The Problem of Non-God objects

The problem of non-God objects (PONGO) has to do with the fact that anything exists at all besides God. In other words, if God exists, then only God should exist; God wouldn’t create anything.

Obviously, this alleged problem can be turned into an argument (and indeed it has). Here is the argument:

  • Proposition P1: If the Christian God exists, then God-World is the unique best possible world. (a world where God alone exists)
  • Proposition P2: If God-World is the unique best possible world, then the Christian God would maintain God-World.
  • Proposition P3: God-World is false because the Universe (or any non-God object) exists.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, the Christian God, as so defined, does not exist.

 

First, it’s worth noting that this argument, in my experience, doesn’t really appear to be very convincing to most people (including a lot of atheists). Maybe the reason why is because it might be unsound, but maybe not. The argument from suffering seems convincing and has a personal element, but the strength of arguments should not depend on how they trigger our emotions.

Secondly, and speaking of the argument from evil, the PONGO is similar to certain versions of the argument from evil. Certain versions say that God wouldn’t create anything less than the best. However, that’s different from this argument (PONGO) because this argument is saying that God wouldn’t create anything at all.  There are also arguments for God’s non-existence that argue that God would create only beings that are divine or god-like (e.g. beings that are all-powerful and all-good….but created).  Once again, this is different from the PONGO because of the emphasis on God not creating anything at all.

Thirdly, the PONGO wouldn’t just apply to the Christian conception of God. It would apply to classical monotheism in particular (God is the Being who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good).

So, how should we evaluate the argument? Well, one could first question whether each premise is necessarily true. If the premises are going to be conceived of as necessary truths, the argument is going to have a hard time getting off the ground. For instance, it seems implausible to say that it is strictly logically impossible for God to create a world with no suffering. Yet, that would be the implication if the argument was sound. In addition, the person who runs this argument would have to demonstrate that it’s strictly logically impossible for God to create beings who are all-powerful and all-good. If God can do that, then it’s unclear whether the PONGO is sound. That’s because it’s not obvious whether a world with God alone is better than a world with other divine-like beings.

Premise 1 of the argument, from my research, seems to be arguing from the fact that all goods are in God. It’s true that you might be able to trace every token instance of a good to a certain type of good, and that type exists in God. But what’s not clear is whether this means all goods are in God in the relevant sense needed for the first premise to go through; it’s not clear that this token/type suggestion is true. This type-token distinction is a debate itself, and it has been debated elsewhere (see: Schellenberg and Gellman).

Thus, maybe the skeptic or naturalist should seek other arguments. But, perhaps an argument similar to the PONGO can be formulated. What would this look like? Well, maybe one could flip the argument from contingency (for God’s existence) on its head. The idea would be that the fact that, since there are contingent things that are physical, this is more plausible on the hypothesis of naturalism than on the hypothesis of theism.  Or, one could argue that if naturalism is true, contingent things have to exist. However, on theism, God doesn’t have to create any contingent things at all.

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