Voltaire employs satire in his works Candide. Indeed, he takes the opportunity to show his disdain for the societal norms that dominate his times. It should be appreciated that his work comes at a time when Europe has a complex religious structure and an oppressive system. He employs symbolism in El Dorado, the city that has all the best. This paper shall discuss Candide’s religious intolerance. Through the main character, Candide, we witness absolute religious intolerance. Voltaire provides his solution to the religious intolerance in the conclusion when Candide enjoys a conversation with the old man in the city of El Dorado. It is at that time that the audience appreciate the place of a simplistic religion that embraces all and is universal in nature. The paper shall examine various instances that portray absolute religious intolerance and in the same breadth, show various instances that serve to champion the course of an inclusive religion.
In Candide, the Anabaptist who ought to be decried and disrespected in the opinion of mainstream religious beliefs is presented in a sober manner. The lady is helpful to Candide and his group. In fact, the lady is instrumental in nursing the wounds of the injured. This is compared in contrast to the other side of the divine, the leaders. These leaders are condescending, judgemental and have conferred on themselves the powers to punish and curse dissidents. A good illustration of this is showcased in Candide’s interaction with the Protestant Minister. To bring out the intolerance succinctly, Voltaire ensures the interaction occurs just after the Minister has advocated for charity and the beneficial effects of engaging in charity. At that point, the Minister asks Candide of his position on whether the Pope is Anti-Christ. Candide declines to give his comments. However, he cites that he deserves to get food. The Minister is annoyed and disgusted by Candide’s reaction. To him, he expected full submission in the form of an affirmation from Candide. What the minister engages in next shows an act of commission clearly showing intolerance. The Minister descends on Candide with fury and insults. He calls Candide a rogue and wretch who should keep away from the Minister. He also qualifies that Candide deserves no food as a consequence. This implies that religious intolerance has reached points of oppression.
The intolerance has gotten to a point where the charity activities can be suspended on the premise that they ought not to aid the religious misfits. This is further illustrated by the minister’s wife. Out of religious zeal, she dumps human waste on Candide’s head. This contrast in the expectation and the actual occurrence is the climax of religious intolerance. Logically and naturally, it is expected that religious leaders and their spouses would exhibit a degree of tolerance and would show their divergence in opinion in a calm and restrained manner. The Minister in this case illustrates the exact opposite of this assertion. His wife shows her extremism and uncharitable spirit. This case should be read in connect to the hypocritical characterisation of the religious leaders. For instance, the Catholic priest with a daughter despite the assumption and requirement that priests should not marry and procreate, the homosexual church leader and the leader that keeps a mistress. Their actions hidden from the public knowledge, does not haunt their conscience. Instead, they require of their followers to observe the church doctrines to the letter even to the extent of occasioning war against non-believers. Voltaire then deliberately portrays El Dorado as the centre of religious tolerance. He uses the conversation between the old man and Candide to explicate the role and consequence of an inclusive religion. To him religious matters need to be governed by the belief in a universal God that is inclusive in nature.
Hanrahan, J. (2012). Voltaire et l'écriture de l'histoire: un enjeu politique. Oxford Journal.
Hephaestus Books. (2011). Articles on Books Critical of Religion, Including: Candide, the Fountainhead, a Devil's Chaplain, We the Living, the Demon-Haunted World, Theologico-Political Treatise, Religion Explained, Letters from the Earth. New York: Hephaestus Books.
Voltaire. (2009). Candide: Or, Optimism. Candide: The Floating Press.