The Omnimalevolent Creator and the Problem of Good

John Zande’s post is a brilliant work of satire that shows the problems of trying to match the state of our universe to the existence of an omni-benevolent god. Definitely worth a read.

An adaptation of Christopher New’s 1993 essay: Antitheism, A Reflection

 man_drought_20090718If we found a bomb concealed in a children’s kindergarten, primed and set to detonate when it would wreak the greatest possible carnage, we would reasonably assume that someone vicious and vile – someone evil – had designed the device and had purposefully put it there maximise suffering. How much more reasonable must it be for the impartial observer to then attribute the world as we know it to a vicious and vile, non-contingent, omnipresent, omnipotent, omnimalevolentdesigner? Is this not, after all, the most likely explanation for the world before us?

Who else but a perfectly malevolent being would arrange for the enormous suffering present and guaranteed in our perilously thin, blisteringly violent biosphere? Think of the pain and destruction wrought by earthquakes, floods, cyclones, tornadoes, droughts, famines and disease. Would a benevolent designer have made provision for…

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120 thoughts on “The Omnimalevolent Creator and the Problem of Good”

  1. @paarsurrey–

    You’re helping me to understand Islam and I appreciate that. I suspect that, just as it is with Christianity, some adherents are stubborn and shallow in their thinking and say thoughtless things that sound completely outrageous to intelligent people who are honestly trying to get at the truth; whereas some (I would count you in this group) have done a little bit of thinking on their own and therefore look for a deeper meaning or a more profound truth behind the teachings of their own tradition.

    I don’t think the religious split is between Muslims and Christians and Jews and Atheists and . I think the religious split is between the narrow minded and the open minded in any system of belief.


    I think it says something good about YOU that people of such different beliefs can conduct a (somewhat) rational conversation on your blog!



  2. @Paul

    Some ideas you have expressed at different times on Nate’s blog are very unique and I’m interested in understanding a little more. Here are a couple of questions:

    1) You’ve mentioned on a different post before that you don’t quite believe in the supernatural (sorry, I’m likely misquoting because I can’t remember exactly, but that was the gist). Will you give another shot at trying to explain what you mean by God in that kind of context?

    2) I’ve been able to learn more about Josh’s beliefs after he recommended Robert Capon’s books, and I’m familiar with C.S. Lewis’ stuff so from that I partially have an idea of where UnkleE is coming from. Is there an author, book or online video that might help me understand your worldview a little better? I’m not trying to minimize your worldview by saying it can be explained in 1 book or 1 video, I’m just trying to at least see if I can get a little closer at understanding your viewpoints.



  3. @Howie,

    I run the risk of being called for a ‘foul’ on this ‘site; but I’ll give a pedantic response to your sincere question about what ‘supernatural’ means. The upside of my pedantry is that I’m giving all you atheists an opportunity to prove that you understand the Bible better than 99.99999999% of Christians.

    No obscure verse here. I’ll pick the very verse that Christians refer to when they want to validate claims of God’s supernatural power. It’s the verse they refer to when they encourage each other to pray for a miraculous healing or a spectacular reversal of fortune or the removal of a seemingly invincible obstacle from their lives. It’s a well quoted verse and it’s repeated in all the synoptic gospels; but it’s relentlessly misinterpreted even though a short consideration of the context in which it appears would lead to a correct (and spectacularly useful) understanding.

    OK, here goes…

    Matt 19, 26. ; Luke 18, 27 ; Mark 10, 27 … You can’t miss it because Christians are always quoting it:

    “What is impossible for human beings is possible for God.” (With inconsequential differences of wording depending up which book you pick.)

    This verse shows up in the Bible within the context of one particular, very important story — a story about a supernatural event that DIDN’T happen; but which makes it abundantly clear what it is that Jesus is talking about when he talks about supernatural miracles.

    What Jesus is talking about isn’t at all what the voodoo crowd talks about and it doesn’t offend an educated persons understanding of science.

    Do me proud and explain it back to me.



  4. Oooops!!!

    I was using a public computer and forgot to log the previous user out. Or whatever. Anyway, the above post is from me, Captain Catholic, despite the weird icon.



