PEOPLE know Voltaire by his pen name, but his baptismal name is Francois Marie Arouet. Abandoned by his biological father, losing his mother when he was only seven and disliking his own brother, Voltaire got adopted by his priest-uncle, a freethinker, who sent him to study with the Jesuits. In school he excelled in literature, acting and socializing.
Living through the turmoil of the French Revolution, he still idolized the infamous French king, Louis XIV, who arrogantly claimed, “I am the State! (L’etat, c’est moi)”
His intelligence and wit endeared him to kings and nobility. Assignment to the diplomatic corps in The Hague did not last long when people gossiped about his romantic affair with the young daughter of a notorious don juan.
Back in Paris, Voltaire showed his talent in writing. Many praised his literary skills, but others pointed out that some of his works were clearly imitations of classic works, like Virgil’s Aeneids and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, even though he had described the English writer as a “drunken savage.”
Despite his Catholic upbringing and Jesuit education, Voltaire was not exactly a model of morality, having had two mistresses. Moreover, he acclaimed that the real goal of people is not heaven but happiness for all through science and arts. Finally, he angered good Catholics when he proposed Deism -- the doctrine that after creating the world God went back to heaven and left the world to man—and started arguing against Christianity and the Catholic Church saying “If God is really all-mighty, then He can create a rock so big and heavy He himself won’t be able to carry.” Here Voltaire chose to forget that God is also all-wise.
At the end of his life, the once famous Voltaire was abandoned by his former friends and royal benefactors, Prussia’s Frederick II and France’s Louis XV. Slowly he then returned to the God of his childhood. When he died in 1778 his nephew priest, the Abbé Mignot, gave him a burial for a son of God who “once was lost, but now is found.”