Most arguments against God’s existence are rebuttals to arguments for the existence of God. One argument, though, used proactively against the idea of God’s existence is ‘the problem of evil.’
The argument against God’s existence from the issue of the presence of evil in the world is often stated in the following form: “How can an all-powerful and all-good God allow suffering in the world?”
Let’s explain further. According to the traditional view of God, God has certain characteristics or attributes. One is that he is all-powerful, or in other words, God has the power to do whatever he wants. Another attribute is that God is all good—he is a good God who desires what is best for his creation.
Some believe that these two attributes of God are inconsistent with the presence of evil in the world. There argument goes like this: “If God is all-powerful and desires the best for everybody then why doesn’t he prevent evil from happening.” After all, if you had the power to stop a child from being hit by a car, wouldn’t you do it? When we look at all the tragedies in the world—children dying from diseases, plane crashes, murders—why doesn’t God put an end to these things?
This type of reasoning was given by the philosopher David Hume (1711–1776): “Is he [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? When then is evil?”
The co-founder of utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill, made a similar declaration: “Not even on the most distorted and contracted theory of good which ever was framed by religious or philosophical fanaticism, can the government of Nature be made to resemble the work of a being at once good and omnipotent.”
Many Christian philosophers acknowledge that the problem of evil is the most serious apologetic issue facing Christianity.