John K. Alexander asked me to post this interesting thought experiment, in order to get helpful comments:
Many people play computer games, many of which contain great numbers of fictional characters ‘experiencing’ horrendous evils and suffering. Game players seem to get a great deal of satisfaction/pleasure playing these games and there seems to be nothing morally wrong with getting pleasure or satisfaction this way. After all, the characters are fictional and are not really suffering regardless of whether or not the game mirrors real life to some extent. Imagine that there is a game designer who is designing a game similar to ‘Grant Theft Auto.’ Imagine further that the designer has developed a program that if it is incorporated into the game will make the characters sentient. Should the designer incorporate that program into the game he created? My intuition, and those of actual game designers I have discussed this with, is that the designer ought not to incorporate that program – that to do so would to be doing something wrong. The underlying intuition is that to introduce the ability to suffer is wrong. The characters in the game will go through the ‘life’ created by the game parameters and the game can be fun for those sentient beings that play it, but no one is being actually being harmed in the game. Introducing sentience into the game causes the characters to be actually harmed therefore introducing sentience is wrong. This being the case then if God is the designer He has to make the choice to introduce sentience into the universe He creates because He knows how to do so. It seems to follow that if we should not introduce sentience into our games then God should not introduce sentience into the universe (game) He creates. Furthermore, not introducing sentience should not affect the joy, or sorrow, that He experiences playing His game. This being so, the fact that human beings do suffer seems to be a good reason for believing that God does not exist.