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Mencken Quote


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I found this quote stuck inside the cover of a book I just bought entitled, "What is Atheism?" by Douglas E. Krueger. I haven't started reading the book just yet, but I thought the quote was well worth sharing:

 

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable." - H. L. Mencken

 

Glory!

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I found this quote stuck inside the cover of a book I just bought entitled, "What is Atheism?" by Douglas E. Krueger. I haven't started reading the book just yet, but I thought the quote was well worth sharing:

 

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable." - H. L. Mencken

 

Glory!

 

If you like that quote, you should read the book "H.L. Menken On Religion". Here's one of my favorite passages:

 

There is, in fact, nothing about religious opinions that entitles them to any more respect than other opinions get. On the contrary, they tend to be noticeably silly. If you doubt it, then ask any pious fellow of your aquiantance to put what he believes into the form of an affidavit, and see how it reads..."I, John Doe, being duly sworn do say that I believe that ,at death, I shall turn into a vertebrate without substance, having neither weight, extent or mass, but with all the intellectual powers and bodily sensations of an ordinary mammal;....and that, for the high crime and misdemeanor of having kissed my sister-in-law behind the door, with evil intent, I shall be boiled in molten sulphur for one billion calendar years." Or "I, Mary Roe, having the fear of Hell before me, do solemnly affirm and declare that I believe it was right, just, lawful and and decent for the Lord God Jehovah, seeing certain little children of Beth-el laugh at Elisha's bald head, to send a she-bear from the wood, and to instruct, intice, induce and command it to tear forty-two of them to pieces."
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Some good atheist quotes:

 

http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/atheism/ath_qots.htm

 

http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/atheistquotes.html

 

 

 

A good answer when a god botherer comes knocking at your door:

 

"God made me an atheist. Who are you to question his wisdom."

 

(If you don't have a rottweiler that is.)

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I found this quote stuck inside the cover of a book I just bought entitled, "What is Atheism?" by Douglas E. Krueger. I haven't started reading the book just yet, but I thought the quote was well worth sharing:

 

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable." - H. L. Mencken

 

Glory!

Mencken has long been one of my heroes. His way with words is comparable to Ingersoll.

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I found this quote stuck inside the cover of a book I just bought entitled, "What is Atheism?" by Douglas E. Krueger. I haven't started reading the book just yet, but I thought the quote was well worth sharing:

 

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable." - H. L. Mencken

 

Glory!

Mencken has long been one of my heroes. His way with words is comparable to Ingersoll.

 

I do not intend in any way to diminish Mencken, but I do think there is something we can learn here. Many judge religion by its worst examples, its worst crimes, its worst adherents, all the while overlooking its best examples, its most generous contributions, and its saintly adherents. This seems inconsistent -- to me.

 

Take Mencken, for example. He is heroic. He was a great writer, a great mind, a great thinker, and all of that! But he also is charged by many with having been classist, elitist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, racist, a true believer in Social Darwinism. Here's one such quote of Mencken that should make all of us shudder:

 

"The educated Negro of today is a failure, not because he meets insuperable difficulties in life, but because he is a Negro. His brain is not fitted for the higher forms of mental effort; his ideals, no matter how laboriously he is trained and sheltered, remain those of a clown."

 

Source (go this 1964 TIME article and search for his name): http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout...,940759,00.html

 

Just as one should not, in my view, burn all of Mencken's writings or refuse to give him any credit for greatness because he was some things we definitely do not approve of today, one should not move to eliminate from civilization all religion simply because it, too, has a side with which we do not agree. (Not that anyone should become religious, but that one must recognize that if s/he rids the world of all that s/he disagrees with even in part, we'd be left with no one standing and not one book in any libarary.)

 

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Many judge religion by its worst examples, its worst crimes, its worst adherents, all the while overlooking its best examples, its most generous contributions, and its saintly adherents.

I think people judge it that way because it shows us how far it can go and how nasty religion can get. Would you judge the Nazis or die-hard Stalinists by their best attributes?

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cc,

 

Thanks for that quote. Perhaps I should be more discrete with the 'hero' label. Mencken did have a lot of great quotes regarding religion and prohibition though.

 

I recently ran across several similarly racist and ignorant quotes coming from the mouths of people such as Abraham Lincoln and other otherwise respected historical figures. It is astounding when viewed from our somewhat more enlightened perspective.

