How To Respond When An Atheist Says God Is Evil

Let’s break down a list of common accusations about God, and address them one by one.

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When a person rejects the God of the Bible, he often chooses to label Him as immoral. Non-believers have been known to accuse God of being hypocritical, selfish, arrogant, judgmental, hateful, and even homicidal-a moral monster. Part of the problem with responding to these kinds of claims is that they require extensive answers. It takes only seconds to ask certain questions but quite some time to give a reasonable answer. It’s important to realize how deep this topic can be, since a single article could never really do the subject justice. It’s simpler to look at common accusations against God and see how they fail.

Is God Evil?

The first problem with any “moral monster” accusation against God is that it requires a standard of morality separate from God. In other words, in order to say, “God is morally wrong,” one has to define morality in a way that justifies that claim. But what meaningful standard can exist, other than God, for moral principles? Apart from God, it’s not possible to have truly objective morality. Opinion is not enough-for the claim “God is a moral monster” to be meaningful, it has to be based on some unchanging standard. So, the first problem with claiming that God is immoral is that meaningful moral claims require God to exist in the first place. Labelling anything “good” or “evil” requires assumptions that lead inevitably to God. This fact is related to the next common objection about divine morality.

Problem of Good

Another common argument is that a truly good God would not allow evil. More on this later; for now, consider that this approach creates a much larger problem for the non-believer than for the believer. Christians can appeal to concepts such as free will when explaining why a good God might allow for evil. However, the non-believer finds a much more difficult issue when faced with the inverse of the question: why is there such a thing as “good” if there is no God? Why would human beings believe in concepts like “ought,” if everything that exists is the product of blind, purposeless physics? If things either “are,” or “are not,” and there is no actual “ought,” then speaking of good and evil is gibberish. This follows into a stickier problem: why “ought” a person be good, if there is no God or if God is truly a “moral monster”? Remember, if the ultimate measure of morality is some human opinion, then there can always be different ways to interpret that opinion.

You’re Not the Boss of Me!

Another common accusation is that God is controlling. God demands worship, He punishes those who disagree, and He even condemns those who insult Him. The quickest response to this particular objection is based on the concept of parenting. Good parents don’t let their children insult or disobey them. This is not because the parents are egomaniacs; it’s because they love their children. Even if the kids don’t grasp why, the parents’ rules are for the kids’ good. There’s nothing unreasonable about God’s expectation of obedience, given that He is a loving Father who wants the best for His children and who knows far more than they do.

Is God Selfish?

The accusations of divine arrogance and selfishness have to be put into perspective. The reason people have a problem with human arrogance and egotism is simple: we know the egotist isn’t perfect. God, however, is perfect. If He speaks, acts, and rules as though He is perfect, it’s simply because He is. There’s no arrogance or selfishness involved, as there would be in a lesser being. God’s claims of glory match reality. Further, according to the Bible, God has demonstrated great patience, love, and sacrifice on behalf of humanity (Romans 5:8). The core concept of the gospel is that God was willing to become a human being, suffer and struggle, then be killed by His own creations. All of this, in order to provide the means to allow mankind to live forever with Him. That’s hardly selfish, arrogant, or egotistic.

Life, Death, and War

Many who accuse God of being a moral monster mention the wars described in the Old Testament. Or they point to the use of capital punishment for certain acts under the Mosaic Law. The simplest response to these arguments has the advantage of logical strength, although it means little to the average unbeliever. Simply put, if God exists and created life, then He has the authority to decide what happens to that life. He can set the rules, and He can determine the punishments for breaking those rules. If the entire universe is His creation, then “morality,” including life and death, is by definition under His control.

Another response to the charge that events in the Old Testament are morally reprehensible is to place all of those events in their historical and scriptural context. When God commanded war against the Canaanites, for instance, it was not some random act of genocide. This was a culture that had been warned about their pervasive evil for centuries, and the time for God to punish that evil had finally come (see Genesis 15:16). When God commanded the death penalty in Israel for certain offenses, it was not in the context of a stable, free, modern environment. It was during a time of great danger, instability, and uncertainty.

Free Will vs. Suffering and Evil

Easily the most common attack on God’s morality is the reality of evil. According to this accusation, God is a “moral monster” since He “created” evil-or because He neglects to do anything about evil. In the simplest terms, evil is anything that contradicts the will of God. There is a tremendous difference, then, between something that God does not will (but that He allows) and that which He directly and purposefully causes to occur. This is where the concept of free will enters the equation. According to the Bible, God has gone to great lengths to enact a plan to end all evil and suffering. The fact that God’s plan has not been completed-yet-is not logically a sign that God has done nothing. The end result has not yet occurred, but everything is in motion toward that end.

The overwhelming majority of human suffering is the result of human activity. More to the point, it’s the result of human sin-either our own or someone else’s. But without the ability to choose selfishness, cowardice, and revenge, there would be no such thing as generosity, bravery, or forgiveness. Love, expressed by a being given no choice but to love, is hollow. Worship from such a being is meaningless. Though the subject of human free will is complex, even a brief examination shows that there are reasons-at least in theory-why God would allow us freedom and choice in this life. That’s especially true when one considers that, according to Christianity, this life is not all there is. What we struggle with and suffer under in this life is not all we are or all we are meant for.