Jean Meslier 1728
Source: Memoire des Pensées et Sentiments in Oeuvres de Jean Meslier, prefaces et notes par Jean Deprun, Roland Desne, Albert Soboul. Paris, Editions Anthropos, 1970;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2009.
All of these arguments are as demonstrative as can be: it’s enough to give them the most casual glance to see how obvious they are. It has also been demonstrated by all the arguments I have put forth that all of the world’s religions are nothing but human inventions, and everything they teach us and forced us to believe is nothing but errors, illusions, lies and impostures invented, as I said, by mockers, deceivers and hypocrites in order to fool men; or by subtle and scheming politicians in order to keep men bridled and in order to have ignorant people follow their wishes, who blindly and foolishly believe all they are told as if it comes from the gods. And they claim, these subtle and scheming politicians, that it is useful and expedient to thus make men believe on the pretext, as they say, that it is necessary that the common run of men remain ignorant of many true things and that they believe many that are false.
And since all these kinds of errors, illusions, and impostures are the source and cause of an infinite number of ills, of an infinite number of abuses, and an infinite number of evil deeds in the world, and that the very tyranny that causes so many peoples of the earth to moan dares also to cover itself with this specious but false pretext of religion, it is with great reason that I said that the entire heap of religions and political laws such as they now are, basically are only iniquitous mysteries. No, my dear friends, they in fact are nothing but iniquitous mysteries, and even detestable iniquitous mysteries since it is by this means that your priests render and maintain you miserably captive under the odious and unbearable yoke of their vain and mad superstitions under the pretext of wanting to happily guide you towards God and to have you observe His holy laws. And it is by this very means that the princes and the great of the earth pillage you, walk over you, ruin you, oppress you, tyrannize you under the pretext of governing you and wanting to maintain or procure the public good.
I would like to make my voice heard from one end of the kingdom to the other, or rather from one extremity of the earth to the other. I would cry out with all my force: You are mad, o men; you are mad to allow yourselves to be led this way and to blindly believe so much foolishness. I would make them understand that they are in a state of error, and that those who govern them abuse and impose upon them. I would reveal to them this detestable iniquitous mystery that everywhere makes them so miserable and unhappy and which without a question will, in the centuries to come, be the shame and opprobrium of our time. I would reproach them their madness and their foolishness in believing and putting faith in so many errors, so many illusions, and so many ridiculous and vulgar impostures. I would reproach them their cowardice for allowing such detestable tyrants to live so long and for not having shaken off the so odious yoke of their tyrannical governments and dominations
An ancient once said that there is nothing rarer than the sight of an old tyrant, and the reason for this was that men did not yet have the weakness or the cowardice to allow tyrants to reign or to live a long time. They had the spirit and the courage to rid themselves of them when they abused their authority. But at present it is no longer rare to see tyrants live and reign for a long time. Men have little by little accustomed themselves to slavery, and they are now so accustomed to it that they no longer think about recovering their former freedom; it seems to them that slavery is a condition of their nature. It is for this as well that the pride of these detestable tyrants grows ever greater, and it is for this as well that they every day make heavier the unbearable yoke of their tyrannical domination. Superbia eorum ascendit semper (Psalms 73.23 – the pride of those you hate grows ever greater). You will say that their iniquity and cruelty proceed from the abundance of their fat and the excess of their prosperity, prodiit quasi ex adipe iniquitas eorum (psalm 72.7 their iniquity is as if born from the abundance of their fat). They have gone so far as to revel in their vices and cruelties, transieurn in affectum cordis (they have abandoned themselves to all the passions of their hearts. )And it is for this as well that the people are so miserable and unhappy under the yoke of their tyrannical domination.
