Atheists often argue against the existence of God, and specifically an almighty and good God on the basis of the existence of evil and suffering in the universe. The argument goes something like this:
God is all-powerful, loving, and perfect.
A perfect, good God would create a universe that was perfect (e.g., no evil and suffering).
The universe is not perfect but contains evil and suffering.
Therefore, God does not exist.
Basically, it’s always some form of the Epicurean paradox.
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”- Epicurus
So in short, either God is not good, or not all-powerful or he does not exist, because if he did exist then surely he could stop all the suffering. The atheist then concludes that both the idea of a bad God and the idea of a limited God make no sense, therefore God must not exist. Variations on this ages old theme exist but that is the gist of it.
So how does one answer this type of objection?
Most apologists go into lengthy arguments concerning why a good and almighty God could and does allow evil & suffering in the world. They will usually get into the biblical fall of Lucifer and of man to explain how such evils and sufferings came to be.
That’s all well and good. But forget all that for now. There is a much simpler way to demonstrate why this argument is flawed.
First you must see that in a universe with no God, there cannot be any absolute moral values. Most atheists admit this. For example:
“Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3)no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent.” -William B. Provine, atheist professor of biology at Cornell University
“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reason to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.”Richard Dawkins, –Out of Eden, page 133
“If there is no God, everything is permitted.” – Jean Paul Sartre on Ivan Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevski’s character
“Morality is no more … than an adaptation, and as such has the same status as such things as teeth and eyes and noses. . . . [M]orality is a creation of the genes”. – Michael Ruse
“Nature has no concern for good or bad, right or wrong. . . . We cannot get behind ethics.” – Naturalist Simon Blackburn
Evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson said that morality is just a survival mechanism. Ethics, he claims,
“is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes to get us to cooperate,” and “the way our biology enforces its ends is by making us think that there is an objective higher code to which we are all subject.”
Now how does one refute the atheist argument against God based on evil & suffering?
Easy. Without God, there is no good or evil.
The atheist high priests, quoted above say so.
The goes the ball game for the atheist objector. The atheist shoots himself in the foot with such arguing against God based on “there is so much evil”. For such an argument becomes too obviously wrong given that “no God = no evil”. So how does the atheist argue against God based on something that does not and cannot exist in his own worldview? Contradiction much? Indeed.
Suffering becomes a mere amoral, purposeless event in a cold uncaring cosmos. Or as Dawkins put it, a blind, pitiless, indifferent universe. Suffering, but without God suffering is neither evil nor good nor “bad”, since godd and bad only exist as humans illusions.
Thus we see how the atheist in using the existence of evil and suffering to refute the existence of God is unwittingly assuming the existence of God in the very argument itself.
Therefore, how can one claim God doesn’t exist while admitting the existence of evil? If there is no God how does one define evil? Indeed, how does one claim that suffering is “wrong” in a universe without God?
One might even state,
“Evil exists. Therefore God exists. God defines ultimate good. Evil is all that is contrary to that good. No God, no evil”
The fact that all men everywhere and at all times have recognized the existence of evil, demonstrates the existence of a transcendent moral law, else, evil does not exist. Things simply are what they are – neither right nor wrong; neither evil or good.
Without an absolute law giver, there can be no such thing as evil or good and since atheists, as shown above, really do admit that without God there is no real good or evil, how can they then contradict themselves by claiming God doesn’t exist based on it? Intellectual blindness, that’s how.
Thus the atheists using this argument, show a rather stunning lack of perception. But in this case it is a lack of perception of their own arguments logical implications and flaws! To argue against God based on the existence of evil is to argue for God based on the existence of moral right and wrong. So when atheists use the old “problem of pain and evil” argument they are unwittingly admitting of a transcendent Law that defines evil by the existence of absolute good – which is the ONLY way evil can be defined!
C.S. Lewis wrote,
“Truth and falsehood are opposed; but truth is the norm not of truth only but of falsehood also.”
–The Allegory of Love
Indeed, without God (ultimate truth) there is no reason to call anything at all “evil”.
Thus the whole “evil and suffering” based argument falls apart under its own underlying assumptions. This argument actually does more to uphold the existence of God than it can ever do to refute it. Sadly, most atheists do not and will not see this, such is the hardness of their hearts.