The Atheist’s Moral Catch-22

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It’s obvious. The main reason that religious persons retract their faith in God is because God is a moral monster for allowing evil to continue. You would strive — and strive hard — to find anyone that would disagree with this statement. Evil is destructive. Evil is divisive. Evil is chaos. The so-called Problem of Evil is that which leads religious persons to turn away from God, and non-religious persons to stay away from God. It is the breeding ground for new atheists, and it is something that all of us experience on a daily basis.

Because evil exists, the new atheist argues, and because it is not done away with, God must not exist. That’s the trump card for the atheist. The presence of evil in the real-world experiences of human beings logically concludes to the fact that God does not exist, because if God did exist then He both could and would do away with evil, or so they claim. I don’t want to downplay the gratuitous amount of suffering that evil in the world places on human beings. I also do not want to downplay how emotionally painful it is to see and experience evil. This is real stuff. And this is painful stuff. We live in a world that is demonstrably full of evil and progressively getting worse. Christians hating the LGBTQ community. Christians hating Muslims. Christians hating liberals. Christians hating Christians! And that’s just part of our role in the complex web of evil that this world seems be enslaved to! We could mention terrorism (including mass shootings), rape, sexual assault, so on and so forth, but those are self-evident forms of evil that we wrestle with almost daily now.

And so, it is, the atheist throws his ace of spades that because evil is so rampant, and God is doing absolutely nothing about it, therefore He, that is, God, does not exist.

Let’s flip the coin over, because the story of God’s moral monstrosities comes with a part two.

Not only does the atheist claim that God does not exist because of rampant moral evil, they also claim that the way God deals with person’s moral evil is evidence that He either does not exist, or is Himself morally reprehensible. Let’s look at two of the most well-known examples.

Sodom and Gomorrah: Reduced to ashes by God for taking advantage of the poor, severe sexual abuse, and rampant prostitution (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
Canaanites: Sieged by God in conquest for burning their children alive as an offering to a god named Ba’al Molech (Book of Joshua)

There stands in their midst a bronze statue… its hands extended over a bronze brazier, the flames of which engulf the child. When the flames fall upon the body, the limbs contract and the open mouth seems almost to be laughing until the contracted body slips quietly into the brazier. Thus it is that the ‘grin’ is known as ‘sardonic laughter,’ since they die laughing.” (Cleitarchus, On the Canaanite Religion, 4th Century BC)[1]

Now, I hope you realize what has just happened here.

Atheist: God does not exist because He does nothing about evil!
God: Does something about moral evil!
Atheist: God does not exist because when He does something about evil it is immoral!
God: Bro…

This is the atheist’s moral catch-22. They are caught in a position of contradictory principles concerning God in relation to morality and evil. On the one hand, the atheist wants to reject the existence of God because, as they say, God does nothing about gratuitous moral evils. On the other hand, when God does do something about gratuitous moral evils, the atheist chides God for doing something that, to them, is immoral!

Atheist: God, do something about evil!
God: *does something about evil*
Atheist: But don’t do that!
God: *does something else about evil*
Atheist: Don’t do that either!
God: *continues doing something about evil*
Atheist: See! God doesn’t exist! If God did exist, He surely would handle evil in the way that I feel He should handle evil!

This is a catch-22: “God, do something about evil, but only do what I want you to do about it.” If God refrains from directly acting in the world to do away with evil, He is wrong. If God directly acts in the world to do away with evil, He is also wrong. No matter what way the atheist looks at it, she will inevitably conclude that God is wrong and is therefore unworthy of worship because He commits what appear to be acts of evil, or that He does not exist at all. To the atheist, either God is wrong, or God is wrong!

The fact of the matter is, human beings have never been good at understanding how to eliminate moral evils, or at actually eliminating moral evils. It seems that the moment we think we have done away a particular strain of evil, something even more malevolent takes center stage (racism and terrorism much?). While this is no logically deductive argument proving that human beings are completely incapable of managing moral evils, it is, I would say, inductively true.

  1. Every generation of human beings has tried to do away with moral evil.
  2. Every generation of human beings has failed to do away with moral evil.
  3. Therefore, based on historical evidence and statistical probability, every generation of human beings will probably fail to do away with moral evil.

So, if this is true (and it certainly appears to be true), why should we trust that our individual understanding of *how* God should have handled the moral evil of, say, Canaan, will actually eliminate that particular moral evil, or even restrain it (and other moral evils in general)? It seems that our ability as a species to address, manage, and eradicate evil is, at best, limited, and, at worst, counterproductive.

The real issue concerning the atheist’s view of God and moral evil seems not to be saddled in the realm of intellectual discourse and logical reasoning, but rather floating in the sea of emotional dissatisfaction and self-righteous pride; If God did exist He would eliminate evil in the exact way that I think He should eliminate it. This is self-righteous. This is arrogance. This is the Biblical definition of pride.

And this type of pride is the root of all evil.[2]

To my atheist readers, I plead with you to recognize that your contention with God concerning evil is not wholly intellectual, but primarily emotional.[3] Choosing to believe something based on a few emotional stimuli is never a good idea. You, like me, wonder why it appears that God does nothing. You, like me, wonder why, when we read that God does something about evil, it feels like what God did was wrong. You, like me, want to see human life flourish in love, peace, and joy. I plead with you, recognize that your understanding of the world, your understanding of how to address evil, your understanding of what needs to happen to increase human flourishing is limited. You may feel that you have all of the answers, but history shows that you don’t. You may feel that you know what to do, but history shows that you don’t. You may feel that you need to be right about your intuitions, but you don’t.

Don’t let the pride that comes from the insatiable desire to be right all of the time take you away from what you really need; answers to your deepest questions concerning God and evil.

Evil does exist. Our conscience tells us something is wrong. And this is right. Our heart feels that something is wrong. And this is right. And our hands move to try to restrain that wrongness, as vain as our effort may turn out to be. This, too, is right, but it is insufficient. Evil persists. It evolves. It mutates.

You may not understand why God chose to eliminate the Canaanite people in the way that He did, but it drastically, and immediately, reduced the number of children that were sacrificed to a metal statue. And, today, child sacrifice to material gods is virtually unheard of.

God is doing something about evil that you may only believe when you see and experience it yourself. God, through Jesus Christ, defeated evil. God, through Jesus Christ, defeated pain. God, through Jesus Christ, defeated death. And God, through Jesus Christ, will eventually restore the world to a place where people no longer choose to do evil. Here is the promise,

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:3-6)

This is the hope that those who trust in Christ have. Though we know we are limited in our ability to do away with evil, we know that, one day, we will no longer have to strive to restrain it; for God will completely destroy it. To as many as receive Christ, to them God gives the right to enter into a new earth free from the crippling influence of evil; to them God gives the right to fully experience love; to them God gives the right to an eternity of peace and joy.

God is working even now to restrain evil so that things are not as bad as they could be.[4] The eradication of evil is imminent, but God is waiting; waiting for the maximum number of people who would receive Christ do receive Christ. If you are reading this, God is waiting for you.

Receive Christ. Partake of eternal life free from evil. Enter into your Father’s rest.

[1] Keith Paterson, Did the Canaanites Really Sacrifice Their Children?, 2016,

[2] Proverbs 13:10; Proverbs 16:18; Proverbs 29:23; Obadiah 3; 1 John 2:16

[3] The logical (*intellectual) problem of evil, as it is called, has been widely disregarded as a good logical argument against the existence of God. Furthermore, the fact that evil exists has been used as a deductively persuasive premise in an argument for the existence of God.;

[4] Mark 13:20


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