Where are those generous murderers of tyrants we saw in past centuries? Where are the Brutuses and the Cassiuses? Where are the generous murderers of a Caligula and so many similar monsters? Where are the Publicolas? Where are the generous defenders of public liberty who chased kings and tyrants from their countries and who gave the right to each individual to kill tyrants? Where are the Cinnas and so many others who bitterly wrote and declaimed against the tyranny of kings? Where are the emperors, the worthy emperors? The Trajans and Antonins? The first of them, giving a sword to the first officer of his empire, said to kill him with this sword if he became a tyrant, while the second one said that he preferred to save the life of one of his subjects rather than kill a thousand of his enemies. Where, I say, are these good princes, these worthy emperors? We no longer see their like. We no longer even see those generous murderers of tyrants! But lacking them, where are the Jacques Clements, and the Ravaillacs of our France? If only they lived into our century and in all centuries to lay low and kill all those detestable monsters and enemies of humankind and to, by this means, deliver all the earth’s peoples from their tyrannical domination. If only they still lived, these worthy and generous defenders of public liberty. If only they still lived today to drive out all the kings of the earth and to oppress all the oppressors and to give freedom to the people. If only they still lived, all those brave writers and orators who condemned tyrants who declaimed against tyranny and who bitterly wrote against their vices, their injustices, and their bad government. If only they still lived today to openly condemn all the tyrants who oppress us, to loudly declaim against all their vices and all the injustices of their bad government. If only they lived today so as to render their persons odious and contemptible by their public writings, and finally to excite the people to together shake the unbearable yoke of their tyrannical domination.
But no, they no longer live, these great men; we no longer see any of those noble and generous souls who exposed themselves to death for the salvation of their country and who preferred the glory of dying generously to the shame and unhappiness of living in a cowardly fashion. And it must be said to the shame of our century and the last centuries that we see now see nothing but cowardly and miserable slaves of the grandeur and exorbitant might of tyrants. We no longer see among those who hold rank or are of a character more elevated than that of others anything but cowardly approvers of their unjust designs and cowardly and cruel executors of their evil wishes and unjust orders. Such in our France are all those who are the greatest of the kingdom, all the governors of cities, the intendants of the provinces, all the judges, all the magistrates, and even those of all the greatest and most sizeable cities of the kingdom, who no longer have any part in the government of the state and who only serve now to judge individual cases and blindly subscribe to all the ordinances of their kings, and who wouldn’t dare contradict them, however unjust and odious they might be. Such also, as I said, are all the intendants of provinces and all the governors of cities and chateaux, who serve only to everywhere execute these same ordinances. Such are the commanders of armies, all the officers and all the soldiers who serve only to maintain the authority of the tyrant and to rigorously execute or have executed his orders against the poor people, who would even set fire to their own fatherland and would completely ravage it if by some whim or on some vain pretext the tyrant commanded them to do so; and who on the other hand are so mad and blinded as to glory in devoting themselves entirely to their service like miserable slaves who in time of war are forced to expose their lives for them every day and almost every hour for the low price of four or five sols a day that is given each of them ; not to mention infinite number of other wretches of bureaucrats, comptrollers, extorters of taxes, archers, guards, sergeants, clerks and paid police auxiliaries who all, like starving wolves, seek only to devour their prey and love only to pillage and tyrannize over the poor people in the name of the authority of their kings in strictly executing against them all the most unjust ordinances, sometimes by the seizing of their property, sometimes by executions, and sometimes by confiscation of their property and, what is more odious still, often by imprisonment of their person and by all kinds of violence and ill treatment, and finally by the whip and the prison ships and sometimes even, and which is detestable, by the penalty of a shameful death they have them suffer.
So here, my dear friends, here is how those who govern you establish with force and might, over you and all your kind, a detestable iniquitous mystery. It is in favor of all these errors and abuses that I spoke of that they so powerfully establish everywhere the iniquitous mystery; religion and politics work together to hold you forever captive under their tyrannical laws. You will be poor and unhappy, you and your descendants, as long as you allow the domination of the princes and kings of the earth; you will be poor and unhappy as long as you follow the errors of religion and enslave yourselves to its mad superstitions. So completely reject all these vain and superstitious practices of religion; banish from your spirits that mad and blind belief in its false mysteries; don’t believe in them, mistrust everything your self-interested priests say to you about them. Most of them don’t believe any of this themselves. Do you want to believe in them more than they do themselves? Put your minds and hearts to rest on this account, and abolish among you all those vain and superstitious offices of priest and sacrificers and reduce all of them to living and working usefully like you, or at least occupying themselves with something good and useful. But this isn’t enough. Strive to unite, you and all your like, in order to completely shake off the yoke of the tyrannical domination of your kings and princes; overthrow everywhere these thrones of injustice and impiety; smash all these crowned heads, everywhere confound the pride and the haughtiness of these proud and self-satisfied tyrants, and no longer suffer them to in any way rule over you.
