Continuing the sub-series on Mark Twain (1835-1910), author of Extracts from Adam’s Diary…
Twain knew the Bible well, and it influenced him more than any other book. His works are filled with Biblical allusions. In particular, Extracts from Adam’s Diary shows that Twain was quite familiar with Genesis and Christian theology.
Twain was not an atheist. He believed in an almighty Creator. But he was troubled throughout his life by what he thought were fallacies in Scripture.
Twain interpreted the Bible literally, but he did not accept it as God’s Word. For example he said:
“Better this decade than the 900 years of Methuselah. There is more done in one year now than Methuselah ever saw in all his life.” (Independence Day Celebration Speech Sat July 3, 1886 in Keokuk, Iowa as reported in the Keokuk Weekly Constitution)
“It took six thousand years to produce her [Joan of Arc]; her like will not be seen in the earth again in fifty thousand.” (from Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc)
These quotes show he accepted the Bible’s 6,000 year history of mankind and the record in Genesis of the long ages of the patriarchs. He would have used his penetrating humor to scoff at today’s attempts to re-interpret Genesis to allow for multiplied billions of years. Even though he had problems with the Bible and didn’t believe all of it, he knew what it said.
Twain was a sharp, irreverent critic of Christianity with famous remarks like these:
“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
“If Christ were here now, there is one thing he would not be – a Christian.”
Some of his works most critical of Christianity were only published many years after his death, some as late as 1995. His wife was a devout Christian, and he was respectful of her sensibilities.
The following Twain quotes provide insight into his views of Christianity and the Bible:
“It [the Bible] is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.” (Letters from the Earth)
“When one reads Bibles, one is less surprised at what the Deity knows than at what He doesn’t know.” (Mark Twain’s Notebook)
“The Christian’s Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same, but the medical practice changes.”
“I have always felt friendly toward Satan. Of course that is ancestral; it must be in the blood, for I could not have originated it. … A person who has for untold centuries maintained the imposing position of spiritual head of four-fifths of the human race, and political head of the whole of it, must be granted the possession of executive abilities of the loftiest order. In his large presence the other popes and politicians shrink to midgets for the microscope. I would like to see him.”
“No sinner is ever saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon.”
“We may not doubt that society in heaven consists mainly of undesirable persons.”
“God puts something good and lovable in every man His hands create.”
“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
“Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight.”
“Religion consists of a set of things which the average man thinks he believes and wishes he was certain.”
“Adam and Noah were ancestors of mine. I never thought much of them. Adam lacked character. He couldn’t be trusted with apples. Noah had an absurd idea that he could navigate without any knowledge of navigation, and he ran into the only shoal place on earth.” (Speech of Nov 9, 1901. Reported in The New York Times, Nov 10, 1901)
“For I am without prejudice. It is my hope that both the Christians and the Jews will be damned; and to that end I am working all my influence. Help me pray…”
“If I have any leaning it is toward the Jew, not the Christian. (There is one thing I’d like to say, but I dasn’t: Christianity has deluged the world with blood and tears–Judaism has caused neither for religion’s sake.) I’ve had hard luck with them.”
“The rain …falls upon the just and the unjust alike; a thing which would not happen if I were superintending the rain’s affairs. No, I would rain softly and sweetly on the just, but if I caught a sample of the unjust outdoors I would drown him.”
(Of course, Yahweh once did precisely this exact thing with Noah’s Flood.)
This concludes the sub-series on Mark Twain (1835-1910), author of Extracts from Adam’s Diary. The next post in the series, 15. Adam’s Diary – Rib, will continue reviewing and critiquing Adam’s Diary.
Read the prequels in this series on Adam’s Diary:
1. Adam’s Diary – A New Creature
2. Adam’s Diary – Naming the Animals
3. Adam’s Diary – Garden of Eden
4. Adam’s Diary – “We”
5. Adam’s Diary – Sunday
6. Adam’s Diary – Eve
7. Adam’s Diary – Niagara Falls
8. Adam’s Diary – Escape
9. Adam’s Diary – Mark Twain I
10. Adam’s Diary – Mark Twain II
11. Adam’s Diary – Mark Twain III
12. Adam’s Diary – Mark Twain IV
13. Adam’s Diary – Mark Twain V
Read the sequel:
15. Adam’s Diary – Rib
©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
Thursday May 13, 2010 A.D.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.