Book Review: The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw

“The main argument against the existence of God has always been the ‘argument from evil'”, argues Richard Swinburne, a philosopher who has written numerous works defending the existence of God .

For atheists like Sam Harris:

The problem of vindicating an omnipotent and omniscient God in the face of evil … is insurmountable. [1]

Based on this premise Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy tackle this problem head on in The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw, published by Baker Books (available at Amazon).

For those familiar with Norman Geisler’s FatalFlawCoverwork, you may be wondering how this book differs from his previous book – Not Enough Faith to be an Atheist? In the prior work, Geisler, and his coauthor Frank Turek, attempted to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Christian God existed. The book presented various logical arguments to support their premises and build a case. These included:

The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw, has a very different goal and a very different approach. It assumes that the Christian God exists. After all this is the starting point for the typical presentation of the problem of moral evil.

  • An omniscient God would know about evil before it happens.
  • An omnipotent God could destroy evil.
  • A benevolent God would destroy evil.
  • Evil exists.
  • Therefore a God that is omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent does not exist.

Geisler and McCoy focus on the writings of prominent atheists (including Dan Barker, Richard Carrier, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Bertrand Russell) to explore the philosophical reasons why they reject the Christian God (revealed in the Scriptures) based on the existence of moral evil.

How does the atheist actually expect God to handle the problem of moral evil? Geisler and McCoy present the three options that God has as follows [2]:

  • (A) forcible prevention of all moral evil
  • (B) forcible intervention into the most egregious cases of evil
  • (C) voluntary intervention at the mental/spiritual level

The third option (C) involves God making demands of people in 10 areas. People have the freedom to respond to God’s demands or to reject them. Each of these areas are examined in detail by pairing them up and then dedicating a chapter to the pairing.

  • Submission and Favor
  • Death and Faith
  • Guild and Rules
  • Punishment and Pardon
  • Hell and Heaven

The chapters primarily consist of the authors presenting what God expects and then  quotes and interacts with the writings of atheists in these areas. As they move through the book they seek to show that the logical argument against the existence of God as made by atheists has two contradictions.

The first contradiction is demanding God to fix the problem of moral evil while preserving human freedom.  A good and powerful God is rejected for failing to deal with moral evil at the A or B level removing its existence and the resulting pain and suffering. However, as the IEP article on the Logical Problem of Evil asserts:

He can create a world with free creatures or he can causally determine creatures to choose what is right and to avoid what is wrong every time; but he can’t do both. God can forcibly eliminate evil and suffering only at the cost of getting rid of free will.

The atheist rejects the only option (C) that deals with the problem of moral evil while preserving human freedom because pain and suffering still exist when people voluntarily choose to harm each other. Atheists require both the absence of moral evil and the preservation of human freedom. There is no option that is open to God and acceptable to atheists.

The second contradiction involves why they reject God’s fix (option C) for the problem of moral evil. Each of the ten areas in which God makes demands on people are considered immoral, however these same demands (or fixes) are seen as moral when society uses them. Therefore the atheist is inconsistent in how they view things like punishment. The problem is not the fix but the one who does the fixing.

The logical form would look like this:

  • God is immoral for punishing people who perform wicked acts in order to deal with the problem of moral evil.
  • Society is not immoral for punishing people who perform wicked acts in order to deal with the problem of moral evil.

The book ends by summarizing these inconsistencies and dealing with objections that atheists may have to these contradictions.

The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw is an excellent and unique book that allows atheists to present their case that the Christian God does not exist. The authors then clearly show that their argument is not philosophically or logically consistent and challenges the atheist to reexamine their case.

I highly recommend this book, however it may be a difficult read for those who do not normally engage with apologetic works or are unfamiliar with philosophical arguments. However, it is an excellent primer on the primary arguments against the Christian God and is well worth the challenge if you are interested in apologetics, philosophy, and the problem of evil.

Disclaimer: As part of the Baker Books Bloggers I was provided with a copy of this book in return for a review.

[1] quote taken from chapter 1 (page 20)
[2] from chapter 1 (page 7)

1 thought on “Book Review: The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw

  1. Pingback: It seems we have been made to suffer… | Dead Heroes Don't Save

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