Mencken, Henry Louis: [Quoted in part from the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia: H. L. Mencken (born Sept. 12, 1880, died Jan. 29, 1956) was perhaps the most influential American editor, essayist, and social critic of the first half of the 20th century. A biting satirist and daring prose stylist, Mencken enjoyed his greatest fame and power in the 1920s, during his editorship of the American Mercury. As editor of the Mercury (1924-33) and, earlier, of the Smart Set (1914-24)]
Thus such a thing as a truly enlightened Christian is hard to imagine. Either he is enlightened or he is Christian, and the louder he protests that he is the former the more apparent it becomes that he is really the latter. A Catholic priest who devotes himself to seismology or some other such safe science may become a competent technician and hence a useful man, but it is ridiculous to call him a scientist so long as he still believes in the virgin birth, the atonement or transubstantiation. It is, to be sure, possible to imagine any of these dogmas being true, but only at the cost of heaving all science overboard as rubbish. the priest's reasons for believing in them is not only not scientific; it is violently anti-scientific. Here he is exactly on all fours with a believer in fortune-telling, Christian Science or chiropractic.
On Churches and belief:
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 is still convinced that prayer can cure after medicine fails.
Marriage is a wonderful institution, but who would want to live in an institution.
Say what you want about the Ten Commandments, you must always come back to the pleasant fact that there are only ten of them.
Sunday School is a prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
The theory seems to be that as 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.
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.
The only really respectable Protestants are the Fundamentalists. Unfortunately, they are also palpable idiots...
Imagine the Creator as a low comedian, and at once the world becomes explicable.
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 chief contribution of Protestantism to human thought is its massive proof that God is a bore.
Nature abhors a moron.
On Science and Religion:
The effort to reconcile science and religion is almost always made, not by theologians, but by scientists unable to shake off altogether the piety absorbed with their mothers' milk. The theologians, with no such dualism addling their wits, are smart enough to see that the two things are implacably and eternally antagonistic, and that any attempt to thrust them into one bag is bound to result in one swallowing the other. The scientists who undertakes this miscegenation always end by succumbing to religion; after a Millikan has been discoursing five minutes it becomes apparent that he is speaking in the character of a Christian Sunday-school scholar, not of a scientist. The essence of science is that it is always willing to abandon a given idea, however fundamental it may seem to be, for a better one; the essence of theology is that it holds its truths to be eternal and immutable. To be sure, theology is always yielding a little to the progress of knowledge, and only a Holy Roller in the mountains of Tennessee would dare to preach today what the popes preached in the thirteenth Century, but this yieldiung is always done grudgingly, and thus lingers a good while behind the event. So far as I am aware even the most liberal theologian of today still gags at scientific concepts that were already commonplace in my schooldays.
The cosmos is a gigantic flywheel making 10 000 revolutions per minute. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it. Religion is the belief that it was all created for his benefit.
The time must come inevitably when mankind shall surmount the imbecility of religion, as it has surmounted the imbecility of religion's ally, magic. It is impossible to imagine this world being really civilized so long as so much nonsense survives. In even its highest forms religion embraces concepts that run counter to all common sense. It can be defended only by making assumptions and adopting rules of logic that are never heard of in any other field of human thinking.
Religion, of course, does make some men better, and perhaps even many men. There can be no doubt of it. But making them better by filling their poor heads with grotesque nonsense is an irrational and wasteful process, and the harm it does greatly outweighs the good. If men could be made betteror even only happierby teaching them that two and two make five there would be plenty of fools to advocate that method, but it would remain anti-social none the less. If the theologians could only agree on their doctrines their unanimity might have some evidential value, just as the agreement of all politicians that the first duty of the citizen is to obey them and admire them has some evidential value. It may not be true, but it is at least undisputed by all save a small fraction of heretics, which is certainly something. Fortunately for common sense, the theologians are never able to agree. Even within the sects, and under the more rigid discipline, there is constant wrangling, as, for example, between the Jesuits and the Dominicans. Thus the cocksureness of one outfit is canceled out by the ribald denial of all the rest, and rational men are able to consign the whole gang to statistics and the Devil.
One of the most irrational of all the conventions of modern society is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected. ...[This] convention protects them, and so they proceed with their blather unwhipped and almost unmolested, to the great damage of common sense and common decency. That they should have this immunity is an outrage. There is nothing in religious ideas, as a class, to lift them above other ideas. On the contrary, they are always dubious and often quite silly. Nor is there any visible intellectual dignity in theologians. Few of them know anything that is worth knowing, and not many of them are even honest.
Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.
On the US Presidency:
"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more
closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain
folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House
will be adorned by a downright moron."