Would the Atheist Really Prefer a World Without Evil?
by Brent Hardaway
“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?”- Epicurus
So goes an ancient, but yet still common objection to the existence of a God who is all-powerful and all-good. Wars, famine, genocide, and many other things all take place and create doubt in the minds of many. A common Christian response is that this is the result of God granting us human freedom. If God didn’t allow free choices, we couldn’t choose to be good or to love. But freedom has a flip side. If it allows good choices, it must also allow for the possibility of evil choices, just as the hardness of steel enables it to be used to support a building, but also allows it to be used as a weapon.
I’d like to add some further considerations to this line of reasoning. When the atheist makes this objection, he is assuming that what a good God would prevent is the things that he or she wants prevented. But the atheist would get far more than what they bargained for. Let’s break a few evils into two categories.
Level A Evils (Actions that virtually everyone accepts as immoral) – Rape, Murder, Genocide, etc.
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Level B Evils (Actions that are accepted as moral by our culture) – Abortion, Sexual acts not between a man and a woman in marriage, leaving a spouse because one no longer wants to be married to that person.
Now, if God were to prevent all evil, He’d have to prevent all of these. And I would venture to say that the atheist would think this to be a very repressive universe. Why do I say that? Well, what is something that atheists are constantly warning about? The establishment of a theocracy! Or, in other words, they fear a place where women don’t have access to abortion, and people have to live by outdated puritanical moral codes. But in a world where God prevented all evil, it would even be more strict than any theocracy ever known. In a human-imposed theocracy, the police can’t be everywhere. People can still get away with doing things. Black markets for prostitution and abortion services can still develop and be available. But if God prevented evil, there wouldn’t be any place to hide.
Here, the atheist may object that Level B evils aren’t really evils, and so God would not need to prevent them…
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