H. L. MenckenH. L. Mencken, (1880-1956) American Journalist, Editor, Essayist, Linguist, Lexicographer, and Critic

H. L. Mencken Quote

“The truth is that Christian theology, like every other theology, is not only opposed to the scientific spirit; it is also opposed to all other attempts at rational thinking. Not by accident does Genesis 3 make the father of knowledge a serpent -- slimy, sneaking and abominable. Since the earliest days the church as an organization has thrown itself violently against every effort to liberate the body and mind of man. It has been, at all times and everywhere, the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions. It was, for centuries, an apologist for slavery, as it was the apologist for the divine right of kings.”

H. L. MenckenH. L. Mencken
~ H. L. Mencken

Ratings and Comments

  • Reply
Anonymous    3/6/06

I knew not that Satan was the creator of knowledge.

  • Reply
Anonymous    3/15/06

He is absolutely right - organized religion, especially Christianity, has been used in many abominable ways to support many heinous ideas. Was Satan the serpent? Some say yes: http://www.gotquestions.org/Satan-serpent.html

Mike, Norwalk

Some truth / some accuracies mixed with gross generalities, mis-interpretations, and just plain stupid non-truth.

Eric, Atlanta

A half-truth, like much of the real world. Religion espouses that which makes for better, more stable and civil societies, so long as political power is kept from it. Christianity is more of a philosophy than a religion. There are many Christian relligions, and the above is true for some of them. Menkin is either truly ignorant of the Christian faith at best, or at worst is trying to mislead the faithless.

Bryan Morton, Stuart, Florida

I usually like Mencken, but my Bible doesn't say Satan is the "creator of knowledge" in it anywhere. The specific knowledge acquired by eating from the "tree of knowledge" was that of good and evil, not knowledge in general. In fact, In Hosea 4:6 God says, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee,..." John 8:32 says, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

George H, Colorado Springs

If you look at the Vietnam War, the War in Iraq, or Afghanistan; how many churches stood up against these attacks upon peoples who were no threat to us? I know of no churches. I do remember Martin Luther King in April of 1967, when he stood behind the pulpit of the Riverside Church in New York City and addressed the American people about the evil of the Vietnam War. Today, I have not heard a single voice like his.

jim k, austin

If you don't like this, see what Thomas Jefferson thought about Christianity.

Nathan, Rapid City

I knew that Mencken was often completely out to lunch, but this quote proves it: he never bothered (like most newspaper and media big-shots) to do any investigation whatsoever of the religion, its scriptures, or its history, and instead apparently continued a juvenile rejection of it based on childish prejudice.

Sam, Custer

Obviously, Mencken couldn't be bothered to actually learn anything about the religion that he so viciously attacks. The truth is, christianity, especially as found in the Bible, has LIBERATED man and woman, has been the cause of scientific and social and cultural progress, and has always been the antagonist of bad laws, bad government, bad institutions, and bad social theories. Yes, there have been people who have spectacularly corrupted the christian religion, but it was those who practiced a true and honest christian religion that fought against both the evil institution of slavery and the bogus "divine right" of kings, as well as many other evils. Thousands of churches - small congregations and large - spoke out against American wars starting with the invasion of Canada in 1812, the invasion of Mexico in 1845, the aggression of the North against the South in 1861, the evil alliance with Britain and France in WW1, the American policies which led to the attack in 1941 and again in 1950 (and again in 1990), the lies that led to the Indochina War, and the evil doctrine of preemptive war that led to the Iraqi invasion. But the media, always eager both to sell papers (and thus their other goals) and to support the elite (who are still to this day corrupting much of religion), do not report these - and if they do, the current fad is to claim that religious institutions cannot constitutionally influence government policy.

Bob D., Rossford, Ohio

Hope Mencken found the truth when he went to meet his Maker.

Rhonda, Irving

Another humanist attempting to misrepresent Christianity. Most early scientists were Christians. Many so called scientific discoveries have shown that the Bible has been true all along. His statement, "...the habitual and incorrigible defender of bad governments, bad laws, bad social theories, bad institutions." is also untrue. Considering that the 20th century was the bloodiest century in all of human history, the governments and worldviews responsible for those atrocities were atheistic, not Christian!

  • Reply
RBESRQ    12/31/08

There is no maker; you are your own maker. Its thoughts like this (above) that led to the Inquisition and a thousand other examples of torture, wars, intolerance, burning people, etc, etc.etc. No research is necessary when such hate and despair has been the instrument of the Vatican and other religious groups and recorded in countless diaries - the 20th cen was the bloodiest, mostly because of American foreign policy and those two bombs we drop on Japan. Read 'Belief and Bloodshed - Religion and Violence across Time and Tradition'. Religion is not the only culprit in the crime against humanity - but my argument is that it should not even be on the list.

