Jean Meslier 1729
Source: Testament de Jean Meslier, nouvelle edition. Geneva, Cramer, 1762;
Translated: for marxists.org by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) marxists.org 2006.
There are several abridgments of Meslier’s Memoire. This, the most famous of them, was done by Voltaire.
Jean Meslier, priest of Etripigny and of But in the Champagne region, a native of the village of Mazerni, a dependency of the Duchy of Mazarin, was the son of a worker in serge. Raised in the countryside, he nevertheless pursued his studies and arrived at the priesthood.
Living soberly at the seminary, he became attached to Descartes’s system. His morality was irreproachable, and he often gave alms. He was otherwise extremely sober, as much in his words as in his relations with women.
Messrs Voiry and Delavaux, the one the priest of Va and the other of Boutzicourt were his confessors, and the only people he frequented.
He was a firm partisan of justice, and at times pushed his zeal too far. The lord of his village, named Sieur de Touilly, had mistreated some peasants, and he didn’t want to recommend him to the priesthood. M. de Mailly, Archbishop of Reims, before whom the contestation was brought, condemned him. But the Sunday following this decision the priest rose to the pulpit and complained of the cardinal’s sentence. “This,” he said, “is the ordinary lot of a poor country priest. Archbishops, who are great lords, hold them in contempt and don’t listen to them. Let us then recommend the lord of this place. We will pray to God for Antoine de Touilly, that He convert him and that he be gracious enough to not mistreat the poor and to cheat orphans.”
Being present at this mortifying recommendation, the lord brought new complaints before the same Archbishop, who made Sieur Meslier come to Donchery, where he was harshly rebuked.
There were hardly any other events later in his life, nor was there any other parish than that of Etrépigny.
His principal books were the Bible, a Moréri, a Montaigne, and a few Fathers. He derived his sentiments from the reading of the Bible and the Fathers. He made three copies in his own hand, one of which was given to the Guard of the Seals of France, from which the following excerpt is taken. His manuscript was addressed to M. le Roux, Procurator and advocate at the Parlement of Mezieres.
The following was written on the reverse of a simple piece of gray paper that served as an envelope: “I saw and recognized the errors, the abuses, the vanities, the follies and the evilness of men. I hated and despised them, but I didn’t dare speak of them during my lifetime. I will at least say them upon dying and after my death, and it is in order that they be known that I make and write the present Memoire so that it serve as a evidence in support of truth to all those who will see and read it, if they deem it appropriate. “
Also found among the priest’s papers was an edition of the treatises of M. Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambrai, on the existence of God and on his attributes, and the “Reflections” of Father Tournemine, Jesuit, on atheism, on which treatises he made marginal notes signed with his hand.
He had written two letters to the priests of his area in order to make his sentiments known to them. He told them that he gave the court clerk of his parish [Sainte Menoult] a copy of his writing in 366 in-octavo pages, but that he was afraid they’d be suppressed, in keeping with the ill usages established to prevent the simple from being instructed and learning the truth. [It is said that the Grand Vicar of Reims took the third copy]
This priest worked in secret all his life attacking all opinions he believed to be false.
He died in 1733 at the age of 55. It was believed that, disgusted with life, he expressly refused the necessary aliments, since he wanted to take nothing, not even a glass of wine.
In his will he gave all he possessed, which was little, to his parishioners, and he asked that he be buried in his garden.
My brothers, you know my disinterestedness. I do not sacrifice my beliefs to any low interest. If I embraced a profession so directly opposed to my sentiments it was not through cupidity: I obeyed my parents. If I could have done it with impunity, I would rather have enlightened you. You can testify to the truth of what I say. I did not degrade my ministry by asking for the remuneration attached to it.
I swear by the heavens that I also held in contempt those who laughed at the simplicity of the blinded people, who piously furnished large sums for the purchase of prayers. How horrible this monopoly is! I don’t condemn the contempt demonstrated by those who grow fat on your sweat and suffering for the sake of their mysteries and superstitions. But I detest their insatiable cupidity and the unworthy pleasure their kind show in mocking the ignorance of those they are careful to maintain in that same state of blindness.
They should content themselves with laughing at their own affluence, but at least let them not multiply their errors by abusing the blind piety of those who, with their simplicity, procure them so comfortable a life style. My brothers, you will no doubt render me the justice that is my due. The sensitivity that I have shown for your sufferings protects me against your suspicions. How many times have I not fulfilled the functions of my ministry without payment? And how many times has my tenderness been afflicted by my not being able to provide you with the succor that I would have wished to provide? Have I not always proven that I received more pleasure from giving than receiving? I have carefully avoided exhorting you to bigotry, and I spoke to you as rarely as possible of our pitiful dogmas. As a priest I had no choice but to fulfill my ministry, but how I suffered when I was forced to preach to you those pious falsehoods that I detested with all my heart. What contempt I felt for my ministry, and particularly for the superstitious mass and the ridiculous administration of the sacraments, especially when they had to be carried out with a solemnity that attracted your piety and excited your credulity? A thousand times I was on the point of publicly exploding. I wanted to open your eyes, but a fear stronger than my strength suddenly held me back, and forced me to remain silent until my death.
First proof, drawn from the motives that led men to establish religion.
Since there is no particular sect that doesn’t claim to have been truly founded on God’s authority and to be entirely exempt from all errors and impostures that can be found in the others, it is up to those who claim to establish the truth of their sect to show through clear and convincing proofs and testimonies that they were divinely instituted. Lacking this, it must be taken as certain that they were of merely human invention, full of errors and falsehoods. For it is not credible that an omnipotent, infinitely good God would have given laws and ordinances to men and that he wouldn’t have wanted them to bear purer and more authentic marks of truth than those of the imposters that exist in such great numbers. Yet there is not a single Christ-lover, of whatever sect, who can clearly prove that his religion is truly of divine institution. As proof of this there is the fact that though for many centuries they have contested each other on this subject, going so far as to persecute with fire and blood in order to support their opinions, there has nevertheless been none from among them that has been able to convince the others through such evidence. This would certainly not be the case if there was on one side or the other clear and certain proof of divine institution. For, since no one of any sect or religion, enlightened and acting in good faith, claims to support and favor error and falsehood, and since on the contrary each side claims to support the truth - the true means of banishing all errors and of gathering all men together in peace with the same sentiments and in the same form of religion - these convincing proofs and evidence of truth should be produced, and in this way it would be shown that such-and-such a religion is truly of divine institution, and none of the others. Then all will surrender to this truth, and no one will dare to combat this evidence, nor support the party of error and imposture without being at the same time confounded by contrary proofs. But since these proofs can be found in no religion, this leaves room for imposters to daringly support all sorts of falsehoods.
Here are yet other proofs that will no less clearly show the falsity of human religions, and especially the falsity of ours.
Second: Proof drawn from the errors of faith
Any religion that has an erroneous principle as the foundation of its mysteries, and that has an erroneous principle as the rule of its doctrine and morality, and that is also a harmful source of eternal troubles and divisions among men, cannot be a true religion, nor be of divine institution. Human religions, and principally the Catholic, have an erroneous principle as the foundation of their doctrine and morality. Thus... etc. I don’t see how one can deny the first proposition of this argument: it is too clear and obvious to be put in doubt. I pass then to the second proposition, which is that the Christian religion takes what it calls faith as a rule of its doctrine and morality, that is, a blind, and yet firm and sure belief in a few laws or divine revelations and in a divinity. It must necessarily suppose thus, for it is that belief in some Divinity and divine revelations which give it all the credit and authority it has in the world, without which no one would take any notice of its prescriptions. This is why there is no religion that doesn’t expressly recommend to its members to be firm in their faith. From this fit flows that all Christ-lovers, take as maxims that faith is the beginning and the foundation of salvation, and that it is the root of all justice and sanctification, as was noted by the Council of Trent, Sess. 6 chap . 8.
But it is obvious that a blind belief in all that is proposed in the name of and on the authority of God is an erroneous principle and a falsehood. As proof of this we have the fact that there exists no imposter in matters of religion who doesn’t claim to cover himself with the name and authority of God, and who doesn’t say that he is particularly inspired and sent by God. Not only is that faith and blind belief that they pose as foundation of their belief an erroneous principle, but it is also a harmful source of trouble and division among men for the maintenance of their religions. There are hardly any evil deeds they don’t perpetrate against each other under this specious pretext.
It is not credible that an omnipotent God, infinitely good and wise, would want to use such methods or that He would take such a false path in order to make His will known to men, for this would manifestly mean wanting to lead them to error and to lay traps for them in order to have them embrace the party of falsehood. It is similarly not credible that a God who loves unity and peace, the good and the salvation of men, would ever have established as the foundation of His religion so fatal a source of eternal troubles and divisions among men. Thus, such religions cannot be true, nor have been instituted by God.
