Vendredi Voltaire – Religion

Voltaire by Houdon

Voltaire by Houdon

The epicureans had no religion at all, advised keeping one’s distance from public affairs, study and cooperation.

Voltaire on Religion

Voltaire on Religion

That sect was a society of friends; their central dogma was friendship. Atticus, Lucretius, Memmius and other men of that spirit were able to live honestly together and that can be observed in all countries; philosophers can live together in the pleasure of like company. I imagine lovers of music could give a performance of a sublime and refined sort; but beware trying such a concert for the vulgar, ignorant, and brutal; they might break your instruments or your skulls.

Voltaire was an aristocrat of the ancien regime; he was sophisticated, witty, and articulate. Occasionally his contempt for the ordinary seeps through. If we can’t forgive him that, at least we should be able to understand a bit of snobbery coming from him – after all, he was Voltaire.

When Voltaire was in exile in England, he met and fell in love with the Quakers. His letters about the English, which got him in considerable trouble when he finally returned to France, said many nice things about The Friends (who he is clearly referencing in his comment about Epicurus). In return, the Quakers remained one of the few groups of humans that did not disillusion him.


  1. Eric Riley says

    “The epicureans had no religion at all, advised keeping one’s distance from public affairs, study and cooperation.”

    Since reading Lucretius, I have gained an appreciation for Epicurean philosophy. I do wish I could, keep my “distance from public affairs”, especially on FaceBook… The comparison with the Society of Friends is interesting and one I should explore a little more. (An interesting tidbit found in the past few minutes – there are non-theist Friends…)

  2. says

    Eric Riley@#1:
    I’ve done several postings in my “sunday sermon” category that are specifically amplifying bits of epicurean philosophy.

    If you’re a fan of Lucretius, you might want to check out a book entitled “The Swerve” by Stephen Greenblatt. I think he somewhat overstates his case, but if you read it as a literary mystery, it’s fun!