The first podcast I listened to in my effort to expose myself to opposing viewpoints was Episode 1 of The Atheist Handbook, by Paul Timothy Davis. This podcast is by a Christian who is countering many of the arguments that atheists give against the existence of the Christian definition of god.
The Problem of Evil is essentially this: how can there be a loving god if there’s so much evil in the world? Davis names some of this evil: school shootings, 9/11, the holocaust, 3rd world countries, the sex slave trade, suicide bombings, scam artists.
My first complaint is that Davis misrepresents the atheist’s position slightly. He says that atheists as how could there be a god if there is so much evil, but really the question is how can there be a loving, omnipotent god.
The Problem of Evil argument isn’t an argument against the existence of any god or gods, it’s an argument agains the Christian definition of god. From this point forward in this post, when I capitalize “God” I’m referring to the Christian god: loving, omniscient, omnipotent.
Davis breaks down the Problem of Evil into four points:
1. Either God doesn’t care, which means he doesn’t love us.
2. God can’t stop evil, which means he’s not all powerful.
3. God created evil, which means he isn’t good.
4. God chooses not to stop evil, which means it’s his fault.
All of these points mesh with my reasoning as to why God cannot exist.
I think it’s important at this point to give Davis’s definition of evil, which he gives later in the podcast: “Evil is a term we use to describe the actions of humans that result in harm or destruction towards things or people.” (For the record, I do not agree with this definition).
This got a bit long, so I split it up…click below to continue reading…
Davis starts by looking at 1 & 2 together: Does God care about evil and can he stop it?
He says that since God always stays the same and is unchanging, so we can look at examples in the past to give us a picture of how God will deal with evil in the future.
The examples he gives are Genesis 7 (worldwide flood, he kills everyone), Genesis 19 (Sodom & Gemorrah – God destroyed the city) and Exodus 32 (when Moses is on the mountain everyone else worships a golden cow, God makes the Levites kill the people who were worshipping the cow – 3,000 slaughtered. So, Davis explains, this shows that God is not powerless to stop evil, that to deal with evil God kills people.
I don’t understand how this is a satisfactory explanation for Davis. I’m going to put aside the fact that there’s no evidence corroborating these stories, and pretend for now that they’re all true. First, Davis gives these examples as reasons to think that God is all powerful, but really, humans have developed the power to wipe out populations of people, so how is this showing any kind of higher power? Can’t God just magic people dead? And in order to kill evil people why does he also have to, in the example of the flood, wipe out innocent animals, in S&G, destroy the city, and in Exodus 32, force the Levites to become murderers.
And second, Why can’t God just smite the people who are doing evil? If the only way to stop evil is to kill evil people, then leave the innocent babies alone. Many of the people in these three Bible stories aren’t even evil according to Davis’s definition. How are the 3,000 who are worshipping the golden cow causing harm or destruction? In Genesis 19, Davis says that Lot’s wife is killed simply because she looks back at S&G, how is that evil? It seems to me that Davis’s definition of evil is actually “Evil is a term we use to describe the actions of people that go against God’s word.”
In all three Bible stories Davis referred to, God seems to be the one doing the most evil.
Davis then goes on to contradict himself. He first said that God is unchanging, but now he says that God changed how he deals with evil: now, God simply tells you to follow in Jesus’s footsteps. Ugh. Davis said Jesus died for evil people, so I guess now all of a sudden it doesn’t matter if you do harm? As long as you accept Jesus, right John 3:16? This is a head scratcher for me…how does Davis not understand that even though Jesus came to save us all, there’s still evil, and it’s still not being stopped by anyone?
Okay onto number 3: Did God create evil?
Davis’s answer? No, it’s not possible to create evil. Can you draw a picture of evil? What does evil look like? Oh, evil’s not a thing? See, then it can’t be created. Davis pretty much says that evil is a side effect of the creation of humans, that if we have good in us then we have to have evil. So God can’t create people without the ability to do evil, doesn’t this mean God is not all-powerful?
So this got me wondering, what is it like in heaven? If it’s not possible to have good without evil, then isn’t there evil in heaven? Or is God able to eliminate evil in heaven but not on earth? Also, why did God even bother with flooding the earth and wiping out all of the evil people? Did he forget that everyone has the capacity to do evil and that surely evil would still continue in the post-flood world?
Number 4 now…Does God choose to allow evil?
Davis says that the only way that God can end evil is to kill people. Again, contradicting God’s omnipotence.
He also says that the atheists who are asking why God doesn’t kill evil people should stop because since atheists don’t believe in God, they are evil would have to die. But atheists don’t fit into Davis’s definition of evil. Also, as an atheist I wouldn’t ask why God doesn’t kill evil people, I would ask why God doesn’t stop people from doing evil. If I was an omnipotent God and I wanted to stop an evil person from doing harm to others, I would just keep an eye on that person and disappear the knife or the gun or block their punches etc. An easy and peaceful solution!
Davis then goes on to say that God would end all evil when Jesus comes back. Ummm so isn’t he saying that God can stop evil (presumably without smiting everyone), and why doesn’t he just do it now???
Davis ends with a couple of analogies that he things show why even though God doesn’t stop evil, it’s not his fault that evil happens. He says that if he (Davis) knew there was a bomb in a Church and he didn’t stop it then it would be his fault because he’s ignoring his duty to save lives. I agree. But Davis doesn’t think that God can be guilty of negligence, because God warned us, he told us what would happen if we did evil. I have to disagree, I’ve never gotten any warnings from God.
His second analogy is awful: God makes a building and puts people in it. He tells them to only use the green doors, and if you use the red doors you’ll die. He knows that someone is going to use the red door but doesn’t stop them. Davis says this isn’t God’s fault because he warned them.
In my opinion in this analogy God is evil for making the red door, especially since He knew in advance that someone would use it. What a jerk!
In conclusion, Davis didn’t give a single good reason to make me think that there could possibly an all-powerful and loving God.