Jean Meslier (1678-1733) was a Roman Catholic priest who served as Vicar of Bue in Champagne, France for thirty years. Voltaire (1694-1778), the French deist who vigorously opposed Christianity and sought to fashion his own naturalistic religion, described Meslier as “the most singular phenomenon ever seen among all the meteors fatal to the Christian religion.”
In a recent essay, A.J. Mattill, Jr., a Contributing Editor for The American Rationalist (a small journal published bi-monthly out of St. Louis), gushes over Meslier, applauding him as one of the great champions of skepticism.
As a preliminary matter, we must make two observations.
First, if Meslier was any sort of symbolic luminary at all, he must have been a “meteor,” i.e., a phenomenon that provides no significant or lasting illumination, and who appeared as but a “glitch” in the galaxy of literary history. The priest was most obscure. I have consulted several sources – from The Encyclopedia Britannica to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church – and I cannot find a solitary reference to the gentleman – not even an allusion to his name! Apparently he is considered illustrious only by the atheists.
Second, what is this insanity about Meslier’s influence being “fatal” to the Christian religion? It is not even legitimate hyperbole to suggest that any skeptic has proved “fatal” to Christianity – or, for that matter, the whole of them combined. Voltaire himself was not (though he boasted he would be), and he was much more of a significant influence than Meslier.
But consider for a moment this rogue whom skepticism extols so highly.
When Jean Meslier died at the age of 55, three handwritten manuscripts were discovered in his home. Authored and signed by Meslier, these documents were titled, My Testament. The writings contained a series of confessions by the priest – combined with a vicious attack against the Bible. The documents revealed that his entire life had been a sham.
Supposedly, his religious faith was abandoned as an adolescent, but, wishing to obey his father, he pursued the vocation of a priest.
Here is a portion of his confession, directed to the members of his parish, as reported by Mattill (The American Rationalist, June/July, 1999, p. 3).
“I was nevertheless compelled to teach you your religion and to carry out that false duty that I had committed myself to as the vicar of our parish … I had the displeasure of finding myself annoyingly obliged to act and speak totally against my own feelings, to entertain you with foolish nonsense and vain superstition that I hated, condemned, and disliked in my heart. I, however, declare that I never did it without great pain and extreme repugnance. This is why I hated so much the vain functions of my ministry, particularly all those idolatrous and superstitious celebrations of masses, and those vain and ridiculous administerings of sacraments that I had to carry out. I cursed them thousands and thousands of times in my heart, when I was obliged to do them, and particularly when I had to carry them out with a bit more attention and a bit more solemnity than usual.”
Aram Vartanian, writing in The Encyclopedia of Unbelief (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1985, II, p. 448), says that Meslier was “[f]rustrated and incensed by the hypocritical role he felt condemned to play during his lifetime” (emp. WJ).
Two observations are in order.
First, one can only wonder if the direction of Jean Meslier’s life would have been altered had he known genuine Christianity, as opposed to the corruptions of the apostate Romish system (cf. 1 Tim. 4:1ff). Those who pervert the primitive Christian arrangement – as designed by God and revealed in the New Testament, thus paving the way for unbelief – will have a heavy responsibility to bear in the day of judgment.
Second, what does it say about the character of atheism when the skeptics virtually “canonize” a man whom they concede to be a life-long hypocrite, and who was able to express his true convictions only posthumously?
Consider the following scenario.
Carl Sagan was an atheist who spent the whole of his adult life opposing God and casting reflection upon His Son. Now that Sagan is dead, suppose there were discovered among his possessions a manuscript in which he secretly professed his faith in Christ, and apologized for his hostility toward things sacred. Does anyone imagine for a moment that the Christianity community would be ecstatic – applauding the gentleman and making of him a causa celebratio?
But such is the difference between the character of Christianity and that of infidelity.
The Folly of Atheism
Jesus once warned: “Whosoever shall say, ‘You fool,’ shall be in danger of the hell of fire” (Mt. 5:22). And yet elsewhere, the Lord, in addressing the scribes and Pharisees, declared: “You fools …” (23:17). While the superficial student might see a conflict here, actually, there is none; the respective passages are addressing different matters.
In the earlier context, Christ is condemning the impulsive, insulting use of hateful epithets for the purpose of venting one’s personal hostility. “Fool” (Greek – more) may be designed to reflect upon the character of an adversary, in the sense of: “You scoundrel!” (Bruce, 107).
