|Voltaire by Maurice Quentin de La Tour|
He should be considered, by America's standards, a First Amendment kind-of-guy because he supported freedom of religion and expression (although freedom of expression is not a First Amendment right because, technically, it is freedom of speech; but I suppose Voltaire would accept that, just as well).
He despised religious intolerance, specific to the Catholic Church's practices of the mid-1700's, I am assuming. He was also a Deist, in which he believed in a rational observation of God the Creator within nature, as opposed to believing in God through faith alone.
Having said that, I am reading Candide for this month's read-along with Fariba @ Exploring Classics, who has a great summation of the first eight chapters. I am not going to add summaries, but I will answer these great questions from Fariba's blog:
Philosophy and philosophical issues have always made my head spin. Incessant examination about obscure issues becomes too heavy after awhile. But this novella is acceptable because it moves quickly. In fact, if you are not paying attention, you will miss a connection.
As far as the satirical nature of the book, it is ok. Some of it is obvious, and some of it requires knowledge of the times and players of the French Enlightenment, much of which I am not familiar.
Oh, and many of the topics are disturbing, yes; war, earthquakes, hangings, quarterings, rape, disembowelments, whippings, spankings, etc. Yuck.