Skip Nav

Online Library of Liberty

Introduction

❶Peoples separated from the Roman religion have imitated but imperfectly so generous a charity.

INTRODUCTION

Popular Topics
Navigation menu
Navigate Guide

Possibly certain special animosities, supported by reasons of State, led to the shedding of Christian blood. For instance, when St. Lawrence refused to give to the Roman prefect, Cornelius Secularis, the money of the Christians which he held, the prefect and emperor would naturally be irritated. They did not know that St. Lawrence had distributed the money to the poor, and done a charitable and holy act.

They regarded him as rebellious, and had him put to death. Consider the martyrdom of St. Was he condemned on the ground of religion alone? He enters the temple, in which thanks are being given to the gods for the victory of the Emperor Decius. He insults the sacrificing priests, and overturns and breaks the altars and statues. In what country in the world would such an outrage be overlooked? The Christian who in public tore down the edict of the Emperor Diocletian, and drew the great persecution upon his brethren in the last two years of the reign of that emperor, had more zeal than discretion, and, unhappily, brought a great disaster on the body to which he belonged.

This unthinking zeal, which often broke out, and was condemned even by some of the fathers of the Church, was probably the cause of all the persecutions. I do not, of course, compare the early Protestants with the early Christians; one cannot put error by the side of truth.

But it is a fact that Forel, the predecessor of Calvin, did at Arles the same thing that St. Polyeuctes had done in Armenia.

The statue of St. Antony the Hermit was being carried in procession, and Forel and some of his companions fell on the monks who carried it, beat and scattered them, and threw St. Antony in the river. He deserved the death which he managed to evade by flight. Antony the Hermit, or that St. Antony conversed with centaurs and satyrs, he would merely have merited a stern rebuke for disturbing public order; and if, the evening after the procession, he had calmly studied the story of the crow, the centaurs, and the satyrs, they would have had no reproach to make him.

You think that the Romans would have suffered the infamous Antinous 1 to be raised to the rank of the secondary gods, and would have rent and given to the beasts those whose only reproach was to have quietly worshipped one just God! You imagine that they would have recognised a supreme and sovereign God, master of all the secondary gods, as we see in their formula, Deus optimus maximus, yet persecuted those who worshipped one sole God!

It is incredible that there was any inquisition against the Christians—that men were sent among them to interrogate them on their beliefs—under the emperors. On that point they never troubled either Jew, Syrian, Egyptian, Druid, or philosopher.

The martyrs were men who made an outcry against what they called false gods. It was a very wise and pious thing to refuse to believe in them; but, after all, if, not content with worshipping God in spirit and in truth, they broke out violently against the established cult, however absurd it was, we Edition: Tertullian admits in his Apology ch.

The charge was unjust, but it shows that it was not merely their religion which stimulated the zeal of the magistrates. He admits that the Christians refused to decorate their doors with laurel branches in the public rejoicings for the victories of the emperors; such an affectation might easily be turned into the crime of treason. The first period of juridical severity against the Christians was under Domitian, but it was generally restricted to a banishment that did not last a year.

Lactantius, whose style is so vehement, agrees that the Church was peaceful and flourishing from Domitian to Decius [96— a. We need not discuss here the opinion of the learned Dodwell that the martyrs were few in number; but if the Romans persecuted the Christian religion, if the Senate had put to death so many innocent men with unusual tortures—plunging Christians in boiling oil and exposing girls naked to the beasts in the circus—how is it that they left untouched all the earlier bishops of Rome?

Zepherinus governed the flock at Rome for twenty-eight years, and died peacefully in It is difficult to reconcile this persecuting fury with the freedom which the Christians had to hold the fifty-six Councils which ecclesiastical writers count in the first three centuries. There were persecutions; but if they were as violent as we are told, it is probable that Tertullian, who wrote so vigorously against the established cult, would not have died in his bed.

We know, of course, that the emperors would not read his Apology —an obscure work, composed in Africa, would hardly reach those who were ruling the world. But it must have been known to those who were in touch with the proconsul of Africa, and ought to have brought a good deal of ill-feeling on Edition: He did not, however, suffer martyrdom.

Origen taught publicly at Alexandria, and was not put to death. It is clear that a seditious complexion might be put by the hostile priests on all this running about, yet the missions were tolerated, in spite of the constant and cowardly disorders of the Egyptian people, who killed a Roman for slaying a cat, and were always contemptible.

Who did more to bring upon him the priests and the government than St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, a pupil of Origen? Gregory saw, during the night, an old man, sent by God, and a woman shining with light; the woman was the Virgin, and the man St.

John dictated to him a creed, which Gregory went out to preach. The following day the sacrificing priest was astonished to find that the demons who were wont to answer him would do so no longer. The priest had Gregory seized, and Gregory said: So Gregory tore off a piece from a book he had in his hand and wrote on it: I order thee to return to this temple. Gregory of Nyssa tells us these facts in his Life of St. The priests in charge of the idols must have been incensed against Gregory, and wished, in their blindness, to denounce him to the magistrates.

But their greatest enemy never suffered persecution. It is said that St. Cyprian was the first bishop of Carthage to be condemned to death, in the year During a very long period, therefore, no bishop of Carthage suffered for his religion. History does not tell us what charges were made against St. Cyprian, what enemies he had, and why the proconsul of Africa was angry with him. Cyprian writes to Cornelius, bishop of Rome: So many hidden causes are associated at times with the apparent cause, so many unknown springs may be at work in the persecution of a man, that it is impossible, centuries afterwards, to discover the hidden source of the misfortunes even of distinguished men; it is still more difficult to explain the persecution of an individual who must have been known only to those of his own party.

