Atheist Arguments: Suffering Proves God Doesn’t Exist

Since I first started having discussions with atheists, I’ve heard the claim that suffering proves God does not exist, so not surprisingly the topic came up today in my FB atheist group. This time the suffering had personal ramifications: the loved one of an atheist member of the group is going through a difficult time—a form of suffering. The twist is, the loved one is a devote Christian.

So the way atheists view suffering, God, if He exists, is either not powerful enough to do something about the suffering or He’s not good enough, not loving enough to change things. Which essentially means He is not God, or He does not exist at all.

Ten years ago I wrote on this subject in response to a commenter who asked the question about suffering by taking the discussion out of the hypothetical and general into the real and specific:

you should ask yourself sometime how is that an all powerful-all knowing god would allow a young girl in Sudan to be repeatedly raped, and then murdered? Do you think that she was begging a god to save her, but didn’t get his name right? Or perhaps this all knowing, full of love and mercy god has another plan, and we ought to all rejoice in this senseless death . . . it was the god’s will? Great, he heard the screams and prayers but was unmoved?

My edited response follows.

I want to turn the question around. How does an atheist explain such heinous behavior as the rape and murder of a child? If God does not exist, who is to blame for one person mistreating another?

The obvious answer is, Man himself is to blame. We humans hurt and misuse and abuse one another.

Why should belief in God change that obvious truth? Because God exists and is omnipotent, does Man stop doing terrible things to his fellow man?

My remarks from another discussion:

I believe that Man is sinful and that at some point God lets Man go the way he wishes to go.

Here’s an example. God was the authority of the fledgling nation of Israel, governing through prophets and judges. The people saw other nations ruled by kings and demanded a king of their own. God said, not a good plan, but OK. Actually this is the quote: And the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.” There’s more, but you get the gist. Thing is, God also gave them rules to follow—things the kings weren’t supposed to do . . . even though it was His desire to remain their King.

Here’s another example. Jesus was talking, telling the people that they were to have one wife, not to divorce. The people said, but Moses made provision for divorce, and Jesus answered, “Because of the hardness of your heart Moses permitted you to divorce . . .”

Later Paul spelled this out in one of his letters: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts . . .”

The reality is, omnipotent, sovereign God lets Man have a say-so in what happens.

But here’s how I know what God’s true character is: Jesus was His perfect representative—God come to earth. And when He was asked, What’s the most important commandment, He answered by saying, Love God and the second is like it: love your neighbor. All the law and prophets are summed up by these two.

So, no, suffering doesn’t disprove God. In fact suffering confirms Mankind’s nature and the truth of the warnings God gave against sin.

To believe the contrary is like a little child cutting herself on the knife she is playing with after her dad told her not to touch it, then saying something like, “I don’t have a dad because if I did, he would have taken the knife away from me.”

Faulty reasoning.

Of course not all suffering comes from humans mistreating one another. But the reality is, when sin entered the world it began its corrupting influence on all of creation. Enter sickness and death and destruction.

The sad thing for atheists facing suffering is that they do not have a place of comfort or help or hope to which they can turn. They do not have God to fall before and ask for mercy. In truth He “is gracious and compassionate / Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness / And relenting of evil.” But how can atheists know this? Since they do not believe God exists, they won’t come to Him in the day of trouble. They’re essentially on their own.

A large portion of this post is revised from an article that appeared here in November, 2008.

Advertisements
Published in: on January 4, 2019 at 5:31 pm  Comments (20)  
Tags: , , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/2019/01/04/atheist-arguments-suffering-proves-god-doesnt-exist/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This is good. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “The obvious answer is, Man himself is to blame. We humans hurt and misuse and abuse one another.”

    This is correct Becky, this is reality, this is how man has behaved since the beginning of the human species.

    “Why should belief in God change that obvious truth? Because God exists and is omnipotent, does Man stop doing terrible things to his fellow man?”

