The Evidential Argument from Evil is perhaps one of the most damning arguments against the Christian concept of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent creator/god. This concept of God is contradictory to the facts of this world, namely the fact that evil, in the form of senseless preventable suffering and death, exists. Why would an all-good, all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful deity allow his beloved children to suffer and die? Why would he allow slavery? Why would he allow Jim Crow laws? Why would he allow hangings, house, church, and cross burnings? Why would he allow beatings, whippings, burnings, skinnings, police brutality, false imprisonment and all the other horrors of racial oppression in this country? Why would he allow Black kids to starve in ghettos, be shot down in the streets, become addicted to drugs, be neglected, abused, and flushed down the socio-economic toilet? There seems to be no answer to this question which should satisfy a reasonable human being yet over and over in churches all over America answers are given and accepted.
"It is because man has freewill and God can't control him without impacting his freewill."
"It is because this is the best world possible and God can only do that which is possible."
"It is because you cannot have light without darkness."
"It is because God is testing you to see if you are worthy for heaven or grooming you to become more worthy."
"It is because God works in mysterious ways and has calculus that our finite minds cannot fathom and therefore we have to have faith that it is all according to his plan and will work out for the good in the end."
We are given these weak answers and arguments and our longing to believe and fear of disbelieving forces us to accept them when nowhere else in life would we accept answers like these from anyone. If you bought a refrigerator that malfunctioned or a car that kept breaking we would never blame the car and hold it's manufacturer blameless. Yet when it comes to God we do just that. If we bought a car that was filled with factory defects we would never accept the answer that this was the best car possible and that we should just shut up and be grateful. We would never accept our loved ones telling us that they had to be mean to us sometimes or else how could we ever appreciate it when they were good to us? We would think they were crazy for even suggesting such idiocy. We would never accept our parents telling us that they made our childhoods hell, let us starve, let us get injured, abused, and neglected us, let our other loved ones die in front of us, all because they wanted us to be prepared for adulthood and were just testing us to be sure we were ready. Child Protective Services would have long ago taken us away from such a parent and filed charges against them.
If we saw our friend or neighbor killing a child or neglecting his own children and letting them starve to death and be attacked and abused by others when it was in his power to prevent it, no matter how wise and benevolent we knew our friend to be, we would never say simply that, though we don't know exactly why he's killing that kid or why he's not lifting a finger to defend the life and well-being of his own children, he's a good guy so he must have his reasons. We would never let an elected official, not even the President of the United States, abuse and neglect us without questioning him and if his answer was, "I have a plan and you could not possibly understand it so I won't tell you. I'm just going to continue letting your children and loved ones be raped, murdered and abused, and you have to just trust that I know what I'm doing." We would impeach him immediately if not revolt and murder him.
Why should we expect less from our leader in heaven? From our fathers who art on earth we expect love and protection as we should because that is how a parent shows their love for their children, by protecting, comforting, nurturing, and providing for them. We expect them to comfort us when we are sad or fearful. We expect them to keep us safe from harm. We expect them to keep us fed, and clothed, and sheltered, and to care for us when we are sick. At the very least, we expect our parents to not let us die if they can help it, to not let us be injured or abused. This is the very minimum expectation anyone should have of a parent. Don't let your children die. Should our expectations of Our Father Who Art In Heaven be less than this? Should they not in fact be greater?
The freewill argument as a defense against this argument is such a feeble attempt that it is laughable, totally destroying the idea of an omniscient God who is eternal because he exists outside of time and space and replacing him instead with a bumbling buffoon baffled by his own creation and therefore not omniscient or even particularly intelligent which leads to the question of how such a moron could have created the universe? But yet that tends to be the best that those who believe in a God with these characteristics can offer. Arguments like "This is the best of all possible worlds" are likewise inept because since we have obviously cured diseases that have destroyed hundreds of millions of people before such cures were invented, the best of all possible worlds would have been one in which these diseases never existed. It would, at the very least, be a world without viral infections, bacterial infections, viruses, congenital diseases and birth defects and if man could create a world without polio or measles or rubella or chicken pox and the many other diseases and infections we have cured, then if God could not, he is not omnipotent. So this argument fails as well.
