Oh, The Humanity

When someone offers the objection to God’s existence, or the existence of a morally just God by pointing to all the evil in the world and suggesting a morally good God who is powerful ought to alleviate it, has not thought the objection through.  I have most often heard it formulated like this: If God is good and all-powerful, then He ought to eliminate evil.  Evil exists, therefore either God is not good, or he is not all-powerful, or both.  Does this conclusion follow from the presence of evil?  Should God rid the world of evil?

The first question I ask those who would offer this dilemma is, which evil should we be relieved from?  We have to know specifically what it is we are asking to happen.  It seems that more often than not, the evil the skeptic has in mind are events such as natural disasters, murders, and rapes; things of this nature.  I would tend to agree these events are evil.  But a few more questions have been left unasked.

Who gets to decide which manifestations of evil ought to be eliminated; and why stop at what we might consider the most heinous of crimes against humanity; in other words, why stop there?  These are valid questions directly related to the objection.

More often than not, the person who poses this criticism of theism is typically an Atheist.  They observe the world around them and conclude the actions of their fellow human are incompatible with what they believe the world and humanity should look like if a moral and just God exists.  However, given the Atheist worldview, which necessitates forms of relativism, I do not see how this objection could even be made.  For one, if God does not exist, then the strong ruling and dominating the weak are exactly what we should expect and therefore any out-working of that concept should be perfectly acceptable.  But let’s play along.  Let’s assume there is too much evil.  Who is it that decides how much is too much?  What is the right amount of evil?  It is left ambiguous who the deciding authority is that gets to decide how much is too much, who’s standard is the correct one?  In this way it is similar to those who suggest the wealthy should start paying their “fair share” of the tax burden.  No one ever puts a number on what is fair, nor defines who garners the privilege of making the decision.

Furthermore, who gets to decide which evil acts and events are to be eliminated?  Where is the cut off, and how is that decided?  Why should God not eliminate all evil?  Why  should God allow any evil?  But what would that look like, and if we are asking God to rid us of evil, we must use His definition of evil.  Is the skeptic prepared for that?  According to God’s standard, every white lie is evil.  Every missed opportunity to do something good is evil.

We surely cannot separate the act from the actor.  It is from the heart of man which flows his actions.  Have you lied?  How many times?  People who lie are liars.  Are liars good people?  Ever said something hateful or felt hatred for a person?  Is hate good; do good people hate?  When you ask God to eliminate evil from the world, take a step back and contemplate where that might leave you.  We need to think carefully about the things we ask God to correct.  Evil is more than simply “more evil than me”.  We cannot overlook our own evil when making this objection, we all are part of the problem.  Remember, be careful what you ask for, you just might get it, and may not like it when you do.


Related Article: Who Needs Morality?


  1. “Why should God not eliminate all evil? Why should God allow any evil? But what would that look like, and if we are asking God to rid us of evil, we must use His definition of evil. Is the skeptic prepared for that? According to God’s standard, every white lie is evil. Every missed opportunity to do something good is evil.”

    Why should God allow any evil, indeed? As one of the skeptics who has made this argument before, let me say I understand the point you are making fully and have no problem with posing the question as you have phrased it. I bring up egregious examples of evil because those are harder to rationalize away as something with potential unseen good effects. Theists often assert that God’s greater plan justifies some suffering, for the ultimate greater good to come about — but I cannot imagine any good that would necessitate the rape and murder of a young child, for example, especially when you consider that this God is supposed to be omnipotent.

    But you’re absolutely right to point out that God’s standards are strict, and there are many more supposed “evils” in the world that God must nevertheless have purposely caused to happen. Perhaps I am evil because I sometimes fail to live up to my potential. This only makes the problem of evil more serious. So, what is the answer, then? Why do you believe God allows me to exist?

    • I think the idea of arguing from speculation is ordinarily empty and worthless. I can only assume that our freedom is in some way more valuable than not. Our ability to do evil, but yet do good is worth more than if no evil deed were to be permitted. It also illuminates a true desire and love from us toward God and man. Not having the ability to rebel presents a scenario where we only love and embrace God as a matter of mechanics, not true love and seeking.

