How can god allow evil?

This page last updated February 12th, 2020

This page in brief ….

The world is full of war, starvation, racial prejudice, death, political dishonesty, etc, etc. How could a good god have created a world that is in such a mess? Doesn’t this indicate that there is no god?

There are several questions we might ask that helps put these questions in a larger context. This page is a summary of a longer page that addresses these questions in detail.

Five questions

This is perhaps the strongest argument against the existence of a god. On the surface, it is hard to think otherwise. But here are five questions that may help us think through this issue.

  1. Perhaps the only way to stop human evil is to take away people’s freedom of choice. But does anyone want that? Would you be willing to give up your freedom of choice to see an end to human evil? Perhaps the amazing gift of life and freedom is worth it all?
  2. Danger and hurt seem to be inevitable parts of living in a physical world. Some people thrive on it, and would find life without risk a bit tame. Most of us find great beauty in the same world that throws up earthquakes and tidal waves. Perhaps we can’t have one without the other?
  3. Despite the pain and anguish of this life, most of us hang on to life and cherish it. Surveys show that about three quarters of people in the world are happy. Perhaps, despite all the arguments and doubts, our actions are saying that life is good, and the good definitely outweighs the bad?
  4. The argument that a good god could not create such a bad world depends on the world being really evil. If the world was just inconvenient or unattractive, all we could say is that God is not convenient to us – hardly a telling argument! But it is hard to see how we can call anything truly right or wrong without God. So perhaps the strongest argument against God may require him to exist before it can have strength?
  5. But granted all this, couldn’t God have retained the good aspects (freedom, beauty) and reduced the bad aspects? At the very least, the extent of evil in the world is very troubling.

So, are God and evil incompatible?

It is hard to escape the feeling that something is wrong with the world, and to blame God or disbelieve in a god because of that. But the above questions take a lot of of the sting out of the argument – it is hard to maintain the rage against God without a strong basis for our views about right and wrong, and in a world where we clearly gain such pleasure and joy.

But, on its own, it still seems that suffering and evil make it harder to believe in a good God. Our final choice will probably depend on how strong we think the evidence for God is. If we think that God is the only, or most likely, explanation for the creation of the universe or its amazing design, or if the strength of the historical evidence for Jesus lead us to conclude that God indeed exists, then we can only admit that we cannot understand the extent of suffering and evil but we still trust God. But if we find those arguments unconvincing, suffering and evil will likely cause us to disbelieve.

Read more

This has been a very brief treatment of a very difficult subject. Consider it in a little more depth at God and Evil.

Photo: Frank Hurley in The Heritage of the Great War..

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