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One Reason Why Atheists Don't Believe: Where Is God When There's So Much Evil In The World?
Or "One Reason Why Many Atheist's Question The Morality of Worship"10/04/07
The thing is - if God exists and God is good - then what's with all the suffering? Why were we made so fragile and left to run around in a universe that is so dangerous? One might be tempted to say that God really does exist, but conclude that he is evil. Yet there is also good in the world. An evil God could surely have made it far worse place than it is. The Christian concept of Hell seems like one good example of a world that inflicts greater suffering. So maybe God exists, but he's just really, really incompetent. Or maybe he just didn't try too hard. Yet that's not the sort of God most theists believe in. Or maybe God really is evil, but he puts good things in the world so we don't get too used to all the bad stuff? After all, too much suffering and you start to feel sort of numb to it after a while. Or maybe the atheists (like myself) are right. Maybe everything came to exist through purely natural processes and there is no motive to any of it. That's where a lot atheists stand on this issue. How could there be a good, intelligent creator-god who's also willing to leave us in this situation?
Many apologists have tried to answer this one, but I haven't heard a religious explanation that really works for me. Still, we can look at some of the ones I'm most familiar with. Note that I'm not interested in convincing you that I'm right, only that atheists have a good reason to shake our heads at this one. Let's have a look and maybe you'll see what I mean.
We are but children in this life, and God wants to teach us a lesson so when we die and go to Heaven (or some other after life) we do so as better people.
Why It Doesn't Work For Me:
First, I'm not sure how lessons in this life will affect us in the after life unless the after life is just more of the same, which seems pretty pointless. Second, putting us on Earth this way is also an opportunity for us to screw up and get sent to Hell or simply killed without the chance for a happy after life. Wouldn't it be easier just to make us with these skills and tendencies already in place? Then God could skip all the suffering and just let us live in Heaven or paradise or whatever he has in store for us. What's the point of this "lesson?" Does God make the angels suffer too? If they don't need this lesson, then why make us so we would need it? It just doesn't seem to add up for me. Some might say that God would have to turn us into unthinking automatons to fix the "flaw" which makes this life lesson necessary. But to me, they're simply saying that God has limits. Surely God - if he exists - can do anything?
You can't expect God to just hand you the good stuff for free, kiddo. Do you really expect him to just do everything for us and make it easy?
Why It Doesn't Work For Me:
To me, this just takes us back to the same questions as the first explanation. What reason does God have for creating us this way and leaving us under these conditions? Do angels have to live with health defects, gang shootings, and rape? And if so, why the heck would I want to live there??
God's hand was "forced" in this matter by Satan. Satan is trying to prove that no one will follow God willingly. Satan got Adam and Eve to rebel against God's authority and convinced them they could better rule themselves. But by allowing us to prove that we can't rule ourselves as effectively as he could, God is proving that we need to obey him for our own good. If another rebellion takes place in the future (like that of Satan or Adam and Eve) God will be able to put down that rebellion immediately without appearing to be a bully because he'll be able to cite our bad example. This makes it all worth it in the long run.
Why It Doesn't Work For Me:
Again, this one pretty much begs the same questions as before. Why didn't God makes us so we could rules ourselves? If he can give us morals, as many believers claim he did, they why couldn't he make us so we didn't need this learning experience at all? Does God just need an ego boost from bossing his creations around or something? And do animals need to be taught this lesson too? If so, does that mean my dog Lucky will be waiting for me in Heaven? Not sure how that would really work. If not, why are the animals here? Why not let us have robots to work for us and let us eat things that can't suffer? I also have to wander about a God who can be manipulated through political pressure to back off of his creation (by Satan, for instance) instead of just fixing our flaws. Then he wouldn't have to bother with this drawn out exercise. Even if he is doing this to set an example, why bother? Who is God trying to impress? Some, like Jehovah's Witnesses, say that God is doing this so we won't think he's a bully. But how is this arrangement any better than just making us "the right way" in the first place? Most Christians believe that God will punish those who disobey him even if we do so because we disagree. We get no real say on how God judges people. I'm unclear on how this makes him anything but a bully either way.
We don't know because God hasn't told us everything. And we don't need to know. If you have faith, then you trust he has our best interests at heart.
Why I Don't Buy It:
Let me help any evangelists out who might be reading this page. This sort of answer sounds like a cop out to most atheists. When we hear it, we pretty much figure we've pushed you into a corner that you can't get out of and then we claim victory. This is never the sort of answer you want to give an atheist for anything religious. It also doesn't speak very highly of God, in my opinion. If God doesn't think highly enough of us to tell us why he is forcing us to go through the hardships of our current lives, then this makes God seem kinda stuck up about himself. "Yeah, yeah," God says as he waves his hand, "why don't you just run along and play instead of bothering me about the pertinent details of your very existence." "But God," we beg, "come on. That's not fair! It's a reasonable question." God adjusts his glasses without looking at us. "You wouldn't understand." We sigh and fold our arms. "Why? Didn't you make us smart enough to understand?" Then God snaps up from his paper and spins on us in a rage. "Look! I'll give you an explanation when I'm good and ready! Ya hear? Now go run into traffic or it's the belt for you! And where's my remote control?!?" This isn't the kind of guy I would adore above all others. I might fear him, but worship him out of pure love? No, sorry. If all he wants is fear, then surely he could show up just to rattle our cages once in a while. Assuming he exists, of course.
As with many things (from an atheist's point of view, at least) it just seems that God requires far more explaining than he actually explains. Belief in a creator-god actually causes us to puzzle over this one because there's an obvious contradiction here. It doesn't quite add up. This isn't the case if you accept the naturalistic explanations of science. An unknowing, unthinking universe that just sort of "does its thing" on autopilot without any motive or intent makes perfect sense to many atheists. This is exactly the sort of situation one might expect if the universe is just a haphazard construction put together by natural processes without an intelligent designer. Contradiction solved.
Like I said, I know you may not agree. But I do think our criticism of religious belief is valid and reasonable.
-the Atheist Geek-