      Further, we may not see any value in the rape of a child. Maybe there is none, but only that it serves to illustrate the point above. However, out of great tragedy, though many people use it as a spring board to reject and hate God for allowing the event, there are others who use it in the opposite. Perhaps the evil event is what brings the victim to a place where they embrace God for getting them through the traumatic experience.

      Unfortunately, we do not have that kind of insight. We can only speculate. However, God sees the beginning from the end and knows what the purpose for evil events truely are, but like I said, I dont like arguing from speculation. We are just not in a position to know the purpose for an event. Just because we see it as wholly unnecessary does not mean that is the case.

      I believe the chief end of man is to glorify, honor, and worship God. You exist for the same reason I or anyone else exists. Perhaps your worldview causes people you interact with towards God. Perhaps you are the means to a greater end, I simply do not know.

      • “I can only assume”? Why can you only assume that? The fact that you feel you have no alternative but to rely on assumptions is exactly my problem with religious faith. You say God must have a plan, and God must be a loving, good god, and God must have some reason for allowing little children to be raped and murdered (either to achieve some greater good which there was no other way for an omnipotent being to arrange besides via rape and murder of helpless children, or to make some subtle philosophical point about the nature of free will). That’s a whole lot to assume, and no basis to assume it other than that you’ve already decided it’s true.

        • C’mon now, I think you should be able to see I’m not just throwing my hands up and “oh well”. What I mean by only assume is that given all the other evidence I have considered for the existence of God, arguments and evidences for the reliability of the OT and NT, there are some things left unsaid. For example, the reasons why God does or does not do certain things.

          By no means when I came to a Christian theistic worldview did I predetermine what God was and was not like, or how true or untrue the Bible was. I have not posted my story on how it all came about, but briefly, I was not brought up by Christian parents, did not regularly attend church, the family had never and still do not ever broach the subject of religion, so in these respects it was not bred into me. When I came to Christianity I had never had a religious experience, nor had a theological outlook. I approached with a clear slate in nearly every respect.

          I dont take things on blind faith, I have reasons for my convictions. You may attempt to reduce them to their absolute bare minimum and claim its a leap, as you did above, whether intentionally or not. I have no problem believing you were not being disengenuous. But the “I can only assume” is not what you understood it to mean.

          • No, as far as I can see what you are doing is very well-described as “throwing your hands up and saying ‘oh well.'” You’ve said that you’re not in a position to know why God does what he does, but you’re sure that he does it and you’re sure that he must have some good reasons. God gets praised for the nice stuff in the world, and when something horrible happens, suddenly we can’t comprehend the mysterious ways of God.

            That said, I’m glad to hear you have reasons for your convictions. If that’s the case, then what looks like hand-waving is just the result of a single blog post not being able to contain every facet of one’s beliefs. I look forward to reading about those reasons sometime in the future.

  2. When conserning such insubstancial consept as “gods”, speculation is the only tool. To judge a nother persons faith, belief or lack of it, on a random comment is not fair, yet I find myself guilty of it sometimes. The question of why is there evil, if the world is run by a benevolent omnipotent force, is meant to pose a question with no answer. The only rational conclusion is there is no benevolent omnipotent force. The answer this question frequently recieves is “there is no answer”. That is what faith is all about. To believe something that is not rational. Maybe that faith gives you hope or strength to endure. In my wiev there is nothing wrong about it.

    Religions in general have different approaches to how evil or good are defined and history shows, that even wihthin a certain religious groups these definitions change through time. For example the protestant christians of today would see witch burnings as a wrong thing, yet their brothers in faith just few hundred years ago thought it to be absolutely right. Are those brethren going to the same heaven?

    In war men do the most evil things concievable. Yet, there are rules to this. There are rules as to what is acceptable by ethics common to all nations. These rules define, that there are certain things that are actual war crimes even when a superior has given an order to commit them. Of course, even though the US was one of the countries defining these limits in Nürnberg, it is not giving its soldiers or politicians to the international war crimes tribunal. It however describes the fact that it is possible to define what is too much wrong in the world by ethical perspective.

    “For one, if God does not exist, then the strong ruling and dominating the weak are exactly what we should expect and therefore any out-working of that concept should be perfectly acceptable.” I do not see how you come to this conclusion. The strong are dominating the weak… Does that mean there are no gods? The different religions as organisations traditionally support the strong dominating the weak altough many religions have an ideological concept of this being basically wrong. What does it tell us of gods, that they let obviously powerhungry and morally questionable men constantly talk in their name?

