The Problem of Evil is Harder for Atheists to Explain

So argues seminarian Joe Heschmeyer over at Strange Notions. Simply put, the existence of evil is frequently used against theists, but acknowledging that there is such thing as evil then puts the burden back on atheists.

problem of evil

But here’s the problem with that: Objective morality, including objective evil, cannot exist without God. This doesn’t mean that atheists can’t be moral people, of course. Catholicism teaches that much of objective morality is knowable by natural law. Atheists can and generally do implicitly recognize the moral law, and obey it. The problem is that this behavior appears completely irrational.

More specifically, the problem is that there’s no way to get from statements about how the world is to how the world ought to be without imposing a value system. And to say something is objective evil—that it objectively ought not to be—you have to believe in objective values, binding everyone (including, in the case of the problem of evil, God Himself). It has to be something infinitely more than whatever your personal values might be.

Those words echo what Pope Francis has been saying about atheists, “do good: we will meet one another there.” For all, believers and atheists, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil.” This moral sense part of our very nature.

Joe Heschmeyer then concludes his argument as follows:

So is the problem of evil a problem for Christians? Sure. There are intellectually satisfying answers, but it’s not for nothing that St. Thomas Aquinas lists it as one of two logical arguments for atheism in the Summa Theologiae. But we shouldn’t let this fact blind us to the paradoxical truth: the problem of evil is a dramatically larger problem for atheists:

1. To complain of the problem of evil, you must acknowledge evil.
2. To acknowledge evil, you must acknowledge an objective system of moral laws.
3. Objective universal moral laws require a Lawgiver capable of dictating behavior for everyone.
4. This Lawgiver is Who we call God.

Ironically, this evidence lays the groundwork for establishing that God not only exists, but cares about good and evil.

Read his entire article here.

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