For a long time I’ve thought that the problem of evil was the major stumbling block for a belief in God. However, more recently I’ve come to think that it may not be the root problem for many people.
Absolutely, the problem of evil is a major concern for theism. How can one see all the horrid examples of evil in the world and not question that there is a powerful, good God. There would have to be major mitigating factors to resolve this issue. I’ve talked about those here. Still, a totally satisfying answer may just allude those who believe.
One reason I question that the problem of evil is the major reason some people reject the idea of God, is that many of those same people are nature lovers. They wax poetic about the beauty and awe in nature. To be consistent those same people should rather be neutral about nature. After all, nature would be responsible for the same horrors propounded in the problem of evil for theism. If anything those senses of awe and wonder would just be nature’s trick to propagate our genes somehow. There would be nothing to venerate.
Instead, I think a lot of these theism rejecters just don’t like the idea of a God. They don’t like the idea of being subordinate to something. Now, to be fair, many of these people have a rather sunday school conception of the idea of God. For those exposed to the fundamentalist precepts early on, God is some judgmental, overbearing monarch who tells them in the strictest terms what to do and not do. In this age of individuality accentuation it’s understandable why this would not be appealing to many. So, any more sophisticated theology is truncated and never revisited. This is evident if one listens to the theology of the prominent anti-religious atheists in social media and books. It is well known in liberal theological circles that these individuals don’t have any clue about the sophisticated thought of the best minds in theology.
Now, of course, this is psychologizing but, if true, it may reduce the wasted time of theists addressing the problem of evil for these people. It won’t make dent and that time may be better served elsewhere.