The atheists best argument?

A lot of what atheists say does not really make sense. I know in my heart there is a God.

But the atheists best argument, IMO, and the one that has at times made me despair of a God existing at all is this: The problem of evil. And I don’t mean everyday evil like illness,death, heartback, confusion etc, but more like the spectacular kind, such as child abductions, where children/people are held in basements and abused for years.

It seems God isn’t present in their lives and indeed did not try to intervene to give them a normal, reasonable life.:blush:

The fact that such extraodinary suffering and sorrow exists, makes my own problems seem paltry and perhaps makes me want to be a little bit kinder in the world.

Still though. Child sexual abuse/abduction seems one of the worst things to me. I know free will and all that… but stilll.

Has anyone ever felt my thoughts? I mean… I am a Catholic to the core… but stuff like this… makes me question… or really question at times.

It seems the evil of such a thing ( think Jacob Wetterling) far out weighs the good. I just don’t know sometimes… it’s like I wish God to be real… but the suffering of others makes and has made me question it…

Please, before you read this, think about your encounters with God, private revelations (if any?), and faith. I would also strongly encourage you to pray before you read.

Here, from a Nigerian forum I’ve browsed through (though I am not a member), many arguments are presented on a thread. I haven’t read through fully, so I can’t tell how many there are, but there it says forty:

Nonetheless, the Christian must focus on their encounters with faith and with the Spirit moving in them.

It may help by understanding that illness, death, and confusion are not evils. They are simply part of life. We have a body and the body gets ill. The physical body eventually wears out and we die. Sometimes we die earlier than expected maybe from evil maybe from what might be considered and accident. We suffer because we or someone else gets ill or because someone we love dies but that is because of our attachments not that these things are evil.

I too think the “problem of evil” is one of the strongest cases that can be made for strong atheism. The “problem of instruction” and “problem of natural evil” are lesser, and I think only serve to support the main “problem of evil.”

The ways of attacking the problem have essentially already been mentioned here:

  1. Deny that evil exists.
  2. Claim that it is possible to reconcile the existence of evil with God.

I personally think that #1 is a “fingers in the ears” kind of argument. You have to ignore so much evidence that evil exists, including the existence of the sacrament of reconciliation.

#2 Is the more common approach. This proceeds in a few different ways:

2a. Evil can be reconciled with God because there is some greater good (e.g. the existence of free will) that requires evil to exist.

2b. Relax one of God’s omni- properties. For example, argue that God’s omniscience did not allow him to predict the existence of evil when he created the universe.

2c. Deny that there is an actual logical contradiction between the existence of evil and God’s properties.

I personally think that 2a is weak argument, because it becomes difficult to maintain a consistent definition of evil. In other words, if there is some evil that actually makes the universe better, is it really an evil at all?

I think it is quite possible to make a 2b defense, but it requires taking some positions that are contrary to Christian theology.

2c is probably the most promising line of attack, but least frequently made on forums like this.

Could lead to Deism?

I would disagree with it being an argument. If it was, it could only be used to suggest that there is no God. As far as I am concerned, and as you freely admit, it’s a reason for doubt.

Some people, and there are many in current threads, will give you as many answers to the problem as you can handle. It’s because of the fall. It’s because there is a greater good. It’s because there are always problems in a complicated existence. It’s because we are allowed free will and if someone suffers, then it is the price we pay. We need suffering (the kiss of Jesus!) so that we can rise above it. It’s because it’s meaningless when you consider an eternity of heaven.

Well, Habemus, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Take a few. Take them all. They all make sense to the people who espouse them. None of them make any sense to me, but that doesn’t in itself make me an atheist. Maybe none of them make sense to you, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a Christian.

But it really passes all my understanding that almost all Christians will defend their faith to the bitter end and refuse to admit to any doubt whatsoever. So they will take one of the arguments I mentioned, or any other that suits, nail it to the mast and declare it to be what they believe come what may. How many times have you seen the phrase: ‘I don’t know’ in this forum? How many times have you seen: ‘I am not sure’?

I’ve been around the block to know a fair amount about the human condition and I know that people always have doubt, whatever they profess and however strongly they profess it. Nothing is as certain as we’d like to think. Doubt is good for the soul. It forces you to address questions that might have otherwise been blindly accepted. So you are no different to anyone else.

But far be it from me to encourage it. I will give you all the reasons why I personally think the arguments are weak, but I can’t tell you what you should think. Just concentrate on the things that you are sure about and accept that some things are beyond human understanding.

And the ultimate irony…an atheist quoting scripture to help out a Christian: Job 11:7-12

Yes, and that’s a very good citation, Bradski. Ironic, sure, but kind of you. :slight_smile:

One thing that puzzles me is why God chose the Jewish people and not a much more peace loving people such as the Eskimos or the Siberians. Also, by choosing the Jews, God appears to have left out many decent and kind Asian people, including Chinese,Thai and Vietnamese.

I find the problem of evil to be quite a lame argument in defense of atheism. How does an atheist even know what evil is if there is no God? The problem with using the problem of evil argument is it doesn’t have any ground to stand on because there’s no moral authority to decide what is evil and what is good if there is no God. It is impossible to have a law without the lawmaker.

Just substitute ‘something really bad’ instead of evil. A child with leukaemia for example.

Now we can test your theory and see who doesn’t think that that is very bad indeed.

If there is no God, there is no good. But if there is no good, how does one know what is evil?