Rhonda, Irving

The death toll in Nazi Germany alone far outweighs the number of deaths during the Inquisition! Thousands died over a period of decades during the Inquisitions as opposed to the hundreds of millions due to governments attempting to remove all aspects of God. Every atheist that has ever debated a theist has tried that arguement, but refuses to face the death and destruction governments cause to its own citizens when they govern from an atheist worldview. Since you found it so necessary to claim that statements like mine lead to wars, tortures and deaths, give the numbers for comparison. If you don't, I will. All men are sinful and prone to violence and destruction, that includes those who claim to be believers in God. However, those who form organizations, institutions and governments without God, have far more death and destruction. I happily await your response with the numbers. (FYI: the arguement that Hitler was a Christian won't fly, because he hated Christianity. He spoke openly about that fact AFTER lying to the German citizens to try and get into their good graces)

  • Reply
    RBESRQ    12/31/08

    Rhonda, you obviously you didn't get my point; massacre's by Christians shouldn't even be on the list. Why are you comparing what should be compassion and love for your brothers and sisters to that of fascists. Are you justifying a percentage of killings - say 20%?. Your argument is not valid - The Spanish inquisition was one of four main inquisitions from the 12cen. to the 19cen. During this period millions were burnt at the stake including thousands of women. Many other incredibly cruel and horrific acts against humanity continued with the blessing of the Vatican. As for numbers, and just to provide you with a few, the Crusades alone killed over 9 million, God himself in the flood killed millions. It reminds me of that famous quote "Good people will do good things, and evil people will be evil, but it takes Religion for good people to do evil." Happy New Year, Robert

    Mike, Norwalk

    Robert, both you and Rhonda are correct. In the name of religion (Atheism, Christianity, Islam, etc.), more people have been (are being) caused to suffer and killed than for any other reason. It doesn't matter that Atheism has been the most brutal or that the title Christianity has ben placed on heinous acts to justify them. Christ said: "whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." and "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matthew 5:39 & 44) Religion is: real piety in practice, consisting in the performance of all known duties to God and our fellow men. (Bouviers Law Dictionary) Christianity's duties to God would be to follow His teachings. Socialism and all other pursuits of real piety in performing all known duties to our fellow men is but one example of the religion of Atheism. No religion is necessarily destructive until politicized. As Constantine, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc. established their own brand of tyranny, they attempted to justify their acts by claiming an attachment to a noble religion (mystical, scientific, etc.). The governments phrased the arguments, created the enemies, and once again stood in the shadows inflaming prejudice and controlling the misdirection. Pitting one belief system against another is no different than the Nazis blowing up their own building and blaming it on someone else. Armed government (outside the direct influence of the individual sovereign and acting contrary to natural law / justice) is the culprit, with its wealth, hate, war, and power mongers continuing to fan the flames of mis-information based on half truths, prejudice, and all else that keeps man from becoming truly liberated.

    Raymond George, West Seneca, N.Y.

    Following the virtues ascribed in the Bible is one thing, but truth can not be found following the words of organized religion. The history of the Jesuits should enlighten and put doubt to rest.

    E Archer, NYC

    Interesting take. I try not to confuse truth and compassion with religion, even though that is what most religions believe they profess while in fact they profess a form of terrorism of the mind plaguing it with fear not only of death but of an eternal damnation -- hardly representative of the so-called 'good news' of the Bible. It is the TRUTH that liberates -- if you happen to find some goodies in religion, then great, but don't forget to use your brain, too.

    • Reply
    Anonymous    1/2/09

    Our "enlightenment" has led to increased violent crime like rape, murder as well as increased teen pregnancies, public school shootings, road rage, greed, lying from every aspect of our society from politicians and the media. What's the difference between our socieity from the early years of its founding to now? God has been systematically removed. Seems to me that the lack of Christian belief leads to social chaos.

    Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

    What many think is that many leaders used and infiltrated "true religion" for their own political and power grabbing purposes. That is the problem with organized religion.

    A.Jurgensen, Stuart, FL

    I would suggest that Nathan and other "Believers" here read Mencken's TREATISE OF THE GODS" before criticizing him as unknowing. "Religion was invented by man just as agriculture and the wheel were invented by man, and there is absolutely nothing in it to justify the belief that its inventors had the aid of higher powers, whether on this earth or elsewhere..."I concur.

    carroll price, waynesboro, georgia

    I have never conversed with a Christian who supported science over religious theory or one who supported liberal education over religious dogma. And I have yet to converse with a Christian who used logical reasoning to support his position. As to government, it has been my observation that most Christians prefer an authoritarian government over a liberal govenment, and many Christians would actually prefer a dictator run government as long as it supported their view point as to right and wrong.


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