Apparently God doesn’t always give you what you want, does do things you don’t want, and doesn’t always explain His actions. This is news to us theists.
I fail to see how this makes God any different from, say, an editor. Yet clearly McDonald has no problem devoting her entire working life to the process of submitting articles to a mysterious, powerful being who doesn’t necessarily feel the need to explain his editorial decisions, give writers the assignments they want, and not give writers the assignments they don’t want. She blithely enters the roulette wheel, knowing in advance that she may meet the judgment, unappealable and unexplained, of “This does not meet our needs at this time.”
She doesn’t examine the whole matter from the point of view that, if real life is eternal life, that death might eventually turn out to be the equivalent of a paper cut. She is sure that God must take suffering and death seriously or not be worthy of worship, which is an awfully monotheistic ethical idea. People were willing to hoick offerings and prayers to many of the old pagan gods on the off-chance they’d get a positive response or be left alone. She is sure that a capricious god would also be forebearing about being ignored or too weak to do anything, it seems; she doesn’t seem to have any idea of grand defiance against the entire power of an omnipotent being. That’s too bad. I always like those declarations for Ethics vs the Universe. The people who make them never wonder where they got their ethics, but there you go.
Considering that she’s willing to celebrate the human spirit, and that the human spirit continually does the inexplicable or returns evil for good and good for evil, she apparently has no real problem dealing with the black boxes of other people’s personalities.
So basically, the only one who gives her a rash on this score is… God.
It’s a personal fight against a person, not an idea or principle. She just wants to be convinced that God is the Logos, Reason and Truth Himself. (And most likely, she also has something else going on which has nothing to do with reason and logic, which is usually how people work on all deep philosophical issues.)
This is why I’m glad I’m not an apologist, because honestly, I believe all people are capricious and hidden in unapproachable weirdness, and only God makes any sense. This is probably a heresy against humans being made in the image of God, of course. :)
Anyway, there are serious books and articles out there on the problem of evil and the reasons why disasters and tragedies are allowed. This isn’t one; it’s one of those mannered, disguised cries to the heavens that you can’t help but feel for.
A real convinced atheist, however, wouldn’t waste a moment’s time or emotion on this sort of theodicy/power of prayer thing, other than on the human level. Bad stuff would just happen, and there’d be no point dwelling on it. He wouldn’t care that people went to church about it; he couldn’t be bothered to worry or to decree how people should spend their energies. Prayer would be useless, but it wouldn’t be as if there were any particular way to deal with such troubles, other than acceptance or resignation. So it wouldn’t be his business, and his article would be one long “Eh. Why’d the editor wake me up on the weekend for this?”