By incessantly repeating to men that the earth is not their true country; that the present life is but a passage; that they were not made to be happy in this world; that their sovereigns hold their authority but from God, and are responsible to Him alone for the misuse of it; that it is never permitted to them to resist, the priesthood succeeded in perpetuating the misconduct of the kings and the misfortunes of the people; the interests of the nations have been cowardly sacrificed to their chiefs.
The more we consider the dogmas and the principles of religion, the more we shall be convinced that their only aim is to give advantage to tyrants and priests; not having the least regard for the good of society. In order to mask the powerlessness of these deaf Gods, religion has succeeded in making mortals believe that it is always iniquity which excites the wrath of Heaven. The people blame themselves for the disasters and the adversities which they endure continually. If disturbed nature sometimes causes the people to feel its blows, their bad governments are but too often the immediate and permanent causes from which spring the continual calamities that they are obliged to endure. Is it not the ambition of kings and of the great, their negligence, their vices, their oppression, to which are generally due sterility, mendacity, wars, contagions, bad morals, and all the multiplied scourges which desolate the earth?
In continually directing the eyes of men toward Heaven, making them believe that all their evils are due to Divine wrath, in furnishing them but inefficient and futile means of lessening their troubles, it would appear that the only object of the priests is to prevent the nations from dreaming of the true sources of their miseries, and to perpetuate them. The ministers of religion act like those indigent mothers, who, in need of bread, put their hungry children to sleep by songs, or who present them toys to make them forget the want which torments them.
Blinded from childhood by error, held by the invincible ties of opinion, crushed by panic terrors, stupefied at the bosom of ignorance, how could the people understand the true causes of their troubles? They think to remedy them by invoking the gods. Alas! do they not see that it is it the name of these gods that they are ordered to present their throat to the sword of their pitiless tyrants, in whom they would find the most visible cause of the evils under which they groan, and for which they uselessly implore the assistance of Heaven? Credulous people! in your adversities redouble your prayers, your offerings, your sacrifices; besiege your temples, strangle countless victims, fast in sackcloth and in ashes, drink your own tears; finally, exhaust yourselves to enrich your gods: you will do nothing but enrich their priests; the gods of Heaven will not be propitious to you, except when the gods of the earth will recognize that they are men like yourselves, and will give to your welfare the care which is your due.
Meslier correctly identifies that the relationship between mitre and crown is one of a division of spoils: the crown shelters and provides the religious leaders a flock, and the religious leaders announce the crown’s “divine right of kings” and occasionally give the crown an excuse to embark on wars of conquest under the excuse of religion.
Exhaust yourselves to enrich your gods: you will do nothing but enrich their priests
Has not religion been used as the excuse for so, so many wars? And has not religion been the servant of power again and again?
It’s not possible for Meslier’s words to become truer than they were when he wrote them, but they’re perception for the ages.