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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why the "Evil God" Objection Fails

Traffic lights across the world use red and green to signify stop and go. 1 From that, the concept of red communication stop or lack of progress while green means continued movement have spread well beyond the automobile. For example, they're used in machinery power switches to signify whether a machine is operating. They're also used in financial reports to show whether a stock is falling (red) or rising (green).

But why these colors? Why couldn't it be blue and orange? There's no objective need for choosing red and green instead of blue and orange to represent stop and go. The Chinese traditionally associate the color red with fortune and luck. Given this, on mainland China, rising stocks are displayed with a red arrow on a graph, while green means the stock is sinking.2

What if some of our other assumptions about what we believe to be up and down are wrong? What about our assumption that God is inherently good? Every once in a while I hear atheists offer a counter-argument to the all-good God concept by asking "what if God isn't good, but malevolent? How do you know that god is good at all?" One example of this is a post by John Loftus on his blog Debunking Christianity:
But what if Satan is the good guy? What if he rebelled against God because he was aware of God's evil plan to create this kind of world and with it condemn human beings to hell forever? What if Satan told Adam the truth in the garden and wanted him to have a true knowledge about God that was forbidden him? What if God was the one who revealed a lie, that Satan was the bad guy even though he isn't?

… What if this so-called cosmic war is being won by the wrong guy? What if in response Satan is sending prophets (i.e. intellectuals), to tell believers the truth, that God is a liar, an evil egomaniac, a moral monster? What evidence is there to deny my scenario? Evidence. That's what I'm asking for in any scenario. Probabilities are all that matter. For if any of these scenarios are to be taken seriously then people are within their epistemic rights to believe the Scientology tale too.3

What Makes Good Good?

Loftus asks for evidence, and I think we can offer some. The problem in Loftus' proposal is that if we were to grant it, it runs smack into another favorite objection offered by atheists: the Euthyphro dilemma. In his Euthyphro dialogue, Plato asks if God is considered good because he follows some intrinsic goodness independent of Him, or is good whatever God declares to be good? In Loftus's scenario, we have an objective good that sits outside of God, one that he should obey, but doesn't. But how does this work? If God is understood to be pre-existent and it was he who created all things including Satan, the concept of a moral law sitting outside of God is nonsensical. There is no good and evil per se. There is only the universe as it was created to operate and it functions as it functions.

As the Moral Argument concludes, the very notions of good and evil, right and wrong require God to exist. An all-good God is the foundation for our moral values and duties. He is neither beholden to some external principle nor does he create moral values arbitrarily. The good is found within God himself and moral values simply reflect his nature. But with a supposed evil God, there's no way to know what good actually is; thus there's no way to understand what the term God means. An evil God really becomes an oxymoron at that point, given that part of what we mean by God is he who grounds moral obligations.


1. Scott. "The Origin of the Green, Yellow, and Red Color Scheme for Traffic Lights." Today I Found Out. Vacca Foeda Media, 08 Mar. 2012. Web. 17 June 2015.
2. Jiang, Feng, Su Lu, Xiang Yao, Xiaodong Yue, and Wing Tung Au. "Up or Down? How Culture and Color Affect Judgments." Journal of Behavioral Decision Making J. Behav. Dec. Making 27.3 (2013): 226-34. Web.
3. Loftus, John W. "What If Satan Is the Good Guy?" Debunking Christianity. John W. Loftus, 21 Aug. 2012. Web. 17 June 2015.

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