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Floods destroy whole villages in Pakistan. A massive landslide in China buries over 1,000 people alive. Haiti is struggling to recover from recent earthquakes. Natural disasters may be deemed “acts of God,” but they leave religious observers in a quandary about divine responsibility. Epicurus put it succinctly: “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

After the Lisbon earthquake of 1755—one of the deadliest in history—a founding father of the French Enlightenment, Voltaire, ridiculed the…

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