Analysis Of Voltaire's Essay On Toleration

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Voltaire and Toleration
In Voltaire’s Essay on Toleration, he discuses the “Calas Affair” one of the most influential controversies during the eighteenth century. Voltaire argues from the point of reason against the religious eccentric masses that condemned an innocent man to torture and death. Voltaire disagreed with the lack of evidence in the trial, the influence of mass religious hysteria, and the obvious wrongful killing of an innocent man. The justice system in Toulouse like much of France was heavily influenced by the aristocracy and after the revocation of The Edict of Nantes, France had taken a step back in the fight for religious tolerance. Voltaire’s need was to identify the wrong doing in the trial and bring religious tolerance
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Voltaire born Francois-Marie Arouet was a French enlightenment writer, who belived in the separation of church and state and equality for all religions. Gay wrote of Volataire, “Voltaire was a propagandist, but he liked to conduct his campaigns with facts- dramatized, simplified, tailored, but still facts” (276). As an enlightenment writer Voltaire believed in reason and science as a guide for courts, society and religion. Voltaire looked for reason behind the masses turning on Calas and his family and why the Catholic church further supported this infactual account of events that would lead to Calas’s death. Voltaire turns to the festival in Toulouse as the main source of fanaticism and persecution of Calas. He stated, “ What contributed most to his fate was the approach of that singular festival which the people of Toulouse hold every year in memory of the massacre of four thousand Hugenots”(6). Voltaire believed from his perspective using reason that the hype around this case was mainly sourced by the coming festival. This festival according to Voltaire would elevate the masses superstitions, hatred and lack of guilt in condemning Calas to death. Voltaires personal repulsion with this case fed his writings against the French courts system and furthered his search for

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