IV. CASTING OUT THE RESIDUE OF TRUTH AND JUSTICE.
Two stages in this operation. — Voltaire, Montesquieu, the deists and the reformers represent the first one. — What they destroy and what they respect.
In this great undertaking there are two stages. Owing to common sense or timidity many stop half-way. Motivated by passion or logic others go to the end. — A first campaign results in carrying the enemy’s out-works and his frontier fortresses, the philosophical army being led by Voltaire. To combat hereditary prejudice, other prejudices are opposed to it whose empire is as extensive and whose authority is not less recognized. Montesquieu looks at France through the eyes of a Persian, and Voltaire, on his return from England, describes the English, an unknown species. Confronting dogma and the prevailing system of worship, accounts are given, either with open or with disguised irony, of the various Christian sects, the Anglicans, the Quakers, the Presbyterians, the Socinians, those of ancient or of remote people, the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Muslims, and Guebers, of the worshippers of Brahma, of the Chinese and of pure idolaters. In relation to established laws and customs, expositions are made, with evident intentions, of other constitutions and other social habits, of despotism, of limited monarchy, of a republic, here the church subject to the state, there the church free of the state, in this country castes, in another polygamy, and, from country to country, from century to century, the diversity, contradiction and antagonism of fundamental customs which, each on its own ground, are all equally consecrated by tradition, all legitimately forming the system of public rights. From now on the charm is broken. Ancient institutions lose their divine prestige; they are simply human works, the fruits of the place and of the moment, and born out of convenience and a covenant. Skepticism enters through all the breaches. With regard to Christianity it at once enters into open hostility, into a bitter and prolonged polemical warfare; for, under the title of a state religion this occupies the ground, censuring free thought, burning writings, exiling, imprisoning or disturbing authors, and everywhere acting as a natural and official adversary. Moreover, by virtue of being an ascetic religion, it condemns not