There is a general misconception about God that he is good, but actually he is not. God is neither good nor evil; he is beyond good and evil. If believers say that God is the ultimate being, then that God cannot be good. When we say that God is good, we are passing some judgment about God, we are saying that he is good. But by what standard of goodness we are judging him good? From where has it originated? As believers say that their God was the only being that was there, therefore this standard of goodness could have originated from God only, and not from any other source, because except that God there was no other source from which it could have originated. So we are judging God good by his own standard of goodness. But this is a dangerous principle. This is because if this principle is being followed in other cases also, then there will be complete chaos. Then everybody will start claiming that he should be judged for his action by his own standard only, and not by the standard of other people, society, or state. And he can legitimately claim this, because he will say that God has made man in his own image. So the principle that is followed in the case of God should also be followed in case of each and every single human being. Why should there be any deviation from that principle in the case of man? Is he not created in God’s own image? So, after killing six million Jews Hitler will claim that he is innocent, because he thought it absolutely necessary to efface their race from the surface of the earth, in order to save mankind from future disasters. Therefore by his own standard of goodness and badness he has done nothing wrong.
Therefore the above principle will have to be abandoned and we will have to seek some other principle. In that case if we say that God is good, then we will have to admit that the standard by means of which we judge God good has not originated from him, but from some other source. Here there are two possibilities:
1) This standard is prior to God,
2) It is co-eternal with, but not originated from, God.
In none of the two cases above, God is the ultimate being that can be there. So believers cannot claim that their God is the ultimate being that is there, and at the same time claim that he is good.
Bertrand Russell, although an atheist, has already shown that God cannot be good, for the simple reason that if God is good, then there is a standard of goodness which is independent of God’s will. Here Russell is also admitting that if God is to be judged good at all, then he will have to be so judged by a standard that should not, and must not, have originated from God. In Hinduism, Brahman (The Supreme Being) is said to be beyond good and evil. He is neither good, nor evil. But both good as well as evil has originated from him, who is neither good nor evil.
Many Christian theists and apologists have time and again argued that evil is there because God wanted us to have free will. Free choice means one will have the freedom to choose between good and evil. So, if there is no evil, there is no freedom.
I think so far nobody has been able to properly tackle the problem of evil. If God is good, then why is there so much evil? The answer mostly given by the theists is just the one we read here. God wanted us to have free will. But having free will means having the freedom to choose between good and evil. But if there is no evil, then there is no more freedom of choice for us. Thus we are not actually free. Therefore evil must have to be there in order that we may have free will.
But the real story is something else. Evil is there not because God has given man free will, but because God is fully free. God is fully free means God has got full freedom to create. Similarly he has got full freedom not to create. But a good God can never have the freedom not to create, because in order to do justice to his own good nature a good God is always bound to create, and thus he is not fully free. How can a good God be called good if he cannot do any good to anybody? So, in order to do good to others a good God will always be bound to create others. So he can never have the freedom not to create.
Similarly it can be shown that neither can an evil God have the freedom not to create. An evil God cannot be properly called evil if he fails to do any evil to others. But if God wants to do evil to others, then first of all there will have to be others. So here also he is always bound to create others for doing justice to his evil nature. But for a God who is neither good nor evil there is no such binding that he will always have to create. Here he can freely decide whether he will create or not. Thus a really free God is neither good nor evil. Like Hindu’s Brahman he is beyond good and evil.
Now, if we accept that God is fully free, then we will have to admit that he is neither good nor evil. In a universe that has originated from a God who is neither good nor evil there will always be good as well as evil, as there will always be positive energy as well as negative energy in a universe that has originated from zero energy. Theists always say that their God is all-powerful. But actually they pretend as if they are more powerful than their all-powerful God. That is why by labeling their God as all-good they dare to curtail God’s own freedom, his freedom not to create.
This is for those who are very much hurt by the idea that God is neither good nor evil, that he is beyond good and evil. Traditional God is described in this way: before creation there was only one God, and there was nothing else; no space, no time and no matter. Let us suppose that in this situation God asked himself this question: am I good? If in this situation it was possible for God to know with certainty that he is good, then of course he is good. But if this was not at all possible, then God cannot be called good. Those who will opt for the affirmative here should also explain by what process God could have come to the realization that he is good, because we all agree that at that time there was no one else, nothing else, other than God.
If I claim about myself that I am good, then I am also claiming that I am the negation of that which is not good. That, which is not good, is the other, and I am not the other. I am the negation of the other, and the other is my negation.
But if we claim about God that he is good, then where is the other of whom God is the negation? This is because before creation God was one, and there was no one else other than God. So for God to be good, he will have to be his own negation. For God to be good he will have to contain within himself his own other. This can be expressed in the following way: God is the principle that represents all that is good and at the same time he is the principle that represents all that is not good. God is the affirmation as well as the negation at the same time. So either we will have to say that God is both good and not good. Or we will have to say that God is neither good nor not good. But to say that God is good will be philosophically naive and immature.
Many theists believe that God is good. If there is any evil on earth, then that is solely due to man’s disobedience to God, and not due to any shortcomings of him. He is perfectly good. In the statement “God is good” atheists have found a ready weapon with which they can easily defeat their opponents. Actually what procedure have they followed here? It is this: first they have seen what predictions can be made about the universe from the above statement without violating any rule of logic. Then they have checked whether these predictions are supported by evidence or not. As they have found that these are not so supported, so they have concluded that there is no God. In a universe created by a perfectly good God there cannot be so much evil and suffering that we find on this earth. So they cannot be fully blamed if they come to such a conclusion that God does not exist.
But in Part II of this article I have already shown that a good God is not fully free, because he is always bound to create others in order to do good to them. A God who cannot do any good to others cannot be called really good. Similarly it has been shown that neither is an evil God fully free. A God who is fully free is neither good nor evil; he is beyond good and evil. I think there will be found not a single theist on earth who will claim that his God is not fully free. Therefore one day he will also have to admit that a fully free God is neither good nor evil. A universe created by a God who is neither good nor evil will also bear the traits of its creator; it will also be neither good nor evil. I think this will solve the problem of evil on earth once and for all. From this we can make one more point: by simply showing that there is so much evil on earth, non-existence of God cannot be so easily established.
Here I have shown that God’s goodness conflicts with his freedom. If God is good, then he is not fully free. Again, if God is fully free, then he cannot be good. Similarly it can be shown that various other attributes assigned to him by theists do not go well with his oneness. One example may be cited here. Let us say that God is love. But if he is one, then before creation whom did he love? So if God is love, then that will imply that there is at least one being co-eternal with God, and in that case God’s oneness will be gone forever. God is one means there was no one else other than God at the beginning. Some Christian theologians claim that there will be no such problem in their case, because their God is one but Trinitarian in nature. So before creation there will be the reciprocal love of the Persons of the Trinity. So Father loved Son, Son in turn loved Holy Ghost and Holy Ghost in turn loved Father. But this does not solve all the problems, because God is not only love, he is merciful, just, etc. If God is merciful, then before creation to who was he merciful? Perhaps the reply will be that Father was merciful to Son, Son in turn was merciful to Holy Ghost, and Holy Ghost in turn was merciful to Father. But the question is: why will Father have to be merciful to Son? Was there any possibility for Son to commit any sin, and so, Father would have a provision for mercy also for his only begotten Son? Similarly it can be asked: why will Holy Ghost have to be merciful to Father? In this case, was there any possibility for Father to commit any sin? Thus we see that even the idea of a Trinitarian God cannot solve all the problems.
So, a God who is one and fully free cannot have any attributes. Like Hindu’s Brahman he will have no qualifier.