Gregory Thaumaturgus and St. Denis, bishop of Alexandria, who were not put to death, lived at the same time as St. How is it that they were left in peace, since they were, at least, as well known as the bishop of Carthage? And why was Cyprian put to death? Does it not seem as if the latter fell a victim to personal and powerful enemies, under the pretext of calumny or reasons of State, which are so often associated with religion, and that the former were fortunate enough to escape the malice of men?

It is impossible that the mere charge of being a Christian led to the death of St. Ignatius under the clement and just Trajan, since the Christians were allowed to accompany and console him during his voyage to Rome.

Seditions were common at Antioch, always a turbulent city, where Ignatius was secret bishop of the Christians. Possibly these seditions were imputed to the Christians, and brought the authorities upon them. Simeon, for instance, was charged before Sapor with being a Roman spy.

The story of his Edition: However tolerant we may be, we cannot help being indignant with the rhetoricians who accuse Diocletian of persecuting the Christians as soon as he ascended the throne. He says Ecclesiastical History, Bk.

They entrusted provinces to them; several Christians lived in the palace; they even married Christians. Diocletian married Prisca, whose daughter was the wife of Maximianus Galerius. We may well suspect that the persecution set afoot by Galerius, after a clement and benevolent reign of twenty-nine years, was due to some intrigue that is unknown to us. The story of the massacre of the Theban Legion on religious grounds is absurd.

It is ridiculous to say that the legion came from Asia by the great St. Bernard Pass; it is impossible that it should Edition: The account of this supposed butchery begins with an evident imposture: The Romans had too much pride and common-sense to make up a legion of Egyptians, who served only as slaves at Rome; one might as well talk of a Jewish Legion. We have the names of the thirty-two legions which represented the chief strength of the Roman Empire, and there is no Theban Legion among them.

We must relegate the fable to the same category as the acrostic verses of the Sibyls, which foretold the miracles of Christ, and so many other forgeries with which a false zeal duped the credulous.

Untruth has imposed on men too long; it is time to pick out the few truths that we can trace amid the clouds of legends which brood over Roman history after Tacitus and Suetonius, and have almost always enveloped the annals of other nations. How can we believe, for instance, that the Romans, whose laws exhibit to us a people of grave and severe character, exposed to prostitution Christian virgins and young women of rank?

It is a gross misunderstanding of the austere dignity of the makers of our laws, who punished so rigorously the frailties of their vestal virgins. Theodotus—who, to tell the truth, kept a publichouse, but was not less zealous on that account—prayed ardently to God to take these holy maidens out of life, lest they should succumb to temptation.

The governor then had them thrown into a lake, with stones round their necks, and they at once appeared to Theodotus and begged him to see that their bodies were not eaten by fishes. The holy publican and his companions went during the night to the shore of the lake, which was guarded by soldiers. A heavenly torch went before them, and when they came to the spot where the guards were, a heavenly cavalier, armed from top to toe, chased the guards, lance in hand.

Theodotus drew from the lake the bodies of the virgins. We repeat that we venerate the real martyrs, but it is not easy to believe this story of the Bollandists and Ruinart. Shall we tell the story of the young St. He was cast into the flames, says Eusebius, and certain Jews who were present insulted Jesus Christ for allowing his followers to be burned, whereas God had withdrawn Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace. Hardly had the Jews spoken when Romanus emerged in triumph from the flames.

The emperor ordered that he should be pardoned, saying to the judge that he did not want to fall foul of God. Curious words for Diocletian! The young Romanus, who had stuttered from birth, spoke volubly as soon as his tongue was cut out. The physician, to show that the operation had been properly performed, took a man who was passing and cut off just as much of his tongue as he had done in the case of Romanus, and the man died. Then there is the martyrdom of St. Felicitas and her seven children, sent to death, it is said, by the wise and pius Antoninus.

In this case it seems Edition: Felicitas was a Roman, and lived in the reign of Antoninus. The forgery is exposed by this statement. The Campus Martius, which had once been used for the elections, then served for reviews of the troops and for military games. Again, it is said that after the trial the emperor entrusted the execution of the sentence to various judges; which is quite opposed to all procedure at that time or in our own.

Then there is a St. Hippolytus, who is supposed to have been dragged by horses, like Hippolytus the son of Theseus. This punishment was quite unknown to the Romans, and it is merely the similarity of name that has led to the invention of the legend. You will observe in these accounts of the martyrs, which were composed entirely by the Christians themselves, that crowds of Christians always go freely to the prison of the condemned, follow him to the scaffold, receive his blood, bury his body, and work miracles with his relics.

If it were the religion alone that was persecuted, would not the authorities have arrested these declared Christians who assisted their condemned brethren, and who were accused of performing magic with the martyred bodies? Would they not have been treated as we treated the Waldensians, the Albigenses, the Hussites, and the various sects of Protestants?

We slew them and burned them in crowds, without distinction Edition: Is there, in any reliable account of the ancient persecutions, any single feature that approaches our massacre of St. Bartholomew or the Irish massacres? Is there a single one with any resemblance to the annual festival that is still held at Toulouse—a cruel and damnable festival, in which a whole people thanks God and congratulates itself that it slew four thousand of its fellow-citizens two hundred years ago?

