In an attempt to answer an atheist argument against the existence of God, I managed to reduce the argument to arguing, basically, for a disinterested deity, not necessarily a non-existent one. I left it there, hoping that readers would move from there towards a more benevolent deity. After discussion, I felt we hadn’t moved much beyond the common “freedom of choice” argument, and had rather moved towards a malevolent deity, if anything. It would probably be useful to go back and read the original post, and Kimberly’s comment (since it seemed to be the best response) and the questions it raised, here.
The problem with the freedom of choice argument is really in the counter argument, who gets choice? Do the children starving in Somalia really get the same freedom to choose as the “one percent” we hear so much about from those occupy people? Of course not, but why? Why would God allow it? Is it fair? No, it isn’t, but religious people would argue that it’s our choices that make the world unfair. I agree with this, but it wouldn’t satisfy a critic. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to give an entirely satisfactory answer to the critics, but here’s a thought.
People generally have a concept of morality that most can agree with, don’t murder; steel; rape; etc. The creator of the universe, should there be one, would have been the origin of this moral code. The moral code wouldn’t be there unless the creator had not intended for it to be upheld, and would therefore have at least been benevolent enough to bless us with this moral code.
The freedom to choose whether we live by this code is also an act of benevolence, since it would be the act of a tyrant to not allow this freedom, and benevolent tyrant is an oxymoron. This choice comes with consequences, not punishment, one of the consequences is that the further society moves from the moral code, the worse the lot of society as a whole becomes. This isn’t fair on everyone, or perhaps anyone, within the society, but nobody is really that innocent that they can claim no part in problems in the world, except for babies, who inadvertently suffer the choices of their forefathers.
The thing is, in order for people to make truly informed choices about morality, they’d have to have a complete understanding of it. For a deity to step in when the consequences were horrible, would essentially be robbing people of the opportunity to see the extreme extent of the results of immorality. Without being exposed to the terrible consequences of our actions, we would never have a full understanding of the consequences, and wouldn’t really be able to say we fully understand the moral code.
Just like, even though I’m a Christian, I don’t believe in hell-never-ending, I don’t believe that God would subject people to suffering as a punishment, but rather is loving enough to allow us to view, and suffer, the full consequences of our actions so that we can have a complete understanding of the moral code and the ramifications of not adhering to it. Part of those ramifications is an unfair world with terrible suffering. The choice still lies with us, as a collective.
For more on collective and individual responsibility, read the posts: