The problem of evil is a hugely important debate between theists and atheists, and has been for thousands of years. Its importance can be clearly seen by its popularity, and the fact that theologians and religious philosophers have been trying to counter it from very early on. While the problem of evil is not the issue that tipped me over the edge of having faith to abandoning it, I do have to say that it played a role. While I do not take the position of strong atheism that no god exists, I do have to say that the amount and the scope of suffering in the world seems to be a strong indication that specific gods with omni-traits are less likely to be true. It doesn’t seem to make logical sense that an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-benevolent deity would purposely and intentional create a world that contains this much suffering for no observable reason. Arguing that Gods ways are higher than ours and therefore cannot be understood just seems like special pleading or the argument from ignorance – it’s presupposing the specific God, presupposing that there’s a reason for apparently unnecessary suffering and then concluding the desired outcome without demonstrating any of it to be true – or even plausible.
Granted, while things often seem hopeless and desperate and horrible here on earth, I am not certain that things could not be worse, and that humanity is somehow being spared a more horrific alternative. That being said, however, evil (or suffering) could exist without it taking the scope and the spread that it seems to take in our natural world. You can still have suffering without having the holocaust. You could still have suffering without innocent children dying from horrible, wasting painful illnesses. You could have suffering without any of the natural disasters that we see constantly.
Ultimately I think that the existence of so many defenses and theodicies from the theist side against the problem of evil seem to demonstrate its significance and its importance in the theistic/atheistic debate. If it was a question with an easy answer, why would it be one of the most debated issues for well over a thousand years? Why would philosophers still be coming up with different answers? Why would religious scholars still be studying and arguing for it had it been solved and easily done away with by now? The fact that it’s still there and is still regularly brought up and debated despite its longevity seems to point to an overall significance to the points that it raises. No matter how theists try to defend it or argue against the problem of evil, it has remained, and there’s little reason to think that it’s going to go anywhere any time soon.