Quote of the moment: H. L. Mencken, on Christians and Christianity, and trouble

Stolen wholesale from WIST:

The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians.

HL Mencken2H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
“Mr. Mencken Sounds Off,” interview, LIFE Magazine (5 Aug 1946)

You recall, Mencken was the guy who wrote the Millard Fillmore Bathtub hoax in the first place, right?

Mencken held forth in Baltimore, a city that could probably use a newspaper columnist with Mencken’s ability to find corruption and fault in most good things — just to make people think.

You may disagree with Mr. Mencken, of course.  But if you do, tell us in comments:  What do YOU think the trouble with Christianity is?

Found on eBay: H. L. Mencken in bronze, as a bookend -- with a stein of beer and the Statute of Liberty.  Asking $595 for it.

Found on eBay: H. L. Mencken in bronze, as a bookend — with a stein of beer and the Statute of Liberty. Asking $595 for it. Beer and liberty. Mencken probably would have approved. How many of these were made? By whom?

8 Responses to Quote of the moment: H. L. Mencken, on Christians and Christianity, and trouble

  1. Thanks for the explanation, Ed!


  2. Ed Darrell says:

    Thanks! D.C. Sessions seems to be a person worth listening to.


  3. Porlock Junior says:

    A variant on Feynman’s principle showed up recently in a comment on Brad DeLong’s blog:

    “As Richard Feynman reminded us, being very smart is no protection against self-deception — because the one attempting to deceive you is just as smart as you are. If anything, it’s a handicap since most of the time when someone is trying to fool you, they’re not as bright as you are.”
    –comment by D.C. Sessions in

    I like the twist at the expense of us who are smarter than most people and hence are doubly susceptible to fooling ourselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ed Darrell says:

    In business, that’s called the Pygmalion Effect, or a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think business may have borrowed from psychology journals.

    We often get what we expect.

    Feynman warned about it, too — scientists often get what they hope, but falsely. Easiest person to fool is ourself, Feynman said.


  5. Ed Darrell says:

    Neighborhood of old houses primed for gentrification, but just beginning. Old, solid houses, some in need of renovation, not all the old residents have moved on.

    Real estate agent shows up to show a home to a young couple. Old man on the porch at the house next door waves as they go in. Go-getter part of the young couple on the way out waves and asks the innocuous question, “How are the neighbors here?”

    Old man says, “Come on up, I’ve got some iced tea. Tell me, how are the neighbors where you’re leaving?

    Young guy says, “One next door neighbor doesn’t take care of his yard, and we get mice and flies and mosquitoes all the time. On the other side, the guy throws late night parties with loud music. The guy in back is crabby and won’t talk — I don’t know his name. In fact, I don’t know the names of most of our neighbors. We’re happy to be moving up.”

    “You’ll find this neighborhood pretty much the same,” the old man said.

    In a hot market, but the couple doesn’t make much hint that they’ll make an offer on the house.

    Later than afternoon, same agent showing another young couple the same house. She warily eyes the old man, still, or back, sitting on his front porch next door.

    This couple has a toddler with them. In looking at the house, they find it seems ideally suited for family with kids, space in the backyard — they ask about a lack of fences and security . . . the agent starts getting nervous, hoping the old man is gone when they leave.

    But he’s not gone. It looks as though he’s refilled his iced tea pitcher and got extra glasses just hoping to kill another sales. What’s wrong with the old man? the agent worries.

    “Hey, take a break, have some tea,” the old man greets them when they come out. The toddler gets excited and the old man waves some animal crackers. To the agent’s chagrin, the woman says, “That’s very friendly! Thanks, we will.”

    Conversation isn’t easy, but the couple asks about on-street parking, and garbage pick up . . . innocuous stuff and the agent thinks she might be home free.

    Then the old man brings it up. “What brings you looking here? What sort of neighborhood are you leaving?”

    The young father frowns and looks away.

    The young mother says, “I’ve just been hired by the university. He’s real sad to leave his old softball team. In our neighborhood, we have the most caring people! They’re throwing a going-away barbecue for us. We’ll have to use three grills. There’s an old couple next door, and Mrs. Oberholtzer likes to read to our daughter in the afternoons — she’s got every classic children’s book from her kids and grandkids!

    “We had a massive snow last winter — four feet. It was like a party with everybody volunteering to shovel the old couple’s driveway and sidewalk. I think every house that doesn’t have children has grandchildren. It’s a huge family, and we really hate to leave.”

    The old man’s eyes might be a little moist. “I’ve still got the books my late wife read to our kids. . .

    “You’ll find this neighborhood to be a lot like the one you’re leaving,” he said. “You’ll fit right in. Our great grandkids visit every weekend. You’ll want to come over — we have plenty of hot dogs and brats . . .”


  6. Sadly, I’m not familiar with the old man on the porch story, Ed. Would you please elaborate?


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Religion is like the “Old Man on the porch” story, then.

    Lots of truth to that.


  8. I think most people interpret their religion to suit their inclinations, Ed, so that, if someone is inclined to do good, they find support for that in their religion, and if someone is inclined to do evil, they find support for that too. It seems to me most religions lend themselves to just that sort of variation, because their scriptures and traditions are often enough ambiguous or contradictory. Perhaps the curious thing, though, is most everyone seems quite certain they themselves have made the one true interpretation of the religion. So I don’t think religions often do much to improve people, and they certainly don’t do much to change basic human nature. Instead, they tend to reinforce what individuals would do anyway.


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