  5. When you drink a fatal dose of Arsenic, it is God (Allah) who kills you? Wow, God sounds like the laws of physics and chemistry…


  6. Here’s more heartburn for you:

    John 14:13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

    And yet… and yet…

    II Corinthians 12:7-9 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

    Let me get this straight — Jesus says that whatever the believer asks in his name will be granted (with some caveats like, say, you are obeying God [whatever that means, subject to narrow interpretations by legalists] and you have the right faith [which has to be granted to you by God in the first place — which puts the onus on God]), but then the Apostle Paul comes along and says he did ask and was (in the words of Suzi Orman) DENIED!.

    So what are Christians supposed to believe? That God will grant whatever they ask in Jesus’ name unless it isn’t His Will? How in the heck are we supposed to know what His Will will be? Isn’t this rather arbitrary? What faith can you have when there is unreliability built in? How can you ever know whether God intervenes, or is it all some how natural when things go right?

    This is downright confusing if you’re expecting one shred of consistency (and have you really looked at the Bible lately? It gets worse…).

    More relevant today is whether or not God is good and powerful enough to intervene to stop the wickedness of evil corporate conglomerations doing damage to Christian believers (or at least draining their money supply and giving less than the best goods and services — I mean, have you see the 1-star ratings at Amazon.com? It’s awful, just awful. Just what sort of carpet cleaner should I buy? Will God help me make the right choice if I ask in Jesus’ name?).

    And how about bad government? If God ever needed to intervene, it’s to stop the corruption.

    Ah, well.

    I remember well the opinion of the Chairman of the Board of the United Church of God an International Association (UC Gaia, the only church to be named after the goddess of the earth): There will be no justice on earth until Christ returns (and therefore United wasn’t about to give their own members justice when there was stalking going on in the church, even though they could have done something about it and the members getting stalked by another member had to get a court order). The real question is, will Jesus return to render justice if we ask God in his name?

    Or do we have to rely on the old adage, God only helps those who help themselves — leaving you wondering if you didn’t do it all yourself in the first place.

    The apathetic need not believe that God is going to do one thing for them, we just wonder about the rest of us.

    Meanwhile, there’s a built in excuse for God not intervening.


  7. IMO, Mikey’s comment is EXCELLENT! it hits not only the proverbial nail on the head, but several more nails as well.

    I’m seriously considering re-posting it to my own blog, with Mike’s permission, of course.


  8. Nan, OK to repost.

    Here’s some more heartburn:

    As near as we can get from Scripture, God, The Father, has always existed and designed everything (reference the new series on ABC, Cosmos, for the grandeur of it all, replete with galaxies, quasars, complex math, DNA, etc, etc). Somehow, The Word popped up somewhere in eternity (a clone; a subdivide like a paramecium?), being Divine but not as great as God (My Father is greater than I…) and created everything (including angels, if you believe Hebrews). Now, God, The Father, seems to be like some sort of Supreme Technologist, happily geeking through all eternity, exploring combinations of things, performing experiments, making projects and He is extremely rich, owning like just EVERYTHING! So He was instrumental in creating our Universe with all those galaxies which has a black hole at the center of every one of them to hold each one together.

    Well, you know, Super Dad didn’t really know what it was like to be human. Oh sure, He watched everything develop and saw humanity from the beginning, but wasn’t much involved directly because His Son, The Word, who was to become Jesus Christ, was the god of the Old Testament — and he was a mighty retentive god who insisted that everything was perfect or else he’d lower the boom! It’s clear he was never really married and he didn’t have any kids, or else he’d know better than to throw hissy fits when people didn’t do EXACTLY what he wanted them to do: It was Blessings and Cursings, a la Deuteronomy 28. It’s pretty obvious that wasn’t working because those darned Israelites could never get it right: “In whom there was no faith” and “it is impossible to please God without faith” and, of course, faith is the gift of God, so there’s no winners there.

    So Jesus came along and lo and behold, he discovered pain. Hebrews says he learned from what he suffered. He was tempted in all ways as we are as frail human flesh.

