Saturday, December 18, 2004


H.L. Mencken had lots of thoughts about religion, and he has been rather unpopular among those who think of themselves as people of faith. Anyway, here are some collected Mencken quotes about religion:

We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

Not by accident, you may be sure, do the Christian Scriptures make the father of knowledge a serpent --- slimy, sneaking and abominable.

Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable.

Say what you will about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.

Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.

The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable. A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere ass; he is actually ill. Worse, he is incurable.

Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses. One seldom discovers a true believer that is worth knowing.

Creator - A comedian whose audience is afraid to laugh.

Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.

It is impossible to imagine the universe run by a wise, just and omnipotent God, but it is quite easy to imagine it run by a board of gods. If such a board actually exists it operates precisely like the board of a corporation that is losing money.

The believing mind is externally impervious to evidence. The most that can be accomplished with it is to induce it to substitute one delusion for another. It rejects all overt evidence as wicked...

Why assume so glibly that the God who presumably created the universe is still running it? It is certainly perfectly conceivable that He may have finished it and then turned it over to lesser gods to operate. In the same way many human institutions are turned over to grossly inferior men. This is true, for example, of most universities, and of all great newspapers.

The theory seems to be that so long as a man is a failure he is one of God's chillun, but that as soon as he succeeds he is taken over by the Devil.

It is not materialism that is the chief curse of the world, as pastors teach, but idealism. Men get into trouble by taking their visions and hallucinations too seriously.

It is often argued that religion is valuable because it makes men good, but even if this were true it would not be a proof that religion is true. That would be an extension of pragmatism beyond endurance. Santa Claus makes children good in precisely the same way, and yet no one would argue seriously that the fact proves his existence. The defense of religion is full of such logical imbecilities.

The Christian church, in its attitude toward science, shows the mind of a more or less enlightened man of the Thirteenth Century. It no longer believes that the earth is flat, but it is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.

A church is a place in which gentlemen who have never been to heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there.

A Sunday school is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
Immorality: The morality of those who are having a better time.

Well, I tell you, if I have been wrong in my agnosticism, when I die I'll walk up to God in a manly way and say, Sir, I made an honest mistake.

The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression.

...the great artists of the world are never Puritans, and seldom respectable. No virtuous man--that is, virtuous in the Y.M.C.A. sense--has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading...

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.


Blogger J. Marquis said...

Thanks for printing these quotes. That guy had some amazing insights. And guts for taking on religion back then.

7:16 AM  
Blogger Carter said...

Great quotes. I especially liked the one about the communists.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Carter said...

More of his quotes: H. L. Mencken Quotes - The Quotations Page

9:52 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Thanks, C. I will go check out that link! I need to read more about Mencken!

8:22 AM  
Blogger usnmcb10 said...

To all H.L. Mencken fans, if ever you get to Baltimore, MD be sure to visit the H.L. Mencken room at the central branch of the Enoch Pratt free library located at
400 Cathedral St. You won't regret the trip.

12:23 PM  
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