God

Step 3 of 6



Main Point

The Christian God does not exist.



God Is Not Great

As Christopher Hitchens correctly observed, there is a profound chasm between (1) deism and (2) theism. The Cosmological argument, the Kalām cosmological argument, the Teleological or Design argument, and the Ontological argument - merely take you to the deists' side of the chasm. In order to leap the chasm from deism to theism; from deism to Christianity - you need to establish that Yahweh was not merely the natural evolution of Canaanite polytheism, and more importantly, rationalize how an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good God, is compatible with pointless animal suffering.

The evolution of Canaanite polytheism

the early history of godthe early history of god

“The original god of Israel was El.” (Smith, 2002, p. 32)

“The original Israelites were mostly Canaanites ... and the original God of Israel was El, as the name Israel indicates. El was a high god of the Canaanite pantheon; Asherah was his consort.” (Doorly, 1997, p. 28)

“But surely Israel was characterized by a distinct religion, long before the monarchy – think of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, much less Moses. For decades the idea of religious distinctiveness in early Israel has steadily eroded. Yahweh, it seems, is not the original God of Israel, but a latecomer, arriving from, of all places, Edom, and generally identified with the south: not only Edom but Midian, Paran, Seir, and Sinai (Judges 5:4; Habakkuk 3:3; Psalm 68:8, 17). The original God of Israel was El, not Yahweh, as is evident in the patriarchal narratives: the name Isra-el means “El rules,” not “Yahweh rules” – that would be Isra-yahu.” (Bellah, 2011, p. 287)

“In the earliest phase of Israelite religion it would seem that religion was predominantly a matter of the family or the clan. The settlers of the central hill country lived in self-contained and largely self-sufficient communities ... Family religion was focused on the god of the settlement. This god was the patron of the leading family and, by extension, of the local clan and the settlement. Allegiance to the clan god was concomitant with membership of the clan. The clan god was commonly a god of the Canaanite pantheon, El and Baal being the most commonly worshipped.” (van der Toorn, 1996, p. 254)

Professor Stavrakopoulou



“The shape of this religious spectrum in early Israel changed, due in large measure to two major developments; the first was convergence, and the second was differentiation. Convergence involved the coalescence of various deities and/or some of their features into the figure of Yahweh. This development began in the period of the Judges and continued during the first half of the monarchy. At this point, El and Yahweh were identified, and perhaps Asherah no longer continued as an identifiably separate deity. Features belonging to deities such as El, Asherah, and Baal were absorbed into the Yahwistic religion of Israel.

... The second major process involved the differentiation of Israelite cult from its “Canaanite” heritage. Numerous features of early Israelite were later rejected as “Canaanite” and non-Yahwistic. This development apparently began first with the rejection of Baal worship in the ninth century, continued in the eighth to sixth centuries with legal and prophetic condemnations of Baal worship, the Asherah, solar worship, the high places, practices pertaining to the dead, and other religious features. The two major developments of convergence and differentiation shaped the contours of the distinct monotheism that Israel practiced and defined in the Exile (ca. 587-538) following the days of the Judean monarchy.” (Smith, 2002, pp. 7-9)

Evolution of the Christian God

evolution of the christian god A History of GodA History of God

Where is God?

Main article: Where is God?

Where is God?

"God by definition is all-powerful, all knowing and all good. If God is all-powerful, He can prevent evil. If God is all knowing and can prevent evil, He knows how to prevent it. If God is all good, He would want to prevent evil. But since there is evil God cannot exist” (Martin & Bernard, 2003, p. 316).


Epicurus (341 - 270 BCE)

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Professor Peter Singer


The Inductive Argument from Evil

  1. There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse" (Rowe, 1979, p. 336).

    APPLICATION - “Suppose in some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering. So far as we can see, the fawn’s intense suffering is pointless. For there does not appear to be any greater good such that the prevention of the fawn’s suffering would require either the loss of that good or the occurrence of an evil equally bad or worse. Nor does there seem to be any equally bad or worse evil so connected to the fawn’s suffering that it would have had to occur had the fawn’s suffering been prevented. Could an omnipotent, omniscient being have prevented the fawn’s apparently pointless suffering? The answer is obvious, as even the theist will insist. An omnipotent, omniscient being could have easily prevented the fawn from being horribly burned, or given the burning, could have spared the fawn the intense suffering by quickly ending its life, rather than allowing the fawn to lie in terrible agony for several days. Since the fawn’s intense suffering was preventable and, so far as we can see, pointless, doesn’t it appear that premise (1) of the argument is true, that there do exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse” (Rowe, 1979, p. 337).

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  2. "An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally as bad or worse" (Rowe, 1979, p. 336).

    “So stated, (2) seems to express a belief that accords with our basic moral principles, principles shared by both theists and nontheists. If we are to fault the argument … we must find some fault with its first premise” (Rowe, 1979, p. 337).

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  3. (Therefore) "There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being(Rowe, 1979, p. 336).

A note on the Free Will Defense

“Perhaps the most widely used theodicy is that evil is not to be blamed on God but is the result of the misuse by human beings of their free will” (Martin & Bernard, 2003, p. 320).

“Consider these two examples:

  1. A fawn named Bambi is unable to escape from a forest fire and dies in horrible agony.
  2. A 7-year-old girl named Sue is raped, tortured, and killed” (Martin & Bernard, 2003, p. 316).

The Free Will Defense at most “provides an explanation of moral evil; that is, evil deliberately brought about by human beings. For example, it might be argued that Sue’s rapist is responsible for her suffering and death and not God. But this theodicy does not explain natural evil; that is, the evil brought about by natural events such as tidal waves, hurricanes, and birth defects. Thus, if the forest fire causing Bambi’s suffering and death was started by lightening, the Free Will Defense would not apply to Bambi’s suffering and death” (Martin & Bernard, 2003, p. 320).

Recommended Reading

religion in human evolution from the paleolithic to the axial agereligion in human evolution from the paleolithic to the axial age A History of GodA History of God the early history of godthe early history of god

Religious Diversity in Ancient Israel and Judah The Origins of Biblical Monotheism Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton: Religio-Historical Study of Genesis 1 and Revelation 12 Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan Gods Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer

The Portable Atheist The Impossibility of God Critiques of God: Making the Case Against Belief in God The Improbability of God The Cambridge Companion to Atheism

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