    Oh yeah?!

    Let’s see now, he had, what, about 24 hours of intense pain and suffering in his 33 years on earth as a mortal. How does that compare with 40 years of chronic pain? Did he experience the pain of child birth, pray do tell? What, no broken bones? No days waiting out your life with cancer in a convalescent home? No Altzheimer’s where you can’t remember who you are, let alone your parents? No children? No marriage (and spare me the rubbish that he was ‘married’ to Israel, because that won’t fly)?

    And how about modern ethical dilemmas? Did he have to violate Federal Law to pollute in order to save his own job and that of his coworkers so he and they could feed their families? How about being involved in determining whether a corporation can patent someone’s DNA right out beneath them? Or determining that if you allow 10 people to die you can save millions?

    Not a problem because you can go back to being eternal and suffer no more pain after your 24 hours of pain and being dead for 3 days.

    There’s no accounting for those Israelites who suffered innocently at the hands of others and not really having done anything wrong except to be born at the wrong place at the wrong time as a slave in Egypt. So much for the promises.

    Speaking of the promises, just what are we to make of the promise that at the end of it all, just before all eternity kicks off for the rest of us (who made it), where there aren’t going to be any more tears and God will be our God and we will be His people — all happy, happy?

    We seem to have some pretty sloppy documentation and those proponents of the Christian religion aren’t helping much, introducing more obvious errors as time goes along.

    What level of confidence should we have that God really cares for us when He is a dead-beat dad, a long way off, sort of like Clark Kent in Superman Returns? He’s extremely wealthy and we are to be heirs. Would it be too much trouble if He could help us cover the bills when we get into trouble? If He has the power to heal, why doesn’t He? A real dad would if he could. He’s never suffered and has everything. It’s like we’re His genetic experiment and He’s watching us because He’s fascinated by the drama.

    Yes, He probably does care about every sparrow that falls. The question is, what is He going to do to the cat that made the sparrow fall in the first place?

    I’m not trying to be insulting, but it would sure be nice if someone could answer these questions and I’m pretty sure, based on my experience, that we won’t be hearing from any Christians in the near future about the answers.


  9. Hi Captain,

    Thanks for your response.

    I was kinda wanting your perspective so feeding you back mine probably will end up just mixing my perspectives in with yours. 🙂 But I get it – you are a teacher and this is the technique that teachers use. The people who wrote the gospels seemed to like that technique too.

    Also my question was more related to whether or not you thought God itself was a supernatural being, or a natural being, or maybe just a thought that humans have in their minds to describe the majesty of the natural world. Is God an actual being that thinks and causes things to happen in our world, or again is it just a concept for us? Is it supernatural or not?

    As far as that verse I didn’t speak to the writers so I can only make my best guess at the wisdom they wanted to impart. It looks like the impossible thing they are talking about is having the ability to get into the kingdom of God. Of course the writers didn’t like being very clear so they also liked to mix in talking about things like giving up everything to follow God. So we’ve got groups saying there isn’t anything at all we can do to get into this kingdom they were talking about, and then we’ve got other groups saying there are things we have to do – like give up all our stuff. So it’s impossible for us to give up all our stuff on our own but God can cause some people to give up all their stuff – that’s another possible interpretation which might fit in with the 2 verses that follow the one you quoted. Some claim allegory some don’t. And then there’s the fact that phrases back then could have meant things entirely different than what those phrases mean today and the true meaning could very possibly be lost forever in ancient history. For example, right in this passage itself there is debate over what “eye of the needle” might have actually meant, and whether or not that changes the context.

    Can you answer my 2nd question from my last comment? I thought it was a very fair question in an effort to try and uncover some of the mystery of what you believe.


  10. @charonsaide

    I’m giving all you atheists an opportunity to prove that you understand the Bible better than 99.99999999% of Christians.

    Oh dear oh dear oh dear…..

    Now, this is the same gospel writer, ( whoever this was) that ripped off Isiah and claimed it was a prophecy for a Messiah and that was Yeshua.

    The same writer that offers a cocked up genealogy for Jesus.

