Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the absurdity of an atheist using the argument from evil

Gary Gutting interviews atheist Louise Antony in the New York Times [Arguments Against God]. Here's part of the interview ...
L.A.: Knowledge in the real world does not entail either certainty or infallibility. When I claim to know that there is no God, I mean that the question is settled to my satisfaction. I don’t have any doubts. I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible to know whether or not God exists. I think it’s possible to know. And I think the balance of evidence and argument has a definite tilt.

G.G.: What sort of evidence do you have in mind?

L.A.: I find the "argument from evil" overwhelming — that is, I think the probability that the world we experience was designed by an omnipotent and benevolent being is a zillion times lower than that it is the product of mindless natural laws acting on mindless matter. (There are minds in the universe, but they’re all finite and material.)
The argument from evil goes like this ...
  1. Assume that supernatural, omnipotent beings exist.
  2. Assume that they are kind and benevolent and they have the power and desire to create human societies that will be kind and good.
  3. Therefore, because evil is commonplace, one of the assumptions must be wrong.
An atheist is concerned about whether supernatural beings exist so why in the world would they pay any attention to the premises of this argument? If I were to accept the premise that supernatural omnipotent beings exist then the argument from evil simply leads to the conclusion that the supernatural beings are evil (like Satan) or they don't much care about us, like the Greek gods.

The argument from evil says nothing about whether gods exist or not. It only refers to particular kinds of gods and the only way an atheist should pay any attention to it at all is if they are willing to concede that some sort of gods must exist. Then, and only then, can they enter into a discussion about what kinds of gods exist. In that sense, the argument from evil is about as useful as the Courtier's Reply.

I wish atheists would stop discussing the argument from evil because all it does is show that some gods are possible while others are unlikely. I do not see why Louise Anthony finds the argument convincing because it's perfectly consistent with the existence of Satan.

It's also perfectly consistent the god of the Old Testament (see above). That god is exactly the sort of god that that would create a human society full of evil. Humans are behaving just like the god they worship. What's the problem?


  1. I disagree with you here. It is true that the Problem of Evil just undermines one particular idea of God, and doesn't rule out supernatural beings in general, but it is still an important argument. After all, many believers - including Christians - tend to argue that religious beliefs cannot be falsified (and infer from that, somehow, that it's a matter of faith or opinion). The problem of evil shows that this claim is false, at least when it comes to the traditional Christian conception of God. If God is assumed to be omnipotent and perfectly good, then *that is an empirically testable hypothesis*. The hypothesis predicts that there should be no evil. It doesn't require much skill to do the proper empirical investigation - the data are pretty unambiguous: evil exists. Thus, the hypothesis is falsified (of course, apologetics tend to try - rather feebly - to find ways around it, but it should be obvious by now that any theodicy will be desperately ad hoc).

    And not only is the traditional Christian conception of God falsified, agnosticism about that God is, in the face of the overwhelming evidence, also rationally untenable.

    Now, you are right that the argument doesn't rule out *other* conceptions of a supernatural creator of the universe, but now the burden is at least on the believer to formulate precisely what metaphysical idea he or she is committed to, and one suspects that any specific conception that goes beyond metaphor, handwaiving or nebulous vapidity will end up being falsifiable as well. And with no clear conception of what this supernatural being might be, agnosticism is as rationally untenable a position as belief. I think this is, at least in part, what Antony is trying to convey.

    Accordingly, I think the Problem of Evil is an important argument - it really does provide an empirical test for the existence of God, and God fails miserably.

    1. Agreed. It's a perfectly good rebuttal to the God we are *usually recommended*. I don't think anyone has ever urged my submission to a god that wasn't also the very definition of morality (though in some cases the morality of the specific God being recommended is repugnant to me).

    2. @G.D. and Steve,

      Here's a very brief description of the Problem of Evil. As I'm sure you know, Christians do not reject their god(s) merely because of the existence of evil. They have lots and lots of "sophisticated" arguments to rationalize the problem.

      Do you really want to get into a debate on that topic? Remember, that in order to debate it you have to assume the existence of god(s). Why in the world would any atheist want to do that? It would be like arguing over the color of the Emperor's new suit or whether the Loch Ness monster was a vegetarian.

    3. Larry, I think you're being absurd here. No, we don't have to assume the existence of god to debate the existence of any particular god, nor do we have to admit that some god is possible in order to reject other gods. You are phrasing the question improperly. One can hypothesize particular sorts of god in order to make them well-defined enough to be tested, and certainly the Christian god as imagined by its adherents is one useful hypothesis. The problem of evil usefully disposes of this particular god.

