Testament of Jean Meslier (index)

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 15, 2010 in Indexes,Reviews

meslier_testamentJean Meslier (1664-1729) served as a Catholic priest for 40 years, but after his death was discovered to have written the very first book-length philosophical essay promoting atheism.

Remarkable for its era, his 633-page Testament shows us that Jean Meslier “invented a radical atheism, proposed a hedonist ethic, formulated an immanent ontology, constructed his libertarian politics and gave them a communalist and internationalist concept, thought of a feminism of action, anticipated the battle against speciesism, erected modern materialism, unmasked the Cartesian deceit, sketched the revolutionary concept of 1789, [and] called for the necessity of intellectual critics.”1

Angry, precise, logical, and eminently quotable, the Testament of Jean Meslier is a revelation that came centuries before the world was ready for it. It is the ultimate New Atheist book of 1729.

I’ll be blogging my way through the first English translation (released 2009), quoting my favorite parts and commenting on Meslier’s ideas.

  1. Purpose and Message
  2. The Undercover Atheist Priest
  3. Toward a Better World
  4. Religions are Human Inventions
  5. Corrupted Scriptures

(more to come)

  1. From Michael Onfray’s preface to the Testament, English translation. []

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe March 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm

To think that he decided not to publish it while alive makes his a really painful life (and a powerful story), and also shows how far we’ve come (at least in some parts of the world) in terms of freedom of expression.


Atheist.pig March 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm

I just put it on my amazon wish list.


Krystal Shard September 25, 2010 at 7:03 am

Just thought I’d mention that Meslier’s work has been available free on Project Gutenburg in English since 2006. Available in HTML, EPUB, Kindle, Plain Text etc. Click on my name for link.

Will be interested to read your commentary as I progress through it myself as I’m reading it on my new Kindle at the moment.


lukeprog September 25, 2010 at 8:30 am

Krystal Shard,

That’s not the same book. The book you link to was written by Baron d’Holbach and misattributed to Jean Meslier.


Krystal Shard September 25, 2010 at 9:02 am

Hi Luke,

I agree it has been misattributed, but to Holbach, not Meslier. When you click on the links (you have to scroll down for them), for instance the HTML version takes you to http://www.gutenberg.org/files/17607/17607-h/17607-h.htm it is definitely Mesliers book, complete with Voltaires commentary & Mesliers Preface.
In hindsight perhaps I should have used this link, but I wanted to give the most options for reading & downloading & I
also should have made clear the misattribution.
I have also changed the link when clicking on my name in case the link above does not show up within this post :-)
– apologies for the confusion.



lukeprog September 25, 2010 at 9:20 am

In any case, the book you link to is not the book published as Testament of Jean Meslier. Reading that Gutenberg book along with my commentary to Testament of Jean Meslier will not work.


Krystal Shard September 25, 2010 at 9:48 am

OK, no problem, please delete my comments.


lukeprog September 25, 2010 at 11:01 am


I think the clarification will be useful for others.


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