As I write this, a terrorist has exploded a bomb at the Boston marathon, killing some and wounding many dozens more. I recall after the 9/11 terrorist acts in Washington, afterward some people were driven toward God and some were driven away. Those driven toward God were reminded of the need for comfort and guidance. Those who were driven away often spoke of the problem of evil, asking how God could have allowed such tragedy.
This blog has spoken many times of the problem of evil (just search for evil or morality in the search box). Christians are often put on the defensive, supplying answers to questions about God, good, power, and evil. Some accept these answers, some do not.
However we view the Christians’ answer, it is far superior to the atheist explanation for the grounding of morality. While we all know that every atheist has a system of morality, they do not have a sufficient explanation for the grounding of that morality. Popular atheist spokesman Richard Dawkins, speaking at a national rally in Washington, explained his position quite clearly, saying “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” He did not completely believe this, of course, for in the same short talk he blamed religion for being evil, having just said that evil does not exist.
But if we were to be consistent with Dawkins’ first statement, then the universe has, at bottom, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference. This might be interesting discussions in the ivory tower hallways of distant discussion, but is inadequate to discuss right after a funeral. No, it is even worse, for to say, on the day of a funeral of a murdered loved one, that there is no evil and no good, is a horrible morality worse than anything an Old Testament God could be accused of, for it not only says that every dastardly deed is not evil, but tells us we should look on it with blind indifference. I trust Dawkins and his followers do not truly believe this, nor should they.
I trust Dawkins would look on terrorist acts and say that when he made his speech in Washington he did not intend for that to apply. But if it does not apply to evil acts, then where does it apply? Perhaps the statement only applies to “sort-of” evil acts, or to only certain evil acts but not others, or to some surface good but not ultimate good. In any case it would appear quite difficult to have blind pitiless indifference only sometimes and other times show compassion.
A much more satisfactory explanation is that of Aquinas, who, 750 years earlier, told us that we cannot have a better without having a best, we cannot distinguish between greater and lesser goods without having an ultimate good to measure them against. We therefore hold that both good and evil exist, and that we, as part of the universe, ought not be pitiless.