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Evil in Candide Essay


Why does God allow evil to exist? Voltaire raises many opinions about the problem of evil in his novel Candide. One of these includes the feeling that God should not be worshiped through physical acts and that religion should not conflict with other religions. The question why God created evil is further explained through the eyes of the author by the many metaphorical situations he portrays including the brutality of war, the ridicule of religious types, and the notion that one god should be praised without religion or religious practices.

First, the battle between the Avars and Bulgars shows how ridiculous war is portrayed in Voltaire perspective. Nothing was as beautiful, smart, dazzling, or well ordered as the two armies.(9) This heroic butchery is shown as some work of art as if it were to be viewed to ones satisfaction. The satire, however, is that several thousand men, a total of thirty thousand souls, have died in the war, yet it is still depicted as magnificent. As Candide tries to escape this onslaught, he comes across an orator who is preaching the word of the Good Cause. And because Candide does not agree with the orator, he is declined food. Thus evil is created. The conflicting ideas cause Candide to suffer.

Likewise, the orator is portrayed as being a self-centered religious type who does not believe in the good of mankind, but rather the progression of his own movement, the Good Cause. Just as he, others are ridiculed by Voltaire. The fact that Pope Urban X has a daughter, the Franciscan stole Cunegondes gold and jewels, and that the baron believes that historical hierarchies matter when it comes to social ranking all show that religious types are depicted as corrupted, ignorant, and all around evil people in Candide, just because they practice acts of praise and worship.

Finally, Voltaires main point, that God should be believed in without religion, describes his opinion on the problem of evil. In the best of all possible worlds, people are killed in war, live miserable lives, and are poor, and all of them have one thing in common: they physically pray to the lord and worship his name. Voltaire mocks this by creating the fictional utopia of El Dorado, a place where all seems perfect. Here, he makes the characters believe in a god without praise. The old man that Candide and Cacambo ask questions to responds in ways that reflect the words of Voltaire himself: Can there be two religions? We have, I believe, the same religion as everyone else in the world: we worship God from dusk to dawn.... there are neither two, nor three, nor four. I must say that the people of your world ask the strangest things.(58) In having this mindset, the old man lives peacefully and with everything he would ever need in life.

Therefore Voltaire believes that religion should not be a form in which people should worship God, but rather everyone should believe that there is only one god, and that nothing else is required to be faithful to that god. Throughout Candide, many metaphorical situations are brought up to portray this opinion, including the brutality of war, the ridicule of religious types, and the notion that one god should be praised without religion or religious practices. After all, evil does exist, and if it is not the work of God, then who?

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