What were Voltaire's beliefs about religion?

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Voltaire is one of the most famous Enlightenment thinkers. During this time, traditional, religiously-guided culture was met head-on with the newfound passion for scientific thought. Through his writings, Voltaire attacked the Catholic Church and other forms of organized religion. In this time, it was still quite difficult to separate oneself...

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Voltaire is one of the most famous Enlightenment thinkers. During this time, traditional, religiously-guided culture was met head-on with the newfound passion for scientific thought. Through his writings, Voltaire attacked the Catholic Church and other forms of organized religion. In this time, it was still quite difficult to separate oneself entirely from Christianity, and to proclaim oneself a nonbeliever was dangerous. Voltaire's personal religious identity was most likely deism—the belief that there is some sort of supernatural force of creation in our universe, but that it is quite incomprehensible to humans and that no organized religion accurately addresses this force.

Voltaire thought religion was directly tied to the human condition. He believed that it is possible for humans to be good without religion, and that people should seek to understand themselves (and the world) rather than accept what the Church says it is and must be. He was a scholar of the Bible and wrote a number of commentaries and criticisms on Bible passages and Church teaching. In being so critical of organized religion, would you believe that Voltaire was one of the most outspoken champions of religious freedom during his time? It's true! Voltaire believed that as long as an organized religion does not cause harm, people should be free to practice. It is safe to say that he probably emphasized the personal pursuit of skepticism and empiricism over practicing religion, but that he would nonetheless defend a person's right to religious freedom.

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