Suppose someone grew up in a family of bullies who routinely beat the daylights out of him. He never met a kind person. So he grows up thinking this evil situation is normal and that is all that is. But if he meets a kind person, boom, he sees the difference between bullying and kindness (evil and good).

How we describe it is all relative, Bob.

A good day for me might be meeting up with the family, having a good dinner with a nice bottle of wine ans watching my team win.

For someone else it might be avoiding being raped.

But I think we know enough about the world to know the difference.

As soon as we know of a situation like that, everyone of us wants to step in and bring an end to that child’s suffering.

Trouble is, says the problem of evil, God doesn’t. It seems either God is unaware of it (not omniscient), or unable to intervene (not omnipotent), or doesn’t feel the need to (not omnibenevolent).

I’ve heard other religious people say this as well, and I’m somewhat surprised about it. It’s actually an argument against God’s omnibenevolence, not against His existence. There could still be a God that is not perfectly good. I certainly use the problem of evil in discussions, but I don’t consider it the best argument in the atheist arsenal.

I think you are right. It’s an argument against Christianity, not deism.

Are you aware of the irony of juxtaposing those two sentences?

Hey Bradski.

Alright. Let’s see if I can spin this sad sad story of an iffy God who seems(?) to be forgetting that some of us are hurting down here on a daily.

Look at God a minute. Then look at us. Now God’s been hanging out in a rezoning project of His own making for all eternity non-time. And we’ve been firing like bullets through a very temporary window of time that seems really important to us, but actually isn’t.

Let’s look at us and tip our head just ever so slightly and see if things look the same way. I’m going to tell you something deep and plain about my life to show the drop-off point.

Now when I was young I had a girl who loved me. She loved me so much she died for me. And that’s helped to make my life a living hell. To give you a taste. Just a taste of this just live knowing that without you, a perfectly fantastic person would still be around. The pain of it never leaves. It never flows far. It never stops.

But if it hadn’t happened? If my girl had lived and none of it had happened? She’d have lived a normal life. I would’ve married her maybe. We’d be sitting with maybe some kids at this point. And life would be in full swing.

But so what? As an atheist, what difference does it make to you whether I’m single or married? Whether my girl died in a way I’ll never forget. Or whether my girl lived until she was older and died of a more natural cause?

What difference does it make to you if she’s forever immortalized in my mind as young and perfect? Or got to break through into the times of ancient age where her death would just be routine? I mean maybe by then our love might’ve faded. Or maybe she’d have lost that spark that made her such a charm to be with. Or maybe I’d still have become an alcoholic and made her life hell instead and ended up breaking her myself. Or maybe ?

So is God a villain for not coming down and standing strong to defend her when He should have? Maybe. Maybe. (Really. Don’t get me started here.) Or maybe that was my job? Instead of passing on that and drinking instead?

And since when did God promise us anything other than death? And since when was life so worth living that dragging ourselves through each and every day should move God to give us any kind of guarantee?

I mean are we really arguing here that we’re owed some perfect measure of temporary? If death wasn’t on the table in general? Then yes. Every death would be a terrible thing to handle. And the younger, maybe the worse for it. But if we’re all expecting our end from day one what difference does it really make to die young or old? To die with the minute hand on the 5 instead of the 11? The feeling of death itself’s about relative. The pain and fear of that moment can depend a bit, sure. But you end in the same state. It’s over and done in the same way. So why would we sit here and figure that death of a child by chocking on food’s any less horrible than him being done in by the local screw-ball?

I mean why should we expect God to jump all over the earth saying, “No. That kind of death’s not allowed! Children can only die from drowning, disease, or falling down the stairs!”

Guys look. We sit here in a place where we hate seeing where we’re headed. And where we think our life’s really important. But God’s on the other side of the finish line. He’s aware that our life’s just a 5 second action. So why should one type of death really move Him around instead of another? He’s ready to catch our fall regardless of which dive we make.

Or something.

Peace Bradski. You’re a good sort. Give me fair thoughts on this one.


Certainly there can be no prescriptive law without someone to make it. But the law need not be imposed from an external source. Laws can be agreed by those that will be subject to them.

With respect to the problem of evil, the ‘moral authority’ is the consensus opinion of people. Our societies agree that child abduction and abuse is evil. No external moral authority is needed.

We don’t expect God to jump through hoops. That is, I don’t, so there is no ‘we’. Although you might want him to. When the situation dictates.

Sounds like you had some tough times. You have my sympathy for what it’s worth. But in situations like that, that is all I can give. I can give you no solice. Which is what we mostly think we need.

We need there to be a reason. Something good must come out of it. Surely it can’t all be bad. We hear it so many times: ‘I don’t want my child to have died for nothing’. Otherwise…well, otherwise it was for nothing.

Life has meaning. Death never does. So the child’s death is always meaningless. You can add something in your own mind to make it less painful. You can so something in memory of the child so it seems as if there was a reason for it. But what is that for? To make us feel better? To make a death seem worthwhile?

So I guess a lot of people like the idea of a happy-ever-after so the last breath is just a temporary parting. See ya later, buddy! A lifetime together in eternity coming up! But I wonder how many actually believe it deep down.

Make the most of what you have left. In memory of those who didn’t get as much.

I do precisely because living a life as if it and all other lives have eternal value, far, far exceeds the alternative of living as if they don’t. ALL other options devalue life in some way and that devaluation has repercussions in terms of what compromises you will accept that will cheapen every life.

It seems to me that what you mean here is accept the devalued or “token” value of life BECAUSE that is all it is worth anyway, and do so because some lives don’t even appear to have that value.

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