      And yes, theologians have rationalizations, but so what? Creationists have rationalizations for the fossil record, but that doesn't prevent arguments based on it from being valid and useful arguments.

    4. @John Harshman,

      Let's say you are completely convinced by the argument from evil that a certain type of god is not consistent with the world as you know it.

      Does that make you an atheist?

      Do you spend an equal amount of time debating whether any of the Hindu gods are consistent with the presence of evil? Why not?

    5. The hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, perfectly good God nevertheless falsified. It is correct that falsification is not enough to convince many, just like the falsification of the efficacy of homeopathy fails to convince most homeopaths, but that's not the point. The point is that believing in a God the existence of which is falsified is *rationally untenable* - as is agnosticism concerning such a God. That many people fail to be compelled by evidence, rationality and reason is sort of a different matter; the evidence *should be* compelling, and Antony is accordingly quite correct in taking it as such.

      Yes, theologians have attempted to provide sophisticated rationalizations, but given the empirical evidence these are as rationally compelling as trying to revive geocentrism today by adding further, "sophisticated" epicycles. And that was precisely the point of my last comment.

      That many theologians will think that Antony's dismissal is "too simple" is also not very relevant. The problem of evil does remain a rationally compelling argument, and Antony is entirely right to take it to be a refutation of a traditional conception of God. The existence of abstruse theodicies that tries to convince people otherwise may, perhaps, make it *rhetorically* not the most efficient argument (though I think it is - those theodicies are, in the end, pretty feeble and easily refuted), but that is a very different matter, isn't it?

    6. The hypothesis that there is an omnipotent, perfectly good God nevertheless falsified.

      No, it is not falsified. As long as you are willing to consider the extstence of gods, there are many possible explanations that are consistent with a good god. For example, Satan could also exist and right now he's winning.

    7. "Do you spend an equal amount of time debating whether any of the Hindu gods are consistent with the presence of evil? Why not?"

      Ah, I see. I think you misunderstand Antony's point. Her point as I understand it, and mine, is not that the Problem of Evil establishes atheism across the board - of course not. Antony could presumably assume that her audience would be most interested in one particular religious hypothesis, namely the existence of an omniscient, perfectly good God. And her point is that with regard to *that* hypothesis, the Problem of Evil is not only a refutation - the Problem of Evil also implies that agnosticism about *that particular hypothesis* is as untenable as belief. That's why Antony rejects agnosticism as well, and that was the point of bringing it up.

      And the fact that you cannot use the Problem of Evil to refute the gods of Norse mythology does not mean that the Problem of Evil is not a good argument against a restricted set of hypotheses. That would be kind of parallel to saying that the fact that evolutionary explanations fail to explain the Big Bang means that evolution is not a good explanation ...

      Yes, The Problem of Evil is a negative argument against certain forms of theism and certain types of agnosticism, not a positive argument for atheism across the board, but that's a rather silly reason to dismiss it as unimportant or useless. Other religious hypotheses require different refutations, but that said: I strongly suspect that any religious hypothesis that is precise enough to ascribe any well-defined positive attribute to a deity will also be falsifiable (and probably falsified, like the psychopathic monster that is the god of the Old Testament, Norse gods, Hindu and Shinto mythologies or what have you). And if you *cannot* ascribe a well-defined attribute, well, then one may wonder whether you actually count as having a belief in that entity at all.

    8. "No, it is not falsified. As long as you are willing to consider the extstence of gods, there are many possible explanations that are consistent with a good god."

      Wrong. I didn't say "good god". That's not the usual hypothesis in Christian mythology. I said "*perfectly* good god".

      "For example, Satan could also exist and right now he's winning."

      No. If God is omnipotent, then Satan could not be winning unless God allowed him to. And if God is perfectly good, he wouldn't let Satan win.

      The traditional conception of God is not that he is somewhat powerful and rather nice, but that he is all-powerful and perfectly good. That's the conception generally defended by Christian apologetics. And that hypothesis stands refuted.

    9. @G.D.

      I can see that you are more than willing to engage in a discussion about which gods may exist and what kind of personalities they might have. Do you believe in some of them? If not, what's the point?

      Why don't you believe Christians when they tell you what their god is up to? They don't seem to have a serious problem with evil.