On the other hand, the word “fool” (or a kindred term, e.g., “foolish”) may be employed calmly and objectively to describe someone who is acting in a senseless, stupid fashion. To certain misguided Christians, who were being seduced away from Christ towards the Mosaic regime, Paul could say: “O foolish Galatians…” (Gal. 3:1). J.B. Phillips rendered the phrase: “O you dear idiots of Galatia” (393).
It makes for a fascinating study to explore the sort of person who is denominated as a “fool” in Scripture. Let us consider but one example – that of the atheist.
A thousand years before the birth of Jesus, the poet-king of Israel wrote: “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God” (Psa. 14:1). The Hebrew term for “fool” is nabal, which signifies a “senseless” person. Especially is the word used of one who has “no perception of ethical and religious claims” (Brown, et al., 614).
In the Greek version of the Old Testament, the word rendered “fool” is aphron, literally, “mindless.” It represents “the lack of common sense perception of the reality of things natural and spiritual” (Vos, 44). In the passage just cited, the “fool” denies the existence of God (cf. 53:2); elsewhere in the same book the term describes one who insults his or her Creator continually (74:22). The prophet Isaiah employed the word of the individual who stands in contrast to a noble-minded person (32:5).
Why is the one who affirms – “There is no God!” – a fool? There are many factors.
- In defiance of one of the most elementary principles of logic, the atheist suggests that “something” (e.g., the Universe) came from “nothing;” that zero plus zero equals something greater than zero.
Victor Stenger, an atheistic professor at the University of Hawaii, admits that “everyday experience and common sense” supports the concept that something cannot come from nothing. Nevertheless, he suggests that “common sense is often wrong, and our normal experiences are but a tiny fraction of reality” (26-27). If you want to be an atheist, you must put your “common sense” on the shelf!
- Atheists contend that the entire Universe, estimated to be 20 billion light years across (the distance light could travel in 20 billion years at the rate of 186,000 miles per second) accidentally derived from a submicroscopic particle of matter. As one writer expresses it: “Astonishingly, scientists now calculate that everything in this vast universe grew out of a region many billions of times smaller than a single proton, one of the atom’s basic particles” (Gore, 705). This is totally nonsensical.
- Atheism contends that the marvelously ordered Universe, designated as “Cosmos” by the Greeks because of its intricate design, is merely the result of an ancient explosion (the Big Bang). Does a contractor pile lumber, brick, wire, pipe, etc., on a building site, blast it with dynamite, and expect a fine dwelling to result? Is that the way atheists build their houses? To so argue is to reveal a truly “senseless heart” (cf. Rom. 1:21).
- In spite of millions of examples in nature, which suggest that biological life can only derive from a living source, atheists believe that billions of years ago, life was accidentally generated from inorganic materials. Common sense and experimentation argue otherwise, but skeptics are willing to abandon logic and opt for the myth of “spontaneous generation,” because the only other alternative is “special creation.” To atheists that simply is not a possibility. Why? Because the fool, for emotional reasons, has already decided: “There is no God.”
- Atheists believe that blind, unintelligent forces of nature, via genetic mutations and the process of natural selection, produced the myriads of delightful creatures that inhabit Earth’s environment. The skeptic can see that a simple pair of pliers, with only four components, must have been designed by an intelligent being, yet he argues that the human body, with its 100 trillion constituent elements (cells), organized into ten magnificent systems, is merely the result of a marriage between Mother Nature and Father Time. How very stupid such ideology is!
- Atheists believe that from a tiny speck of inorganic, self-created matter, human consciousness and moral sensitivity evolved. That is utterly ludicrous; can a rock decide to “think”? Can a proton “feel” guilt? The notion that morality has developed merely as a survival factor (cf. Hayes, 174), is asinine in the extreme. Plants have survived; do they possess a moral code? And what if one decides that he doesn’t care about the “survival” principle? Can he do any “wrong”?
When men refuse to have God in their knowledge, he gives them up to a “reprobate mind,” i.e., one which does not “pass the test” (Rom. 1:28). They are not “intellectuals,” as they fantasize; they are fools.
As G.K. Chesterton once said: “When men cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything!” 
Losing The Virtue Of Goodness By John Kachelman
“The enemies of religion cannot leave it alone. They laboriously attempt to smash religion. They cannot smash religion; but they smash everything else” [G.K. Chesterton, Lunacy And Letters. New York: Sheed & Ward, 1958, p. 191]. Such was never more accurate than in the realm of ethical standards. The atheistic philosophies have subtly decimated the ethical basis of morality. Society today reflects the distorted values which Isaiah condemned (Is 5:20).
