As I write this, there has recently been a large tsunami that has destroyed large sections of Japan, with large numbers of people being killed and property destroyed. In 2004, a tsunami in the Indian Ocean killed about 230,000 people and destroyed an incalcuable amount of property. In 2010, an earthquake in Haiti killed many tens of thousands of people, mostly desperately poor people who had no way of helping themselves. In 1984, a quart of water in the wrong place caused a pesticide leak in Bhopal, India, resulting in many thousands of people dying and becoming sick from exposure to a pesticide. As you can imagine, such sickness and death would be especially horrible.
Virtually all of us know of some personal disaster that has befallen us or someone around us. Almost every day, infants die in fires, people are injured, and people get terrible diseases. To add to the frustration, it seems that some of the worst of society live long, relatively pain-free lives.
The pain of such situations causes us to scream out ‘Why?’ If a good God exists, then would He not stop such suffering? Even if God were but mediocre, but had the power to aid such a situation, would He not do so? We can envision even the most callous among us stopping to help someone who is suffering, yet we are told God is all-good and all -powerful, but sits back and allows such suffering.
Many who experience such pain are tempted to denounce God, saying these problems are proof that no God exists. The reasoning says that if God were all-good and all-powerful, He would destroy evil, but since evil exists, then God is either not good, not powerful, or non-existing.
But lets look at the alternatives. The atheist tells us no God exists, that all reality is but molecules in motion. If true, then good or evil do not exist in a universal, moral sense, but only in the constructs of some people’s minds. Are we not repeatedly told that the religionists have no right to impose their sense of right and wrong on the rest of society, for no such universal standards exist? Well, if no universal standards of right and wrong exist, then we have lost our ability to say that massive death is evil. Those who deny God must face the cold hard conclusion that what they are calling evil is not evil at all, but is no more different than a calm sunset. Once we give up God as a standard of good and evil, we must admit to ourselves that no evil exists, or at best is an illusion in our minds. C. S. Lewis puts it this way:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? . . . Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.
Thus the theist is able to truly say that evil exists and it is truly evil. Those who walk away from God can at best say that suffering is painful, but cannot say that evil exists, which removes the reason they are denying God in the first place.
There are other questions about evil that must be answered, but this post is already too long. We will deal with more of these questions in the future, but for now we can confidently say that denying God due to the presence of evil is not an answer to the problem. It only makes it worse.