Voltaire on Religion

“Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.”

-Voltaire

That is such an awesome quote about religion. The only problem is that, as far as I can tell, Voltaire never said it. Neither that phrase nor something substantially similar to it appears in any of Voltaire’s works that I can find.

Voltaire did say something similar in a letter to Frederick II of Prussia in December 1740,

Ne peut-on pas remonter jusqu’à ces anciens scélérats, fondateurs illustres de la superstition et du fanatisme, qui, les premiers, ont pris le couteau sur l’autel pour faire des victimes de ceux qui refusaient d’etre leurs disciples?

May we not return to those scoundrels of old, the illustrious founders of superstition and fanaticism, who first took the knife from the altar to make victims of those who refused to be their disciples?

But it’s quite a leap from that to the almost aphoristic scoundrel and fool quote.

If anyone knows the origin of this quote, either in Voltaire or elsewhere, I’d love to know more.

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One thought on “Voltaire on Religion”

  1. They just used this quote in the HBO miniseries “Catherine the Great in the final episode. She read it from a book just before they burned all the books written by Frenchmen, which they felt threatened monarchy. It was credited to Voltaire in her reading from the book. They didn’t give the books title. I liked the quote and did a search on it and found your article questioning it’s origin.

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