    Belief in your God or any god will never make any difference, man will never change the facts of life and the inherent truth about his nature.

    Why? Simply because humans evolved in this way of fight or flight, the obsession of power, dominance and pride in being the winner and the best etc. All the skills learnt by animals and the human species due originally to survival for millions of years.

    The gods do not and can not do anything and it is a cold hard fact that theists do not like because it attracts the obvious conclusion that their god does not exist.

    “To believe the contrary is like a little child cutting herself on the knife she is playing with after her dad told her not to touch it, then saying something like, “I don’t have a dad because if I did, he would have taken the knife away from me.”

    Something wrong with this and it is obvious if you were a parent. If the father told a young child to not touch something as dangerous as a knife but left the knife in easy access the father if he cared at all is either negligent or stupid.

    We all know children (even big children) will not resist the temptation to play with something they are not supposed to touch. This is simply tempting fate, children want to touch and find out for themselves, this is why so many children drown every year.

    “Of course not all suffering comes from humans mistreating one another. But the reality is, when sin entered the world it began its corrupting influence on all of creation. Enter sickness and death and destruction.”

    Ok is this the paragraph where we all deserve these things because of Adam and Eve who brought sin onto us all? And is this how you justify God as doing all the good things on our Earth, however he is not responsible for any of the bad things?

    God knows how many hairs are on your head and what you are going to think in the future, yet he cannot prevent any badness on Earth from happening and he is credited for only the good things on Earth. Please tell me how you can believe such a one eyed ideology to rule your life?

    Like

    • Steve, actually atheists are the ones that have no answer for the existence of evil. Fight or flight, you say, but that gives no explanation for the willful, destructive behavior of the Columbine shooters or the recent one in that bar in Ventura. How does your man-is-good atheistic philosophy account for such uncaused evil? Or take the feuds between the two Italian houses in Romeo and Juliet. Yes, fictitious, but representative of factual unforgiving hatred.

      No one said God can’t prevent anything. In fact His provision of His Son as Savior of the world is the “prevention” we need. But He also isn’t going to give in to the rebellious people who refuse to do what He says. You’re basically saying, Let the sinners get away with sin, or have God stop them before they sin or have Him do away with the consequences of their sin. None of those actually take care of the problem of people whose hearts are resistant toward God. And that’s the source of evil.

      Only in the thinking of those who have turned their backs on God would they imagine that He is responsible for what we do.

      Becky

      Like

      • “How does your man-is-good atheistic philosophy account for such uncaused evil?”

        As I have said, biological evolutionary facts are that our behaviours are emotions that basically prepared us for action and alert us to our true situation to ensure survival and guide choices that eventually will become physical choices.

        There are real reasons behind criminal behaviour: Brain scans revealed that psychopathy in criminals was associated with decreased connectivity between the amygdala, a subcortical structure of the brain that processes negative stimuli, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC), a cortical region in the front of the brain that interprets the response from the amygdala. (psychology today)

        The causes of psychopathy for example remain a mystery, however there is the possibility that psychopathic traits are largely genetically determined, however could be a combination of mental health, life experiences, childhood experiences, radicalisation, indoctrination etc. you name it Becky, because the world is not as black and white or Christian and heretic as you seem to believe it is.

        Everything in your ideology is down to God, and it is simple to say real Christians are the good guys because they have given their lives to God, but we know these people also turn bad, how do you explain this? The devil?

        “He also isn’t going to give in to the rebellious people who refuse to do what He says. You’re basically saying, Let the sinners get away with sin, or have God stop them before they sin or have Him do away with the consequences of their sin. None of those actually take care of the problem of people whose hearts are resistant toward God. And that’s the source of evil.”

        Therefore, a rebellious killer after being caught then gives his heart to Jesus has then earnt a ticket to heaven however the killers victim was not worth the effort. Killers can be various types of Christians, even if you use the feeble theist excuse that they could not have been real Christians.

