ALAGIR, Russia - Sarmat Kapisov ran all night through the forest with his family, fleeing the fighting in South Ossetia and headed for the Georgia-Russia border. On his back, the 17-year-old carried his brother, who has cerebral palsy.
"It wasn't easy," Kapisov said, huddled alongside his mother and seven siblings, who have taken refuge here at an Orthodox convent across the Russian border.
The convent director, known as Mother Nonna, said thousands have passed through since the bloodshed began one week ago in the pro-Russian separatist province claimed by Georgia.
Most were South Ossetian women and children on their way to a refugee center set up inside a summer camp by Russian authorities. Many of the fathers and older brothers stayed behind to fight.
Mother Nonna said she had never seen so many terrified children clinging to their mothers' skirts.
"The most difficult thing was to answer their question: Where was God?" she said. "They had so much fear in their eyes."
Read it all here.
Voltaire (1694-1778) was a French Enlightenment philosopher who enjoyed nuanced debate about the nature of the world, humanity, and God. In his youth he advocated a hedonistic lifestyle, stating that “True wisdom lies in knowing how to flee sadness in the arms of pleasure.” In this view, Voltaire follows the Greek philosopher Epicurus (342-270 BC), who taught that the goal of life is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.
Voltaire became less effusive in his advocacy of pleasure after the Lisbon earthquake of 1755. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami and fire which destroyed most of the city and devastated outlaying areas. The death toll is estimated to be between 60,000 and 100,000 people.
Voltaire wrote a moving poem about the destruction of Lisbon, titled Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne ("Poem on the Lisbon disaster").The disaster struck on the morning of All Saints, a Catholic feast day observed in Portugal. When word of the devastation reached other European countries, it became a topic of heated discussion among the intelligentsia who pondered how to reconcile the existence of such evil with God’s goodness.
Voltaire used the Lisbon earthquake in his novel Candide. His character Candide attacks the notion that all is for the best in this "best of all possible worlds", a world closely supervised by a benevolent deity.
The Lisbon disaster suggests either God is not good, or God is not in control, or there is no God. The modern German philosopher, Theodor Adorno, an Enlightenment scholar, wrote that "the earthquake of Lisbon sufficed to cure Voltaire of the theodicy of Leibniz" (Negative Dialectics 361). Liebniz believed, as did the ancient Stoics, that everything that happens constitutes “the best plan of the universe, which God could not fail to choose… Far from being true that this conduct is contrary to goodness, it is supreme goodness which led Him to it.” (Read Elizabeth Anscombe's response to Leibniz' theodicy here.)
Many Enlightenment thinkers rejected this solution to the paradox of theodicy. They rejected the Judeo-Christian idea of God as good, instead taking a deistic view. Deists believe that an impersonal and amoral God created the universe, set it in motion, and then withdrew from earthly affairs. They regard God as having chosen to allow what He set in motion to run its natural course without divine intervention.
What I find interesting about this, is how many who call themselves Christians seem to think that God's goodness and human suffering are irreconcilable. What about the suffering of Jesus Christ? Why is the day of His crucifixion called "Good" Friday? Didn't Jesus tell his disciples that they could except to suffer in this life?