I say it with a shudder, but it is true; it is we Christians who have been the persecutors, the executioners, the assassins. And who were our victims? We still occasionally send to the gibbet a few poor folk of Poitou, Vivarais, Valence, or Montauban. These things are not done at Paris, where pleasure is the only thing of consequence, and people are ignorant of what is done in the provinces and abroad. These trials are over in an hour; they are shorter than the trial of a deserter.

If the king were aware of them, he would put an end to them. Catholic priests are not treated thus in any Protestant country. There are more than a hundred Edition: Shall we always be the last to embrace the wholesome ideas of other nations?

They have amended their ways; when shall we amend ours? It took us sixty years to admit what Newton had demonstrated; we are hardly beginning to save the lives of our children by inoculation; and it is only recently that we have begun to act on sound principles of agriculture.

When shall we begin to act on sound principles of humanity? How can we have the audacity to reproach the pagans with making martyrs when we have been guilty of the same cruelty in the same circumstances? Suppose we grant that the Romans put to death numbers of Christians on purely religious grounds. In that case the Romans were very much to blame.

Why should we be similarly unjust? Would we become persecutors at the very time when we reproach them with persecuting? If any man were so wanting in good faith, or so fanatical, as to say to me: Why do you destroy our false miracles and false legends?

All these false miracles by which you shake the trust that should be given to real ones, all these absurd legends which you add to the truths of the gospels, extinguish religion in the hearts of men. Too many people who long for instruction, and have Edition: It is better to cast oneself into the arms of nature than into those of error; I would rather depend on the law of nature than on the inventions of men.

They see that imposture put a curb on them, and they will not have even the curb of truth. They lean to atheism. They be-become depraved, because others have been false and cruel. These, assuredly, are the consequences of all the pious frauds and all the superstitions. The reasoning of men is, as a rule, only half-reasoning. It is a very poor argument to say: The Catholics have murdered a certain number of Huguenots, and the Huguenots have murdered a certain number of Catholics; therefore there is no God.

Men have made use of confession, communion, and all the other sacraments, to commit the most horrible crimes: Therefore there is a God who, after this transitory life, in which we have known him so little, and committed so many crimes in his name, will vouchsafe to console us for our misfortunes. For, considering the wars of religion, the forty papal schisms nearly all of which were bloody , the impostures which have nearly all been pernicious, the irreconcilable hatreds lit by differences of opinion, and all the evils that false zeal Edition: Do I propose, then, that every citizen shall be free to follow his own reason, and believe whatever this enlightened or deluded reason shall dictate to him?

Certainly, provided he does not disturb the public order. It does not depend on man to believe or not to believe: If you insist that it is a crime to disbelieve in the dominant religion, you condemn the first Christians, your fathers, and you justify those whom you reproach with persecuting them.

You say that there is a great difference; that all other religions are the work of man, and the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman Church alone is the work of God. But, surely, the fact that our religion is divine does not imply that it should rule by hatred, fury, exile, the confiscation of goods, imprisonment, torture, murder, and thanksgiving to God for murder?

The more divine the Christian religion is, the less it is the place of man to command it; if God is its author, he will maintain it without your aid. You know well that intolerance begets only hypocrites or rebels. Would you, indeed, sustain by executioners the religion of a God who fell into the hands of executioners, and who preached only gentleness and patience? Reflect on the frightful consequences of the right Edition: If it were allowed to despoil, cast in prison, and put to death a citizen who, at a certain degree of latitude, would not profess the religion generally admitted at that degree, how could we except the leaders of the State from those penalties?

Religion equally binds the monarch and the beggar; hence more than fifty doctors or monks have made the monstrous assertion that it was lawful to depose or slay any sovereign who dissented from the dominant religion, and the Parliaments of our kingdom have repeatedly condemned these abominable decisions of abominable theologians.

The blood of Henry the Great [IV. Cardinal Duperron, who owed his position to Henry the Great, arose in the States of against the decree of the Parlement, and had it suppressed. All the journals of the time record the terms which Duperron used in his discourse: We know that our dogmas were not always clearly explained and universally received in the Church. Christ not having said in what manner the Holy Ghost proceeded, the Latin Church long believed with the Greek that he proceeded from the Father only; after a time it added, in the Creed, that he also proceeded from the Son.

I ask whether, the day after this decision, any citizen who preferred to keep to the old formula deserved to be put to death? But is it less unjust and cruel to punish to-day the man who thinks as people thought in former times?

Were men guilty in the days of Honorius I. It is not long since the Immaculate Conception began to be generally accepted; the Dominicans still refuse to believe it. If we need a lesson how to behave in these interminable disputes, we should look to the apostles and evangelists. There was ground for a violent schism between Peter and Paul, and Paul withstood Peter to the face, but the controversy was peacefully settled.

The evangelists in turn had a great field of combat, if they had resembled modern writers. They contradict each other frequently; yet we find no dissension among their followers over these contradictions, and they are neatly reconciled by the fathers of the Church.

Paul, in his epistle to a few Jews at Rome who had been converted to Christianity, says at the end of the third chapter that faith alone glorifies, and works justify no one.

James, on the contrary, in his epistle ch. Here is a point that has separated two great sects among us, yet made no division among the apostles. If the persecution of those with whom we dispute were a holy action, the man who had killed most heretics would be the greatest saint in Paradise. What a poor figure the man who had been content to despoil and imprison his brothers would cut by the side of the zealot who had slain hundreds of them on St. Here is a proof of it.

The successor of St. Peter and his consistory cannot err. They approved, acclaimed, and consecrated the massacre of St. Therefore this deed was holy; and therefore of two assassins who were equal in piety one who had Edition: It is a strange title to glory in heaven.

