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The God Squad: Evil lies at our feet, not God's

February 25, 2011

Question: You say God made everything. You say you see God's light shining brilliantly through a text, etc. Do you also see God in the tsunami that wiped out 200,000 people, or in the murder of a 9-year-old child? — L., via

Answer: Yes, I do see God in everything and hope that some day you can, too. I see God in the tsunami because the tsunami was caused by a living Earth that sustains life. The mantel over the core of Earth cracks, belches lava and causes earthquakes and tsunamis, but these are all natural events, not punishments from a vengeful God.

Such events are also challenges to use our God-given intelligence — and the resources produced by that intelligence — to mitigate the effects of natural catastrophes. We need to deploy tsunami-warning buoys in every ocean.


This has been done in many places but apparently not in the Indian Ocean in the area of the tsunami. That failure of human action deprived people of the time they needed to seek safety on higher ground. The failure to protect ourselves was a failure of human will. The deaths caused by the tsunami were needless and are on us, not God.

The murder of children is also our sin, not God's. We've been given a code of life by God, a moral and spiritual path leading to virtue, charity and compassion. When we choose to stray from that path and instead embrace violence and death, it's our sad choice, not God's.

When we allow social predators to roam free and when we don't protect children from them, the blame lies with our failure to create a society of laws and reverence for life. Of course, an all powerful, benevolent God could stop all killing by simply removing our free will and treating us like Adam and Eve before their choice to disobey God's commandments in the Garden of Eden.

However, that world, as the philosopher Leibnitz observed, would be worse than our world, even with its dangers. That world would not include freedom, and freedom is an absolute good. So, in that sense alone, God is responsible for evil because God chose to give us a world where we could sadly but freely choose it.

We cannot have peace and goodness imposed upon us by God; we must grow into them through our loving and peaceful choices. This is what the prophet Isaiah understood when he shared God's words: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7).

God makes everything, but we decide what to make of it.

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