But I can see where our Christ-lovers will not fail to have recourse to their so called reasons for belief, and that they will say that though their faith and their belief are blind in one sense, they are nevertheless supported by such clear and convincing testimonies of truth that it would be not only imprudent, but rash and a folly to not surrender to them. They commonly reduce these so-called reasons to three or four heads.
They maintain the first through the so-called sanctity of their religion, which condemns vice and recommends the practice of virtue. According to them its doctrine is so pure, so simple, that it is obvious that it can only have come from the sanctity of an infinitely good and wise God.
The second reason for belief is drawn from the innocence and the sanctity of those who have embraced it with love and defended it to the death, suffering the cruelest torments rather than abandon it. It is not credible that such great personalities would have allowed themselves to be deceived in their beliefs, or that they would have renounced all of life’s advantages and exposed themselves to such cruel persecutions in order to maintain errors and impostures.
They draw their third reason from the credibility of the oracles and prophecies that have for so long gone in their favor, and that they claim to have been fulfilled in such a way as to not be doubted.
Finally, their fourth reason for belief, which is really the principle one, is drawn from the grandeur and the multitude of miracles performed in all times and places in favor of their religion.
But it is easy to refute all this vain reasoning and to make known the falsity of all these testimonies. For in the first place, the arguments our Christ-lovers draw from their so-called reasons for belief can serve to establish and confirm falsehood as well as truth. For we can in fact see that there does not exist a single religion, however false it might be, that does not claim to base itself on similar reasons for belief; there are none that don’t claim to have a healthy and true doctrine and that don’t, in their manner, condemn all vices and recommend the practice of all virtues. There are none that haven’t had their learned and zealous defenders, who suffered harsh persecutions in supporting and defending their religion. Finally, there are none that don’t claim to have prodigies and miracles performed in their favor.
The Mohammedans, the Indians, and the Pagans all make these claims in favor of their religions, as well as the Christians. If our Christ-lovers make much of their miracles and their prophecies, the same can be found in the religions of the pagans. Thus, the advantage that can be drawn from these so-called reasons for belief can be more or less found in all religions.
This being the case, as the histories and practices of all religions demonstrate, it obviously follows that all these so-called reasons for belief they put forward are equally found in all religions, and consequently cannot serve as certain proof and evidence of the truth of their religion, nor of the truth of any. The consequences are clear.
Secondly, to give an idea of the relation of miracles of paganism to those of Christianity, can it not be said, for example, that there is more reason to believe Philostratus concerning what he says in the eight books of the Life of Apollonius, than to believe all the Gospel writers together in what they say of the miracles of J.C., since we know, at least, that Philostratus was a man of intelligence, eloquent and well spoken, that he was the secretary of the Empress Julia, wife of the Emperor Severus, and that it was at the behest of this Empress that he wrote the life and marvelous acts of Apollonius? This is a sure sign that that Apollonius made himself famous through great and extraordinary acts, since an empress was so interested in having his life written. None of which can be said of J.C., nor of any of those who wrote his life, for they were ignorant, having come from the lowest ranks of the people, poor mercenaries, fisherman who didn’t even have the intelligence to tell in their proper order the facts of which they spoke, and who often and wildly contradict each other.
As for he of whom they wrote the life and acts, if he had truly performed the miracles they attribute to him he would have made himself highly commendable by his good acts. Everyone would have admired him and statues would have been put up in his honor, as was done for the gods. But instead of this he was regarded as a man of no value, a fanatic, etc.
Josephus the historian, after speaking of the greatest miracles reported in favor of his nation and religion immediately lessens their believability and renders them suspect by saying that he leaves to everyone the freedom to believe whatever they want, a sure sign that he didn’t have much faith in them. This also leaves room for the most judicious to look upon the stories that speak of these things as fabulous narratives. See Montaigne and the “Apology for Great Men.” One should also see the relation of the missionaries of the Isle of Santorini; there are three consecutive chapters on this matter.
All that is said on this subject allows us to clearly see that these so-called miracles can just as well be imagined to have occurred in favor of vice and falsehood as of justice and truth.
I prove this through the evidence of what the Christ-lovers themselves call the word of God, and by the testimony of he who they adore. For the books that they say contain the word of God, as well as Christ himself, who they adore as a God made man, expressly say there are false prophets, that is, imposters, who claim they were sent by God and who speak in his name, and who expressly say that they perform and will perform such great and prodigious miracles that it is possible that even the just will be seduced. See Matt. 24:5,11, 27 and elsewhere.
What is more, these so-called miracle workers want us to believe in them, and not those done by others in the opposite party, mutually destroying each other.
One day one of these so-called prophets, named Zedekiah, seeing himself contradicted by another named Micah, the latter slapped the former and said to him: ‘By what path did the spirit of God pass from me to you?’ See also 3Kings18, 40 and others.
But how can these so-called miracles testify to the truth when it is clear that they have not been performed? For one must know 1- If those who are said to be the original authors of these narratives truly are; 2- Whether they were honest men, worthy of belief, wise and enlightened, and if they weren’t prejudiced in favor of those about whom they speak positively of; 3- If they thoroughly examined all the circumstances of the acts they report, if they knew them thoroughly and if they faithfully report them; 4- If the ancient books or histories that report all these great miracles were not falsified and corrupted with the passage of time, as so many others have been.
If we were to consult Tacitus and many other celebrated historians on the subject of Moses and his nation, we would see that they are looked upon as a horde of thieves and bandits. Magic and astrology were then the only sciences a la mode, and since Moses was, it is said, learned in the wisdom of the Egyptians, it wasn’t difficult for him to inspire veneration and attachment to his person in the children of Jacob, rustic and ignorant as they were, and to get them, in their misery, to embrace the discipline he wanted to impose on them. This is all quite different from what the Jews and our Christ-lovers would have us believe. By what rule can we know that we should believe these rather than any others. There is certainly no such likely reason.
There is just as little certitude, or even likelihood, concerning the miracles of the New Testament as there is of the Old to fulfill the preceding conditions.
It would serve no purpose to say that the histories that report the acts contained in the Gospels were regarded as holy and sacred and that they were always faithfully preserved without any alteration of the truths they contain. For it is perhaps for this very reason that they are most suspect and were even more corrupted by those who obtain advantages from them or who fear that they are not favorable to them, it being common among the authors who transcribe these kinds of histories to add, change, or modify whatever seems to best serve their designs.
Even our Christ-lovers can’t deny this, since without speaking of other serious individuals who recognized additions, modifications and falsifications made at different times to what they called their Holy Scripture, their own St. Jerome, a famous doctor among them, says in several places in his prologues that they were corrupted and falsified. That they had already in his time been in the hands of a number of persons who added and subtracted whatever they wanted to in such a way that, he says, there were as many different versions as there were copies.
See his prefaces to Paulin, his preface to Joshua, his epistle to the Galateans, his preface to Job, that on the Gospels to Pope Damasius, that on the psalms to Paul and to Eustachium, etc.
All the books of the Law of Moses and the prophets that could be found were burned at the time of Antiochus. The Talmud is regarded by the Jews as a book holy and sacred, and contains all the divine laws and notable sayings of the rabbis. Their exposition, both on divine and human law and a large quantity of other secrets and mysteries of the Hebrew language, is regarded by Christians as a book filled with reveries, fables, impostures and impieties. In 1559, by order of the Inquisitors of the Faith, they ordered burned in Rome twelve hundred of these Talmuds found in a library of the city of Cremona.
The Pharisees, who were a famous sect among the Jews, accepted only the five books of Moses and rejected all the Prophets. Among the Christians, Marcion and his followers rejected the Books of Moses and the Prophets and introduced other writings a la mode; Carpocrates and his followers did the same and rejected the entire Old Testament and maintained that Jesus Christ was nothing but a man like the others. The Marcionites and the Sovereigns attacked the entire Old Testament as evil, and also rejected most of the four Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul.
The Ebionites only accepted the Gospel of St Matthew, rejecting the three others and the Epistles of St Paul. The Marcionites published a Gospel under the name of St. Matthias in order to confirm their doctrine. The Apostolics introduced other scriptures in order to support their errors, and to this end utilized certain acts that they attributed to St. Andrew and St. Thomas.
The Manicheans, Chron. p. 287, wrote a Gospel in their style and rejected the writings of the prophets and the Apostles. The Etzsaites spoke of a certain book that they said came from heaven, and they carved up the other scriptures following their fantasy. Origenus himself, with all his great intelligence, nevertheless corrupted the Scriptures and forged allegories as he wished, in this way changing the meanings of the Prophets and the Apostles, and even corrupted some of the principal points of doctrine. His books are now mutilated and falsified; they are no longer anything but pieces gathered and stitched together by others who came later: and so we find there manifest errors and flaws.
