Evil, God, and Atheism

As I write this, there has been yet another evil act that recently occurred. A man took guns into a crowded theater and killed 12 people, wounded many more, and caused a tremendous amount of suffering and pain. I have found that experiences such as this raise a very old question: If God is good, why is there evil? The skeptic and atheist will be quick to question God in such a tragedy, saying that God must either not exist, be powerless, or even worse, not care.

First, we must realize that if we take evil situations such as this and use them to dismiss God, we have not solved the problem. Quite the contrary, we have in fact made the problem worse. For we all recognize that such events are indeed evil, and if so, banishing God out of the picture does not answer the question about how did evil get here, and what can we do about it. If we banish God, we are left with nothing but a frustrating, painful situation with no hope. The atheist will tell us to not be weak and invent a God, but rather be strong and admit that the evil and pain are just there, then you die.

The Christian, on the other hand, can hold on to a God who, in the end, will right every wrong, wipe every tear (Rev. 21:4), and punish every evil. Accuse the Christian of what you will, but he has both hope and an ultimate answer to the problem of evil, when the atheist can only offer emptiness.

Second, if we banish God, we have removed the ultimate standard of good and are left, at best, with a relative goodness which depends on the perspective of the viewer. Without an ultimate, objective standard of good that is separate from all of us, we can only have a vote as to what is good or bad. What answer can we give to the neighboring society who has voted and determined that it is good and proper to eliminate everyone in our society? The most we can say to them is, ‘I disagree with you, and I do not like your conclusions. Please stop.’ We cannot say they have come short of a moral standard, for we have no standard to measure them against.

Third, if we banish God, we are left with only matter and energy. Matter and energy is neither good nor bad, moral or immoral, it just is. If all we have is a few jars of chemicals with which to create a reaction, and one chemical destroys the other, we cannot say that reaction is morally good or evil — it would merely be what it is. Therefore if we banish God, we unknowingly banish our ability to call things evil, which was our excuse in the first place for banishing God.

Lastly, in the face of tremendous evil, we send in pastors, chaplains, and counselors, for these are the people who can console the hurting. Such people will not claim to know the secret things of God, but they can offer a consoling shoulder based in love, motivated by a loving Savior who did the same for them. The ones who are prepared to rush in and help are those who have dedicated their lives to the service of God.

 

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About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Atheism, Morality. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Evil, God, and Atheism

  1. rosross says:

    The problem is not with God but with the narrow and ‘human’ concept of God as taught by so many religions. Atheists and Skeptics certainly have a case against the sort of God found in most religion but no case against a God which is all that is; of which we are a part; which is intelligent consciousness and which has created us with free will.
    Such acts are sourced in human nature and because all is God are a part of God but not chosen by God; they are chosen by us. The narrow and limited definition of a God as taught by religion must be responsible for all acts, not just the good. If 400 people are involved in some terrible accident and ten survive, and if, as is so often said, this is thanks to God, then this same God also killed the other 390. Or, in the case of this tragedy, this version of God, or interpretation of God, saved those who lived and killed those who died. Logically. If God is held accountable for good acts then God must also be accountable for what is called evil.
    In reality this young man, for whatever reason was insane and had access to weapons in a way which occurs in no other developed nation. Mental illness and guns combined with fear and rage, for fear is always behind rage, is a deadly combination.

    • humblesmith says:

      If God is all, then ‘creating us’ is an illusion, for we are God. Saying that such acts are “sourced in human nature” is either another illusion, or is an absurd and internally incoherent statement. If all is God, as you claim, then evil and good are both God, and there is no ultimate distinction between the two…all distinctions between good and evil are illusory. Such a position is a worse than theism, for it does not ultimately recognize evil.

      As for God being responsible, I have dealt with this in both this blog entry and in others. In short, God will ultimately right every wrong, and as just judge, condemn evil. To prevent all evil human acts would be a worse world, a world of programmed robots that had no capacity for bravery, self-sacrifice, courage, or love.

      Further, if God were to prevent everyone from acting freely, He would be called an ogre who intervenes in every act He does not like. So the critics of traditional Christianity try to paint God into a paradoxical box of which He is always condemned. Fortunately, the bible presents a loving God who is in control. separate from a sinful world, and will ultimately rule with love and justice.

  2. Walt says:

    You seem to take it as self-evident that there is no right or wrong without God – do you explain this claim in a separate post?

  3. Since good and evil are merely the perceptions of what is beneficial and harmful to a living creature, the human concept of good and evil may not be applicable to God. God may not be bound to human standards of morality, or may not be wholly good from a human perspective. One argument proposes a Creator who is omnipotent, omniscient and completely just, although is not omnibenevolent. In this argument, since God brings the universe into existence, God can cause both ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in the world while remaining completely just.

    • humblesmith says:

      If good and evil are as you say, “merely the perceptions of what is benificial and harmful” then good and evil are perceptions, not universally objective, nor do they transcend our perceptions (e.g, not universal and objective). It would then be the case that one society’s perceptions of what is good and evil were no more valid than any other society’s perceptions, and we would have no basis for challenging anyone’s actions anywhere in the world, including the Nazis or Vlad the Impaler, who impaled thousands of people for no more purpose than intimidating his enemies. But all humans do indeed have a sense that there are good things and evil things that apply to all people in all places, and are not just their opionions. For example, all people think it wrong for me to steal their stuff, and they do not think it to be a mere perception, but a truly wrong act. Thus good and evil are not based in perceptions, but transcend beyond the human mind.

  4. Mike says:

    “The Christian, on the other hand, can hold on to a God who, in the end, will right every wrong, wipe every tear (Rev. 21:4), and punish every evil.”

    You’re so wrong here. Mainline Protestantism believes that god only judges us by one thing: whether or not we’ve accepted Christ as our lord and savior. If you do, all sins are forgiven and thrown onto scapegoat Jesus. This means that I can literally kill, rape, and steal anything I want all my life, and all I need to do is repent and believe in Jesus before I die and I get to go to heaven. And if I kill non-christians – THEY go to hell when they die! Some justice system huh?

  5. Mike says:

    I’m sure the “pastors, chaplains, and counselors” will have an easy time telling any of the non-christian victim’s relatives that their loved ones are now in hell. I’m sure they’ll find that tremendously consoling.

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