Contrary to the standard view that miracles are a blessing from God, a miracle, when performed by a being that has the power and the knowledge to do vastly more good than that miracle alone, is evil. The doctor who arbitrarily withholds a perfect vaccine from countless needy people and gives it to only a few would be morally reprehensible. In the bathroom of a Las Vegas casino in 1997, Jeremy Strohmeyer brutally killed a little girl in a Las Vegas casino bathroom and his best friend, David Cash Jr. watched and did nothing about it. Strohmeyer was tried and convicted for the murder, but even though he confessed to Cash, the law had no provision for prosecuting Cash for his gross failure of moral duty to report the crime. The California state legislature quickly passed a law obliging witnesses of felonies against minors to report them. The murder of Kitty Genovese in New York while dozens of neighbors listened and did nothing catalyzed the New York legislature to do the same. Most would agree that the doctor, David Cash, and the witnesses to the Genovese murder should have done something, particularly since so much good could have been accomplished with so little effort. But that moral judgment cannot be reconciled with a supernatural being who performs a miracle while idly standing by in the presence of so much suffering in the course of history. Such a being would be guilty of gross negligence, and unfairness. Furthermore, these final examples of the capricious doctor, David Cash, and Kitty Genovese suggest that if there are real moral obligations of stewardship towards those beings who are weaker than you, and a duty to rescue, then a supernatural being who performs a miracle is in violation of those moral duties too. Such a being, like Cash, the Genovese witnesses, and the hypothetical doctor, would be morally evil.
Whether or not there actually is a duty to rescue is a point of some controversy in moral theory, however. But even if there is no duty to rescue, there are reasons to think that a morally perfect being would go above and beyond the call of moral duty. Earl Conee has argued that “supererogatory acts are morally right alternatives that are morally better than other alternatives that are also right. Any morally perfect agent would do whatever is supererogatory at every opportunity, because this would be the morally best course of action and morally perfect conduct could not be improved upon.” 1 What we find most noble and most morally praiseworthy about heroic acts is that someone does so much more good than is required of them, sometimes with great sacrifice. If doing one supererogatory act is good, then doing them at every opportunity is better. And there are abundant opportunities that have been ignored by a God who is willing and able to perform miracles.
So there are three reasons why God would not perform miracles: The problem of omission/fairness—God wouldn’t perform one miracle while ignoring an endless list of others that are morally equivalent. It would be unfair to single out some and neglect others; God’s duty to rescue—moral decency requires that one help those in need, particularly when their needs are great and the required effort from you is so minimal; God’s supererogatory acts—going above and beyond the call of duty is good, doing it at every opportunity is better.
The final two arguments that I have offered concerning God’s duty to rescue and supererogatory acts for God provide us with a new argument for atheism. Morally good beings have a duty to rescue, but none of the mitigating factors that might absolve a human such as fear for their own life or inability will apply to an omni-being. Conee’s supererogatory argument expands God’s moral culpability. A morally perfect being would pursue every good act that is above and beyond the call of duty. By implication, insofar as there are rescues that have not been enacted and heroic acts that have not been performed, then we can infer that there is no morally perfect omni-being. And if there is no morally perfect, omni-being, then there is no God.
1 Conee, Earl. “The Nature and Impossibility of Moral Perfection,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. LIV, No. 4, December 1994.
Ultimately, Conee employs this reasoning to show that moral perfection is impossible. He doesn’t draw out the implication that since moral perfection is an essential property of being God, then the existence of God is impossible (yet another disproof of God.)