        Does the death of an innocent person have to be carried out through to the gruesome conclusion by a sinner, simply so God can judge them?

        As you believe people whose hearts are resistant toward God of the Christian version are evil, therefore you must put most of the world into this category of evil, but as I pointed out Christians are just as evil as non-Christian people, and unless you can prove otherwise your theory is totally wrong.

        “Only in the thinking of those who have turned their backs on God would they imagine that He is responsible for what we do.”

        I do not imagine that, I only identify the impossibilities from what is your ideological world view, and the point I make is that your God has done nothing for anyone at any time and the reasons for that are demonstrably obvious.

        Like

        • Steve, you said, “The causes of psychopathy for example remain a mystery.” And yet you are sure that evil does not exist? That, my friend, is hardly a scientific approach to knowledge.

          And yes, everything does come down to God. He made this world, He made all in it, He holds it together for as long as He wishes. You apparently don’t like the fact that He is in control, but it does not change the reality that He IS.

          But Christians are not “the good guys,” as you put it. I think I’ve told you multiple times, the only thing that separates us is that I am a forgiven sinner and you are an unforgiven sinner. Well, God also reorients my thinking, but as far as who we are at the basis of our being, the only thing that’s different is our standing before God. I stand on the work of Jesus Christ, you stand on your own work. Not that you couldn’t stand on the work of Christ, too. You choose not to.

          Sorry I don’t have time for more right now. Just wanted you to know I am interested in interacting with you concerning your thoughts about these posts. Hopefully I’ll have more time tomorrow.

          Becky

          Like

          • “Steve, you said “The causes of psychopathy for example remain a mystery.”

            Becky, the mystery I was suggesting was more about the exact input from the rest of the items in my sentence that you missed, such as:

            However, there is the possibility that psychopathic traits are largely genetically determined, however could be a combination of mental health, life experiences, childhood experiences, radicalisation, indoctrination etc.

            Even if it was a pure mystery the God of the gaps still has no evidence it is responsible for anything. Why do you jump onto everything that needs a rational explanation with the “God did it” ideals? I think it is desperation because we may as well say the Norse God Thor was responsible.

            “the only thing that separates us is that I am a forgiven sinner and you are an unforgiven sinner.”

            This part is weird, because innocent people, especially children can lose their lives on Earth from a killer because life on Earth seems to mean nothing to God. The murdered person has no chance of Christianity or repenting and becoming saved by God but the murderer converts in jail and becomes saved by God, how does that work? Bad luck?

            “Well, God also reorients my thinking,”

            Yes, I agree that is true, in the face of all things, facts and evidence you still believe in a God. I understand he assists you greatly in your daily life and that is a good thing and I would not want you to try and live without that security if you believe you could not.

            I understand some people would never last very long in life without their religious security, however I also understand the indoctrination process very well and religions have ruined as many people’s lives as the ones it has helped. If you agree or not theists should be made to think about what they believe and if they have the strength to investigate the real historic and scientific facts and forget the conspiracy merchants.

            All religious ideologies should be challenged as it is a human right to have the freedom of evaluation and a choice that was in a majority of cases taken away by theists, most of them as children.

            “Sorry I don’t have time for more right now. Just wanted you to know I am interested in interacting with you concerning your thoughts about these posts. Hopefully I’ll have more time tomorrow.”
            Do not be sorry Becky, I know how long these things take and I appreciate very much your input. Have a good day.

            Like

  3. Good stuff, Becky. Perish the thought that I ever advocate in favor of reason over emotion,intuition, and imagination, but suffering is one of those times when wisdom can come from pulling back and perceiving our circumstances more rationally. We tend to get caught up in the heat of the moment, angry at God or whatever emotional state afflicts us, and it clouds our understanding.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, IB. Actually I think we can be very logical about suffering and still miss the mark. The only thing we should cling to is God’s revelation. So if He says A, B, or C about suffering, that we can take to the bank. Our deceptive hearts won’t fool us, our twisted logic won’t mislead us, if we walk the path the Light shows us.