    Freedom of choise is not the same to us all. If you are a middle class born in one of the western countries, it is easy to choose not to steal, but if you are an orphan slum kid in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro smelling glue to keep the hunger at bay, what are your choises then?

    To step a little more to the teological side, I have a related question: If freedom of choise is so important in this world, and it is the cause of all evil, is there no freedom in the next life? Or is there as much evil in it too?

    I agree with you in general, that politics and religion are questions that should be discussed more. And with less bigotry…

    • I think it is perfectly reasonable to investigate ideas and beliefs, what is that not fair? It seems the only reason it could be unfair, is if God does not exist and religious beliefs are simply emotional tools used as a means to an end, such as happiness or tranquility. But I do not accept that God does not exist. Second, it does not follow that because there is evil in the world that a benevolent God does not exist, that is not the only rational conclusion. Your conclusion presumes there could not be justifiable reasons for permitting evil to occur.

      There is nothing irrational about faith, in the biblical sense. Sure we all know people who take a blind leap and make their decision to have faith in a God, but that by no means relegates faith to be irrational. You’re just repeating a slogan. What exactly is irrational about faith, which component of faith necessitates irrationality?

      Lastly, simply being impoverished or somehow unable to afford something does not mean stealing is not wrong. It may be necessary to do in order to survive for a moment, but it does not make the act of taking something which does not belong to you without permission somehow morally good.

      • Oh, I am sorry. The concept of believing in regulated and instutionalized organisations giving you the truth is not irrational. It was completely rational for the medieval european to believe the priest who told him the world is flat, even when his eyes would witness it otherwise. Because the priest represented knowledge and authority in those days. Hence religion is rational, but faith is not. Faith is “magic” in a sense. To believe in something does not make it so. There is a fun anecdote about omnipotency. Could a god make a stone he/she could not lift? If he/she can do either thing he/she cannot do the other, hence he/she can not be omnipotent. A person with faith, however will still believe in omnipotency even after this realization. Hence his/her faith is irrational. One could of course claim that the fact that gods seem not to be interfering in the evil men do, is because they would like to remain incognito. But to accept the evil in the world by saying it is in the higher hand we end up unintentionally refering to the hand of political and economical power, not divine.

        Not to believe gods are omnipotent or benevolent, of course do not lead to assumption that they do not exist. It only concludes them not to have these attributes.

        If gods be omnipotent and benevolent why would they set us up with such different starting grounds towards what is wrong or right or towards the salvation preached in so many religions? Does that seem fair? If gods are not fair, could they be described as benevolent? Fair play is in my opinion one thing that defines good intentions from wrong. An indian slum kid recieves completely different starting points towards salvation and the world from the starting points of an average kid in the western world. Is it his fault? Does he get refund at the pearly gates?

        I honestly do not know if there are gods or other spirits. Never in my life have I experienced their presence in any way. To me they seem completely irrational thinking. Primitive cultural explanations about things sience could or can not yet explain. I can not find any faith in me. Would it be fair for me to end up in eternal pain, if I died tomorrow, just because I do not believe? Should I lie that I believe to recieve mercy? Would not the omnipotent gods notice my pretension? If I would recieve mercy regardless of my lack of faith, from just doing the right thing or by being a good person, what difference would faith make? Why do gods need worship? What use do they have for it?

  3. The Warrior Monk says:

    I didn’t know what to expect when I read the legend to this article. What I did find was another cogent and powerful reminder of the failure of the whole “If there was a God, why would he let bad things happen” argument.

    Of the usual contradictions maintaining “we want free will, but we also want someone to not allow us to do certain things” and a conflation of evil religion and faith I do not see a reply that undermines your thinking.

    In reply to some of those replies I would offer God does not need worship and faith makes no difference to God either. The point is that so long as faith makes a difference to the believer and if that faith encourages them towards “good” whatever that means, then that person will live a better life, for them, than if they had no faith.

    Enjoyable, clear and concise writing allows great incite into a highly emotive subject for some. Good work and great comments all.

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