Voltaire’s Thoughts on Wealth and Religion in Europe

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Candide was written by Francois – Marie Arouet, formally known as Voltaire. This book was originally Published in January 1759. Many new versions of Candide have been published since. A newer version was published in 1998 by the Electronic Scholarly Publishing Project. Many teachers believe that Candide is a great book for students to read, especially while learning about the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment. Candide helps the students understand the events that occurred during the Enlightenment, through a farce. Having an example of the ways that the Enlightenment affected people, gives you a much better understanding of its influence. Candide is very helpful to the study of the enlightenment because Voltaire helps introduce the thoughts of many philosophes to the eyes of it’s readers. Candide is an important book for students to read in their course of studies because it uses the ideas of the enlightenment and shows how it can is beneficial or harmful to people’s lives.

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Voltaire wrote the book Candide as a way to express his own thoughts on wealth and religion in Europe. When Voltaire was writing Candide, he used comedy to engage his readers, and reality to coerce them into obtaining a different view on the ways of the Enlightenment. In his work, Voltaire had the intent to inform the people of Europe of the absurdity of the transformation occurring. Candide emanated the thoughts of Voltaire, such as views on religion. Certain events in Voltaire’s life obtained a large impact in his writing. In his life, Voltaire was a Deist, generating him to believe that God exists and created the world, but has no impact on the world post-creation. This causes Voltaire to condemn the religious beliefs of people Candide encounters throughout his journey. Voltaire expressed his beliefs on religion and the effects of Wealth in Candide by creating El Dorado, which is “an imaginary place of great wealth and opportunity”¹. With the knowledge of Voltaire’s religion, it becomes easier to comprehend his attitude towards the philosophical perspectives discussed throughout Candide’s journey.
In the book, the main character Candide faces the effects of wealth, and the impact religion has on Europe. Voltaire has Candide face the effects of wealth as a way to show the importance and value of wealth while not taking advantage of it or completely disregarding it . This theme is developed when Candide visits El Dorado.

When Cacambo and Candide arrive in El Dorado they are very astounded by the children’s etiquette. “ ‘Where are we?” cried Candide. “The King’s children in this country must have an excellent education, since they are taught to show such a contempt for gold and precious stones.’ “². With the children’s reaction towards the gold and precious stones, it showed Candide how precious materials were not seen to be the most necessary objects to possess. Not only did the etiquette of the children leave Candide and Cacambo surprised, but how even-tempered the adults were. When Candide and Cacambo were brought to a dinner and attempted to leave gold as a way to express gratitude towards the Landlords, their gold was quickly dismissed with a laugh, and were told, “I plainly perceive you are strangers, and such we are not accustomed to charge; pardon us, therefore, for laughing” ³. This experience, left Candide and Cacambo realizing the differentiation between countries and knowing “ I often perceived that things went very ill in Westphalia.” ?. This theme is also developed In Candide when a letter is received from Cunegonde notifying Candide of her illness. “The sick lady then put a plump hand out of the bed and Candide first bathed it with tears, then filled it with diamonds, leaving a purse of gold upon the easy chair.” ?. During this moment, Candide is aware of Cunegonde’s illness and tends to her, while also leaving precious materials for her believing that it is something that is necessary for her to have. This develops the theme of the value of wealth, by showing that to Candide and Cunegonde it is something that needs to always be around, unlike to the landlords and King’s children where it is not collected and not seen as a necessity.

Throughout Candide, Voltaire expressed his religious perspectives by created El Dorado an imaginary place for opportunity. When Candide enters El Dorado he laboriously questions their religious beliefs. “Candide, who had always had a taste for metaphysics, asked whether the people of that country had any religion. The old man reddened a little at this question. “Can you doubt it?” said he; “do you take us for wretches lost to all sense of gratitude?” ?. In El Dorado Candide discovered that to the people, it was unheard of to not have a religion, and it was a necessity to their lives. To Candide, the people of El Dorado believe in God and believe that God controls everything. Voltaire seen God as someone that created the world and has no other say, causing every decision to be made by a person, not because of God.

“He concerns himself so much,” replied Martin, “in the affairs of this world that it is very probable he may be in me as well as everywhere else; but I must confess, when I cast my eye on this globe, or rather globule, I cannot help thinking that God has abandoned it” ?.

To Candide, Martin’s thoughts are correct. Voltaire portrayed these thoughts in Candide to express his view on religion. Martin expresses Voltaire’s thoughts by being a Deist, causing him to believe God has no effect on the world anymore.

While reading Candide, many students will have conflicting feelings about the text. Having a background about Voltaire and the Enlightenment is very important to understanding the book. Throughout Candide many comical events would not be understood if the reader was not aware of Voltaire’s point of view. In the beginning of the book, it moves at a slower pace causing the reader to lack interest in continuing. As the book progresses, the reader begins to develop an understanding for the characters and the order of events. With this understanding, the comical points stand out more. When Martin and Candide are discussing who is pitied in society, a comical point is made. “All that I pretend to know of the matter is that there are millions of men on the earth, whose conditions are a hundred times more pitiable than those of King Charles Edward, the Emperor Ivan, or Sultan Achmet.” ?. Through this discussion, Voltaire expresses his view on the pettiness occurring with leaders. Martin and Candide’s talk helps the readers understand more Voltaire’s point of view on the leaders that obtain political power. The comedy that Voltaire includes is a main way for the readers to grasp his thought process through a real conversation. After reading Candide, it is believed that Voltaire expresses his thoughts, achieving his goal for the book.

Some points that Voltaire makes throughout his work leave the reader thinking as the book continues. Thoughts developed by Voltaire in the beginning of the book about cause and effect give the readers a sense that the events that will occur in the text are the effect following a decision or lasting moment. “I conceive there can be no effect without a cause; everything is necessarily concatenated and arranged for the best.” ?. With this thought, every moment is never forgotten, because it is predicted that later on the effect will occur. Voltaire’s development of characters and the lasting effect that each one has on Candide, is captivating to a reader. “As soon as Pangloss had a little refreshed himself, Candide began to repeat his inquiries concerning Miss Cunegund. “She is dead,” replied the other. “Dead!” cried Candide, and immediately fainted away” ¹?. With Candide’s reaction to Cunegundes death it shows how he cares for her and her impact on him. After finishing Candide some readers may find that the beginning of the book was less captivating. Even though in the beginning, Candide is thrown out of Westphalia and begins to embark on his journey, the comedic moments and impactful events on developing Voltaire’s point of view occur later on in the text. To most people, Candide is a book worth while due to the lessons it teaches about the Enlightenment and religion.

As a student, Candide has a great impact on the understanding of the Enlightenment. Voltaire’s writing style of using comedy as a way to portray his message helps students imagine the moment in their heads. Not only does Candide help understand the Enlightenment but it helps develop better reading techniques. As students, Candide makes them think harder to receive a full understanding of the text. To receive a full understanding, students develop better reading techniques helping them with future texts. Most students should read Candide to progress in their learning and move towards better learning techniques. After reading Voltaire’s work, students perception of the events in the Enlightenment may change, or they may obtain a different point of view. Candide can be a very impactful read and helpful to students in ways that will help them develop as readers and writers.

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Voltaire's thoughts on wealth and religion in Europe. (2019, Aug 12). Retrieved October 7, 2022 , from
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