Often the problem of evil is brought up as a drop dead argument against God. It goes something like this: If there is an all knowing, all powerful, all beneficent God then why is there evil in the world. After all, there are and have been horrendous event and acts, both natural and intentional things that have occurred. This argument, however, presumes that there could be something better if God is the creator. Okay, but what would that be like?
So, first what is the cause of evil? The potential for evil seems to be built into the fundamental fabric of the universe. There are fundamental forces, properties, entities, “laws”, etc. that science has discovered. There is an incredible fine tuning of these things that make life possible. Some say there are at least a couple of dozen parameters that are incredibly fine tuned to offer the possibility of life, as we know it. Now there are theories (scientific?) that explain this by positing a multiverse where there are perhaps an infinite number of universes such that we just happen to be in one where life can exist. But, that aside, in our universe these fine tuned parameters can cause both what we call good and evil. The very same parameters and processes are responsible for both.
Let’s look at a couple of examples. If you are reading this then you must like ideas and perhaps learning. But what does learning do? It both destroys and creates. To some extent the old is destroyed and the new is created. Misconceptions are destroyed and replaced by a better understanding. In evolution the less fit are destroyed and the more fit move into the next generation. When muscles are stressed, parts are destroyed so that the new and stronger can replace it. The list could go on and on. Change and growth depend on the same forces and processes, and depending on the perspective what could be called good and evil. So the very same properties and processes that create the good also create the evil.
So for those who use the problem of evil to rebut the idea of God then I think it is a valid question, okay, what would it be like to have a life without the potential for evil? Would it be a life that anyone would want? Would it be as some have described heaven, I life without tears? No pain? No suffering? No stress? No struggle? If one thinks about that, would that really be a life worth having? To me that sounds more like an opium stupor that something vibrant and meaningful. I think life is meaningful precisely because of the struggle. The failures can push us on and the victories give us a sense of accomplishment. It all can give us a passion and vibrance to get up each day even in the face of life’s vicissitudes. The alternative is stasis in perfection.
Now, this is not to discount evil. But, evil is part of what it means to live. It is to be fought with all the energy we have. If life is worth having, evil will be an eternal problem to fight. It will also be an eternal process to determine what is evil (what thwarts the good) and what is just part of the process that is necessary. These are the challenges that living creatures face and will always face. The problem of evil does not mean that God is either incompetent or doesn’t exist. It means that God chose to live in all things and that life is important enough and meaningful enough that it is worth that evil is possible.