The Allogians attributed the Gospel and Apocalypse of St John to the heretic Cerinthus, which is why they rejected them. The heretics of the last centuries rejected as apocryphal several books that the Roman Catholics regard as holy and sacred, like the books of Tobias, Judith, Esther, Baruch, the canticle of the three children in the furnace, the story of Suzanne and that of the idol of Baal, the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, the First and Second Books of Macchabees. To which uncertain and doubtful books one can add several others that have been attributed to other Apostles, like the Acts of St. Thomas, his travels, his Gospel and his Apocalypse; the Gospel of St. Bartholomew, that of St. Matthias, that of St. James, that of St. Peter, and that of the Apostles, as well as the Acts of St. Peter, his book of preachings and his Apocalypse, that of Judgment, that of the childhood of the Savior, and others of similar cloth, all of which are rejected as apocryphal by Roman Catholics, even by Pope Gelasius and by the Holy Fathers of the Roman Communion.
What confirms even more that there is no ground for certainty concerning the authority that is claimed for these books, is that those who maintain their divinity are forced to confess that they would have no grounds for certitude if their faith didn’t assure them of this and didn’t oblige them to believe. Since faith is nothing but an erroneous principle and imposture, how can faith, i.e., blind belief, render those books that are themselves the basis for that blind belief certain? What a pity and what madness.
But let us see if these books contain any of the characteristics of truth, such as erudition, wisdom, sanctity or any other of those perfections that are appropriate to a God, and if the miracles that are cited there are in agreement with what should be thought of the grandeur, the goodness, and the infinite wisdom of an omnipotent God.
First, it can be seen that there is no erudition, no sublime thought or any production beyond the ordinary strength of the human spirit. On the contrary, on one hand we see nothing but fabulous narratives, like that of the formation of woman from the rib of a man, or of the so-called earthly paradise, and of a snake who spoke and reasoned and who was even trickier than man; of an ass who spoke and who reproached its master for mistreatment; of a universal flood and an arc where animals of all kinds were contained; of the confusion of languages and the division of nations; not to mention a number of other vain tales on low and frivolous subjects that serious authors would not deign to report. All these narrations have no less the air of fables than those that were invented about the industriousness of Prometheus, Pandora’s Box, the war of the Titans against the gods, and other such like that the poets invented to amuse the men of their time.
On the other hand one sees nothing but a mix of a number of laws and ordinances or superstitious practices touching on sacrifices, the purifications of the ancient law, and the vain discrimination between animals, of which it supposes some pure and others impure. These laws are no more respectable than those of the most idolatrous of nations.
One can find there simple stories, true or false, of kings, or princes, or individuals who lived either well or badly, or who carried out a few good or evil acts; low and frivolous acts that are reported there, as well.
In order to do all this it’s obvious that no great genius was required, nor any divine revelations. Thinking so doesn’t do God any honor.
Finally, one can see in these books nothing but the discourses, the conduct, and the acts of these renowned Prophets who claimed to be particularly inspired by God. One can see how they acted and spoke, their dreams, their illusions, their reveries, and it would be easy to judge that they much more resembled visionaries and fanatics than they did men both wise and enlightened.
Nevertheless, there are in some of these books a few good teachings and some beautiful moral maxims, like in the proverbs attributed to Solomon, those in the Book of Wisdom and in Ecclesiastes. But this same Solomon, the wisest of their writers is also the most unbelieving. He even doubts the immortality of the soul, and he concludes his work by saying there is no other good than that of enjoying in peace the fruits of our labor and living with what we love.
Besides, how far above these books that are said to be inspired by God are the authors who are called profane: Xenophon, Plato, Cicero, the Emperor Antoninus, the Emperor Julian, Virgil, etc. I feel safe in saying that even the fables of Aesop are certainly more ingenious and instructive than all those crude and low parables that are told in the Gospels.
But what also makes obvious that these of books cannot have been be divinely inspired is the fact that, aside from the lowness and crudity of style and the lack of order in the narration of particular facts - which are extremely circumstantial - one can see that the authors are not in agreement with each other, and that they contradict each other in several areas. They didn’t even have enough intelligence or natural talent to correctly edit a history.
Here are a few examples of contradictions. The Gospel writer Matthew has J. Ch. descend from King David through his son Solomon until Joseph, the at least putative father of J. Ch. Luke has him descend from the same David by his son Nathan down to Joseph.
Speaking of Jesus, Matthew says that the word had been spread around Jerusalem that a new king had been born, and that the Magi had come seeking him so as to adore him. King Herod, fearing that the so-called new king would some day take the crown from him, had had all the babies born within the last two years in the area of Bethlehem killed, for it was there he was told this new king was going to be born. Joseph and the mother of Jesus, having been warned in a dream by an angel of this evil plan, had quickly fled to Egypt, where they remained until Herod’s death, which occurred a few years later.
On the contrary, Luke says that Joseph and the mother of Jesus peacefully remained for six weeks in the place where their child Jesus was born, that in keeping with the law of the Jews he was circumcised there eight days after his birth. And when the time prescribed by that law for the purification of the mother had passed, she and Joseph her husband took him to Jerusalem to present him to God in His temple and also to offer a sacrifice, which was commanded by the law of God. After this they returned to Galilee to their city of Nazareth, where their child Jesus every day grew in grace and wisdom, and his mother and father went every year to Jerusalem on the solemn days of Passover. Luke makes no mention of their flight to Egypt, nor of Herod’s cruelty towards the children of the province of Bethlehem.
As for Herod’s cruelty, since the historians of those times don’t speak of it at all, and neither does Josephus, the historian who wrote the life of Herod; and since the other Gospel writers make no mention of it, it’s obvious that this voyage of the Magi led by a star, this massacre of little children, and this flight to Egypt are nothing but absurd lies. For it is not credible that Josephus, who condemned the vices of this king, would have passed silently over so black and detestable an act, if what this Gospel said were true.
On the subject of the duration of the public life of JC, according to what the first three Gospels say there could hardly have been three months from his baptism to his death, supposing that he was thirty when he was baptized, as Luke says, and that he was born on December 25. For from this baptism, which occurred in the 15th year of Tiberius’ reign, and the year when Ananaias and Caiphas were the High Priests, until the first night of the next Passover, which was in the month of March, there were only about three months. According to what is said in the first three Gospels, he was crucified on the eve of the first day of the next Passover after his baptism, and the first time he came to Jerusalem with his disciples - for everything they say about his baptism, his travels, his miracles, his preaching, his death and his passion necessarily happened in the same year as his baptism. Since the writers of the Gospels do not speak of a next year, and it even seems, by the narration they give of his acts, that he did them all immediately after his baptism - one after another consecutively and within a short span of time - during which we can only see one interval of six days before his transfiguration, during which six days we don’t see where he did a single thing.
One can see from this that he lived only about three months after his baptism, and if we subtract from this six weeks of forty days and forty nights that he passed in the desert immediately after his baptism, it follows that the duration of his public life, from his first preaching until his death, only lasted around six weeks. Following what John says, it would have lasted at least three years and three months, since it appears - according to the Gospel of that Apostle - that he went to Jerusalem three or four times during Passover, which only comes once a year.
Thus, if it is true that he went there three of four times after his baptism, as John testifies, it is false that he only lived three months after his baptism and that he was crucified the first time he went to Jerusalem.
If we say that the first three Gospels speak only of one year, but that they fail to distinctly mark off the others that passed after his baptism, or that John only means to speak of one Passover, though he seems to be speaking of several, and that it is only in anticipation that he several times repeats that the Passover of the Jews was near and that Jesus went to Jerusalem, and that consequently there is only an apparent contradiction among the Gospels on this subject, I would accept all this. But it is clear that these apparent contradictions arise from the fact they don’t all agree on all the circumstances in the tale they are telling. Whatever the case, it is still possible to draw the conclusion that they were not inspired by God when they wrote their histories.
Another contradiction concerns the first thing he did immediately after his baptism, for the first three Gospels say that he was immediately transported by the Spirit to a desert, where he fasted forty days and forty nights, and he was several times tempted by the devil. According to John, two days after his baptism he left for Galilee, where he performed his first miracle by changing water to wine at the wedding in Cana where, three days after his arrival in Galilee, he could be found more than thirty leagues from where he had been.
As for the place where he first retreated after leaving the desert, Matthew says (ch. 4:13) that he went to Galilee, and that leaving the city of Nazareth he went to the city of Capernaum. And Luke (ch. 4:16 & #amp; 41) says that he at first went to Nazareth, and that he then went to Capernaum.
They contradict each other on the time and way the Apostles followed him. For the first three say that Jesus, passing along banks of the Sea of Galilee, saw Simon and Andrew, his brother, and that further along he saw James and his brother John with their father Zebedee. On the contrary John says that it was Andrew, brother of Simon Peter, who was the first to join Jesus along with another disciple of John the Baptist, having seen him pass before them when they were with their master on the banks of the Jordan.
