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On The “There Is No God And I Hate Him” Argument

May 17, 2013

Many atheists and anti-theists, neither of whom believe there is a God, will bring up objections to God such as this rant, taken from a facebook “note” of a self-proclaimed anti-theist: “Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption… Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of (bad stuff) you’d expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy would’ve been out on his all-powerful (derrière) a long time ago.”

Famous atheists such as the late Christopher Hitchens are known for these types of objections that many Christian apologists and philosophers call the “there is no God and I hate Him” argument.

What’s incoherent with these types of arguments from atheists and anti-theists is that they assume God. The very questions and arguments brought up assume God exists. These arguments have absolutely nothing in them that questions or challenges Gods existence, rather they assume Gods existence but question His character. If this seems rather odd coming from someone who doesn’t believe God exists, well, it is.

Before getting to Gods character it is only logical and reasonable to first establish whether or not God exists. Why would anyone wish to debate the character of someone they don’t believe exists? On the atheist side, the argument holds no value in favor of atheism, since atheism supposes no God exists. At most, with this type of argument one could say that one does not wish to follow a God they believe to be unjust, but this by definition rules out atheism because there’s acceptance of Gods existence.

If it’s intended to be an argument against the existence of God it’s logically incoherent and totally fails in that regard. It’s rather like saying “I think Larry is a bad person, so there is no such person as Larry”. Existence is not predicated on character.

So the “there is no God and I hate Him” argument is then a red herring, a pointless exercise in the atheist/theism debate. I would encourage Christians who are confronted with a “there is no God and I hate Him” argument to gently point out the fallaciousness of the argument and suggest that the existence of God be established before judging His character. I fully realize the difficulty in convincing many atheists to authentically do this. I would also encourage atheists and anti-theists to realize that the “there is no God and I hate Him” argument is intellectually incoherent and a waste of their time as well as anyone else’s; time that could be better spent on authentic (non-fallacious) intellectual endeavors.

In closing, let me say that I too have questioned Gods character in the past. (I mentioned this in “Letter To An Atheist”) Those questions led me to authentically research the subject, and I did so with material from “both sides”, as it were. The historical and philosophical evidence pointed me to the conclusion that God is indeed a loving, good and moral God; more so than anybody who ever walked this earth (with the exception, of course, of the incarnate Christ) and more so than I could have ever imagined.

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11 Comments
  1. I have never met a theist who asserts that god exists and stops there. Rather, they have intricate and extensive stories as to the character of the god they assert. There seems to be no requirement to prove absolutely that god exists before making claims as to his nature. You do this yourself when you state that god is “a loving, good and moral God”.

    If the atheist establishes the non-existence of god, then any further argument is pointless; a god who doesn’t exist has no attributes to debate. If such proof existed, the atheist could present it and go home. However, if an atheist debates a theist who states “God exists and the Bible tells us about him” then I think the atheist is free to dispute the claims made in the bible as a way of disputing the theist’s premise. It does not imply the atheist somehow believes in that god, only that he disputes the god the theist asserts.

    If you demand the atheist must first disprove god, then there must first be agreement as to what constitutes proof of existence or non-existence. It strikes me that the standard you apply for proof of god is a much weaker one than what you would demand from an atheist for proof of non-existence.

    • Hi Stan, thanks for responding. I’m going to copy and respond to your statements one by one.

      “I have never met a theist who asserts that god exists and stops there. Rather, they have intricate and extensive stories as to the character of the god they assert.”

      This has no bearing on the TINGAIHH argument at all. The TINGAIHH argument doesn’t assert atheism, for one. If you’re arguing against an equivalent theistic argument, it still does not refute anything I said about the TINGAIHH argument.

      “There seems to be no requirement to prove absolutely that god exists before making claims as to his nature. You do this yourself when you state that god is “a loving, good and moral God”

      Here, you seem to be confusing evangelism with apologetics. Evangelism is quite common, moreso than apologetics. I have never seen an apologist (and I know thousands. literally) make nature claims about God exclusively, without at some point arguing for His existence. My last statement was not meant to be an apologetic argument but a personal testimony.

      “If the atheist establishes the non-existence of god, then any further argument is pointless; a god who doesn’t exist has no attributes to debate. If such proof existed, the atheist could present it and go home.”

      No disagreement there.

      “However, if an atheist debates a theist who states “God exists and the Bible tells us about him” then I think the atheist is free to dispute the claims made in the bible as a way of disputing the theist’s premise. It does not imply the atheist somehow believes in that god, only that he disputes the god the theist asserts.”

