From the print edition of The New American
“Laws watch over known crimes, religion over secret crimes.”
— François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name, Voltaire
Throughout his long, dissolute life (1694-1778), Voltaire considered himself the implacable enemy of God and religion. For decades, he ended all his letters to his atheist confreres with the blasphemous expression, “Ecrasons nous l’infame” (“Let us crush the wretch!”). The “wretch” to whom he referred with such derision and hatred is Jesus Christ and his church. Voltaire devoted his considerable talents — as a novelist, satirist, philosopher, bon vivant, and salon celebrity — to destroying Christianity and all its pernicious influences (as perceived by Voltaire’s warped mind).
In his later years, this apostle of revolution modified his views of religion. As a wealthy aristocrat living in his country mansion in the village of Ferney, Voltaire realized the pragmatic value of Christianity in protecting himself against the natural criminality of man. In his essay The Sage and the Atheist, Voltaire acknowledged that some citizens are peaceable and quiet by nature or are regulated by honor so that they will not victimize their neighbors. However, he averred, “the poor and needy atheist, sure of impunity, would be a fool if he did not assassinate or steal to get money. Then would all the bonds of society be sundered. All secret crimes would inundate the world, and, like locusts, though at first imperceptible, would overspread the earth.… Faith, then, in a God who rewards good actions, punishes the bad, and forgives lesser faults, is most useful to mankind.”
“To those philosophers who in their writings deny a hell,” he continued, “I will say: ‘Gentlemen, we do not pass our days with Cicero, Atticus, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus.… In a word, gentlemen, all men are not philosophers. We are obliged to hold intercourse and transact business and mix up in life with knaves possessing little or no reflection, with a vast number of persons addicted to brutality, intoxication, and rapine. You may, if you please, preach to them that the soul of man is mortal. As for myself, I shall be sure to thunder in their ears that if they rob me they will inevitably be damned.’”
Voltaire’s newfound religiosity was scorned by his erstwhile philosophe comrades, who (probably correctly) saw in it expedience rather than conviction. Historians Will and Ariel Durant seemed to share this view of the infamous atheist’s “conversion.” “He sent his servants to church regularly, and paid to have their children taught the catechism,” they wrote, while adding, “Much of this piety may have been designed to give his villagers a good example, to encourage them in beliefs that might lessen their crimes and safeguard his property.”
This article appears in the November 20, 2017, issue of The New American. To download the issue and continue reading this story, or to subscribe, click here.
Voltaire died before the bloody apocalypse known as the French Revolution — which he had been so instrumental in fomenting — broke upon his tragic country with such calamitous results. His atheist disciples, however, soon learned that the monster they unleashed did indeed inundate the world with crimes, and devoured the revolutionists as well. Defenseless against the absolute power of the Divine State — wielded with demonic fury by fellow atheists and anti-Christian deists — the revolutionists battled for control and pitilessly slaughtered each other. Robespierre promised that his “Republic of Virtue” would inaugurate the “peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality,” along with “the reign of that eternal justice whose laws are engraved … in the hearts of all men.” We know, of course, that it inaugurated instead the Reign of Terror, with rivers of blood (including, eventually, Robespierre’s) flowing from “Madame Guillotine.”
Juan Donoso Cortes, the great 19th-century Spanish author, political theorist, and diplomat, observed, “There are only two possible forms of control: one internal and the other external; religious control and political control. They are of such a nature that when the religious barometer rises, the barometer of [political] control falls and likewise, when the religious barometer falls, the political barometer, that is political control and tyranny, rises. That is a law of humanity, a law of history.”
American patriot Patrick Henry recognized this “law of history” when he declared, “Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is impossible that a nation of infidels or idolaters should be a nation of free men. It is when a people forget God, that tyrants forge their chains.”
Mandatory “sensitivity training” and indoctrination in political correctness cannot replace religion in inculcating in our young the internal control and virtues necessary for freedom. Nor can passing more laws and throwing more people in prison save us from a rising tide of vice and criminality. If we hope to preserve and restore genuine liberty, we must turn our hearts and minds to God, the author of liberty. And we must oppose and expose the rampant anti-Christian propaganda that is flooding our society for the vicious and toxic poison that it is.