The argument that, "You can't have light without darkness" fails because you do not need a preponderance of darkness (i.e. evil) in order to contrast it with light. In other words, you do not need to have 30,000 children a day perish from hunger and disease nor even one. We could watch the death of other animals and their children and feel grateful that ours have not suffered the same fate. We could stub our toe and imagine how much worse it must feel like to be eaten alive by a lion or bitten by a shark or crushed by an earthquake or stricken with cancer without ever having to feel such a thing.
By far the worst of these arguments is the idea that "We need pain and suffering to teach us and prepare us for heaven. It is a test." which then leads to the question of why we aren't already born ready to enter heaven if that's what God ultimately wants for all of us? Why do we need to be tested or prepared? Would you tell the kids born into poverty in a drug-infested war zone, watching as his friends and family are murdered, arrested, or become addicted to drugs that this was just some fucking test? That they were just being prepared for their reward in heaven? Would you tell the thousands of African Americans who suffer and die each year because of inadequate health care that this was all just a test? Would you tell the Africans who were brought here in chains, who died on slaves ships, in cotton and tobacco fields, and at the hands of overseers, shot, whipped or worked to death that this was just the work of an omnipotent and omniscient God preparing them for heaven? Is that what you would have told them when their wives and daughters were being raped and abused and sold away from them never to be seen again? Is that what you would tell the parents of the children who die every 3 seconds in this world of preventable illnesses? Is that what you would tell the thousands of Africans who die each year of Malaria and AIDS, who are raped, dismembered, and murdered in tribal wars. Would you tell the women and young children who are sold into prostitution all over the globe that God was just putting them through their paces in order to prepare them for heaven? Is heaven such a rough and rugged place that you need a lifetime of suffering to prepare you for it or is it like the elephant taking his foot off your toe and it only looks like paradise when compared to these atrocities? Does God need to punish us so brutally in order for us to appreciate heaven because otherwise we just wouldn't think much of it? If heaven is so lackluster that it requires such extreme suffering before it can be appreciated then it is certainly not so grand that it could adequately compensate for that suffering.
If God is omniscient there is no need for a test because he already knows if we will pass or fail before we are ever even created. And if he is all-powerful than he could have created us fully prepared for heaven without need of a lifetime of suffering to ready us. And what about those who never get to enter heaven? Whose failure is that? What about the sinners like me who never ask for forgiveness and never “come to Jesus“ and the atheists and infidels and blasphemers who an omniscient creator knew would reject him and be sent to hell or at the very least perish and not know eternal life in heaven but simply suffer on earth and then die? What about them? What about the countless generations around the world who lived and died without ever being exposed to Christianity? Are those untouched tribes in the Amazon rainforest doomed to burn in hell or perish because Jesus didn't think it was worth his time to appear to anyone outside of Israel?
All of those African tribes that existed between the so-called coming of Christ and the beginning of the slave trade when Christian missionaries and slave traders first brought the bible to the motherland are all now burning in hell if you believe that the only way to heaven is through Christ. by that scenario I guess we should all be grateful to the slavetrader for rescuing us from certain eternal damnation. Ultimately, life on earth makes no sense if God's ultimate plan was for everyone to sit behind him in heaven. Jesus' abbreviated life and death and his narrow and limited exposure to the world make no sense if God's plan was to have every man, woman, and child come to him through Jesus Christ. It only makes sense if God was prejudice and didn't care about anyone who wasn't Jewish or possibly Roman.
Now, probably the most convincing answer to this dilemma for believers is the claim that none of this is God's fault, that all the evils of the world are the result of man's freewill. I will ignore for the moment the fact that things like diseases, natural disasters, famines, and birth defects have nothing to do with freewill (but only for the moment.) Instead I will concentrate on the idea that man's relatively predictable nature should so baffle the being that authored our natures, a being who is supposed to be the supreme intellect in the universe, even omniscient as many Christians believe.
Here's the thing with the freewill defense for the Teological Argument from Evil, it just doesn't work. Were there truly a being who was all-knowing and all-powerful who also created each and every one of us, then there would be no such thing as freewill because he would have to have known everything we would ever do from birth to death before he ever created us. If God is our creator and he is at least as intelligent as a second year psychology or sociology student then he would know before he ever created someone what they were capable of. What they might do if born to those parents, in that neighborhood, at that time. He has the option of not letting them be born to those parents or not letting them be born in that neighborhood or not letting them be born at that time or with that personality or to not be born at all.