      Here’s the problem with your argument: The TINGAIHH is an opening statement. There may be TINGAIHH’s that are responding to a theists claim, but arguments like the one I quote are opening statements. There is nothing whatsoever in the TINGAIHH argument I quote, as well as many of Hitchens and many other atheists that show them to be nothing more than claims. And again, WHY bother debating the character of someone you don’t believes exists if that argument is not is not tied whether God exists or not?

      “If you demand the atheist must first disprove god, then there must first be agreement as to what constitutes proof of existence or non-existence.”

      Don’t forget that proving one disproves the other.

      “It strikes me that the standard you apply for proof of god is a much weaker one than what you would demand from an atheist for proof of non-existence.”

      I apply a reasonable standard. One that I would not hesitate to apply to anything else. I did not say that the atheist must have all knowledge to reasonably disprove God, I said the atheist must have all knowledge to say with certainty. There’s a big difference there. And it’s worth noting here that many atheists say they ARE certain there is no God. I merely show this to be a false claim. I say that theism, once all the evidence is taken into consideration, is the most rational and reasonable conclusion.

      • There are, I think, two different ways to look at TINGAIHH. The first, which I think is what you are representing, is to argue “there is no god, period.” And you’re correct, this is essentially unprovable. You could claim that god is living on a small moon in the Andromeda galaxy, and I can’t accurately claim that you are wrong. What I can say with certainty is “you have no basis for that claim.”

        The second, more nuanced argument is to say “the god of Christianity/Islam/etc. does not exist” and is a more reasonable argument to make. Here you no longer have to prove that no god exists anywhere inside or outside of the physical universe. You merely need to demonstrate that the claims of the proponents of Christianity or Islam are baseless to put them on par with arguments for bigfoot or pink unicorns. As such, it doesn’t require believing in nor hating god to discuss his nature as a rhetorical device.

        Finally, it’s clear to me that you and I have very different standards for what constitutes evidence. You and I have access to the same evidence, and yet I find the pro-god conclusion irrational. Even if I grant you the existence of Jesus, and the assertion that the Bible is the unedited, unfabricated statement of eyewitnesses, it’s still a leap of faith to get to the existence of a deity.

  2. Hi Stan, thanks for replying.

    I think we are in agreement with your first point, although I would argue that the difference here is that I do have a basis for arguing that Christianity is true.

    The problem with your second assertion is that unless one is arguing the ontological argument, arguing character is not is not an argument against the claims of existence. You’re then merely demonstrating or arguing that the character of the God that the Christian supposes is false. Or to say that the Christian is mistaken and has perhaps misread or misunderstood that character of God that is portrayed in the bible or through experience.

    Now a Christian may look at the TINGAIHH argument, such as the one I quoted, that says God is not a “good” god. Now we’re looking at the argument itself, “at face value” as it were. A Christian may look at the argument that God is not “good” and accept it. So the TINGAIHH argument may be accepted without concluding that there is no God. So, unless the ontological argument is being discussed, all that may possibly be taken away from the TINGAIHH argument is that “god is a jerk, or not competent, as one may (and of course this varies) define competence. To use the “Larry” example again: I say that Larry is a great guy. Although you don’t think there is any such person as Larry, you show me evidence and make arguments that Larry is a jerk, and somewhat incompetent. All you’ve done at most (and again, the definitions and interpretation of evidence for what constitutes being a jerk and/or incompetent varies) is show that Larry is not the great guy I thought he was.

    Also, a Christians claim of Gods goodness is not necessarily an argument for Gods existence. The claim presupposes Gods existence, but is not necessarily an argument for it.

    I’m adding the following because I realized I neglected to respond to your last statement. Sorry about that.

    You said:

    “Finally, it’s clear to me that you and I have very different standards for what constitutes evidence. You and I have access to the same evidence, and yet I find the pro-god conclusion irrational. Even if I grant you the existence of Jesus, and the assertion that the Bible is the unedited, unfabricated statement of eyewitnesses, it’s still a leap of faith to get to the existence of a deity.”

    Standards for what is evidence and how to use it is fairly uniform. If one of us differs that means that person is going outside the norm for what is considered evidence and how it’s used.

    Now when you say that the evidence we both look at takes a leap of faith to get to the existence of a deity, this seems to commit the fallacy of personal incredulity, where because one finds something difficult to accept, therefore it cannot be true.

    If this is not the case, what about the evidence (Jesus, Bible eye witnesses, etc) you mentioned cause you doubt?

