In my recent give and take with atheists and agnostics it is often the existence of evil in our world that is given as a rationale for the rejection of the existence of a supreme being…a God who has created and is still involved in the world. Considering the recent anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, that catastrophe will serve as an example.
“If there is a god,” it is argued, “why would he allow innocent people to suffer such a horrible tragedy?” Sometimes it is personal. “If there is a God, why did he allow my mother to suffer horribly and die with brain cancer?” How could a loving God allow such things to happen?
To those conversant with scripture, I would ask, “Where has God promised us a trouble-free life?” Man’s lot is to experience the full spectrum of life from ecstasy to abject grief. Jesus promised us that in the world we would have trouble, and lots of it. Thankfully, there is usually a good dose of joy mixed in. Removal from tears, pain, grief, sickness, etc., takes place in eternity, not time. But, when discussing suffering with an atheist, scripture is somewhat beside the point. So, let’s take a different tack.
In our universe, everything has a counterpart, at least for humans. There is light and darkness, wet and dry, cold and hot, up and down, right and left and so on. In between the two extremes or endpoints, everything has a spectrum, a scale by which we describe the intensity or amount of moisture, temperature, altitude and direction. There are all shades in between light and darkness. If there is good, then there is evil. Again we have a scale, a spectrum between terrible, horrible evil and stuff that is “not so bad.” Those endpoints must exist because without evil there’s no way to determine what is good. If all is good or all is evil, how would we know it?
It is ridiculous to say that atheists have no moral basis and therefore, cannot discern good and evil. In the absence of a god-given basis, humans simply adopt universals. I would, in fact, bet there are some atheists with higher moral standards than some who claim to be Christians. But the point persists…good and evil must coexist in order for us to understand either one. The existence of good does not prove there is a god and the existence of evil does not prove there isn’t.