Pandemics and natural disasters cause pain and suffering to millions worldwide and can challenge the very foundations of human belief systems. They can be particularly challenging for those who believe in an all-knowing and righteous God. The Lisbon earthquake of 1755, for example, shook the previously unquestioned faith of many and led Voltaire to question whether this really could be the best of all possible worlds.
When the Spanish flu struck in 1918, some chose to see it as divine punishment for the sins of mankind and looked to prayer, rather than science, for salvation. Notoriously, the Bishop of Zamora resisted calls from the Spanish authorities to close his churches and instead insisted on holding additional masses and processions.
From a theological standpoint, natural disasters and pandemics inevitably raise the profile of the long-standing and much-debated “problem of evil”. Here is philosopher Galen Strawson’s take on the problem: