Testament of Jean Meslier: Toward a Better World

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 29, 2010 in 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.

I’m blogging my way through the book. See the index for all posts.

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If not in life then at least in death, Meslier wanted to help save the world from bondage:

It has been long enough that the poor people have been so miserably abused by all kinds of idolatries and superstitions. It has been long enough that the rich and the rulers of the death have pillaged and oppressed the poor. It is time to deliver them from their miserable slavery. It is time to open their eyes everywhere and make them know the truth of things.

…It is up to all thinking men… to think seriously about working hard for so important a cause as this, everywhere opening the eyes of the people to the errors they are in, making hateful and contemptible the excessive authority of the rulers of the earth, everywhere inciting people to shake off the insupportable yoke of tyrants and, in general, persuading all men of these two important and fundamental truths:

1: To be knowledgeable in the sciences and arts, which is what men should principally work at in life…

2: To establish good laws [so that] they only have to follow the rules of human wisdom and discretion, i.e., the rules of honesty, justice, and natural equality without vainly being sidetracked by what is said by charlatans or what is done by idolaters and superstitious god-cultists. This, on the whole, can obtain for all men a thousand times more benefits and happiness and bodily and mental rest than all the false maxims and vain practices of their superstious religions.

But since no one is trying to enlighten the people [and] since they show them only the books and writings of a bunch of pious idiots and hypocritical seducers who, under the cover of piety, are happy to maintain and even to multiply the errors and superstitions… and since they devote themselves… to praising [the rulers] shamefully like cowards instead of boldly reprimanding their vices and nobly speaking the truth… I myself will try here, my dear friends… simply to uncover the truths they hide from you. I will try to show you clearly the vanity and falsity of all those so-called great, holy, divine, and formidable myseries they make you worship…1

No, Meslier, tell us how you really feel. :)

  1. Testament, page 42-43. []

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Beelzebub March 29, 2010 at 2:50 pm

He was certainly ahead of his time, considering that passage would be just about as controversial published now as then.

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