“It is demonstrated,” he said, “that things cannot be otherwise: for, since everything was made for a purpose, everything is necessarily for the best purpose. Note that noses were made to wear spectacles; we therefore have spectacles. Legs were clearly devised to wear breeches, and we have breeches. Stones were created to be hewn and made into castles; His Lordship therefore has a very beautiful castle: the greatest baron in the province must have the finest residence. And since pigs were made to be eaten, we eat pork all year round. Therefore, those that have maintained that all is well have been talking nonsense: they should have maintained that all is for the best.”
Professor Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide

Voltaire’s story Candide is an examination of the belief held by many that all is for the best and that we live in the best of all possible worlds. This philosophy is propounded by a professor—whom Voltaire describes as a teacher of metaphysico-theologo-cosmonigology—named Pangloss and is taught to the naïve protagonist of the tale, Candide. Throughout the story, Candide is the victim and witness of numerous atrocities and yet still attempts to maintain that his dear Professor Pangloss was correct that all is truly for the best.

The idea that all is for the best brings to mind the concept of predestination. Predestination in theology can be defined as “the act of God foreordaining all things gone before and to come.”1 In modern western religions, this concept doesn’t seem terribly outrageous as God is viewed as a beneficent, merciful father figure. Surely if God is all powerful and all knowing then everything that exists and all events that occur must be for the best. However, when one considers some of the ugliest tragedies in history, the holocaust or acts of terrorism for instance, it is hard to believe that God as a merciful and all powerful being would permit something like that to happen. This has doubtless led many to forsake a belief in the Divine in order to pursue the practice of atheism; if man has no creator then it is easier to understand how mankind can commit great acts of evil. Still, many religious people in society blame Satan, Lucifer, or some other being that exists in opposition to God in order to come to terms with such events.

In Islamic countries, Insha’Allah is a term that is commonly used to give the probability of a future event. It means “God willing” or “if it is God’s will.”2 This term takes a step back from much of the modern thought on religion as it does not express any idea that God wills events for the benefit of mankind to happen, but that he will permit those events to occur that he has chosen, good or bad. This hearkens back to the Hebrew traditions where God was often a wrathful, jealous, and manipulating character. Exodus says that God hardened Pharoah’s heart when Moses tried to convince him to release the Israelites from the bonds of slavery.3 Was this hardening of Pharoah’s heart intended to allow God to inflict the plagues upon Egypt and therefore satisfy his anger with them? Or did God wish to bring hardship to his chosen people to prove to them that without their God, the Hebrews were but a meek group of humans?

These concepts, whether it be the idea that all is for the best, the doctrine of predestination, or the idea of Insha’Allah, have doubtless led to complacency in the human race. If all is for the best or happens at the will and pleasure of the Divine, then how are we to speed up the advancement of our society? One can only wonder how different our world would be if women had only been allowed to receive equal wages for equal work when God willed it or if the genocide of Muslims in the Balkans was all for the best. Yet, society has come to accept sin as a natural part of the world as a consequence of the fall of man.

The Gnostic gospel of Mary Magdelene gives an unorthodox view of sin in the world. Chapter 4 of the partial scripture reads: “The Savior said there is no sin, but it is you who make sin when you do the things that are like the nature of adultery, which is called sin.”4 Therefore, sin is not inevitable, but is made by a man’s own act of free will. While it is easy for a society to proclaim the Panglossian dogma, it is a flawed philosophy. Man has the right to do what is moral and right in every situation. He chooses to sin and he chooses to cause the suffering of others. That suffering is certainly not for the best.

Today, we do not live in the best of all possible worlds. There is pain to be alleviated and justice to be delivered. Free will requires the greatest responsibility from those that practice it. It is important to keep in mind the repercussions of our personal actions at all times and endeavor to act rightly in all situations. As the more experienced Candide tells Pangloss at the end of his travels, “we must cultivate our garden.”



3. Exodus 10:20

4. Gospel According to Mary Magdelene 4:26

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The Chronicles of Philosophus: Violating the Sabbath

On the day of the Sabbath, the builders were exiting the temple after they had worshiped to return to their homes. It was the law among the Jewish builders that they could not work on the Sabbath, but they noticed one of their fellow craftsmen, a man named Amon who was born in Gebal, mixing mortar in order to proceed with work on the judge’s house which was being constructed at that time. They became incensed that he was ignoring the law of their religion and approached him in numbers in order to rebuke his desire to work on a holy day.

“Why do you insult God your Father by rejecting his day of rest?” yelled one of the members of the mob. “Perhaps he should be employed to build the temples of the pagans!” shouted another.

Amon spoke saying, “I have no quarrel with you or your Lord, I only subscribe to the religion of my land which has created no ordinance against working on this day. For is there any law by which I am to abide which requires that I rest on the Jewish Sabbath?”

The craftsmen talked amongst themselves before one spoke. “Have you not heard the commandments which Moses has received upon Mount Sinai? Do you deny the very commandment of your Lord?”

The craftsmen became even more excited as some began to suggest that Amon should be brought before the priest. Others said that he should be stoned. Finally, they decided to fetch one of the master builders from their assembly. Zachariah was sent to the temple of the builders, where the master builders were and approached Philosophus, who immediately followed him to the angry mob of craftsmen.

Hearing their cries for Amon’s prosecution, Philosophus shouted “Silence my Brothers! What charge do you desire to bring against your fellow craftsman?”

The most vocal of the group replied, “He denies the commandments of our Lord and is performing work on the Sabbath which has been forbidden.”

Philosophus asked of Amon, “Do you worship as your father did?”


“Was he a Jew?”

“No, he was raised in Gebal and worshiped the God of that land as his father had done before him.”

“When you were obligated as a builder, did you take your obligation in the name of Jehovah, the God of the Jews?”


“Were you ever informed that under the law of the order that you must conform to the laws of their religion?”


Then Philosophus asked of the group of craftsmen, “Were you obligated in the name of Jehovah, the God of the Jews? Were you ever informed that under the law of the order that you must conform to the laws of the Jewish religion?”

The group was silent. Philosophus said, “You were only instructed that it is required that you to follow the tenets of your personal religion, for the name of the God you worship does not determine whether you are an able craftsman. The order does not regard a man for his personal religion, but for his desire to be industrious, to improve his craft, and to assist his fellow Brethren.”

One of the craftsmen then inquired, “But who will inspect his work? For the master builders all follow the Judaic law.”

Philosophus walked over to the work station of Amon, picked up a trowel and spread a layer of mortar over one of the perfect ashlars to examine its consistency. The Brethren questioned this action in whispers among themselves, for they believed that Philosophus was now in violation of his religion. One shouted, “Master, you violate the commandment of your God!”

Philosophus once again spoke. “Did I come from your home land? Have I ever been circumcised or accepted in your temple?” The Brethren were silent for none of them had ever seen Philosophus worship at their synagogue. “Neither this Brother nor myself are children of Abraham; I will inspect his work. Now return to your homes and attend to the duties of your religion.”

The craftsmen agreed and apologized to Amon for their accusations. Before returning to their abodes, they saluted him as a Brother. From that time it became a custom among the builders to tolerate the laws and customs of their Brother’s individual religion.

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