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The Last Testament of Jean Meslier (1733)

by Henry F. Tonn

Dearly Beloved,

I bequeath to you my humble parishioners
in this my final testament
all of my worldly possessions,
and assure you that I have attempted
to fulfill the obligations bestowed upon me
by the Church to the best of my abilities,


I must now confess to my having adopted
the most malignant form of hypocrisy
in faithfully holding this position:
while hearing your confessions and while
putting forth the word of Our Lord,
and while elucidating the meaning of
the Bible, I have been, yes, I have been
an unbeliever.

I confess to you that I abandoned
my religious faith before ordination and
subsequently embraced a profession directly
opposed to my sentiments, due to the wishes
of my parents, God rest their souls, for,
indeed, I have believed nothing of what I have
said these past thirty years, and consequently
I am a liar.

My doubts began with the study of the Bible
itself, with the discovery of the genealogy
of Christ, different in Saint Matthew and
Saint Luke, a logical contradiction supposedly
guided by the omniscient spirit of the Lord.
And I asked: why should the Son of God be
complimented for being the son of David,
a notorious adulterer?

These and other questions sowed the seeds of
my everlasting doubt...

Should we believe the preposterous stories
of the miracles in the New Testament if they
contradict all reason? I shall not sacrifice the
reason by which I may distinguish between
good and evil, truth and falsity, and all other
forms of discrimination. I will not believe in
an afterlife that only a minority of people may
enter. This belief holds no consolation.

We are all fragments of darkness groping
for the sun...

Religion is a conspiracy between
church and state to frighten people into
absolute obedience. But for what purpose?
We continue to see tyrants, courtiers,
extortionists, unscrupulous magistrates,
imposters, adulterers, libertines, prostitutes,
thieves, and rogues of all kinds who have never
doubted for a moment the existence of a
vindictive God, the punishments of hell,
or the joys of paradise.

Yet horrifying acts continue to prevail.

As I reach the end of my life I say to you
that the best morality is founded on
reason and judgment, nothing more.
Many times I have wished I could speak
to you as I really believed, but such was
impossible. And so now I leave you —
to blend eternally with the rhythm
of this earth, this universe — and
you may judge me as you please.
I shall pay no heed. For as I write these
final phrases I am little more than nothing,
and soon I shall be nothing at all...

Copyright © 2009 by Henry F. Tonn

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