SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS (1999)
by John Patrick Michael Murphy
Mark Twain (1835-1910) was a freethinker who brooked many hard blows in his roisterous life. He left school at 14 when his father died. He lost three of his four children, and, after three decades of marriage, he lost his wife, Olivia. In addition to this heart scalding, he incurred great financial setbacks. His impulsive nature, coupled with his proclivity to seek out investments with a clear heart and an empty head, would cost him many fortunes. He had to be a prolific, world-class writer and lecturer to live the whimsical life he fancied.
No book influenced him more than the Bible. He claimed, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” He found it revolting, but his skepticism is revealed only in snatches and bits in his benchmark books. A line from Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer, or some puckish insight in Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar (Faith is believing what you know ain’t so), would hint at Twain’s disbelief. He had to be coy and cautious, for in his day the YMCA and its Comstockian cops were on the prowl.
In his last years, in private, he set forth what he really thought about religion and especially Christianity. He wrote, “This book will never be published-in fact it couldn’t be, because it would be a felony to soil the mails with it, for it has much Holy Scripture in it of the kind that…can’t be properly read aloud, except from the pulpit, and in family worship.” For over 50 years Letters from the Earth was extant only in manuscript. Finally in 1962, his surviving daughter, Clara, a Christian Scientist, finally relented and it was published. In it, Satan, an archangel nephew of the notorious fallen angel by the same name, is taking a sabbatical to planet Earth. He writes (confidentially) to his winged friends, Gabriel and Michael, describing the irrational beliefs, foibles, and foolishness of the human race and how they were set up by the irascible, blundering god who behaves like a child unhappy with his sandcastle, who starts to kick and destroy it. Satan writes:
“Now I am really going to put a strain upon you. Man thinks he is the noblest work of God. This is the truth I am telling you. Man really believes that. He even hires preachers to tell him so once a week. And very few even laugh. Man, the special pet, whom God has given mumps, measles, whooping cough, croup, colds, asthma, bronchitis, itch, cancer, cholera, typhus, piles, constipation, warts, pimples, boils, corns, tumors, insanity, jaundice, bunions, abscesses, diseases of every organ of the body, but why continue the list?”
“Many of these people have the reasoning facility, but no one uses it in religious matters.”
“The first time the Deity came down to Earth, he brought life and death; when he came down the second time he brought hell.”
“Even the Church, which is credited with having spilt more innocent blood, since the beginning of its supremacy, than all the political wars together have spilt, has observed a limit. A sort of limit. But you notice when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, Adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy-he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered.”
Twain started but did not complete Adam’s Diary and Eve’s Diary just before his death. His head and heart are clearly with the pair, and not their “creator.” He had been without Olivia for 8 years. His love and loneliness is transferred to Adam, who, upon the death of Eve, stands over her grave saying, “Wheresoever she was, there was Eden.”
“Samuel Langhorne Clemens” is copyright © 1999 by John Patrick Michael Murphy.
The electronic version is copyright © 1999 Internet Infidels with the written permission of John Patrick Michael Murphy.