Jean Meslier 1729

Error, Illusion, and Imposture

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 by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2006.

All Religions are nothing but error, illusion and imposture.

Know then, my dear friends, that all that is spread about and practiced in the world in the way of cults and adoration of gods is naught but error, abuse, and imposture. All laws and ordinances published in the name of and by authority of God, or gods, are really nothing but human inventions, like all those beautiful festivals at holidays and sacrifices and divine offices, and all the other superstitious practices of religion and devotion that are done in their honor. All these things, I say, are naught but human inventions which were...invented by clever and tricky politicians and then cultivated and multiplied by seducers and imposters, blindly accepted by the ignorant, and finally maintained and authorized by the laws of princes and the great of the earth, who used these human inventions in order to more easily bridle the common run of men and to do with them what they willed. But in the end, these inventions are nothing but bridles for calves, as Montaigne said, for the only serve to bridle the spirit of the ignorant and the simple. The wise do not bridle themselves, and don’t allow themselves to be bridled, for in fact it is only the ignorant and the simple that accept this and allow themselves to be led. And what I am here saying in general on the vanity and falsity of religions I am not only saying about those pagan and foreign religions that you already look upon as false, but I am also saying it about your Christian religion, because in fact it is no less vain, no less false than any other, and I can even say that, in a sense, it is perhaps even more vain and more false than any other, for there is perhaps no other as ridiculous or absurd in its principal points as this one, nor any that is so contrary to nature itself and reason. This is what I am telling you, my dear friends, so that you not allow yourselves to be any longer deceived by the beautiful promises it makes to you of the so-called eternal rewards of a paradise that is only imaginary, and so that you put your spirits and hearts at rest regarding all the vain fears it instills in you about the so-called eternal punishments of a hell that does not exist. For all that is told you of the beauty and magnificence of the one and the terror and frights of the other are nothing but fables: after death there is neither good nor evil to fear. Wisely profit then from your time by living well and by soberly, peacefully, and joyously enjoying life’s goods and the fruits of your labor, for this is your part and the best thing you can do. For death, in putting an end to life, also puts an end to all knowledge and all sentiments of good and evil...