Voltaire’s philosophy is too multilateral to be described in a single sentence. But his principal postulate was that the government should be separate from religion. He was a Deist, meaning that he believed in God but thought that He was not interested in human problems. Thus, there was no point in the numerous clergy members, churches, and religious persecution.
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“Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.” This was how Voltaire characterized the dogma. He admitted some positive aspects of religion, but morality did not need such artificial support for an intelligent person. On the contrary, priests use it to distract people “while kings picked the public pocket.” That is to say, the clergy and the government were a mutually beneficial symbiosis that brought no positive effect to ordinary citizens.
Religion was highly politicized in Voltaire’s times. Just recall the Puritan preacher in Candide who refused to give alms to the protagonist unless he agreed that the Pope was Antichrist. Different confessions focused on their struggle with each other, forgetting about beneficence and neighborly charity. In Voltaire’s satire, we find multiple examples of the secular interests of the priests. They buy and abuse women, burn innocent people in auto-da-fé, hang them, and commit many other crimes.
Voltaire shows us that religion is an unreasonably powerful weapon to control the crowd. He claims that theological religion “is the parent of fanaticism and civil discord.” It does not unite people with common morality laws or make them better. It makes them think of being entitled to judge others who do not share their views. That is why faith is something that everyone should decide for themselves.
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