Letters From the Earth (excerpts)
by Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
This is a strange place, and extraordinary place, and interesting
is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is a sort
of low grade nickel-
Moreoverif I may put another strain upon youhe thinks he is the Creators pet. He believes the Creator is proud of him; he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes, and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to Him, and thinks He listens. Isnt it a quaint idea? Fills his prayers with crude and bald and florid flatteries of Him, and thinks He sits and purrs over these extravagancies and enjoys them. He prays for help, and favor, and protection, every day; and does it with hopefulness and confidence, too, although no prayer of his has ever been answered. The daily affront, the daily defeat, do not discourage him, he goes on praying just the same. There is something almost fine about this perseverance. I must put one more strain upon you: he thinks he is going to heaven!
He has salaried teachers who tell him that. They also tell him there is a hell, of everlasting fire, and that he will go to it if he doesnt keep the Commandments. What are Commandments? They are a curiosity. I will tell you about them by and by.
I have told you nothing about man that is not true. You must pardon me if I repeat that remark now and then in these letters; I want you to take seriously the things I am telling you, and I feel that if I were in your place and you in mine, I should need that reminder from time to time, to keep my credulity from flagging.
For instance, take this sample: he has imagined a heaven, and has left entirely out of it the supremest of all his delights, the one ecstasy that stands first and foremost in the heart of every individual of his raceand of ourssexual intercourse!
It is as if a lost and perishing person in a roasting desert should
be told by a rescuer he might choose and have all longed-
His heaven is like himself: strange, interesting, astonishing, grotesque. I give you my word, it has not a single feature in it that he actually values. It consistsutterly and entirelyof diversions which he cares next to nothing about, here in the earth, yet is quite sure he will like them in heaven. Isnt it curious? Isnt it interesting? You must not think I am exaggerating, for it is not so. I will give you details.
Many men pray, not many of them like to do it. A few pray long, the others make a short cut.
Of all the men in a church on a Sunday, two-
The gladdest moment for all of them is when the preacher uplifts his hands for the benediction. You can hear the soft rustle of relief that sweeps the house, and you recognize that it is eloquent with gratitude.
All nations look down upon all other nations.
All nations dislike all other nations.
First of all, I recall to your attention the extraordinary fact with which I began. To wit, that the human being, like the immortals, naturally places sexual intercourse far and away above all other joysyet he has left it out of his heaven! The very thought of it excites him; opportunity sets him wild; in this state he will risk life, reputation, everythingeven his queer heaven itselfto make good that opportunity and ride it to the overwhelming climax. From youth to middle age all men and all women prize copulation above all other pleasures combined, yet it is actually as I have said: it is not in their heaven; prayer takes its place.
Consider further: it is a praise service; a service of compliment, of flattery, of adulation! Do you ask who it is that is willing to endure this strange compliment, this insane compliment; and who not only endures it, but likes, enjoys it, requires if, commands it? Hold your breath!
It is God! This races god, I mean. He sits on his throne, attended by his four and twenty elders and some other dignitaries pertaining to his court, and looks out over his miles and miles of tempestuous worshipers, and smiles, and purrs, and nods his satisfaction northward, eastward, southward; as quaint and na ve a spectacle as has yet been imagined in this universe, I take it.
It is easy to see that the inventor of the heavens did not originate
the idea, but copied it from the show-
And as to imaginationoh, well, look at their heaven! They accept it, they approve it, they admire it. That gives you their intellectual measure.
4. The inventor of their heaven empties into it all the nations of the earth, in one common jumble. All are on an equality absolute, no one of them ranking another; they have to be brothers; they have to mix together, pray together, harp together, hosannah togetherwhites, niggers, Jews, everybodytheres no distinction. Here in the earth all nations hate each other, and every one of them hates the Jew. Yet every pious person adores that heaven and wants to get into it. He really does. And when he is in a holy rapture he thinks he thinks that if he were only there he would take all the populace to his heart, and hug, and hug, and hug!
Is it odd, is it curious, is it puzzling? It is exactly as I have said, incredible as it may sound. This sincere adorer of intellect and prodigal rewarder of its mighty services here in the earth has invented a religion and a heaven which pay no compliments to intellect, offer it no distinctions, fling it no largess: in fact, never even mention it.
