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Monday, October 8, 2018

Voltaire and religion


Photo source: Wikimedia Commons, Maurice Quentin de La Tour


Voltaire (1694-1778) was a French writer best known for his analysis of politics and religion. Wikipedia says,


"Voltaire was a versatile and prolific writer, producing works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays and historical and scientific works. He wrote more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets... He was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties and was at constant risk from the strict censorship laws of the Catholic French monarchy." (Wikipedia: Voltaire, 8.15.21 UTC 07:19)


The rest of this post is some quotes from Voltaire.




"Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy, the mad daughter of a wise mother. There daughters have too long dominated the earth." (Treatise on Toleration, 1763)


"'If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.' But all nature cries aloud that he does exist: that there is a supreme intelligence, an immense power, an admirable order, and everything teaches us our own dependence on it." (Letter to Prince Frederick William of Prussia, 1770)


"The institution of religion exists only to keep mankind in order, and to make men merit the goodness of God by their virtue." (Dictionnaire philosophique, 1764)


"All philosophical sects have run aground on the reef of moral and physical ill. It only remains for us to confess that God, having acted for the best, had not been able to do better." (Dictionnaire philosophique, 1785-1789)


"If this is the best of possible worlds, what then are the others?" (Candide, 1759)


Government corruption


"While loving glory so much how can you persist in a plan which will cause you to lose it? (Letter to Frederick II of Prussia, 1757)


"A minister of state is excusable for the harm he does when the helm of government has forced his hand in a storm; but in the calm he is guilty of all the good he does not do." (Le Siecle de Louis XIV, 1752)


"Certainly any one who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices. If you do not use the intelligence with which God endowed your mind to resist believing impossibilities, you will not be able to use the sense of injustice which God planted in your heart to resist a command to do evil." (Questiones sur les miracles, 1765)




"It is better to risk sparing a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one." (Zadig, 1747)


"Let the punishments of criminals be useful. A hanged man is good for nothing; a man condemned to public works still serves the country, and is a living lesson." (Dictionnaire philosophique, 1785-1789)


"What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature." (Dictionnaire philosophique, 1764)


Epistemology and language


"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one." (Letter to Fredrick William, Prince of Prussia, 1770)


"Books, like conversation, rarely give us any precise ideas: nothing is so common as to read and converse unprofitably. We must here repeat what Locke has so strongly urged - Define your terms." (Dictionnaire philosophique, 1764)


"A witty saying proves nothing." (Le diner du comte de Boulainvilliers, 1767)