It is for the wisest to lead and govern the others; it is for them to establish good laws and ordinances that tend, at least in keeping with the demands of the time, place and other circumstances, to the advancement and preservation of the public good. “Woe,” says one of our so-called saints/prophets, “woe on those who make unjust laws.” But woe, too, on those who submit in a cowardly way to unjust laws; woe on people who cowardly render themselves slaves of tyrants and who blindly render themselves slaves of the errors and superstitions of religion. Only the natural lights of reason are capable of leading men to the perfection of science and human wisdom as well as to the perfection of the arts; and they are capable of leading them not only to the practice of all the moral virtues, but also to the practice of all the most noble and most generous actions of life. Witnesses to what the great individuals of antiquity once did (like Cato, Agesius, Epaminondas, Fabius, Scipio, Regulus and other like great and worthy individuals) who excelled in all kinds of virtues and of whom an author said that they went much further in the virtues than any of the most pious or the most zealous believers of the century. “Magnanimous heroes born in better times.” In fact, it is not at all the bigotry of religions that perfect men in the sciences or the arts. It is not at all that which leads to the revealing of the secrets of nature or which inspires great plans in men. But it is the intelligence, it is wisdom, it’s the probity and grandeur of soul that makes great men and made them undertake great things. And so men have no need of the bigotry or the superstitions of religion in order to perfect themselves in the sciences or in good morals.
In the same way, they have no need of this prodigious luxury or that pompous, proud and haughty grandeur of princes and kings of the earth in order to govern themselves well and maintain themselves in a happy and flourishing state. Good magistrates are capable of properly governing others; they are capable of establishing good laws and making good police regulations. Job said: “Wisdom is found among the ancients and prudence is only acquired with time.” If this is the case, as there is every reason to believe, it is thus among the sages of antiquity that that wisdom and prudence must be sought that are necessary for good government, and thus it is those ancients full of prudence and wisdom who must be established in order to wisely govern the others, and not young madmen and scatterbrains, nor young hotheads nor the proud and haughty young, or evil and vicious men any more than young children raised to power by the chance of birth. It is through the madness and evil of men that there are so many princes and tyrants on earth. It was one of the sages of holy antiquity who said it: “It is because of the sins of the people that many princes succeed each other rapidly” (Proverbs 28,20) Elsewhere it was said by one of these same sages that “it is a misfortune for a state whose kings is but a child and whose princes are voluptuaries and slaves of their evil passions.” That is, woe on a state that allows itself to be governed by a child and by voluptuary princes who are slaves of their passions: Vae tibi terra, cujus rex puer est et cujus principe mane comedunt (Eccles. 10,16). And since there are hardly anything but voluptuaries or those who art slaves to their passions it is truly a misfortune for peoples to find themselves under their government.
Convince yourselves then, dear peoples, that the errors and superstitions of your religion and the tyranny of your kings and all those who govern you under their authority are the disastrous and detestable cause of all your ills and suffering, of all your disquiets and all your miseries. You would be happy if you were delivered of these two detestable and unbearable yokes of superstitions and tyranny, and if you were only governed by good and wise magistrates. This is why if you have courage and if you wish to deliver yourself from your ills, shake off completely the yoke of those who govern and oppress you; all of you together shake off the yoke of tyranny and superstitions, together reject all your priests, all your monks and tyrants so as to establish among you good, wise and prudent magistrates who would govern you peacefully who would faithfully render you all justice and who would stand guard over the preservation of the public good and repose and to whom for your part you should render a prompt and faithful obedience. Your salvation is in your hands, your deliverance depends on you alone if you knew how to all come to an agreement; you have all the means and all the force necessary to free yourselves and to make your very tyrants slaves. For your tyrants, however powerful and formidable they might be, would have no power over you without yourselves. All their grandeur, all their wealth, all their force and power come only from you. It is your children, your parents, your allies, your friends and your kin who serve them, in war as well as in the employment in which they’re placed. And they could do nothing without them and without you. They use your own force against you so as to have you reduce yourselves to slavery under them and they use them also to beat and destroy you one after the other. If only some of their cities or some of their provinces were to dare to undertake resisting and shaking off their yoke. But this is not how things would be: if all peoples conspired together to deliver themselves from a common slavery all tyrants would then be confounded and annihilated.