Divine right means, I believe, the precepts which God himself has given. He ordered that the Jews should eat a lamb cooked with lettuces, and that the eaters should stand, with a stick in their hands, in commemoration of the Passover; he commanded that in the consecration of the high-priest blood should be applied to his right ear, right hand, and right foot.

They seem curious customs to us, but they were not to antiquity. He ordered them to put the iniquities of the people on the goat hazazel, and forbade them to eat scaleless fishes, hares, hedgehogs, owls, griffins, etc.

He instituted feasts and ceremonies. All these things, which seem arbitrary to other nations, and a matter of positive law and usage, being ordered by God himself, became a divine law to the Jews, just as whatever Christ ordered is a divine law for us. Let us not inquire why God substituted a new law for that which he gave to Moses, and why he laid more commandments on Edition: It seems that he deigns to accommodate himself to the times and the state of the human race.

It is a kind of paternal gradation. But these abysses are too deep for our feeble sight. Let us keep to our subject, and see first what intolerance was among the Jews. It is true that in Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy there are very severe laws, and even more severe punishments, in connection with religion. Many commentators find a difficulty in reconciling the words of Moses with the words of Jeremiah and Amos, and those of the celebrated speech of St.

Amos says that in the deserts the Jews worshipped Moloch, Rempham, and Kium. Jeremiah says explicitly vii. Stephen says in his speech to the Jews Acts vii. Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Rempham. Other critics infer that these gods were tolerated by Moses, and they quote these words of Deuteronomy xii. Circumcision, moreover, the seal of the covenant, was not practised. It is enough, it seems to me, that it is proved by Holy Scripture that, in spite of the extraordinary punishment inflicted on the Jews on account of the cult of Apis, they had complete liberty for a long time.

Sometimes he seems to transgress his own law. He forbade the making of images, yet set up a brazen serpent. We find another deviation from the law in the temple of Solomon. He had twelve oxen carved to sustain the great basin of the temple, and in the ark were placed cherubim with the heads of eagles and calves. It seems to have been this calf-head, badly made, and found in the temple by Roman soldiers, which led to the belief that the Jews worshipped an ass.

The worship of foreign gods was vainly prohibited. Solomon was quite at his ease in idolatry. Jeroboam, to whom God had given ten parts of the kingdom, set up two golden calves, and ruled for twenty-two years, uniting in his person the dignities of monarch and pontiff. The little kingdom of Judah under Rehoboam raised altars and statues to foreign gods.

The holy king Asa did not destroy the high places. The high-priest Urijah erects in the temple, in the place of the altar of holocausts, Edition: In a word, there seems to be no real restraint in matters of religion. I know that the majority of the Jewish kings murdered each other, but that was always to further a material interest, not on account of belief.

It is true that some of the prophets secured the interest of heaven in their vengeance. Elias brought down fire from heaven to consume the priests of Baal. Elisha caused forty-two bears to devour the children who commented on his baldness.

But these are rare miracles, and facts that it would be rather hard to wish to imitate. It is also objected that the Jewish people were very ignorant and barbaric. In the war with the Midianites Moses ordered that all the male children and their mothers should be slain and the booty divided.

Some commentators even argue that thirty-two girls were sacrificed to the Lord: That the Jews did offer human sacrifices is seen in the story of Jephthah [ Judges xi. Ezekiel even promises that they will eat human flesh: We do not find in the whole history of this people any mark of generosity, magnanimity, or beneficence; yet some ray of toleration escapes always from the cloud of their long and frightful barbarism.

The story of Micah and the Levite, told in chapters xvii. Her son restored them to her, and she devoted them to the Lord, making images of him, and built a small chapel. A Levite served the chapel, receiving ten pieces of silver, a tunic, and a cloak every year, besides his food; and Micah said: They then proceeded with confidence to attack the village of Lais, and put everything in it to fire and sword, as was their custom. After the death of Gideon the Hebrews worshipped Baal-berith for nearly twenty years, and gave up the cult of Adonai; and no leader or judge or priest cried for vengeance.

Their crime was great, I admit; but if such idolatry was tolerated, how much the more easily should we tolerate differences within the proper cult. Some allege as a proof of intolerance that, when the Lord himself had allowed his ark to be taken by the Philistines in a battle, the only punishment he inflicted on the Philistines was a secret disease, resembling hemorrhoids, the overthrowing of the statue of Dagon, and the sending of a number of rats into their country.

And when the Philistines, to appease his anger, had sent back the ark, drawn by two cows, which had calves, and offered to God five golden rats and five golden anuses, the Lord slew seventy elders of Israel and fifty thousand of the people for looking at the ark.

The answer is plain, therefore: Had the Lord wished to punish idolatry, he would have slain all the Philistines who dared to take his ark, and who worshipped Dagon; but he slew instead fifty thousand and seventy men of his own people merely because they looked at an ark at which they ought not to have looked.

So different are the laws, the morals, and the economy of the Jews from anything that we know to-day; so far are the inscrutable ways of God above our own! However, God is not punishing a foreign cult, but a profanation of his own, an indiscreet curiosity, an Edition: We realise that such chastisements belong to God only in the Jewish theocracy. We cannot repeat too often that these times and ways have no relation to our own.

The same Jeremiah, whom the petty king of the Jews, Zedekiah, had put in prison and then pardoned, advises the king, on the part of God, to surrender to the king of Babylon.

