Some atheists seem to think that simply pronouncing anything non-material to be childish is refutation of the non-material (this would, apparently, include their own thoughts). Now, since I qualified the statement with “Some” and “seem” it may not be a good idea to comment, “I do not…” since I reference those who do.
An anecdote with which to begin:
An atheist wrote to me and proclaimed some form of victory in stating that his young son had asked his Sunday School teacher how the carnivores did not eat the other animals on Noah’s ark (I do not know if the son of the atheist attends Sunday School due to a mixed marriage, cultural conventions or what have you).
Reportedly, the teacher turned red and changed the subject.
It is one thing for a child to make a childish statement based on childish reasoning and be satisfied. It is quite another for an adult to reward such childish notions and then go on to proudly promulgating them.
I simply asked this atheist if his son also asked the teacher how the local zoo keeps the carnivores from eating the other animals and that was the end of the discussion as I received no response.
It is widely known that some atheists rejected God in their childhood, based on child like reasons, have not matured beyond these childish notions and thus, maintain childish-emotional reactions toward the idea of God (many actually confuse rejection of “religion” with rejection of God. And again, I said “some”).
Here is another example from Rita De Alverez’s book The Long Journey of My De-Conversion:
The beginning of my de-conversion was not about doubting the existence of God. It began when He became irrelevant. What kind of deity allows, out of impotence or apathy, innocents to needlessly suffer? There is no excuse. Such a god is unworthy of affection or loyalty. Nor could I expect this deity to protect me and my child from the evils that he allowed to befall others more virtuous than myself. Like letting go of a cherished baby blanket, a hopeless romance or finally leaving home for good, one gets to this point only when one is ready. One has “God” as long as one needs a god. I know many never reach this conclusion. I did and it’s as simple as that.
Firstly, we should most certainly be empathetic to the concern about suffering. Most important in considering such concerns is that on this topic there are, at least, two main issues: the logical problem of suffering and the emotional problem of suffering. One could provide a logically airtight refutation of the problem of evil but the suffering person will surely compare the abstract argumentation against the tangible suffering which they are emotionally felling. See the problem? Argument versus sensation.
Yet and ultimately, the the problem of evil is a logical and theological issue and must be dealt with as such. When someone is suffering you do not philosophize but rather, empathize, listen to them, comfort them and then, maybe, get around to logic at some future point.
Since I dealt with this issue in detail in the essay Quentin Smith - The Gratuitous Fallacy I will merely point out that 1) she does not know that the suffering is needless and 2) as to what kind of deity allows it; a deity who knows better than do we.
Is there “no excuse”? The logical resolution of the problem of evil asserts that there is not just an excuse but a reason. If God has a reason for allowing evil/suffering then the logical problem of evil is defeated. Moreover, this could be one single reason, could be a reason of which we are not aware, could be one with which we would disagree. Our opinion as to the reason is irrelevant as I may be said to have been evil to stand by and do nothing when my son suffered while someone stabbed him until I point out that he was a newborn and the nurse stabbed him with a needle in order to check his blood sugar. On the surface, I allowed suffering even whilst possessing the power to stop it. Yet, on the deeper level I had a reason and knew that momentary suffering would amount to an assurance of health. Thus, Such a god is not unworthy of affection or loyalty as such a God knows better and has a reason.
What we also see in Rita De Alverez is a claim from authority as an ex-Christian but one who rejected not biblical/Christian theology but rejected a straw-man, a straw-God. She states that her “cherished baby blanket” was that God would protect her and her child from evils. Yet, the Bible assures us that “in this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33) so that when we have trouble we are not shocked that we are having trouble.
Now, again, being emotionally empathetic to a real person’s real concerns we must, nonetheless, consider the logic in noting that her invented god was utilitarian—god existed to serve her. You may recall that in the essay ITS NAME IS DOOM I quoted Martin Buber on the “deactualized self” in which he noted that when “The capricious man…says You, he means: You, my ability to use!” Likewise, when Rita De Alverez says God, she means, God, my right to wish fulfillment. Imagine looking at a person who has a mirror strapped around their head and you will get the picture; you would see other people only as reflections of yourself, as utilities from which to get that which you desire.
So, now Rita De Alverez has rejected God. Now what? Is the suffering gone? Will no harm come to her? Has anything changed at all? No. Suffering and harm continue to plague her and now, she does not even have God to blame anymore.
But now there is an odd sort of comfort in accepting the un-evidenced dogmatheistic assertion that there is no God and that since the universe is cold and uncaring we can only expect that “in this world you will have trouble.”
As Dan Barker so aptly stated it, “There is no moral interpreter in the cosmos, nothing cares and nobody cares...what happens to me or a piece of broccoli, it won’t [matter]. The Sun is going to explode, we’re all gonna be gone. No one’s gonna care” (see here).
In closing, I wonder how, in a cold and uncaring universe, she defines “evil” or “suffering”? Surely, based upon personal preferences which are premised upon personal preferences. Yet, since we know for a fact that suffering, such as the poking of a needle, can be a very, very good and moral thing—how do we then condemn suffering in general as being arbitrary, meaningless, gratuitous, etc.?
You see, Jacob could tell his brothers who sold him into slavery, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
In affirming that “in this world you will have trouble…” the ultimate—ultimate I say—atheist answer is “…and then you die.” The ultimate answer of Jesus is “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Atheism makes evil and suffering even worse by 1) not ultimately doing anything about it, 2) guaranteeing that it has no ultimate purpose or meaning, 3) not being able to redeem it, 4) making it for the benefit of the evildoer who enjoys themselves and ultimately gets away with it and thus, 5) ensuring that there is not ultimate accountability or justice.
The fact of evil and suffering in the world is one of the very best reasons for rejecting atheism.
 Martin Buber (Walter Kaufmann, trans.), I and Thou (New York: Scribner’s, 1970), p. 111
It may be republished in part or in its entirety on websites, blogs, or any
print media for whatever purpose (in agreement or in order to criticize it) only as
long as the following conditions are met: