God Cannot be Both All-Powerful and All-Loving (Reprise)
My thesis is if there is a god, it cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful. It can be one or the other or neither, but it cannot be both.
Let me begin by defining my terms: 1) for my purposes “god” is a variable that can mean whatever people mean when they say god; 2) “all-loving” can include a lot of things and perhaps everyone’s definition might be a little different, but for my logical proof all-loving means at minimum god doesn’t want us to needlessly suffer [God can still be considered all-loving while wanting us to suffer if he deems the suffering necessary]; 3) “all-powerful” means that he can do anything that is not logically contradictory. [A logical contradiction is the conjunction of a statement S and it’s denial not-S. In logic, the law of non contradiction is that a statement and its denial can not both be true at the same time. That means that I would still consider him to be all-powerful even though he could not make us both able to experience pain and unable to experience pain, because that would be logically contradictory. (Now, some people are going to try to use that as a loop hole to pass mountains through, so let me be clear that when we talk about what god is able to do, we are not limited by the way things are now - just because there is a strong connection between two concepts (S & T) in the world where we currently reside that connection doesn't necessarily have to hold in all possible worlds god could create. So, my "logically consistent" language only refers to pairings such as S, not-S, and does not exclude pairings such as S, not-T, even though in our current world T might be part of S. My point is, if god is all-powerful, he can make S and not have T as part of it, and that is not a logical contradiction because S is not T, they just have a connection in our current world. If someone claims the relationship between S & T truly is inseparable, then there is a part of my logical argument that addresses that)]; 4) “needless suffering” is unnecessary suffering as opposed to suffering that is needed because it is the only or best way to accomplish some purpose as judged by god.
Now, you may disagree with those definitions and that is fine, but what I am trying to prove through my logical proof is what those definitions are all about. So, another way of saying god cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving would be god cannot be both able to do anything that is not logically contradictory and not want us to needlessly suffer.
1) Either god is capable of producing a world in which every single one of his goals, purposes and intentions can be met perfectly without us suffering, or he isn't. If he can, then proceed to step 2. If he cannot, then he is not all-powerful and in that case I would be correct in my assertion that god cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving.
2) So, an all-powerful god could create a world without human suffering in which all his goals are accomplished, and he could create a world with human suffering in which all of his goals are accomplished. If that were the case then all human suffering would be needless because god has an option available to him in which all of his goals could be accomplished without our suffering. We don’t have to suffer if he can accomplish the same thing without our suffering. So, all human suffering is needless to an all-powerful god. Proceed to step 3.
3) By definition, if god is all-loving, he would not want us to suffer needlessly. Again, if god were all-powerful then all human suffering is needless. So, if god were all-loving and all-powerful we would live in a world without human suffering in which all of god’s purposes are accomplished. Since we do suffer, we must conclude that if there is an all-powerful god, he cannot be all-loving, and if an all-loving god exists he cannot be all-powerful. If a god exists, it cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful.
And to take it one step further: A) If god is not all-powerful, then who or what was able to set up things such that not even god could change them to perfectly satisfy his purposes without human suffering? At that point, the theist who does not believe in an all-powerful god is in a similar position to the atheist - both wondering about the existence of universal laws that seem to exist without a creator.
B) If one maintains the belief in an all-powerful god, then one must accept that god created needless suffering when he did not have to, or perhaps suffering was the goal. There is only one goal or purpose that an all-powerful god could have that he could not meet in a world without human suffering: namely, the express purpose of having us suffer. But, if an all-powerful god has our suffering as a goal in and of itself, then not only would he not be all-loving, he would be worse than that, kind of a sadist, and I certainly would not want anything to do with it.
An all-powerful god can do anything that is logically consistent. I think many people's hang up is they limit god to only what is possible in the current set-up, but an all-powerful god is not limited to only what is possible in the current realm. A vast array of possibilities open up when you realize how much an all-powerful god can define and create. Attributes are no longer required to be only obtained through a narrow route, and it is still logical because all things are possible.