Unite, then, people, if you are wise; unite if you have courage to deliver yourselves from all your common miseries, incite yourselves and encourage each other to so noble, so generous, so important and so glorious an undertaking as this one. Begin by secretly communicating your ideas and desires; spread everywhere and as ably as possible writings similar to this one, which make known to everyone the vanity of the errors and superstitions of religion and which everywhere make odious the tyranny of the princes and kings of the earth. Come to each other’s assistance in so just and necessary a cause, where it is a matter of the common interest of all peoples. What harms you in these kinds of meetings and occasions where it’s a matter of fighting for public liberty is that you destroy each other by fighting each other on these occasions for the choice of tyrants or for the support of their cause and authority, instead of which you should all join together to destroy and annihilate them. You could not do better at such a conjuncture than to follow in common agreement the example of those who at other times generously delivered themselves from the tyranny of those who governed them and oppressed them; the example, for example, of those brave Dutch and Swiss who generously shook off, the former, the unbearable yoke of the Spaniards, exercised at the time by the Duke of Alba, and the latter who also generously shook off the tyranny of the cruel government of those the dukes of Austria established in their country. You have no less reason or subject now to do as much in regard to your princes and kings and concerning all those who govern you and tyrannize in their name and under their authority, since their tyranny is carried to an extreme degree of excess.
It is said in one of your pretended holy and divine books that God will overturn from their thrones the proud and haughty princes it will seat in their place gentle and peaceful men (Eccles 10.17,18). Who are the proud and haughty princes which the pretended holy and divine books speak? They are your sovereigns, your dukes, your princes, your kings, your monarchs, your potentates, etc. Make seen in our days the accomplishment of these pretended divine words, overturn as they say, all those proud tyrants from their thrones and put in their place good, kind, wise, and prudent magistrates to govern you with kindness and happily maintain you in peace. Which are the proud nations of which it is said in the same books that God will dry up their roots? They are none other than all those proud and haughty nobilities that are among you, who crush you under foot and oppress you. They are none other than all those proud officers and your princes and kings, all those proud intendants and governors of cities and provinces. All those proud tariff and tax collectors, all those proud tax extorters and bureaucrats, and finally all those haughty prelates, bishops, abbots, monks, receivers of benefices, and all those other gentlemen and ladies who do nothing in the world than play at being grand and proud, who do nothing but amuse themselves and have a good time while you, the people, who occupy yourselves day and night with all kinds of difficult labors and bear your entire lives the entire weight of the day and the heat in order, by the sweat of your brows, to bring forth the things necessary or useful for life.
These, my dear friends, these are the true haughty nations whose roots you should dry up like of those plants that can no longer draw sap from the earth that nourishes them. The abundant sap that nourishes all those haughty and proud nations of which I just spoke is the great riches and revenue they every day draw from harsh labor or the harsh labor of your hands. For it is only from you and from your industry and your harsh labors that come the abundance of all the goods and wealth of the land. It is this abundant sap, which they draw from your hands, that maintains them, that fattens them and that renders them as strong, as powerful, as proud and as haughty as they are. But, people, do you want to completely dry up the roots of those haughty and proud nations? Just deprive them of this abundant sap that they draw from your hands and your pains and your labors, all the riches, all the goods you make so abundantly appear with the sweat of your bodies. Keep them for yourselves and your kin. Give nothing to these haughty and useless nations, give nothing to these haughty and rich wastrels, give nothing to these useless monks and ecclesiastics, give nothing to these proud and haughty nobles, give nothing to these haughty and proud tyrants nor to those who serve them. Tell all your children, all your relatives, all your allies, and all your friends to quit them and to completely abandon their service and to do nothing for them. Completely excommunicate them from your society; look on them everywhere as you look on the excommunicated among you, and in this way you will soon see them dry up just as grass and plants whose roots no longer draw the sap of the earth dry up.
