Colin McGinn’s Argument Against the Existence of God

Yesterday I mentioned my disgust with how religion holds back humanity.  I also mentioned that I had recently heard a great argument against the existence of God.  This argument comes via Colin McGinn being interviewed in a series called The Atheism Tapes.  If you follow the link you can see the video – he talks about “the problem of Evil” at about the 3 minute mark.  I have written out the dialogue for you to read, below.

Interviewer:  What are arguments against the existence of God?

Colin:  God is meant to be a being who is all knowing, all powerful, and all good. So how come there is suffering and pain in the world? Why does God allow it? If God is all good then He must think it is bad that suffering & pain occurs, and would rather it didn’t occur, like any decent person, and yet He lets it occur. Now that would be okay if He didn’t have the power to change it, yet He is meant to be all powerful, and we are told by religious people that He intervenes all the time in various things. So why doesn’t He intervene to prevent, you know, the death of a child or the torture of a prisoner? He doesn’t do it. So one could conclude from that, that God is quite bad. That God is a bad person. That is a conceivable conclusion that you might draw. But what you [also] conclude from it is that the combination of these two characteristics is inconsistent. He is all powerful and all good. He is all knowing too of course because he has to know what is going on. So it is essentially the conflict between being all powerful and all good, and the existence of evil.

And the standard reply to that, the apologists of religion will give is, that God created human beings with free will. Now there is a question, why did He do that? So why did He do that knowing that the results were going to be horrific? That was a pretty wicked thing to do, to start with, but let’s put that one aside. The problem with that argument is that not all pain and suffering in the world comes from the exercise of free will. Much of it comes from human… not human…. natural catastrophes, or disease, or accidents, and all sorts of things can cause tremendous suffering in humans. You know, someone can be born with a genetic disease – no human being had any role whatsoever in creating that. That comes from nature. God’s creation of course, we are told. So God created a world in which it was inevitable that there would be tremendous suffering on the part of completely innocent human beings.

Interviewer:  But there might be religious arguments to the effect that He created this obstacle course for his created creatures, endowed with free will, in order to bring out the best in them.

Colin:  Yes, and I always find that this one, to me, brings out the hard-hearted, immoral side to the way of thinking about things. Just think about what is being said, when someone says that. You’ve got the innocent child with some terrible disease, and you’ve God up there saying “I really need to test some people here. Let me pick on this 2 year old girl. Put her through this terrible ordeal, and I’ll test the other people”. I mean if any human being had told you that this is what they had done….. Suppose that I decided in my wisdom “I need to test some people here. I need to improve their moral characters. So I’m going to do this terrible thing to their child.” You’d think I was the wickedest person in the world if I did that. So if that is what God does then I have no respect for Him. I think that is a wicked thing to do. God shouldn’t do that. If God cares about human beings then He shouldn’t allow that to happen.

Naturally Colin doesn’t believe in any kind of supernatural / supreme being.  The tapes have some other great interviews with famous people for those who are interested.  As some of you may know I used to be a Christian and it used to really confuse me whenever people attributed something good happening to be “due to god’s intervention” and then totally ignoring the shitty injustice that happens in the world.  I saw a great example of that here.  A person’s house burns down yet the bible is “miraculously” preserved, and the owner proclaims it a “miracle of god”.

What???? So let’s see the logic here.  According to the owner god had the power to intervene and did so, ensuring that the bible wasn’t damaged.  That means god ignored the burning down of the house and all the possessions of the owner?  ON PURPOSE!  If someone had the ability to save my house and possessions from burning but only saved a bible sitting in my house, I’d call the person an asshole.   But wait there is more.  The article goes on to explain that the owner “lost her husband, she was diagnosed with cancer, survived open heart surgery, and now this.”  Yes, god has the ability to intervene (being all powerful) and chooses to ignore cancer, the death of a partner, burning down of a house, but saves a bible?   What does the son of the owner say?

“Just the Lord. It’s gotta be,”

Ha. Anyone who has the power to help but doesn’t certainly isn’t a friend.  Like I said, an asshole.

Naturally I don’t think god is an asshole, because I know god doesn’t exist!

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