Henry Louis "H. L." Mencken (September 12, 1880 – January 29, 1956)
was an American journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, acerbic critic of American life and culture, and a student of American English. Mencken, known as the "Sage of Baltimore", is regarded as one of the most influential American writers and prose stylists of the first half of the 20th century.
"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.
I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of
falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.
I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...
I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.
I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...
I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.
I believe in the reality of progress.
But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that 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 be ignorant."
"Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. .... 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."
"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."
"To sum up:
1. The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute.
2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it.
3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride."
"Theology—An effort to explain the unknowable by putting it into terms of the not worth knowing."
"Sunday—A day given over by Americans to wishing that they themselves were dead and in Heaven, and that their neighbors were dead and in Hell."
"Evil is that which one believes of others. It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake."
"Show me a Puritan and I’ll show you a son-of-a-bitch."
"One seldom discovers a true believer that is worth knowing"
"The only cure for contempt is countercontempt."
"The theory seems to be that so long as a man is a failure he is one of God’s chillun, but that as soon as he has any luck he owes it to the Devil."
"So long as there are men in the world, 99 percent of them will be idiots, and so long as 99 percent of them are idiots they will thirst for religion, and so long as they thirst for religion, it will remain a weapon over them. I see no way out. If you blow up one specific faith, they will embrace another. "
"The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair."
"The American people, taking one with another, constitute the most timorous, snivelling, poltroonish, ignominious mob of serfs and goosesteppers ever gathered under one flag in Christendom since the end of the Middle Ages."
"Congress consists of one-third, more or less, scoundrels; two-thirds, more or less, idiots; and three-thirds, more or less, poltroons."
"The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it's good-by to the Bill of Rights."
"In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican."
"A newspaper is a device for making the ignorant more ignorant and the crazy crazier."
"There are no institutions in America: there are only fashions."
"In the long run all battles are lost, and so are all wars."
"THE MOST DANGEROUS MAN TO ANY GOVERNMENT IS THE MAN WHO CAN THINK THINGS OUT FOR HIMSELF. ALMOST INEVITABLY HE COMES TO THE CONCLUSION THAT THE GOVERNMENT HE LIVES UNDER IS DISHONEST, INSANE AND INTOLERABLE"
"Alone among the animals, [man] is powered with the capacity to invent imaginary worlds, and he is always making himself unhappy by trying to move into them. Thus he underrates the world in which he actually lives, and so misses most of the fun that is in it. That world, I am convinced, could be materially improved, but even as it stands it is good enough to keep any reasonable man entertained for a lifetime. As for me, I roll out of my couch every morning with the most agreeable expectations. In the morning paper there is always massive and exhilarating evidence that the human race, despite its ages-long effort to imitate the seraphim, is still doomed to be irrevocably human, and in my morning mail I always get soothing proof that there are men left who are even worse asses than I am."
"There is, in fact, no reason to believe that any given natural phenomenon, however marvellous it may seem today, will remain forever inexplicable. Soon or late the laws governing the production of life itself will be discovered in the laboratory, and man may set up business as a creator in his own account."
AND, there is so much more. His books of essays are fantastic!