Monday Meslier: 5 – It Is Not Necessary To Believe in a God and the Most Reasonable Thing is Not to Think Of Him


Jean Meslier Portrait

Jean Meslier

No religious system can be founded otherwise than upon the nature of God and of men, and upon the relations they bear to each other. But, in order to judge of the reality of these relations, we must have some idea of the Divine nature.

But everybody tells us that the essence of God is incomprehensible to man; at the same time they do not hesitate to assign attributes to this incomprehensible God, and assure us that man can not dispense with a knowledge of this God so impossible to conceive of. The most important thing for men is that which is the most impossible for them to comprehend. If God is incomprehensible to man, it would seem rational never to think of Him at all; but religion concludes that man is criminal if he ceases for a moment to revere Him.

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I’ve done a bit of digging around about the typical education of an abbe of Meslier’s period. So far, I don’t really know – but there have been several bits by Meslier that sound like they are strongly influenced by ancient skepticism such as that of Sextus Empiricus or the philosophy of Epicurus. I doubt the religious schooling of a 16th-century catholic would include those, but his being literate would imply he could read Latin at a minimum, which would set him up for Lucretius, Diogenes Laertius, and Sextus. I can imagine a believer who decided to learn a bit of philosophy, who stumbled onto Epicurus (via Lucretius) and suddenly his faith was taking on water.

A blessed and indestructible being has no trouble himself and brings no trouble upon any other being; so he is free from anger and partiality, for all such things imply weakness. – Epicurus principle doctrine #1

That is the root of Meslier’s comment #5: a supreme being would be as imperturbable as Epicurus says. The god of the christians is this great emotionally needy nebbish-god that is inappropriately concerned with being worshipped. And, worse, the worshippers of that god are full of assertions about what god wants and needs, and god remains inexplicably silent.

Well, not inexplicably. There’s one simple explanation.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    LMFTFY: … this great emotionally needy nebbish-god that is inappropriately concerned with being worshipped foreskins.

  2. Owlmirror says

    God is totally an abstract metaphysical ground-of-being cosmic muffin right up until believers need for it him to be an implicitly penis-having hairy thunderer.

  3. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#1:
    I’m going to think of yahweh as the god of foreskins.
    Thor had a hammer, yahweh had a fistful of foreskins. Not in the least bit perverse…

  4. says

    Owlmirror@#2:
    What’s funny is that the believers who use it seem to think that metaphysical rope-a-dope is a clever strategy that defends their beliefs from critique.

  5. John Morales says

    No religious system can be founded otherwise than upon the nature of God and of men, and upon the relations they bear to each other.
    […]
    I’ve done a bit of digging around about the typical education of an abbe of Meslier’s period. So far, I don’t really know – but there have been several bits by Meslier that sound like they are strongly influenced by ancient skepticism such as that of Sextus Empiricus or the philosophy of Epicurus.

    All goddists. Not a representative sample of religious traditions.

    Religions don’t need gods*; at heart, they are non-empirical ways to find significance in existence, to make sense of existence, to find a purpose to life. Superstition writ large.

    I suspect that, had Meslier known about non-theistic Buddhist, Jainist, Confucian or Taoist (amongst others) religious but non-theistic traditions, he would have written a different critique.

    (I think goddism** is supercharged animism)

    * In most significant senses, Marxism-Leninism is a religion. People laid down their lives for it.

    ** A literal transliteration of ‘theism’, but insulting to goddists as it lays their conceit bare. Oh well…

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