Religious expression has been denied in modern society because of the atheistic persuasion. A book detailing the ACLU notes, “For all intents and purposes, the ACLU has been able to harass out of existence public expression of faith” [Grant, Trial And Error p. 72]. In our courts, schools, and communities we have been forced to silence regarding religious matters. Loud objectors have convinced us that the Constitution’s founding principles designed a government free FROM religion, instead of one free FOR religion. And this is the consequence of atheism’s influence! Atheistic ideas have scored a significant victory in the sequestering of religious expression. Yet this advance poses another obstacle that exposes the flaws of atheism. In brief this “victory” reveals that atheism is utterly incapable of producing “goodness” in society! This is concluded from the following thoughts.
In every culture there is an understood “code of oughtness” which establishes the foundation for laws, justice and society’s welfare. “Oughtness” is linked with purpose. When you eliminate the “oughtness” from existence you eliminate the purpose for life and chaos will follow. A good illustration is given by Ravi Zacharias (p. 47ff). He suggests the simple watch has a simple purpose ‑ to tell time. However you describe a watch you must describe it as a time‑telling mechanism. The watch is designed with a purpose, an “oughtness.”
When it loses that purpose (fails to keep accurate time) it loses its meaning for existence! Such is true with human society. When society loses its sense of “ought” (its awareness of right/wrong) it also loses its purpose for existence. Such citizens will aimlessly wander about asking, “Why are we here?” “What are we to do?” From the Garden of Eden to the splendor of the heavenly Eden restored, man’s purpose (that which s/he ought to do) is to honor the Heavenly Father through labors, service, and honor. When man/woman loses this awareness of the “ought” they lose the purpose and meaning of life.
It is this point that exposes atheism’s failure. A self‑caused world has no sense of “ought”; no morality (for how can one give up the Christian Faith and expect live to live by Christian Ethics?); and, there is no abiding sense of right and wrong. Holy Scripture gives repeated warnings about rejecting God because the consequences of such rejection have a paramount impact – a rejection of the spiritual for the fleshly! (cf Ro 8:5‑7; 1 Co 2:14; Gal 5:17; Ep 2:1‑3; 4:17‑19; Tit 3:3). Once one rejects God then s/he loses the sense of “oughtness” for existence. Such is a tragic penalty which is often rashly gained and leisurely regretted.
Those who follow atheism’s allurement will find themselves adrift in the stormy seas of life without chart or compass. They will sail into hopelessness guided by meaninglessness. Life will be void of purpose. An inner‑turmoil is constantly fueled by the unanswerable query, “Why am I alive? What is my purpose for being here?”
The ethical quagmire of atheism affords no escape for those rejecting Deity. Look and observe how atheism fails to be a suitable alternative to theism because it eliminates the virtue of goodness in human society.
The BASIS For Ethics
“Ethics” is simply the standard upon which right or wrong is decided. Any ethical standard operates from a basis of origin. Whatever ethical standard is used, one will appeal to this origin in every decision. Christian Faith has such an ethical basis, as well as Atheism.
C. S. Lewis, a well‑known apologist of theism, suggests that there are three questions upon which any ethical standard must stand if it is to offer society a workable program [Peter Kreeft, Three Philosophies Of Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989, p. 17ff]. He uses the metaphor of ships sailing upon the seas. First, the ships must know how to avoid bumping into one another. This sets the standard for social ethical behavior. Second, the ships must know how to stay shipshape and avoid sinking. This sets the standard for individual ethical behavior. We must know what virtues to add, vices to avoid, and characters to build if we want to avoid personal tragedy. Third, the ships must know why they are at sea. This points to the philosophical ethical standards ‑ the reason for existence.
The Holy Scriptures clearly provide explanation for these three ethical bases. The Bible tells us how to act socially. The Bible tells us how to act individually. And the Bible tells us the reason for existence on earth. Although several texts explain each, 2 Timothy 3:17 aptly summarizes, “That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.”
The Atheist miserably fails to establish a workable ethical basis using these three standards. Atheism flatly rejects the last two and practically ignores the first! By such atheism has brought about . . .
