If you were God, and you wanted to create a perfect universe, you would do it. Obviously, you would stop the suffering and the cruelty if you had unlimited power. But no! God, on the other hand, did not create a perfect Universe, when He very well could have. Where does He get off? What He created instead was a free Universe, and that, my friend, is why He is God, and you are not. As wonderful as a perfect Universe sounds, a free Universe is much better. And I will explain why.
What is a Free Cosmos? Is it not a Wild Cosmos? Yes, when a Christian asserts that "God gave us free will," and that annoys you, I want you to try and think, instead, of a lion on the Savannah, gnawing on a wildebeest calf, and replace God gave us free will with God made us wild. The truth is that every single being in the cosmos gets almost unlimited freedom to choose their reaction to any stimuli they encounter. Parents are not supernaturally restrained from choosing to abuse their children, or romantic partners to abuse each other or betray each other. No one is supernaturally restrained from any choice, seemingly, and when you reflect on this fact you must understand this does not apply only to humans. Ants tear apart beetles. Parasites rip apart colons. Insects sometimes consume their mates immediately following intercourse, actually sometimes animals eat their own children. No being is restrained from making any choice, and this basic built-in fact about the Cosmos is what makes it free and it indicates something very important about the character of God.
At the Big Bang, God essentially opened His eyes, after a long meditation. The Bhagavad Gita (of Hinduism) has this really neat concept, that there is both Day and Night in the Universe, and in the Daytime, Brahman is awake, and emanating from the consciousness of Brahman are all the individual consciousnesses of the gods and goddesses. During that Day, the Universe exists. In the Night, however, the Universe implodes and is dissolved into nothingness. That nothingness, however, is still inside of God's Being. God exists before the Big Bang and after the Big Crunch. "And earth was formless and void, and the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters" describes this (Genesis 1:2), and the idea is also found in ancient Mesopatamian and Canaanite and Egyptian paganism. God resided over primeval chaos.
In Christianity, God never sleeps, and also, He is One. But I see those differences as cultural, not doctrinal. I imagine that God goes into deep periods of meditation (formless chaos), and when He opens His eyes, the Big Bang occurs and the Universe gets spread out over space and time. As it expands, God's own consciousness is entering into it, like His eyesight. The Universe is God's field of vision opening up before Him. In the West we have this huge debate about creation versus evolution, but it doesn't make sense at all to an Eastern mind because creation and evolution are the same exact thing. The Bhagavad Gita calls God "the Evolver of the Universe." So rather than thinking of God as having made some machine and set down all these rules about how His Creation was supposed to behave,, a more correct way of thinking of God synthesizes East and West and sees God as entering into His Creation and experiencing it as though He is along for the ride. Incarnating on a cosmic level.
But there is more to it than just that, because the Earth herself is a living Being, and a wild creature.
Beyond that, if we could perceive it, the whole Universe is a living Being, and a wild creature.
What God really created with His stream of consciousness, was not a machine, but a companion. The Universe itself is the Divine Feminine, God's wife. And She can be personified on any level - as the whole Universe (think Tiamat), or as the Earth (think Gaia), or as the nation of Israel (Jehovah's Bride), or as the Church (the Bride of Christ), or as the wife in any marriage (sacramental marriage), or as the goddess in every woman (Paganism). She is real, and God is mad in love with Her, and so God allows Her to do as She pleases. He doesn't lay a finger on her right to choose exactly what she does. Now, there are Angels, such as, for example, the "Angel of the Lord" (the God of the Old Testament) who take it upon themselves to try and promulgate laws for humanity, and moral codes. The Old Testament God, the one who spoke to Moses, the one who made the crazy rules about diets and beards and menstrual periods, was not the same as the Creator, but was an "Angel (Messenger) of the Lord." The text itself tells you that, and this Angel was a free, wild being too.
Every single creature God has made, even the Devil, and even you, whatever your gender, is a part of God's Divine Companion. So everyone is Free.
Consider this rhyme riddle:
"Here on Planet Earth, every soul is free.
I have no power over you.
You have none over me."
Really, that is the Eden model. That is how God originally intended it. He gave us the freedom to be as free as He is and decide exactly what to stand for and who to be in each moment of our existence. Even if our choices endanger or threaten others, of whom we are all in a state of interbeing with, whether we know it or not. God allows His Companion to be full of myriad individual turmoils because He fundamentally is allowing His Creation to be herself and choose to cause suffering or not.
