You can skim most of this article up to p. 55. Voltaire beginshis discussion of atheism with a long list of distinguished peoplefrom the past who have been unjustly accused of atheism. On p.50, why does Voltaire call the Romans wiser than the Greeks? Notehow he calls modern Europeans \"the barbarian peoples whichsucceeded the Roman empire.\" Voltaire cites Vannini as apredecessor of the Enlightenment figures like himself who arguedin favor of deism but who were attacked for atheism.
How doeshe argue on pp. 54 and 55 that a whole society can exist composedof atheists? \"Gentiles\" are non-Jews--in thiscase ancient Greeks and Romans, many of whom he argues were inessence atheists. This was a strong argument since the Frenchof his time particularly admired Classical thought. Which, onp. 56, does he argue is more dangerous: atheism or fanaticism?Do you agree or disagree with him? Why? What is the point of hisreference to the \"massacres of Saint Bartholomew?\"Despite his arguments than one can have a just society composedof atheists, why does he argue on p. 57 that belief in God isdesirable in a monarchy? What is the sole reason he puts forwardthat learned men should not be atheists? Can you see any problemswith this argument? The final sentence in the last full paragraphon p.
57 is a subtle rejection of Christian belief in creationex nihilo (from nothing), considered disproved by 18th-centuryscience, and leading perhaps to belief in an orderly Deistic universebut not to a conventionally God-dominated one. Something is saidto have had a final cause if it has been called into being forsome purpose. What is Voltaire\'s opinion of final causes?In section II, what does Voltaire say are the main causes of atheism?What are your own reactions to his argument here? Atheism is commonin France and most of Western Europe, rare in the U.S. Why doyou suppose so few Americans are atheists?