You have no need of these men; you can easily do without them, but they cannot do without you. And so if you are wise, people of the earth (for I would willingly speak to all the peoples of the earth, since no one speaks for them and no one says to them what must be said) and I would willingly say to them: you who have no intelligence, at last learn to know your own good, learn to know your true good! And all of you who are mad, at least learn to become wise Inteligite insipientes in populo et stulti aliquando sapite (Psalms 93.8). And if you are wise, put an end to all the individual hatreds, envies, and animosities among you, turn all your hatred and all your indignation against your common enemies, all those hateful tyrants and all those proud and haughty races of men who oppress you, who render you miserable, and who ravish and wrest from your hands all the best fruit of your painful labors. Unite with the same sentiments to deliver yourselves from that odious and unbearable yoke of their tyrannical domination as well as from the vain and superstitious practice of their false religions. And so let there be among you no other religion but that of true wisdom and probity of morals, no other than that of honor and decorum, no other than that of honesty, generosity of heart, no other than that of completely abolishing tyranny and the superstitious cult of gods and their idols, no other than that of maintaining justice and equity everywhere, no other than that of completely banishing the errors, impostures, and of making truth, justice, and peace reign everywhere; no other than everyone occupying himself at some honest and useful exercise and living rightly in common, no other than that of always maintaining public liberty, and finally, no other than that of loving each other and inviolably maintaining peace and unity among you.
Happy you will be if you follow the rules, the maxims and precepts of this sole and true religion; but I dare say, though I am not a prophet, that you will be forever miserable and unhappy, you and your descendants, as long as you follow other religions than this one; you will be forever miserable and unhappy, you and your descendants, as long as you allow to continue the domination of tyrants and as long as you suffer to continue the errors, the abuses, and the vain superstitions of the cult of gods and their idols. You will be miserable and unhappy, you and your descendants, as long as there is no just subordination among you and as long as there is so enormous a disproportion in status and condition among you. You will be miserable, you and your descendants, as long as you don’t possess and do not enjoy in common the goods of the earth. You will be miserable and unhappy, you and your descendants, as long as the good and the evil, and the sufferings of life are so badly shared among you, it being in no way just that some bear alone all the pains of labor and the discomforts of life and the others alone, without pain and without labor, enjoy all the goods and comforts of life. Finally, you will be miserable and unhappy, you and your descendants, as long as you don’t all unite and as long as you don’t unanimously conspire to deliver ourselves from this common slavery to which you are all miserably reduced under the tyrannical domination of the princes and kings of the earth and under the odious yoke of the vain, mad and superstitious practices of false religions, which can only serve to have you fear and adore false divinities and imaginary divinities, which consequently can do you no good or harm, as I have previously demonstrated.
I gladly appeal to all men of intelligence and good sense and all persons of probity to suspend their judgment on this subject; I gladly appeal to them to shed themselves of the prejudices they could have from their birth, their education and their particular habits. I gladly appeal to them to pay particular attention to all I said. And finally, I would gladly appeal to them to seriously examine my ideas and sentiments and the proofs I’ve given in order to note and discover the weak and the strong in them, for I am strongly persuaded that following the natural lights of their reason they will easily allow themselves to be convinced of all the truths I have advanced, and they will themselves be surprised that so many vain, ridiculous and vulgar errors, and so many pernicious and hateful abuses have been able to be introduced and establish themselves so firmly and universally among men, and that they could be maintained for so long, given that there are so many men of a subtle spirit and so enlightened who should have opposed the establishment, the progress, and the preservation of so many hateful abuses and so many hateful errors. In this regard it appears that men are struck with a spirit of blindness so as not to see their errors and confusion. The subject is important; everyone has an interest in it, it’s a matter of the public good, repose, and tranquility; it’s a matter of the deliverance of almost all the peoples of the earth from their harsh and miserable servitude under the tyrannical domination of the great of the earth, as well as of their deliverance from the vile and odious servitude of all the idolatrous superstitions of their false religions.
