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Answers to frequent questions

Why is Voltaire (who was a deist) the patron of your portal?

I have been asked some time ago: "As far as I know your website is anticlerical, rational and pro-atheistic. Why is Voltaire your patron? 1. I know that Voltaire was a deist so he believed in God. 2. He did not support the lack of belief and he did not have good opinion about atheists although he was tolerant towards different confessions."

First of all, "The Rationalist" cannot be characterized as anticlerical. In fact, "The Rationalist" is a website supporting sceptical and rational points of view and it has also informative role. In the introduction to our portal we highlighted that "The Rationalist" is a portal in which beliefs and cult are critically analysed. It is survey of idolatry of humankind so it should be clear why Voltaire is our patron. He was the first to write a critical history of religion. His best antireligious and antichurch theses are "Philosophical Dictionary" and "History of the Establishment of Christianity". After 11 years of doing an exegesis of the Holy Bible he wrote "The Sermon of Fifty" in which he wrote: "How many crimes were committed in the name of God! (...) My Lord! If you could have descended from Heaven and ordered me to believe in this number of murders, rapes, incest committed on your order and in your name, I would have told you: No, your holiness cannot require from me to accept all those horrible things that insult you. Undoubtedly you want to try me." But I am interested not in what he wrote but how he wrote. He used magnificent, witty irony to condemn religion and show its disadvantages and harmfulness. Rev. Wolinski, a censor, wrote about Voltaire in 1781: "No previous enemy of Christianity was so horrible and poisonous as Voltaire. No man dared to make such attempts on Christianity but the fact is that he did it slyly and witty." By this reason Voltaire is our patron. He patronises us for his effective criticism of religion and superstitions but also for his engagement in his antireligious campaign. M. Pomeau wrote: "Voltaire was antichristian and he had eagerness of the warrior".

Voltaire supported tolerance but he did not have positive approach to religion, churches or sects. He wrote: "Partiality of different opposing sects cause so many crimes. We have to beware of wickedness caused by fanaticism. Try to allow this beast to be free, stop cutting her nail and breaking her fangs, let your mind become silent and you will see the same atrocities which happened in previous ages. The seed of this weed is still here and if you don't tread it, it will proliferate all over the world." But Voltaire criticised not only religious fanaticism but religions and cults in general. He concentrated on Catholicism but he also remarked on Tibetan Buddhism, laughed at Quakers, Jansenism and, while he was in England, he criticised Anglicanism and Presbyterianism. In "Zadig" he showed the nonsense of all religions which are based on theology. Generally speaking Voltaire's attitude toward religions was sceptic as our is.

Nevertheless the division: Voltaire - believer, we - non-believers is misunderstanding. Voltaire's deism was nothing but the conviction about the existence of some superhuman power that had created our world, a kind of intelligent creator. His conviction was free of cult and religious elements, although he said that it was important to glorify God in the simplicity of our hearts i.e. to live good life and make good deeds. His deism, or rather theism, was connected to the beauty of nature. He wrote: "Every thinking and sincere man rejects Christian sects as an absurd. We have high dignity of theism. The only authentic 'holy scripture' is the book of nature that was written and sealed by God." His faith in the Creator was free of theological speculations, he had an agnostic attitude toward God. Furthermore deism was this kind of faith on which modern atheism is based. I have remarked that Voltaire's deism was strictly connected to the Nature but if he knew all we know now about the world, he presumably would be an atheist.

Now we have his alleged negative attitude toward atheists. As a matter of fact his attitude was more than positive. He recognised atheists as people better than the masses. He perceived them as people more intelligent, cleaver, courageous than the rest of society. In fact most of his friends were atheists. He praised Helvetius, d'Alambert was his close friend, he cooperated with the encyclopaedists. He condemned atheism but as presented by libertines and hedonists. He thought that atheism was only a mistake of those outstanding thinkers.

Some people e.g. Reinach think that his faith was superficial and Voltaire was in fact the atheist. His opinion about atheism was not a consequence of his conviction about it as an intellectual mistake but from the fact that he perceived God as some kind of substitute for ordinary people. In this point we agree with Voltaire because we do not want to introduce any atheistic enlightenment but we do want to free intelligent individuals from "religious fetters". Voltaire put it in words: "The point is not to forbid our butlers go to church and attend masses but to free them from the tyranny of cheat.


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Why is Voltaire (who was a deist) the patron of your portal?

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