There is immense evil and suffering in this world that cannot be denied. Whether suffering is inflicted by fellow mankind or by natural disasters, the problem of evil is so pressing that it seriously questions the idea of a Good, Merciful and Compassionate God.
The typical answer to the evil caused by mankind is the free will defense. It is argued that the calamities of wars, violence and genocides is of our own free choice and therefore God cannot be held responsible for it. Well I do agree that a great deal of suffering in this world is caused by the lust, greed and mischief of fellow human beings. But it also highlights the fact that no matter how much filth, plague and corruption we spread, God will never intervene to help the oppressed. Certainly God could have stopped the Holocaust or the Nanjing massacre, if he is all good… but no, he didn’t… he chose not to intervene. The truth of the matter is that freewill is a scapegoat to conceal God’s hypocrisy. Mankind has paid a huge price for this freewill. The price is not the mischief we spread but the indifference of God to what we do.
On the other hand, the problem of natural evil is hard for anyone to defend. A common viewpoint most apologists hold is that natural evil exists so that good can come out of it. Pain and grief are means to develop human morality and conscience. In other words, suffering leads to saintliness. Well yes, but isn’t the suffering in this world too much already? Does God really need to torture us with earthquakes, tsunamis, droughts, famines and AIDS in order to make us better moral beings? The level of suffering in this world is too much to justify this claim. In the Indian Ocean Tsunami alone, 230000 people were killed. If that many people were killed by a bomb or terrorism, it would have stirred the whole world. The people responsible for it would have been prosecuted, tried and sentenced. But unfortunately, justice cannot prevail when God commits such atrocities. Was it too much for God to make nature a bit more accommodating? There was no harm in a little more perfection. His own universe would have been more splendid. And his own children would have been at peace.
To conclude, I see only a couple of answers to the question. Maybe God is all good, loving, compassionate and merciful. Maybe he did create us in good intent and tried his best to provide us with a perfect living environment. But the evil in this world suggests that he is too weak and powerless to intervene and help those in distress. Or maybe God is very powerful who can do anything he wants. But the problem with this assumption is that an apathetic God cannot be good in any sense. The omnipotent God who does nothing to alleviate misery and anguish is a ruthless, self righteous hypocrite and a sadist who enjoys human suffering. The universe is his entertainment and we are his gladiators.