[NOTE: Through-out the text you will bracketed purple text insertions that begin with the word “Discussion”. These are suggested discussion questions for small group leaders, who would like to go through these topics in an interactive group setting.]
Everyone has experienced evil and suffering. Why did my loved one die in a robbery? Why do children get some very painful forms of cancer? Why did a Tsunami kill 200,000 people? Why did an earthquake destroy a city? Why did lightning strike our home?
[Discussion: Does anyone have any ideas or guesses, as to why a good God would allow these kinds of bad things to happen?]
Some people say they can’t believe in God, at least not in an all-good and all-powerful God, because there is so much evil and suffering in the world. To them, the existence of evil and suffering means that God cannot be both all-powerful and all good. In other words:
If God is all-powerful, he is not all-good, because he doesn’t stop all the evil and suffering even though he could. Thus, he might be all-powerful, but not all-good.
God is all-good, but he is not all-powerful, because he would want to stop all the evil and suffering if he could, but he can’t. Thus, he might be all-good, but not all-powerful.
[Discussion: Does anyone want to try to answer this apparent dilemma?]
This is a valid concern, which we will now address.
Let’s start by analyzing two huge assumptions hidden in this assertion.
[Discussion: What are some huge assumptions or alternate beliefs expressed in the statement that if pointless evil and suffering exist, God cannot be both all-good and all-powerful?]
The person making this assertion about pointless evil and suffering, is assuming that there is no good purpose for evil and suffering, that indeed, evil and suffering are pointless. The person is also assuming that if there would be good reasons for the existence of evil and suffering, those reasons would be accessible to his superior mind. But that’s a little bit like someone without a microscope saying that viruses don’t exist, because they can’t see them with their plain eyes. In his thinking, because evil and suffering appears pointless to him, they must therefore be pointless.
Of course, the person accusing God of either not being all-loving or all-powerful, may or may not be right, but he is also placing a great amount of blind faith in his own intellectual and reasoning abilities. Yes, his assumptions may be right, but they may also be wrong, and after we finish this topic, you may agree that the weight of evidence is actually against these assumptions, and indeed they are most likely wrong. Just because evil and suffering seems pointless to someone, doesn’t mean that they are necessarily pointless. Going to the doctor or dentist may seem pointless to a dog a child, or even to some adults, but that doesn’t make it pointless. Just because you can’t see a good reason why an all-good all-powerful God would allow evil and suffering, it doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
C.S. Lewis, the author of works such as Narnia, used to be an atheist. He said he had originally rejected God because of the cruelty of life.
[Discussion: Do you think evil and suffering is a bigger problem for atheists or theists (theist = person who believes in God). Why?]
However, C.S. Lewis came to realize that the problem of evil and suffering was even more problematic for his atheism than theism, and in fact provided a better argument for God’s existence than against it. Let’s analyze why.
Most everyone, some moral nihilists excluded (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_nihilism), thinks that there are evil or wrong things happening in this world: Genocide, persecution, natural disasters, etc. But where does this sense of wrong come from? You can only know that something is wrong, if you know what is right. You can’t know what is unjust, unless you know what is just. You may know your car is slow, but you only know that because you know what a fast car is like.
Likewise, if you think that something can be morally wrong, then in your mind, either consciously or subconsciously, you are comparing the moral wrong to some ultimate standard that dictates what is right. This was the problem for atheist C.S. Lewis. Indeed, if you and everything in this world was just a product and result of spontaneous undirected evolution, survival of the fittest, then what is wrong when the strong or mother nature eliminate the weak? This is for the betterment of the human race as the genes of the strong survive and conquer the genes of the weak, which it how it should be according to evolution.
Interestingly Darwin’s book, commonly known as “The Origin of Species”, from which the belief in spontaneous undirected evolution sprang forth, was published in 1859. About 30 years later, United States started compulsory sterilization programs and other countries jumped on board in the following decades. The Germans forcefully sterilized more than 400,000 against their will, such as the mentally and physically handicapped, while countries such as Canada, Sweden, and Switzerland had forceful sterilization programs in place till the 1970’s and 1980’s. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_sterilization#By_country
Christians think (or at least should think) that these forceful sterilization programs as wrong, because they believe that man was made in the image of God and is worthy of honor and respect (Gen 1:26). Christians also believe that God has given them a moral law to follow, which determines what is good and what is bad (2. Tim. 3:16). But on what basis can someone with an evolutionary atheist worldview, fault other atheists for performing forceful sterilizations? Curiously, the official full title of Darwin’s is “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. Note the ending: “Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”. Again, how could you, as an evolutionary atheist, prove to another evolutionary atheist that it would be wrong to help the favored races in the struggle for life? You can’t. The only thing you can appeal to is your “feelings”. But when you feel like this, and someone else feels like that, based on what ultimate authority will it be decided who is right and who is wrong? Based on popular opinion? Popular opinion in Germany killed over 5 million people of “inferior races” during the second World War.
C.S. Lewis realized that even though evil and suffering may present a problem for him in the Christian worldview, it presents an even greater problem, and a logical contradiction, in his newly found atheistic worldview. The only way to live consistently according to one’s atheistic worldview, would be to agree that there is no morality, no right and wrong.
As James Spiegel puts it in his book “The Making of an Atheist”: Since Augustine, many philosophers have strenuously denied the possibility of ethics without God. One of the more influential arguments for this view was proposed by Immanuel Kant, who maintained that there can be no genuine moral responsibility in God’s absence. Without a divine judge—not to mention moral legislator and executor—there can be no final accounting of our conduct in this life. And without a system of rewards and punishments whereby we experience the lasting effects of our behavior, there can be no adequate motivation to live a truly virtuous life, complete with all of the self-control this requires.
Some of the world’s most famous atheists acknowledge the same:
Nietzsche: “My demand upon the philosopher is known, that he take his stand beyond good and evil and leave the illusion of moral judgment beneath himself. This demand follows from an insight which I was the first to formulate: that there are altogether no moral facts…. Morality is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena—more precisely, a misinterpretation…. Moral judgments are … never to be taken literally: so understood, they always contain mere absurdity.”
Richard Dawkins: “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…. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is.”
Bertrand Russell: “That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes, and fears, his loves and his beliefs are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve the individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system…. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”
Richard Dawkins realizes the severity of what Bertrand Russell is saying. Dawkins responds: “I don’t feel depressed about it. But if somebody does, that’s their problem. Maybe the logic is deeply pessimistic; the universe is bleak, cold, and empty. But so what?”
[Discussion: Any thoughts on the views of these famous atheist philosophers?]
So again, if you are an atheist, and you are having a problem with God in regard to suffering and evil, it seems that, perhaps subconsciously, you are in fact no atheist at all. That’s because you may just be borrowing the concept of good and evil from a theistic worldview.
Stay tuned for part 2.
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C._S._Lewis#Return_to_Christianity; C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity (p. 45).
 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Portable Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufman (New York: Penguin, 1982)
 Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship,” in Why I Am Not a Christian, ed. Paul Edwards (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957), 107.
 Richard Dawkins, as quoted in Henry F. Schaefer, Science and Christianity: Conflict or Coherence (p. 134–35).
As seen quoted in: Spiegel, James. The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief (p. 133).
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What is the base for an atheist to know what’s good or evil? I wonder.
Their conscience maybe? but this would raise another question. who endows them with that conscience? God?