Sunday, February 15, 2015

Voltaire on intolerance

[“The law of persecution then is equally absurd and barbarous; it is the law of tigers: nay, it even still more savage, for tigers destroy only for the sake of food, whereas we have butchered one another on account of a sentence or a paragraph.” A Treatise upon Toleration, translated by Tobias Smollett, Thomas Francklin, et al. 1764.]

Or a cartoon.

NPR reported this morning that Voltaire’s Treatise on Tolerance (1763) is a best-selling book in Paris.

[What Voltaire wrote: “Le droit de l’intolérance est donc absurde et barbare: c’est le droit des tigres, et il est bien horrible, car les tigres ne déchirent que pour manger, et nous nous sommes exterminés pour des paragraphes.” Roughly: The right to intolerance is thus absurd and barbaric: it is the right of tigers, and even worse, because tigers rip and tear in order to eat, and we destroy one another over paragraphs. Voltaire’s text may be easily found online.]

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

NPR failed to mention that Voltaire also lobbied to see Christianity expunged from the world. In making secular saints, our society often ignores the clay of the feet for the golden crown, only to late take notice of the clay eroding. As Tolerance may be found online, so may one find many other of Voltaire's views which have their odd place in the larger tale.

Michael Leddy said...

Voltaire certainly had lots to say about religion in his time. He’s writing here about the practice of killing those who do not share one’s beliefs — pretty apt for our time.