Essay On Voltaire's Treatise On Toleration

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Prioritization of Social Order (Prompt B)
In Voltaire’s book Treatise on Toleration, it is evident that religion has been a cause of demise and strife for several generations. Beginning in the days of Moses and apparent through the case of Jean Calas, the desire for truth and greed for power has been pursued by nearly every religious sect, but in particular Christianity. While freedom of religion was a civil liberty extended by the Roman empire, the bigotry of religious zealots made it imperative to impose limitations. I argue that Voltaire limits religious tolerance to convictions that can evoke harmony because of his high regard of social order. I will prove this through analyzing Voltaire’s response to the injustice of the Calas family,
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“I am concerned here only with the interests of nations and respecting theology, as I ought, I consider in this essay only the physical and moral well-being of society” (Voltaire 28). Focusing on the phrase “respecting theology”, it is essential to differentiate between “adhering to” and “respecting” theology. Voltaire is merely focused on respecting theology, because it permits the freedom of religion without promoting intolerance and violence by requiring people to adhere to one particular religion. He argues that toleration is the means of increasing well-being in society and minimizing violence because, “toleration has never provoked civil war, whereas intolerance has covered the earth in carnage. Let people now choose between these two rivals: between the mother who wants her son to be slain, and the mother who is willing to surrender him on condition that he survives” (Voltaire 27). This Biblical reference is targeted to convince the religious, who only accept the Bible as truth, to swallow their pride and give up what they know is theirs or “correct theology”. This passage also accentuates that religion not only affects society in general, but it has a direct impact on individual family units. Ultimately, this behavior will, “let us limit ourselves here to the wars and horrors that resulted from disputes” (Voltaire

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