Thus God takes the part of an idolatrous king. He gives him possession of the ark, the mere sight of which had cost fifty thousand and seventy Jews their lives, the holy of holies, and the rest of the temple, the building of which had cost a hundred and eight thousand gold talents, a million and seventeen thousand silver talents, and ten thousand gold drachmas, left by David and his officers for the construction of the house of the Lord; which, without counting the funds used by Solomon, amounts to nineteen thousand and sixty-two million francs, or thereabouts, Edition: Never was idolatry so signally rewarded!

I am aware that the figure is exaggerated, and may be due to a copyist; but if you reduce the sum by half, or to a fourth or an eighth, it is still astonishing. One is hardly less surprised at the wealth which Herodotus says he saw in the temple of Ephesus.

God is equally favourable to Kir, or Koresh, or Kosroes, whom we call Cyrus. There is no greater mark of predilection in the whole of Scripture. Melchizedech, who was not a Jew, sacrificed to God. The idolatrous Balaam was a prophet. Scripture shows, therefore, that God not only tolerated other peoples, but took a paternal care of them. And we dare to be intolerant! Hence both under Moses, the judges, and the kings you find constant instances of toleration.

These truths were not made known either in the Decalogue or any part of Leviticus or Deuteronomy. They were dogmas of the Persians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Cretans; but they by no means formed part of the Jewish religion. Moses does not say: Nowhere does he tell them that their immortal souls will be tortured after death or be rewarded.

God, who himself led his people, punished or rewarded them at once for their good or bad actions. Those who ignorantly maintain that Moses taught the immortality of the soul strip the New Testament of one of its greatest advantages over the Old Testament.

It is certain that the law of Moses spoke only of temporal chastisement, down to the fourth generation. However, in spite of the precise formulation of this law and the express declaration of God that he would punish down to the fourth generation, Ezekiel announces the very opposite to the Jews. The book of Ezekiel was nevertheless inserted in the canon of inspired writers.

It is true that the synagogue did not allow any one to read it until he was thirty years old, as St. Jerome tells us; but that was in order that young men might not make evil use of the too candid pictures of vice in chapters xvi.

The book was always received, in spite of the fact that it expressly contradicted Moses. When the immortality of the soul was at length admitted, which probably began about the time of the Babylonian captivity, the Sadducees continued to believe that there were no punishments and rewards after death, and that the power of feeling and thinking perished with us, like the power of walking and digesting.

They denied the existence of angels. They differed from the other Jews much more than Protestants differ from Catholics, yet they remained in the communion of their brethren. Some of their sect even became highpriests. The Pharisees believed in fatalism and metempsychosis. The Essenians thought that the souls of the just went to the Fortunate Islands, and those of the wicked into a kind of Tartarus. They offered no sacrifices, and met in a special synagogue. Thus, when we look closely into Judaism, we are astonished to find the greatest toleration in the midst of the most barbaric horrors.

It is a contradiction, we must admit; nearly all nations have been ruled by contradictions. Happy the contradiction that brings gentler ways into a people with bloody laws. Let us now see whether Jesus Christ set up sanguinary laws, enjoined intolerance, ordered the building of dungeons of the inquisition, or instituted bodies of executioners. There are, if I am not mistaken, few passages in the gospels from which the persecuting spirit might deduce that intolerance and constraint are lawful. One is the parable in which the kingdom of heaven is compared to a king who invites his friends to the wedding-feast of his son Matthew xxii.

The king says to them, by means of his servants: Come unto the marriage. The king sends his army against the murderers, and destroys their town. He then sends out on the high road to bring in to the feast all who can be found.

One of these sits at table without a wedding dress, and is put in irons and cast into outer darkness. It is clear that, as this allegory concerns only the kingdom of heaven, it certainly does not give a man the right to strangle or put in jail a neighbour who comes to sup with him not wearing a festive garment.

I do not remember reading anywhere in history of a prince who had a courtier arrested on that ground. It is hardly more probable that, if an emperor sent his pages to tell the princes of his empire that he had killed his fatlings and invited them to supper, the princes would kill the pages.

The other parable Luke xiv. When he is ready to sit at table, he sends his servant to inform them. One pleads that he has bought an estate, and must go to visit it; as one does not usually go to see an estate during the night, the excuse does not hold. Another says that he has bought five pairs of oxen, and must try them; his excuse is as weak as the preceding—one does not try oxen during the night.

A third replies that he has just married; and that, assuredly, is a good excuse. Then the holder of the banquet angrily summons the blind and the lame to the feast, and, seeing that there are still empty places, says to his valet: It is true that this parable is not expressly said to be a figure of the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, compulsory guests of this sort would not make the dinner very agreeable. If you want to take things literally, will you say Edition: Voltaire was nonetheless very concerned about maintaining traditional genres of writing as well.

Recent scholarship has considered his work on epic poetry, occasional verse, and dramatic tragedy as evidence of his interest in both classical influence and modern innovation. As John Iverson suggests in his study of Voltaire's poem on the battle of Fontenoy, Voltaire considered his status as a man of letters and the role of poetry in the public sphere to be important, and he labored to uphold both.

At the same time, as Bettina Knapp discusses in her work on Voltaire's theater, he could not ignore the non-traditional works of Shakespeare. Knapp argues that Voltaire's appreciation for both old and new marks him as a transitional figure between neoclassicism and Romanticism, though it also echoes his admiration for both the elegance of elite society and the virtue of progress.