    This is the same gospel writer that cites the slaughter of the innocents, an act not recorded by any other historian.

    This is the same gospel writer that claims there was a Zombie Apocalypse at the time of the crucifixion of the character, Jesus. An event so stupendous (sic) it went unnoticed by every single contemporary writer and every other Christian writer. Zombies going for a stroll being an everyday occurrence in 1st Century Jerusalem, I suppose?
    So authentic(sic) in fact, that the Catholic Church regard it as nonsense, yet Christian Apologist, Mike Licona lost his job ( twice?) because he wrote in his 2010 book that it was not a literal event. Now fundamentalist colleagues got a tad miffed over this. One sentence from the whole damn book! They considered he was undermining the bible and their ( inerrancy) position and demanded he issue a retraction.
    He didn’t. Oops…bye…Mike.

    This is the same gospel writer that ripped off 600 verses from the writer of ‘Mark’

    Excuse my impertinence, but are you really expecting any normal person to afford credence and respect for this piece of nonsense?

    So, you were saying…..?


  11. Ah..I just read the next comment from Paul. Lol…..Oh, I am so glad this lady didn’t write this as she seems quite nice.

    Rereading it now, it comes across as exactly the type of tripe Paul would write.


  12. @Mikey

    II Corinthians 12:7-9 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

    I’ve been a Christian for, what, fifty nine years now. Imagine how many times I’ve heard that particular reading, or heard homilies drawn from that passage, or read comments in books or other writings about it, or been involved in discussions about it. The famous, and utterly mysterious, “thorn in the flesh”.

    At some point along the road I figured out that Paul wasn’t doing anything different than Christians have been doing for the nearly two millennia since he died — namely, concocting some sort of explanation to allow a person to go on believing the very things that experience itself demonstrated was false.

    Here’s the thing that has always struck me as odd: He prayed once, didn’t get what he expected, but he didn’t let it go — then he prayed a second time, didn’t get what he expected, and still didn’t let it go — finally he prayed a third time, got the same result (or non-result) and decided, finally, to throw in the towel. How did he figure out that three was the ‘magic number’? He could have stopped praying after one rejection, but didn’t. He could have continued to pray after three rejections, but didn’t.

    Then there’s the concocted explanation itself. Supposedly God had to go out of his way to keep Paul from becoming too much of an egotist — which strikes me as a pretty damn egotistical explanation, do you agree?

    Ark describes my writing as “tripe” (thank you Ark!) but I keep trying to hammer home the same point. Christianity isn’t about us learning to get God to do what we want Him to do, it’s about Him teaching us to do what He wants us to do. My problem is that I don’t understand why OTHER Christians have so much trouble understanding what “Thy will be done” means.




  13. Ark describes my writing as “tripe” (thank you Ark!)

    My absolute pleasure, Paul.
    However, I should qualify. I am not criticizing your style of writing, which, although obscure, has the right amount of commas and full stops and is quite entertaining, if somewhat obscure.

    When I say ”tripe”, I am , of course, referring to the content, which, if it were fertilizer that could be shoveled around my garden, would be steaming nicely and bringing up my roses and dahlias a treat.


  14. @captaincatholic ; March 20, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    You’re helping me to understand Islam and I appreciate that. I suspect that, just as it is with Christianity, some adherents are stubborn and shallow in their thinking and say thoughtless things that sound completely outrageous to intelligent people who are honestly trying to get at the truth; whereas some (I would count you in this group) have done a little bit of thinking on their own and therefore look for a deeper meaning or a more profound truth behind the teachings of their own tradition.

    I don’t think the religious split is between Muslims and Christians and Jews and Atheists and . I think the religious split is between the narrow minded and the open minded in any system of belief.” Unquote

    I think I agree with you; except that Atheists say that they don’t follow any belief system; if I have correctly understood them.

    It is good that they prefer reason and that is good, not a bad thing; it is one bounty that the One-True-God has bestowed us the human beings and is common to everybody, some use it most while some don’t use it much. As one sees with eyes things that are physical and material; for inner reflection reason is sort of inner tool of seeing.

