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Voltaire notes that where Commerce and Toleration predominate, a Multiplicity of Faiths can live together in Peace and Happiness (1764)

In his Philosophical Dictionary Voltaire makes a connection between economic prosperity and religious toleration in England:

Enter into the Royal Exchange of London, a place more respectable than many courts, in which deputies from all nations assemble for the advantage of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian bargain with one another as if they were of the same religion, and bestow the name of infidel on bankrupts only… Was there in London but one religion, despotism might be apprehended; if two only, they would seek to cut each other’s throats; but as there are at least thirty, they live together in peace and happiness.

Although Episcopacy and Presbyterianism predominate in Great Britain, all other opinions are welcome and live tolerably well together, although the various preachers reciprocally detest one another with nearly the same cordiality as a Jansenist damns a Jesuit.

Enter into the Royal Exchange of London, a place more respectable than many courts, in which deputies from all nations assemble for the advantage of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian bargain with one another as if they were of the same religion, and bestow the name of infidel on bankrupts only. There the Presbyterian gives credit to the Anabaptist, and the votary of the establishment accepts the promise of the Quaker. On the separation of these free and pacific assemblies, some visit the synagogue, others repair to the tavern. Here one proceeds to baptize his son in a great tub, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; there another deprives his boy of a small portion of his foreskin, and mutters over the child some Hebrew words which he cannot understand; a third kind hasten to their chapels to wait for the inspiration of the Lord with their hats on; and all are content.

Was there in London but one religion, despotism might be apprehended; if two only, they would seek to cut each other’s throats; but as there are at least thirty, they live together in peace and happiness.

About this Quotation:

One of Voltaire’s purposes behind writing the Philosophical Dictionary (1764) was to provide his readers with a pocket sized volume which could be carried on one’s person at all times, and which could be pulled out when one got into an argument with a political or religious bigot. He wanted to be able to provide a summary of the key ideas which would help one win an argument in these difficult circumstances.

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