What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other’s folly — that is the first law of nature.
-Voltaire, Tolerance, 1764
“Religion began when the first scoundrel met the first fool.”
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.