Jean Meslier 1728
Source: Mémoire contre la religion, in Oeuvres Complètes. Anthropos, Paris, 1970;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2008.
Faith, which is a blind belief and which serves as a basis for all religions in naught but a principle of errors, illusions, and imposture.
Here is how I address this. Every religion which poses as the basis for its mysteries and which takes as a rule for its doctrine and morality a principle of errors, illusions and impostures, and which is even a fatal source of eternal troubles and divisions among men, cannot be a true religion nor truly be of divine institution. But all religions, and principally the Christian religion, pose as the basis for their mysteries and as rule for their doctrine and morality a principle of errors, illusions and impostures; thus...etc. I don’t see how we can deny the first proposition of this argument; it is too clear and too obvious for us to doubt the truth of such a proposition. So I pass to the proof of the second proposition and the argument that is that all religions, and principally the Christian religion pose as the basis for their mysteries and a rule for their doctrine and morality a principle of errors, illusions and impostures. This seems to me to be quite easy to make clearly seen, for it is obvious and constant that all religions and principally the Christian religion pose as the basis of their mysteries and take as a rule of their morality what they call faith, that is, a blind but firm and certain belief in certain laws and divine revelations, and that they must necessarily make these suppositions. For it is this belief in some divinities and some divine revelations that gives them all the credit and all the authority they have in the world, without which they would be able to make nothing of what they teach or what they order done and practiced. Which is also why there is no religion that doesn’t above all else recommend to its followers that they be firm in their faith, that is to be firm and unmoving in their belief; from this flows the fact that all the God-lovers and principally our Christ-lovers have as their motive that faith is the beginning and the basis of salvation, and that it is the root of all justice and sanctification, as was remarked by the Council of Trent (sect. 6 ch 7)
They say that without faith it is impossible to please God insofar as those who want to be nearer to God, they add, must firmly believe there is a God and that it is He who rewards those who seek him, since him, sine fide autem imposible est placere Deo. Credere enim oportet accedentem ad Deum quia est, et inquerentibus se remunmerator sir (Hebr 11,6). It is thus visible, constant as I said, that all religions pose as the basis of their mysteries and take as the rule for their doctrine and morality faith, which, as I said, is a blind faith in some divinity, and even as well a belief in some laws and divine revelations. Said religions even want this blind belief to be assured so that believers not allow themselves to be easily moved to change. Nevertheless, this belief is always blind, because said religions do not, and indeed cannot, give any clear, sure, and convincing proof of the truth of their so called divine revelations. They want us to believe all they say absolutely and simply, not only without having any doubts, but also without seeking and even without desiring to know the reasons (Catechism of the Council of Trent, Art. 1, p 19), for according to them it would be impudent temerity and a crime of lèse majesté to want to curiously seek the reason and proof of what they teach and what they oblige to be believed as coming from God, giving as the reason that formidable sentence of one of the so-called holy books, where it is said that he who wants to go over with a fine tooth comb or probe the secrets of God’s divine majesty will find himself oppressed by the splendor of his glory, qui scrutator est majestatis, opprimatur a Gloria (prov 25,27).
Faith, our pious Christ-lovers say, is the support of the things they hope for and the evidence for those they don’t see (Heb. 11,1). Their faith, according to what they say, would have no merit if it relied upon the experience of the senses or human reasoning. According to them, the most urgent and most powerful reason to believe in the most incomprehensible things is to have none other than that of their faith which is, as I said, a blind belief in all religion obliges them to believe. From this flows the fact that they still have as a maxim that in this regard one must renounce all the lights of reason and all the appearances of the senses so as to keep their intelligence captive to the obedience of their faith. In a word, they maintain that in order to faithfully believe one must believe blindly, without reasoning and without wanting to seek proof.
And so it is obvious that a blind faith in all that is proposed under the name of God’s authority is a principle of errors, illusions, and impostures; as proof of which we see in fact that there is no error, no illusion, nor any imposture in matters of religion that doesn’t pretend to cover itself with the name of God’s authority, and that there are no imposters who don’t claim to be particularly inspired and sent by God. And thus, if all religions pose as the basis of their mysteries, and if they all take as the rule for their doctrine and morality that one must blindly believe all they propose on the part of God, they pose as the basis of their mysteries and take as the rule of their doctrine and morality a principle of errors, lies, illusions, and impostures.