20 of Voltaire’s Best Can’t-Even Quotes

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Happy 321st birthday to Voltaire, the French philosopher and Candide author who skewered religion, the aristocracy, and society in his greatest letters and other writings. Voltaire’s satirical observations and call to “écrasez l’infâme” (“crush the infamous”) are captured in his best quotes. He was the original “ain’t nobody got time for that” — and although he “can’t even” when it came to ignorance, tyrannical power, and our puny opinions, he was never speechless.

“The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.”

“Common sense is not so common.”

“One always speaks badly when one has nothing to say.”

“What is history? The lie that everyone agrees on.”

“Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.”

“The ancient Romans built their greatest masterpieces of architecture for wild beasts to fight in.”

“All styles are good except the boring kind.”

“Clever tyrants are never punished.”

“We all look for happiness, but without knowing where to find it: like drunkards who look for their house, knowing dimly that they have one.”

“Prejudices are what fools use for reason.”

“Opinions have caused more ills than the plague or earthquakes on this little globe of ours.”

“Men will always be mad, and those who think they can cure them are the maddest of all.”

“Everything’s fine today, that is our illusion.”

“Ours is assuredly the most ridiculous, the most absurd and the most bloody religion which has ever infected this world.”

“I always made one prayer to God, a very short one. Here it is: “O Lord, make our enemies quite ridiculous!” God granted it.”

“Indeed, history is nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.”

“A witty saying proves nothing.”

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”

“The public is a ferocious beast: one must chain it up or flee from it.”

“Divorce is probably of nearly the same date as marriage. I believe, however, that marriage is some weeks the more ancient.”