  3. “If it’s intended to be an argument against the existence of God it’s logically incoherent and totally fails in that regard. It’s rather like saying “I think Larry is a bad person, so there is no such person as Larry”. Existence is not predicated on character.”

    Let’s say you believe in Mr. Larry. But you also believe Mr. Larry is a pretty good guy. Thus, you would say, “Larry exists and is a good guy.”

    Supposing, however, I argue that Larry is not a good guy. In fact, he is a very, very bad guy. Sometimes he kills kittens.

    This challenges your original statement, because it had both a claim about existence *and* character. Therefore, if I prove Larry is not good guy, then the statement “Larry exists and is a good guy” is necessarily false.

    However, two other options now present themselves, and both of these statements may yet remain true:

    1) Larry does not exist
    2) Larry exists and is a bad man (not batman, though)

    Now, supposing the person who believed Larry was a good man cannot actually tolerate the possibility that Larry is a bad man. For them, either Larry is good or he just doesn’t exist; he most certainly cannot be bad.

    Their inability to accept that Larry may be bad is admittedly a poor argument. Yet many Larrians truly have this kind of understanding (however poorly construed).

    If I could demonstrate that Larry [God] is, in fact, evil and reprehensible – hypothetically speaking, of course – would an evil God remain kosher with Christian beliefs? Can Christianity be simultaneously true and God evil at the same time?

    That’s a genuine question I have for you – what do you think?

    • I think this is one of my favorite replies to one of my articles on any website. Very well thought out.

      If it could be proven that God is indeed evil and reprehensible then Christianity would indeed be false; necessarily so. Now when I say “necessarily” and “proven” I am of course talking in the sense of formal logic and not informal. This might seem unreasonable.
      However, one can come to a reasonable conclusion based on evidence (both informal and formal logic). The evidence we would use is history-based, both in the sense of texts and human experience. Now when we involve history, this often involves the interpretation of history, cultural, time-appropriate, etc. And being a moral question, any conclusions involved are subject to the moral worldview of the one making the conclusion. As Plato noted, there is reasoning from principles, and there is reasoning to principles, and often the two are conflated. I would argue that the God of Christianity is in fact a good God. Others of course argue otherwise. We see this quite often in discussions of the POE and the ontological argument.

      But again, even if there is an evil, reprehensible God–making Christianity necessarily false–there is still a God, and therefore atheism is also then necessarily false.

      So we kinda both lose the argument in that case.

      Thanks again for the great reply.

    • Hi Hungry Atheist,

      A thought just occurred to me, so I’m adding this for your perusal. (I may expound on this later in the form of another article)

      If God were evil, then why would there be beauty? Why would there be love? Why would there be anything that causes joy at all?

      If God were evil, and caused evil things because of that, or allowed evil things, why would He not “step in” so to speak, where beauty and love and joy are? Why would He allow that? Why would God create a world, a universe of such astounding natural beauty that He knew we would enjoy if He were evil? Why not create a world of complete desolation and hardship, a world where beauty was unknown, and love and joy could never be conceived, much less enjoyed?

      Now of course the question becomes (and should be) if there’s a good God then why is there ugliness. And hate. And despondency.

      Here we cannot simply look to God, but look at ourselves, and the free choices human beings make; and the world that–if you believe the Bible–is a fallen world, corrupted by sin. If God were evil, why would He not take away our free will to do any good? And would a good God take away the freedom to choose? The freedom to either accept or reject what is good or evil, the freedom to embrace or reject Him?

      There would be a big and fundamental difference if we were talking about a world “corrupted by good”, so to speak, and herein lies the difference when arguing either point.

  4. Hey Marc,

    Thanks for the responses, you’ve given me lots to reply to. I think, though, that I’ll try to stick to the actual topic for now, so I won’t actually argue that God is evil. Rather, what I’m arguing is that, if it *could* be shown that God is evil, then that would at least challenge Christian doctrine (and many other religions, as it were). The same could be said for demonstrating his incompetence and so on.

    “If it could be proven that God is indeed evil and reprehensible then Christianity would indeed be false; necessarily so.”

    This is the crux that I was driving towards. In your original post, you specifically argued that calling God evil is “incoherent.” I challenged this assertion because that kind of argument is not intended to challenge all possible definitions of God. Specifically, it’s challenging conventional depictions of God, usually the Christian (or at least western) varieties.

    In which case, I hope I’ve sufficiently swayed you that those challenges to Christianity are not completely out of left field. And again, keep in mind that for now I’m not actually suggesting they’ve proven God is evil (they may or may not have), I’m simply defending that the argument is, in principle, sound. Certainly it’s not incoherent.

