Jean Meslier

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Jean Meslier

Jean Meslier (15 June 166417 June 1729), was a French Catholic priest (abbé) who was discovered, upon his death, to have written a book-length philosophical essay promoting atheism. Described by the author as his "testament" to his parishioners, the text denounces all religion.


Testament: Memoir of the Thoughts and Sentiments of Jean Meslier[edit]

Original title: Mémoires des pensées et sentiments de Jean Meslier
  • It is an act of cruelty, of barbarism, to kill, to strike unconscious, and to cut the throat of animals, who do no harm to anyone, the way we do; because they are sensitive to injury and pain just as we are, regardless of what is said vainly, falsely, and ridiculously by our new Cartesians, who regard them as purely machines without soul and without feelings … This is a ridiculous opinion, a pernicious principle, and a detestable doctrine, because it clearly tends to stifle in the hearts of men all feelings of kindness, of gentleness, and of humanity that they might have toward these poor animals. … Blessed are the nations that treat them kindly and favorably, who are compassionate toward their miseries and their pains; but cursed are the nations that treat them cruelly, who tyrannize over them, who enjoy shedding their blood, and who are avid to eat their flesh.
    • In Œuvres complètes (Paris: Anthropos, 1970–1972), t. I, 210-18; quoted in Matthieu Ricard, A Plea for the Animals, trans. Sherab Chödzin Kohn (Boulder, CO: Shambhala, 2016), p. 19

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