Candide

by: Voltaire

Religious Hypocrisy

1

The orator’s wife happened to put her head out of the window at that instant, when, seeing a man who doubted whether the Pope was Antichrist, she emptied on his head a chamber-pot full of—. Good heavens! To what excess does religious zeal transport the female kind.

After Candide escapes to Holland, he wanders the streets seeking food and shelter and encounters an orator. Here, Candide describes a scene during which the orator’s wife makes her opinions known. The comical zeal exhibited by the orator’s wife ridicules her anti-Catholic sentiment, touching on the theme of the hypocrisy of religion and the corruption of most of its leaders. This anecdote reflects a satirical stance on the authority of the church that extended into government and argues for religious tolerance.

2

I had a very good seat; and refreshments of all kinds were offered the ladies between mass and the execution.

Cunégonde tells Candide of her experience attending an auto-da-fé as a guest and part-time mistress of the Grand Inquisitor. This public Inquisition religious ceremony features cruel punishments and executions carried out by civil authorities, with Candide and Pangloss among the victims that day. The serving of refreshments at horrible and gruesome executions equates them with entertainment, a commentary on the hypocrisy of religion and insensitivity of the populace to the sanctity of life.

3

“We do not pray to him at all,” said the reverend sage. “We have nothing to ask of him. He has given us all we want, and we give him thanks continually.”

The 172-year-old retired El Dorado court official explains his society’s religion to Candide and Cacambo. With so much abundance of wealth in the kingdom, people do not petition God, only thank him. The reverend sage goes on to say that clergy do not exist. Instead, all people serve as priests in daily unified thanksgiving. Candide reacts with wonder at the absence of power struggles and inquisitions to enforce doctrinal compliance. This deconstructed view of religion satirizes organized religion while portraying true spirituality.

4

I’m no genealogist; but if what these preachers say is true, we are all second cousins; and you must admit that no one could treat his own relations in a more horrible manner.

The black slave who worked in the sugar factory reflects philosophically on race relations with Candide and Cacambo. His masters chopped off one of his hands and one of his legs, and as such, he complains about his wretched life. He questions his treatment as a contradiction between the truism that all people descend from one father and society’s treatment of blacks differently from whites. His challenge forces others to consider which way they will view others, and how they will act based on their belief. If all share the same parentage, treat others like family.

5

“Very true,” said Martin, “but why should the passengers perish too? God has punished the knave, and the devil has drowned the rest.”

While Martin and Candide cross the Atlantic, they observe a battle that results in a Spanish ship sinking a ship commanded by the Dutch captain who robbed Candide. Candide observes the captain has gotten just punishment, but Martin questions the collateral damage of the deaths of all on board. His comment reflects his pessimistic attitude that innocent people often die for no good reason, yet another critique of religion falling short of logic.