Why, asked Voltaire, could not an omnipotent God achieve His purpose in another way? The earthquake could have occurred in some distant unpopulated area. And should one conclude that the victims should die consoled by the thought that the terrifying event occurred for the general good? God he respected, but he loved weak mortals.In the poem, as in the preface, Voltaire rejected the doctrine of necessity; it provided no comfort for him. He came close to absolute despair when he wrote that all living things seem to be doomed to live in a cruel world, one of pain and slaughter. How then could one believe in providentialism? How could one say Tout est bien? Voltaire's frightening conclusion is that man knows nothing, that nature has no message for us, that God does not speak to him. Man is a weak, groping creature whose
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