The modern day atheist movement has only one argument to actually support atheism – The Argument From Evil. Anytime an atheist tries to make the case that there is no God, chances are extremely high that some version of the Argument from Evil will be used. Some time ago, Neil deGrasse Tyson put it this way:
OK, if that god is described as being all-powerful and all-knowing and all-good, I don’t see evidence for it anywhere in the world. So I remain unconvinced. If that god is all-powerful and all-good, I don’t see that when a tsunami kills a quarter-million or an earthquake kills a quarter-million people. I’d like to think of good as something in the interest of your health or longevity. That’s a pretty simple definition of something that is good for you. That’s not a controversial understanding of the word “good.” So if Earth in two separate events separated by just a couple of years can kill a half-million people, then if the god as you describe exists, that god is either not all-powerful or not all-good. And so therefore I am not convinced.
Essentially what Tyson is saying here is that God cannot co-exist with tsunamis and earthquakes. That God’s existence is incompatible with tsunamis and earthquakes. Okay, so let’s imagine God did exist. According to the atheist’s Argument From Evil, this would mean there would be no tsunamis and earthquakes. So let’s imagine God magically changes our reality such that there are no tsunamis and earthquakes. Has the Argument From Evil been neutralized? Has it been taken off the table?
Not so fast. Sam Harris tells us “There is No God (And You Know It).” In fact, it’s “obvious” to him. What makes it obvious?
Consider: the city of New Orleans was recently destroyed by hurricane Katrina. At least a thousand people died, tens of thousands lost all their earthly possessions, and over a million have been displaced. It is safe to say that almost every person living in New Orleans at the moment Katrina struck believed in an omnipotent, omniscient, and compassionate God. But what was God doing while a hurricane laid waste to their city?
Hurricane Katrina? How could I forget? Look, I thought that was supposed to be President Bush’s fault, but we’ll say Harris has a point. Let’s say that if God did indeed exist, He would have magically stopped hurricane Katrina because God is all-good. So, suppose He did. Are we good now? Of course not, since Harris could have cited countless other hurricanes. Well then, let’s say God magically changes our reality such that there are no tsunamis, earthquakes, or hurricanes. Everything okay? Please.
A world without tsunamis, earthquakes, or hurricanes could still have still have people being killed by lightening, towns being destroyed by tornadoes, floods, droughts, forest fires, etc. Put simply, the Argument from Evil tells us that if God exists, there should be no natural disasters. None. For as long as there is one person killed by one meteorological or geological process, the Argument from Evil applies.
At this point, we can begin to see what the Argument from Evil is – a blueprint for what the world is supposed to be like if God exists. According to atheists, that is.
So we must ask if the Argument from Evil still applies if we removed all those deadly natural disasters? To answer that, we need only consult all the ways atheists have used the Argument from Evil over the ages. And in doing so, we would find that a world without natural disasters is not good enough. What about children dying of cancer? What about parents dying of cancer? What about brothers, sisters, wives, and husbands dying of cancer? Okay, let’s get rid of cancer. Then what about heart disease, endocrine diseases, pulmonary diseases? Let’s get rid of them. But what about congenital defects and genetic diseases? And all those nasty infectious diseases, like malaria or gangrene? They all gotta go. Look, we could drag this out for pages, for every disease is an Argument from Evil. So all diseases must go. According to atheists, if God exists, we would live in a world without any natural disasters and any diseases.
So let’s say that is the case.
But what about all the animal suffering? Surely that most go also. As Charles Darwin argued:
With respect to the theological view of the question; this is always painful to me.— I am bewildered.— I had no intention to write atheistically. But I own that I cannot see, as plainly as others do, & as I shd wish to do, evidence of design & beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent & omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidæ with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.
Okay, okay, already. No wasp larva living in caterpillars and no cats playing with mice. In fact, no more predation or parasitism. Period. All gone. Everything feeds on plants (I guess it’s not evil to kill plants). Or maybe everything carries out photosynthesis.
Are we in the clear now? In a world without natural disasters, disease, parasitism, and predation, can the Argument from Evil still apply?
You bet. What about all the murders? The rapes? The kidnappings? The war? What about the abuse of children? The abuse of animals? The Holocaust? The list of human evil is endless, as countless expressions of the Arguments from Evil have drawn from this list.
Clearly, the Argument from Evil entails that no human-caused evil could exist. In fact, the scalpel would have to cut pretty deep to get rid of this evil, as lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, greed, sexual harassment, etc. are all human evils that cause other humans to suffer.
So what do we have? The Argument from Evil insists that if God were to exist, we would be living in a world without any natural disasters, any diseases, any parasitism or predation, any murder, rape, theft, abuse, or any other human evil.
But once you have reached this realization, the Argument from Evil becomes toothless.
For the world that we are supposed to be living sounds like a …….. Teletubbie World.
The Argument from Evil boils down to this: If there is a God, we should all be Teletubbie-like creatures living in a Teletubbie-like world. Since we are not Teletubbie-like creatures living in a Teletubbie-like world, there is no God.
And at this point, the Argument from Evil is exposed as nothing more than subjective opinion. For no atheist has ever shown it to be true that If there is a God, we should all be Teletubbie-like creatures living in a Teletubbie-like world. That’s just their opinion and I would not agree. Would you? From my perspective, this world, with all its evil, is better than a Teletubbie-like world.
So we are left wondering – Is the Argument from Evil the atheist’s way of expressing his/her desire to be a Teletubbie?