Skip to main content

4. Why does God leave us to suffer?


In this chapter we look at the case for atheism. The problem of evil is the most prominent argument for atheism, and so devote most the chapter to it.


4.1 We find out what Stephen Fry would say if he met God.

4.2 We look at some puzzles for theists. For example, we ask whether it is possible for God to make a stone that is so heavy that even He cannot move it.

4.3 We introduce the problem of evil, drawing on the work of Leibniz and Voltaire.

4.4 We consider three inadequate responses to the problem of evil: (1) suffering isn’t real; (2) evil is merely the absence of goodness; (3) God’s goodness is divine goodness.

4.5 We consider the suggestion that the theist should deny that God is omnipotent, or deny that He is omnipotent.

4.6 We consider theodicy: that is, we consider attempts to explain why God chooses to allow us to suffer. First, we consider the suggestion that we sometimes deserve to suffer. Second, we consider the suggestion that suffering is character-building. Finally, we consider the free will theodicy.

4.7 We consider skeptical theism. The skeptical theist thinks that God has good reasons for allowing us to suffer, but we shouldn’t expect to figure out what His reasons are. We ask whether skeptical theism leads to moral paralysis.

4.8 We wrap up the chapter.