On the subject of the Last Supper, the first three Gospels say that Jesus Christ instituted the sacrament of his body and his blood in the form of bread and wine, as is said by our Roman Christ-lovers. But John makes no mention of this mysterious sacrament. John says (ch. 13:5) that after the Last Supper Jesus washed the feet of his Apostles, that he expressly ordered them to do the same for each other, and reports a long speech he made them at the same time. But the others Gospels make no mention of this washing of the feet, nor of a long speech that he then made. On the contrary, they testify that immediately after the Last Supper he left with his Apostles for the Mount of Olives, where he gave his soul over to sorrow, and that he finally fell into agony while the Apostles slept a short distance away.
They contradict themselves on the day of the Last Supper. On one hand they say he held it the evening of the eve of Passover, that is, the eve of the first day of unleavened bread, as it is said in Exodus 12:18. Levit. 25:5 Num. 28:16, and on the other hand they say he was crucified the day after the day of the Last Supper, at around noon, after the Jews had put him on trial for an entire night and a morning. According to what they say, the day after that Last Supper would not have been the eve of Passover. Thus, if he died the eve of Passover at around noon it wasn’t the evening of the eve of that holiday that the Last Supper was held. There is thus a manifest error in this.
They also contradict themselves on what they report about the women who followed Jesus from Galilee. For the first three Gospels say that these women and all those he knew - among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Jesus and the mother and children of Zebedee - looked from afar on what was happening when he was hung and attached to the cross. On the contrary, John says (19:25) that Jesus’ mother and his mother’s sister and Mary Magdalene were standing near the cross, along with the Apostle John. The contradiction is manifest, for if these women and this disciple were near him they thus weren’t far away, as the others say.
They contradict themselves on the so-called appearances they report that Jesus made after his so-called resurrection. Matthew (ch. 28:16) only speaks of two appearances, one when he appeared to Mary Magdalene and to another woman also named Mary, and another when he appeared to his eleven disciples, who had gone to Galilee to the mountain he had shown them from which they could see him. Mark speaks of three appearances, the first when he appeared to Mary Magdalene, the second when he appeared to his two disciples who were going to Emmaus, and the third when he appeared to his eleven disciples, who he reproached for their lack of belief. Luke, like Matthew, only speaks of the two first appearances, and John the Evangelist speaks of four appearances, and adds to Marc’s three that which he made to seven or eight of his disciples who were fishing on the sea at Tiberias.
They contradict themselves again on the location of the appearances, for Matthew says that they were in Galilee on a mountain, Mark says that they were when he was at the table, Luke says that he led them out of Jerusalem and brought them as far as Bethany, where he left them and rose to heaven, and John says that it was in the city of Jerusalem in a house where they had closed the doors, and another time by the sea in Tiberias.
Here then are quite a number of contradictions in the tale of these so-called appearances. They contradict themselves on the subject of his so-called Ascension to heaven, for Luke and Mark positively say that he rose to heaven in the presence of his eleven Apostles, but neither Matthew nor John makes any mention of this so-called ascension. What is more, Matthew testifies quite clearly that he did not rise to heaven, since he positively says that Jesus Christ assured his Apostles that he would remain with them until the end of time: “Go then,” he tells them in this so-called appearance, “teach all the nations and be assured that I will remain with you until the end of time.”
Luke contradicts himself on this subject, for in his Gospel (ch. 24: 50) he says that it was in Bethany that he rose to heaven in the presence of his Apostles, and in his Acts of the Apostles, supposing that he was the author, he says that it was on the Mount of Olives. He again contradicts himself in another circumstance of that Ascension, for he says in his Gospel that it was the same day as the resurrection, or the first night following it, that he rose to heaven. But in the Acts of the Apostles he says that it was forty days after his resurrection, which certainly is not in agreement.
If all the Apostles had truly seen their master rise gloriously to heaven how could Matthew and John - who would have seen him like the others - have passed over in silence so glorious a mystery, and one so advantageous to their master, given that they reported so many other circumstances of his life and acts that are so much less considerable than this one? How is it that Matthew makes no express mention of this Ascension and doesn’t clearly explain how he will forever remain among them, though he visibly left them to rise to heaven? It isn’t easy to understand by what secret means he could remain with those he left.
I pass in silence a number of other contradictions. What I have just said suffices to show that these books are not the product of divine inspiration, or even of human wisdom, and that consequently they don’t deserve our having any faith in them.
But by what privilege do these Gospels and a few other similar books pass for holy and divine, while others don’t that don’t any less bear the title of Gospel, and which were once the first published under the names of a Apostles? If it is said that the refuted Gospels were supposedly and falsely attributed to the Apostles the same can be said of the former group. If it can be supposed that some were falsified and corrupted, the same can be supposed for the others. There is no certain proof that can separate the ones from the others; despite what the Church decides, it is no longer credible.
As for the so-called miracles reported in the Old Testament, they were only performed in order to demonstrate an unjust and odious regard for peoples and individuals, and to deliberately overwhelm some with evils so as to favor others. The vocation and the choice that God made of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to make of their posterity a people who he would sanctify and bless above all the other peoples of the earth, is the proof of this.
But, it will be said, God is the absolute master of his grace and beneficence; he can grant them to whoever he deems fit without anyone having the right to complain or accuse him of injustice. This reasoning is vain, for God - the author of nature, the father of all men - should love them all equally as his own works. Consequently, he should equally be their protector and benefactor, for he who gives being should give all that flows from this that is needed for their well-being. If this is not what our Christ-lovers mean, that their God expressly made creatures so as to render them miserable, then that it would certainly be an unworthy thought to have of an infinitely good being.
What is more, if all the so-called miracles of the Old and the New Testaments were true, it could be said that God showed more care in meeting the least needs of men than in their greatest and principal need; that he more severely punished slight faults in certain persons than he punished great crimes in others; and finally that he didn’t show himself so beneficent in the most pressing of needs than in the least of them. All this is easy to show, as much by the miracles that he is said to have performed as by those he didn’t perform and that he should more likely have performed than any other - if it were true he had done any. For example, to say that God had the kindness to send an angel to console and aid a simple servant when he left - and still leaves - to languish and die in misery an infinite number of innocents; that he would miraculously preserve for forty years the clothing and shoes of a miserable people, when he doesn’t watch over the natural preservation of so many goods so useful and necessary for people’s subsistence, and which every day are lost through different accidents. What! He sent to the first chiefs of the human race, Adam and Eve, a demon, a devil, a simple snake to seduce them and in this way to destroy all men? This simply isn’t credible. What! He would have wanted, through a special grace of his providence, to prevent the king of pagan Geraris from falling into a minor error with a foreign woman, an error that would have had no ill consequences, yet he didn’t want to prevent Adam and Eve from offending him and falling into the sin of disobedience, a sin which, according to our Christ-lovers, is fatal and caused the humanity’s destruction? This isn’t credible.
Let’s now come to the miracles of the New Testament. It is claimed that they consist of Jesus and his Apostles divinely curing all sorts of maladies and infirmities so that, when they wanted, they rendered eyesight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb; that they made the lame walk, that they cured paralytics, that they chased demons from the bodies of the possessed, and they resurrected the dead.
Several of these miracles can be found in the Gospels, but many more can be seen in the books our Christ-lovers have written on the lives of their saints, for we read there that these so-called happy ones cured maladies and infirmities, chased demons almost whenever they met them, all of this solely using the name of Jesus or the sign of the cross. That so to speak they commanded the elements, that God so favored them that even after their deaths he granted them his divine power, and this unto the least of their garments, and even unto the shadow of their bodies and the shameful instruments of their deaths. It is said that the sock of Saint Honoré resuscitated a dead man on January 6, that the rods of Saint Peter, Saint James and Saint Bernard performed miracles. The same is said of Saint Francis’ rope, the rod of Saint John of God, and the belt of Saint Melanie. It is said of Saint Gracilien that he was divinely instructed on what he should believe and teach and that through the quality of his preaching he made a mountain retreat that was preventing him from building a church. That there endlessly flowed from the sepulcher of Saint Andrew a liqueur that cured all kinds of maladies. That the soul of Saint Benedict was seen rising to heaven clothed in a precious cloak and surrounded by burning lamps. Saint Dominic said that God never denied him anything he asked of him. That Saint Francis commanded the sparrows and that they obeyed him, as well as swans and other birds, and they too obeyed him, and that often fish, rabbits and hares placed themselves in his hands or his bosom. That Saint Paul and Saint Pantaleon having had their heads cut off, milk instead of blood flowed from them. That the fortunate Peter of Luxembourg, in the first two years after his death, 1388 and 1389, performed 2400 miracles, among which there were 42 dead resuscitated, not counting more than 3,000 other miracles he performed afterwards, nor those he still performs every day. That the bodies of the fifty philosophers converted by Saint Catherine, having all been thrown into a great fire, were afterwards discovered whole, with not a single hair burned; that the body of Saint Catherine was raised by the angels and buried by them on Mount Sinai. That the day of the canonization of San Antonio of Padua all the bells of the city of Lisbon rang on their own without anyone knowing how that occurred; that this saint, being one day at the seaside, and having called on the fish to preach to them, they came to him en masse and, raising their heads from the water, attentively listened to him. We would never finish if we had to report all this nonsense. There is no subject so vain, so frivolous, and even so ridiculous that the authors of these lives of the saints don’t take pleasure in piling up miracle on top of miracle, so able are they at forging beautiful lies. See also the sentiment of Naudé on this matter in his Apologie des Grands-hommes, vol 2, p. 13.
