I'm not sure if this is the right SE but I'll try to ask this here. If it isn't the right SE please tell me in the comments and I'll delete my question.

Usually it's said that God is benevolent because he gave us free will to choose between good and evil, but I don't understand why that is enough to say he is good.

I know that He in some way created the evilness (because he is "so" good that He let us choose our path, either good or evil), but now is the part I don't understand:

Why if we choose the path that He doesn't want (evil) we are punished by Him and sent to hell?

Isn't that the same as being malevolent? He lets us choose between A and B, but if we choose B He will punish us. I don't know about you, but for me that sounds like a dictator.

Why is God "benevolent"? Or maybe the question should be: Why is it said that God "is" benevolent?

P.S: I'm sorry if I offended anyone with this post. I don't mean to. I'm atheist.

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  • I made some edits to hopefully clarify. As you are probably aware you may roll these back or continue editing. There is a chat room open if you would like to discuss such issues: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/76868/… more informally. I like your focus on why God is considered benevolent. I suspect Plantinga has some explanation for that in his Free Will Defense regarding the logical problem of evil. – Frank Hubeny Jun 21 at 19:37
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    This is known as the problem of Hell, Wikipedia has a long article about it. Roughly, the defense is that God's benevolence must be balanced by his other perfections (or it will cease to be a perfection itself), primarily justice, to put it crudely he is only as benevolent as justice permits. Keep in mind though that some theologians and even some Christian denominations, like Jehovah’s Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventists, reject the doctrine of Hell. – Conifold Jun 21 at 19:56
  • “God is benevolent because he gave us free will”. I’m not sure may people would put it that way. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say: Benevolence is one of the divine attributes, and giving us free will is part of His benevolence (because free will is a good). Also bear in mind that doing evil won’t automatically lead to hell: at least in a Christian context, forgiveness is a huge part of God’s goodness. Some theologians (even in the more mainstream branches) take this so far as to say hell is empty, except for those who want to be there. – MarkOxford Jun 21 at 21:29
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    @Conifold, but since notions of justice change, the God (in human minds) also is changing? In either way, doctrine of hell was created somewhere in Indo-Arian society and only then passed to other religions. – rus9384 Jun 22 at 6:11
  • Perhaps this question is better posted on a religion SE. – Mark Andrews Jun 29 at 19:02
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The idea of a personified God comes from the Judeo-Christian tradition. Nontheistic religions don't even have a God figure. Some other traditions such us the luciferians believe that God is in fact the devil and Lucifer is the true saviour of humanity.

There are some critics on the Christian benevolent concept of God:

  • Some believe that the Christian God is based in the Stockholm syndrome because people are somehow hostages of an authoritarian fascist you are forced to love which has the power to send you to hell for eternity if you don't obey it's commandments.
  • The concept of freewill is also unclear because if God created man and woman and the snake with all its defects. God is omniscient therefore God knew they both would eat from the apple of knowledge (God doesn't want you to have knowledge) and then later made them feel guilty of original sin which is a morality rule created by God itself.

The idea of a benevolent God comes from the new testament as presented by Jesus Christ as a God of love, truth and forgiveness.

Basic Christian principles here

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    Second point presupposes determinism. If determinism is false (as many of the christians believe), then this point is wrong. But in either way, very few so-called christians really even know the first passages of bible (even book of genesis). Many of them deny that old testament has not been changed. They might think original text differed very much from current one. And they have reasons to think so. – rus9384 Jun 22 at 10:57

My spin on the benevolent God is that God made us into beings, with our own bodies and our own consciousness (which comes with it, our own free will) our own feelings and desires and aspiration and joy and and sorrow and meaning and grace and existence. I am a being, not a mindless automaton, and I didn't attain this state of being from anything of my own merit. I didn't earn the right to exist as a being. It's a gift.

But The Problem of Evil continues to exist and, for that reason, there are many people who conclude that if God exists, then God can't be particularly benevolent. I understand that P.O.V. but do not share it.

Anything claimed about God's nature must be on some basis, or else nobody would listen. Christians have called it "revelation" if you know something about God, and separate this into "general revelation" and "special revelation".

General revelation is knowledge that can be gotten from observation and introspection. This is things like, "I feel strongly about good and bad, although I can't see that this is a part of the physical universe: there must be something setting this standard that's apart from the physical universe. (i.e. the moral argument for God)"

Special revelation is knowledge that is communicated to people in their own language, in words. People who provide special revelation are called "prophets". This is inclusive of the writers of the Torah and the New Testament, and the Psalms, Proverbs, "prophets", etc. in the Bible. Prophets are presumed false unless they can make a prediction that gets fulfilled according to the standard set at Deuteronomy 18:15-22 and also 1 John 4:1 (to Christians).

So whenever somebody says something about God, like "God is benevolent", it's either falsifiable according to "general revelation" or "special revelation."

  • The same principle, I suppose, applies for things like "God isn't benevolent" and indeed, "God doesn't exist" or "God isn't like you think he/she/it is": the assertions can be disputed and / or defended according to "special and general revelation". Typical arguments against the existence of God, in these terms, occur in the category of "general revelation" when they don't take scripture into account and "special revelation" when they address specific claims from people who acknowledge the prophetic content of scripture. – elliot svensson Jun 28 at 0:22
  • Philosophy regarding special revelation, I suppose, is synonymous with theology. A project called "natural theology" has been proposed which I would make synonymous with "general revelation". – elliot svensson Jun 28 at 0:23

Some Christians have claimed that God's perfect goodness and God's all-powerfulness together mean that God is absolutely just. It's hard to imagine absolute justice, but that's when every moral agent will nod their head and say, "yep that's right" when the guilty are punished and the innocent go free.

Absolute justice would be well and good, but without some kind of intervention it probably doesn't provide a nice outcome to as many people as some might like to see. I suppose that whatever that intervention is between us and swift justice sounds a lot like "benevolence".

Why is it said that God is benevolent?

I'm very philosophical about it. Without God there would be no life.

For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself...

John 5:26, KJV, New Testament

Nietzsche...was interested in life...Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Bear in mind that I am not discussing religion, theology, doctrine -- or death and suffering. The question and my answer is restricted only to God and life. Because I'll gladly pay the price in order to experience the gift of life.

You correctly phrase your question in the form "Why is it said?". Godists would have it otherwise, but God is entirely made in man's image. Any statements about God are not the statements of God about herself, but the statements of a human being, somewhere, who is presumably in a state of perplexity. God, who is clearly not evident, is introduced as an antidote to this state of perplexity.

A state of perplexity need not be a bad or unpleasant thing, but for many people it is. Why is that so? Only if one starts out believing to be on a rock-solid foundation, is one confounded to discover there is no such thing. Even mathematics and physics prove to be extensions of axioms only. And so, for those who can not psychologically tolerate to discover themselves to be without an absolute, God is quite a handy artifice.

Why create a malevolent God, when a benevolent one would be so much nicer?

What God do you speak of? Not the God of the Bible, that's for sure:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

[Isaiah 45:7, KJB]

Or, as rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel would put it:

God is not nice. God is not an uncle. God is an earthquake.

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