Now let's think about doing it your way, instead, creating the perfect Universe. Everyone would be much more comfortable, right? They would know that anytime they inadvertently thought of some way to take advantage of someone else, anytime they had a new idea which, unbeknownst to them, would actually create suffering in the cosmos, that God would just zap them and physically restrain them and keep them in a state of innocence so that no one suffers. It wouldn't suck at all to just live out a script, live out a trillion do's and don'ts. (I'm being sarcastic.) It would suck a lot! Why does it seem trite to suggest that without the freedom to fuck up we would just be a big mechanical robot? Why aren't we satisfied with the idea that God wanted to create a Bride and not a robot? Why do we so undervalue the fact that its a Free Cosmos and want this hypothetical perfect cosmos instead?
If you really think that a perfect cosmos would be better than a Free Cosmos, let's talk about wildlife management. Throughout the world, there are many wildlife preserves and nature refuges. Human beings have the power, through technology, to police everyone of these wild places and keep the animals from killing each other, or from fucking each other too much. We can distribute much needed medicines when the wild animals get sick. We can give them all flea treatments, or better yet, we can invent a way to relocate all the fleas off the animals and sustain them in some cruelty-free environment, I'm sure. I'm sure we can use little robots to help sea turtle hatchlings get to the sea before seagulls snatch them away. There are a thousand improvements we could make on Nature!
Human beings are Animals. Animals of all species are, and should be, free. It is not the business of a good environmentalist to police natural predators or to interfere with the day-to-day lives of animals. It is the business of a good environmentalist to love Nature and let Nature be herself, restraining only the impact of humans. It is the business of a good God to do the same, for the entire cosmos.
Yes, He allows wars and famine and child molestation. He allowed Lucifer himself to fall from heaven and deceive the whole world. He is more than willing to let the Universe careen out of control. He is very "hands off." But by no means does that imply He doesn't love us.
In Christianity, God promises to rescue Creation at last. He promises Eternity. He promises being with Him. He promises Rest, Reward, Redemption. He promises delight and bliss. He showed his commitment to rescuing us by the symbol of the crucifixion. Through the crucifixion, and even more broadly, through the entire life of Jesus as the Incarnation, and even more generally, by being an indwelling consciousness looking out from every eye, God experiences suffering alongside us. He feels the pain of every victim as His own pain because His consciousness is fully within the Universe. He is wedded to His Bride in an Eternal way and He knows Her and feels Her intensely. He shares Her pain to its fullest extent. He also promises to rescue Her through the Eschaton The Second Coming, the Millennium of Peace, the New Heavens and the New Earth.
If you are an Atheist and you are cynical about Christianity, and if some of the ideas above are new to you or if they give you pause, I want you to consider the doctrine of universal reconciliation. I want you to reconsider all this hell talk, as are a lot of Christians. Yes, the Bible talks about hell. But does it ever say that it is eternal? The Bible doesn't even say that heaven is eternal. "Heaven and Earth shall pass away," it says, actually. Nothing is Eternal except for this marriage between God and His Bride, whom He Himself Created, or Evolved (or did He? Maybe they are Evolving and Creating each other).
This is a broad view, and if you will entertain it, you will find that it may answer a few other questions as well. For example, Christianity gets a lot of flack because of similarities between it and ancient pagan mythologies. Christianity is seen as plagiarizing the other cultures. I disagree with this assessment vehemently. I think both Christianity and all the various indigenous paganisms of the world all told the truth about the same basic facts: that God was married to His Creation. This is how you got Baal and his consort Asherah. In really old Judaism (Yahwism to be more precise, before the Temple was built), Yahweh also had a consort: Shekinah. Then in the Jewish nationalism of Temple Judaism and Torah Judaism, Israel herself becomes the Bride of Elohim. In Christianity, the Church becomes the Bride of Christ.
To really understand why God allows suffering we have to count as primary to the being of God that He wants a love relationship with the Universe. He wants an equal. Through His Love we do in fact become His Equal in Eternity. We become part of His Very Body. That is what Eucharist means: sharing His very flesh, Him sharing ours. In the same way that Rain and Sun became Wine and Bread, Wine and Bread become Blood and Flesh, and God becomes Us. We become God. We are conformed into His Mind. We Become At-One. This process will assuredly make up for every single injustice. Things eventually swing out of the darkness and into the light. The Universe enters a period of Perfection. There is Day and Night also in the Universe. Long term thinking is: the advantage is the Night of the Universe, God is no longer sleeping Alone, and neither are we. We hooked up. God's getting laid. Its not God and His Robot Universe which He refuses to fix. Its God and his lovely Lady embracing together at the end point of Eternity, like-minded, equally powerful and real and entire, and in love.
"All good things are wild and free." - Henry David Thoreau