What is a poet? A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music. . . . And men crowd about the poet and say to him, “Sing for us again;” that is as much to say, “May new sufferings torment your soul, but may your lips be formed as before; for the cries would only frighten us but the music is delicious.”
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
— Epicurus, philosopher (c. 341-270 BCE)
Years ago I struggled deeply with the Problem of Evil, i.e. the reconciliation of the existence of evil and suffering with the existence of a benevolent and omnipotent God. At the time, I found Dostoyevski’s novel The Brother’s Karamozov to be a great comfort and insight on the dilemma. I wish I had found Epicurus’ quote earlier in my life. The logic is compelling and impeccable.