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 Impious

WHO are the impious? those who give a white beard, feet and hands to the Being of beings, to the great Demiourgos, to the eternal intelligence by which nature is governed. But they are only excusably impious, poor impious people against whom one must not grow wroth.

If even they paint the great incomprehensible Being born on a cloud which can bear nothing; if they are foolish enough to put God in a mist, in the rain, or on a mountain, and to surround him with little chubby, flushed faces accompanied by two wings; I laugh and I pardon them with all my heart.

The impious persons who attribute to the Being of beings preposterous predictions and injustices would anger me if this great Being had not given me a reason which quells my wrath. The silly fanatic repeats to me, after others, that it is not for us to judge what is reasonable and just in the great Being, that His reason is not like our reason, that His justice is not like our justice. Eh! how, you mad demoniac, do you want me to judge justice and reason otherwise than by the notions I have of them? do you want me to walk otherwise than with my feet, and to speak otherwise than with my mouth?

The impious man who supposes the great Being jealous, arrogant, malignant, vindictive, is more dangerous. I would not want to sleep under the same roof as this man.

But how would you treat the impious man who says to you: "See only through my eyes, do not think; I announce to you a tyrannical God who has made me to be your tyrant; I am his well-beloved; during all eternity he will torture millions of his creatures whom he detests in order to gladden me; I shall be your master in this world, and I shall laugh at your torments in the other? "

Do you not feel an itching to thrash this cruel, impious fellow? If you are born gentle, will you not run with all your might to the west when this barbarian utters his atrocious reveries in the east?

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