The Problem of
It's a common question. How could He let this go on? Sometimes we ask it in the wake of a personal tragedy. Sometimes, upon reflection of apparent great injustices like the Holocaust or the massive starvation in Africa. We all have asked ourselves the question "How can a Good, Loving and All-Powerful God allow such evil and suffering to exists?" Many people have an event or a situation in mind that they can point to when wrestling with this issue. Sometimes, individuals will find a resolution to the question by affirming that this is a matter of faith: God must have a reason, even if it is only known to Him. Others will have a more complex answer that involves our free will, and the existence of the devil. Yet others will come to the solution via spiritual nihilism: God cannot logically exist. God consequently is ejected from being. Although it would be presumptuous and vain for anyone to say that they had this problem definitively nailed down, I would like to restate the question to bring it into it's proper focus. First, taking a naturalistic viewpoint, we need to make some observations of the universe around us. For starters:
1. On the individual level, we must acknowledge that as a race, humans have a certain propensity for doing that which we would recognize as moral evil. We wage war, steal, lie, even when we clearly understand it is wrong. Thousands of years of religion, philosophy, leaps in technology and our fanciful attempts at Utopia have not rooted out the innate selfishness and vanity lodged deep with in the recesses of mankind's heart. It is largely only the fear of some type of punishment (incarceration, hell, or social ostracism) that restrains most people from pursuing their more base instincts, and committing even more "evil".
2. On a biological level, we all accept that the animal kingdom exists purely on a basis of "survival of the fittest". Bigger animals eat smaller animals, which then get eaten by larger animals, until the predator on the top of the food chain dies, and the plant or organism on the bottom of the food chain absorbs the nutrients from him, ad infinitum. For some reason, we call this predator vs. prey process "natural" and put no moral value on it.. That's just what animals do. When wolf does "what is natural" and carries off a small child for his prey, however, suddenly we call the event is "tragic" or "bad". Therefore, if we were to be intellectually honest, we would have to concede that the predatorial process and struggle for dominance has the propensity to be called "evil". This is supported by the fact that when the human species engages in this type of behavior, we would almost always call it "evil". If these natural processes were not evil, then perhaps we would have to acknowledge that in the humans species, the struggle for power, murder, rape, war, etc. were only "natural".
3. On both the Universal and Atomic levels, we recognize that everything is winding down, in a constant and irrevocable path to decay to a lower and simpler state of energy. Entropy, the Second Law of Thermodynamics, assures us that everything will eventually reach a state of homogenized randomness; cold, dark and dead. Right now, 99% of the mass of the universe is inert, useless particles just sitting in space. We perceive our sun as our wellspring of life, yet the sun and all of it's sister burning balls of hydrogen gas make up only the smallest minutia of the universe, and they are all marked for eventual extinction. Although it is not applicable to fix moral distinctions to physical law, we all agree that irreversible move to randomness and lifelessness is an unfortunate fact of life, and is not "good". If a moral distinction could apply to physical law, "evil" would be a fitting term for this most basic axiom of thermodynamics.
When we look at our existence in this grand scale, we see that we have completely missed the boat regarding the problem of evil. In a universe where death, decay, struggle and conflict is the norm, we find a bizarre singularity; one that seems to defy explanation. Where 99.9999999% of all that can be observed in our galaxies is at best "neutral", at worst "evil", there is an infinitesimally small pocket of what is termed a "good". In the visible universe, this tiny smattering of Virtue: Love, Compassion, Selflessness, etc. demands a logical explanation as to it's existence in this harsh, brutal cosmos. It is not natural. It is therefore evidence to a realm beyond our natural universe. It strange indeed, that we have asked the question of the ramifications of the existence of "evil", when in actuality, the true question concerns itself with the ramifications of the existence of "good". It is like the explorer who spent weeks crossing the Sahara desert, and upon finally coming upon an ice cold jug of water right in the middle, pondered "how did all this hot, dry sand get here?"
It is when we ask ourselves the true question, "Why is There Good?" that we find the real issue. There must be something outside this natural, visible universe that embodies the term "good". Virtually everything we experience that we coin as "evil" finds a source in the natural processes and mechanics of the universe. Where "good" punctuates this natural plane of existence, however, we find the fingerprints of a moral power that is distinct and far above our materialistic experience. God is back in the equation. We may not be able to provide a pat, simple answer to the so-called "problem of evil", but the question itself, prompts inquiry into it's antithesis, and so reveals the observable evidence of a loving and Benevolent God who bestows his good things freely upon His creation.