Brooke Harris 111542140 March 15th RE104 Evil and Symbols Essay: The Truth About Evil in Myth Many questions have been posed when it comes to the ever-controversial topic of evil,….
God and The Common Good Approach : Allowing Evil to Demonstrate Empathy
When one looks at the atrocities in the world today and the example used by Johnson of the innocent infant burned in a building, a common reaction is empathy and sympathy. If Johnson insists on viewing God as a mortal and asserting that a human being would not allow such atrocity, then it is useful to look at approaches taken by ethical, moral actors in the world today. Looking at the Common-Good approach, we may assert that in order for us to have qualities, such as empathy, compassion, and other redeemable traits, we must have situations in our lives that evoke these qualities.
Without pain and suffering, there is no need for these positive traits, therefore, the argument that God is not good does not apply. His position is to ensure that men can become good of their own free will. Johnson would argue this approach equates to allowing men to become evil on their own free will, as well. But, this is the essence of free will and of the Common-Good approach, we must be able to see both good and evil to decide how to best achieve a society that can combat this inevitability of free will.
Therefore, God can be looked at as human, then human approaches to ethics and the common good must be utilized, so under the Common Good approach, God is good. The Common Good approach essentially deals with an idea that individual good is equated and ensured with public good and that individual, honorable traits should be shared as a community in a healthy fashion. In this way, goodness, is not good if it is not shared.
To apply this to counteract Johnson’s argument, it can be said, then, that in order to recognize good to share it, we must also be able to recognize bad or “evil”, in order to know how to counter it in a world of free will. “Appeals to the common good urge us to view ourselves as members of the same community, reflecting on broad questions concerning the kind of society we want to become and how we are to achieve that society” (Velasquez, et al, 1996, 2).
Johnson’s argument to this would be that just as there is an imagined God that promotes good in the actions of man in reference to free will, there could easily be an evil God that does the opposite. “For example, we could say that God is evil and that he allows free will so that we can freely do evil things, which would make us more truly evil than we would be if forced to perform evil acts” (Johnson, 1983, 88). This argument against free will does not compliment Johnson’s insistence that we look at God as a human being.
Just as societies and groups strive to make communities better, there are groups, who conspire to do evil deeds and go against the common good. If God is only human, then God can only hope that others will chose not to do evil with their free will. In conclusion, Johnson is flawed in looking at God as if God is human, then attaching inhuman traits or superhuman traits to action or inaction. If God is made of human qualities, then there will be flaws in even God’s own self and design.
But, with the insistence of Johnson to claim God as human, then we can simply look at ethical human approached to good and evil. We can be hopeful that with the Common Good approach that moral actors will do what is right with the idea that God would act in this same manner. References Johnson, B. C. “The Problem of God and Evil” in The Atheist Debater’s Handbook. (1983). Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. 99-108. reprint. Velasquez, M. , Andre, C. , Shanks, T, Meyer, S. J. & Meyer M. “Thinking Ethically: A Framework for Moral Decision Making” in Issues in Ethics (Winter, 1996). 2-5.