Have you ever had a philosophical argument with an atheist who questions your beliefs? The one thing that comes up over and over again is the unfairness and injustice of our “loving God.” They ask how we can worship a being that murders whole civilizations because they don’t worship Him. They ask how a “loving God” allows the injustice and the hate and the unfairness of life and calls it “good.” They ask if an all powerful God, an omniscient God, an omnipresent God can perpetrate evil and judge people because they don’t conform to His ideal of perfection. How arrogant is this?
Wait, what? How can that be arrogant? Aren’t those legitimate questions?
Define “Good.” Define “Evil.” Aren’t those relative terms? I’m better than Hitler, so I’m good. In that case, anyone who hasn’t been responsible for more than 1 million deaths is a good person, right? OK, too big, anyone who hasn’t been responsible for 100 deaths is a good person. Still too big? Anyone who hasn’t been responsible for 3 deaths (so technically not a serial killer) is a good person. Can you be evil and not do murder? What if you murder someone’s reputation? What if you murder someone’s retirement by stealing all they’ve saved up? What if you murder someone’s marriage? There are many people that we would consider evil that have never taken a life. So, maybe we broaden our definition to include people that have caused harm and pain to someone. Have you ever broken someone’s heart? Have you ever made your mom cry? Have you ever lost a friend? Have you ever betrayed a trust? Have you ever spanked your child? Have you ever denied them candy? What is the difference between good pain and bad pain? Yes, there is good pain–go to the gym and work out for an hour. Have a baby. Be born. Learn to ride a bike. If everything is relative, then where do you draw the line? We know that torturing animals is a punishable offense. Animals feel pain. Killing an animal for food would be evil, wouldn’t it? And yet…
Go to the natural world. Let’s see what good and evil look like there. Animals need food, shelter, and protection just like humans do. If an animal does not eat, he dies. Rabbits eat rabbit food, wolves eat wolf food which means wolves eat rabbits. But to be fair, predators focus on the young and the weak and make the herds stronger and more likely to survive. They keep the herbivores from denuding the landscape and eating their way into scarcity. By keeping the population controlled, the grass is not entirely eaten up, the trees can take root, the rivers move faster and carry less silt making the water better to drink. As for shelter, some animals make shelter like adopting a cave or digging a den or making a tree-house nest, or drilling into a tree. It is just a bare necessity. They set up a way to protect themselves by using a warning with look outs, developing camouflage, increasing their speed, making use of the weapons at hand (paw?) and using the landscape to keep killers at bay. Even so, there is thievery where a scavenger will steal a kill from a predator, a bird will lay eggs in another’s nest and kick out the other’s eggs, or one predator will attempt to take territory or mates from another. There is death of one animal to feed another because predators need to eat too. So which animal is evil? Are all predators evil? But, this is animals. You can’t apply human laws and definitions of good and evil to animals. Why not? Either it’s true or not true, either it’s a law or a suggestion.
Laws ONLY apply if there is authority to enforce it. From whence comes the authority to determine good and evil? People’s opinion? We’re dealing with morals. Has anyone EVER voted on whether to accept morals? In some cultures, if you consumed the eyes of your enemy, you could see through his eyes and therefore defeat him. In others, if you ate the liver of your enemy or your prey, you would get his strength. In others, if you offered the heart of your enemy or your prey to the powers that be, then you would get a double portion of his or it’s soul. Oh wait, atheists don’t believe in souls. So which of these moral values do we accept? In some cultures, children weren’t named until they had lived a few years because until then they were just a waste and an inconvenience. Parents sacrificed children to get a look at the future. This was an acceptable practice. How dare we condemn an accepted practice of another culture? In some cultures, women are treated as property to be used in any way the owner pleased–raped, circumcised, beaten, sold, or used as slave labor. In nearly all ancient cultures, slaves were considered spoils of war, or payment of debt. For a society to survive, it has to agree upon some basic rules. All of these societies survived and thrived on these rules. We would look upon these with horror saying, “This is just not fair! There should be justice for these victims!” And the members of those societies would reply, “What victims?” The fact is everyone’s opinion of what is right only applies to them as individuals. What is evil in one’s eyes is normal in another’s.
Let’s start with this assumption: Every Living Thing Dies. What does it matter when? If a man dies because of injury, disease, or natural causes, he still dies. If he has children before he dies, his name lives on, but he doesn’t. What is the point of deciding whether his death was just or not? There is no point. He would die whether he was murdered at 42 or Alzheimer’s at 90. What difference would that 48 years have made? He would have contributed to a society that would not even know he existed. Human beings are destined for extinction because the top of the food chain always goes extinct. If the human race is so destined, what difference does it make if John stole a car from Bob? or Henry raped Alice? or Hitler killed all those people. They were destined to die anyway; Hitler just made it orderly. Death, destruction, pain and suffering are the natural state of existence, as brief as it is. THEREFORE, an atheist saying that suffering is unfair and unjust makes no sense because pain and suffering are the normal state of life forms of any sort. An atheist saying that a death is premature or undeserved is making no sense because all things die. Since death is the normal conclusion to a life form, when is of no consequence.
When we look at the Judeo-Christian believers though, their ultimate authority is God. They were given 10 laws. They either accept the 10 laws or pay the consequences. Other religions have their followers offer sacrifices and do rituals to please their gods. They may have laws, but have not established what is good and what is evil. Their gods are capricious and only care for how their worshipers flatter them. If they are appropriately flattered, they grant boons such as rain, and children, and riches, and such. They do not establish good and evil because serving 1 god may not be enough and serving the other god might require different behaviors. So the “evil” God of the Jews and Christians established laws that no one can completely follow, so he kills them all. He sends floods, fire, earthquakes, snakes, Bubonic Plague… Why didn’t any of the other gods send things like that? They couldn’t? According to the Jewish and Christian belief, humanity rejected God 1st. God offered a choice: Life or Death, and humans chose death. Well that was stupid. So they got death. Death in the form of disease, murder, injury, pain, suffering, natural disasters, plague, and a finite lifespan. The ultimate Good could only be found in God, and God defined Good with the 10 laws. These believers compared all of their behavior to those 10 laws and established the concept of Good. Evil was anything or anyone that opposed those laws. Tada! Authoritative definitions of Good and Evil are ratified! Atheists who do not believe in God, cannot claim those 10 laws because they do not believe in the author of those laws.
Justice and fairness are measures of behavior as compared to the law. Human justice is in adversarial form of debate because the authors of the laws did not provide the ultimate interpretations of every nuance of the law. Humans cannot see the heart, and have a short vision of consequences. So the person who has been damaged may not have suffered much damage, and in fact, might have benefited from the acts of another that appear to be unjust or unfair. The person that is accused of perpetrating the damage may or may not be guilty of the act. Human justice does not mean fairness. However, God’s justice is fair and impartial. It’s easy. Everyone is guilty. The difference is that God grants grace. That there is an ultimate judgement and an ultimate reward makes His judgement more relevant to believers. He grants people the choice again: Eternal Life or Eternal Death. Accept God’s grace or don’t. Which means this: an atheist is a person who has rejected God, has chosen death, and has chosen his opinion of what is fair and just over what God says is fair and just. Then he disparages God as the author of evil when evil is the natural result of rejecting God. The arrogance is that a human, without infinite view of history and time, with no insight into the hearts and minds of people can determine what is fair and just.