Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


The word devout (dévot) signifies devoted (dévoué), and, in the strict sense of the term, can only be applicable to monks, and to females belonging to some religious order and under vows. But as the gospel makes no mention of vows or devotees, the title should not, in fact, be given to any person: the whole world ought to be equally just. A man who calls himself devout is like a plebeian who calls himself a marquis; he arrogates a quality which does not belong to him; he thinks himself a better man than his neighbor. We pardon this folly in women; their weakness and frivolity render them excusable; they pass, poor things, from a lover to a spiritual director with perfect sincerity, but we cannot pardon the knaves who direct them, who abuse their ignorance, and establish the throne of their pride on the credulity of the sex. They form a snug mystical harem, composed of seven or eight elderly beauties subjugated by the weight of inoccupation, and almost all these subjects pay tribute to their new master. No young women without lovers; no elderly devotee without a director. — Oh, how much more shrewd are the Orientals than we! A pasha never says, “We supped last night with the aga of the janissaries, who is my sister’s lover; and with the vicar of the mosque, who is my wife’s director!”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01