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Friday, September 12, 2008

Really sympathizing with Mark Twain:

Well, kids, Ray has done it again. This time, the object of his odious quote-mining attentions is Mark Twain.

Here's the quote Ray feels supports his cause:

It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.

I'm not sure what's worse here...the fact that Ray has so abjectly failed to understand Twain's point in this particular quote, or the fact that Ray seems to be so completely and utterly ignorant of Twain's actual opinions of religion in general.

In the interest of promoting more informed discussion of this topic, here are a few more quotes from Twain concerning religion:

So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us.
- Following the Equator

Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven....The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.
- "The Lowest Animal"

Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions....there was never a country where the majority of the people were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these institutions.
- The Mysterious Stranger

The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. I would not interfere with any one's religion, either to strengthen it or to weaken it. I am not able to believe one's religion can affect his hereafter one way or the other, no matter what that religion may be. But it may easily be a great comfort to him in this life--hence it is a valuable possession to him.
- Mark Twain, a Biography

In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.
- Mark Twain in Eruption

Man is kind enough when he is not excited by religion.
- A Horse's Tale

Religion consists in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes, and wishes he was certain.
- Notebook, 1879

I was educated, I was trained, I was a Presbyterian and I knew how these things are done. I knew that in Biblical times if a man committed a sin the extermination of the whole surrounding nation--cattle and all--was likely to happen. I knew that Providence was not particular about the rest, so that He got somebody connected with the one He was after.
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

We don't cut up when mad men are bred by the old legitimate regular stock religions, but we can't allow wildcat religions to indulge in such disastrous experiments.
- "The New Wildcat Religion"

Zeal and sincerity can carry a new religion further than any other missionary except fire and sword.
- Christian Science

The altar cloth of one aeon is the doormat of the next.
- Notebook, 1898

I have a religion--but you will call it blasphemy. It is that there is a God for the rich man but none for the poor.....Perhaps your religion will sustain you,will feed you--I place no dependence in mine. Our religions are alike, though, in one respect--neither can make a man happy when he is out of luck.
- Letter to Orion Clemens, 10/19-20/1865

We have to keep our God placated with prayers, and even then we are never sure of him--how much higher and finer is the Indian's God......Our illogical God is all-powerful in name, but impotent in fact; the Great Spirit is not all-powerful, but does the very best he can for his injun and does it free of charge.
- Marginalia written in copy of Richard Irving Dodge's Our Wild Indians


  1. Mark Twain is among those of my favorite authors. Such deep insight in his sense of humor.

  2. Twain is one of my favorites, too. It's a shame to see Ray butcher a quote by him.

  3. I also hate how Ray has been adding bits and pieces onto the main post rather than clarifying in the discussion.

    It's like he's saying "here's what the atheists are going to say and I'm going to attempt to refute it", only to have his point ravaged later.

    It's just so disingenuous.

  4. Once again, Ray Comfort leaves unsaid the important information that clarifies and repudiates what he writes.

    For anyone who really wants to know about Twain's attitudes and thoughts about God and religion, they should read "Letters From the Earth". Twain wrote this later in his life, after losing his wife, and daughter, and falling deeply into debt.

    It was such a ravaging critique of the nonsense of Protestantism and religion, that his estate didn't allow it to be published for 50 years.

    Herewith a snippet-

    "For three hundred years, now, the Christian astronomer has known that his Deity didn't make the stars in those tremendous six days; but the Christian astronomer does not enlarge upon that detail. Neither does the priest.

    In a New York Times review of "Letters" it is considered "dated".

    In one sense "Letters From the Earth" is for two reasons a dated book. In the first place Biblical scholarship has so radically altered the literalness Twain read into the Scripture, his satire is likely to seem naive. In the second place our attitude to space has altered. Though we can find no proof that the universe has any interest in, or care for, us, we set about exploring it with business-like efficiency. But just as the fanciful geography of "Gulliver's Travels," once a mode of gaining credibility, does not now alter the wisdom of Swift, nor the truth that Job is not factual but a poem alter its majesty, so "Letters From the Earth" is not essentially damaged by the decline of belief in a Protestant heaven.

    Unfortunately, in Ray Comfort's world, such foolish centuries old literalism is not only not considered naive, but espoused and held to unquestioninly for eternal salvation.

    Yes Ray, Twain probably did believe in God, but certainly not the judgemental, vengeful, personal, God you envision, and certainly not the claptrap of religion that you embrace with such dogged and blind reliance, refusing to accept, or even consider what we have learned in the past centuries.

    Twain mocked Christianity, and the foolish dogma of religion, and would do so even more today.

  5. I've just blistered my eardrums imagining the things Clemens would have to say about Comfort, both as a writer and as a person. If he bothered to take notice of him at all, that is.

  6. Trip,
    Nicely done. Thanks for compiling those quotes.
    Twain was a genius.

  7. Hey, you missed a good one!

    "Faith is believing what you know ain't so."


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