Every national religion has a tendency to make man vain, unsocial, and wicked; the first step toward humanity is to permit each one to follow peacefully the worship and the opinions which suit him.
But such a conduct can not please the ministers of religion, who wish to have the right to tyrannize over even the thoughts of men. Blind and bigoted princes, you hate, you persecute, you devote heretics to torture, because you are persuaded that these unfortunate ones displease God. But do you not claim that your God is full of kindness? How can you hope to please Him by such barbarous actions which He can not help disapproving of? Besides, who told you that their opinions displease your God? Your priests told you! But who guarantees that your priests are not deceived themselves or that they do not wish to deceive you? It is these same priests! Princes! it is upon the perilous word of your priests that you commit the most atrocious and the most unheard-of crimes, with the idea of pleasing the Deity!
Meslier is fond of complaining about the many lies and detailed flaws of religion; I suspect that because he was inside the process for most of his life, he was painfully aware of every transgression and dishonesty. I prefer a positive attack on religion, which Meslier did not have in his arsenal because the crime of lèse-majesté was still real in his day: religion is a technique of political control.
Sometimes I wonder if the rise of atheism is directly related to the rise of the police-state; fewer people being scared of the invisible sky-kingmaker, it’s necessary for the goon squad to scare them in the here-and-now. But I think the real problem for the ruling class is the willingness of the people to say “the king is a fink.” Of course, that also leads to atheism.