La ligue; ou, Henry le Grand [or, Henriade: An Epic Poem ] poetry ; also published as La henriade, Letters Concerning the English Nation prose ; also published as Lettres philosophiques, Brumfitt observes that while Voltaire was skilled at flattery, his overall view of these women appears to be dim, though he cautions against seeing Voltaire's treatment of mistresses as representative of his views about women in general.

As Jean Sareil has vividly demonstrated, 1 Voltaire was a master of the art of the compliment. His flattery, it is true, had little success when It is commonly said that Candide is a loosely constructed, episodic work. To be sure, Voltaire was much given to composing the brief article, and there are innumerable examples in his Dictionnaire Pearson argues that the conte form offers Voltaire a great measure of philosophical and rhetorical freedom, and demonstrates Voltaire's writing to be a forerunner of modernity.

Williams suggests that Voltaire's revisions attempted to make the essay more appealing to French readership, but also had the effect of blunting his arguments. The Ambiguities of Abuse. University of Exeter Press, Doyle also traces Voltaire's political alignments and his use of the veniality debate to attack Richelieu and Montesquieu.

Some Figures of Totality in Voltaire's Contes. Howells suggests that Babylon is the paradigmatic secular city for Voltaire, being the antithesis of a holy city and thus a manifestation of carnivalesque inversion.

Howells cites passages from several contes Voltaire's Letters of Condolence. Carr demonstrates how Voltaire's correspondence reveals the author's facility with recognized social forms of writing, and his efforts to connect himself personally to his correspondent's loss.

Voltaire's means of offering consolation, Carr argues, also reflect and illuminate his positions on optimism and the powers and limitations of philosophy. Cosmopolitan History from Voltaire to Gibbon, pp. Cambridge University Press, O'Brien situates Voltaire in the early Enlightenment debates about the value and accuracy of history, suggesting that Voltaire used literary techniques to revive the status of history as a serious genre. Before his apotheosis as the personification of the Enlightenment, Voltaire was known to French, British and American readers, perhaps The Paradoxes of Voltaire.

Eighteenth-century Europe is often called the Age of Voltaire. What is astonishing is that this expression was already common in Voltaire's lifetime. As a young man, he was hailed by the French literary establishment as the most Iverson maintains that Voltaire found himself unable to strike back without lowering himself to the level of his detractors, but that Voltaire perceived the threat to both poetry and national honor.

Knapp notes that Voltaire was predominantly influenced by the French classical tradition of Corneille and Racine, but was also taken with the very unclassical freedom of Shakespeare. Knapp suggests that Voltaire was conflicted about the form and formality of the drama, leading to works that sometimes manifested his confusion. His works also reveal the antidogmatic and antiestablishment themes of his Englightenment philosophy.

Voltaire and the Theatre of the Eighteenth Century. The Chinaman my brother? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God? In one of his many denunciations of priests of every religious sect, Voltaire describes them as those who "rise from an incestuous bed, manufacture a hundred versions of God, then eat and drink God, then piss and shit God.

Your Majesty will do the human race an eternal service by extirpating this infamous superstition, I do not say among the rabble, who are not worthy of being enlightened and who are apt for every yoke; I say among honest people, among men who think, among those who wish to think.

It is characteristic of fanatics who read the holy scriptures to tell themselves: God killed, so I must kill; Abraham lied, Jacob deceived, Rachel stole: But, wretch, you are neither Rachel, nor Jacob, nor Abraham, nor God; you are just a mad fool, and the popes who forbade the reading of the Bible were extremely wise. Voltaire's opinion of the Christian Bible was mixed. Although influenced by Socinian works such as the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum , Voltaire's skeptical attitude to the Bible separated him from Unitarian theologians like Fausto Sozzini or even Biblical-political writers like John Locke.

The deeply Christian Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote to his father the year of Voltaire's death, saying, "The arch-scoundrel Voltaire has finally kicked the bucket As Christianity advances, disasters befall the [Roman] empire—arts, science, literature, decay—barbarism and all its revolting concomitants are made to seem the consequences of its decisive triumph—and the unwary reader is conducted, with matchless dexterity, to the desired conclusion—the abominable Manicheism of Candide , and, in fact, of all the productions of Voltaire's historic school—viz.

However, Voltaire also acknowledged the self-sacrifice of Christians. Peoples separated from the Roman religion have imitated but imperfectly so generous a charity. The attack, launched at first against clericalism and theocracy, ended in a furious assault upon Holy Scripture, the dogmas of the Church, and even upon the person of Jesus Christ Himself, who was depicted now as a degenerate".

According to Orthodox rabbi Joseph Telushkin , the most significant Enlightenment hostility against Judaism was found in Voltaire; [] thirty of the articles in his Dictionnaire philosophique dealt with Jews and described them in consistently negative ways. Whatever anti-semitism Voltaire may have felt, Gay suggests, derived from negative personal experience. His remarks on the Jews and their "superstitions" were essentially no different from his remarks on Christians.

Telushkin states that Voltaire did not limit his attack to aspects of Judaism that Christianity used as a foundation, repeatedly making it clear that he despised Jews. Some authors link Voltaire's anti-Judaism to his polygenism.

According to Joxe Azurmendi this anti-Judaism has a relative importance in Voltaire's philosophy of history. However, Voltaire's anti-Judaism influences later authors like Ernest Renan. According to the historian Will Durant , Voltaire had initially condemned the persecution of Jews on several occasions including in his work Henriade.

However, subsequently, Voltaire had become strongly anti-Semitic after some regrettable personal financial transactions and quarrels with Jewish financiers. In his Essai sur les moeurs Voltaire had denounced the ancient Hebrews using strong language; a Catholic priest had protested against this censure.