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I do not intend in any way to diminish Mencken, but I do think there is something we can learn here. Many judge religion by its worst examples, its worst crimes, its worst adherents, all the while overlooking its best examples, its most generous contributions, and its saintly adherents. This seems inconsistent -- to me.

 

Take Mencken, for example. He is heroic. He was a great writer, a great mind, a great thinker, and all of that! But he also is charged by many with having been classist, elitist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic, racist, a true believer in Social Darwinism. Here's one such quote of Mencken that should make all of us shudder:

 

"The educated Negro of today is a failure, not because he meets insuperable difficulties in life, but because he is a Negro. His brain is not fitted for the higher forms of mental effort; his ideals, no matter how laboriously he is trained and sheltered, remain those of a clown."

 

Source (go this 1964 TIME article and search for his name): http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout...,940759,00.html

 

Just as one should not, in my view, burn all of Mencken's writings or refuse to give him any credit for greatness because he was some things we definitely do not approve of today, one should not move to eliminate from civilization all religion simply because it, too, has a side with which we do not agree. (Not that anyone should become religious, but that one must recognize that if s/he rids the world of all that s/he disagrees with even in part, we'd be left with no one standing and not one book in any libarary.)

 

-CC

 

At least it can be proved that Mencken existed.

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Many judge religion by its worst examples, its worst crimes, its worst adherents, all the while overlooking its best examples, its most generous contributions, and its saintly adherents.

I think people judge it that way because it shows us how far it can go and how nasty religion can get. Would you judge the Nazis or die-hard Stalinists by their best attributes?

 

That's a very good point, and we definitely do want to be aware of how far an idea or embrace/rejection of an idea can take us. But, here again, the argument from the extreme would eliminate just about everything from our list of potential choices. One need only look at the war against religion waged on behalf of Soviet atheism to witness the danger of extreme atheism. Should one cease being atheist because extremist atheism is so dangerous? I'd so no. Should one cease to be religious (if that's what they want to be) because extremist theis/religion is equally dangerous? Again, I'd say no.

 

Seen from my perspective, religious excess, overall, does not equate with Stalinism and Nazism. Religion is "neutral" in and of itself. What people do with religion can be quite positive and/or quite negative. Stalinism and Nazism are radicalized in their very nature, in their essence, and it would be impossible to be a "liberal Nazi" or a "moderate Stalinist," as one can be a "liberal Christian" or "moderate Jew," etc.

 

I think.

 

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cc,

 

Thanks for that quote. Perhaps I should be more discrete with the 'hero' label. Mencken did have a lot of great quotes regarding religion and prohibition though.

 

I recently ran across several similarly racist and ignorant quotes coming from the mouths of people such as Abraham Lincoln and other otherwise respected historical figures. It is astounding when viewed from our somewhat more enlightened perspective.

 

We all should be more discrete at throwing around all labels -- the negative and the positive ones. So little is black and white, I think.

 

You are right, trashy, it's amazing what some of our great ones have said and done. If we judged everyone by our 21st century standards, we'd have to throw darn near our entire past out the door. So we have to be as aware as we can be about things, overlooking somewhat the serious foibles all of us have, and concentrating more on the good and positive and shared.

 

Thank you for taking my comment in the spirit in which it was given -- as a comment to make us all think. I appreciate your response.

 

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At least it can be proved that Mencken existed.

 

I'm sure we could find a website somewhere asserting that he did not exist. But I agree with you 100% -- H.L. Mencken existed and he was a mighty fine writer!! :clap:

 

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If we judged everyone by our 21st century standards, we'd have to throw darn near our entire past out the door.
No we wouldnt. We would merly find them lacking by our standards. I dont throw out WWII and the 1920s and 30s because the Nazis came about in those times.

 

Seen from my perspective, religious excess, overall, does not equate with Stalinism and Nazism.

Overall id say it passes the Nazis and Stalinists. Hitler killed about 11-12 million innocent people. Stalin killed tens of millions more. Religion takes the cake. That being said it has also done some good. The fact that the Nazis took Germany out of poverty and made her strong again is, for the most part, good. the Communists rebuilt Russia into a modern power, the end result of that was that powers rise to a super power and its eventual fall. I wouldnt call religion neutral.

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If we judged everyone by our 21st century standards, we'd have to throw darn near our entire past out the door.
No we wouldnt. We would merly find them lacking by our standards. I dont throw out WWII and the 1920s and 30s because the Nazis came about in those times.