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Right : We choses between doing what’s right, or to do wrong things, like bullying others, or betray friends.

    Like

  5. Loved your analogy of the child with the knife.
    Lee Strobel’s book “The Case for Faith” has some great arguments on this topic. When seeing someone in desperate need of help – compassion and the basic necessities – the atheist demands, “How can you watch her suffering, knowing You are able to help her, and yet not do it?” And the Christian responded, “He could ask you the same thing.”
    It’s like Matthew West’s song “Do Something,” where the man looks at all the suffering and asks God, “Why don’t You do something?” And He responds, “I did. I created YOU.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I’ve heard before that one way God uses suffering is in the life of the believer who can come along side those in need to pray, give, shield, whatever the need. As a result of us doing the work God gives us, we are also providing God’s answer for the needs of those we help. It’s symbiotic.

      The thing that amazes me is that any number of secular organizations have sprung up to care for the needy, too. They are mimicking believers, though they may not realize it.

      Atheists want God to wave a magic wand or something, or they won’t credit Him with “doing anything.” Never mind how He works in a person’s heart to convict them, inspire them, encourage them, counsel them. The atheist can’t see those, so they must not have happened! LOL

      Becky

      Liked by 1 person

      • “Atheists want God to wave a magic wand or something, or they won’t credit Him with “doing anything.” Never mind how He works in a person’s heart to convict them, inspire them, encourage them, counsel them. The atheist can’t see those, so they must not have happened! LOL”

        Becky you should know by now that atheists disbelieve in gods so do not expect God to wave a magic wand or something and we definitely know that non-existent gods can physically do nothing. Mentally yes they do, it is the placebo effect for Christians, because atheists have the real medicine because the inspiration and encouragement is generated by my own thoughts or other people’s comments, ideas and motivation. Atheists do not need to believe the voice in their head is a god.

        Like

  6. Please correct me if I am wrong Becky.

    God is all knowing or omniscient according to the Bible.

    When he created man and woman, God decided that everyone has free will.

    God punished humanity with inherent sin after Adam and Eve ate from the tree of good and evil.

    God of course gave each human the free choice to be good or evil just like Adam and Eve.

    If God basically gave humans the ability to do evil things he must have known what humans would do with inherent sin and accordingly your analogy means the father would have known the child would touch the knife because he purposely left it as temptation and within easy reach.

    How can God not have known that free will would lead to sin, and consequently much suffering in the world inflicted by man upon innocent lives?

    To summarise, the analogy suggests the father basically tempted the child to pick up the knife that he left in easy reach. and the child responded as would be expected. God has shown the evil that he created was to also be a choice along with good as a temptation for man, therefore God is as culpable for everything humans do to each other as good or evil, is that not clear?

    Like

    • Steve, when God created Adam and Eve, He made them in His own likeness. Since God has free will, it’s a logical conclusion that He created humankind with free will, too. But God doesn’t choose evil, so to remain in His image, you’d also have to conclude we would also not choose evil. But we did.

      God, being omniscient and able to exercise “foreknowledge,” also likely knew that Adam would choose to go his own way, not God’s. Thus God put in motion the plan to redeem humanity.

      The suffering caused by sin? Each person still has the choice “to turn from their wicked way.”

      No, in the analogy, the father didn’t “tempt” the child. A knife can be a useful tool, in the kitchen, in the garden, in the workshop. There were things my parents told me not to touch, but when they were away, I sneaked into their room, found the objects and did what I wished. My parents were not responsible for my disobedience.

      That is just such a logical statement, it should not be debated.

      Becky

      Like

      • “Steve, when God created Adam and Eve, He made them in His own likeness. Since God has free will, it’s a logical conclusion that He created humankind with free will, too. But God doesn’t choose evil, so to remain in His image, you’d also have to conclude we would also not choose evil. But we did.”

