The problem of evil--as opposed to the argument from evil--is an ancient one, but it was not initially formulated as an argument in support of atheism. God's existence was taken for granted, and on that basis thinkers like Augustine engaged an serious intellectual struggle with deep questions about the divine raised by the presence of evil in the world: the unicity of God, the knowability of God, the possibility of Divine providence.⁴ The atheist argument from evil--especially as expounded of late by the New Atheists--tends to reduce this history to a caricature.
Nelson, Lance E.
"Is God Good? Aquinas, Śamkara, Abhinavagupta, Balinese Śaivism, and the Problematics of the Argument from Evil,"
Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies:
Vol. 29, Article 3.
Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.7825/2164-6279.1626