Most of the people who grow up to commit evil acts have flaws in their basic natures that coupled with the environments they grow up in lead inevitably and rather predictably to evil. When some kid in the ghetto whose mom is a crackhead and Dad robs liquor stores grows up and becomes a criminal there's no one standing around going, "Now how the hell did that happen?" That kid was doomed from the moment he took his first breath. When a kid grows up in a neighborhood infested with gangs and grows up thinking it's okay to murder someone for wearing the wrong color it is not some bizarre unpredictable anomaly. The fact that there are some who are able to avoid these pitfalls is no anomaly either. They have a strength of character that cannot be explained by the environments they grew up in or how they were nurtured. It can only be explained by something in that individual's nature. And if it can be in one individual's nature than it can be in them all and if not than why not?
Certain circumstances breed evil in people with certain personality types. Take, for example, this question: "Would Hitler have killed eight million jews had he been born in New York City in the 1980s?" Nature plus environment creates evil. Alter one or the other and you have no evil. If God is reasonably intelligent and has been paying attention the last few thousand years than he's well aware of what happens to certain personality types when placed in certain environments. It would not change anyone's freewill to not create people with those personality types or to place them in different environments that would not lead them to commit acts of evil. If he can create one person with the strength of character to endure hardship and crime without becoming a criminal or a drug addict without that impacting their freewill than he could have created a world of such people. And notice that I am only talking about an intelligent deity, not an omniscient one.
The concept of freewill when coupled with an omniscient creator is ridiculous. How can we have freewill if the being that created us knew everything we would do from birth to death before he ever created us? That's what all-knowing is, it is knowing everything. Most people believe that a palm reader can tell us our future but think freewill just baffles the hell out of God. That's absurd. All-knowing is not mostly-knowing or sometimes-knowing. It is knowing All. An all-knowing God might say you have the freedom to make whatever choices you want but since he knew what choices you would make when he created you that's really just a bunch of bullshit.
It's like me telling you that you have a choice between eating excrement or eating cake. You think I'd be surprised when you ate the cake and not the feces? It isn't in your nature to eat crap so that's not really a choice. If God knows your nature because he created it then him giving you choices is really just an illusion. For an omniscient creator, past, present, and future would look exactly the same. Likewise for an eternal being existing outside of space and time. God is presented as being all-knowing and eternal, which in itself means that everything that you will ever do or ever think about doing he knows before he ever creates you. As Einstein theorized and modern science has proven, time is not linear, it is not a straight line but a tapestry with past, present, and future all existing on the same plane. God, being outside of space and time, would stand above this tapestry looking down on it the way we would read a road map. The fact that he creates you knowing every choice you are ever going to make makes freewill an illusion. If I know whether you are going to pick Pepsi or Coke because I created you then I created you to make those choices because I could have created a different sort of person. No amount of squirming or intellectual sleight of hand can get you out of that dilemma.
You can't have an omniscient creator and one who is baffled by freewill. It is frankly difficult to have a highly intelligent creator and one who is baffled by freewill. We are largely determined by our nature (which God creates if you are a believer) and our environments which God also creates or at the least has intimate knowledge of. Guessing how someone will turn out and the choices they will make given intimate knowledge of both of those factors would be child's play for a supreme intellect and unneccessary for an omniscient being who would be like a psychic with a 100% accuracy rate. The two concepts are antithetical.
So, as I said previously, God must have created Hitler knowing he would kill eight million jews because for an all-knowing all-powerful being he would have known what he would do before he ever created him and therefore had the opportunity to create him with a different nature or in a different environment that would not have lent him to become such a monster. He created Jeffery Dahmer knowing he would eat people. He created Idi Amin, Stalin, Mussolini, the racists that enslaved and oppressed our ancestors and those who continue to do so today and every monster back as far as humans have walked the earth. He created them all knowing full well the outcome. He created George Bush knowing he would start a religious war. In fact, God would have to have known that humans would eventually evolve into these types of people and what they would ultimately do from the moment the first one-celled animal emerged from the protoplasmic stew. He would have to have known that Black people would ultimately be enslaved and oppressed by White people from the moment that hyper-dense singularity exploded to form the universe. That's what omniscience is. And if you want to believe in Genesis then he created Adam and Eve knowing they would eat of the apple. And that one is even more telling because if he didn't know Adam and Eve would eat the apple than he is neither all-knowing nor terribly intelligent at all. It is an inescapable dichotomy. And why the hell was the tree of knowledge in Eden in the first place? Was God just setting them up, entrapping them all along knowing that they were going to fuck up? Does he get off on punishing his helpless creations for some sadistic purpose? Does God have control issues? It would seem so.
