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Jean Messlier the atheist priest of the 1700’s

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"Questioning faith is not a sin; it's the path to enlightenment." "The greatest freedom is found in freeing one's mind from the chains of faith."
Did you know that the 1700s harbored an intriguing figure in the history of atheism? Jean Meslier, an atheist priest, left an enigmatic legacy that still echoes through time. Let’s take a closer look at his story.

Who Was Jean Meslier?

Jean Meslier was no ordinary priest. He dared to question the religious dogmas of his time, paving the way for a fresh perspective on faith and atheism. Despite being a priest, Meslier revealed in his will that he was an atheist and negated the religion he had spent his life preaching. His will, which was over 1,000 pages long, remained within a small circle of friends who shared an interest in subversive writings due to the rigorous censorship in 18th-century France.

"Questioning faith is not a sin; it's the path to enlightenment." "The greatest freedom is found in freeing one's mind from the chains of faith."

A Controversial Legacy: The Complete Refutation of God and Religion

On his death, Meslier left three copies of his work, known as a complete refutation of god and religion.” It’s a text that has intrigued many throughout the years, including the famous Voltaire, who penned the foreword. As an Amazon reviewer said, this is “without a doubt the best book ever written on atheism. This book is not just against Christianity, but all forms of religion.”

Have you ever read his book
Superstition in All Ages?

The Voltaire Connection

Voltaire, a luminary of the Enlightenment, was not only known for his wit but also his association with Meslier’s work. Voltaire, a prominent figure of the French Enlightenment, played a significant role in disseminating the ideas of Jean Meslier, a French Catholic priest known for his atheistic and materialistic beliefs. In 1735, Voltaire asked his friend, the writer Nicolas-Claude Thiriot, to provide him with a handwritten copy of Meslier’s philosophical will. Voltaire later bought his own copy of the manuscript and mentioned that more than 100 duplicates were circulating in Paris.
Meslier’s work was highly subversive for its time, as it openly criticized and denounced all religions. Voltaire’s involvement with Meslier’s work ties into the broader narrative of atheism in the 18th century. During this period, known as the Age of Enlightenment, atheism began to be openly espoused by individuals such as Meslier and Baron d’Holbach. The Enlightenment was characterized by skepticism and secularism against religion, and open atheism was made possible by the advance of religious toleration. 
In this context, Voltaire’s role was crucial. By obtaining and circulating Meslier’s work, he contributed to the spread of anti-theistic ideas during a time when such beliefs were still largely suppressed. This helped pave the way for greater acceptance and understanding of atheism in the years to come.

Jean Meslier Quotes

“Questioning faith is not a sin; it’s the path to enlightenment.”
“In doubt, we find the courage to reject the illusions of religion.”
“The greatest freedom is found in freeing one’s mind from the chains of faith.”
“The more we seek truth, the farther we move from the shadows of religion.”
“Atheism is not the absence of morals; it’s the embrace of human values.”
“Doubt is the key that unlocks the doors to knowledge.”
“In the absence of evidence, belief is but an empty promise.”
“Faith doesn’t stand the test of reason.”
“Reason and skepticism are the tools of enlightenment.”
“The universe is grander than any god conceived by man.”

An Atheist Priest?!

It’s impossible to know just how many people are aware that they are using religion solely for financial gain. We know through polling and stories of ex-Pastors that there are many that doubt or have realized that there is no credibility to the stories in holy books. In fact, many atheists wonder how it’s possible to become educated about the Bible and maintain theistic belief. A YouGov poll (1,500 respondents) found that 2% of Anglican priests believe that god is a human construct, and as many as 16% are agnostic.