An all-powerful god could control all the variables. He can set up whatever rules for learning or growth or knowledge acquisition that he wants. There is no immutable relationship between concepts for him. He can create or modify every concept and every relationship between concepts. If you think suffering is necessary to learn to distinguish bad or harmful behavior from good or helpful behavior, an all-powerful god could set things up such that sunshine teaches people the difference between good and bad behavior.
If suffering has an inherent value, an all-powerful god either gave it that value or could change it, and he could have given something else that value and made the value inherent to it. An all-powerful god can accomplish the value of suffering without the suffering. He could train us solely with rewards and no punishments. He could do anything he wants, and I do mean anything.
If you truly believe that a person simply cannot learn something, say compassion, without suffering, then you do not believe in an all-powerful god, because apparently there are immutable laws that he can not modify or change. That begs the question, who or what created those immutable laws?
If you want to claim that god is all-powerful, then he could have designed or altered us and designed or altered life such that we could grow without hardships and injustices. And if he could do it (i.e., ensure our growth without suffering), he would not choose the path of suffering if he is all-loving. Remember his ability to accomplish the exact same ends, with or without suffering makes suffering unnecessary. If you can get the same results with or without, then you don't need the suffering. You cannot be all-loving and put people through unnecessary suffering.
Some say god doesn’t cause the suffering, we do. But, we would not even have the ability to cause suffering if suffering did not exist. An all-powerful god could not create the concept or get rid of it if it already existed.
My proof works for every possible purpose god might have for our suffering. We don’t have to know or even be able to conceive of his purposes, because the variable in the proof “His goals” can take on any value. The nice thing about logic is that it allows one to reach into all possibilities, even possibilities we are unaware of and could not comprehend.
I am not claiming that the Bible asserts god is all-powerful and all-loving (I don’t know whether it does or not), I am simply saying if a god exists, and it doesn’t matter who’s god, one thing we can know for sure is that it cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving. Incidently, Mormonism solves this problem by essentially claiming god is not all-powerful. Now, they say the exact opposite - they say god is all-powerful, but if you read between the lines, you learn that they believe God is subject to law. If he were to lie he’d cease to be god, and he has a god and had to follow commandments and ordinances to become exalted, etc. So, there are things he can’t change, thus he is not truly all-powerful at least in the way I am talking about it in my proof. He also seems to have no ability to change us and the way we learn and what we feel, etc.
When you love a child who is hurting, what do you want to do? Comfort them; help them feel better; reduce some of their discomfort; end their pain. If god is all-loving, he would want to end our unnecessary pain. One might argue that all pain is necessary and has a purpose even if we don't know what it is. That might be true in the way the current universe is constructed, but an all-powerful god could have constructed any possible universe. He could have constructed a universe in which every good thing that suffering accomplishes in this universe, could be accomplished without suffering. That makes suffering unnecessary because one could get all the same purposes and needs accomplished without it. So why have it? It is unneeded.
Let's use an example for illustration. A 3 year old girl through no fault of her own or that of her parents gets impaled by a tree branch that a strong wind gust threw into her. Her parents rush to her side, the girl is in excruciating pain minute after minute until she dies a few minutes before paramedics arrive. Let's suppose god has a purpose for her suffering. My point is that if he is all-powerful, he could have designed a world in which that exact purpose could have been accomplished without the girl suffering. If you claim that suffering was the only way, then you are saying that god is not all-powerful and you have conceded my point.
Parents can have a purpose for their child's suffering. Parents have learned over the years that in this world we live in, suffering can decrease the likelihood of people repeating the behavior that proceeded the suffering. So, if they want to decrease the likelihood of their child doing something they consider bad, they do something to make the child suffer, and it works to some extent.