In fact, it is not without reason that these things are looked upon as vain lies, for it is easy to see that all these so-called miracles were only invented in imitation of the fables of pagan poets. Their conformity among themselves makes this quite visible.
Conformity of ancient and new miracles.
If our Christ-lovers say that God truly gave power to his saints to perform all the miracles reported in their lives, so did the pagans say that the daughters of Anius, High Priest of Apollo, truly received from the God Bacchus the favor and the power to change all that they wanted into wheat, wine, oil, etc.
That Jupiter gave the Nymphs who watched over his education a ram’s horn that provided him with milk during his childhood, and that had a special property in that it provided them with all they wanted in abundance.
If our Christ-lovers say that their saints had the power to resuscitate the dead, that they had divine revelations, the pagans said before them that Athalide, son of Mercury, had obtained from his father the gift of living, dying, and resuscitating whenever he wanted, and that he also knew of everything that happened in the world and in the after life. And that Aesculapius, son of Apollo, had resuscitated the dead, and that among others he resuscitated Hyppolite, son of Theseus at the request of Diane, and that Hercules resuscitated Alcestis, the wife of Admet, the King of Thessaly, in order to return her to her husband.
If out Christ-lovers say that their Christ was miraculously born of a virgin who had never known a man, the pagans, before them, had already said that Remus and Romulus, the founders of Rome, were miraculously born of a Vestal Virgin named Ilia, or Sylvia, or Rea Sylvia; they had already said that Mars, Argus, Vulcan and others were born from the goddess Juno, without knowledge of a man, and had already said that Minerva, the goddess of science had been born from the brain of Jupiter, and that she came out fully armed from the force of a blow with which this god had smacked his head.
If our Christ-lovers say that their saints made fountains of water come out of rocks, pagans say the same thing, that Minerva made a fountain of oil spurt as a reward for a temple dedicated to her.
If our Christ-lovers brag of having miraculously received images from heaven, like that of Notre Dame de Lorette and of Liesse and several other presents from heaven, like the so-called holy ampoule of Rheims, like the white chasuble that Saint Ildefonse received from the Virgin Mary and other such like things, the pagans bragged before them of having miraculously received from heaven their Palladium, or their simulacrum of Pallas which came, they said, to take her place in the temple that had been built in honor of that goddess.
If out Christ-lovers say that their Jesus Christ was seen by his Apostles rising gloriously to heaven, and that several souls of their co-called saints were seen being transferred to heaven by angels, the Roman pagans before them had already said that Romulus their founder was seen in his glory after his death, that Ganymede son of Tros, King of Troy, was transported by Jupiter to heaven to serve him; that the hair of Berenice, having been consecrated to the temple of Venus, was afterwards transported to heaven; they say the same thing of Cassiopeia and Andromeda, and even of Silenus’ ass.
If our Christ-lovers say that the bodies of several of their saints were miraculously saved from corruption after their deaths, and that they were found through divine revelations after having been long lost, the pagans say the same thing about the body of Orestes, which they claim to have found with the aid of the Oracle, etc.
If our Christ-lovers say that the seven sleeping brothers miraculously slept for 177 years, that they were locked up in a cave, the pagans say that Epimenides the philosopher slept 57 years in a cave where he had fallen asleep.
If out Christ-lovers say that several of their saints miraculously still spoke after having their heads or tongues cut off, the pagans say that the head of Gabienus chanted a long poem after having been separated from his body.
If our Christ-lovers glory in the fact that their temples and churches are decorated with paintings and rich gifts that show the miraculous cures carried out through the intercession of their saints, then one can also see, or rather one once saw in the Temple of Aesculapius, a number of paintings of miraculous cures and healings he performed.
If our Christ-lovers say that several saints were miraculously preserved in burning flames without suffering any harm in their bodies or to their garments, the pagans said that the priestesses of the temple of Diana walked barefoot on burning coals without either burning or hurting their feet, and that the priests of the goddess Feronius and Hyrpicus also walked on burning coals during the fireworks in honor of Apollo.
If the angels built a chapel to Saint Clement at the bottom of the sea, Baucis and Philemon’s small house was miraculously changed into a superb temple as a reward for their piety.
If several of their saints, like Saint James, Saint Maurice, etc, several times appeared before their armies, mounted and equipped to fight in their favor, Castor and Pollux several times appeared to battle for the Romans against their enemies.
If a ram was miraculously found to be offered in sacrifice in place of Isaac when his father Abraham wanted to sacrifice him, the goddess Vesta also sent a heifer to be sacrificed to her in place of Metella, the daughter of Metellus. The goddess Diana also sent a doe in place of Iphigenia when she was at the stake about to be sacrificed, and in this way Iphigenia was delivered.
If Saint Joseph fled to Egypt on the warning of an angel, Simonides the poet on several occasions avoided danger thanks to the miraculous warnings that were given him.
If Moses made water spring from a rock when he struck it with his rod, the horse Pegasus did the same by striking a rock with his hoof.
If Saint Vincent Ferrer resuscitated a dead man hacked to pieces whose corpse was already half-cooked, Pelops, son of Tantalus, King of Phrygia, having been cut in pieces by his father so he could be eaten by the gods, had his members gathered together, reassembled, and his life returned to him.
If several crucifixes and other images have miraculously spoken and given answers, the pagans say that their oracles divinely spoke and gave answers to those who consulted them, and that the heads of Orpheus and Polycrates gave oracles after their deaths.
If, as is said in the Gospels, God made known that Jesus Christ was his son by a voice from heaven, Vulcan made visible by the appearance of a miraculous flame that Coeculus was truly his son.
If God miraculously nourished a few of his saints, the pagan poets say that Triptoleme was miraculously nourished with divine milk by Ceres, who also gave him a chariot led by two dragons, and Phineas, son of Mars, though he came stillborn from his mother’s belly, was nevertheless miraculously nourished with her milk.
If several saints miraculously calmed the cruelty and ferocity of the cruelest beasts, it is said that Orpheus attracted lions, bears, and tigers to himself through the sweetness of his song and the harmony of his instruments and calmed the ferocity of their nature; that he attracted stones and trees, and that even rivers stopped flowing so they could listen to him sing.
Finally, and to conclude - for many more stories can be reported - if our Christ-lovers say that the walls of Jericho fell at the sound of trumpets, the pagans say that the walls of Thebes were built by the sound of the musical instruments of Amphion; the stones, the poets say, put themselves in place thanks to the sweetness of the music, which is more miraculous and admirable than seeing walls tumble to earth.
All this certainly shows a conformity in miracles on one side and the other. Since it would be foolish to believe in the so-called miracles of paganism, it is no less so to believe in those of Christianity, since they all come from the same erroneous principle. It is for this reason that the Manicheans and the Arians, who existed in the early days of Christianity, had no use for co-called miracles performed through the invoking of saints, and mocked those who invoked them after their deaths and who honored their relics.
Let us now return to the principal end proposed by God in sending his son who was made man to earth. This was done, as it is said, to remove the sins from the world and to completely destroy the works of the so-called devil, etc. This is what our Christ-lovers maintain, as well as that Jesus Christ died for love of them, in keeping with the intentions of God his Father, which is clearly stated in all the so-called holy books.
What! An omnipotent God who wanted to become a mortal man for love of them and to spill his last drop of blood in order to save them all would then limit his power to curing only a few maladies and bodily infirmities in the few of the infirm who were presented to him, and who wouldn’t have wanted to employ his divine goodness in curing all the infirmities of our souls, that is, curing all men of their vices and dissolutions, which are worse than the illnesses of the body? This isn’t believable. What! So good a God would have wanted to preserve dead bodies from rot and corruption and would not also have wanted to protect from the contagion and vice of sin the souls of an infinite number of persons that he had come to redeem at the price of his blood, and that he should have sanctified with his grace? What a pitiful contradiction!
Third proof of the falsity of religion, drawn from so-called visions and Divine revelations
Now we come to so-called visions and divine revelations, upon which our Christ-lovers found and establish the truth and certainty of their religion.
In order to give a fair idea of this I don’t think that one can do better than to say, in general, that they are such that if someone now dared to brag about having similar ones and tried to make much of himself he would be looked upon as a madman and a fanatic.