        This crime is passed on from a fictious figure, but even if Adam had existed this “creation of man in Gods own image and likeness” is untrue and inaccurate in itself because this is not the way of man as we surely do not put to death all the people who are relatives of people like Adolph Hitler, Stalin and all the mass murderers and the petty criminals that stole an apple throughout all of history because we are not vindictive like your God appears to be, is that not true?

        “God, being omniscient and able to exercise “foreknowledge,” also likely knew that Adam would choose to go his own way, not God’s. Thus God put in motion the plan to redeem humanity.”

        At your own admission Becky and through being omniscient it looks as though this was a set up by God. Obviously humans have a natural liking for checking things out and I guess if Adam had known what the consequences of his actions were to be and had known of the set up with the talking snake and Eve etc it would have turned out different. I am sure if Adam had half a brain he would not have fallen for it hook line and sin-ker. Lol.

        With this set up it appears to me your God wanted to control everybody, and this eternal sin was clearly the excuse required along with the redemption and worship ideal that fitted together perfectly for the creator God and was the intension of Moses when he supposedly wrote the Genesis account.

        “No, in the analogy, the father didn’t “tempt” the child. A knife can be a useful tool, in the kitchen, in the garden, in the workshop. There were things my parents told me not to touch, but when they were away, I sneaked into their room, found the objects and did what I wished.”

        Your parents were not responsible for your disobedience but should have known as parents and understood that children will touch what they have been told not to touch. It is the first major lesson parents learn and that is why knives, poisons, plastic bags and dangerous items are never left for children to play with, and if you do not remove them somewhere safe you are an extremely irresponsible parent. Just as God was with Adam and Eve considering he knew before the act happened anyway and that makes it a setup and for him a far worse father than any normal parent could be.

        Like

  7. Suffering doesn’t prove God doesn’t exist. Suffering proves God’s a bit of an A-hole. More specifically, passages in the Bible show that God causes suffering where there wasn’t/wouldn’t be any whenever God feels like people aren’t paying him enough attention (Psalm 105 or so).

    Like

    • Catherine, this comment shows a wrong view of God. When people in the Bible suffered, they had disobeyed God or turned their back on Him, they had hurt others, murdered their own children, engaged in some kind of twisted religious thing, practiced greed, treated each other with hatred and anger, and on and on.

      If people turned to God, they experienced productive lives like Joseph did, or Daniel, even when they were surrounded by people who didn’t believe as they did. Yes, they did sometimes face suffering. Joseph again, faced the “evil” (his word) his brothers intended for him. He was sold into slavery, thrown into prison. But the end game was God’s plan “to preserve many people alive.”

      God is not like humans who want flattery. God calls on His people to praise Him, but He deserves that praise (and more). It’s only right to ascribe credit where it is due. He wants us to be truthful and to acknowledge the truth. Anything else is a lie. Someone who advocates for the truth shouldn’t be criticized for it!

      Becky

      Like

  8. I think some of the people criticizing God for allowing suffering are forgetting how much HE suffered, and if there’s one person who didn’t deserve to suffer, it was Jesus. He knew what was coming, but He created us anyway. He preferred the cross to spending eternity without us! Do I understand it? No. If I understood everything, I’D be God, and clearly I’m not. But I thank Him every day for loving me that much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry seekingdivineperspective I have a perspective and the fact that millions of people have suffered far more than Jesus ever did, in fact many did not deserve it and were innocent, did you forget the two world wars for example?

      Jesus was supposedly God anyway, so he had unlimited power to not want to feel pain or suffering, and then he was magically resurrected so did not die anyway, did you not think of that?

      Do you not understand it? You are not supposed to, you will never seek the real answers because you are happy with your undying faith in an indoctrinated ideology.

      Like

  9. […] free and home of the brave, but what about that hypothetical girl in Sudan that I referenced in an earlier post? There are many people who have actually lived through the kind of abuse in the description. From […]

    Like


Leave A Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: