Le Testament by Jean Meslier: the Pioneering Work of the Militant Atheism in France
- Aleksandra Porada
Jean Meslier (1664–1729) was probably the most radical thinker of the French Enlightenment, yet he is relatively little known. He was a modest priest working all his life in a village, and his work – the monumental Le Testament, found only after his death – seems to have been far too radical to be printed in an unabridged version till mid‑19th c. Still, Meslier’s book deserves to be studied closely – as the boldest and most consequent attack on everything religions are, from Catholic Church traditions till the very idea of the divine. The first part of Le Testament contains critique of credibility of the Bible, the miracles related in it, as well as the prophecies made by Hebrew prophets and Jesus Christ and promises given by God to Jews, which, according to Meslier, have remained unfulfilled. The next part is an attack on the contradictions found in the Bible, which uses testimonies of the ancient historians suggesting that the Gospels are not a reliable source of knowledge about events of Christ’s lifetime. The analysis of the behavior of Jesus leads Meslier to call him a madman, and the Christian ethic is presented as unnatural and dysfunctional. Meslier goes on to prove that all religions are lies, originally invented by cynical individuals to support their ambitions to rule their fellow humans. Analyzing critically theology, Meslier convinces his readers that there is no God at all; consequently, all ecclesiastical institutions are useless and actually harmful, because they support tyrannical governments. They should be abolished, and all religious beliefs should be renounced. The famous final part of Testament is a powerful call to a great revolution that would put end to both Christian religion and the political and economic systems supported by the Catholic church.
- Record ID
- Journal series
- Studia Historica Gedanensia, ISSN 2081-3309, e-ISSN 2391-6001
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- http://www.ejournals.eu/Studia-Historica-Gedanensia/2016/Tom-7-(2016)/art/8489/ opening in a new tab
- (en) English
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