Here are the so-called visions and divine revelations:
God, say the so-called holy books, having appeared for the first time to Abraham, said to him: “Leave your country (he was then in Chaldea), leave your father’s house and go to the country I will show you.” This Abraham having gone there God, says the history (Gen. 12,1) appeared to him a second time and said to him: “I will give this whole land to your posterity.” In recognition of this gracious promise Abraham built an altar to him.
After Isaac’s death his son Jacob, going one day to Mesopotamia to find a wife, having walked all day and feeling tired form his walk, wanted to rest for the evening. Lying on the ground, his head resting on some rocks, he fell asleep. During his sleep he saw in a dream a ladder going from the earth to the farthest reaches of heaven, and he thought he saw angels ascending and descending this ladder. He saw God himself on the highest rung, saying to him: “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac your father. I will give to you and your posterity all the land in which you sleep; they shall be as numerous as the dust of the earth. It will reach from the east to the west, and from north to south; I will be your protector wherever you go. I will bring you safe and sound from that land, and I will never abandon you as long as I haven’t accomplished all that I promised you.” Jacob having awakened from this dream was seized with fear and said: “what, God is truly here and I knew nothing of it? How terrible this place is, since it is nothing but the house of God and the Gates of Heaven.” And having risen he prepared a stone, on which he spread oil in memory of what had just happened to him, and at the same time made a vow to God that if he returned safe and sound he would offer him a tithe of all he had.
Here is another vision. Guarding the flock of his father-in-law Laban, who had promised him that all the lambs of various colors that the sheep would produce would be his reward, he dreamed one night that he saw the males leap onto the females, and they produced lambs of various colors. In this beautiful dream God appeared to him and he said (Gen 31,12): “Look and see how the males mount the females, and how they are of various colors, for I saw the deceit and injustice that your father-in-law Laban did to you. Rise now, leave this land and return to your own.” As he returned with all his family with all he had earned with his father-in-law, the story says that during the night he met an unknown man, who he fought all night until daybreak, and that man, not having been able to defeat him, asked him who he was. Jacob told him his name: “You will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for since you were mighty when fighting God, all the more will you be mighty when fighting men.” (Gen 32:25,28)
These were, in part, the first of these so-called divine visions and revelations. The others shouldn’t be judged any differently than these. What appearance of divinity is there in these coarse dreams and vain illusions? If anyone came now to tell us such foolish tales and believed them to be veritable divine revelations; if, for example, some foreigners, some Germans, came to our France and, seeing all the beautiful provinces of the kingdom, were to say that God had appeared to them in their country and had told them to go to France, and that he would give them and their descendants all the beautiful lands, seigneuries, and provinces of this kingdom, which go from the Rhine and the Rhone to the Atlantic, that he will make an eternal alliance with them, that he will multiply their race, that he will render their posterity as numerous as the stars in the sky and the grains of sand in the sea, etc, who wouldn’t laugh at such foolishness, and who wouldn’t look upon these foreigners as madmen? There is no one who wouldn’t look upon them as such and who wouldn’t mock all these beautiful visions and divine revelations.
There is no reason to think or to judge otherwise about all that they have those great so-called holy patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob say about the so-called divine revelations they said they saw.
As concerns the institution of bloody sacrifices, the holy books attribute it to God. Since it would be too tiresome to lay out the disgusting details of these of sacrifices, I send the reader to Exodus 25:1-27:1 and 21-28:3-29:1, ibid. v. 2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11.
But were men not mad and blind to think that they were doing honor to God by rending, killing, and burning His own creatures under the pretext of making sacrifices to Him? And even now, how can our Christ-lovers be so mad as to believe they are pleasing their God the father by eternally offering in sacrifice His divine son in memory of his having been shamefully and miserably hung on a cross where he expired? This can certainly only be the result of a stubborn blindness of spirit.
As for the details of animal sacrifices, they only consist of colored garments, blood, guts, livers, jabots, kidneys, nails, skin; droppings, smoke, cakes, a few measures of oil and wine, all of it offered and infected by ceremonies as filthy and pitiful as the most extravagant magical operations.
What is even more horrible is that the law of this detestable Jewish people also commanded that they sacrifice men. The barbarians (for such is what they were) who wrote that atrocious law commanded (Lev. 27) that they kill without mercy anyone who had been pledged to the God of the Jews, who they called Adonai, and it was in accordance with this execrable precept that Jephtha sacrificed his daughter and that Saul sacrificed his son.
But here is yet another proof of the falsity of these revelations of which we have spoken: it was the failure to fulfill the great and magnificent promises that accompanied them, for it is a fact that these promises were never fulfilled.
The proof of this consists in three principal things; 1- Rendering their posterity more numerous than all the other peoples of the earth etc; 2- Rendering the people of their race the happiest, the holiest and the must triumphant of all the peoples of the earth, etc; 3- Rendering their alliance eternal and that they will forever possess the country he would give them. It is clear that these promises were never fulfilled.
First: it is certain that the Jewish people, or the people of Israel, which is the only one that we can regard as the descendants of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the only one for whom the promises should have been fulfilled, has never been so numerous so as to be comparable in number to all the other peoples of the earth, and is consequently far fewer than the grains of sand, etc; for it can be seen that at the time when it was most numerous and flourishing it never occupied anything but the small sterile provinces of Palestine and its environs, which are almost nothing in comparison with the vast extent of the multitude of flourishing kingdoms that exist all over the earth.
Secondly: they were never fulfilled touching on the great blessings with which they were to have been favored for, though having carried off several small victories over poor peoples that they pillaged, this has not prevented them from being in most cases defeated and reduced to servitude, their kingdom as well as their nation destroyed by the Roman army. And even now we see that the remains of that unhappy nation is looked upon as the most vile and contemptible of the earth, having nowhere had either dominion or authority.
Thirdly and finally: these promises were not fulfilled with regard to that eternal alliance that God is supposed to have made with them, since we do not see - and we have never seen - any sign of that alliance. On the contrary, for several centuries they have been excluded from the possession of the small country that they claim to have been promised them by God for their eternal use. Thus, none of these so-called promises having had any effect, this is a certain mark of their falsity. Which again manifestly proves that those so-called holy and sacred books that contain them were not written through divine inspiration. It is thus in vain that our Christ-lovers claim they can use them as infallible evidence proving the truth of their religion.
Our Christ-lovers also put prophecies forward as a reason for belief and as a certain proof of the truth of their religion. These are, they claim, certain evidence of the truth of God’s revelations or inspirations, God alone being able to predict future things so far in advance of their arrival, like those that were predicted by the prophets.
Let us now see what there is to these so-called prophecies, and if we should make as much of them as our Christ-lovers claim.
These men were nothing but visionaries and fanatics, who acted and spoke in keeping with the impulses or transports of their dominant passions, yet who imagined that it was through God’s spirit that they acted and spoke. Or else they were imposters who pretended to be prophets and who, in order to more easily deceive the ignorant and the simple, bragged of acting and speaking through God’s spirit.
I would like very much to know how an Ezekiel would be received who says (ch 3; 4) that God had him eat a parchment book, ordered him to have himself tied up like a madman, told him to lie down 390 days on his right side and 40 on the left, ordered him to eat shit on his bread and then, as a compromise, ox droppings. I ask how such a lunatic would be received among even the most imbecilic of our provincials?
What greater proof of the falsity of these so-called predictions than the violent reproaches that these prophets made against each other accusing, each other of falsely speaking in God’s name. Reproaches they made, they said, in God’s behalf. See Ezech 13:1 Sophon. 3,4 7 Jer. 2:4.
They all say: guard yourselves against false prophets, just as the sellers of mitridate say to guard yourselves against counterfeit pills.
These unfortunates make God speak in a way that even a madman wouldn’t dare speak. God says in ch. 23 of Ezekiel that the young Oolla only loves those who have an ass’ member and the sperm of a horse. How could these insane liars know the future? Not a single prediction in favor of their Jewish nation has been fulfilled.
The number of prophecies that predict the happiness and grandeur of Jerusalem is almost uncountable. It can be said that it is natural that a defeated and captive people would console itself for its real ills with imaginary hopes, just as there hasn’t passed a single year since the destitution of King James that the Irish of his party haven’t forged prophecies in his favor.
But if these promises made to the Jews were in fact true, then the Jewish nation for a long time would already have been, and would still be, the most numerous, the most powerful, the happiest, and the most triumphant of peoples.
We must now examine the so-called prophecies contained in the New Testament.
First. An angel appeared in dream to a certain Joseph, the at least putative father of Jesus son of Mary, and said to him: “Joseph son of David, do not fear to take to your house Mary your wife, for that which is in her is the work of the Holy Spirit (How many similar stories are there, says Montaigne, of poor humans cuckolded by the gods). She will give birth to a son who you will call Jesus, for it is he who will deliver his people from their sins.”
