I characterized “The Mind and the Matter” as grappling with Leibniz’s answer to the questions: “Why is there something rather than nothing” and “Why is it this way rather than some other way.” I said that Leibniz’s answer was that the actual world is one of the possible worlds an all-powerful, all-knowing, and wholly good god considered, and its the one he/she/it created, indeed the world he/she/it had to create. “It’s a Good Life” presents us with an all-powerful and all-knowing god, but the answer to the question “Why is it this way rather than some other way” is far less interesting, because the god whose will provides the answer to that question lacks one of the three supreme attributes of Leibniz’s god. This god is not all wholly good. And this god has taken human form, the form of a six year old boy, Anthony Fremont, in Peaksville Ohio. The world is the way it is depicted because that’s the way Anthony wants it to be.
There is no doubt that Anthony is God, though it’s unclear who ran the show prior to Anthony coming on the scene. Whether he is part of a succession of gods, or just the same god who created things prior to his appearance to us, Anthony is in total control, and what happens is what he wills to happen, or at least what he does in response to the willed action of the few human agents that remain. Anthony has wiped out everything except the rural hamlet of Peaksville, Ohio. Perhaps most of the cosmos is intact, even if civilization has been reduced to this small portion of the American midwest.
Anthony is all-powerful. He creates and destroys species at will. He can create anything he can imagine. He dictates the behavior of all people. They do what he tells them to do. Anthony is all-knowing. When individuals harbor beliefs and desires that Anthony doesn’t approve of, they can’t keep their thoughts from him. He knows and lets them know that he knows. They also know that Anthony is a vengeful god.
I suggested that Anthony is not Leibniz’s god, because he is is far from being wholly good. The title of this episode, however, suggests that life under Anthony is good. This characterization may be no more puzzling than Leibniz’s characterization of our world as the best of of all possible worlds. If our world is the best world, or even a good world, and its the creation of a being who could have created the world differently, then such a being has a lot of explaining to do about the presence of disease, famine, earthquakes, floods, and other natural “evils,” even if other evils can be attributed to the free will of human agents.
Unfortunately, Anthony doesn’t offer explanations, and his creations are on thin ice when they question why things are the way they are. They have no doubt about their obligations to Anthony. They must love him unconditionally, praising him and his acts, and they must offer their thanks for all that he has given him, which includes Anthony’s killing of spouses, destruction of livestock and crops, and his complete control over the options available to them. But, “It’s a good life” or “It’s the best of all possible worlds.”
If Anthony is a representation of our god, then we have a solution to the problem of evil. The problem of evil is the problem of reconciling the existence of evil with the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent and wholly good god. “It’s a Good Life” shows how the tyranny of an Anthony explains why we would have to say that our god is wholly good, precisely because that god isn’t wholly good.