    You also make the argument in your original post, and reiterate it in your response, that “before getting to Gods character it is only logical and reasonable to first establish whether or not God exists.”

    Actually you don’t. For exactly the same reasons I don’t need to demonstrate whether Hamlet, Voldemorte or Batman exist before debating about their character, I can likewise debate hypothetically about the nature of God. I can do this with reference to what we know about reality, what is written in the Bible, the various Christian doctrines, and any combination of the above.

    “As Plato noted, there is reasoning from principles, and there is reasoning to principles.”

    I won’t beleaguer this point, because it would take us off topic, but for clarity I disagree with Plato on this. Plato believed there existed ideal versions of everything, both of symbols and objects, and that our thoughts asymptotically approximated them.

    Especially regarding moral values, I believe we can provide a foundation for secular moral judgement that doesn’t necessitate reference to objective absolutes. I think subjective morality is perfectly viable, and I can defend it.

    Realizing you will strongly disagree with me on that point, if you want to point me to another post where we can stay on that topic, I’d be happy to address it further.

    • Hi “HH”,

      When you said my argument was “specifically argu(ing) that calling God evil is “incoherent” this is not actually the case. My argument was that arguing the character (whether the argument asserts evil or good) of someone that one doesn’t accept exists is incoherent. I think where our arguments on this matter branch off is that I’m addressing an atheistic argument that doesn’t assert non-existence but rather the character of a being in dispute. Your argument seems to be that it’s not really an argument against existence, but rather the specific beliefs of Christianity. Something that’s worth noting here is that the TINGAIHH quote I used mentions no specific deity. It cannot be classified as an argument against Christianity because it merely references a higher being. One can say that Christianity falls under it’s blanket, but then again that brings us back to things specific for Christianity.

      We agree that if the God of Christianity were shown to be evil rather than good this makes Christianity necessarily false.

      My second reply was actually a response from your second from last question regarding the truth or not of Christianity.

      When you say “actually you don’t”, although it may be coincidence that you used them, you used fictional characters, whose existence doesn’t matter, and so of course we may discuss them. This is a different matter than a sort of “book club discussion”. For example, why would I debate the moral merits of “Hungry Atheist” before I knew you existed? (FTR, I have not debated your moral merits) 🙂

      I actually am working on an article about morality, where I address (among others) Sam Harris argument. When it’s up I’ll email you if you’d like. (if I remember, I have a “Dory” memory)

  5. In your second comment, you ask a number of questions that would seem at face value to challenge the notion of an evil god.

    Firstly, I’m not sure if you’ve given much thought to the series of questions you asked, but I think if you do you’ll recognize each of them has at least potential solutions. If there was a religion that actively believed in Evil God, you can bet they would concoct profound apologetic arguments defending belief in such a being. That’s what apologetics does.

    To give only one quick example, perhaps goodness exists because Evil God realizes true evil can only ever happen in contrast to goodness. Therefore he allows some good, but only to maximize suffering.

    I won’t go any further than that, but I hope you can see how easily such challenges to Evil God can be defended in very similar ways to how you would defend Good God (and if my particular example is weak, chalk it up to the absence of thousands of years of apologetics backing it up – I provide it as an illustration of a point, not to be used as a straw-man).

    The second and more significant challenge is that you’ve fallen prey to the Black-and-White fallacy. That is, there are more possible options than God being either totally good or totally evil. He can be anywhere on a spectrum between those two values.

    The great difficulty of Christianity, and why it is one of the easier religions to challenge, is that it tends to assert a God that is good in totality. His goodness is perfect, has no blemish, and can do no wrong.

    Therefore, the atheist does not even have to prove that God is evil to challenge this belief. In fact, proving that God is extremely good would still challenge traditional Christianity, because extremely good is not quite good enough.

    Now, you may be willing to tolerate variation in the definition of God, and so extremely good might be valid for you. In that case, I will ask:

    At what point on this spectrum would the Christian God cease to be true for you?

    Extremely good? Mostly good? Kinda good? Indifferent? Kinda evil? Mostly evil? Kills kittens?

    Wherever you decide to place that token, that’s the burden of proof you’re setting for atheists. All the atheist needs to do, then, is demonstrate how God is perhaps only mostly good. Or indifferent. Or kills kittens. If the atheist could demonstrate God to be totally evil, that would be icing on the cake, but it isn’t necessary to do so for the sake of disconfirming Christianity.

