In Christian theology this is known as The Problem of Evil. The classic statement of this "problem" was set out by Epicurus circa. 300BCE, and later rehashed by David Hume in "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion" (1779):
Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then [God] is impotent. Is [God] able, but not willing? then [God] is malevolent. Is [God] both able and willing? then where does evil come from?
|Murder in the House by Jakub Schikaneder (1890)|
Yet for any atheist who uses this as a basis for arguing against God's existence I think the question begs: What exactly do you expect God to do about evil and suffering? Let me phrase this another way. If the claim is being made that were God to exist then God should, could and would do something about the presence of evil in the world, then what does God acting in the world essentially boil down to? In the end we are essentially talking about miracles.
|Christ Appearing to His Disciples After the Resurrection by William Blake (1795)|
For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)I doubt any atheist would go this far. In fact somewhat paradoxically in "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" (1748) David Hume actually rejects the logical probability of miracles and the resurrection occurring, which seems to undermine his suggestion thirty years later in the "Dialogues" that were God to exist, then God should be doing something about evil and suffering. In the end, Hume cannot have his theological cake (why doesn't God do a miracle to stop evil and suffering) and eat it (miracles don't happen).
All this appears to leave the atheist having to restate the "problem" of evil in the following manner: Either God exists and can do a miracle to stop evil and suffering, which leaves the question begging as to why someone would then logically reject Jesus' resurrection, or God does not do miracles, which means the existence of evil and suffering in the world is not God's problem to solve, but ours!