SAMUEL LANGHORNE CLEMENS (1999)
by John Patrick Michael Murphy
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?"
"Samuel Langhorne Clemens" is copyright © 1999 by John Patrick Michael Murphy.
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