If men of intelligence and good sense, and if persons of probity find that I was right to censure and condemn as I’ve done the vices, errors, abuses, and injustices that I have censured and condemned; if they find that I have spoken the truth and that my proofs and reasoning are truly demonstrative as I claim, it is for them to support the party of truth, especially when it is a matter of the common cause and the common good of all peoples. It is up to them to censure and condemn the vices, errors, abuses and injustices that I have censured and condemned and that I censure and condemn: for it would be unworthy of men of intelligence and persons of probity to continue to favor so many hateful errors by their silence so many detestable abuses and so many detestable injustices. If they dare no more than I to censure and condemn them openly during their lives, let them at least censure and condemn them openly at the end of their days, that they at least at the end of their days bear this testimony to justice of the truth they know and that they at least once before dying do this favor to their country, their families, their allies, their neighbors, their friends, and their descendants to tell them the truth and to at least in this way contribute to their deliverance.
But if on the contrary they find that I haven’t spoken the truth and that it was a crime on my part to have thought and written as I have done here; or if even animosity and hatred leads them to be feel indignation towards me and to insultingly consider me impious and a blasphemer...after my death, as will doubtless be the case for princes and priests, and notably all the ignorant, the bigots, the superstitious believers, all the hypocrites and generally all those with an interest in the preservation of their benefices and who have a part in the abundant profits of the tyrannical government of the great and the superstitious cult of gods and their idols, it is up to them to prove the falsity and weakness of my proofs and reasoning, and finally it is up to them to establish the and prove the so-called truth of their faith and religion, as well as of the so-called justice of their political government by more clear, stronger, more convincing or at least by reasons as clear, as strong, as convincing and demonstrative as those by which I combated them. And this is what I defy them to be able to do (for natural reason cannot demonstratively prove things which are contrary, contradictory, incompatible) and so as long as they don’t do this they shall be considered convicted of the errors and abuses in their doctrine and morality, and consequently let them be confounded in the vanity of their errors, in the vanity of their illusions, in the vanity of their lies and impostures, and let them be confounded as well in the injustice of their tyrannical government. Confundator omnes iniqua agentes supervacue (Psalm 24.4) Confundator omnes qui adorant sculptilia et qui gloriantur in simulacris suis (Psalm 96.7) similes illis fiant qui faciunt ea, et qui confidunt in eis (Psalms 70.13) Confundator omnes facientes vana. Operiantur confusione qui confidunt in sculptili, qui dicunt conflatili, vos Du nostri (Isaiah 42.17) And it must be said to them as that other prophet said: “Be confounded and be ashamed of your follies and iniquities.” (Ezek 36.32)
But since, as the proverb says, all truths aren’t good to be spoken, the so-called political sages of the time will not fail to find it evil that I undertook the revealing of so many great and important truths that it would be better, they’ll say, to keep buried under a profound ignorance rather than so clearly bringing them to light; it being certain, they’ll say, that it means favoring the evil and pleasing them to free them from the fear of the gods and the fear of the eternal punishments of hell that might restrain them and prevent them from completely abandoning themselves to vice and preventing them from doing evil. In such a way, they’ll say, that some having been freed from this fear will grasp the occasion to become more wicked and to give free rein to their uncontrolled envies and evil desires by committing more brazenly all sorts of evil deeds under the pretext that there are no punishments to fear after this life; and this is one of the reasons, they’ll say, why the political sages have as their maxim that it is necessary that the people remain ignorant of true things and that they believe many that are false.
