I have just been watched the first part of a sort-of “theist vs atheist” debate on Youtube featuring Christopher Hitchens.
What struck me is that in all of these types of debates that I’ve seen, the Christians, when faced with the question “Why does God allow suffering”, never really provide any sort of satisfying answer. It’s usually something along the lines of:
“Our question shouldn’t be ‘What is *God* doing’, but, rather, we should ask ourselves: ‘What am *I* doing?’” (avoiding the question)
“These sort of things are a test.” (as if suffering was some sort of self-improvement programme.)
“When people do bad things, they must face the consequences of their actions.” (in other words – “It’s your fault!” This doesn’t really explain earthquakes, though.)
“God *has* intervened before, but doesn’t do it too much, because he allows humans to have free will.” (But how does this explain e.g. terminal illnesses which aren’t caused by free will?)
A JW would answer by saying that the world is currently ruled by Satan (1 John 5:19), “because how could Satan offer Jesus ‘all the kingdoms of the world’ unless they were his to offer?’” (Matt 4:8, 9). Then they would probably pluck a few verses from all over the bible (Daniel 2:44, Revelation 21:3, 4) to show that God has big plans for the future, when He’s going to “sort everything out.”
To me, the JW version at least makes some sense. The person listening to the JW argument could react like this:
“Oh, I see. So God knows about all the problems in the world, he’s upset by them, it’s not his fault, he has a plan and he’s going to do something about it soon™. That makes sense.”
Whereas the reaction to the non-JW argument might be something like:
“Oh, I see. God knows about all the problems in the world, but he just lets them happen anyway. He has a plan, we don’t know all the details, but just trust him, OK? The most important thing is to count your blessings, and serve him.”
Which (in my opinion), doesn’t really work as an explanation. I mean, if God’s *in charge* of the world, then why does it look like it does at the moment? If he’s *in control*, the least he could do is cut back on the earthquakes.
So I was just thinking, seeing as though all Christians have access to verses like 1 John 5:19 (“the whole world is lying in the [power of the] wicked one”), why don’t they use them in their arguments against atheists? Surely the “wicked ruler Satan” explanation is better than the “God of puzzling inaction” explanation?
Disclaimer: I probably fit into the category of “atheist” myself.