    And if totally good is the precarious benchmark you set for yourself, then it’s a rather simple matter to demonstrate that a world such as ours could be constructed with just slightly less gratuitous suffering (suffering that has no purpose, no value, no meaning, and is not balanced by any subsequent greater good).

    Would you argue that free will – and original sin – justify gratuitous suffering? Well then, what about the suffering of animals that predate humanity, and therefore predates both free will and original sin?

    Then the atheist has only to demonstrate that humans came late to the scene, and that animals can and do suffer. At this point, the issue becomes about evolution vs. creation. Christianity then succeeds or fails based strictly on the assumption of Young Earth Creationism.

    Again, that’s another conversation we could have, depending on where your beliefs lie.

    At any rate, I’m not defending the accuracy of any given point, but I hope I’ve given you reason enough to recognize that the question of God’s character is not only valid, but extremely important. That’s precisely the reason Hitchens and company have argued what you suggest Christian philosophers and apologists have called “There is no god and I hate him” argument, but what theologians and scholars have called theodicy.

    • Hi “HH”, I’m going to copy and reply here.

      “Firstly, I’m not sure if you’ve given much thought to the series of questions you asked, but I think if you do you’ll recognize each of them has at least potential solutions. If there was a religion that actively believed in Evil God, you can bet they would concoct profound apologetic arguments defending belief in such a being. That’s what apologetics does.”

      Here you’re presupposing that humans would worship and follow an evil God. You also seem to be presupposing that apologetics is merely some sort of “excuse” as opposed to (among other things) deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. Apologetics can not simply be dismissed like that.

      “To give only one quick example, perhaps goodness exists because Evil God realizes true evil can only ever happen in contrast to goodness. Therefore he allows some good, but only to maximize suffering.

      I won’t go any further than that, but I hope you can see how easily such challenges to Evil God can be defended in very similar ways to how you would defend Good God (and if my particular example is weak, chalk it up to the absence of thousands of years of apologetics backing it up – I provide it as an illustration of a point, not to be used as a straw-man).”

      I’m glad you recognized that your example is weak. I could go into a (necessarily long) response about why, but won’t for now (saving it for the aforementioned article). Your excuse about “thousands of years of apologetics backing it up” is really no excuse–you’re perfectly capable of reason. Not to mention that there’s also a long history of atheistic arguments to access.

      “The great difficulty of Christianity, and why it is one of the easier religions to challenge, is that it tends to assert a God that is good in totality. His goodness is perfect, has no blemish, and can do no wrong.

      Therefore, the atheist does not even have to prove that God is evil to challenge this belief. In fact, proving that God is extremely good would still challenge traditional Christianity, because extremely good is not quite good enough.

      Now, you may be willing to tolerate variation in the definition of God, and so extremely good might be valid for you. In that case, I will ask:

      At what point on this spectrum would the Christian God cease to be true for you?

      Extremely good? Mostly good? Kinda good? Indifferent? Kinda evil? Mostly evil? Kills kittens?

      Wherever you decide to place that token, that’s the burden of proof you’re setting for atheists. All the atheist needs to do, then, is demonstrate how God is perhaps only mostly good. Or indifferent. Or kills kittens. If the atheist could demonstrate God to be totally evil, that would be icing on the cake, but it isn’t necessary to do so for the sake of disconfirming Christianity.

      And if totally good is the precarious benchmark you set for yourself, then it’s a rather simple matter to demonstrate that a world such as ours could be constructed with just slightly less gratuitous suffering (suffering that has no purpose, no value, no meaning, and is not balanced by any subsequent greater good).”

      Here, and I don’t say this as analysis of you, the argument is just too simplistic. Because, as I mentioned previously, we take history into account, textually, culturally, etc, and also look at morality from the aspect of philosophy. And I don’t think that the conclusion would support your assertion.

      “Would you argue that free will – and original sin – justify gratuitous suffering? Well then, what about the suffering of animals that predate humanity, and therefore predates both free will and original sin?

      Then the atheist has only to demonstrate that humans came late to the scene, and that animals can and do suffer. At this point, the issue becomes about evolution vs. creation. Christianity then succeeds or fails based strictly on the assumption of Young Earth Creationism.”

      What is gratuitous suffering? How do we know that there’s no purpose for suffering? Animals pursue each other for food, the circle of life, is that gratuitous? How does it follow that it then becomes evolution vs ID? And how would it follow that it falls on YEC?

      The question of my mothers character is important because she’s a real being. The question of the President of The USA’s character is important, because he’s a real being. Why would the character of someone you think fictional be important?

      Thanks again. You really are one of my favorite commentators.

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