CNN’s “Belief Blog” inevitably posited the question on many people’s minds in the wake of the mass shooting by the deranged James Eagan Holmes at a Dark Knight Rises showing in Aurora, Colorado: Where was God? Many readers responded with the standard ineffectual excuses about the shooting being a byproduct of the supposed free will god gave to humans. Others blamed Satan. Some even blamed liberals for supposedly ejecting god and faith from the public square.
From the perspective of a nonbeliever, such exchanges are highly entertaining. At bottom, they are the vapid ruminations of individuals who can do no better than philosophize and theologize about the motivations of a heavenly patriarch who is as abstract as he is elusive. Given the total lack of any physical evidence on which to base a coherent answer to the question of where god was, attempts to provide a solution must invariably involve the arbitrary attribution of certain traits to “god,” however defined. But this is losing proposition. The most logical answer to the question is not an answer at all, but a rejection of the premise altogether.
Unfortunately, most simply cannot reject it and imagine that there is no god; at least, no god of the sort they typically describe.
Although “god” carries different meanings for different people, there are three recurring characteristics that are often ascribed to it: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. In other words, god is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving. Let’s set aside the fact that in and of themselves these qualities are problematic, and paradoxically so. For, if god is all-powerful, can he create something so heavy that even he cannot lift it? If he is all-knowing, can he formulate a question to which he does not know the answer? We’ll leave these for another time, and for the sake of argument assume the existence of a god with the aforementioned characteristics.
If god is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving, it stands to reason that he would have the power and knowledge to prevent the Aurora shooting, as well as the desire to. Clearly, this did not happen. Why not? As mentioned, some CNN readers saw the handiwork of Satan. But Satan’s mere existence as god’s biblical foil would be sufficient enough to disprove the existence of a god with these three traits. If god really is as described above, a wannabe-god such as Satan would not be a difficult dragon to slay.
The explanation that evil occurs because humans have free will is equally unimpressive. According to this view, god gave humans free will—the ability to act as free agents morally unconstrained by external forces. Because humans are free, and equally important, fallible, immoral and evil acts are inevitable. But if god created humans, his omniscience would have surely enabled him to foresee the heavily flawed nature of humans. Meanwhile, his omnipotence would have given him the means to alter that nature. And his omnibenevolence would have given him the will to do so.
If one believes that god gave humans free will, and that he is all-powerful and all-knowing, one cannot logically conclude that god is also all-loving, given the sheer amount of suffering that has resulted from this free will. Rather, one must conclude that such an all-powerful, all-knowing god’s attitude toward earthly human affairs is either one of indifference, or one of malevolence.
Of course, to offer such an explanation is to play CNN’s game, which assumes from the outset the existence of some “god” in order to ask where he “was” at the time of the crime, as if CNN wants god to provide an alibi. Naturally, the most logical approach is to reject the premise, and with it the existence of things for which there is no physical evidence.