By James A. Haught
Reason – logical thinking by intelligent minds – proves clearly that the compassionate, all-powerful god of religion cannot exist. Simple logic clinches it, as follows:
When a woman is dying of breast cancer, or a child is dying of leukemia – and relatives pray desperately – why does the alleged god let most victims die? If the god cannot save them, he isn’t all-powerful. If he could, but doesn’t want to save them, he’s heartless, not all-loving. He’s a monster.
The same logical conclusion applies to tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, plagues, epidemics, famines, floods and other horrors that kill multitudes. If a god could stop the tragedies, but won’t, he’s evil.
And the logic applies to cruelties of nature. Why would a loving god design hawks to tear rabbits apart, boas to crush pigs, cobras to kill children, etc.? Only a fiend would devise a system of ruthless predator-killers.
Reason cannot disprove the existence of an evil god, but it wipes out the benevolent father-creator claimed by most churches. The only intelligent conclusion is that such a loving god cannot exist.
The first known thinker to see this obvious truth was Epicurus (341-270 BCE). Subsequent philosophers called it “the problem of evil.” For 2,500 years, priests and theologians squirmed and tried to offer explanations. For example, some said “we cannot know the mind of God” – but they claim to know the mind of God on all other topics.
A few theologians contend that hideous suffering serves a higher purpose, leading to some “greater good” – but that attempted explanation is absurd on its face.
A few theologians argue that today’s horrors occur because Adam and Eve committed Original Sin by eating fruit in the Garden of Eden. That’s infantile. Does anyone really think that an ancient couple biting an apple produces today’s cancers, typhoons and snakebites?
So many failing explanations have been concocted that this field of excuse-making is labeled “theodicy.” (I think it should be called “the-idiocy.”)
After his young son died of a horrible wasting disease, despite tearful prayers, conservative Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People, asking why an all-loving god let it happen. But he wasn’t brave enough to voice the truth: that there was no god to save his son.
Here’s a footnote: Charles Templeton was a dynamic Canadian evangelist who teamed up with Billy Graham in crusades. But Templeton also was highly intelligent and began to doubt supernatural dogmas. He finally renounced religion and wrote a book titled Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. Regarding the problem of evil, he wrote:
“All life is predicated on death. Every carnivorous creature must kill and devour another creature. It has no option. Why does God’s grand design require creatures with teeth designed to crush spines or rend flesh, claws fashioned to seize and tear, venom to paralyze, mouths to suck blood, coils to constrict and smother – even expandable jaws so that prey may be swallowed whole and alive? Nature is, in Tennyson’s vivid phrase, ‘red in tooth and claw,’ and life is a carnival of blood. How could a loving and omnipotent God create such horrors?”
In Letters from the Earth, Mark Twain put it this way:
“The spider kills the fly, and eats it; the bird kills the spider and eats it; the wildcat kills the goose; the – well, they all kill each other. It is murder all along the line. Here are countless multitudes of creatures, and they all kill, kill, kill, they are all murderers.”
Who could worship a god who devised such cruelty? A creator of that sort would be repulsive, disgusting, contemptible. Instead of praying to such a monster, thinking people conclude that nature and evolution – survival of the fittest – produced deadly carnivores, and there was no magical creator to do it.
Similarly, there’s no heavenly protector to save women with breast cancer or children with leukemia. Trusting medical science is the only hope. And it’s futile to pray for relief from hurricanes, tsunamis, twisters, plagues, etc. Such prayers are like phone calls that reach nobody – the other end of the line is vacant.
Atheism is rooted in scientific logic. And logic proves beyond question that a supernatural, all-merciful, all-powerful father-creator cannot exist.
(Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. This article previously appeared in the United Coalition of Reason newsletter, November 2017.)