    Like eyes cannot see clearly even things material and physical that are very close or that are far-off from the eyes; so the reason has its limitations also; it cannot go beyond that.
    One should not believe in myths; myths could be reasoned out and that is very good.

    I think you are a reasonable CatholicChristian.

    Pleasure to meet you.

    Thanks and regards

    P.S.I visited your blog.


  15. I think, Paul, the reason people get confused is b/c what we read is confusing. Yes, “THY will be done” (the Thou being spoken of being, of course, the Biblical God), but then there are verses like “ask anything in my name and it will be done” or “if you have faith even as a grain of mustard seed you can move mountains” or “the prayer of faith will save the sick”, etc. But, of course, if it isn’t His will to do those things, then those promises are meaningless. Nice caveat (as Mikey covered so well)…”that doesn’t prove I don’t exist, it just means I’m saying NO”.

    Of course, occasionally, God will heal somebody (cancer, or eye problems, etc), but he doesn’t like amputees, so he NEVER EVER does anything about that (and DON’T say “ahh, but he’s giving us the Science and Technology to finally make something better than the ol’ Peg Leg”…that doesn’t fly).

    So that, I think, is why people get confused, even your co-religionists…


  16. @Eric,

    You’re right. That is, you WOULD be right if all we had was a book to read; but we’ve also got the example and guidance of other believers who’ve been on the road of discipleship for a while.

    And there, I’m afraid, is the rub. It’s one thing for someone reading scripture for the first time to find the verse that says, “ask anything…” and think he’s fallen upon Aladdin’s lamp. That’s OK for a first timer; but folks who’ve been around for a while have more than just a verse to reference. They have their own lived experience.

    Yeah, yeah. It says what it says (more on that later); but what good is faith if you lack intellectual honesty? At a certain point your beliefs becomes your own responsibility. You can’t go on forever saying, “well, it says in such a book in such a chapter in such a verse…”. Sooner or later you have to grow up and say, “I know this because I’ve lived it.”

    I know the good that comes of yielding to the will of God. I know it, not from the book only, but from my life. I also know the limitations to the “magical verses” you point to.

    Here’s something I wrote a few years ago: http://reflectionsofacatholicchristian.wordpress.com/2010/12/19/making-christ-my-master/
    I’m talking, here, about repentance. Not superficial repentance; but the kind of repentance that can transform.

    The person who’s on his knees, giving orders to the Almighty, betraying his own selfishness with the narrowness of his concerns, is unrepentant. In the truest sense, that person doesn’t even have faith. Wishful thinking, more like it….

    Read what I wrote and then let’s talk more.



  17. Nicely written little piece, CC. And I understand the bit you’re commenting here about “why can’t they understand THY will be done”? And no, it is not about making god do what WE want. But still, god didn’t say “the prayer of faith shall save the sick, if it is my will”. Of course, the church I grew up in said that if you died in Faith, believing in the promises, then you were Sealed and would be raised Whole (or raised as a Spirit Being) when the time was right–so it wasn’t a case of “that person wasn’t healed b/c they died”–they WERE healed, for they had faith, and faith is the evidence of things not seen…but now I say “that makes the claim non-falsifiable”.


    So, what you’re saying is that as long as we figure out what GOD wants, and then pray for things based on our best understanding of that, then there’s answered prayer. But, of course, if you’ll look around even the US (not to mention the world in general), you’ll find a lot of people who reckon they are doing god’s will. It appears to not be an easy thing to discipher. And so far as answered prayer goes, I used to figure I got answers fairly often (I was, after all, part of God’s One True Church), but then a friend of mine said something about Confirmation Bias and a scientific test that included praying to Zeus. I don’t know if I was doing Zeus’ Will, but the things I considered “answered prayer” (or what I would have considered instances of answered prayer under my old belief system) appeared to happen almost as often.

    Of course, all this is far from the main topic, though having god heal at least ONE amputee would go a long way to proving his existence…of course, if he only healed ONE, then everyone would be like “why didn’t he heal more than one?” and it still wouldn’t prove which god was the one that healed that person…unless he accompanied the healing by a Public message of some type (private visions are inadmissible as evidence, as I’m sure you understand).