    10. Others have beaten me to it, but what the heck....

      1) Do you consider the theodicist rationalizations to be valid (or at least, unrefuted)? Because I don't. There are also plenty of rationalizations for why religion is compatible with science, and I *know* you don't accept any of those.

      2) Reductio ad Absurdum (in which one begins by temporarily assuming the truth of the proposition to be refuted) is a valid form of argument.

      3) The Argument From Evil does not make me an atheist w.r.t. all gods, but it does make me one w.r.t. the dominant god-concept in my culture, including the two largest religions on the planet. General lack of evidence and/or lack of coherent definition makes me an atheist w.r.t. most of the rest (as well as the dominant one -- but it can't hurt to have multiple reasons).

    11. Larry,

      I don't waste much time with Hindu gods because they aren't bothering me personally. If I lived in India, that would be another story. Just because the problem of evil isn't useful in rejecting all gods doesn't make it useless and it doesn't mean that there are not other ways to refute other gods. Any god who is supposed to be active in the world can probably be shown to be incompatible with the empirical data. Any god who isn't supposed to be active at least gives us no reason to believe it exists. And so I'm an atheist.

      I don't know enough about Hinduism to know whether theodicy is a problem for it. Do you? There are of course many versions. In some of them there is but one god with many faces, but I don't know if the faces ever work at cross purposes.

      But the Christian god is of particular interest here in the U.S. and Canada, for obvious reasons, and theodicy works quite well on him. Why not use it?

    12. No, I don't believe in any of them. The point was to defend the Problem of Evil as a good argument, and one worth making. And it is. Moreover, the Problem of Evil is a good argument against agnosticism with regard to the usual Christian God. That's all, and that's the point I am sure Antony was making as well.

    13. @G.D., Steve, John,

      Are you also impressed with the "argument from goodness"? It shows that an omnipotent, perfectly evil god is inconsistent with goodness in our society? Then there's the "argument form sadness," showing that a perfectly happy god can't exist. And let's not forget the "argument from stupidity."

      It's pretty clear that there are no Christians who actually believe in the imaginary god that you are describing otherwise they would have abandoned him a long time ago when they recognized that there was evil in the world.

      What's the point in debating the possible characteristics of imaginary beings with those who believe in them? The important point is whether any of those imaginary beings actually exist no matter what personalities you ascribe to them.

    14. Cheezis H. Christ, Larry. This is you displaying critical thinking skills? If anyone were postulating an omnipotent, perfectly evil god, the argument from goodness would certainly kill him off. Whether Christians really believe in their god is irrelevant to arguments against him. It isn't quite clear what would be required for "real" belief, but people certainly have the ability to rationalize contradictions and still keep their beliefs.

      There are two reasons to like the argument from evil: first, it disposes of a prominent model god; second, it appears to work at least some of the time in moving people away from theism.

      I don't in fact see how it's possible to make a rational argument against god without first postulating at least a few of his properties. Otherwise there's nothing to test or argue about. But what's your evidence or argument for the nonexistence of god that doesn't rely in any way on a definition? Why, I can easily prove that god exists, because I define it as a palm tree in my front yard, and I can send you actual photos.

    15. Are you also impressed with the "argument from goodness"?

      As a matter of fact, Stephen Law has made exactly this argument as a refutation of theodicy (see:; also as an essay in 50 Voices of Disbelief). And yes, I'm impressed with it as such -- it makes an evil god look, if anything, *more* probable than a good one.

      It's pretty clear that there are no Christians who actually believe in the imaginary god that you are describing otherwise they would have abandoned him a long time ago when they recognized that there was evil in the world.

      Do I need to remind you that you are talking to an ex-Christian here, who use to accept those rationalizations? Yes, I did, and orthodox Christians still do, believe in that God. And the Problem of Evil was one of the things that did it in, even if it took way longer than it should have. I knew it was a *big* problem, but theodicy is, as you note, an elaborate construct which manages to plaster over the obvious cracks. I imagined the problems would resolve as time went on, but after 20 years or so, that excuse starts to wear thin. It became cognitively easier to jettison the God-idea.

    16. John Harshman asks,

      But what's your evidence or argument for the nonexistence of god that doesn't rely in any way on a definition?

      I have never argued for the nonexistence of gods.

      The burden of proof is on those who postulate the existence of gods and I have yet to see an argument for the existence of gods that I find convincing. That's why I don't believe in gods (weak atheism). And that's why the argument from evil is irrelevant to me. It is not evidence of gods.

      I think I see where you guys are coming from. You want to prove the nonexistence of gods (strong atheism) and that's why the argument from evil appeals to you. I didn't realize that.