Yes, God could have a similar purpose for our suffering. But, this is where the analogy between god and human parents breaks down. Parents can't control the universe, they can't rewire their children's brains to accomplish the same results (namely, a decrease in the likelihood of a behavior being repeated) when exposing the children to the color purple. Parents have no choice but to go with what works in the current world they live in; not so with God. Parents have to make the best choice from the options available to them. An all-powerful god can create whatever options he wants. He can't use the excuse that he wanted to spare us pain but he just couldn't and still have us turn out the way he wanted. He is all-powerful, he could spare us the pain and still have us come out the way he wanted. If god is all-powerful, he could create a world in which every benefit we/he now gets from suffering could be achieved through something other than suffering. So, we would not need suffering to learn not to do some behavior, because in this other world god could create he would have created/altered us and created that world such that parents could use a certain tone and it would work just as well to decrease the likelihood of a child repeating the behavior.
Yes, this presumes a reality that is not contradictory or illogical. If reality is logical and non-contradictory then a god cannot be both all-powerful and all-loving.
If one is willing to throw out everything and imagine a reality that is illogical and paradoxical, then one inhabits a reality that truly makes no sense. In that kind of reality, there is little point to talking about anything since nothing can be counted on in a reality that is illogical. In short, we'd have much bigger problems than the nature of god in a reality that is contradictory and paradoxical. Playing that trump card is akin to burning down the whole house just so you don't lose the card game. There would be no point for the scriptures or anyone else to talk about the attributes of god because they would be incomprehensible and unreliable if god and reality doesn’t follow the laws of logic. Arguing that god can be illogical is a major concession that has huge ramifications on anything you think you may understand about god.
Some people say to just trust god. The fact that we have suffering means that god is not all-powerful, or he is not all-loving, or he is neither all-powerful nor all-loving, or that he doesn't exist. If god is all-powerful, but not all-loving, he is sadistic for putting us through pain when he did not have to, or he wanted us to, and thus is not someone I want to trust. If god is all-loving but not all-powerful, there are things beyond his control, and so he might be trustworthy, but only to a point, there may be some promises he can't deliver on and some fates he can't save us from. If god exists but is neither all-powerful nor all-loving, then I am not too inclined to trust him especially since he hasn’t made himself that available to be known. And if he doesn't exist, then I wouldn’t want to trust a figment of my imagination.
When we humans make decisions, there is always a cost and benefit to the alternatives. Choice 1 may have benefits A, B, and C, but negatives X, Y, and Z. Choice 2 may have some of the same benefits B and C, and maybe a unique benefit as well D, but it also has some of the same negatives X and Y, with the additional negative of Q. When weighing our options, we have to decide does benefit A with cost Z (Choice 1) outweigh benefit D with cost Q (Choice 2). We can't have our cake and eat it, too. This is because we are not all-powerful - we do not control all of the variables. We cannot uncouple benefit D from cost Q. We have to accept that they come in a package deal, because we are not all-powerful.
You seem to be implying the same is true for an all-powerful deity. That he could have reasons (i, ii, & iii) for choosing Choice 2, even though it contains cost Q, because he can't get benefit D without it, or he doesn't want to choose Choice 1 because he really doesn't want cost Z and benefit A, although very similar to benefit D, isn't exactly the same.
If god is all-powerful, he can create a design that gets him everything that he wants and none of what he doesn't want. If he is all-powerful, he is not limited like us to have to take some negative to get a benefit he wants. He controls all of the variables and all of the linkages between the variables. He doesn't have to settle. He doesn't have to choose the best of the alternatives presented to him because he has complete control over every aspect and implication of every alternative. He doesn't have to give himself a bad choice, cause he can have it all - exactly what he wants! There can be no reason to have to settle for a plan with suffering in it, because to an all-powerful god, he can create a design with every single thing he wants without suffering. If, in our current world, suffering is the best teacher and there is just no substitute as good as it, it is only because god made it that way. He could have made it that (blank) is the best teacher. There is nothing that suffering can offer us that an all-powerful god could not make something else offer us. So, there can be no unique advantage to suffering if god is all-powerful. So, there can be no reason (i, ii, or iii) for him to choose a design with suffering in it, when he could have all that he wanted, every purpose, every need, every reason accomplished equally well in a design with no suffering.