That angel also said to Mary: “Have no fear, for you have found grace in the eyes of God. I declare that you will conceive in your womb and you will give birth to a son you will call Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the son of the Most High. The lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He shall reign forever in the house of Jacob, and his reign will have no end.” (Matt. 1:20 and Luke 1:3)
Jesus began to preach and to say: “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is nigh (Matt.4:17) Fear not and do not say what will we eat or what will we drink? Or how will we be clothed? For your heavenly father knows that all of these things are necessary. Seek first the kingdom of God and his justice and all these things shall be given to you in abundance.” (Matt 6:30,31,32
And now let any man who has not lost his senses examine if this Jesus was ever king, or if his disciples had everything in abundance.
This Jesus often promises that he will deliver the world from sin. Is there a more false prophecy? Is our century not eloquent proof of this?
It is said that Jesus came to save his people. What a way to save them! It is the greatest part that denominates a thing: for example, a dozen or two Spaniards or Frenchmen are not the French people or the Spanish people, and if an army of 120,000 men were taken prisoner of war by a stronger army of enemies, and if the head of that army ransomed only a few men, say ten or twelve soldiers or officers, by paying their ransom, we wouldn’t then say that he delivered or saved his army. What then is a God who has Himself crucified and dies to save the world and leaves so many nations damned? What a pity and what a horror.
Jesus says that we only have to ask and we will receive, to seek and we shall find. He assures us that all we ask of God in his name shall be obtained and if we have faith that is as tiny as a mustard seed we could move mountains with only a word. If that promise were true nothing would appear impossible to our Christ-lovers, who have faith in their Christ. Nevertheless, the opposite occurs.
If Mohammed had made promises to his followers like those Jesus made to his, what would we say? We would cry out: “Liar! Imposter! You madmen who believe such an imposter!” Yet here are the Christ-lovers themselves in the same case, and they have been there for a long time without turning from their blindness. On the contrary, they are so ingenious in deceiving themselves that they claim that these promises have been fulfilled since the beginning of Christianity. It is the case, they say, that miracles occur in order to convince the unbelieving of the truth of their religion, but that their religion now being sufficiently established miracles are no longer necessary. Where is the certainty of this proposition?
In any event, he who made these promises didn’t restrict them to a certain time or place, nor to certain persons in particular: he made them generally for all the world. “The faith of those who will believe,” he says, “ will be followed by these miracles: they will chase out devils in my name, they shall speak diverse languages, they shall touch snakes, etc.”
As for the moving of mountains, he positively says that he who says to a mountain: “Move from there; I throw you into the sea,” as long as he doesn’t hesitate in his heart but rather believes, all that he orders shall be done. Are these not promises that are completely general, without restriction as to time, place, or person?
It is said that all the sects that are erroneous and false will come to a shameful end. But if Jesus Christ means only to say that he founded and established a society of followers who will not fall into vice or error, these words are absolutely false, since within Christianity there is no sect, society, or church that is not full of errors and vices, principally the sect or society of the Roman church, though it says it is the purest and holiest of all. A long time ago it fell into error; it was born there, or better yet, it was engendered and formed there. And now it even commits errors that are against the intentions, the sentiments, and the doctrine of its founder, since against his design it has abolished the laws of the Jews, which he approved of and which he himself said he had come to fulfill and not to destroy, and it has fallen into the errors and idolatry of paganism, as is seen by the idolatrous cult it renders to its God of clay, to his saints, to their images and relics.
I know that our Christ-lovers regard it as a vulgarity of the spirit to want to take literally the promises and prophecies as they were expressed. They abandon the literal and natural meaning of words in order to give them a meaning they call mystical and spiritual, and that they name allegorical and tropological. Saying, for example, that by the people of Israel and Judah - to whom these promises were made - one must understand not the Israelites of the flesh, but the Israelites of the spirit, that is the Christians, who are the Israel of God, the true Chosen People. That by the promise made to this enslaved people one should understand not a corporeal deliverance of a lone captive people, but the spiritual deliverance from servitude to the devil of all men, which is to be done by their divine savior. That by the abundance of riches and all the temporal happiness promised to this people should be understood the abundance of spiritual grace. And that finally, by the city of Jerusalem should be understood not the earthly Jerusalem, but the spiritual Jerusalem, which is the Christian church.
But it is easy to see that these spiritual and allegorical meanings, being nothing but foreign, imaginary meanings, subterfuges of the interpreters, they can not in the least serve to show the truth or the falsity of any proposition or promise at all. It is ridiculous to thus forge allegorical meanings since it is only in relation to the natural and true meaning that we can judge truth or falsehood. For example, a proposition, a promise that is found to be true in the proper and natural sense of the terms in which they were conceived does not become false in itself on the pretext that we want to give it a foreign meaning that it doesn’t have. In the same way those found to be manifestly false in their proper and natural meaning do not become true in themselves on the pretext that one wants to give them a foreign meaning that they don’t have.
It can be said that the prophecies of the Old Testament, added to the New, are things quite absurd and puerile. For example, Abraham had two wives, one of whom was only a servant according to the synagogue, and the other was a wife according to the Christian church. And based on the pretext that that Abraham had two sons, one of whom, from the servant was said to prefigure the Old Testament, the other from his wife prefigured the New Testament. Who could help themselves from laughing at such a ridiculous doctrine? (Spectatum admissi risum teneatis amici - de Arte Poetica Horat. 5 verse)
Is it not amusing that a piece of red cloth, exposed by a whore in order to serve as a signal to spies in the Old Testament , serves as the blood of Christ spilled in the New?
If in keeping with this manner of allegorically interpreting all that is said, done, and practiced in that ancient law of the Jews we were then to interpret all the speeches, actions, and adventures of the famous Don Quixote we would certainly find there just as many mysteries and meanings.
Nevertheless, it is on this ridiculous foundation that the entire Christian religion rests. This is why there is almost nothing in that ancient law that the Christ-loving doctors don’t attempt to explain mystically.
The most false and ridiculous prophecy ever made was that of Jesus in Luke 22. It is predicted that there will be signs in the sun and the moon, and that the Son of Man will come in a cloud to judge men, and he predicts this for the present generation. Did that occur? Did the Son of Man come in a cloud?
Fifth. Proof drawn from doctrinal and moral errors
The Christian Apostolic and Roman religion teaches and obliges the belief that there is only one God, and that at the same time there are three divine persons, each of whom is truly God. Which is manifestly absurd, for if there are three who are truly God then there are truly three Gods. It is false to say that there is only one God, or if it is true to say it then it is false to say that there are truly three who are God, since it can not be said of the same thing that it is one and three.
It is also said that the first of these so-called divine persons, called the Father, engendered the second person, called the Son, and that these two persons together produced the third, who is called the Holy Spirit, and that nevertheless these three so-called divine persons do not depend upon each other and none of them is even any older than the other. This too is manifestly absurd, since a thing cannot receive its being from another without some kind of dependency upon the other, and that a thing must necessarily exist in order for it to give being to another. If, then, the second and third divine persons received their being from the first, they must necessarily depend for their being on that first person who gave them being or who engendered them. And, necessarily, that first, who gave being to the other two, must have existed before, for that which is not can give being to nothing. In any event, it is repugnant and absurd to say that a thing that was engendered or produced did not have a beginning. According to our Christ-lovers the second and third persons were engendered or produced; they thus had a beginning. And if they had a beginning, and the first person didn’t, since he wasn’t engendered or produced by any other, it necessarily follows that one was before the other.
Our Christ-lovers, who sense these absurdities, and who can’t fend them off with any good reasons, have no other resource than to say that we have to piously close the eyes of human reason and humbly adore such great mysteries without wanting to understand them. But since what they call faith has been solidly refuted above, when they say that we must submit it is as if they said that we must blindly believe that which we don’t believe.
Our Christ-lovers openly condemn the blindness of the ancient pagans who adored several gods. They laugh at the genealogy of their gods, or their births, their marriages and the generation of their children. But they don’t notice that they say things much more ridiculous and absurd.
If the pagans believed that there were goddesses as well as gods, that these gods and goddesses wed and had children, they found all this nothing but natural, for they didn’t yet imagine that the gods had neither bodies nor sentiments; they thought they possessed them in the same way men. Why wouldn’t there have been males and females? We can’t see why there is any more reason to deny or recognize one any more than the other. And supposing that there were gods and goddesses, why wouldn’t they have children in the ordinary way? If it were true that their gods existed there would be nothing ridiculous or absurd in this doctrine.
But in the doctrine of our Christ-lovers there is something even more ridiculous and absurd, for aside from their saying that one God makes three, and from three they make one, they say that this triple and unique God has neither body nor form nor face; that the first person of this triple and unique God, who they call the Father, engendered on his own a second person they call the Son and who is exactly like his Father, being, like Him, without body, form, or face. If this is the case, why is it that the first is called the Father, rather than the mother? And that the second is called the Son and not the daughter? For if the first is truly father instead of mother, and if the second is son rather than daughter there must necessarily be something in the one and the other of these two persons that they be father rather than mother, and the other son rather than daughter. What could cause this if it’s not that they are both male rather than female? But how can they be male rather than female since they have neither body not form nor face? This is unimaginable and self-refuting. Nevertheless, they still say that these two persons without body, form, or face - and consequently without any difference in sex - are nevertheless Father and Son, and they produced through their mutual love a third person they call the Holy Spirit, which person has, no more than the two others, either body, form, or face!