    17. Ah, well I would say that weak atheism is my minimum position for the entire set of god-concepts -- if someone has a god they want me to consider, then they should specify it, and we can discuss whether there is any evidence for it; if not then I will ignore it. But I'm a strong atheist about several of the god-concepts (even within Christianity there is more than one) of the orthodox Western monotheisms, and the Problem of Evil is one of the reasons.

    18. I'm with Steve. There's no reason you can't be a strong atheist about some gods and a weak one about others. Why would you have a requirement to the contrary?

      Are you saying that there are no gods in which you positively disbelieve and are willing to say that they almost certainly don't exist? Or is it merely that you don't care?

  2. I disagree with Louise Antony when she says " I don’t say that I’m agnostic, because I disagree with those who say it’s not possible " I don't say that I'm agnostic because it is trivially true. Any scientist would say that in principle all synthetic statements, all assertions about the nature of the universe cannot be known with certainty. In practice of course some statements are far more probably than others. I don't think there are any gods, but I mind be wrong. I think that the sun is a star about which the Earth revolves (common center of gravity, etc.) - but I might be wrong. I don't stay up late worrying that I might be wrong about the sun, and neither do I lose sleep over the possibility of gods.(1) It is trivially true but significantly unlikely that there might be gods. We don't have any reason to think there are. It is much more likely that there is life on Europa.(2)

    A personal note - being raised Southern Baptist, I never found the argument from evil to be persuasive. It was clear to me that the god of my church was an evil bastard. A typical bronze age Mideastern king, with magic.

    (1) "Gods" defined in such a way that most theists would recognize them as gods, e.g. not my cat (her opinion notwithstanding).
    (2) This would be much cooler, and would not overthrow any science or other verifiable knowledge that we now have.

  3. Wow. You are expressing a feeling that I have had for a long time! Indeed the so-called problem from evil (which I would prefer to call problem from unnecessary suffering) can easily be solved by postulating one of several thing: (1) God is an idiot; (2) God is evil; (3) God is not all-powerful; (4) The ways of the lord are mysterious; (5) Yes, this looks evil to you because you are an evil unbeliever, but really whatever god does or commands is good by definition.

    I am forever puzzled why so many people consider this to be a strong or even relevant argument. Whether at age 12 or today, for me it always boiled down to this: Look at the world, look at the entire universe. Does this look as if it was created? Does it look as if it was created specifically for us? Does it look as if it was at least created to let life flourish?

    Of course there is a way to answer those questions with 'yes', but that is the way of consciously ignoring all we know about deep time, deep space, evolution, and the utter hostility to life of >99.99999999999999% of the universe.

    1. Your postulates 1-3 are unacceptable to believers. Postulates 4 and 5 are unacceptable to anyone capable of thought. So they don't work well as answers.

      The fact that there are other arguments against god, even if they are better arguments (which may or may not be the case), does not serve to invalidate the present argument.

    2. I believe you are mistaken. A lot of theodicy boils down to (prettier phrasing of) #3 or #5. Just take those theologians who argue that maybe our current world is the best possible; in effect they are saying that god is not powerful and wise enough to create a world without cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and internal parasites. That is #3 right there.

    3. You find me an example of #3 and I'll accept that there is at least one. Find me a lot of examples and I'll accept "a lot". You are right that #4 and #5 are quite common, which is why I specified "capable of thought"; I didn't mean to imply that theologians were capable of thought, and I hope you didn't take it that way.

      I don't know of anyone saying that god isn't powerful and wise enough, just that this is in fact the best of all possible worlds. Disease and parasites are, for some reason, necessary. The idea that god isn't omnipotent or omniscient is, as I claim, unacceptable to believers.

    4. But if god is incapable of coming up with a world that is at least as good as ours but doesn't contain cancer then that is a very very odd definition of omnipotent, which is usually taken to mean being capable of everything that is logically possible. To me, that is merely a cop-out.

      And I do wonder why so many people who would not take somebody at their word when they argue that they aren't anti-Semitic in the same breath as calling "the" Jews greedy Christ-murdering conspirators do take others at their word when they claim to believe in an omnipotent god in the same breath as describing that god as incapable of rather mundane things, or in an omnibenevolent god in the same breath as describing that god as throwing a decent person into everlasting torment for failing to believe.

      Yes, the first one really is anti-semitic despite their denial. No, the second one really does not believe in an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god despite their claims. Look at what they really believe and say!