The anti-Semitic passages in Voltaire's Dictionnaire philosophique were criticized by Issac Pinto in Subsequently, Voltaire agreed with the criticism of his anti-Semitic views and stated that he had been "wrong to attribute to a whole nation the vices of some individuals"; [] he also promised to revise the objectionable passages for forthcoming editions of the Dictionnaire philosophique , but failed to do so.

Voltaire's views about Islam remained negative as he considered the Qur'an to be ignorant of the laws of physics. Voltaire continued in his letter, "But that a camel-merchant should stir up insurrection in his village; that in league with some miserable followers he persuades them that he talks with the angel Gabriel; that he boasts of having been carried to heaven, where he received in part this unintelligible book, each page of which makes common sense shudder; that, to pay homage to this book, he delivers his country to iron and flame; that he cuts the throats of fathers and kidnaps daughters; that he gives to the defeated the choice of his religion or death: It must be admitted that he removed almost all of Asia from idolatry" and that "it was difficult for such a simple and wise religion, taught by a man who was constantly victorious, could hardly fail to subjugate a portion of the earth.

Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations French: In this work, Voltaire deals with the history of Europe before Charlemagne to the dawn of the age of Louis XIV, also evoking that of the colonies and the East.

As a historian he devoted several chapters to Islam, [] [] [] Voltaire highlighted the Arabian, Turkish courts, and conducts. The tragedy Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet French: Le fanatisme, ou Mahomet le Prophete was written in by Voltaire. The play is a study of religious fanaticism and self-serving manipulation. The character Muhammad orders the murder of his critics.

Voltaire described Muhammad as an "impostor", a " false prophet", a "fanatic" and a "hypocrite". In his play, Mohammed was "whatever trickery can invent that is most atrocious and whatever fanaticism can accomplish that is most horrifying. Mahomet here is nothing other than Tartuffe with armies at his command. Voltaire continues about Islam, saying:. In a letter recommending the play to Pope Benedict XIV , Voltaire described Muhammad as "the founder of a false and barbarous sect" and "a false prophet.

To whom could I with more propriety inscribe a satire on the cruelty and errors of a false prophet, than to the vicar and representative of a God of truth and mercy? Commenting on the sacred texts of the Hindus, the Vedas , Voltaire observed:. The Veda was the most precious gift for which the West had ever been indebted to the East. He regarded Hindus as "[a] peaceful and innocent people, equally incapable of hurting others or of defending themselves".

Voltaire rejected the biblical Adam and Eve story and was a polygenist who speculated that each race had entirely separate origins. His most famous remark on slavery is found in Candide , where the hero is horrified to learn "at what price we eat sugar in Europe" after coming across a slave in French Guiana who has been mutilated for escaping, who opines that, if all human beings have common origins as the Bible taught, it makes them cousins, concluding that "no one could treat their relatives more horribly".

Elsewhere, he wrote caustically about "whites and Christians [who] proceed to purchase negroes cheaply, in order to sell them dear in America". Voltaire has been accused of supporting the slave trade as per a letter attributed to him, [] [] [] although it has been suggested that this letter is a forgery "since no satisfying source attests to the letter's existence. In his Philosophical Dictionary , Voltaire endorses Montesquieu 's criticism of the slave trade: Zeev Sternhell argues that despite his shortcomings, Voltaire was a forerunner of liberal pluralism in his approach to history and non-European cultures.

This great misunderstanding about Chinese rituals has come about because we have judged their usages by ours, for we carry the prejudices of our contentious spirit to the end of the world. When writing about India, he declares, "It is time for us to give up the shameful habit of slandering all sects and insulting all nations! According to Victor Hugo: Napoleon commented that till he was sixteen he "would have fought for Rousseau against the friends of Voltaire, today it is the opposite The more I read Voltaire the more I love him.

He is a man always reasonable, never a charlatan, never a fanatic. In Russia, Catherine the Great had been reading Voltaire for sixteen years prior to becoming Empress in The content of these letters has been described as being akin to a student writing to a teacher. When Comte de Lally was executed for treason in , Voltaire wrote a page document absolving de Lally. Subsequently, in , the judgment against de Lally was expunged just before Voltaire's death.

The Genevan Protestant minister Pomaret once said to Voltaire, "You seem to attack Christianity, and yet you do the work of a Christian. Under the French Third Republic , anarchists and socialists often invoked Voltaire's writings in their struggles against militarism, nationalism, and the Catholic Church.

Most architects of modern America were adherents of Voltaire's views. Italy had a Renaissance , and Germany had a Reformation , but France had Voltaire; he was for his country both Renaissance and Reformation, and half the Revolution. His spirit moved like a flame over the continent and the century, and stirs a million souls in every generation.

Voltaire's junior contemporary Jean Jacques Rousseau commented on how Voltaire's book Letters on the English played a great role in his intellectual development. Subsequently, when Rousseau sent Voltaire a copy of his book Discourse on Inequality , Voltaire replied, noting his disagreement with the views expressed in the book:. No one has ever employed so much intellect to persuade men to be beasts. However, as it is more than sixty years since I lost that habit, I feel, unfortunately, that it is impossible for me to resume it.

No more about Jean-Jacques' romance if you please. I have read it, to my sorrow, and it would be to his if I had time to say what I think of this silly book. Voltaire speculated that the first half of Julie had been written in a brothel and the second half in a lunatic asylum. Paris recognized Voltaire's hand and judged the patriarch to be bitten by jealousy. In reviewing Rousseau's book Emile after its publication, Voltaire dismissed it as "a hodgepodge of a silly wet nurse in four volumes, with forty pages against Christianity, among the boldest ever known.

