The Power Of Reason And Rational Thought: Voltaire's "Candide"

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‘Candide’ is a French satire first published in 1759 by Voltaire, Enlightenment Philosopher. The Age of Enlightenment is the name of a movement that embodies the power of reason and rational thought. Most enlightened thinkers attacked the nobility, the church, and the belief in small fallacies and fears. This paper will further analyze the Voltaire’s use of novels and advance his views on religious double standards. Throughout Voltaire’s life, traditional social institutions and systems of government held power. The most influential of these are undoubtedly the Catholic Church, which is considered sacred and is superior in authority and importance to the state. Voltaire, though a deist, despised the corruption, greed, and hypocrisy of the clergy. Obviously, his aversion to religion extends to the Catholic past. In this novel, Voltaire often criticizes the religious beliefs of his times. His criticism of religion surfaces throughout the entire story.

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Voltaire’s expression his feelings for an organized religion have portrayed in the story. “Ecrasons l’infame,” interpreted, “We must crush the vile thing. ” Until the naturalist theologians quickly followed his path, Voltaire expressed his hatred of culture and religion and chose a universal god of nature. Centuries later, Darwin should have given Voltaire the scientific theory to back up his desire for atheism. Unfortunately, because there was no centrality, and no other theory, the wise men of the 18th century in France were forced to use creationism to explain beauty and organization in the world. As noted, this was not given any problem for Voltaire. His problem was that moral influence kept religious groups apart, often leading to wars with each other. Religious intolerance is one of the issues he addresses in the Candide. The religious figures in this work are mostly negative, except for Anabaptists and Old Lady. His views on various religions are also confirmed in Candide, although the event is only a vague notion that all organized religions fall into the category of ‘evil superstitions. ‘ The results of this work also shed light on Voltaire’s view that religion was both beneficial and harmful to society and the individual.

Throughout the book, Voltaire criticizes us for living in ‘the best of all possible worlds. ‘ In Voltaire, Pangloss portrait a philosopher of optimism in “Candide”. In his opinion, ‘since everything is made for the purpose, everything must be made for the best purpose’. Candide was beaten, his lover was raped, and his teacher was infected with syphilis; Earthquakes, shipwrecks, slavery, exile, and the loss of much wealth, candy began to seriously question his great teacher’s theory. After Pangloss’s death, Candide reunited with him and asked him if he still believed his theory was correct. Like any good philosopher of the time, Pangloss said: ‘I still hold my original opinions, because it would be improper to recant…”. In a way, while satire suited the philosopher Voltaire at the time, but Voltaire’s potential appeal to readers was not universal. If this were obvious, it would be easy for anyone to see the fallacies of any organized religion, especially Christianity. The argument was that everyone believed in a benevolent god who would create the best world. But in the story Voltaire used war, inequality, disease, injustice, natural disasters to prove otherwise. So, to believe, to fight and to die for a good god is, at best, to be neglected, and at worst, to be harmful to society.

In the story, all of the characters are religious leaders, portrayed as negative, deceitful and hypocritical. While Voltaire’s attitude to religious corruption is well known, two other religious figures reveal another aspect of his religious outlook to his readers. The first person that we know is James of the Anabaptist. He helped Candide and Pangloss get healed. His life ended by save an ungrateful and murderous sailor. Voltaire, here, again tries to illustrate how imperfect the world is by asking us why one of the good men in his story died for a worthless cause. As the Pope’s daughter, the old lady went through all of the sadness and pity moment. She lost her love, was captured by pirates, and saw her mother torn to pieces and sold into slavery within days. On board, she was also stripped of her virginity. She said, ‘I won’t tell you how painful it is for a young princess to be on board a pirate ship’. However, considering her experience, she doesn’t feel sorry and pity for herself. She was not selfish and was indeed the savior of Candide and Cunegunde. She also stayed with Cunegunde and was sold into slavery when she could have escaped. All this reflects Voltaire’s criticism of religion

Obviously, Voltaire aimed people to turn a deaf ear to the so-called ‘peaceful’ religious world and instead focus on doing their own lives and duties to the best of their ability. We must do it ourselves. People should not let religious authorities determine their salvation. His call is for everyone to go his own way to god, so that what he sows will reap.

10 October 2020

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