 

Seen from my perspective, religious excess, overall, does not equate with Stalinism and Nazism.
Overall id say it passes the Nazis and Stalinists. Hitler killed about 11-12 million innocent people. Stalin killed tens of millions more. Religion takes the cake. That being said it has also done some good. The fact that the Nazis took Germany out of poverty and made her strong again is, for the most part, good. the Communists rebuilt Russia into a modern power, the end result of that was that powers rise to a super power and its eventual fall. I wouldnt call religion neutral.

 

I didn't phrase well what I meant so say, which was that if we only allowed those who pass muster by our current standards to offer us any insight, we'd have very few from the past to turn to. Hopefully, we can ignore, for example, Paul's command that women remain silent but learn from his teaching that love is patient and love is kind. That's what I mean.

 

It likely is not possible to count how many died as a direct result of religious violence and separate from that the number who died as a result of violence from those claiming Jesus, etc., but I reject all violence from whatever source -- from theists, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Communists...! No more violence, please!

 

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I didn't phrase well what I meant so say, which was that if we only allowed those who pass muster by our current standards to offer us any insight, we'd have very few from the past to turn to. Hopefully, we can ignore, for example, Paul's command that women remain silent but learn from his teaching that love is patient and love is kind. That's what I mean.

Ah, ok. I agree with that.

 

ut I reject all violence from whatever source -- from theists, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Communists...! No more violence, please!

Noble, but ultimately of little use.

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ut I reject all violence from whatever source -- from theists, atheists, Christians, Muslims, Communists...! No more violence, please!

Noble, but ultimately of little use.

 

I'm afraid you are right. But if we everyone rejects violence from any and all sources there will be no violence. I am not optimistic!

 

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ut if we everyone rejects violence from any and all sources there will be no violence.

There will always be those willing to use violence. and there will always be those willing to use violence against them.

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ut if we everyone rejects violence from any and all sources there will be no violence.

There will always be those willing to use violence. and there will always be those willing to use violence against them.

 

I'm afraid that you are right.

 

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I went searching for more Mencken mania:

 

I admit freely enough that, by careful breeding, supervision of environment and education, extending over many generations, it might be possible to make an appreciable improvement in the stock of the American negro, for example, but I must maintain that this enterprise would be a ridiculous waste of energy, for there is a high-caste white stock ready at hand, and it is inconceivable that the negro stock, however carefully it might be nurtured, could ever even remotely approach it. The educated negro of today is a failure, not because he meets insuperable difficulties in life, but because he is a negro. He is, in brief, a low-caste man, to the manner born, and he will remain inert and inefficient until fifty generations of him have lived in civilization. And even then, the superior white race will be fifty generations ahead of him.

 

Men versus the Man: A Correspondence between Robert Rives La Monte, Socialist, and H.L. Mencken, Individualist [1910], p.116

 

 

. . .the negro, no matter how much he is educated, must remain, as a race, in a condition of subservience; that he must remain the inferior of the stronger and more intelligent white man so long as he retains racial differentiation. Therefore, the effort to educate him has awakened in his mind ambitions and aspirations which, in the very nature of things, must go unrealized, and so, while gaining nothing whatever materially, he has lost all his old contentment, peace of mind and happiness.

 

The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche [1913], p.167-8

 

 

 

But the fact remains that the Southern whites have to deal with the actual Negroes before them, and not with a theoretical race of African kings. These actual Negroes show actual defects that are very real and very serious. The leaders of the race, engrossed by the almost unbearable injustices that it faces, are apt to forget them.

 

Quoted in Edward A. Martin's H.L. Mencken and the Debunkers [1984], pp.41-2

 

 

I also learned that Mencken is credited by some with coining the term "monkey trial" for the Scopes trial in Dayton, TN, in 1925. He wrote a book about that historic trial: A Religious Orgy in Tennessee: A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial.

 

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I am beginning to suspect that Mencken was a racist.

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Mencken was a product of his time. In 1910, when most of that was written, his statements were a fair objective assessment. Blacks hadn't invented anything of significance, nor had they contributed anything to the arts and sciences. The most eloquent black voice that I know of before that time was Frederick Douglass, and he was half white. Mencken was a supporter of black civil liberties, and he despised the Christian organziation the KKK, something he wrote at great length about. His thoughts on the analytical thinking capacites of blacks was not racist. What he is saying, is that based on their substandard performance in certain areas, they are inferior in those areas. Racism is holding someone as inferior because of their race, not because they are inferior, a significant difference. 100 years later our indoctrination suggests we should treat this notion as racist, that doesn't make it so.

