François Marie Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778)

      Voltaire became "notorious" in his own day for his sympathies for Locke and English republicanism, and his hostility towards the fanaticism of the Catholic Church. He is the author of the famous aphorism that "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." This of course suggests that just maybe God was invented by man (rather than the other way around). Voltaire gained the reputation as an atheist, whether or not it was true. (The Russian anarchist Bakunin improved upon Voltaire by remarking that "If God really existed, it would be necessary to abolish him.") For centuries Voltaire's works were on the Index, and members of the Church were subject to excommunication for even reading them. Voltaire helped prepare the ground for the great French Revolution.

      All in all, I'd say the following is worth only a smirk!

It was a weakness of Voltaire's
To forget to say his prayers,
And one which to his shame
He never overcame.
    —Edmund Clerihew Bentley

      Interestingly enough, however, Voltaire is said to have once remarked: "I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it."

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