I respond to this in two words: 1 – that it wasn’t to flatter or to favor the wicked or to please them that I spoke the truth here; far from this, I would like to confound all of them. And it was especially to confound all the imposters, all the deceivers and all the hypocrites that I laid their errors out in the open, their errors, their illusions, and their impostures; and it was to confound the tyrants, the evil rich and all the great of the earth that I laid out the abuses, the thefts, and the injustices of their evil tyrannical governments. In any event, since both the pretended fear of the gods, nor the pretended eternal punishments of hell barely frighten the wicked, and especially since they hardly frighten tyrants or the great of the earth, who are the ones who then do the most ill; and they hardly prevent the wicked from following their evil inclinations and evil will,. There is no great danger either that they will be freed from that vain fear and they would hardly become more wicked than they are and they wouldn’t even dare be as wicked as they are if care was taken to see to it that they seriously feared the punishments of secular justice, for it is certain that this fear would make more of an impression on their spirits than would the vain fear of gods or that of their pretended eternal punishments.
Secondly I say that it is not the truth or the knowledge of natural truths which leads men to evil or which render people vicious and evil, but it is rather ignorance and the lack of a good education; it’s more the lack of good laws and good government that render them vicious and wicked, for it is certain that if they were better educated in the sciences and good morality and if they weren’t tyrannized as they are they would certainly not be as vicious or as wicked as they are, and the reason for this is that it is bad laws themselves and the bad government of people which so to speak give birth to some of the vicious and wicked men, because it gives birth to them in luxury, splendor, pride and the vanity of the grandeurs and riches of the earth in which they then want to maintain themselves as viciously as they were born and raised there. And the others, it so to speak forces them to become vicious and wicked, because they are born in poverty and misery which they later try to pull themselves out of as best they can by all kinds of ways, good or bad, not always being able to pull themselves out by just and legitimate ways. And so it is not science or the knowledge of natural truths that lead men to evil as is claimed; on the contrary they rather turn them away from them, for as is said, every sinner is ignorant, omnis peccans est ignorans. But it is rather, as I said, the bad laws, the abuses, the bad customs, and the bad government of men that lead them to evil, because it is these bad laws and this bad government which gives birth to them as vicious and wicked, or which forces them to become so in order to put themselves out of the reach of suffering and misery. We should attach the honor, the glory, the goods and the sweet things of life, and even the authority of the government to virtue, wisdom , goodness, justice, and honesty, etc rather than to birth and the fortunes benefits. In the same way, we should attach shame, infamy, contempt, suffering and misery and even the greatest punishment if necessary to injustice, deceit, falsehood, intemperance, brutality and all other kinds of bad morals rather than to a lack of birth and the benefits of fortune, and you will see that every one will be proud to be wise, honest and virtuous. But as long as honor, glory, ease and the sweetness of life are only attached to certain births and certain conditions of life rather than to virtue and personal merit, men will remain vicious and wicked and consequently, also unhappy.
If all those who know as well as me, or rather who know much better than I the vanity of human things, who know much better than I the errors and impostures of religion, who know much better than me the abuses and injustices of the governments of men were to at least say at the end of their days what they think of all this, if they censured them, if they condemned them, if they cursed them at least before dying as much as they deserve to be censured, condemned, and cursed we would soon see the world change its appearance; we would soon give no care for all the errors and all the vain and superstitious practices of religions and we would soon see all that haughty grandeur fall and all that haughty pride of tyrants; we would soon see them all completely confounded. But what arranges it so that these kinds of vices and these kinds of errors and abuses are so powerfully and universally maintained in the world is that no one opposes them, no one contradicts them, no on censures them, no one condemns them openly in those places where they have been established and authorized. All peoples groan under the tyrannical yoke of errors and superstitions, abuses, and injustices of government, and no one dares cry out against so many detestable errors, against so many detestable abuses, against so many detestable thefts and injustices that are so universally committed in the world. The wise dissimulate in this regard; they themselves don’t dare openly say what they think, and it is thanks to this cowardly and timid silence that all the errors, that all the superstitions, and all the abuses of which I spoke are maintained and multiply every day in the world, as we can see.