This one’s dedicated to Jim Bakker.
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.
I’m sure Bakker would be nothing new to Meslier, though perhaps he would be surprised and disappointed to see that people still fall for Bakker’s ilk. Of course, Meslier was consumed with guilt because he too was one of Bakker’s ilk. I enjoy Meslier’s many critiques of religiousity, but I don’t consider Meslier to be a great example: he didn’t reveal his true feelings until he was safely dead, his ‘flock’ kept getting fleeced and he didn’t do anything for them except to hold them down for their shearing.