The Problem of Evil rears its head in a particularly ugly way when one considers the example of the destruction of Joplin. At the time, at first what struck me was how little anybody talked about religion; they were busy saving lives and getting the worst of the devastation assessed. Then a few days later stories began to run about "miraculous saves" and miracles of mercy. Churches made a lot of noise about why the town might have been wiped off the face of the map. In the past few days I've seen articles discussing (in all earnestness) the reason why God might have rained tornado destruction down on a small Southern town, or at least why he allowed it. Was Joplin particularly sinful? They must have been--look, they got destroyed! And I've seen articles lauding God for bringing people together and for the miracles they see him doing in terms of healing the injured and getting medical and food supplies to the needy.
All of it smacks to me of a dog licking the hand of a master who's just gotten done beating it half to death. Or of a woman praising her abusive husband for working to put food on their table. Since the Problem of Evil is what destroyed my own simplistic faith in the all-benevolent Jesus/Yahweh, this misplaced devotion affects me especially strongly. We just don't understand why he'd do all this, goes the reasoning. He's loving, but his ways are not our ways, and surely we'll understand once we get to heaven and he explains it all to us.
This assumes that there is a heaven and not a hellish nightmare of an afterlife (since we only have God's ghostwriters' word that there is a heaven at all, and we know that his morality doesn't match ours, so why would we assume that he always tells the truth?), and that God will be in the mood to explain anything even after our deaths (something the Bible never says, not that the Bible's word is actually trustworthy anyway). It also makes a lot of assumptions about what kind of person the Bible's god actually is. I know exactly how that feels, since I too once wore the blinders of faith. But once removed, I saw God for what he actually is: a mindless, merciless, evil enemy of mankind. And Joplin illustrates why.
Look, Christians: Joplin is the perfect example of why your god sucks. Take it from the top: either he deliberately caused the tornado to happen, or he allowed it to happen. If he deliberately caused it to happen, then only the most strenuous of mental gymnastics could allow someone to believe that he is good in any sense of the word; only an evil god would deliberately send such a horrifying event to the world. There is no wiggle room there, though Christians love to say that "we just don't understand." Yes, we do. I'm allowed to judge God by the standards of the morality you say he created. I understand perfectly what kind of person would send a huge tornado to destroy a village full of men, women, children, babies, and animals. It'd be the same sort of person who'd send a flood to destroy every man, woman, child, baby, and animal on the planet (except for a few he particularly liked). It'd be someone of such pure, unmitigated evil and barbarism that it staggers the mind to even consider it. No human would ever be so cruel. That's why we call such behavior "inhumane." There's no justification for such malevolence. No excuse for such horrific actions. If God sent the tornado, then he is evil.
If he allowed it, then he is either impotent or negligent, neither of which merits my love or devotion. God allows all kinds of awful things to happen. He allows children to starve and die of disease around the world. He allows wars to devastate countries and continents. He allows crime to flourish and rapists to decimate women. He allows families to experience such fervent runs of bad luck that they lose their homes and their livelihoods. He allows us to die of disease, accident, and malevolence. And again, I know exactly what sort of person God would need to be in order to just stand by and allow this to happen to those he says he loves and cherishes. He'd either have no choice at all in whether it hit, or else he did have a choice and just chose to do nothing. There is no possible explanation for his negligence other than impotence or idiocy, and if God is either of those, I'm certainly not going to bend knee to him.
It's wonderful to see the outpouring of support that Joplin has received and indeed continues to receive. I'm really glad that people are getting their lives back on track--though much remains to be done to rebuild, Joplin is slowly recovering. But it is not through God's divine grace that this rebuilding is occuring. It is through simple human mercy--a level of mercy that God cannot and will not ever match directly. How convenient that he works through people so much!
Take off the blinders and look again at this tin-god. Petty and impotent, or cruel beyond all human belief: those are the options when one considers the example of Joplin.
No, the simplest explanation really works best here: Joplin was just sheer bad luck. God had nothing to do with it because he doesn't exist. No gymnastics, no fancy explanations, no need to justify or rationalize two completely competing worldviews: the feel-good spiritual concept that God exists and loves us and will protect those who bend knee to him, against the cold reality of how horrible things happen to us constantly, that there is no rhyme or reason to it, and that good and bad people both experience tragedy.
I'd rather have my eyes open than live a lie of constantly making excuses for my abuser, thank you.