In , Rousseau published Lettres de la montagne , containing nine letters on religion and politics. In the fifth letter he wondered why Voltaire had not been able to imbue the Genevan councilors, who frequently met him, "with that spirit of tolerance which he preaches without cease, and of which he sometimes has need".

The letter continued with an imaginary speech delivered by Voltaire, imitating his literary style, in which he accepts authorship for the book Sermon of the Fifty —a book whose authorship Voltaire had repeatedly denied because it contained many heresies.

In , when a priest sent Rousseau a pamphlet denouncing Voltaire, Rousseau responded with a defense of Voltaire:. He has said and done so many good things that we should draw the curtain over his irregularities.

This was met by a sharp retort from Rousseau:. How dare you mock the honors rendered to Voltaire in the temple of which he is the god, and by the priests who for fifty years have been living off his masterpieces? On 2 July , Rousseau died one month after Voltaire's death. Louis XVI , while incarcerated in the Temple , had remarked that Rousseau and Voltaire had "destroyed France", by which he meant his dynasty. Voltaire perceived the French bourgeoisie to be too small and ineffective, the aristocracy to be parasitic and corrupt, the commoners as ignorant and superstitious, and the Church as a static and oppressive force useful only on occasion as a counterbalance to the rapacity of kings, although all too often, even more rapacious itself.

Voltaire distrusted democracy, which he saw as propagating the idiocy of the masses. But his disappointments and disillusions with Frederick the Great changed his philosophy somewhat, and soon gave birth to one of his most enduring works, his novella Candide, ou l'Optimisme Candide, or Optimism, , which ends with a new conclusion: Candide was also burned and Voltaire jokingly claimed the actual author was a certain 'Demad' in a letter, where he reaffirmed the main polemical stances of the text.

He particularly had admiration for the ethics and government as exemplified by the Chinese philosopher Confucius. Voltaire is also known for many memorable aphorisms, such as "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer" "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him" , contained in a verse epistle from , addressed to the anonymous author of a controversial work on The Three Impostors.

But far from being the cynical remark it is often taken for, it was meant as a retort to atheistic opponents such as d'Holbach , Grimm , and others. The Scottish Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle argued that "Voltaire read history, not with the eye of devout seer or even critic, but through a pair of mere anti-catholic spectacles. The town of Ferney, where Voltaire lived out the last 20 years of his life, was officially named Ferney-Voltaire in honour of its most famous resident in In the Zurich of , the theatre and performance group who would become the early avant-garde movement Dada named their theater The Cabaret Voltaire.

A lateth-century industrial music group then named themselves after the theater. Astronomers have bestowed his name to the Voltaire crater on Deimos and the asteroid Voltaire. Voltaire was also known to have been an advocate for coffee, as he was reported to have drunk it 50—72 times per day. It has been suggested that high amounts of caffeine acted as a mental stimulant to his creativity. In the s, the bibliographer and translator Theodore Besterman started to collect, transcribe and publish all of Voltaire's writings.

Voltaire wrote between fifty and sixty plays, including a few unfinished ones. The complex soul of France seemed to have divided itself into these two men, so different and yet so French. Nietzsche speaks of " la gaya scienza , the light feet, wit, fire, grace, strong logic, arrogant intellectuality, the dance of the stars"—surely he was thinking of Voltaire.

Now beside Voltaire put Rousseau: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Voltaire disambiguation. This section needs additional citations for verification.

Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. May Learn how and when to remove this template message. Poetry portal Biography portal. Falconet, dated 15 February Pile assumptions on assumptions; accumulate wars on wars; make interminable disturbances succeed to interminable disturbances; let the universe be inundated by a general spirit of confusion; and it would take a hundred thousand years for the works and the name of Voltaire to be lost.

In truth, of all the intellectual weapons that have been wielded by man, the most terrible was the mockery of Voltaire. Bigots and tyrants, who had never been moved by the wailings and cursing of millions, turned pale at his name. Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. Books and Writers kirjasto. Archived from the original on 17 February Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Profiles in literature series. Explorations of a Romantic Biographer. Robert McNamee et al.


Main Topics

Privacy Policy

[In the essay below, Williams presents his history of Voltaire's Essai sur la poésie épique, from the first English essay through the unauthorized translations and Voltaire's corrections. Williams suggests that Voltaire's revisions attempted to make the essay more appealing to French readership, but also had the effect of blunting his arguments.

Privacy FAQs

Essay on Voltaire's Candide - Voltaire's Opposition to Optimism - Voltaire’s Opposition to Optimism in Candide Philosophy is a means by which humans search for a .

About Our Ads

Voltaire's Candide Essay Words | 6 Pages. Candide On November 21, , Francois-Marie Arouet, otherwise known as Voltaire, was born in Paris. The youngest of five, son to Francois and Marie Arouet, Voltaire grew up in a household that had come to . This collection of essays by Voltaire contains a long essay on the Jean Calas case, several shorter essays on religious topics, and his famous poem on the Lisbon earthquake. Copyright information: The text is in the public domain.

Cookie Info

Essay Voltaire Words | 3 Pages Voltaire The building blocks of the Enlightenment were formed out of a desire for truth, reason, and freedom – virtually contingent upon the last. Essay on Voltaire's Candide - Voltaire's Opposition to Optimism Voltaire’s Opposition to Optimism in Candide Philosophy is a means by which humans search for a .