Since this epic has been resurrected I want to summarise what it is about. It's not reasonable to expect anybody to read the whole thing before they post on it but if you read just this post there is a better chance of staying on topic.
What is the Topic Exactly?
The OP was inspired by my personal response to the Asian tsunami on Boxing Day 2004 in which more than a quarter of a million men, women and children were annihilated.
The topic is not about the problem of suffering in general, it is specifically about suffering caused by natural disasters - sometimes referred to as "natural evil".
It is not a challenge to those who believe in a deist god or who have only a vague notion of a higher power. It is not a challenge to the gods of philosophers or gnostics. This is a challenge to the god of Jesus, the god who is believed in by millions of ordinary Catholic and Protestant Christians. The one who is immanent, who hears prayers and who acts in the world. If you would like to talk about other versions of god or about how Judaism deals with suffering or about a mysterious god then this is not the thread to do that.
The events of 2004 were the final straw in my loss of faith. I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to reconcile the disaster with the god of Jesus. I am still of that settled opinion for the following reasons.
The Anatomy of a Tsunami
For hundreds or even thousands of years under the Indian Ocean the Indo-Australian tectonic plate had been sliding below the Eurasian plate, however the slide was not smooth. The lower plate snagged the upper one creating a "locked fault zone". Unimaginable pressure built up as the upper plate was dragged down until at 07:58 local time on 26th December 2004 it broke free lifting up billions of tons of water in a few seconds in a magnitude 9 earthquake.
As the wave rose to the surface it was less than a metre high. As it sped towards the coasts of the Pacific Rim at speeds of 800Km/h the waves grew to over 15 metres. Within hours a quarter of a million people were dead and a further two million were homeless.
God Did It
The god of Jesus created the world complete with moving and sticking tectonic plates. We know that continents have been on the move for millions of years. The omniscient god of Jesus knew about the growing pressures under the Indian Ocean during the centuries prior to the disaster. On the morning of the event he observed the Indo-Australian break free and begin to rebound. The omnipotent god of Jesus could have effortlessly dampened the rebound - he chose not to. He watched the wave of less than a metre rise to the surface. The god of Jesus who calmed the storm on Galilee could have quelled the wave and nobody would have known anything about it. No free will would have been infringed in any way. He failed to do so.
The god of Jesus knew that the wave would kill a quarter of a million people and cause suffering and harm millions more. He did nothing.
The god of Jesus did not permit the suffering of the Asian Tsunami - he caused it. He murdered them wilfully, deliberately and with malice aforethought. He made a world that was perfectly designed to kill its inhabitants and passively observed the consequences.
If a man lays landmines around a village and watches children walk across the minefield he is guilty not only of a crime of omission for failing to call a warning but of a deliberate crime of commission.
The Hypocrisy of God
My argument is not that suffering is incompatible with the existence of god. It is rather that events such as the Asian tsunami are incompatible with other things that christians claim to know about god. All attempts to explain god's actions result in a story that is internally contradictory.
Jesus claimed to have been sent to reveal the nature of his god and father. Not only does christianity claim that god is love, it defines the meaning of love, and explains the importance of love expressed as positive action in the interests of others.
I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous... Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. - Matt.5
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matt.6
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. - Luke 6
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. - Luke 12
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. - Jas.1
"Love ... always protects" - 1 Cor.13
The god of Jesus is also a god who is active in the world. Millions of christians demonstrate their belief in an immanent god every day. When they thank god for their food or pray for protection for a loved one or for a new job or help with any one of a million concerns they confirm that they worship a god who acts in the real world. This is not the god of deism and yet this thread is full of examples of christians taking refuge in deism to excuse god.
The many responses of christians to the challenge and my responses are summarised on this page... and helpfully updated by Sunny23 on the previous page to this post.
I have no real desire to do this debate again but if anybody wishes to add any new ideas I hope this post helps to define the topic. Having considered all of the responses carefully the challenge remains unanswered.
It is fashionable to assert that nobody can prove god doesn't exist. This is only true as long as we leave the word god undefined. It is my opinion that natural evil proves beyond all reasonable doubt that the god of christians, the god of Jesus does not exist.