"I just can't believe the God of Christianity exists. God allows terrible suffering in the world. So he might be either all-powerful but not good enough to end evil and suffering, or else he might be all-good but not powerful enough to end evil and suffering. Either way the all-good, all-powerful God of the Bible couldn't exist." (Hilary, an undergrad English major)
What should be our response?
Well my response is to tell Hilary to be more original - no disrespect of course. Has she got anything newer than that? With apologies, it's a sad rehash, recycled ad nausea.
The evil paradox has been around since the beginning of time. It got its orthodox proponents 2300 years ago with the greek philosopher Epicurus. It got its vociferous opponents with the enlightened fathers of the church Iranaeus and Augustine of Hippo.
Then, through the centuries, Gottfried Leibniz came along and coined the term "theodicy" and became one of the many barristers for God in the face of evil. Philosophers like Alvin Plantinga and Richard Swinburne also jumped into the theodicy bandwagon and became instant star defenders.
At a great risk of oversimplifying (without sounding trite), the main thrust of their defence can be summed up like a jingoistic jingle: freewill, god's will, man's fall, sin tainted all, god's love, Christians delaying His hearth, earth's groans for an apocalyptic end, and all's purposeful, all's god's sent.
Against this, the neo-atheists like Harris, Dennett, and Dawkins mounted their own offensive and rewashed the same old "evil paradox" laundry. But this time, it is with a different bleach of "angst". They are angrier, more aggressive and even more organized. But stripped of all pretenses, their "evil paradox" arguments are nothing more than a slap of a branded label on a second hand coat.
If HIlary shows any interest at all, it would be to start by playing the devil's advocate. And if Christians shows any sincerity at all, it would be to put themselves in an atheist's shoe. We start with empathy and not with apathy. We look beyond our prejudices, beyond our unidimensional mindset, and beyond the angst rant. Alas it's a cognitive dissonance that is not easy to disparage and separate.
The history of atheism is the history of repetition. The atheists have been putting God on the witness stand since time can remember. They served the subpoena on Him with such insane regularity that it makes jury duty look like a much sought after fruit basket picnic. God has been arraigned with disdain and without restraint yet the jury is still out cold. With many dismissals and remittances, mocked hearings and re-trials, appeals and repeals, still the judicial gravel is withheld from the wooden block for reasons no one can frankly tell.
After the fury, fire and furnance, the crucible of truth that remains is this: Religion will not go away just because one smarty-pants thought he had got it all sorted out. The atheists are forgetting that religion goes to the core of our existence, the raison d' etat of humanity. It has a history that is so entrenched that it has gone to the realm of myth, mystery and miracles. The sacred will not be dethroned by argument; it can only be brought down by experience. But our sacred experiences are inseparable from our existence.
So, faith will not be "KO'ed" by one defining epistemological haymaker. It will not go quietly into the night just because the atheistic jury finds God "guilty" of non-existence. It will not concede even if scientism forces it to accede. Its estate is not of the physical or tangible but its dominion is in the hearts and minds of the people.
I can only imagine the death of religion as extinguishing the only light on the hill that keeps the wolves away from the city. Extinguish that and we may as well take covers under the shadow of aleister crowley's mantra: "Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."
So, Hilary's probe, be it tainted with prejudice or otherwise, and if allowed to ferment, makes for good debates but bad neighbors. Cheers out.