 

Blacks score on average 15 points less on IQ tests than whites, they receive 230 bonus points on the SATS for identifying themselves as thier race, and on all standardized academic achievement tests they score lower than whites. Does it make me racist to acknowlege these facts?

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Mencken was a product of his time. In 1910, when most of that was written, his statements were a fair objective assessment. Blacks hadn't invented anything of significance, nor had they contributed anything to the arts and sciences. The most eloquent black voice that I know of before that time was Frederick Douglass, and he was half white. Mencken was a supporter of black civil liberties, and he despised the Christian organziation the KKK, something he wrote at great length about. His thoughts on the analytical thinking capacites of blacks was not racist. What he is saying, is that based on their substandard performance in certain areas, they are inferior in those areas. Racism is holding someone as inferior because of their race, not because they are inferior, a significant difference. 100 years later our indoctrination suggests we should treat this notion as racist, that doesn't make it so.

 

Blacks score on average 15 points less on IQ tests than whites, they receive 230 bonus points on the SATS for identifying themselves as thier race, and on all standardized academic achievement tests they score lower than whites. Does it make me racist to acknowlege these facts?

 

Have you been reading The Bell Curve?

 

Mencken did much more than make commentary on skewed data, seems to me. But as you say, his views were quite kosher for the day. I do suggest, however, that you might want to read more on the history of those Americans called Black as some in this group had in fact invented products of significance and contributed to the arts and sciences, extraordinary achievements considering their "rightful place" was relatively confined at the time.

 

Finally, if I may, referring to the KKK as a "Christian organization" is faulty logic, as unjust as referring to the Soviet Communist Party or Mao's Mafia as "atheist organizations." Yes, many claiming to be Christian were in the KKK and many claiming to be atheist were in leadership in the Soviet Union and in China during the Cultural Revolution, but this does not mean that the KKK is a Christian organization or the Communist Party an atheist one, or the Cultural Revolution an atheist movement.

 

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I do suggest, however, that you might want to read more on the history of those Americans called Black as some in this group had in fact invented products of significance and contributed to the arts and sciences, extraordinary achievements considering their "rightful place" was relatively confined at the time.

 

Care to name something extraordinary?

 

Finally, if I may, referring to the KKK as a "Christian organization" is faulty logic

 

Excuse me, but most of the members then and today identify themselves as Christian. It was/is a Christian brotherhood. Like your cousins or not, they're family.

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Racism is holding someone as inferior because of their race, not because they are inferior, a significant difference. 100 years later our indoctrination suggests we should treat this notion as racist, that doesn't make it so.
It's holding that some aspect of their person, identifiable as a quality of their race, makes them inferior, in absence of proof.

Blacks score on average 15 points less on IQ tests than whites, they receive 230 bonus points on the SATS for identifying themselves as thier race, and on all standardized academic achievement tests they score lower than whites. Does it make me racist to acknowlege these facts?

I can't speak to the IQ tests, as I tend to score well above average, though just slightly out of the genius strata, however it looks like the SAT score thing is based on a certain perception, which is why I can attribute my low score to failure to adequately study, because if I remember correctly, I didn't note my race. Standardized tests (which I also generally scored highly on) seem as I have read to be base upon certain understandings that don't come with the typical geography of many blacks (low rent, urban areas).

 

I don't know much about the first item, but the second and third are due to things such as affirmative action, and perceptions based on the original idea of 'negro inferiority', and in no way constitute proof or even reasonable evidence of such.

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I do suggest, however, that you might want to read more on the history of those Americans called Black as some in this group had in fact invented products of significance and contributed to the arts and sciences, extraordinary achievements considering their "rightful place" was relatively confined at the time.

 

Care to name something extraordinary?

 

Finally, if I may, referring to the KKK as a "Christian organization" is faulty logic
Excuse me, but most of the members then and today identify themselves as Christian. It was/is a Christian brotherhood. Like your cousins or not, they're family.

 

Here's a link to some Black inventors that might or might not meet your criteria for "extraordinary." Some more. How about Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the first open heart surgery in the U.S.?

 

Of course, there have been Christians in the KKK, but this does not make it a Christian organization. In fact, organizations cannot be Christian. Only people can be Christian. Organizations cannot be Atheist, either; only people can be Atheist.

 

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