A municipal cultural center here on France's border with Switzerland organized a reading of a 265-year-old play by Voltaire, whose writings helped lay the foundations of modern Europe's commitment to secularism. The play, 'Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet,' uses the founder of Islam to lampoon all forms of religious frenzy and intolerance.
The production quickly stirred up passions that echoed the cartoon uproar. 'This play...constitutes an insult to the entire Muslim community,' said a letter to the mayor of Saint-Genis-Pouilly, signed by Said Akhrouf, a French-born cafe owner of Moroccan descent and three other Islamic activists representing Muslim associations. They demanded the performance be cancelled.
In the play's original era, the Catholic Church also sought to ban it -- I presume Mohammad was just a conveniently foreign stand-in for aspects of local religious authorities (or all religions) that Voltaire wanted to mock.
Why can't the world be filled with 1.5 billion devout followers of Voltaire? We might deduce some of the tenets of this hypothetical Voltairean faith by considering some Voltaire quotes -- bits of the Voltairean scripture, as it were:
"If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."
"If God has made us in his image, we have returned him the favor."
"I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it."
"God is not on the side of the big battalions, but on the side of those who shoot best."
"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."
Alas, such a religion is impossible: too heterodox. We live in the best of all possible worlds.