    5. Nobody (at least nobody here) is claiming that theological arguments make sense. Internal contradictions are par for the course in theism. But demonstrating a contradiction is not demonstrating that they don't really believe that.

    6. So if somebody were to say, "I am not a misogynist, but women are too emotional and stupid to do a man's work, and by the way in our current society nearly all rape claims are false, merely made up by evil women to keep men down and in constant fear", would you stop at the first comma and accept that they really are not a misogynist?

      If not, how is this situation different from taking apologists at their word without caring about what they actually believe?

    7. No, but I would accept that he believed he wasn't a misogynist. You would certainly not get far in argument with that person by beginning with the premise that he was a misogynist. You could however try to demonstrate to him that his two statements were mutually contradictory.

      The cases are indeed similar. Your example is a misogynist who doesn't believe he's a misogynist. Theists believe various things that are incompatible with their beliefs about the nature of god. But they do believe all those things.

      The usual statement is "omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent: pick two"; but theists are generally unable to jettison any one of those characteristics, and so evolve complicated, though ultimately futile, rationales.

  4. I find the problem of evil to be a good starting point in a discussion with a Christian. Typically, they don’t know the fancy theological arguments. I’m not trying to convert them to outright atheism, merely to make a chink in their armour; to get them to ask the first question, “yea hath God said”. You see, the worst part of religion is the harm that comes from strict adherence to dogma. Things like the hate for gay people, the poor treatment of women, the fear of sexuality, all come from following dogma over compassion. Yes, they will often be reduced to vapid handwaving. I don’t need them to see that the emperor is naked, just to question whether his clothes are the colour they were told they are. If they can begin to doubt what they were told at church, and can learn to use their own minds rather than following such a capricious god, then I count it as a success.

  5. I too find the argument from evil to be useful when talking with Christians, because Christians who actually think about their religion know they have a problem. They understand this much better than they understand methods for aging rocks, for example. Having such a discussion in class wouldn't be right, but in other settings, it can be valuable. (And by the way, I do like the idea of Hindu gods who transcend categories of good and evil, and create a world filled with both because that's just what they do. While not an improvement in terms of truth, it makes a lot more sense than the idea of the omnibenevolent, omnipotent Christian god.)

    On the other hand, Christians who think about the problem of evil eventually do land on rationalizations that they find effective. My very bright scientist (physicist) brother explains that (1) the suffering of non-human animals doesn't count and (2) the suffering we humans experience is part of a learning process for us, and after we die we will learn more and begin to appreciate how much we gained from these lessons. My problems with this rationalization are so deep that we do best to turn the discussion to other topics. And fortunately my brother's apparently pretty good at what he does in physics, despite all this.

  6. Very good Larry. Have you been listening to Wilkins especially closely lately? There is, indeed, a difference between an argument against someone else's argument and an argument for your own position. The IDiots exploit that difference, by blurring it, all the time.

  7. I'm in two minds about the problem of evil. On the one hand, I can see it's appeal - that a property about a particular kind of God is incompatible with the world as we see it. If the choice is choosing between an omnipotent omnibenevolent deity and no deity at all to explain the amount of suffering in the world, it's fairly obvious which way one should go.

    On the other hand, academic theology has been done in various forms for some 2500 years now, by some of the smartest minds who ever lived. In that time, our conception of how the world works has radically changed, so it's hard (for me at least) to see why it is that the problem of evil is still the perennial issue in evaluating the existential status of God. I really don't get it.

    1. I can explain. The problem of evil is a slam-dunk refutation of the sort of god that theists want to believe in. That 2500 years of theology is largely devoted to coming up with an argument that removes the problem, so far without success. The dilemma is that there's no possible argument that would actually work, but they really, really don't want to give up god. They keep up their spirits by imagining they have succeeded. Still, they realize deep down that they haven't, so they keep trying.

  8. Yeah I've never been impressed with the argument about evil. The very word is loaded with supernatural connotations and sets the argument in a place where theists are comfortable.
    I say abandon the whole notion of evil in the first place and recognize simply that we live in a world where it is possible to experience things that we recognize as favorable or unfavorable and what does occur is ultimately a matter of chance events. The strings that are attached to the hands of gods and demons are invisible because they don't exist.

    1. Then replace the word with "suffering" (which many discussions of the Problem do anyway). And if you are at all compassionate, then you agree that the suffering of sentient creatures (humans and many other animals) is a Bad Thing -- something you will alleviate if you reasonably can, and that you will criticize other humans for deliberately or negligently causing. And without worrying too much about exactly which ethical theory you are justifying such judgements on.