Since our Christ-lovers limit God the Father’s power to engendering but one son, why don’t they want the second, as well as the third persons to have, like the first, the power of engendering a son like him? If that power of engendering a son is a perfection in the first person, it is thus a perfection and a power which is not in either the second or third persons. These two persons thus lacking a perfection and a power that are found in the first they can certainly not all be equals. If, on the contrary, they say that this power of engendering a son is not a perfection, then they shouldn’t attribute it to the first any more than to the two others, since only perfections should be attributed to a being who is absolutely perfect.
In any case, they wouldn’t dare say that the power of engendering a divine person is not a perfection, and if they say that that first person could have engendered several sons and daughters, but he only wanted to engender that one Son, and that, similarly, the two other persons didn’t want to engender others, we can 1- Ask them, how do they know that things are thus, for we don’t see anywhere in their Holy Scriptures where these divine persons were positively declared. How then can our Christ-lovers know that this is the case? They only speak in keeping with their ideas and their hollow imagination.
Secondly. It can be said that if these so-called divine persons had the power to engender several children and they nevertheless didn’t want to do so, it follows that this divine power would be without effect in them. It would be completely without effect in the third person, who would neither engender nor produce any, and it would be almost without effect in the two others since they want to so strictly limit it. Thus the power they would have to engender and produce a number of children would remain idle and useless in them, something it would be inappropriate to say of divine persons.
Our Christ-lovers censure and condemn pagans for attributing divinity to mortal men, and for adoring them like Gods after their deaths. They are correct in this, but those pagans only did what our Christ-lovers still do now, who attribute divinity to their Christ. They should condemn themselves as well, since they commit the same error as the pagans and they adore a man who was mortal, and so mortal that he shamefully died on a cross.
It would be of no use for our Christ-lovers to say that there is a great difference between their Jesus Christ and the gods of the pagans on the pretext that their Christ is, as they say, true God and true man all together, since the divinity is veritably incarnated in him. By means of this the divine nature, finding itself joined and united hypostatically, as they say, with human nature these two natures made of Jesus Christ a true God and a true man. Something that was never, despite what they say, done with the gods of the pagans.
But it is easy to show the weakness of this answer, for on the one hand would it not have been just as easy for the pagans as for the Christians to say that the Divinity incarnated itself in the men they adored as gods? On the other hand, if the Divinity had wanted to incarnate itself and unite hypostatically with human nature in their Jesus Christ how do they know that same Divinity would not have wanted also to become incarnate and unite itself hypostatically with human nature in the person of its great men and its admirable women who, by their virtue, by their good qualities, or by their good acts excelled over the common run of men and who thus were adored as gods and goddesses? And if our Christ-lovers don’t want to believe that the Divinity was ever incarnated in these great individuals, why do they want to persuade us that it was incarnated in their Jesus? Where is the proof? In their faith and their belief, which the pagans had in exactly the same way as them. Which shows that they are both in error.
But what is more ridiculous in Christianity than in paganism is that the pagans ordinarily only attributed divinity to its great men, authors of the arts and sciences and who excelled in those virtues useful to their country. But who do our Christ-lovers attribute divinity to? To a man with nothing, vile and contemptible, who had neither talent, nor science, nor skill; born of poor parents and who, from the time he wanted to make an appearance in the world and have himself spoken of, was never taken for anything but a madman and a seducer and who was despised, mocked, persecuted, whipped, and finally hung like most of those who wanted to play the same role when they lacked courage and ability.
In his time there were several other similar imposters who said they were the true messiah promised by the law, among others a certain Judah the Galileean, a Theodore, a Bar-kon and others, who under a vain pretext abused the people and attempted to have them rise up in order to attract them, but all perished.
Let us pass now to his speeches and some of his acts, which are the most remarkable and the most singular of their kind. “Repent,” he said to the people, “for the kingdom of heaven is nigh. Believe the good news.” And he went all around Galilee, preaching the so-called approach of the kingdom of heaven. Since no one has yet seen any appearance of the coming of this Kingdom, it is eloquent proof that it was only imaginary.
But let us now see in his other preaching the elegy for and the description of this beautiful Kingdom:
This is how he spoke to the people: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who planted good seed in his field, but while men slept his enemy came who spread discord among the good grain. It is like a treasure hidden in a field; a man having found the treasure hides it again, and he was so joyful about finding it that he sold all his goods and bought the field. He is like a merchant who seeks beautiful pearls and who having found one of great price sells all he has and purchases this pearl. He is like a net that was tossed into the sea and that caught all kinds of fish. Being full, the fishermen pulled it up and put all the good fish together in the vessel and tossed way the bad. It is like a grain of mustard that a man planted in his field; there is no grain as small as this one, nevertheless, when it is believed it is larger than all the vegetables.” Is this how it is in speeches worthy of a God?
We would still judge him the same way if we were to closely examine his actions. For example: 1 - Running around an entire province preaching the imminent arrival of a so-called kingdom. 2 - Having been transported by the devil to a high mountain, from which he thought to see all the kingdoms of the world. This is only fitting for a visionary, for it is certain that there is not a mountain in the world from which you could even see one entire kingdom, except for the tiny Kingdom of Yvetot, which is in France. It was thus only in imagination that he saw all these kingdoms and was transported to that mountain, as well as onto the pinnacle of the temple. 3 - When he cures the deaf mute, which is spoken of in Saint Mark, it is said that he selected out in particular, that he put his fingers in his ears and, having spit, he pulled on his tongue. And then, casting his eyes to the heavens, he gave out a large breath and said to him: Epheta. Read whatever you like that is reported about him, and judge for yourself if there is anything in the world as ridiculous.
Having put before your eyes a part of the foolishness attributed to God by the Christ-lovers, let us continue by saying a few words about their mysteries. They adore a God in three persons, or three persons in one God, and they grant themselves the power of making Gods of clay and flour, and even of making as many as they want. For in keeping with their principles they only have to say four words over such and such a number of glasses of wine, or over these tiny images of clay, and they then make as many Gods as they like, even into the millions. What madness! With all the so-called power of their Christ they couldn’t make the tiniest fly, yet they think they can make Gods in the thousands. One must be struck with a strange blindness to put up with such pitiful things, and this on so vain a foundation as the ambiguous words of a fanatic.
Don’t these blind doctors see that it means opening wide the door to all kinds of idolatries to have images of clay thus adored on the pretext that priests have the power to consecrate them and to change them into Gods? Couldn’t, and can’t, all the priests of idols brag of having the same character?
Do they not also see that the same reasons that demonstrate the vanity of gods or idols of wood, stone, etc that the pagans adore in the same way demonstrate the vanity of Gods and idols of clay and flour that our Christ-lovers adore? Why do they mock the falsity of the gods of the pagans? Is it not because they are the handiworks of men, images mute and unfeeling? And what then are the Gods that we keep enclosed in boxes for fear of mice?
What then will be the vain resources of the Christ-lovers? Their morality? Essentially it is the same as in all religions, but cruel dogmas have been born of it and have taught persecution and disorder. Their miracles? But what people don’t have their own, and what wise men don’t hold these fables in contempt? Their prophecies? Have we not demonstrated their falsity? Their morality? Is it not often unspeakable? The establishment of their religion? But did fanaticism not begin, intrigue not raise, and force not visibly support that edifice? Their doctrine? But isn’t it the height of absurdity?
I believe, my dear friends, to have provided you with sufficient protection against so many follies. Your reason will provide you with even more than my discourse, and may it please God that we not have reason to complain that we have been deceived. But since the time of Constantine human blood has flowed for the establishment of these impostures. The Roman Church, the Greek, the Protestant, so many vain disputes, so many ambitious hypocrites have ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia. Add together, my friends, with the men these quarrels have slaughtered, those multitudes of monks and nuns who have been rendered sterile by their state. See how many creatures have been lost and you will see that the Christian religion has made half of humanity perish.
I will finish by begging God, so outraged by that sect, to deign to recall us to natural religion, of which Christianity is the declared enemy. To that simple religion that God placed in the hearts of all men, which teaches us that we only do unto others what we want to have done unto us. Then the universe will be composed of good citizens, of just fathers, of submissive children, of tender friends. God gave us this religion in giving us reason. May fanaticism no longer pervert it! I die more filled with these wishes than with hopes.
This is the exact summary of the in-folio testament of Jean Meslier. We can judge how weighty is the testimony of a dying priest who asks God’s forgiveness.
15 March 1742