(I guess I have to write dialogue myself!)
One evening, the two friends had another discussion over dinner and the atheist said to the theist, "I thought about our last discussion. I still blame God for letting evil things happen. And about what I said last, I do define what good is. I mean look, it's the same way that you define what is good for you too. It's just that what is good for you may not be good for me. So that's how I judge God. You can judge God your way and I'll judge my way."
So his friend replied, "I think I'll define that it is good for me to disagree with you about all that. That seems good, even if does not seem good to you."
"Well it isn't good, not in a pluralistic society."
"How did we just shift from God and evil to a pluralistic society?"
"Because, if people are intolerant then society will break down."
"I thought we were having a discussion about God between you and I. Are we going to have a social break down if I apply logic to the things you say."
"Well, we might...but okay, enough about pluralism, so you turned what I said back on me. I'll grant you that. But it doesn't really change my mind."
"I'm not trying to change your mind, I'm just trying to get to the truth. It's important to remember that you need to be able to live by your own philosophy, and a sound philosophy will have an integrity to it that you will be able to live by if it is turned back on you. Actually, you should be the first one willing to live by it. I.e., if someone said, 'I define my way of being good to be taking all your money now.' then you should reply, 'While I disagree, I respect what you define as good to you.' Obviously, you do not want me or anyone else to subjectively make up our own standards and begin to define what is good. After all, then I can say anything, as I did. And anyone else can say pretty much anything too, as if it is true."
"Alright, let's say that neither of us defines what good is. Like you say, it seems we can't just make it up or else we'll contradict ourselves. I don't quite understand how, but you seem to be able to make me contradict myself."
His friend broke in, "It's just relativism. That's the way it is. It's like setting words against themselves because it seeks a lack of judgment, yet words are all judgments.
"Well, since it is annoying to have my words turned back on me I guess I'll avoid that. But I still blame God for evil."
"The first point I was making about that view is, who is defining evil? It seems to me that evil can only be defined by the good, yet evil cannot define the good."
"Yeah, pretty much....well, I have the impluse to say that we define what the good is and that defines evil. But I know if I do then we'll be back on relativism. I still like that answer, even if I can't live by it. I wonder....if I could make it work. I'll think on it. But let's just say that Good and Evil exist, somehow, because we seem to know that they do. So then, I blame God for evil, as it exists. Because...he lets it exist. If we get relativism out of the way, that's what I've been saying all along! So there, that's what I'm saying."
"I think, in my opinion, that God lets evil exist for the sake of redemption, regeneration and to turn it against itself. This is the pattern of recycling and being born again that Nature speaks to in various ways. We all seem to have something in us too, that appreciates a pattern and a story of redemption rather than a boring sort of perfection. It seems, more than perfect. Any story of redemption calls for faith and hope, like that Rwandan mother I mentioned earlier. So I have faith."
"You may have a point. But I don't believe God exists. It wasn't really that I don't believe he exists because he lets evil exist, you know. It is more that I simply do not believe at all, no more than I believe in Santa Claus."
"Well, it certainly seemed like you assumed God's existence....just enough to blame him for evil, I suppose."
"Look, I'm living in a theistic culture. Some of its assumptions are bound to creep into me. I think you answered God letting evil exist as much as there is an answer. I'll think about it. I agree that we know such stories of redemption and that pattern or desire seems to be in us. But like you said, God being evil or letting evil exist is not truly an atheistic argument, even if atheists use it a lot. I just need to discard theistic assumptions I've picked up from the culture, is all. Instead, I don't believe in God at all, just like I don't believe in Santa at all."
(Done, for now...)