The problem of evil

“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?”
— The Riddle of Epicurus BC 341-270

This is, perhaps my number one reason for not believing in a God. It would not be an issue were I a follower of Cthulhu. The God of the Bible however is claimed to be an omnipotent, omniscient benefactor to humanity.

I have discussed this issue with many Christians over the years and find the explanations fall into just a few key areas.

The first is to blame humanity and the fall (the introduction of evil into the world through Adam and Eve’s eating of the apple, also known as original sin). The Bible of course places the blame for the fall firmly with Adam and Eve. For many Christians it’s mostly Eve’s fault of course. But how about the fall? What kind of parent deliberately places a temptation to which they know their child will succumb directly on the child’s way? Then when the child succumbs the parent throws the child out of the house and disowns them. This is not the behavior of a loving and responsible parent.

The second is to argue that it’s all part of God’s ineffable plan and that even if we can’t see the ultimate good in the outcome that’s because of our limitations. There are a number of verses commonly used to support this but the following is the most often quoted:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” — Romans 8:28

Potentially this deals with everyday disappointments and difficulties. However it’s impossible to argue that the death of 250,000 people in a tsunami was for the good of every Christian among them including the babies and small children. It’s clear, we live in a world where bad things happen. They happen to good people and bad people. They happen to innocent babies and terrible murderers. There really is no rationalizing it. At this point my experience is that Christians start to either get angry or just state outright that they don’t have an answer.

Some Old Testament quotes tend to come up at this point. Especially

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” — Isaiah 55:8-9

In the end there just doesn’t seem to be any rational response to the problem of evil than blind faith. What the Bible says about God and the reality of the world simply don’t match up. As I’ve come to realize in conversations and by looking back over my own life, most Christians gloss over these issues. They mentally skip past them. The road to my deconversion started the moment I stopped performing those mental gymnastics.

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