The Question of Suffering and Death
We find this kind of rationale rooted in atheism, a godless worldview that is steadily growing in America. Historically, atheism has made its home where the elitist intellectuals find refuge at our colleges, universities, and in the liberal media. In the last five years, this trend toward atheism has been observed in the significant increase of student-led “free thinker” groups. According to the nationwide Secular Student Alliance, college campuses nationwide host groups numbering 350 students. These organizations have an atheistic worldview questioning God’s existence and promoting a socialist agenda. According to reputable worldwide surveys, the majority of Americans have a strong belief in God. However, over the last few years, a growing number of young adults have lost their connection with church or even God. The October 9, 2012 Pew Poll states:
Atheism on the Rise
If God is defined as being all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, why is there evil and suffering in the world? If God’s attributes are true, then using His infinite power, can’t He easily destroy evil and prevent suffering? If He proclaims to be all-knowing, then shouldn’t He be aware of the evil in this world? It cannot be hidden from Him. Lastly, if God is all-loving, why would He permit evil and suffering in the lives of His children whom He claims to love? Is it rational for God to allow a Holocaust to occur that took 11 million lives? And why are there wars and pestilence that continue to take millions of innocent lives? Why do 9 million children per year worldwide die of starvation and disease before they reach age five? Every person on this earth (although some people more than others) is effected by evil, pain, suffering and death. The answers to these questions are central to our faith. They need to be answered because they are used so often, by so many to question the existence of God.
A third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation (32%), compared with just one-in-ten who are 65 and older (9%). What is even more significant from the survey is that there is a trend of our young adults demonstrating a loss of commitment in attending church or worshipping God as the study reveals…The Pew Research Center cited a significant growth, from 15.3% since 2007 to 19.6 % in 2012, when all three atheism, agnosticism and “nothing in particular” are grouped together. [Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project. “Nones” on the Rise. Polling and Analysis Oct. 9, 2012.]
A wave of new atheistic publications has hit the bookstands becoming bestsellers in the days of uncertainty in the aftermath of 9/11. There seemed to be a resurgence of Americans paying attention to God and standing in a new attitude of patriotism following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. This was the greatest loss of American lives since the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. There was a group of intellectuals pointing to religion and blaming it for the loss of almost 3,000 lives and at least $10 billion dollars in damage to New York City and the Pentagon. They pointed to the fanatical actions of these Islamic radicals and characterized this heinous tragedy as an example of the effects of religion on mankind.
Sam Harris, who was the first of these outspoken atheists to be heard, wrote:
Why did nineteen well-educated middle-class men trade their lives in this world for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors? Because they believed that they would go straight to paradise for doing so. It is rare to find the behavior of humans so fully and satisfactorily explained. Why have we been so reluctant to accept the explanation? [Harris, S. (2004). The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future. New York, NY: W. W. Norton Company, Inc.]
Sam Harris, in his book The End of Faith, arrogantly challenged mainstream America’s allegiance to God. In it he condemned all religion and the book quickly shot to the bestseller list. The success of his book turned the heads of many and became a popular way to denounce the Creator. It was at this time in history that the New Atheism movement began to spread in our educational institutions. Now the word “evil” can be taken from the Islamic terrorists and associated to all religions. These New Atheists go so far as to depict any belief in God as a dangerous form of mental illness.
The prolific God-deniers from the New Atheist movement use evolution as their foremost weapon. They submit a godless, “just so” story of materialism hoping to make believers in the Creator and His Word look foolish. They attracted millions of followers with their books, speeches and interviews here in America and abroad. Their vocal leaders were given the title of the “Four Horsemen of the Non-Apocalypse.” These purveyors of godlessness are Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011), and Daniel Dennet. Their mantra is simple: religion is evil and the inspiration for mass murder. The following is an excerpt from a book by the late Christopher Hitchens:
As I write these words, and as you read them, people of faith are in their different ways planning your and my destruction of all the hard won human attainments that I have touched upon. Religion poisons everything. [Hitchens, C. (2009). God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York, NY: Twelve Hachette Book Group, Inc.]
