Francois Marie Arouet (1694-1778 A.D.)
By Richard E. Noble
Well, O.K., I'm impressed. My brief enquiry into the life of Voltaire leaves me with a very strong desire to learn more about this man. On the negative side he seems to have been sexually promiscuous, had no marriages but numerous affairs - one with another man's wife, the vivacious and brilliant Madame du Chatelet, and another with the daughter of his own sister, Mme Denis. And, he didn't care for Jews. He said some very nasty things about them as a race, which seems so out of character when compared to all else that he had to say.
This guy was in and out of the Bastille, and in and out of 'exile.'
As a playwright he was an instant monetary success. He thought that Shakespeare was a barbarian. He became world famous and extremely wealthy, yet he was constantly in hot water with the big boys (Kings and such). It seems he was forever on the run. Yet he may be the most beloved man to the French nation in all of their history. He championed the underdog, he housed the poor, he built churches for the Godly though being very, very anti-religious himself, defended his enemies, built factories for the workers and gave them the profits. A writer, a poet, and playwright, a philosopher, a humorist, a historian, a scientist, a novelist, a business man, an encyclopediest, a philanthropist. I can see no way at present of not coming to the conclusion that this was an extremely brilliant and dynamic man. I feel that I must find out more.
Because of his stand against religion, he is often said to have been an Atheist, but like many of our American revolutionary greats, including Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and others, he was a Deist.
Deists have a strange but practical belief. They believe in a Creator, a Prime Mover, a First Cause, an Infinite Something that brought the Universe into matter, motion, and life, but ended all involvement at that point. If you want to know more about God, study the universe and the principles that guide it. Forget about Bibles, Koran, Holy Books, miracles and mystical revelations. The real truth about the nature of God lies in the knowledge, discovery and understanding of his creations. I don't know where the Deists stand with regards to Divine Justice or the creation of Evil, but their cult seems to have been prevalent at the time.
When he died in Paris on a visit when he was in his eighties, the fear of being inundated by a distraught public led his entourage to prop is dead body up in a carriage and smuggle him out of the city. He was what they now call a 'rational humanist' which would seem a compliment to me but is interpreted negatively by some religious cults of today. They claim that a rational humanist is a person who puts reason above the word of God (Bibles, Korans, Revelations), and life here on earth above a Heavenly (or Hellish) eternity. On his grave stone it reads ... Here lies Voltaire.