I don’t think I’ve written on this exact thought here before, but stop me if it sounds familiar.
The problem of evil is perhaps the most persuasive argument that all religion is bullshit. Why does so much human suffering occur, if a god exists who’s not a complete sadist?
Any deity who has deliberately or negligently set up a world in which thousands of children starve to death every single day, utterly unable to do anything to improve their circumstances, is not worth any kind of notice, let alone praise. And while every theistic explanation for this sorry state of affairs I’ve yet encountered has been insipid, vacuous, disingenuous, demonstrably false, patronising, or in some other way unconvincing, the point that most believers will eventually settle on goes something like this:
People have free will to do terrible things. If God didn’t let people make mistakes, we’d be mindless robots incapable of making any real choices about how to live our lives.
Now, even assuming that things like disease and natural catastrophes can somehow also be covered by the “free will” excuse, it still fails for one particular reason that doesn’t seem to get brought up a whole lot:
Free will sucks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d object as strongly as anyone if some alien bodysnatchers started to take control of the limbs and mental faculties I call “mine”, and of which I currently enjoy the sensation of being in command. The notion of having one’s free will taken away, or of simply being a purely deterministic automaton, is inherently kinda creepy.
But think about the trade-off here. In the above apologetic, free will is offered as the primary reason why every living human being isn’t blissfully, wonderfully happy every moment of their lives.
I cannot be alone in considering this a seriously shitty deal.
Of course, there are good reasons why giving up one’s autonomy is so often presented as a sinister prospect. In film and literature, it tends to be governments and corporations that are presumed to know what’s best for all of us, and which invariably turn out to have some kind of deplorable, megalomaniacal underside. The protagonist will usually (though not always) succeed in exposing and undermining this charade, and returning to the populace the independence they never knew they’d lost. Humanity has a hard time ahead, but a new dawn rises on a hopeful future.
And yes, that’s all jolly good. In practice, in the real world, surrendering authority so completely can only leave oneself vulnerable to being exploited, and no such guarantee of pure happiness as a trade-off can ever be trusted.
But we’re talking about God, not a group of people easily corrupted by power. Surely we can rely on the creator of the universe to be more benevolent than the guys who invented Google?
I cannot imagine anything that mankind is accomplishing in the current arrangement, which wouldn’t be far surpassed by the simple, continuous, eternal contentment and bliss that God ought to be capable of providing. If he wasn’t a dick. And fictional.