The majority of men rarely think of God, or, at least, do not occupy themselves much with Him. The idea of God has so little stability, it is so afflicting, that it can not hold the imagination for a long time, except in some sad and melancholy visionists who do not constitute the majority of the inhabitants of this world.
The common man has no conception of it; his weak brain becomes perplexed the moment he attempts to think of Him. The business man thinks of nothing but his affairs; the courtier of his intrigues; worldly men, women, youth, of their pleasures; dissipation soon dispels the wearisome notions of religion. The ambitious, the avaricious, and the debauchee sedulously lay aside speculations too feeble to counterbalance their diverse passions.
Whom does the idea of God overawe? A few weak men disappointed and disgusted with this world; some persons whose passions are already extinguished by age, by infirmities, or by reverses of fortune. Religion is a restraint but for those whose temperament or circumstances have already subjected them to reason. The fear of God does not prevent any from committing sin but those who do not wish to sin very much, or who are no longer in a condition to sin. To tell men that Divinity punishes crime in this world, is to claim as a fact that which experience contradicts constantly The most wicked men are usually the arbiters of
the world, and those whom fortune blesses with its favors. To convince us of the judgments of God by sending us to the other life, is to make us accept conjectures in order to destroy facts which we can not
I used to think, “if I believed in the god of the jews or the christians, I would sit on my couch my entire life, not touching myself or anything else, except for to feed myself with minimalist food, so as to minimize my chance of breaking any rules. And I’d be constantly asking forgiveness and eagerly anticipating death.”
As Meslier points out, the behaviors of believers refute their belief. It’s not just the evil money-grabbing priests or the god-loving murderers – it’s the ordinary “believers” who bother the almighty to help them find their lost car keys, or who commit minor thought-crimes. That’s the perversity of religion: “we will reward you tomorrow if you’re a sucker today, and we will punish you limitlessly after death if you don’t pretend to believe our absurdities in the here and now.”