  18. Back to the main point you were making with one of your first comments, not all the evils in the world are Human. Remember natural disasters?

    Not just that, but have you watched much NatGeo? Have you? The predator-prey relationship is pretty Evil. Here this poor gazelle is running for its life only to have the Large African Cat catch it and crush its windpipe in its jaws.

    Or salmon going upstream to spawn getting ripped apart, while still alive, by a hungry bear…so IT can live through the winter.

    There are ants in South America (the Camponotus leonardi) that get infected with a fungus that turns them into “zombie ants” (easy to google if you haven’t heard of it yet).

    There are dozens more things. Again, the “omnimalevolent god” argument is just a satire, but one can clearly see from such examples in the Natural World that there certainly isn’t an “omniBenevolent” god.


  19. “Thy Will be done”

    Let’s be clear here: In context, this is Jesus (or someone writing as if they were quoting Jesus) who has (according to the… Scripture) the GREATEST commission anyone ever had: To suffer and die for all humanity (and cats? will my cat be resurrected too?) for redemption and reconciliation so that all people can get to know God The Father, who, up to that point, no one had a clue that such a Being existed. He absolutely KNEW what God’s Will was, but would rather not go through it. Oh well, he only had to suffer for, what?, 36 hours tops, be dead for 3 days and be Divine again.

    And which one of us can have that confidence? Yes — who can KNOW what God’s Will really is? We have examples of Islamists who are certain God’s (Allah’s) Will is suicide bombing to kill off the infidel and themselves with it — and hey will gain a place where they have 72 virgins for all eternity (who can say they are wrong about that — it just seems improbable). The list goes on and on — a great script for Law and Order Criminal Intent.

    Now excuse my skepticism. You must understand that I was a Lutheran who attended a Catholic Parochial School from the age of 5 for 11 years. I watched while my classmates bowed down to graven images. It was clear to me that they were violating the Second Commandment but since they excised that one in favor of doubling up on Lust at the end of the list, they had the built in EXCUSE that they were NOT committing idolatry and that they just had the images to remind them of the saints to whom they are praying (which the Scripture in Acts says is rubbish because they are all dead until the resurrection). Particularly odious to many Protestants (the protesting daughters coming out of the great whore of Revelation in the view of many), Maryolatry is the pits because you pray to her (she’s dead) so she can go ask Christ so he can ask the Father. Let’s see now — Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and Mary is on the right hand of Jesus and they all have beautiful thrones together in a line in front of all those angels singing their praises? That must be some song.

    Of course, there is some question about the validity of the New Testament, some believing that the Catholic Church got a bunch of guys together to write down all the myths of Tradition and put into a collection. Maybe. Maybe not. It does appear that the Catholics are responsible for the “preservation” of the New Testament, but given their track record of idolatry (and other forums have had this discussion and the Catholics generally get flamed royally while the Catholics themselves seem to be clueless) there is question why we should trust one word of it, particularly Revelation, which seems to give the RCC a bad rep. Sorry, but it’s hard to accept the word of Catholics for me because of my (perhaps distorted) perception that they just don’t have the truth. And anyway, it wasn’t until the 20th Century that the RCC took the Bible off the banned list of books, if read, would result in MORTAL sin (as opposed to those venial sins which only land you in Purgatory, which is not mentioned in Scripture but is passed down as Tradition and we know how the “Gossip Game” works, don’t we?).

    “Hear O Israel, God is One God”

    Oh sure, until you get to the New Testament, then there are two. If you count Mary, maybe three. Whose Will is to be done here? Is there a tie breaker? (“My Father is Greater than I” — What? If your God, you’re God? Isn’t that equality? How is consensus supposed to be created here?)

    So you can see that saying it’s simple, “Thy will be done” is a lot more complicated that it may seem at first blush. How can we really know God’s Will (if there is one)? How do we make decisions if we can’t really know? Do we just keep God’s Law (which part — are you keeping the Sabbath and the Holy Days?) and expect that God is bound to give you what you ask as long as it doesn’t violate His Law?

    I think this is going to be a long day for someone.


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