I don't often write of the problem of evil on this blog because to be honest, it is not an aspect of religion that deeply concerns me. I don't think the existence of evil proves or disproves god. I can actually understand the idea of allowing human free will, which would consequentially allow humans to inflict harm on others. Suffering caused by nature is a bit harder to accept however. The idea that earthquakes, floods and diseases can cause misery and suffering not only to humans but also to animals, is very hard for me to reconcile with the idea of a god of love. This is especially true when you consider that god might have designed every deadly pathogen and exactly how it causes the being it infects to suffer and die. I wonder what a good god must have been thinking when designing the intricate viral and bacterial mechanisms that would later wreak so much pain and misery.
This is all explained as the result of man's sins. Man's sins brought this evil into the world, and if it were not for this, our world would be perfect and free of suffering. Millions of Christians accept this sorry excuse for an explanation. Logically speaking, if no living thing ever died, the world would be plundered of all its resources. It doesn't take a genius to see that coming. But it is easy for me to target the low hanging fruit of fundamentalism. Let's take a moderate Christian view that understands Genesis to be symbolic. This take on Christianity sees that god is more like an artist or a farmer - he set the universe in motion and let evolution take control naturally. That way deadly pathogens evolve out of the same evolutionary process that elephants, dinosaurs, fish and people do. If there is no original Adam and Eve, then original sin may have taken place at some point in the past when god chose to reveal himself to us. Either way, death and suffering would have predated original sin, and so the instability of tectonic plates, weather and disease are somehow the result of a natural process that god started and knew would happen. It's equally perplexing.
What about the idea of god sending people to hell for worshiping in other religions or not worshiping at all? Is there any conflict with this and the idea of a just and loving god? I think so. Imagine Christianity to be true. That means the pious Muslim, who devotes his whole life to worshiping god according to the tradition he was born into, gets a very rude awakening upon his death that he has been wrong all his life, and must now suffer the consequences of hell. The same is true for the Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, and depending on what denomination of Christianity, the Protestant and the Mormon. All of these people wanted to sincerely worship and sacrifice according to the traditions they were born into, but because of the geographic bad luck of having been born into the wrong faith, they spend an eternity in hell.
I find this idea hard to reconcile with the notion of a loving and just god. I mean, where's the mercy? Where's the compassion? Why couldn't god make his existence more clear instead of mysterious and invisible? How can a god of love sentence someone to eternal hell-fire simply because they were born into the wrong religion, or were thoroughly misguided by science? Why would a loving, just and omniscient god choose to make his point by rewarding those who happened to win the lottery of geographical luck? Regardless of what monotheistic religion is true, if anyone of them is, it means billions of people today are going to hell. It means billions more who have lived and died have gone to hell. The majority of the world's population is going to hell, all because of a lack of evidence and bad geographic luck. Considering this, I think it would be wantonly cruel if a god did exist and didn't reveal himself or make his existence verifiable for the sake of the billions headed towards hell. Anything short of this is unjust and I would argue, intentionally evil.
To me it isn't man's evil that I find difficult to reconcile with, it's god's evil and indifference. That's how I would interpret the problem of evil with respect to religion.