Religious Satire In Voltaire's Candide Essay

961 words - 4 pages

During Voltaire's lifetime, traditional social institutions and government systems held power. Arguably the most influential of those was the Catholic Church, which was considered sacred and above the state in authority and importance. Although Voltaire was a deist, he despised the Church clergy for its corruption, impiousness, and hypocrisy. Having been sexually used by teachers while attending a Jesuit school, he harbored a special hatred towards the Jesuits. Yet his abhorrence of religion extended past Catholicism. Voltaire condemned Protestant clergy in much the same way as Catholic priests. Furthermore, although in theory Voltaire believed in religious equality, he held strongly anti-Semitic views, even calling Jews "abominable" in his Dictionary of Philosophy. Muslim clerics were described in much the same way. Clearly, Voltaire hated all religious institutions and customs. In his most satirical and important work, Candide, he incessantly mocks not only the Catholic Church, but also Protestants, Jews, and Muslims.Voltaire's sharpest criticism was directed at the Catholic Church. His relationship with the Church "was one of uninterrupted hostility" (Candide, "Religion", pg. 13), and in Candide, he attacks all aspects of its social structure and doctrines. When Pangloss explains how he contracted syphilis, he states that Paquette "received this present from a very learned Franciscan monk...who owed it to a marquise...who caught it from a Jesuit" (Candide, Chapter 4, pg. 48). This passage, apart from being a parody of Bible genealogies, illustrates the lack of celibacy of respectable Church members, contrary to their own doctrines. Voltaire shows the promiscuity of the Catholic clergy in several other instances, such as through the Grand Inquisitor who hypocritically has a mistress, Cunegonde. The author also introduces the daughter of a Pope, who fails to help her out of her hardships. In Chapter Ten, Cunegonde's jewels are stolen by "a venerable Franciscan who slept at the same inn with us" (Candide, Chapter 10, pg. 59 **), although Franciscans take a vow of poverty. Voltaire also satirizes the corruption of the Jesuits through Cacambo, who is talking about Paraguay (Candide, Chapter 14, pg. 68): "The government of the Padres...is marvelous. The Padres have everything, the people nothing. It's a masterpiece of reason and justice." The author viewed the Church as "exercis[ing] religious authority but not religion" (Candide, "Religion", pg. 12); in other words, the Church only cares for personal gain or wealth, even at the expense of others. This truth is expressed by Brother Giroflee (Candide, Chapter 24, pg. 102), who sums up the author's point of view: "Jealousy, discord, and rage fill the monastery. [...] With a few bad sermons I bring in some money. [...] But when I return to the monastery at night, I am ready to smash my head against the walls of the dormitory - and all the brothers feel the same." Among the other Church activities...

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