Voltaire hates all forms of cultural religions. Instead, he prefers a common god of nature. Voltaire’s problem with the religion is the moral inferences among various religious organizations. Specifically, the subject of religious intolerance was imperative for Voltaire. As a result, he covers this subject in Candide by portraying characters who represent religions negatively.
In Candide, Voltaire depicts all religions as ‘evil superstitions’, which can be dangerous to society and people. For instance, Voltaire argues that people live in the “best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire 16) by criticizing Leibniz’s ideas. He supports such views by asserting that, “since everything was made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose” (Voltaire 16).
The imperfect world
Candide suffered and experienced most atrocities, including slavery, the rape of his lover, shipwreck, exile, and lost wealth. He started to question the rationale of his teacher’s ideas. In fact, Candide asked Pangloss to confirm if he still believed that his ideas were correct after the supposed death. The philosophical Pangloss maintained that, “I still hold my original opinions, because it would be improper to recant” (Voltaire 106).
From this view, one can observe that Voltaire’s main argument is that this world is not perfect or the best among all possibilities. Voltaire uses different catastrophes, such as diseases, wars, and natural disasters among others to question the benevolent god, who fails to create the best world.
Hence, Voltaire notes that it is ignorance to die and support wars for the sake of a benevolent god because wars are only dangerous to society and individuals.
The use of religious characters
Characters in Candide show Voltaire’s criticism of religion. He uses the Grand Inquisitor, who is a prominent leader at the Catholic Church, to expose hypocrisy of the religion. For instance, the Grand Inquisitor forces a Jew to share his Cunegonde or the sex slave and threatens him with dire religious consequences, persecution. This involves ‘burning alive’ of people, ‘autodafe’ (Voltaire 32).
Still, the friar acquired wealth through an old woman while the former baron, who became a Jesuit priest engaged in homosexual, “While in Turkey, I found myself with a very handsome young officer of the sultan’s palace.…so I bathed with him, not knowing it was crime for a Christian” (Voltaire 105).
Further, Voltaire depicts the monk, Brother Giroflée as a person engaged with a prostitute and with a miserable stance toward life. According to Voltaire, all these are religious figures who are hypocrites.
While Voltaire depicts religions negatively, one must recognize that Anabaptist, Jacques and the old woman present different views about religion. Voltaire shows that Anabaptist died of a worthless cause as he tried to save an unthankful, dangerous sailor.
The old woman experienced all forms of atrocities in the ship, “I won’t tell you how painful it is for a young princess to be on board a pirate ship” (Voltaire 41) and endured all suffering to save Candide and Cunegonde. This shows that his good characters endured unnecessary evil because of religion.
Voltaire depicts that religion is nothing other than a fallacy. He shows the difference between Jesuits and Cannibals, who never left any ‘good meat’ to rot. All religions have danger lurking because they all prove to be dangerous in Candide.
According to Voltaire, one should not concentrate on world religions, but rather focus on leaving his or her life in the best possible way, “Well said, but we must cultivate our garden” (Voltaire 113) and not wait for religious groups to determine their destinies.
Voltaire. Candide. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003. Print.