What is evil, and who is God in relation to evil, within these questions lies the fundamental disjunction this essay is concerned with.
What is evil? This is the question I wish to address first.
If the atheist is to cite the existence of evil as a claim against the existence of God, then atheist must begin by establishing a criterion for the evaluation of evil, and what evil entails in a universe that is not the product of a creator God, a divine agent in whom the following qualities are said to exist:
1. perfect goodness
2. eternal existence
3. perfect knowledge concerning the sum of all persons, things, and events in time and space (omniscience/omnipresence)
4. the perfect ability to accomplish the divine will (omnipotence)
If the atheist is unable to provide example of genuine evil, either natural evil, or moral evil without first positing the existence of a divinity, then we must assume that what we think of as evil does not in fact exist (which would then remove evil as an impediment toward a rational belief in God), either that or we must posit a universe in which God and evil exist simultaneously, and that their mutual existence does not represent a cosmological conflict.
If we take the position of the atheist and assume that there is no God, no divine agent behind the created order, then we assume that the origin of the universe was a totally random occurrence, and that the existence of the universe and everything in it, that the entirety of time and space is completely arbitrary and utterly unnecessary.
According to the dictates of the atheist, we must assume that the universe is unplanned, and that it can most adequately be described as a cosmic accident. If we believe that this is so, and if we accept the law of cause and effect, which states that one thing is necessarily caused by another, then we must hold the deterministic view which states that all events are nothing more than the perfectly natural results of perfectly ordinary processes.
Having established these conditions, let us return to the beginning, to our working definition of evil:
1. An event may be characterized as evil if it causes harm to a person.
2. An individual action may be regarded as evil if it is willfully intended, and if it is contrary to the morality of the society that it occurs in.
3. Finally, an action is evil if the action is genuinely immoral according to an absolute standard.
Now. Imagine for a moment that a tornado has blown through your city.
The tornado destroys the home, and it kills most of the family living there, leaving the survivors grieving and injured. They have experienced great pain caused by the tornado, therefore it could be considered evil.
Given these circumstances the atheist can provide the following explanatory rationale for why the existence of the tornado counts against the existence of God, by saying that God, because God is omniscient and omnipotent, should have been able to create a universe in which people do not experience injury or harm from natural events, such as the tornado.
This argument is predicated upon the idea that God, the creator of the universe, being omniscient, had foreknowledge of the event and that because of this foreknowledge, the inaction of God indicates that God allowed the tornado to occur, intending for the event to destroy the home, killing and injuring members of the family living there.
This would be evil, according to the atheist.
Such an argument counts against multiple theistic claim (in the Christian context), it may provide the groundwork for establishing a claim against God’s omniscience, or God’s omnipotence, both of which are central components of a Christian conception of God, but they are not necessary components of theism per se. While this argument establishes the groundwork against claims as to God’s omniscience and omnipotence, it does not settle the argument, not without further deliberation. What these arguments mainly do is count against the claim that God is perfectly good, by suggesting that a being who allows evil (who could have prevented it) intends the evil that was allowed, and therefore that being must in fact be evil.
The claim is this; if evil then not good, if not good then not God.
This claim would hold in a Christian context, if it were true.
However, the atheist makes this claim not realizing the fundamental error in their logic, which is this:
Without positing the existence of a God then any natural event which causes harm is merely a random event and therefore not evil at all.
If a traumatic event, no matter how much pain and suffering it causes is not evil when there is not God, the event in itself, the experience of trauma in itself cannot be considered evil if there is a god.
This is the paradox of the atheistic position.
There must be intention behind the pain and suffering for the pain and suffering to be considered evil. There must be divine agency behind the structure of the natural world in order for natural events to be considered evil.
The atheist must concede, there is no such thing as natural evil.
There is only moral evil
The secondary definition of evil, according to Webster, must be discarded.