JohnZande_coverI should have known! Sometimes I just bite off more than I can chew. It’s that damned hope…but I’m getting ahead of myself.

For those of you still unaware, John Zande has just put out a new book. Further, in an unimaginable act of generosity, he has been gracious enough to share some of the basic groundwork concerning his case for an omnimalevolent creator in a few recent posts over at The Superstitious Naked Ape. Briefly, all the suffering in the universe points to a creator that is all knowing, all powerful, and all malevolent. It is a surprisingly polished theology, surpassing all others before it in terms coherency and elegance.

Reading through these delicious teaser-trailer posts, an idea arose that I may have uncovered a fatal flaw in Zande’s otherwise brilliant reasoning. It came to me while I was reading through his latest post, “Before there was Light: A Functional Proof for the Omnimalevolent Creator“. Even before I finished reading the post, I had named this flaw ‘The Problem of Good’. I even had clear cut example to demonstrate it: Me.

How could an omnimalevolent creator (who I will now call ‘ToaiN’, for the sake of brevity) coexist with someone as wonderful as Me? Surely, with all the joy I have brought to countless others, all the goodness I have birthed, it would be against the very nature of ToaiN to allow the existence of Me. To further suggest such a deity actually had a hand in creation of Me is beyond absurd.

Or, to come at this another way, ToaiN’s existence would necessitate that this universe in which we live is the most miserable of all conceivable universes. To disprove ToaiN, I need only imagine a possible universe more miserable than this one. It’s an easy enough task, just imagine this universe, exactly as it is, but without Me. Truly, it is a drastically more dismal place than our own actual universe could ever be. If ToaiN existed, surely this horrifying Me-less distopia would be reality instead of the much happier universe we now inhabit.

These exciting thoughts were racing through my head as I perused the comments of JZ’s post and to my great surprise he mentioned my objection, and by the same name no less! You cannot imagine my astonishment. I was in the middle of building an insurmountable objection and here Zande was, talking about it as if it were already settled! It was brief mention in the comments, almost in passing, but there it was. John Zande already knew of The Problem of Good and he did not seem dissuaded by it in the least. If it was anyone else, I would not have been worried. People dismiss hard evidence all the time. But not JZ. I knew he must have something substantial to answer The Problem of Good. What could it possibly be?

I delved deeper, searching for further mention of The Problem of Good within the archives of The SNA. It did not take me long. He already had an entire article dedicated to it… from over a year earlier! In the article, he calls The Problem of Good “the only coherent objection ever presented by non-believers to deny the self-evident existence of an omnimalevolent creator”. Now some might suggest that I should have taken it as a compliment that my objection was held in such high esteem, but I didn’t. To me it was more like a master swordsman telling me that it was the only time he has ever had to break a sweat before slicing someone to bits. Small comfort to say the least.

How does he actually address the problem? For one, he brings up free will, that evil done of one’s own volition is somehow more juicy to ToaiN than some predetermined, automatic suffering. The inevitability of some people choosing to do good, then, is a small price compared to the succulent freely chosen suffering that most people will inflict upon each other.

I was actually disappointed with how easy it was to deal with Free Will. Sure, if we go by the law of averages, it makes sense, but there is no reason for ToaiN to be restricted by such laws. If we look specifically at just the creation of Me, ToaiN had two options. Create a wonderful harbinger of bliss or to leave Me uncreated. Everyone else could have their free will in tact, even if I wasn’t born. ToaiN had nothing to lose by keeping Me in oblivion and nothing to gain in My creation. The free will defence just doesn’t hold water.

At this point, you may think that I ought to feel elated, that I had vindicated The Problem of Good. If so, you’re wrong. John Zande had an ace up his sleeve, one I will call The Greater Evil Defence. He posits that some good is logically necessary in order to achieve greater magnitudes of suffering. Indeed, if one had no concept of goodness, how could one truly appreciate the horrors of the evils one must endure? JZ mentions this only briefly in his article (presumably he spends more time on it in his book), but I want to look at it more closely now, as this is where I feel the theory of ToaiN truly shines.

Consider goodness. If there were some hypothetical deity that was benevolent, it would be easy enough for said deity to put all creation in a state of mindless bliss. Indeed, knowledge of anything outside of that bliss would only tarnish it. Think of a time when you were truly and completely happy. The rest of the world melted away. To you, nothing existed outside the object of your happiness. Really, putting people in a state of ultimate happiness would be a snap, easily done by any deity worth it’s salt.

In the case of misery, however, it’s purest form is not so easily achieved as mindless suffering is not the worst there is. Far from it. True suffering is being fully aware of every aspect of the evil one is enduring while at the same time knowing exactly how it could be different. Remorse, regret, shame, they all rely on thoughts like ‘if only it wasn’t so’, and therefore, the knowledge of possible goodness. For the greatest misery, people must first have the false hope for the greatest good.

This is how I have learned of my purpose in life, why ToaiN has created me, why a universe with me in it serves ToaiN’s ultimate goal. I am a source of wondrous joy and happiness, there is no doubt. But no matter how much goodness I bring, ToaiN’s design is so perfect  that the people I have touched will all inevitably fall. Indeed, it will be all the more painful as the hope I gave them is crushed and torn away. ToaiN will smugly reap in all this bonus pain that would not be possible without Hope. What cursed fools we all are! We cling to Hope, idealize it, and covet it, all the while it plots against us. Ultimately Hope will only increase the limit of how much suffering we can endure. Knowing this about the true nature of Hope, how can one not be in awe of the grandeur, the perverse beauty, the boundlessness of ToaiN, the omnimalevolent creator?

I am sure Zande has addressed The Problem of Good to a much fuller extent than I have in his book. Although I look forward to reading it, I must admit I am more than a bit disheartened to find I have been a perfect puppet of ToaiN. It is even worse because I know that I will continue to be so. I am simply just too good to stop, no matter how much I might want to. Free will, indeed!