Arguing About the Existence of God with Smart People

The smarties over at the The Prosblogion take a look at a potential argument against the benevolence and/or existence of God, in a way that makes me wish I read at a higher grade level:

Fleshing out this Thomistic line of thought, Ross says that God is at a higher level of reality than natural objects, and the cosmos is metaphysically dependent on God. This sort of dependence is what God’s ‘causal’ role in the history of the world amounts to, and this is a very different sort of thing than ordinary natural causation. As a result, to formulate some general principle like ‘it is prima facie wrong knowingly and intentionally to cause the death of a sentient being’ and then apply this to God is to equivocate on the word ’cause.’ The principle that we know is a principle about natural causation, not the sort of metaphysical conservation that God is engaged in. 

So suppose the atheist tries to formulate some principle that does apply across reality levels. According to Ross, the only case of this that we have a good grasp of is the relationship of human persons to fictional and imaginary objects. This is a case where an agent freely and intentionally brings about beings at a lower level of reality. It is also similar to the creation in that the author is not one of the causes within the fiction, although the author is the cause of the fiction as a whole, and the cause of each individual event in it. (We can distinguish, perhaps, between the ‘fictional’ cause of each event and the ‘authorial’ cause of each event.) 


However, the relevant principles, as applied to fictions, are false. Macbeth is morally responsible for the murder of Duncan, and Shakespeare is not. Of course, Shakespeare is responsible for the fact that, in the fiction, Macbeth murdered Duncan, but, although Macbeth is morally criticizeable for this, Shakespeare is not. Likewise, authors are not blameworthy for writing natural disasters and other such things into fictions. So the atheist’s argument from analogy fails, and no prima facie case against divine moral perfection has been made.

I love stuff like this, and feel sure that if I keep reading it I will one day be able to understand what they’re talking about.

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