Monday, April 16, 2007

Horns of the (Bush) Dilemma

A shooting rampage today at Virginia Tech saw a lone killer murder 30 students and wound some 21 others. Bush goes to the microphone for a press conference and tells the nation that we can take comfort in a "loving God." Quaere: If he exists and he's a "loving God," why does he allow such bad things to happen to good people. Balderdash and hocum! The current occupant of the White House is a dangerous lunatic, believing as he does in supernatural mumbo jumbo. This logical fallacy was thoroughly examined by J. L. Mackie in his essay in Mind, a University of Sydney journal (Vol. 64, No. 254, 1955), which you can read for yourself at:

Basically, what Mackie argued was that theism is logically (or internally) inconsistent. He posits that the premises that God is omnipotent, omniscent, and totally good and (or yet) evil (nevertheless) exists presents an affront to logic since the two are inconsistent and not capable of harmonization. A good analysis of Mackie's position is James Still's paper, "Argument Against God From Evil," found at

I won't delve into the matter so thoroughly as Still, but he says that Mackie's argument against God suggests two additional premises: (1) that good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good being always eliminates evil as far as possible, and that (2) there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. Again, if there is a God and He is omnipotent, he would have stopped the Korean student from murdering his fellow pupils at Virginia Tech. Each time I argue this position with a theologian, I am told that "God is omnipotent, but He gave Man the power of free will, and that explains the presence of evil."

Still examines this response in light of the writings of Alvin Plantinga, who argues that because we possess freedom of will, we are free to choose "morally significant actions," as Still puts it, and "[s]ome of us spoiled the party by freely choosing the evil rather than the good and these choices are the source of moral evil." Mackie would seem to counter by pointing out that God could just as easily "have chosen to create that one logically-possible world in which everyone who is created choose only the good." As you can see, Mackie, Plantinga, and Still have dived into the deep end of the pool.

So the thought remains: Who is this "loving God"? Due to health concerns, I have been confined to my home for about three weeks, with nothing to do but watch TV. I'd be wealthy if I had a dime for each time a TV reporter or pundit referred to what the Korean student did as "pure evil." The question keeps nagging me. If what he did was evil, why didn't George's "loving God" prevent his doing it?

POSTSCRIPT (04-18-07)

As the "manifesto" mailed to NBC by the Korean now shows, he suffered from paranoia and a persecution complex. What he did was objectively evil, but in his mind, "it was my only option." At that point he certainly fit the narrow definition of insanity in the legal sense, which allows a claim of innocent by reason of madness if it be shown that, because of mental illness or defect, he either did not know the difference between right and wrong, or he was incapable of conforming his behavior to what is required by the law. Pitiable, really.

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