One of atheism’s strongest arguments against God is the existence of evil. If there really was an all-powerful and benevolent God, He would eliminate the scourge of evil in the world. But evil exists; therefore, God does not exist.
But this argument implodes upon itself. In order for the atheist to construct this argument, he must first define “evil.” That sounds easy enough; but is it?
Consider the atheistic worldview: This universe and all that is in it, including humankind, is nothing more than a random collection of atoms, without any purpose or meaning. In the words of Carl Sagan, “the cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” If that’s true, then the very concept of evil is purely arbitrary and illusory. Everything that happens is no more or less “good” or “evil” than anything else. From an entirely selfish standpoint, I may not like what I see around me (or what happens to me); and others may or may not share that opinion. But in the absence of God, there is no objective standard by which we can judge anything as evil.
The average atheist doesn’t see the inconsistency of his reasoning. In order to make this argument, he has to assume the existence of some objective value that he calls “evil.” But by embracing a purely materialistic explanation for the universe, he has destroyed any rational basis for such an objective value. Expressed another way, his very appeal to values of “good” and “evil” presupposes the existence of some universal standard of morality. That’s what we believers call “God.”
Some atheists attempt to escape the force of this conclusion by appealing to the shared experience of mankind. But this reduces morality to merely a numbers game. Which culture’s values shall we use as the basis for this shared experience? That reasoning has been used in the past to defend slavery, misogyny, genocide, and a host other evils. (Oops, there’s that word again!).
I freely grant that believers must likewise struggle with trying to reconcile the existence of God with the presence of evil. But at least we have a basis for identifying some behaviors as “evil,” thus rendering the struggle a rational one. The atheist has to borrow the very concept of evil from the believer before he can even begin to think about the problem.
The problem of evil, far from disproving the existence of God, has actually led some atheists to abandon their disbelief and embrace a God who, although allowing evil to exist for reasons known only to Himself, at least offers a hope that someday all the ravages of evil will be reversed.