The DISSOLUTION Of Ethics Today
Since atheism has erased the “WHY” of human existence, those following its philosophy are forced to decide life’s choices in tragic ways. Look at society and observe how the Scriptural Ethic has vanished.
First, we are promised unlimited “freedoms” only to discover greater bondage. As a result of the “freedoms” of speech and privacy we are almost bankrupt of basic morality! The virtues of respect, honor, truth, and compassion have been sacrificed upon the alter of self‑centeredness. “Porn Kings” live in splendor because they enjoy “freedom” of speech. Homosexuality has been legitimized because of a “freedom” of privacy. But it is a deceptive freedom (cf 2 Pt 2:18‑19).
Second, the traditional ethics of right/wrong are attacked with scorn and ridicule. The old morality has been replaced with the new morality that has neither absolute rights or wrongs! Ethical decisions today are based upon feelings of the moment, not upon decisions of thought. Today’s society is called to “duty” to the downtrodden and oppressed. The atheistic philosophy argues that man alone is the savior of fellow‑man. But, to what purpose is this “duty.” From what higher level of morality can atheism call for benevolence? Having erased God, the atheist has no higher level than himself and that is inadequate! Duty to whom and duty to what purpose cannot be answered by atheism! This is supported as we observe . . .
The CONSEQUENCES Of Atheistic Ethics
What happens when one tries to live as a law unto himself without God’s ethic? Tragic consequences will come (Ro 1:21). This is practically seen in the following :
First, the lives of those who rejected God illustrate the perversness of a self‑guided ethic. Names from history such as Marx, Sarte, Bertrund Russell, Hemmingway, and a host of others reveal that those who trust in a self‑guided morality will live life with a lack of cohesion; relationships will be void of commitment; fidelity will be a dream unattainable [See Paul Johnson, Intellectusals. New York: Harper & Row, 1988].
Hitler was such a person. In Auschwitz, Hitler’s words comment upon the goal of a self‑guided ethic, “I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality . . . I want young people capable of violence ‑ imperious, relentless, and cruel.” [Zacaharias, p. 59]. These goals were achieved in the Third Reich and have survived to our modern times. The sanctity of life is ignored by the abortionaries and mercy killers. The self‑guided ethic justifies killing those who are “ill‑suited” and “ill‑equipped” to live as “contributing citizens.”
Second, survival is the only ethic of atheism. Since there is no God, there are no moral obligations to help another at the sacrifice of self. Those honored as “heros” in the past because of personal sacrifice for the good of others are seen as “stupid” by the atheistic philosophy. What is the justification for sacrifice under atheism? There is none! The harsh consequence of atheism is that people will look out only for self and have a callous disregard for others!
Third, violence is the bitter fruit. Since one is concerned only with self, then s/he will do anything to another to gratify self! In atheism there can be NO WRONG with murder, rape, torture, or any other cruelty because it is simply the “survival of the fittest”! Those who are persuaded by atheism’s ethics feel more compassion for the murderer than the murdered; for the adulterer than for the betrayed! Atheism actually convinces us that the real guilty party is the victim rather than the perpetrator of the crime!
Fourth, a never ending erosion of life’s value. “The universal solvent ‘the death of God’ has effectively dissolved the life sustaining crucible of morality. But like all universal solvents, the problem of how and where to contain it becomes paramount” [Zacharias, p.66]. Such is a sobering thought. If atheism’s ethics are allowed to progress then we will no longer have any sense of morality ‑ all will be destroyed!
Thus we see two ethical standards. One, Christianity, offers logic, meaning, purpose, and practicality. It holds hope for society’s longevity. Then there is Atheism. It offers that which is intolerable and unlivable. It portrays no hope, no meaning, and only selfish practice. It dissolves society’s foundation.
The only abiding Code of Oughtness, that gives meaning to life, is the Holy Bible! Even though the ACLU has advanced atheism’s morality, there is still religious expression in our land!
In our public buildings, irrefutable evidence of our country’s Christian heritage abounds: the 10 Commandments hang over the head of the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court; in the House and Senate chambers appear the words, ‘In God We Trust’; in the capitol rotunda is the figure of the crucified Christ; carvings on the capitol dome testify to, ‘The New Testament according to the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ’; the Great Seal of the United States proclaims, ‘Annuit Coeptis,’ which means, ‘God has smiled on our undertaking’; under the seal is inscribed the phrase from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, ‘This nation under God’; the walls of the Library of Congress are adorned with the words of Psalm 19:1 and Micah 6:8; engraved on the metal cap of the Washington Monument are the words ‘Praise be to God’; and lining the stairwell are numerous Scripture verses that apply the Christian Faith to every sphere of life from the family to business, from personal character to government” [Grant, p.77‑78].
