Nothing has so much vitiated the wells of friendliness as that unspeakably stupid statement of Voltaire about tolerance which is so often quoted: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Now translate that into modern language: Voltaire would say to Hitler: “I disapprove of your saying that Nazism is human and democratic but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Or, “I disapprove of your saying that the President ought to be killed but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
And this same Voltaire who set himself up as the apostle of tolerance is the same Voltaire who spent most of his life writing: “Destroy Christianity, that infamy. It took only twelve men to found it; it will take only one to destroy it.” Those who are most vehement in pleas for tolerance are often those most intolerant themselves. Shall we forget that in the early days of America the most vociferous propagandists of tolerance were also those who said it did not apply to “Jews and Papists”?
Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, Seven Pillars of Peace, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1945.