The person who sets an ideal of human happiness and freedom up against the brutalities of human evil and natural disasters and the pain and suffering they cause is often motivated to ask: ‘If a benevolent and omnipotent God really did exist, why is there so much suffering on the world?’ Such an inquiry does less to alleviate any actual suffering than it does to reveal a desire to expose God’s impotence, if not non-existence. Such skepticism depends on a one-sided image of God for its consistency. That is, it must not concede that there may actually be an horrific and painful aspect to divine creation, nor that these terrible qualities may be integral to the sublime itself. The general desire of the sceptic is merely to deflate the image of paternal or divine powers.
The unattainability of happiness and the frequency of human misery are not to be taken as signs of failure or as a frustration of human desire – let alone as a violation of our rights as humans or as a betrayal of some divine covenant. On the contrary, this constantly failed, but somehow necessary, attempt to symbolize and attain a positive, limited form of enjoyment is what constitutes and identifies happiness, psychologically and politically.