Voltaire's Philosophical Dictionary
The Philosophical Dictionary
Selected and Translated by H.I. Woolf
New York: Knopf, 1924
Scanned by the Hanover College Department of History in 1995.
Proofread and pages added by Jonathan Perry, March 2001.
THE word "devout" signifies "devoted;" and in the strict sense of the
term this qualification should belong only to monks and nuns who make vows.
But as in the Gospel there is no more mention of vows than of devout persons,
this title does not in fact belong to anyone. Everyone should be equally
righteous. A man who styles himself devout resembles a commoner who styles
himself a marquis; he arrogates to himself a quality he does not possess.
He thinks himself more worthy than his neighbour. One can forgive such
foolishness in women; their frailty and their frivolity render them excusable;
the poor creatures pass from a lover to a director in good faith: but one
cannot pardon the rogues who direct them, who abuse their ignorance, who
establish the throne of their pride on the credulity of the sex. They resolve
themselves into a little mystic seraglio composed of seven or eight aged
beauties, subdued by the weight of their lack of occupation, and almost
always do these persons pay tribute to their new masters. No young woman
without a lover, no aged devout woman without a director. Oh! the Orientals
are wiser than we are! Never does a pasha say: "We supped yesterday with
the Aga of the Janissaries who is my sister's lover, and the vicar of the
mosque who is my wife's director."
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