The New Atheism movement exhibits a deep hatred for God, the supernatural and anything that resembles religion. Hitchens exemplified this on his death bed in December 2011 at age 62 as he succumbed to esophageal cancer. His widow, Carol Blue, says the topic of God never came up during the last days of life in the hospital making true his promise that he would continue to affirm atheism and never accept Christ. [Hitchens, C. (2009). Ibid.]
It is interesting to note that one would have to agree that religion has at times been very dangerous.
When we look at the history of the persecutions, the crusades, the inquisition, slavery, human sacrifice, and the list goes on and on - all in the name of religion. Yet it was not religion that was the actual murderer in all of these instances. It was man. Man’s idea of religion is about tradition, idols, and legalism. It’s not about a personal relationship with the living God through His Son, the Messiah. According to the Apostle Paul, the person who has true faith in the Lord is not wrapped up in religious ritualism, but has experienced God’s forgiveness and new life in Christ.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ… If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees such as, ‘Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!’” (Col. 2:8, 20-21)
The Four Horsemen and their atheistic followers have willfully sinned by placing the children of God into the same camp as mass murderers. They accuse believers in Jesus Christ of embracing myths and fairytales, but that is simple projection. They are the ones who are living in a fairytale world where their dark, materialistic worldview of evolution cannot explain why there is death, pain, and evil in the world. Without God, these New Atheists are left with a fantastic story of molecules morphing into men who, in turn, cause death, destruction, and extinction. Theirs is a world where the strong overpower, subjugate, and exploit the weak.
The Argument is Old
This argument is not new. It was Charles Darwin who popularized evolution by couching it in scientific terms. He also referred to the question of why a good God would allow mankind to suffer. It is a very old argument indeed. In his autobiography published five years after his death, Darwin’s son Francis related the following statement from his father.
A being so powerful and so full of knowledge as a God who could create the universe, is to our finite minds omnipotent and omniscient, and it revolts our understanding to suppose that his benevolence is not unbounded, for what advantage can there be in the suffering of millions of the lower animals throughout almost endless time? This very old argument from the existence of suffering against the existence of an intelligent First Cause seems to me a strong one; whereas, as just remarked, the presence of much suffering agrees well with the view that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural selection. [Darwin, F. (Ed.). (1959). The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. New York, NY: Basic Books Inc.]
Darwin attempts to explain the reason for death and suffering because of the struggle to survive through natural selection. Atheists have always accused God of allowing pain and suffering to be part of the human experience. Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an extremely popular astronomer. He hosted the first Cosmos TV series in the 1980’s. It was well received both here and abroad. After all, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author held up death as the hope for evolutionary succession. He stated:
The secrets of evolution are death and time—the deaths of enormous numbers of life forms that were imperfectly adapted to the environment; and time for a long succession of small mutations that were by accident adaptive, time for the slow accumulation of patterns of favorable mutations. [Sagan, D., & Volk, T. (2009). Death and Sex. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, Inc., p.29]
This is the favorite argument for the New Atheism movement. Although, on the surface these questions might appear to have value for an atheist, their argument is overwhelming flawed. Where did death come from? There is no explanation why things tend to decay rather than improve. Every living thing on earth dies. There is an inexplicable decaying force that not only acts on life, but can be observed throughout the universe. Physicists have named this force the Second Law of Thermodynamics or simply “entropy.” Entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work. It is often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system. In more general terms, entropy is a lack of order or predictability, a gradual decline into disorder. Entropy certainly defies Darwin’s mechanism of natural selection. How can life go from simple to complex when the universal Law of Entropy stands in opposition to this process? Everything eventually succumbs to death and decay according to this same universal law. What we actually observe is devolution - the exact opposite of evolution.
