Random Quote #57 topic: voltaire-dict, Philosophical Dictionary by Voltaire, 1694-1778


Climate influences religion as regards customs and ceremonies. A
legislator will not have had difficulty in making the Indians bathe in
the Ganges at certain seasons of the moon; it is a great pleasure for
them. He would have been stoned if he had proposed the same bath to the
peoples who dwell on the banks of the Dwina near Archangel. Forbid pig
to an Arab who would have leprosy if he ate of this flesh which is very
bad and disgusting in his country, he will obey you joyfully. Issue the
same veto to a Westphalian and he will be tempted to fight you.

Abstinence from wine is a good religious precept in Arabia where orange
water, lemon water, lime water are necessary to health. Mohammed would
not have forbidden wine in Switzerland perhaps, especially before going
to battle.

There are customs of pure fantasy. Why did the priests of Egypt imagine
circumcision? it is not for health. Cambyses who treated them as they
deserved, they and their bull Apis, Cambyses' courtiers, Cambyses'
soldiers, had not had their prepuces lopped, and were very well. Climate
does nothing to a priest's genitals. One offered one's prepuce to Isis,
probably as one presented everywhere the first fruits of the earth. It
was offering the first fruits of life.

Religions have always rolled on two pivots; observance and creed:
observance depends largely on climate; creed not at all. One could as
easily make a dogma accepted on the equator as the polar circle. It
would later be rejected equally at Batavia and in the Orkneys, while it
would be maintained _unguibus et rostro_ at Salamanca. That depends in
no way on the soil and the atmosphere, but solely on opinion, that
fickle queen of the world.

Certain libations of wine will be precept in a vine-growing country, and
it will not occur to a legislator's mind to institute in Norway sacred
mysteries which cannot be performed without wine.

It will be expressly ordered to burn incense in the parvis of a temple
where beasts are slaughtered in the Deity's honour, and for the priests'
supper. This butcher's shop called "temple" would be a place of
abominable infection if it were not continually purified: and without
the assistance of aromatics, the religion of the ancients would have
caused the plague. Even the interior of the temple was decked with
festoons of flowers in order to make the air sweeter.

No cow will be sacrificed in the burning land of the Indian peninsula;
because this animal which furnishes necessary milk is very rare in an
arid country, its flesh is dry, tough, contains very little nourishment,
and the Brahmins would live very badly. On the contrary, the cow will
become sacred, in view of its rarity and utility.

One will only enter barefoot the temple of Jupiter Ammon where the heat
is excessive: one must be well shod to perform one's devotions in

It is not so with dogma. People have believed in polytheism in all
climates; and it is as easy for a Crimean Tartar as for an inhabitant of
Mecca to recognize a single God, incommunicable, non-begetting,
non-begotten. It is through its dogma still more than through its rites
that a religion is spread from one climate to another. The dogma of the
unity of God soon passed from Medina to the Caucasus; then the climate
cedes to opinion.

The Arabs said to the Turks: "We had ourselves circumcised in Arabia
without really knowing why; it was an old fashion of the priests of
Egypt to offer to Oshireth or Osiris a little part of what they held
most precious. We had adopted this custom three thousand years before we
became Mohammedans. You will be circumcised like us; like us you will be
obliged to sleep with one of your wives every Friday, and to give each
year two and a half per cent of your income to the poor. We drink only
water and sherbet; all intoxicating liquor is forbidden us; in Arabia it
is pernicious. You will embrace this regime although you love wine
passionately, and although it may even be often necessary for you to go
on the banks of the Phasis and Araxes. Lastly, if you want to go to
Heaven, and be well placed there, you will take the road to Mecca."

The inhabitants of the north of the Caucasus submit to these laws, and
embrace throughout the country a religion which was not made for them.

In Egypt the symbolic worship of animals succeeded the dogmas of Thaut.
The gods of the Romans later shared Egypt with the dogs, the cats and
the crocodiles. To the Roman religion succeeded Christianity; it was
entirely driven out by Mohammedanism, which perhaps will cede its place
to a new religion.

In all these vicissitudes climate has counted for nothing: government
has done everything. We are considering here second causes only, without
raising profane eyes to the Providence which directs them. The Christian
religion, born in Syria, having received its principal development in
Alexandria, inhabits to-day the lands where Teutate, Irminsul, Frida,
Odin were worshipped.

There are peoples whose religion has been made by neither climate nor
government. What cause detached the north of Germany, Denmark,
three-quarters of Switzerland, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, from
the Roman communion? Poverty. Indulgences and deliverance from purgatory
were sold too dear to souls whose bodies had at that time very little
money. The prelates, the monks devoured a province's whole revenue.
People took a cheaper religion. At last, after twenty civil wars,
people believed that the Pope's religion was very good for great lords,
and the reformed religion for citizens. Time will show whether the Greek
religion or the Turkish religion will prevail by the AEgean Sea and the


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