Arguments Against The Existence Of God
Many people actively choose to not believe in a god or higher power. They may put forward a number of arguments to try and prove that God does not exist.
The Problem Of Evil – Suffering as proof that God does not exist
Believers would say that God is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnibenevolent.
If God is all powerful then He can stop evil and suffering, yet doesn’t. If God is all seeing then He can see evil and suffering before if happens so could stop it, yet doesn’t. If God is all loving then He would want to stop evil and suffering, yet doesn’t.
This leads many to the conclusion that God does not exist.
However, for a believer God not existing is not an option. Christians have put forward two main theories as to why God allows evil and suffering to happen.
These theories are called Theodicies.
A Theodicy is designed to ‘get God off the hook’ in relation to evil and suffering
Theodicy 1 – St Augustine
Augustine argued that God created a good and perfect world. Part of this was to give humans (Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) free will.
This free will was abused and humans chose to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit. This ‘original sin’ caused the creation to be corrupted, that is, it went wrong. The consequence of this was natural and moral evil. Natural Evil is fair punishment for disobedience and humans abusing their freewill cause moral evil. All this means that evil is the fault of humans, not God.
Theodicy 2 – St Irenaeus
St. Irenaeus argued that humans were created by God and given free will. They were not created perfect, but given the ability, through free will, to become perfect. This means that humans make mistakes and do things wrong, causing evil and suffering. Humans should learn from this and slowly develop into the ‘children of God’. Again, this answer blames humans for evil and not God.
Many would argue that both of these theodicies do not really explain the presence of evil and suffering in the world. How can all mankind be punished for the mistakes of Adam and Eve? This does not sound like a fair God. Furthermore, to say evil and suffering helps to learn or become better seems very superficial. What about innocent children who suffer terribly and die? What did they learn?
Other explanations for the presence of evil and suffering:
- Idea of a Devil in both Christianity and Islam
- All humans are capable of commiting evil acts but some cannot control it. Evil may be viewed as a psychological force influenced by personality or upbringing perhaps
- Evil is necessary so we know what good is
- Good can come out of evil eg charity work following natural disasters
- Islam would say that suffering is a test from Allah. It is up to mankind how they respond.
Exam Tip – Look at the exam Q below. Can you answer it?
‘The presence of evil and suffering in the world proves that God does not exist’ (12)