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Voltaire said "if god did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him".

What is the context or meaning of that quotation?

Religion(or existence of god) gives us many advantages?

Or, is he being sarcastic to say that god is just a concept created by human, which does not exist actually?

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  • Voltaire, what did he see? He probably wasn't the first to express this sentiment.
    – Hudjefa
    Mar 8, 2023 at 16:39
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    Voltaire made no mystery of the fact that he thought of religion as a convenient way to control "his peasants", so that they would fear eternal retribution if they "stole his wheat".
    – armand
    Mar 8, 2023 at 23:59
  • You don't need to invent something that "exist" like a god, but if you need a Good god, or a bad devil - you need invent them ofc. Mar 9, 2023 at 0:41

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Voltaire's aphorism first appeared in the Epistle to the Author of "The Three Impostors" (1769), see Voltaire and Religion. The author was an atheist and the "three impostors" were Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. According to Voltaire's contemporaneous letter to his niece:

"This morning I had fun writing an epistle against the book of the three impostors. I have just finished it. I will send it to you. I believe atheism is as pernicious as superstition."

Voltaire repeated the quip in the Speech by Me. Belleguier (1773), along with an explanation that praises himself in the third person:

"The astronomer who whatches the motions of stars, established according to the laws of the most profound mathematics, must adore the Eternal Geometer. The physicist who investigates a grain of wheat or an animal body must recognize the Eternal Craftsman. The moral man who seeks a support point in virtue must admit the existence of a Being as fair as He is supreme. So God is necessary to the world in every way, and we can say together with the author of the Epistle to the scribbler of a vulgar book on the Three Impostors, "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him"."

Apparently, Voltaire felt that the order in nature and the moral law suggest a higher power as their source, the sort of "god of poets and philosophers" in deism. It was a popular position during the age of Enlightenment, which Voltaire himself espoused. His explanation echoes Kant's equally famous quip:

"Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me."

Kant gave a sophisticated philosophical explanation of the inference as the tendency of our reason to posit transcendent entities that "unify experience", see SEP. Although he criticized metaphysical speculations about such entities as "transcendental illusion", his philosophy of practical reason also alludes to a "support point in virtue" and philosophy of judgment endorses "purposiveness of nature".

An anecdote in the same spirit is Lagrange's alleged reply to Laplace's remark that he "did not need this hypothesis" (God) in celestial mechanics:"Ah, but that is a fine hypothesis. It explains so many things."

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Here is the verse that says it:

If the heavens, stripped of his noble imprint,

Could ever cease to attest to his being,

If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.

Let the wise man announce him and kings fear him.

Kings, if you oppress me, if your eminencies disdain

The tears of the innocent that you cause to flow,

My avenger is in the heavens: learn to tremble.

Such, at least, is the fruit of a useful creed.

I don't know exactly but as far as I see this statement Voltaire may have been suggesting that even if God did not exist in a literal sense, the idea of God could still be valuable and necessary for society. Imagine for example , "In your tough times many people just pray and believe in higher power(GOD) which guides them to not lose hope and whatever happens, happens for good

Everyone's views might be different some might agree some might disagree with me..

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