Rhetorical Analysis Of Voltaire's 'Of Universal Tolerance'

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John Locked firmly believed in the division of civil government and religion because they have separate functions, and should therefore act as independent institutions. Another argument made in A Letter Concerning Toleration is that it is ineffective to gain converts through violence because although it can coerce temporary obedience, it does not truly change one's beliefs. Voltaire explains an idea similar to Locke's in his essay, Of Universal Tolerance. He maintains that no religion is more divine than the rest, and thus no religion has the right to determine what is right and wrong for others. David Brooks's article, Kicking the Secularist Habit, outlines six steps for the modern secularist to realize that religious fervor never declined…show more content…
He exaggerates this point, writing, “there are nine hundred million little ants like us on the earth, but my anthill alone is dear to God; all the others are a source of disgust to him for all eternity” (Voltaire 798). One religious group does not hold the power to condemn another to eternal damnation simply because of differing beliefs and practices. Voltaire's satire puts religion's arrogant demeanor into perspective, and shows readers that it is impossible to assume all power among great variety. It is also ironic for any religion to believe they are superior to God and can take his place as the authority on what is right and wrong. Voltaire draws a comparison to the implementation of a universal language in Italy. He asks, “do you believe that the consul of the Academy...would have been able, in good conscience, to cut the tongues out of all the Venetians and of all the Bergamese who would have persisted in speaking their own dialects?” (Voltaire 798). The point, as Voltaire exaggerates, is that no individual or group is in the position to intervene in other religion's affair, or worse, persecute them, simply because they disagree with their beliefs. Voltaire applies satire again when he asks, “are you certain that our Creator and Father will say to the wise and virtuous Confucius, to the lawmaker Solon, to Pythagoras...to the best of mankind...'Away with you, monsters, go suffer torments that are infinite in intensity and duration” (Voltaire 799). In this example, Voltaire's connection to great thinkers throughout history makes his logic even more profound because all of these men argue enlightened concepts, but on varying topics, so thus, none deserves more praise than the other. It is inconceivable to imagine that God would only allow Christian leaders to partake in his
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