English II Section I – Mr. Banecker
14 February 2019
Religion Synthesis Essay
Powerful Religious Figures can Corrupt Societies too
In Candide, the main character, Candide, brutally murders men who played a powerful role in the Church, such as the Baron and the Inquisitor, because these men chose not to follow religious ideals. Religious positions, like the Inquisitor’s role, hold more power, which causes hardships in societies because they believe they can justify their actions since they conduct them under the name of God. Powerful religious leaders in The Canterbury Tales, like the Friar and Summoner, ruin the image of the Church, which represents the image of God, in the eyes of the people. They take their power for granted and use it to scam people for their own selfish needs. In the play Tartuffe, Tartuffe also uses religion for selfish reasons, such as his greed for power. Moliére, Chaucer, and Voltaire all argue that powerful religious figures often misuse their authority to corrupt societies through their greed when they should act as an example of virtue.
In the novel Candide, Voltaire uses the contrast between the power in Europe and Eldorado to argue societies reside a happier life if the entire community has equal religious positions. In Europe, Voltaire introduces the Baron, a Jesuit priest, who is very arrogant when it comes to his family’s noble status. When the Candide tells the Baron that he wishes to marry Cunégonde, the Baron shouts, “You would have the audacity to marry my sister who has seventy-two quarterings!”(35). The thought of matrimony between a lower class man and his higher ranking sister angers the Baron. He overlooks the great deeds Candide has done, such as when he rescued Cunégonde from the Inquisitor, simply because of his lower position in society. The Baron’s mindset is that since he is a noble Jesuit priest, he should have a wealthy family. Therefore, if Candide enters his family it will lower his power as a priest. The Baron’s greed for wealth and power does not fit within the ideals of a priest. His views cause the society to believe the social classes should only marry within their rank in order to maintain control. This belief that everyone is not equal corrupts society. Consequently, Voltaire shows contrast with a civilization in Eldorado where everyone is equal. When Candide and Cacambo encounter an old man in Eldorado, the man informs them in his community, “We are all priests” (44). Voltaire has shown Eldorado as a perfect society where there are no conflicts and everyone is religiously equal in status. He claims, since everyone is a priest and does not hold power over each other, their society does not have corruption and everyone is happy. The people of Eldorado do not have to pray to God because they have nothing to ask for. Therefore, they are not greedy and honor what they have. Unlike European societies, which are seen as imperfect and corrupted. In the old woman’s story, she mentions that she is “the daughter of Pope Urban X and the Princess of Palestrina” (23). Voltaire includes this to show how Europe was corrupted because the Pope should not have a daughter and should not live a lavish life. The religious ideals of a Pope are to put others before himself. The metonymy of this shows that the Pope uses his high religious position to fulfill his greed of wealth. He cares more about his own luxuries rather than the proprieties of the Church. The powerful position makes him want more and expand his lavish lifestyle.
This idea of the expansion of a lavish lifestyle is also seen in play Tartuffe, in which Moliere introduces Tartuffe as a religious hypocrite, who is never satisfied with the power he is given. He is a representation of how greed for power corrupts households. Tartuffe pretends to be a religiously ideal and pious man. His pretense leads Orgon into more provision of power. Tartuffe ends up with so much power with his tricks. When Orgon sees Tartuffe’s true character and attempts to kick him out, Tartuffe shouts, “No, I’m the master, and you’re the one to go!” (131). Tartuffe asserts the power Orgon has given him. He misleads Orgon throughout the play to make him feel sympathy for himself. A real pious man would not kick someone out his house, but welcome them in. Since Tartuffe pretends to be more involved with Church than the rest of Orgon’s household, Orgon listens to Tartuffe more often. Orgon strives to be an ideal pious man of God and he believes by He misuses religion to obtain power. When Cléante attempts to explain to Orgon of Tartuffe’s character he says, “They cloak their spite in fair religion’s name” (29). Through Cléante, Moliére critiques that it is wrong to be two-sided. Tartuffe sins in the name of religion and attempts to fit the ideals of a religious man at the same time. Every time he is seen at fault, he puts it on religion and Orgon forgets his sins. He misuses the idea of religion to make Orgone his puppet and get his way through him. He manipulates Orgon and his mother, the leaders of the household, whose views impact the rest of the family.
Along with Voltaire and Moliére, Chaucer argues In The Canterbury Tales that the said to be honorable religious figures scam innocent people in order to fulfill their greed. Chaucer critiques the First Estate the most in the novel. One of the Church members he critiques the most is the Friar. He is a selfish man who takes advantage of innocent people and often likes to lie. Chaucer says that he is an “easy man in penance-giving where he could hope to make a decent living” (9). The Friar is greedy for money, while he is supposed to give himself to God and the Church. He is supposed to be sincere in his work of penance-giving but instead, he cares about the money he will gain. His faulty and inappropriate work in the church corrupts society. His high power and authority allow him to continue these actions and no one is able to prohibit this. Like the Friar, the Summoner also hold a high position in the Church. He is also able to get through crimes due to his power. The Summoner is said to let culprit get their way “just for a quart of wine” (20). He doesn’t give himself to God and overlooks the crimes of convicts for his own selfish needs. The Summoner is supposed to be an example of the ideal and how a man is supposed to ask the criminals, but he misuses his high religious power and serves as a symbol of wealth. His behavior allows more room for crime in society because people know the Summoner will not take action against them for a quart of wine.
The power and authority religious figures have are often misused because of their greed for wealth, power, money, and other selfish desires. Voltaire’s Eldorado shows that when people have the same amount of power in religion, it reduces conflicts and improves the morality of society. In the Canterbury Tales, the Summoner and Friar misuse their power and take advantage of people. When a person is given too much power, it often leads to greed, like Tartuffe. The world offers many temptations, but it is the test of a truly religious and pious person to have the capacity to control and handle them properly. If Church leaders misbehave, it not only tarnishes their reputation but tarnishes the view of the Church and God in the eyes of the people. The solution to overcome these challenges today is to reinforce the foundation of religion and take action to ensure that Church leaders are sanctified in order for their mission to be carried out.