I thought it bore (indirectly admittedly) on the relation between commercialism and religious tolerance. I've been thinking a good bit on the idea that economic and commercial freedom and the prosperity that tends to accompany them have been the driving force behind the rise of political freedom and civil rights. So the quote just kind of struck me. Anyway, back to work.
Though the Episcopal and Presbyterian sects are the two prevailing ones in Great Britain, yet all others are very welcome to come and settle in it, and live very sociably together, though most of their preachers hate one another almost as cordially as a Jansenist damns a Jesuit.
Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts. There the Presbyterian confides in the Anabaptist, and the Anglican depends on the Quaker's word. At the breaking up of this pacific and free assembly, some withdraw to the synagogue, and others to take a glass. This man goes and is baptized in a great tub, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: that man has his son's foreskin cut off, whilst a set of Hebrew words (quite unintelligible to him) are mumbled over his child. Others retire to their churches, and there wait for the inspiration of heaven with their hats on, and all are satisfied.If there were only one religion in England, there would be despotism to fear; if there were but two, they would cut one another's throats; but there are thirty, and they live happily and in peace.
Voltaire, "Letters on the English" c. 1778
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I was just listening to some lectures on the Birth of the Modern Mind in the background while working on a take home exam from one of my Stats classes when I heard this quote.