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Word Count: 774
The Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire The Enlightenment and the values it promoted are really nothing less than the infant version of twenty first century America Its emphasis on reason freedom of speech religion and assembly and its desire to secularize government all appear in the Bill of Rights and represent the core beliefs which have been shaping US culture for over two hundred years Voltaire a leader among the French philosophes embodies much of the Enlightenment sentiment in his collection of essay entitled Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire was overwhelmingly concerned with religious and ethical issues His belief that spirituality was a private matter simply didnt correspond with the norms of the day Particularly unreceptive was the church which more times than not was the chief target of Voltaires criticism The church had long wielded great power in Europe and the morals which it claimed to support were often overshadowed by an obsession with ensuring its own theological proclamations were honored Voltaire was quick to exploit this hypocrisy and it inspired him to come up with his own philosophy on ethics and the role of the church Far from being an atheist which he considered a bold and misguided scholar Voltaire believed in an eternal supreme intelligent being 208 and thought religion was a good thing in a civilized society 56 However what he hated was religious fanaticism and it was something he saw all too often He saw religion far from being a beneficial food turning into poison in infected brains 203 He saw men who backed madness with murder and men who killed for love of god 202 And he saw this happening all throughout the church If this was the effect religion would have on society if it would only create an epidemic illness then even atheism would be better for at least atheists wouldnt kill those who thought differently than them For Voltaire a man who championed reason and empiricism fanaticism had
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