Monday Meslier: 34 – How They Take Root and Spread


Jean Meslier Portrait

Jean Meslier

Prejudice tends to confirm in us the opinions of those who are charged with our instruction.

We believe them more skillful than we are; we suppose them thoroughly convinced themselves of the things they teach us. We have the greatest confidence in them. After the care they have taken of us when we were unable to assist ourselves, we judge them incapable of deceiving us. These are the motives which make us adopt a thousand errors without other foundation than the dangerous word of those who have educated us; even the being forbidden to reason upon what they tell us, does not diminish our confidence, but contributes often to increase our respect for their opinions.

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I wish Meslier had access to all of today’s tools of popular psychology. His writing would have suffered, though.

“Confirmation Bias”: the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. (wikipedia) Combined with authoritarianism – the tendency to assume that those in power over us are in power over us for a reason, because they are better, smarter, more educated, or thoughtful than we are. Often, they’re just more loudly deluded or violent.

Meslier’s attack on religion is not merely apostasy: he is profoundly anti-authoritarian and egalitarian throughout his writings. That’s why I appreciate him so much.  I was tempted to joke and write “That’s why I am so sure he’s right about everything.” but there is no sense further torturing the souls of the damned.

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