This came in today:
I have been reading your blog for a while now and I hope you can help me. I have been a Christian for most of my life (I am 56) but I am having a tough time maintaining my faith lately.
It seems that every day there are more reports of children–babies, teens, all ages–being severely injured and/or killed. (I have even started avoiding news programs whenever possible because they have been depressing me so much.) Then I happened upon a photo of a young child with his skull looking like a cracked egg and I am wondering: Where is God? I know these things have been happening for centuries, but if He really cares so much why does he keep allowing these atrocities to happen? I am starting to think that maybe he doesn’t really care about what happens here. Are we just some kind of reality show?
I have written quite a bit about the apparent incompatibility of evil with a compassionate God. Here are three such posts on that matter:
The quick answer is: God doesn’t do evil. People do evil. And any person is free to do anything he or she wants—including violating the free will of a weaker person, which is always what evil boils down to—because stopping a person from doing whatever he or she wants would necessarily mean violating that person’s free will. And free will is the thing that makes us human. And God will not violate—will not steal back from us—the singular most precious thing he gave us.
Also, do avoid television news programs. I haven’t watched a television news program in at least ten years. I hate the idea of CNN or FOX or any other broadcast “news” show unexpectedly showing me something emotionally traumatizing. Life is troubling enough without having The Nightly News turning pain into a cheap exploitative product I’m randomly and suddenly force-fed. The Internet and/or National Public Radio and/or The New Yorker (or other magazines) provides me with plenty o’ information about the world.
And just by way of being clear: when it comes to any given person violating the free will of another—when it comes to the reality of kidnapping, murdering, raping, bashing, exploiting, etc.—you are stuck having to believe one of four things:
1. God is too weak/cruel/uninterested to stop anyone from victimizing anyone else.
2. There’s a perfectly good reason why God never interferes with anyone victimizing anyone else (see above).
3. There is no God.
4. It’s impossible to understand what’s going on there. (See my Agnosticism: The perfect answer that can’t deliver.)
For my money, the horse to bet on is clearly number two.
(P.S. As to the inevitable question of all the suffering that’s not caused by humans: please see this comment below. Thanks.)