science, intelligent design can be performed by entities that are both nonhuman and nontheological, and the scientific community has actually dealt with several important examples of these.