The Brothers Karamazov

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Table Two: Suffering

This table has sat in silence for awhile, overwhelmed by Ivan’s examples of the terrible suffering of children.  One young man with gentle eyes finally speaks up, quietly:  “But Ivan’s point is really a simple one:  if there is an all-knowing and all-powerful God, and He loves us, then why does he permit suffering?”  A second young man nods his head.  “Ivan cannot accept this suffering.  Did you hear what he said?  ‘I need retribution, otherwise I will destroy myself… Listen, if everyone must suffer, in order to buy eternal harmony with their suffering, pray tell me what have children got to do with it?  It’s quite incomprehensible why they should have to suffer, and why they should have to buy harmony with their suffering.  Why do they get thrown on the pile, to manure someone’s future harmony with themselves?…They must be redeemed, otherwise there can be no harmony…And if the suffering of children goes to make up the sum of suffering needed to buy truth, then I assert beforehand that the whole of truth is not worth such a price…It’s not that I don’t accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him his ticket…’ [245].  I agree with Ivan.  Why should we worship a God who inflicts suffering on the innocent?”

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