It seems to me, the problem of evil has been with us since the dawn of time, and many have used it to “prove” God does not exist, or alternatively… he does. The real issue however is not the problem of evil but of oppression. Which makes the real question then, is God a tyrant or a loving parent? If he were a benevolent tyrant, then there would be no evil because he would not tolerate it, if however he is a loving parent, he tolerates evil and when his children skin their knee, he picks them up and comforts them. How is it that if God expunged the universe of evil, would that make him a tyrant, you ask? Simple, to eradicate evil in all it’s forms, God would have to eliminate free will and stop the dynamism of the universe, which only could be done by oppressive means… making God a tyrant.
Autocrats detest free will, well, everyone else free will, not their own. As a result they use draconian means to quash free will, especially where it threatens their agency, but often in a vain attempt to make their country a “better place.” The oppressor sees opportunity in suppressing evil, and in doing so he foists evil on his people. But God would do it so we would like it… some might argue. To that I ask, when and where has tyranny and oppression ever been good? Moreover, those who seek to be cradled from all life’s ills by a benevolent tyrannical God, always seem to favor unlimited government, carrying their need to be coddled from the supernatural to the mundane.
Without free will we would be mere automatons, acting as we are programmed and capable of nothing else. You cannot have it both ways. Remove free will and you have taken away our creativity, our genius, our individuality and everything that makes us human beings. A robot suffers no pain, never feels a loss, cannot create a symphony or write a novel… would you have a good God turn us into robots? Sure we would feel no pain, would never suffer, couldn’t feel pain or even die, but at what cost? We wouldn’t be able to do any of the things that makes us uniquely human. That humanity, creativity and genius come at cost is no great detractor. If you think about it, everything comes at cost, nothing is free and everything worth having requires effort. Would the anti deist take that away from us as well?
The problem of natural disasters is the fall back position of those who would have God turn us into mechanical men. Sure, after a hurricane like Harvey, automatons would be programmed to help each other, but they wouldn’t do it out of a sense of compassion, no they would do it because they are programmed to! Natural disasters bring out both the best and worst of humanity. People selflessly wading through toxic alligator filled water… to save a cat! How is that not saintly? It is the very natural disasters that give free will meaning and shows the value of free will, in and of itself. While suffering is the natural state whenever the universe is dynamic, it is our reaction to them that shows what we are made of, and who we really are.
Think about what makes a parent a good parent. Is the parent who sends their child to school in a football helmet, so they don’t bump their little head, a good parent or a bad one? What about the parent who refuses to allow their child to learn to ride a bicycle, drive a car or go to the store? If a child is to grow into a functioning adult, he or she must bump their head, skin their knee and risk a car crash. All of which grows us as human beings. To protect a child at the expense of that child’s maturity, is to stultify that child, and we as human beings are no different. Without risk, free will and the lessons we learn from them we would be crippled as human beings.
Lastly you have to look at it from God’s perspective. If you were God and knew, really knew, that those who deserve it will go to heaven and live eternally in joy, death is no penalty, but a reward. Moreover, how would someone who has never suffered know joy? Without context, what is hot without cold, what is light without darkness and what is good without bad? Mere arbitrary words in a dictionary, words without meaning or substance. Like Einstein said, everything is relative, an hour on a park bench holding the hand of a lover seems like a second, and a second on a hot stove seems like eternity. It is in context that we understand arbitrary concepts, such as good and evil, and without context heaven would be as mundane as washing the dishes.