Evil itself provides no challenge whatsoever to God—the existence of or the belief in. This may seem like a small, semantic point, but I think it’s actually big and essential. Evil implies God. This is not to say that God is evil but that evil cannot exist if God does not. Without God, “evil” is just a hyperbole for events that leave us feeling very sad or very scared. We may want to say “for events we can’t understand,” but without God these events are perfectly plain—whether they be the extermination of millions or the torture and slaughter of a single child, a hurricane that wipes out a whole tribe or the man-caused heat that burns a living planet to the ground. Without God there are only things we do or things that happen. Such events are in the total calculation of the universe random events, no different than the formation of a star via the coalescence of gasses or the massacre of a tribe of termites by a tribe of ants.
But I do not believe that humans can experience “evil” events this way—as meaningless. And I don’t think that this is because we find these events really really sad. The truth is that the murder of a child doesn’t just feel incomprehensible—it is incomprehensible. Despite the fact that, without God, it is easy to comprehend, it is experienced as something that should not have to have happened. It is experienced with the same deep affect which accompanies (although I’m saying this backwards) the literary form known as tragedy, which Aristotle famously characterized as “pity and fear” but which I would think better understood with that italicized phrase: It should not have to have happened. Of course with the murder of any individual child or with any “evil” or “tragic” event, looking at immediate causes, we can always see ways it might have been avoided. Every individual event is contingent and therefore, in theory, avoidable. Pulling back, however, we have to see that from what we know about the universe such events in general are unavoidable. Given the moral and physical structure of the universe, such events must be possible, and therefore, to paraphrase Derrida, whatever can arrive must arrive.
The question we are left with is whether the moral structure of the universe is really an amoral structure—which is to say, does not exist at all. Put another way, we are asking whether our reaction to Oedipus the King or the murder of Sally Jones is something we should take seriously or ignore, something we should believe in, or something we should pass off as an illusion founded in the chance wiring of our common circuitry. It seems to me the burden of proof is on those who contend that the profound experience of injustice or tragedy is not to be taken seriously, that whenever we are tempted to say or feel it should not have to have happened, this is mere apophenia, we are imposing a Darwinian impulse onto a random set of data—that our reaction to such events is in fact so out of proportion to the events themselves that any truly rational species peering down at us through their telescopes would be laughing.