Tuesday, August 25, 2009

so, what do you think...?

It's amusing, sometimes, to see where some will look for support of their own prsuppositions.

Consider this...

Waddya think #2?

...where the discussion is about a quote by Voltaire.

“Of all religions, Christianity is without a doubt the one that should inspire tolerance most, although, up to now, the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men”

...which fits their presupposition that they are good and the rest of the church is bad.

But let's look at some possible context for this quote; namely, some things in the life of Voltaire.

wikipedia Voltaire emphases mine, and apologies for some of the language.

Voltaire's next destination was the Château de Cirey, located on the borders of Champagne and Lorraine. The building was renovated with his money, and here he began a relationship with the Marquise du Châtelet, Gabrielle Émilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil (famous in her own right as Émilie du Châtelet). Cirey was owned by the Marquise's husband, Marquis Florent-Claude du Chatelet, who sometimes visited his wife and her lover at the chateau. The relationship, which lasted for fifteen years, had a significant intellectual element. Voltaire and the Marquise collected over 21,000 books, an enormous number for the time. Together, they studied these books and performed experiments in the "natural sciences" in his laboratory. Voltaire's experiments included an attempt to determine the properties of fire.

Though deeply committed to the Marquise, Voltaire by 1744 felt life at the chateau confining. On a visit to Paris in that year, he found a new love: his niece. At first, his attraction to Marie Louise Mignot was clearly sexual; he wrote her letters (only discovered in 1957) that verged on pornography, such as "My soul kisses yours; my prick, my heart, are in love with you. I kiss your beautiful ass..."[5] Much later, they lived together, perhaps platonically, and remained together until Voltaire's death. Meanwhile, the Marquise also took a lover, the Marquis de Saint-Lambert.

Like many other key figures during the European Enlightenment, Voltaire considered himself a deist. He did not believe that absolute faith, based upon any particular or singular religious text or tradition of revelation, was needed to believe in God. In fact, Voltaire's focus was instead on the idea of a universe based on reason and a respect for nature reflected the contemporary pantheism, increasingly popular throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and which continues in a form of deism today known as "Voltairean Pantheism."

In terms of religious texts, Voltaire's opinion of the Bible has been summarized by a 21st century author[who?] as: 1) an outdated legal and/or moral reference, 2) by and large a metaphor, but one that still taught some good lessons, and 3) a work of Man, not a divine gift. These beliefs did not hinder his religious practice, however, though it did gain him somewhat of a bad reputation in the Catholic Church. It may be noted that Voltaire was indeed seen as somewhat of a nuisance to many believers, and was almost universally known; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote to his father the year of Voltaire's death, saying, "The arch-scoundrel Voltaire has finally kicked the bucket...."

So, when Voltaire wants Christians to be "tolerant", what might he have had in mind that they should have been tolerant of? Of course, at that time, there were persecution going on--the article referenced above makes reference to a few of them, so let's not overlook them. But just as likely, he may have thought that his ideas and lifestyle should have been tolerated, perhaps even accepted.

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