Positive Atheism's Big List of
Voltaire
Quotations

Voltaire [François Marie Arouet] (1694-1778)
French philosopher and writer whose works epitomize the Age of Enlightenment, often attacking injustice and intolerance

VoltaireLet us therefore reject all superstition in order to become more human; but in speaking against fanaticism, let us not imitate the fanatics: they are sick men in delirium who want to chastise their doctors. Let us assuage their ills, and never embitter them, and let us pour drop by drop into their souls the divine balm of toleration, which they would reject with horror if it were offered to them all at once.
-- Voltaire, Homélies prononcées à Londres, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

Common sense is not so common. (Le sens commun n'est pas si commun.)
-- Voltaire (attributed: source unknown)

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.
-- Voltaire (attributed: source unknown)

Whenever an important event, a revolution, or a calamity turns to the profit of the church, such is always signalised as the Finger of God.
-- Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

Custom, law bent my first years to the religion of the happy Muslims. I see it too clearly: the care taken of our childhood forms our feelings, our habits, our belief. By the Ganges I would have been a slave of the false gods, a Christian in Paris, a Muslim here.
-- Voltaire: Zaïre, in Mahomet, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

As you know, the Inquisition is an admirable and wholly Christian invention to make the pope and the monks more powerful and turn a whole kingdom into hypocrites.
-- Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Of all religions the Christian is without doubt the one which should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men.
-- Voltaire, from Harry Elmer Barnes, An Intellectual and Cultural History of the Western World (1937) p. 766, quoted from Albert J Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom

Christian: A good-natured, simple fellow; a true lamb of the fold, who, in the innocence of his heart, persuades himself that he firmly believes unbelievable things that his priests have told him to believe, especially those he cannot even imagine. Consequently, he is convinced that three x's make fifteen, that God was made man, that he was hanged and rose to life again, that priests cannot lie, and that all who do not believe in priests will be damned without remission.
-- Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary, quoted from Chaz Bufe, The Devil's Dictionaries, "Introduction" (2004; 1992, 1995)

The son of God is the same as the son of man; the son of man is the same as the son of God. God, the father, is the same as Christ, the son; Christ, the son, is the same as God, the father. This language may appear confused to unbelievers, but Christians will readily understand it.
-- Voltaire, quoted from John E Remsberg, The Christ

Before receiving your instruction, I must tell you what happened to me one day. I had just had a closet built at the end of my garden. I heard a mole arguing with a cockchafer; 'Here's a fine structure,' said the mole, 'it must have been a very powerful mole who did this work.' 'You're joking,' said the cockchafer; 'it's a cockchafer full of genius who is the architect of this building.' From that moment I resolved never to argue.
-- Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd and bloody religion that has ever infected the world.
-- Voltaire, quoted from James A Haught in "Honest Minds, Past and Present" Talks for History of Freethought conference Sept. 20-21, 1997, Cincinnati, Ohio sponsored by Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry Group

If we believe absurdities, we shall commit atrocities.
-- Voltaire, quoted from Kevin Courcey, "Religion a Natural When it Comes To Terrorism"

The truths of religion are never so well understood as by those who have lost the power of reasoning.
-- Voltaire, Philosophical Dictionary (1764), quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

The most genuine and efficacious charity is that which greases the paws of the priests; such charity covers a multitude of sins.
-- Voltaire, quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

VoltaireEvery sensible man, every honest man, must hold the Christian sect in horror.
-- Voltaire, quoted from James A Haught in "Honest Minds, Past and Present" at the Talks for History of Freethought conference Sept. 20-21, 1997, Cincinnati, Ohio sponsored by Council for Secular Humanism and Free Inquiry Group

God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.
-- Voltaire (attributed: source unknown)

God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best.
-- Voltaire, Notebooks, vol. 2, "The Piccini Notebooks" (1968 ed.)

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.
-- Voltaire, Épîtres "À l'auteur du livre des trois' Imposteurs" (1769), Letters vol. xcvi (1769), quoted from Encarta Book of Quotations (1999)

A clergyman is one who feels himself called upon to live without working at the expense of the rascals who work to live.
-- Voltaire, quoted from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations

The more he became truly wise, the more he distrusted everything he knew.
-- Voltaire, in his Dictionnaire, describing a theologian

It has taken seas of blood to drown the idol of despotism, but the English do not think they bought their laws too dearly.
-- Voltaire (attributed: source unknown)

Which is more dangerous: fanaticism or atheism? Fanaticism is certainly a thousand times more deadly; for atheism inspires no bloody passion whereas fanaticism does; atheism is opposed to crime and fanaticism causes crimes to be committed.
-- Voltaire (attributed: source unknown)

What! Have you no monks to teach, to dispute, to govern, to intrigue and to burn people who do not agree with them?
-- Voltaire: Candide, in Candide, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

I think the best way to fall on the infamous [l'infâme meant the Church for Voltaire] is to seem to have no wish to attack it; to disentangle a little chaos of antiquity; to try to make these things rather interesting: to make ancient history as agreeable as possible; to show how much we have been misled in all things; to demonstrate how much is modern in all things thought to be ancient, and how ridiculous are many things alleged to be respectable; to let the reader draw his own conclusions.
-- Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

It is reported in the supplement of the council of Nicaea that the fathers, being very perplexed to know which were the cryphal or apocryphal books of the Old and New Testaments, put them all pell-mell on an altar, and the books to be rejected fell to the ground. It is a pity that this eloquent procedure has not survived.
-- Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

If there are atheists, who is to be blamed if not the mercenary tyrants of souls who, in revolting us against their swindles, compel some feeble spirits to deny the God whom these monsters dishonour?
-- Voltaire, Dictionnaire Philosophique, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

My dear sir, nature is very cruel. One would find it hard to imagine how the laws of movement cause such frightful disasters in the best of possible worlds. A hundred thousand ants, our fellows, crushed all at once in our ant-hill, and half of them perishing, no doubt in unspeakable agony, beneath the wreckage from which they cannot be drawn. Families ruined all over Europe, the fortune of a hundred businessmen, your compatriots, swallowed up in the ruins of Lisbon. What a wretched gamble is the game of human life! What will the preachers say, especially if the palace of the Inquisition is still standing? I flatter myself that at least the reverend father inquisitors have been crushed like others. That ought to teach men not to persecute each other, for while a few holy scoundrels burn a few fanatics, the earth swallows up one and all.
-- Voltaire, on the Lisbon earthquake, in a letter written while preparing the poem La Pucelle, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

What concern to me are humanity, benevolence, modesty, temperance, gentleness, wisdom, piety, so long as half an ounce of lead shatters my body, and I die at twenty in torments unspeakable, surrounded by five or six thousand dead and dying while my eyes, opening for the last time, see the town I was born in delivered to fire and sword, and the last sounds that reach my ears are the shrieks of women and children expiring in the ruins -- and the whole for the pretended interest of men that we do not know?
-- Voltaire (attributed: source unknown)

What can I hope when all is right?
-- Voltaire, written in the margin of his copy of Pope's Essay on Man, from Theodore Besterman, Biography, quoted from Jim Herrick, "Écrasez l'Infâme," in Against the Faith

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