I think many of you may know the problem of evil:
- If there is an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient God in the world, there should be no evil.
- There is evil in the world.
- (Therefore): There is no such God.
One of the usual defences against this is to use free will as a justification of God not intervening. If God has given human beings free will, therefore he will not interfere with the choices that they make freely, even if they are most evil, like Hitler or Stalin killing millions of people. Therefore, this world is the best of possible worlds that God can create.
Also in case of natural disasters, there is the matter of “bigger plan” as a defence and the fact that God is apparently responsible for natural laws as well. God has a bigger plan for all of us, one that we cannot see with our limited human vision.
I want to point out that these defences create two immediate result, which turn out to be very problematic for religions all over the world, specially Abrahamic ones:
Firstly, if this world is the best of possible worlds, and God is omnibenevolence, then God does not have free choice himself. He could not choose any other world other than this one, because then he would not have been omnibenevolence, would he?
But my main point in this post is the second one: If one believes that the God does whatever he does, because he has a bigger plan, or because he has given other people free will and he would not stop their choices, whatever those choices may be; then one has successfully destroyed the whole incentive and any point in prayer.
Why do you pray, when nothing is supposed to happen? Imagine a Jewish mother with her child, captured by Nazis and sent to “take a shower”. The woman knows that this is no ordinary shower, she prays as hard as she can for God to kill all the Nazis instantly. If not, just to stop the gas from pouring into the small chamber. If not, just to make her child immune to this and at least save the innocent baby. But NO, God says: “I cannot do any of those things. The only thing I can do is to send both of you to heaven, and of course, even that was supposed to happen!”
Imagine people caught in a tsunami: They pray to the Lord almighty to save them. If not, at least make them suffer less. But NO, God says: “This is all a part of my plan. Even your suffering is a part of my plan, therefore even instant death is not an option!”
Well, except that people are told by their religion TO pray, there is nothing to pray FOR: Absolutely nothing will change with those prayers. And of course, that seems like some type of a sick joke from a sadistic tyrant, unless you do not believe in such a God?!