The biggest issue has been and quite probably, always will be the issue of suffering and an omnipotent God.
Most have already abandoned the “evil” issue since they realize that without God there is on quantifier for ‘evil”.
But suffering, especially of the innocent, is always the big one.
While some “lower” atheist still try to go with the “Jesus myths” and such, that these have been discredited even by Bart Ehrman, has pretty much put a nail in that coffin and are not used by the “higher” atheists. The “rational” atheist tries to make it clear that there is NO proof that God exists and while there MAY be evidence of “something”, that evidence is NOT proof and most certainly nor evidence FOR God per say.
In my view, the evil argument is 100% subjective and most atheist know that, so they don’t use it that much.
The suffering one is still used because it is an emotional one and those tend to be the best arguments for JUDGING God and if you can judge God, you can disbelief Him because you have brought him “down” to our level and hence, he is NOT God.
There is a difference in the suffering we create for ourselves and upon others because it is the human being that is the cause.
So the criteria of suffering need to be defined in such debates with militant agnostics, atheist, as well as the nominal secularists. The forms of suffering are:
- Self inflicted suffering
- Suffering due to natural disasters
- Suffering due to man’s violent nature ( wars, murders, etc)
The thing is, once you do that, a smart atheist will see what you are doing ( compartmentalizing) and he knows that in this regard, the issue of suffering becomes subjective and he wants to maintain it objective because if it is subjective it is on US but if it stays objective, it remains on God.
We have NO way to KNOW what God allows for suffering BUT in regards to “human induced” suffering, the question of free will becomes the most simplest and obvious answer, to be truly free to choose right and wrong, then one must be FREE to do/choose right and wrong and that means that some will do wrong and cause suffering.
This however does NOT answer the issue of “non human caused suffering).
Now, lets remove the human factor – humans living in an earth quake zone or hurricane area or tornado area, and as such being responsible for their own suffering – and see one vital issue:
WE as humans have ISSUE with suffering, even if it is the suffering of people we don’t know and may even hate !
When it is subjective the proof falls on the atheist – how does one prove that an earthquake is evil or that earthquakes don’t have to exist? One can’t. But one can most certainly show that people living in an earthquake zone are responsible for what happens to themselves in an earthquake.
The issue of suffering is something that each believer must answer for themselves, its hard ( if even possible) to find a “fit all” answer to this question.
I know that I struggled with it for years. What happened?
Speaking on a personal note and expressing my opinion and POV only.
I realized that suffering HAS a purpose, that God does indeed HAVE a purpose for suffering.
It is in suffering, (our’s and more importantly the suffering of others) that Humans are TRULY most in God’s image.
People starve half way across the world and we want to help and do all we can and we cry and suffer with them.
People die in an earthquake or a tsunami or some other natural disaster and we flock to rescue them and help them and comfort them and we suffer with them.
Sound familiar? A God that came to US and was with US and cried with US and suffered with US and even died with US.
We are truly human, truly human as we were created to be, when we suffer along others.
We rise to the occasion, our love shows no boundary, no limits, we give even when we can’t give, we risk and even die for those that are suffering or maybe even dead already, just on the off-chance that we can save ONE life. Humans are at their highest level when we are suffering with others.
Why does God permit suffering?
So that we can fulfil what we were created for, what we are meant to do, what we feel best at doing: So that we can LOVE.
Does God condone suffering, if he allows it?
I think that one of the biggest issues people have with suffering is the notion that God permits it so He is condoning it.
That is not the case.
God allows Us to undergo suffering because He knows that, in our fallen nature, it is one of the few ways that we overcome that nature, that original sin of pride and selfishness that we all have in ourselves.
Sure there are some people that are ok with others suffering, they may even see it as “well deserved”, but these people are embittered by hatred and anger and if there is one thing that Christians are to known for, as they were known for in the past, that thing is compassion.
And what does compassion mean? To suffer with others.
A fellow brother in Christ and internet poster