This book makes the shocking statement that Jean Meslier, an unknown Catholic priest in a tiny town of Étrépigny, is the founding father of modern Atheism. His “Testament” to his parishioners denounces all religion. It was published in 1729, after his death, and had a terrific impact on the French reformer Voltaire. Meslier refers to a hypothetical man who “…wished that all the great men in the world and all the nobility could be hanged, and strangled with the guts of the priests.” “If God is incomprehensible to man, it would seem rational never to think of Him at all.” “Religion is a fatal source for trouble.” “On the pretext of being willing to drive you to heaven, they prevent you from enjoying your life on earth in any way; and finally pretending to keep you away in some other life from the imaginary pains of a hell that does not exist … they compel you to suffer in this life, which is the only one that you can claim to, the pains of a real hell …” p. 112.
Another prominent atheist was Baron d’Holbach, who inherited great wealth and used it to support a salon in Paris from 1750 to 1780, where the great and famous European intellectuals gathered. It was in his salon that much of the great Encyclopédie was discussed and created. These people were key in creating our modern view of reality and our view of religion.
Chapter 13 was mostly about Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her struggles with the American legal system. Her son William Murray, when a student, didn’t like saying prayers at school, and Madalyn pursued his cause all the way through a successful challenge to the United States Supreme Court. Prayers are no longer required or permitted in public schools. The book doesn’t give Madalyn nearly the praise given to the French Enlightenment fellows, and yet her struggles did result in substantial change to the enforcement of religious principles in America. Bill was a personal friend in 1968, and a wonderful companion, but even then he spoke of the dark side of atheism from personal experience. Ten years later, after his mother, brother and daughter had been murdered by atheists, Bill Murray found Christ. My inclinations were of the form that God and spiritualism were supernatural and didn’t relate to the reality that I live within. My spiritualist friends say I will transition into that other reality after I die. I doubt that, but if it turns out that way, I will make the best I can of that new arrangement.