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Atheism 17: Soul Making Theodicy


Let me begin by saying that the notion of epistemic distance is the lamest excuse for evil ever.

Martin’s characterization of the idea: “this apparent needlessness of pain makes it seem that God does not exist and consequently allows God’s creatures freely to love and obey God” (p. 427).

The “seeming that God does not exist” is the epistemic distance. The idea is that being conscious of God would make the decision to worship him too easy, thus depriving people of free will. This is one of the best examples of desperate rationalizing of conclusions in order to defend a belief. Given the high stakes (hell, purgatory, huge amounts of suffering) most people would say that it is important to be informed, even as informed as possible. Only in the context of apologetics (or other defenses of ideologies) do we see this portrayed exactly backwards.

Imagine if there were two politicians running for president. One, candidate McAwesome, is hard working, highly intelligent, fair, qualified, healthy, and productive. The other, candidate LeSuck, is lazy, uncharismatic, unqualified, cruel, and out of sheer stupidity, has trouble dressing himself in the morning. Now further, imagine if the media had a chance to portray both candidates fairly, showing McAwesome’s wonderful traits, and LeSuck’s horrible traits. Would any sane person think it ethical if the media went totally dark, giving people no information, all based on the premise that the choice would become too easy, and that a fair portrayal of facts will remove free will from voters? No, no sane person would think the media should go dark. Any rational person would say that more information is better. Further, it would be deeply unethical to deprive information from voters, especially when the stakes are so high.

So why would any sane person think that when the stakes are heaven and hell (or purgatory), it is better for the “voters” (all humans) to be deprived of relevant information, namely God’s existence? Epistemic distance is a clever way for apologists to market ignorance as a good thing. Personally, I find the whole idea worthy of moral condemnation.

Now on balance, this is just one aspect of the response to the argument from evil from one person (Hick). Its total lameness does not mean other responses don’t work. I’m still not sure about that one. This aspect of a response, though, is painfully bad. Of course, if anyone had a good response to my criticisms, I would (ideally) take my condemnation and disgust back and contritely change my mind.

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