Once again we see the utter folly of Atheism. Those who are influenced by it follow a course of ethical behavior which will cause them to lose the virtue of goodness! 
“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, and other people are going to get lucky; and you won’t find any rhyme or reasoning to it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good. Nothing but blind pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is, and we dance to its music.” – Richard Dawkins, Out of Eden, NY: Basic Books 1992, p 133.
Dawkins is one of the most vocal and visible atheists of our day, and the above statement is an atheist statement of faith. We can show that DNA cannot be the product of chance, and we can argue that the whole question of biological cause to behavior is poorly answered by evolution; but it might be useful to ask what case atheists can make for any kind of morality? If there is “no evil and no good” then everything is a function of survival of the fittest. How can you make a meaningful case for law and order from such a belief system?
Atheists are quick to point out that those that believe in God fail as much as atheists do in living any kind of meaningful morality. Whether you agree with that assessment or not, there is no question that believers do immoral things, and the problems that our Catholic friends and neighbors find themselves in right now is a classic demonstration of that – but one certainly not confined to Catholicism. Atheists will also argue that you cannot have an ordered society unless there is an agreement about basic issues of what you will allow and what you won’t allow.
An atheist will say that they have as much reason to be moral and not murder or rape as any Christian, because society will dissolve into anarchy if they do so and that doesn’t benefit their own personal survival. I used to make that argument as an atheist in loud and vocal terms, and it sounds good to many people.
The problem is that it doesn’t work. As an atheist if I could get away with something that would bring me pleasure, I only had to answer to myself and thus there was no reason not to do it. As long as it didn’t hurt anyone else, there was no right or wrong or good or evil, so there was no reason not to do it.
The problem with that thinking is that none of us could ever know the ultimate result of what we do. Having sex with an animal or a same sex partner didn’t appear to me to be anyone else’s business when I was an atheist, and had it not been for the fact that I was in love with a Christian girl who was rock solid in her own moral beliefs, I would have done all of those things.
I would never have known about animals carrying STDs or that such activity would have enormous emotional and spiritual affects on my life later on. My belief system as an atheist was totally unworkable – and led me to the brink of suicide.
Dawkin’s argument is not only strongly opposed by evidence, it is a totally impractical and unworkable system. Unfortunately, since September 11, a lot of people are believing it, and since he is a prolific and aggressive author and speaker it is going to get widespread press and support. Recently the ACLU has gone to court saying that abstinence is a religious position. This says that anything that has a moral standard that suggests that there is right and wrong conduct has to be religious in nature. I am sure that Dawkins would agree with that. I would argue that there is no moral standard in atheism, and that this is a strong apologetic for the teachings of Jesus Christ. (By John Clayton). 
John Clayton was an atheist for 20 years and actively involved with Madalyn O’Hair and her organization. He became a believer in God through detailed studies in science.
 These two fine articles were written by Wayne Jackson and are posted on the Christian Courier website.
 Sources for these two articles:
Brown, Francis; Driver, S.R.; Briggs, Charles (1907), Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament (London: Oxford University Press).
Bruce, A.B. (1956), “Matthew,” The Expositor’s Greek Testament, W. Robertson Nicoll, Ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans), Vol. I.
Gore, Rick (1983), “The Once And Future Universe,” National Geographic, June.
Hayes, Judith (1996), In God We Trust: But Which One? (Madison, WI: Freedom From Religion Foundation).
Phillips, J.B. (1972), The New Testament in Modern English (New York: Macmillan).
Stenger, Victor J. (1987), “Was the Universe Created?” Free Inquiry, Summer, Vol. 7, No. 3.
Vos, Geerhardus (1899), Dictionary of the Bible, James Hastings, Ed. (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark), Vol. II.
 Sources used by John Kachelman and suggested for further study
George Grant, Trial And Error. Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Pub., 1989.
Paul Johnson, Intellectuals. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
Cal Thomas, Uncommon Sense. Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Pub., 1990.
Thomas B. Warren & Wallace I. Matson, The Warren‑Matson Debate On The Existence Of God. Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, 1978.
Ravi Zacharias, A Shattered Visage : The Real Face Of Atheism. Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt Pub., 1990.