FACT CHECK: Did Voltaire Say, ‘God Is A Comedian Playing To An Audience Too Afraid To Laugh’?

Trevor Schakohl | Legal Reporter

An image shared on Facebook claims that French philosopher Voltaire said, “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.”

Verdict: False

There is no evidence that Voltaire authored this saying. It may be a version of a statement written by American author H.L. Mencken.

Fact Check:

François-Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name “Voltaire,” was one of the most influential figures of the Enlightenment, an intellectual movement that championed human reason. A poet, satirist and philosopher, Voltaire is perhaps best known for his 1759 novella “Candide.”

Though Voltaire was a critic of organized religion, he did not author the quote attributed to him in the Facebook post. The statement appears nowhere in his collected works.

“This quote is very widely attributed to Voltaire, and is certainly in his style, but in fact it is from H.L. Mencken, who has a certain similarity to Voltaire in his expression,” City University of New York theatre historian Marvin Carlson, an expert on Voltaire’s theatrical works, told The Daily Caller in an email.

Indeed, the quote appears to be a version of a statement by Mencken, who wrote in his 1916 work “A Book of Burlesques,” “Creator. A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.”

An influential literary figure in his own right, Mencken was sometimes referred to as “the Voltaire of his time.”

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Trevor Schakohl

Legal Reporter
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