Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) had some very strong opinions and grievances and he was not afraid to make them known. To begin with, he was very disapproving of the way his own country was functioning during his own time. He felt that France was clinging too strongly to outdated ideas and customs. He believed that France had great potential to bring about the forward-thinking ideas of the Enlightenment, but that those in power were stifling this growth in the name of tradition and maintaining out-dated power structures.

Voltaire also disliked formalized religion. A deist himself, Voltaire railed against the abuses of the Catholic Church. He felt that it was too powerful and influential over the lives of ordinary people. He was a huge supporter of religious liberty and believed that more religious diversity led to better harmony in any nation. This put him at odds with the French system which heavily supported Catholicism at the expense of all other denominations. More generally, Voltaire disliked religious fanaticism of any kind which he viewed as a tool of oppression for both the adherents of the religion as well as those who might wish to practice other faiths.

Voltaire also had a deep distrust for democracy. He saw it as a system in which the uneducated and brutish masses wielded too much power. Instead, he favored a system of government in which a strong and knowledgeable monarch ruled with the aid of wisened philosophers (like himself).

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

François-Marie Arouet (1694 – 1778), better known by his pen name Voltaire, was considered a leading figure of the European Enlightenment. Much of his writing was satirical, and there were many elements of his society that he criticized.

First, he was an atheist, and highly critical of Christianity, and especially of the Roman Catholic Church, which was enshrined as a state church in France, and was very wealthy and powerful. As well as objecting to the Church as an institution, Voltaire considered many of the stories of the Bible either absurd or immoral. In the wake of the vast loss of life in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, he argued that the universe did not appear rational or just; this led to his condemnation of optimism and the belief in providence.

Voltaire also disliked the French monarchy and thought the English mixed government far superior. He was an unrelenting critic of the Ancien Régime, and the vices of the French aristocracy. He was also a strong critic of censorship and advocate of freedom of speech.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial