Let us read, and let us dance – these two amusements will never do any harm to the world

Dancing in the Streets

Dancing! What next? Running from town to town, exciting the women?

You deceive yourself very grossly, when you think that you have been ruined by books. The empire of Russia is two thousand leagues in extent, and there are not six men who are aware of the points disputed by the Greek and Latin Church. If the monk Luther, John Calvin, and the vicar Zuinglius had been content with writing, Rome would yet subjugate all the states that it has lost; but these people and their adherents ran from town to town, from house to house, exciting the women, and were maintained by princes… Know, that one enthusiastic, factious, ignorant, supple, vehement Capuchin, the emissary of some ambitious monks, preaching, confessing, communicating, and caballing, will much sooner overthrow a province than a hundred authors can enlighten it. It was not the Koran which caused Mahomet to succeed: it was Mahomet who caused the success of the Koran.

No! Rome has not been vanquished by books; it has been so by having caused Europe to revolt at its rapacity; by the public sale of indulgences; for having insulted men, and wishing to govern them like domestic animals; for having abused its power to such an extent that it is astonishing a single village remains to it… Trumpets have never gained battles, nor caused any walls to fall except those of Jericho.

You fear books, as certain small cantons fear violins. Let us read, and let us dance – these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.


by Voltaire (21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778)
from Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary
section: Freedom of the Press
image – the moog

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