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Françoise-Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778)

The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 20, Number 1.


  • Born in Paris. Educated by Jesuits.


  • Philosopher, satirist, dramatist, novelist, historian, essayist, poet, social reformer, and the most influential champion of the Enlightenment.

Some Notable Works:

  • The Philosophical Dictionary, Candide, Lettres Philosophique, Essai Sur Les Moeurs, La Henriade

Religious Beliefs:

  • Although some scholars have argued that Voltaire was an atheist, most believe that he could best be described as a deist who believed in an impersonal, possibly amoral, God. He did not believe in an afterlife, miracles, or revelation. He opposed superstition, dogma, and priestcraft.

Intellectual Passions:

  • Voltaire promoted empiricism, rationalism, social reform, and freedom of thought. He waged war against Christianity and injustice. But he did not openly write against Christianity until the 1760s. Once Voltaire brought his intellectual arsenal to bear on Christianity, the Church experienced a cutting, barbed, and bloody verbal assault of unprecedented power and popularity. His first anti-Christian pamphlet The Sermon of the Fifty (1762), concluded that the true God "surely cannot have been born of a girl, nor died on the gibbet, nor be eaten in a piece of dough."


  • "Ecrasez l'infame!"- "Crush the Infamous Thing!" L'infame was Christianity.

Fitting Epitaths:

  • The nineteenth-century historian Thomas Macauley said of Voltaire, "Bigots and tyrants, who had never been moved by the wailing and cursing of millions, turned pale at his name." Even at two centuries removed, the Nazis recognized Voltaire as a natural enemy: during their occupation of Paris, the Nazis singled out the statue of Voltaire for destruction.

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This page was last updated 02/13/2004

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