The Free Will Problem
Whenever I bring up the problem of evil in the world, believers talk to me about free will. That’s why there’s evil. God gave us free will and some people choose to act maliciously. That’s not God’s fault. And if God forced us to act with kindness, we wouldn’t really be good because we wouldn’t have the option of acting any other way. We would just be drones.
However, why should a few madmen be allowed to commit heinous atrocities and murder millions? Why should Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot have been allowed to exercise their free will and kill millions of innocents? Well, again, they say, it’s free will. More people should have stepped up to stop these monsters. God had nothing to do with it.
It wasn’t God. God stayed away. All the prayers that people sent up; all the resistance efforts that small groups engaged in; all the speeches that opponents made, and the brave reporting of journalists who were harassed and killed: all that did nothing to stop them.
So if God is all-good, where the hell was he? When millions of people prayed for deliverance from torture and murder, and God did nothing about it, wasn’t that evil? If God can intervene in the world but opts not to, then God is guilty of abetting that heinous activity. And we have long held that abetting a crime is a crime in itself.
Further, if God has a plan that we mere humans don’t understand, so what? Why should we consider God to be good if he’s allowing evil and misery to flourish for some larger purpose? We don’t, for example, allow our children to torture kittens for the purpose of discerning how much pain the kittens can tolerate before dying.
We don’t condone monstrous acts for the sake of some larger scientific experiment. We don’t allow experimentation on humans when that experimentation causes suffering to those humans. And when someone like Josef Mengele does it, we call him evil. So if God is doing something akin to that, then God has to be evil by our own definition.
Or… and this is a big Or… just possibly… God doesn’t exist.
In which case, all the evil in the world is caused by us.