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Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956):
Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956):
...history deals mainly with captains and kings, gods and prophets, exploiters and despoilers, not with useful men.
...no man of genuinely superior intelligence has ever been an actor. Even supposing a young man of appreciable mental powers to be lured upon the stage, as philosophers are occasionally lured into bordellos, his mind would be inevitably and almost immediately destroyed by the gaudy nonsense issuing from his mouth every night.
...school teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers.
...there is always a well-known solution to every human problem-neat, plausible, and wrong.
...for a professor must have a theory, as a dog must have fleas.
A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.
A great nation is any mob of people which produces at least one honest man a century.
A man is called a good fellow for doing things which, if done by a woman, would land her in a lunatic asylum.
A man may be a fool and not know it-but not if he is married.
A poet more than thirty years old is simply an overgrown child.
An absolutely new idea is one of the rarest things known to man.
An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.
Bachelors know more about women than married men. If they didn't, they would be married too.
But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe 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 to be ignorant.
Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.
Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking.
Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.... A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not a mere ass: he is actually ill.
Firmness in decision is often merely a form of stupidity. It indicates an inability to think the same thing out twice."
For it is the natural tendency of the ignorant to believe what is not true. In order to overcome that tendency it is not sufficient to exhibit the true; it is also necessary to expose and denounce the false.
Husbands never become good; they merely become proficient.
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.
If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.
I'm thoroughly convinced that editors don't help authors.
Immorality: The morality of those who are having a better time.
Immortality is the condition of a dead man who doesn't believe he is dead.
It is even harder for the average ape to believe that he has descended from man.
It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place.
It is now quite lawful for a Catholic woman to avoid pregnancy by a resort to mathematics, though she is still forbidden to resort to physics or chemistry.
It is only the savage, whether of the African bush or of the American gospel tent, who pretends to know the will and intent of God exactly and completely.
Judge: A law student who marks his own papers.
Lawyer: One who protects us against robbery by taking away the temptation.
Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
Metaphysics is almost always an attempt to prove the incredible by an appeal to the unintelligible.
Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on "I am not too sure."
No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.
No one in this world, so far as I know -- and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me -- has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.
People say we need religion when what they really mean is we need police.
People will believe what they want to believe.
Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all other philosophers are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.
Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.
Science, at bottom, is really anti-intellectual. It always distrusts pure reason, and demands the production of objective fact.
The average man doesn't want to be free. He wants to be safe.
The basic fact about human existence is not that it is a tragedy, but that it is a bore.
The chief value of money lies in the fact that one lives in a world in which it is overestimated.
The cynics are right nine times out of ten.
The effort to reconcile science and religion is almost always made, not by theologians, but by scientists unable to shake off altogether the piety absorbed with their mother's milk.
The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.
The most curious social convention of the great age in which we live is the one to the effect that religious opinions should be respected.
The older I grow the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.
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.
The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.
The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of truth -- that error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it has been cured of one error, is usually another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.
Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.
There is no possibility whatsoever of reconciling science and theology, at least in Christendom. Either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn't. If he did, then Christianity becomes plausible; if he did not, then it is sheer nonsense. I defy any genuine scientist to say that he believes in the Resurrection, or indeed in any other cardinal dogma of the Christian system.
There is only one justification for having sinned, and that is to be glad of it.
To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia.
Truth would quickly cease to become stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.
We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.
What I got in Sunday school ... was simply a firm conviction that the Christian faith was full of palpable absurdities, and the Christian God preposterous.... The act of worship, as carried on by Christians, seems to me to be debasing rather than ennobling. It involves groveling before a being who, if he really exists, deserves to be denounced instead of respected.
Women decide the larger questions of life correctly and quickly, not because they are lucky guessers, not because they practice a magic inherited from savagery, but simply and solely because they have sense. They see at a glance what most men could not see with searchlights and telescopes... They are the supreme realists of the race.