One of his principal religions is called the Christian. A sketch of it will interest you. It sets forth in detail in a book containing two million words, called the Old and New Testaments. Also it has another nameThe Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by Godthe one I have been speaking of.
It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables;
and some blood-
What shall we do? If we believe, with these people, that their God invented these cruel things, we slander him; if we believe that these people invented them themselves, we slander them. It is an unpleasant dilemma in either case, for neither of these parties has done us any harm.
That innocent Bible tells about the Creation. Of whatthe universe? Yes, the universe. In six days!
God did it. He did not call it the universethat name is modern. His whole attention was upon this world. He constructed it in five daysand then? It took him only one day to make twenty million suns and eighty million planets!
What were they foraccording to this idea? To furnish light for this
Presently a serpent sought them out privately, and came to them walking upright, which was the way of serpents in those days. The serpent said the forbidden fruit would store their vacant minds with knowledge. So they ate it, which was quite natural, for man is so made that he eagerly wants to know; whereas the priest, like God, whose imitator and representative he is, has made it his business from the beginning to keep him from knowing any useful thing.
In that memorable moment immodesty was born; and some people have valued it ever since, though it would certainly puzzle them to explain why.
Adam and eve entered the world naked and unashamednaked and pure-
Will you examine the Deitys morals and disposition and conduct a little further? And will you remember that in the Sunday school the little children are urged to love the Almighty, and honor him, and praise him, and make him their model and try to be as like him as they can? Read:
1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
10 When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim
peace unto it
According to the belief of these people, it was God himself who said: Thou shalt not kill.
Then it is plain that he cannot keep his own commandments.
He killed all those peopleevery male.
They had offended the Deity in some way. We know what the offense was, without looking; that is to say, we know it was a trifle; some small thing that no one but a god would attach any importance to. It is more than likely that a Midianite had been duplicating the conduct of one Onan, who was commanded to go into his brothers wifewhich he did; but instead of finishing, he spilled it on the ground. The Lord slew Onan for that, for the lord could never abide indelicacy. The Lord slew Onan, and to this day the Christian world cannot understand why he stopped with Onan, instead of slaying all the inhabitants for three hundred miles aroundthey being innocent of offense, and therefore the very ones he would usually slay. For that had always been his idea of fair dealing. If he had had a motto, it would have read, Let no innocent person escape. You remember what he did in the time of the flood. There were multitudes and multitudes of tiny little children, and he knew they had never done him any harm; but their relations had, and that was enough for him: he saw the waters rise toward their screaming lips, he saw the wild terror in their eyes, he saw that agony of appeal in the mothers faces which would have touched any heart but his, but he was after the guiltless particularly, than he drowned those poor little chaps.
The heaviest punishment of all was meted out to persons who could not
by any possibility have deserved so horrible a fatethe 32,000 virgins.
Their naked privacies were probed, to make sure that they still possessed
the hymen unruptured; after this humiliation they were sent away from the
land that had been their home, to be sold into slavery; the worst of slaveries
and the shamefulest, the slavery of prostitution; bed-
It was the Father that inflicted this ferocious and undeserved punishment upon those bereaved and friendless virgins, whose parents and kindred he had slaughtered before their eyes. And were they praying to him for pity and rescue, meantime? Without a doubt of it.
There is noting in either savage or civilized history that is more utterly
complete, more remorselessly sweeping than the Father of Mercys campaign
among the Midianites. The official report does not furnish the incidents,
episodes, and minor details, it deals only in information in masses: all
the virgins, all the men, all the babies, all creatures
that breathe, all houses, all cities; it gives
you just one vast picture, spread abroad here and there and yonder, as
far as eye can reach, of charred ruin and storm-
Would you expect this same conscienceless God, this moral bankrupt, to become a teacher of morals; of gentleness; of meekness; of righteousness; of purity?
The Beatitudes and the quoted chapters from Numbers and Deuteronomy
ought always to be read from the pulpit together; then the congregation
would get an all-
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