The votaries of Christ would like to make us regard as a miracle the establishment of their religion, which is in every respect contrary to nature, opposed to all the inclinations of the heart, an enemy to physical pleasures.
But the austerity of a doctrine has a tendency to render it more wonderful to the ignorant. The same reason which makes us respect, as Divine and supernatural, inconceivable mysteries, causes us to admire, as Divine and supernatural, a morality impracticable and beyond the power of man. To admire morals and to practice them, are two very different things. All the Christians continually admire the morals of the Gospel, but it is practiced but by a small number of saints; admired by people who themselves avoid imitating their conduct, under the pretext that they are lacking either the power or the grace.
The whole universe is infected more or less with a religious morality which is founded upon the opinion that to please the Deity it is necessary to render one’s self unhappy upon earth. We see in all parts of our globe penitents, hermits, fakirs, fanatics, who seem to have studied profoundly the means of tormenting themselves for the glory of a Being whose goodness they all agree in celebrating. Religion, by its essence, is the enemy of joy and of the welfare of men. “Blessed are those who suffer!” Woe to those who have abundance and joy! These are the rare revelations which Christianity teaches!
“The austerity of a doctrine has a tendency to render it more wonderful to the ignorant.” I love how Meslier writes.
As a child I remember asking why god made pigs so tasty and told the jews not to eat them. Meslier’s right: the world is full of people who make themselves unhappy to please their imagined gods – what they’re really doing is demonstrating their own self-hatred. There’s a delicious bit in a story by G.K. Chesterton that I should post about as a sunday sermon: we encounter a character whose faith is so profound that he must make himself miserable, no matter that he is wealthy and powerful, so does he give it all up to live in an unheated cell? Of course not! He tortures himself by overindulging. If god makes pigs tasty, he’s doubly a trickster: once for playing a mean trick on the pigs and twice for telling his chosen people not to eat them.