Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


The theist is a man firmly persuaded of the existence of a Supreme Being equally good and powerful, who has formed all extended, vegetating, sentient, and reflecting existences; who perpetuates their species, who punishes crimes without cruelty, and rewards virtuous actions with kindness.

The theist does not know how God punishes, how He rewards, how He pardons; for he is not presumptuous enough to flatter himself that he understands how God acts; but he knows that God does act, and that He is just. The difficulties opposed to a providence do not stagger him in his faith, because they are only great difficulties, not proofs; he submits himself to that providence, although he only perceives some of its effects and some appearances; and judging of the things he does not see from those he does see, he thinks that this providence pervades all places and all ages.

United in this principle with the rest of the universe, he does not join any of the sects, who all contradict themselves; his religion is the most ancient and the most extended; for the simple adoration of a God has preceded all the systems in the world. He speaks a language which all nations understand, while they are unable to understand each other’s. He has brethren from Pekin to Cayenne, and he reckons all the wise his brothers. He believes that religion consists neither in the opinions of incomprehensible metaphysics, nor in vain decorations, but in adoration and justice. To do good — that is his worship; to submit oneself to God — that is his doctrine. The Mahometan cries out to him: “Take care of yourself, if you do not make the pilgrimage to Mecca.” “Woe be to thee,” says a Franciscan, “if thou dost not make a journey to our Lady of Loretto.” He laughs at Loretto and Mecca; but he succors the indigent and defends the oppressed.

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