Atheistic evolutionists approach morality in terms of our need to survive. We learn that being nice to people helps the continuation of the species. According to Richard Dawkins, the outspoken atheist, evolutionary biologist, and author of the bestseller, The God Delusion, murder, rape, stealing and similar derogatory behaviors make man become more altruistic. He insists that the origins of morality, defined by man’s altruism, are the bedrock of Darwinism, not religion. [Dawkins on The Source Of Morality. Speech at Randolph-Macon Women’s College in Lynchburg, VA. Oct. 23, 2006. Published on U-Tube Oct. 25, 2008.]
Dawkins builds his model on the idea that some sort of altruistic, unselfish, unidentified gene favors what is good for the group. It will outweigh the selfish need of the individual. On one hand, he admits that his argument falls short in attempting to explain how far man has developed this attribute of being exceptionally generous with feelings of empathy for others. He acknowledges that this characteristic in man is mysterious. It goes along with man’s deep commitment to ethics and morality which is evidenced by the fact that man has a deep sense of right and wrong. This is what he describes as morality. Atheistic naturalism falls short in explaining why human beings have law libraries, courts of law, jails, and the ability to police themselves and set up complex systems to judge their behavior with regard to morality. [Dawkins on Altruism and The Selfish Gene. Excerpt from “The Fifth Ape.” Published on U-Tube Sept. 1, 2012.]
Darwin had an idealistic view of man. He gave him the intellectual ability to naturally develop morality through evolutionary means. Although Darwin declared himself an agnostic, he definitely warped into atheistic behavior especially in the area of morality. In his autobiography, he stated that man, apart from a belief in a personal God and His law, could determine his own destiny through his evolutionary social instinct. In his 1887 autobiography we read:
A man who has no assured and ever-present belief in the existence of a personal God or of future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones. A dog acts in this manner, but he does so blindly. A man, on the other hand, looks forwards and backwards, and compares his various feelings, desires and recollections. He then finds, in accordance with the verdict of all the wisest men that the highest satisfaction is derived from following certain impulses, namely the social instincts. [Darwin, C. (1887). Darwin, Francis, ed., The life and letters of Charles Darwin, including an autobiographical chapter. Darwin. Francis, (Ed.), London: John Murray.]
When we examine the human condition, it is apparent that such logic fails. It is certain that Hitler's atrocities, Stalin’s massacre of millions, and the perverted actions of serial killers all “follow those impulses and social instincts which are strongest or seem best” to them. What motivates man to do good and behave morally when government disappears? We have seen moral structure fall and anarchy come to fill the void as chaos and destruction ensues. This is why the atheistic agenda is so very dangerous and why it needs to be exposed.
There can be no way to define evil without defining good as well. The only One who can accurately define these terms is God. To understand God, we must understand His goodness. He represents perfection in every way and draws us to Himself with His everlasting love and unfailing kindness (Jer. 31:3).
By God’s definition, evil is the absence of good. We also acknowledge that God is our heavenly Father who loves mankind so much that he gave His Son for them. His perfect plan subjects us to pain and suffering in this life which always brings us closer to Him and His perfect love for us. Atheists refuse to acknowledge God. This underlying obsession allows evolutionary atheists to replace God and institute themselves in His stead. Then they can sit on their own throne and declare what is good and what is evil. This is a dangerous and contagious mindset that we see being manifested today by those who want everyone to conform to what they deem to be politically correct.
The dialogue concerning why a loving God allows suffering is important for Christians to understand. Gary Bates, the CEO of Creation Ministries International, addresses this vital issue describing the importance of understanding Genesis as the foundation of the Gospel. Many hearts and minds were changed after hearing this compassionate message called, Why Does God Allow Bad Things?
In addition to this message, we will offer bestselling author and evangelist, Ray Comfort’s The Defender's Guide for Life's Toughest Questions. This is a great resource for answering questions posed by Neil deGrasse Tyson and other unbelievers when they attempt to impugn the reality of God when it comes to suffering, death, creation/evolution and other tough subject matter.
May God bless you,
Executive Director & Founder of CSI