With so much cruelty and suffering in both the animal and human world, it makes it very difficult to
believe in a loving, caring God. The insect world there are horrors where eggs are inserted into
another creature and when they hatch they eat their victim alive from the inside. Why too are the
poorer countries always victim of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes etc? Is it really just a matter of
survival in a world of uncontrolled chaos where there does not appear to have a infrastructure of any
lasting security and that the inevitable is oblivion? No religious superficial "God works in mysterious
ways" answers please!
You pose the question of whether it is possible for both evil and God to exist. As you say, God has to
be seen as loving and caring (benevolent or all-good) to get the problem going. He also needs to be
all-knowing (omniscient) so that he knows there is evil in the world, and all-powerful (omnipotent) so
that he could do something about it, for the problem to really bite.
So, one solution is to deny one or more of these attributes of God. He could still be loving and caring
if he either didn't know about the things you list, or he knew but lacked the power to stop them.
Since your examples of evil are natural — not causes by human action — the defence against the
argument that evil rules out the existence of God that relies on God having given people free will,
which they can then misuse, is not available.
The "God works in mysterious ways" defence is not necessarily superficial, I don't think. If God is
omniscient, it may be that he can see a greater good arising from the evil you mention, and the fact
that we are very limited in our knowledge means that we can't. I don't buy this argument, mind, but I
think it is a respectable attempt.
You probably won't like Leibniz' related argument any more either. He claims that God created the
best of all possible worlds. That is, this world has evil in it, but there is less evil than in any other world
it would have been possible to create, and more good (you need the last part to avoid the question
"why not just create a world with only rocks in it?"). Voltaire's book Candideis an excellent fictional
ridiculing of this idea.
Well if you want to approach it from the religious viewpoint, you might look up the literature on "the
problem of pain". There's lots of it, from St. Augustine on through a millennium or so. But as far as I
can tell, given that you assume a benevolent, "good", god of some sort, you either have to be a fairly
straightforward sadist (and maintain that being a sadist is good), or say, one way or another, "god
works in mysterious ways". The "mysterious" could be in its ultimate aim, in its the definition of
"good", and so forth, but that's what it amounts to, given the assumption of "goodness" (which I have
happily put in scare quotes).
Speaking as an atheist, I think that your picture of "a world of uncontrolled chaos where there does
not appear to have a infrastructure of any lasting security and that the inevitable is oblivion" is not too
badly off the mark, if a bit exaggerated. After all, to take just one example, the global warming which
we're experiencing now is rather directly due to human efforts. So we are in a sense in control, and
could be very much more so if we could get it together. I'd say that the sooner we stop relying on the
"goodness" of whatever god happens to be at the top of the current opinion poll this century, and get
cracking on maintaining our environment ourselves, the sooner we'll be able to reduce the amount of
"chaos" (which of course will never completely go away) and clean things up a bit.
Steven Ravett Brown
The difficulty you refer to is known as the Problem of Evil, although it should really be called the
Problem of Suffering. Part of the problem is reconciling God's various properties: omnipotence,
omniscience, moral perfection, etc. If he could prevent suffering, why doesn't he, if he is morally
perfect? Religious justifications of suffering are called theodicies. One theodicy argues that God gave
humans free will so that we could be like him, autonomously choosing to do good rather than evil. But
since he gave us genuine free will, without any biasing in favour of good, we can, and do, choose
often to do evil. In the long run, the argument implies, humanity will choose the path of righteousness.
There are several difficulties associated with this argument. One is that it doesn't deal with the
suffering caused by natural phenomena, such as earthquakes. Another is that it implies that morality
and God are independent: God is not the source of goodness. This undermines some of the
arguments for the existence of God.
The "God moves in mysterious ways" response certainly is irritating. Could a morally perfect God be
as devious (and slow) as God is often portrayed as being? Some of the theodicies imply that he
allows mass suffering in order for a few people to exhibit outstanding courage and charity, and to
inspire thereby. This suggests that God does not have a high respect for either innocence or life.
But perhaps we are wrong to look at the question from a short-term human perspective. Personally, I
think we should not assume that the human race is as good as it gets. We are likely to be wiped out
by a disaster event at some point, but some animal species will survive; eventually it is possible that a
different highly intelligent species will emerge, also capable of morality (and philosophy). It might
have no place for the idea of God, but it might itself be a little more angelic. Even then, it probably