The Six Ways of Atheism: Way the Fourth
The Fourth Way of Atheism (This is Not the Best Possible World Argument) runs thus:
- God if he exists must be omnipotent, supremely good, and our ultimate creator.
- Therefore an existent God (being supremely good and competent) would have created the best possible world.
- As the world is inconsistent (between ages and people) it cannot all be the best possible world.
- Therefore as the world is not the best possible world, God cannot exist.
This would be true if not for one pesky little detail that Berg never addresses. Let’s trace this argument from premise (1) to its conclusion to see where it goes awry.
I absolutely agree with (1). No doubt that a being who wasn’t omnipotent, supremely good, and our ultimate creator would not be God in any sense of the term.
I agree with (2) in the sense that God did create the best possible world. See Genesis 1:31 — creation is described as “very good” from God’s perspective. It is doubtful that an omnipotent, perfectly good being would describe anything but the best possible world as “very good.”
(3) is true, but it skips a step — the Fall!
The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen 3:12-13, emphasis added)
After dealing with the serpent and Eve, God turns to Adam:
Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen 3:17-19, emphasis added)
So now the world we see today is a punishment because of the transgression of Adam. So this is not the best possible world; it was, now it is cursed because of the actions of humanity in defiance to God.
Once we understand that God created the best possible world, but cursed it to punish humanity, we realize that this argument doesn’t hold water.
All of the anticipated objections that Berg deals with are softball responses and so require no comment from me. My objection, as always, is not anticipated.