It simply does not matter that we cannot know what all of those reasons or purposes might be. All that matters is that god knew what purposes he had in mind and that if god is all-powerful, it logically follows that he could accomplish those purposes without suffering.
Some want to make a big deal that just because he could doesn't mean he should. Well, I've already shown that an all-powerful god could not have a reason to choose suffering that he could not overcome, because an all-powerful god does not have to settle as he can have exactly what he wants with no unwanted stuff. If god were all-loving, he would not choose for us to suffer when he doesn't have to, and he doesn't have to if he is all-powerful because there can be no advantage to a design with suffering in it that he cannot completely replicate in a design without suffering in it. If not, then he is not all-powerful.
Now, we live in a world with suffering. So, either god did not have the power to create a design in which he could accomplish all of his purposes without suffering (i.e., he was not all-powerful). Or, he is all-powerful and could have created a design in which he got everything that he wants with nothing he doesn't, but chose to include suffering anyway (i.e., he is not all-loving). But, he absolutely cannot be both all-loving and all-powerful, because we do have needless suffering in the world, and it is needless because if he were all powerful, he could have met ever need, purpose, and reason he has, in a world without suffering.
My point is if god were all-powerful, he would not be stuck with having to just accept the kind of universe we have now in which people can cause suffering, etc. He could have designed a universe in which suffering does not exist, period. If suffering did not exist, no one or thing could cause suffering. Now, the apologist usually tries to say here, "yeah, god could have created a universe with no suffering but he chose not to because he wanted us to be able to learn/develop love/compassion/ability to discern good from evil/make the right choice/strength/yada yada, and the only way we could get whatever is through suffering".
I say to those apologists, you are still thinking too small. If god were all-powerful, he could design a way for us to acquire/develop/learn love/compassion/ability to discern good from evil/make the right choice/strength/yada yada without us having to suffer. If he were all-powerful, he could. If you say, he could not, then you are saying he is not all-powerful, which proves my point.
If you acknowledge that he could do that, but chose not to, then you are admitting god is a prick, because he invented suffering for no good reason except for the sole purpose of having us suffer. Every good reason for suffering, god could have accomplished without suffering, yet he chose to enable us to suffer. Therefore, god cannot be all-loving.
Now, some people want to say _____ isn't ______ if there is no suffering. For example, they'll say compassion isn't compassion if there is no suffering, so god could not enable us to develop compassion in a universe without suffering and since he wanted us to have compassion, he had to create a world with suffering.
My response, if there is something god is unable to do, then god is not all-powerful. You are thinking too small, accepting these words and concepts like compassion as if they are givens, stuff that god has no choice but to work with. If these words "compassion" and "suffering" really are beyond god's ability to change or redefine, then who created those concepts in the first place. It as if god was born into a space in which these concepts already existed. Surely you don't believe that, right? God is supposed to be the beginning of everything, nothing existed before him right? So, then he created the concept of compassion and suffering and established the relationship between the two. Therefore, if god were all powerful, he could have created other concepts or created the concept of compassion, but declared compassion could only be developed through holding hands or whatever. The apologist says, "well, then it wouldn't be compassion". Who says? If god is inventing the concepts and their relationships, compassion is whatever god says it is.
Still not convinced? Well, let's talk about god's values. An all-powerful god can choose to value whatever he wants, right? So, he could choose to value a version of compassion that requires suffering or value a version of compassion that doesn't require suffering. If the universe he creates doesn't have suffering, what good is it for us to have the version of compassion that enables us to have empathy for the sufferer? No one is suffering, so there is no need to have the ability to empathize with the sufferer. If he simply wants us to love, be drawn to, have our heart swell, want to be with, another person, he could have easily built a universe in which we could develop that without suffering, and there would be no need for suffering, for every good thing he might accomplish through suffering could be accomplished without suffering if he were an all-powerful god.
If god is all powerful, he could do anything he darn well pleased. There would be no "have to" for him, such as if you are going to have compassion you "have to" also allow suffering.