Save Voltaire from the Fanatics

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Voltaire [Francois-Marie Arouet] (1694 - 1778):

[Optimism] is a mania for saying things are well when one is in hell.

A clergyman is one who feels himself called upon to live without working at the expense of the rascals who work to live.

Appreciation is a wonderful thing; It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.

As you know, the Inquisition is an admirable and wholly Christian invention to make the pope and the monks more powerful and turn a whole kingdom into hypocrites.

Before receiving your instruction, I must tell you what happened to me one day. I had just had a closet built at the end of my garden. I heard a mole arguing with a cockchafer [May beetle]; 'Here's a fine structure,' said the mole, 'it must have been a very powerful mole who did this work.' 'You're joking,' said the cockchafer; 'it's a cockchafer full of genius who is the architect of this building.' From that moment I resolved never to argue.

Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world.

Common sense is not so common. (Le sens commun n'est pas si commun.)

Custom, law bent my first years to the religion of the happy Muslims. I see it too clearly: the care taken of our childhood forms our feelings, our habits, our belief. By the Ganges I would have been a slave of the false gods, a Christian in Paris, a Muslim here.

Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing.

Every sensible man, every honest man, must hold the Christian sect in horror.

God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.

God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.

He who is merely just is severe.

I think the best way to fall on the infamous [l'infâme meant the Church for Voltaire] is to seem to have no wish to attack it; to disentangle a little chaos of antiquity; to try to make these things rather interesting: to make ancient history as agreeable as possible; to show how much we have been misled in all things; to demonstrate how much is modern in all things thought to be ancient, and how ridiculous are many things alleged to be respectable; to let the reader draw his own conclusions.

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

If there are atheists, who is to be blamed if not the mercenary tyrants of souls who, in revolting us against their swindles, compel some feeble spirits to deny the God whom these monsters dishonour?

It has taken seas of blood to drown the idol of despotism, but the English do not think they bought their laws too dearly.

It is far better to be silent than merely to increase the quantity of bad books.

It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it.

It is reported in the supplement of the council of Nicaea that the fathers, being very perplexed to know which were the cryphal or apocryphal books of the Old and New Testaments, put them all pell-mell on an altar, and the books to be rejected fell to the ground. It is a pity that this eloquent procedure has not survived.

Let us therefore reject all superstition in order to become more human; but in speaking against fanaticism, let us not imitate the fanatics: they are sick men in delirium who want to chastise their doctors. Let us assuage their ills, and never embitter them, and let us pour drop by drop into their souls the divine balm of toleration, which they would reject with horror if it were offered to them all at once.

Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination.

Love truth, but pardon error.

Men . . . employ speech only to conceal their thoughts.

Men are equal; it is not birth but virtue that makes the difference.

My dear sir, nature is very cruel. One would find it hard to imagine how the laws of movement cause such frightful disasters in the best of possible worlds. A hundred thousand ants, our fellows, crushed all at once in our ant-hill, and half of them perishing, no doubt in unspeakable agony, beneath the wreckage from which they cannot be drawn. Families ruined all over Europe, the fortune of a hundred businessmen, your compatriots, swallowed up in the ruins of Lisbon. What a wretched gamble is the game of human life! What will the preachers say, especially if the palace of the Inquisition is still standing? I flatter myself that at least the reverend father inquisitors have been crushed like others. That ought to teach men not to persecute each other, for while a few holy scoundrels burn a few fanatics, the earth swallows up one and all.

Of all religions the Christian is without doubt the one which should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men.

One owes respect to the living; but to the dead one owes nothing but the truth.

Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy; the mad daughter of a wise mother

That is well said, replied Candide, but we must cultivate our garden.

The more he became truly wise, the more he distrusted everything he knew.

The most genuine and efficacious charity is that which greases the paws of the priests; such charity covers a multitude of sins.

The son of God is the same as the son of man; the son of man is the same as the son of God. God, the father, is the same as Christ, the son; Christ, the son, is the same as God, the father. This language may appear confused to unbelievers, but Christians will readily understand it.

There are no sects in geometry.

We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies.

What concern to me are humanity, benevolence, modesty, temperance, gentleness, wisdom, piety, so long as half an ounce of lead shatters my body, and I die at twenty in torments unspeakable, surrounded by five or six thousand dead and dying while my eyes, opening for the last time, see the town I was born in delivered to fire and sword, and the last sounds that reach my ears are the shrieks of women and children expiring in the ruins -- and the whole for the pretended interest of men that we do not know?

What! Have you no monks to teach, to dispute, to govern, to intrigue and to burn people who do not agree with them?

Whenever an important event, a revolution, or a calamity turns to the profit of the church, such is always signalised as the Finger of God.

Which is more dangerous: fanaticism or atheism? Fanaticism is certainly a thousand times more deadly; for atheism inspires no bloody passion whereas fanaticism does; atheism is opposed to crime and fanaticism causes crimes to be committed.