The apologists of religion repeat to us every day that the passions alone create unbelievers. “It is,” they say, “pride, and a desire to distinguish themselves, that make atheists; they seek also to efface the idea of God from their minds, because they have reason to fear His rigorous judgments.”
Whatever may be the motives which cause men to be irreligious, the thing in question is whether they have found truth. No man acts without motives; let us first examine the arguments–we shall examine the motives afterward–and we shall find that they are more legitimate, and more sensible, than those of many credulous devotees who allow themselves to be guided by masters little worthy of men’s confidence.
You say, O priests of the Lord! that the passions cause unbelievers; you pretend that they renounce religion through interest, or because it interferes with their irregular inclinations; you assert that they attack your Gods because they fear their punishments. Ah! yourselves in defending this religion and its chimeras, are you, then, really exempt from passions and interests? Who receive the fees of this religion, on whose behalf the priests are so zealous? It is the priests. To whom does religion procure power, credit, honors, wealth? To the priests! In all countries, who make war upon reason, science, truth, and philosophy and render them odious to the sovereigns and to the people? Who profit by the ignorance of men and their vain prejudices? The priests! You are, O priests, rewarded, honored, and paid for deceiving mortals, and you punish those who undeceive them. The follies of men procure you blessings, offerings, expiations; the most useful truths bring to those who announce them, chains, sufferings, stakes. Let the world judge between us.
I have had believers ask me if I am an atheist because that way I feel that I can do bad things without having to worry about god’s oversight. I used to ask them back if they cared about Yahweh’s ideas of right and wrong, or Odin’s, or any other god’s. It’s a simple inversion of cause and effect: I feel free of constraint because I don’t believe in god and have had to come up with my own ideas of right and wrong, not that I don’t believe in god in order that I would have to do all the hard work of coming up with my own ethics.
Meslier tends to harp on about the various priesthoods’ love for power, credit, honors, and wealth. For me that has always been the most obvious flaw in religion: god’s mediators are too greedy. George Carlin is much funnier than Jean Meslier.
“He loves you … and he NEEDS MONEY.”