Tuesday, February 28, 2006

In times like these I remember H. L. Mencken

Mencken's Creed

I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...

I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...

I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

I believe in the reality of progress.

I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

You can read more on Menchken here.

Of course, he was also a racist product of his time. Ignore that and delight in a cheerful cynic who knew what was going on. Here are a few of his definitions:
Church - A place in which gentlemen who have never been to Heaven brag about it to people who will never get there.

Clergyman - A ticket speculator outside the gates of Heaven.

Conscience - The inner voice which warns us that someone is looking.

Immorality - The morality of those who are having a better time.

Jealousy - The theory that some other fellow has just as little taste.

Love - The delusion that one woman differs from another.

Morality - The theory that every human act must either be right or wrong, and that 99% of them are wrong.

Pastor - One employed by the wicked to prove to them by his example that virtue doesn't pay.

Platitude - An idea (a) that is admitted to be true by everyone,and (b) that is not true.

Sunday School - A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
It was morality that burned the books of the ancient sages, and morality that halted the free inquiry of the Golden Age and substituted for it the credulous imbecility of the Age of Faith. It was a fixed moral code and a fixed theology which robbed the human race of a thousand years by wasting them upon alchemy, heretic-burning, witchcraft and sacerdotalism.

I am often wrong. My prejudices are innumerable, and often idiotic. My aim is not to determine facts, but to function freely and pleasantly - as Nietzsche used to say, to dance with arms and legs.

Evangelical Christianity, as everyone knows, is founded upon hate, as the Christianity of Christ was founded upon love.

Mencken gave us some of the best accounts of the Scopes Monkey Trial.
The Scopes trial, from the start, has been carried on in a manner exactly fitted to the anti- evolution law and the simian imbecility under it. There hasn't been the slightest pretense to decorum. The rustic judge, a candidate for re-election, has postured the yokels like a clown in a ten-cent side show, and almost every word he has uttered has been an undisguised appeal to their prejudices and superstitions. The chief prosecuting attorney, beginning like a competent lawyer and a man of self-respect, ended like a convert at a Billy Sunday revival. It fell to him, finally, to make a clear and astounding statement of theory of justice prevailing under fundamentalism. What he said, in brief, was that a man accused of infidelity had no rights whatever under Tennessee law....

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