Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mark Twain: Humorist, Author, Man of Reason, Atheist.

As is more often than not the case, men whose minds are lucid and perceptive, who can see the foibles, fanaticism, and foolishness of men for what they are, stand out as icons of reason and creativity. Samuel Clements (AKA Mark Twain) was one of those men.

Beloved for his writings which have stood as the quintessential examples of American folk humor, wit, and observations on the human condition, Twain was also a Free Thinker. He commented often about religion, decrying its evils which he saw as outweighing any good it may contribute to civilization.

The following is an extract from one of his writings. Classic Twain, his wry observations are as true now as they were then, and will be for the foreseeable future … until man finally comes to his senses.

“During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. The Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.

Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry. Who discovered that there was no such thing as a witch--the priest, the parson? No, these never discover anything. . . .

There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain."

-- Mark Twain, "Bible Teaching and Religious Practice", Europe and Elsewhere (1923)

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