    2. Then replace the word with "suffering"

      No thank you. It doesn't change the argument or make it better. That is, if we are still talking about an argument for the existence or non-existence of god. But I think you are talking about something else, like the human senses of compassion and empathy. As for me I regret so much as stepping on a insect or even a plant and avoid doing so whenever I can. But this is a somewhat different issue than the one I was referring to and I'm still pretty sure none of it has any bearing on the existence of gods. That latter entity is merely a pointless addition to any discussion.

    3. That latter entity is merely a pointless addition to any discussion.

      It would seem to be a central part of any discussion about the existence, or lack thereof, of gods. If you just aren't interested in discussions of whether gods exist, that's fine. So why post on the subject?

    4. sorry, should have said "pointless addition to THE discussion" meaning a discussion concerning human compassion and empathy...not a pointless addition to "any" discussion. As it happens I am quite interested in discussions of whether gods exist, not that I ever get much of a clear idea of what the average believer thinks god is in the first place.

    5. OK, now I'm confused. This isn't a discussion of human compassion. It's a disucssion of the argument from evil. Isn't it?

    6. well, I thought it was, but Steve's comment seemed more about the response of humans to suffering and our appropriate response to those who do not show compassion, rather than whether the existence of evil (or suffering) is a cogent argument against the existence of god.

      But I guess my original post is responsible for this minor derailment because I wasn't directly commenting on the utility of the argument from evil. Rather, I was communicating my dislike of the word evil. If the religionist thinks that good things come from god, a purpose-driven result, he might just as well conclude that evil comes from satan (among several possible rationalizations) and is another purpose-driven supernatural circumstance.

      Meanwhile, from outside this narrow human experience and in the rest of the biome, the cosmos and wide universe, the concepts of good and evil, justice and injustice fall away. If an asteroid hits the earth tomorrow, is that good or evil, is it justice or injustice? It is none of these things. If a cute little duckling is snatched away by a seagull, is that good, evil, justice, or injustice? Again, none of these things. Of course this doesn't preclude humans having an emotional response to these scenarios.

      I just think that the term evil keeps the argument in the realm of the teleological supernatural, at least to the theist, though I recognize not to the non-theist. Its a minor and idiosyncratic concern, perhaps.

  9. Some of the arguments here presume that a dominant notion of god is that he must be and act exactly as the believer wants him to at all moments. But how many theists openly insist upon this? By definition, it is god who is control and in the main it is not for us to question events, as they pertain to a greater plan to which we may not be entirely privy or at least currently appreciative.

    Perhaps the argument from evil carries some sort of weight from a theological perspective but part of this overall discussion concerns theists in general, and only a vanishingly small percentage of believers could be said to be theological or much in the way of philosophical.

    If we turned to a practical rather than theological point of view: consider a believer loosing a child to illness, violence, or accident. I imagine this might well shake the faith. How could a god (their god), if he really existed, allow such a bad thing to happen? But I could see these feelings being temporary.
    Built into the belief system is that the only pathway to getting back what was lost (that is, reunification in the afterlife) is continued faith. Indeed, the lost child does not cease to exist, but is quite in the protectorate of the lord. A powerful consolation to bereaving parents. Forget that even, who among us is even ambivalent toward the loss of our own life and existence, the only thing we have ever known.

    So, whatever the misery, suffering, and perceived evil of this world, it is all toward a greater plan. In the end, the lord will make all things perfect and right.

    Now, I have never been a theist so I don't have personal experience in these matters nor do I have data documenting the reasons for loss of belief when it occurs.
    But nevertheless, it is for reasons such as these that I don't think that the argument from evil or suffering is a potent challenge to beliefs of most of the people who would claim to be religious. It may carry philosophical weight, but the concerns of bereaving parents (as just one horrible example) or of most theists/people in general are not exactly of an academic nature.

  10. I disagree with Larry. Almost all believers across all religions tend to think that their personal God is an epitome of kindness. Even though some Gods can turn violent (as in Hindu mythology), they take up that avatar to deal with unruly elements in the society. But God is expected to remain kind and not inflict suffering as long as people remain good samaritans. Yet, perfectly innocent people meet with gruesome accidents or fall seriously ill or tragically lose a beloved family member. I personally know many people whose belief in God was eroded by such inexplicable acts of evil. Therefore, evil is a strong argument against the public's concept of God as a loving fatherly figure.