This should also preclude that ridiculous argument of this all being the result of a fallen creation damned by original sin. The original sin was the Christian God being too stupid to see what was coming or else deliberately setting it up. Who the hell would create curious and adventurous beings and put them in proximity of the forbidden? What the hell was the Tree of Knowledge doing there to begin with? Okay, that story is just too silly for me to even pretend to believe it long enough to ridicule it. If you really believe all that bullshit about Adam and Even you then don't even bother reading the rest of this. But if you do, then there's your answer.
This then leads back to the question of how we can worship a God who knew before he ever created the slavemasters that they would kidnap us from our homeland, cram us onto slave ships so crowded that many of us died of suffocation and others died of dysentery, lying in one another’s blood, sweat, and excrement, drop us off in a strangeland where son was sold away from his parents and wives sold away from their husbands, force us to work long hours without pay at threat of severe beating and even death, force us to watch our women raped and our children sold off never to be seen again?
How can you forgive a god who knew before he ever let that young African boy be born on the Ivory Coast that he would be kidnapped and die plowing the fields with the overseer's whip at his back thousands of miles from where he was born? How can you forgive a god that knew before that gangbanger was ever born that one day he would pull the trigger on a gun whose stray bullet would murder an innocent child? How can you worship the god that knew that generation after generation of our people would be born into poverty and suffer all manner of hardship, and economic, political, and social oppression? How can you forgive the one being who truly did have the freewill to make a different choice? How can you praise him?
If you believe that God exists then you cannot disagree that man did not author his own basic nature or choose the circumstances into which he was born. No one chose to be born into slavery. No one chose to be born in the housing projects to drug-addicted parents. No one chose to grow up poor, hungry, and unenducated, dodging bullets and fighting everyday of their lives for the basic commodities of existence that so many take for granted. No one chose to be born into a world of prejudice and economic oppression.
You can also not argue that man's creator did author man's nature and did create the circumstances and the environment into which he is born. I think our father who art in heaven (if such a being exists) has to take a little more responsibility. We talk about God like some idiot savante who had the intelligence to create the universe but somehow couldn't have predicted that Adam would eat the forbidden fruit or that Bin Laden would fly airplanes into the twin towers. I ain't a genius but I could have predicted what would happen in the garden of Eden. It really doesn't take a rocket scientist. We act like freewill is so damned baffling that an omniscient being would go "whoops!" when a kid who was raised in drug ridden, gangland ghetto by a mother who is on crack and a father who is in prison goes out and shoots somebody. People are, in fact, fairly predictable as any study of history would show and should be even more so for the one who created us. We tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, make the same choices, and seek the same goals. The reason is because our basic nature, our instincts, our drives and desires, are the same. Slavery was far too common in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and in the history of the world, for it be some kind of deviation from nature. It is in our nature to enslave and we did not author our own nature. We are largely the animals nature intended us to be. If you believe in an omniscient or even a highly intelligent deity then you have to believe that we are completely or at least primarily, the animals God intended us to be. God therefore intended for the White man to enslave the Black man. For the believer, there is no escaping this conclusion.
And what does the bible say about all of this? What does Jesus and the apostles say about slavery and oppression?
Ephesians 6:5 5 "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;"
"Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them." (1 Timothy 6:1-2)
"A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master." (Matthew 10:24)
"Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives." (Matthew 24:46)
"Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor." (I Timothy 6:1)
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling." (Ephesians 6:5a)
"Tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and to give satisfaction in every respect." (Titus 2:9)
"Slaves, accept the authority of your masters." (I Peter 2:18)
And of course the truly horrific Old Testament:
"When a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod so hard that the slave dies under his hand, he shall be punished. If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property." (Exodus 21:20-21 NAB)
If we are dumb enough and have such little respect for our ourselves that we would worship such a god then, I hate to say it, but we deserve all that we get. It is past time for us to shrug off this last vestige of our enslavement and truly stand as free men, bowing to no master and accepting no dogma, and adopting no ideology without proof. It is time for us to refuse to buy into any philosophy or movement without the same reasons, evidence, and convincing arguments we would demand from the local conman or street hustler. It is time for us to finally escape the overseer and this time the underground railroad is right in our own minds.