Monday Meslier: 130 – Refutation of Pascal


REFUTATION OF PASCAL’S MANNER OF REASONING AS TO HOW WE SHOULD JUDGE MIRACLES.

Jean Meslier Portrait

Jean Meslier

What should we say of religions that based their Divinity upon miracles which they themselves cause to appear suspicious?

How can we place any faith in the miracles related in the Holy Books of the Christians, where God Himself boasts of hardening hearts, of blinding those whom He wishes to ruin; where this God permits wicked spirits and magicians to perform as wonderful miracles as those of His servants; where it is prophesied that the Anti-Christ will have the power to perform miracles capable of destroying the faith even of the elect? This granted, how can we know whether God wants to instruct us or to lay a snare for us? How can we distinguish whether the wonders which we see, proceed from God or the Devil? Pascal, in order to disembarrass us, says very gravely, that we must judge the doctrine by miracles, and the miracles by the doctrine; that doctrine judges the miracles, and the miracles judge the doctrine. If there exists a defective and ridiculous circle, it is no doubt in this fine reasoning of one of the greatest defenders of the Christian religion. Which of all the religions in the world does not claim to possess the most admirable doctrine, and which does not bring to its aid a great number of miracles?

Is a miracle capable of destroying a demonstrated truth? Although a man should have the secret of curing all diseases, of making the lame to walk, of raising all the dead of a city, of floating in the air, of arresting the course of the sun and of the moon, will he be able to convince me by all this that two and two do not make four; that one makes three and that three makes but one; that a God who fills the universe with His immensity, could have transformed Himself into the body of a Jew; that the eternal can perish like man; that an immutable, foreseeing, and sensible God could have changed His opinion upon His religion, and reform His own work by a new revelation?

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I’ve heard variations of Meslier’s argument presented here, usually involving satan: how do we know “miracles” aren’t satanic? More oddly, it appears that god created a universe in which some stones are so large they cannot be lifted, just so that he can demonstrate his stone-lifting. It’s kind of sketchy.

Meslier neatly identifies the circularity of argument from miracles:

Pascal, in order to disembarrass us, says very gravely, that we must judge the doctrine by miracles, and the miracles by the doctrine; that doctrine judges the miracles, and the miracles judge the doctrine. If there exists a defective and ridiculous circle, it is no doubt in this fine reasoning of one of the greatest defenders of the Christian religion.

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Sam Kinison also made a pretty good argument as to the downside of miracle-working – “Jesus the Miracle Caterer”:

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