A few years ago, CNN published an article entitled, Why I Raise My Children without God. It went viral instantly. The author, a young mother named Deborah Mitchell, listed several reasons why she shielded her children from learning about God – most of them were variations on the problem of evil. Mitchell argued that a loving God would not allow “murders, child abuse, wars, brutal beatings, torture, and millions of other heinous acts to be committed throughout the history of mankind.”
Based on all that I have read over the years, the number one reason that people reject a belief in God is because of the evil and suffering that they see in the world. They cannot justify a loving and compassionate God, allowing such pain and suffering, particularly to innocent people.
Probably the most well-known atheist in all of history is German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. He coined the phrase, “God is dead.” He had great contempt for Christianity.
He passionately believed that if you give up your belief in the Christian god, you have to also give up Christian morality, particularly pity, kindness, and compassion. For that reason, when people suffer, just let them suffer. This is in accordance with the laws of nature – those who are strong will survive, and the weak will die.
Nietzsche endorsed strength and power. He cherished,
“the will to inflict great suffering, because the great empires of the world were soaked in blood thoroughly.”
You can see why Adolph Hitler was such a fan of Friedrich Nietzsche.
What was so troublesome to Nietzsche was that too many atheists complained about the pain and suffering in the world. He told them to quit being such wimps and whiners, and stop complaining about suffering. He said that because there is no God, one should expect there to be evil and suffering; it is a natural part of life. So get over it.
If you think about it, Nietzsche is right. If there is no God, there is no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort; therefore, there is no such thing as genuinely appalling evil and wickedness.
Andrea Dilley was raised by medical missionaries in Kenya, and she was exposed to a great deal of death and suffering. As a teenager she began to question God and his goodness. When she got into her twenties, she completely rejected God and Jesus. Her anger at God drove her away. She was angry about the suffering and injustice that she saw in the world.
Then one night she got into a philosophical discussion with a young man who believed in neither God nor an absolute moral law. She found herself arguing with him, saying, “If morality is subjective, you can’t say that Hitler was wrong. You can’t condemn evil.”
Suddenly she realized she was arguing from a theistic perspective. She said:
When people ask me what drove me out the doors of the church and then what brought me back, my answer to both questions is the same. I left the church in part because I was mad at God about human suffering and injustice. And I came back to church because of that same struggle. I realized that I couldn’t even talk about justice without standing inside of a theistic framework. In a naturalistic worldview, a parentless orphan in the slums of Nairobi can only be explained in terms of survival of the fittest. We’re all just animals slumming it in a godless world, fighting for space and resources. The idea of justice doesn’t really mean anything. To talk about justice, you have to talk about objective morality, and to talk about objective morality, you have to talk about God.
Andrea Dilley concluded that there must be a God for justice to make sense in a chaotic world.
Atheism and Christianity are clearly mutually exclusive worldviews, delivering opposite conclusions about evil and suffering. Ultimately, the worldview that is true will be consistent with the real world. The one which is false will present a view of life that is simply not in harmony with reality.
Each of us has to make our own decision based on the reality that is visible. A parent is unable to force this on a child beyond a certain age. Intellectual honesty demands that a person observe what is around him or her, and then synthesize the evidence in coming to a verdict. Can you simultaneously hold the two views that God exists in the world and that evil also has a place in the world?
If there is no God, there is no place for absolute moral obligations of any sort. And if there are no absolute moral obligations, there is no such thing as genuine evil and wickedness. Therefore, if you look out into the world and recognize evil and wickedness as a reality, you have a powerful argument for the existence of God.