Samuel Langhorne Clemens, commonly known as Mark Twain, (1835-1910) was an American author and satirist. Through his writings, he appears to be variously a Presbyterian, a deist, and an atheist, as his views changed over time.
Mark Twain was well known as a staunch opponent of Christian Science. He wrote an essay called (appropriately enough) Christian Science, which criticized the religion and explains its "miracles" as the results of the placebo effect (many of the essay's points are also relevant to much of modern alternative medicine). As can be judged by the essay and Twain's biographers, Twain apparently did have some belief that mental healing could work but disclaimed Christian Science over its charging money, which he logically pointed out conflicts with their doctrine, as humorously shown from this dialogue the narrator has with a Christian Scientist woman who "treated" him:
“”"Nothing exists but Mind?"
"Nothing," she answered. "All else is substanceless, all else is imaginary."I gave her an imaginary check, and now she is suing me for substantial dollars. It looks inconsistent.
He also objected to the way Christian Science forbade its users from using actual medicine and "claim[ed] ability to cure every conceivable human ailment through the application of [its] mental forces alone." Being well aware that the placebo effect could only work for "imagination-manufactured disease" (i.e., psychosomatic or subjective symptoms), Twain noted: "There would seem to be an element of danger here."
Passing through Utah in his trip to the American West, Twain came in contact with a number of Mormons during a fairly early stage of their history. He found the religion mostly harmless, if somewhat odd.
- All men have heard of the Mormon Bible, but few except the "elect" have seen it, or, at least, taken the trouble to read it. I brought away a copy from Salt Lake. The book is a curiosity to me, it is such a pretentious affair, and yet so "slow," so sleepy; such an insipid mess of inspiration. It is chloroform in print. If Joseph Smith composed this book, the act was a miracle — keeping awake while he did it was, at any rate. If he, accourding to tradition, merely translated it from certain ancient and mysteriously-engraved plates of copper, which he declares he found under a stone, in an out-of-the-way locality, the work of translating was equally a miracle, for the same reason.
- The book seems to be merely a prosy detail of imaginary history, with the Old Testament for a model; followed by a tedious plagiarism of the New Testament. The author labored to give his words and phrases the quaint, old-fashioned sound and structure of our King James's translation of the Scriptures; and the result is a mongrel — half modern glibness, and half ancient simplicity and gravity. The latter is awkward and constrained; the former natural, but grotesque by the contrast. Whenever he found his speech growing too modern — which was about every sentence or two — he ladled in a few such Scriptural phrases as "exceeding sore," "and it came to pass," etc., and made things satisfactory again. "And it came to pass" was his pet. If he had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.
- The Mormon Bible is rather stupid and tiresome to read, but there is nothing vicious in its teachings. Its code of morals is unobjectionable — it is "smouched" from the New Testament and no credit given.
Twain's Extracts from Adam's and Eve's Diaries humorously recounted the adventures of the first people in the Garden of Eden/Niagara Falls Park. Adam notes of Eve, "Nothing ever satisfies her but demonstration; untested theories are not in her line, and she won't have them." Adam mentions that Eve thinks the buzzard "was intended to live on decayed flesh" and that she vows "to study out why the animals called lions and tigers live on grass and flowers, when, as she says, the sort of teeth they wear would indicate that they were intended to eat each other."
In a 1903 article titled "Was the World Made for Man?" Twain argues that it was not.
 Creation quotes
“”Where was the use, originally, in rushing this whole globe through in six days? It is likely that if more time had been taken in the first place, the world would have been made right, and this ceaseless improving and repairing would not be necessary now. But if you hurry a world or a house, you are nearly sure to find out by and by that you have left out a towhead, or a broom-closet, or some other little convenience, here and there, which has got to be supplied, no matter how much expense or vexation it may cost.
|—Life on the Mississippi|
“”Man was made at the end of the week's work when God was tired.
|—Mark Twain's Notebook|
Some Homeopathists dishonestly claim Twain was a supporter of homeopathy, and cite the quote: "The introduction of homeopathy. forced the old school doctor to stir around and learn something of a rational nature about his business. You may honestly feel grateful that homeopathy survived the attempts of allopathists to destroy it."
This is the quote in context:
|Aqua Limacum. Take a great Peck of Garden-snails, and wash them in a great deal of Beer, and make your Chimney very clean, and set a Bushel of Charcoal on Fire; and when they are thoroughly kindled, make a Hole in the Middle of the Fire, and put the Snails in, and scatter more Fire amongst them, and let them roast till they make a Noise; then take them out, and, with a Knife and coarse Cloth, pick and wipe away all the green froth: Then break them, Shells and all, in a Stone Mortar. Take also a Quart of Earth-worms, and scour them with Salt, divers times over. Then take two Handfuls of Angelica and lay them in the Bottom of the Still; next lay two Handfuls of Celandine; next a Quart of Rosemary-flowers; then two Handfuls of Bearsfoot and Agrimony; then Fenugreek; then Turmerick; of each one Ounce: Red Dock-root, Bark of Barberry-trees, Wood-sorrel, Betony, of each two Handfuls.—Then lay the Snails and Worms on the top of the Herbs; and then two Handfuls of Goose Dung, and two Handfuls of Sheep Dung. Then put in three Gallons of Strong Ale, and place the pot where you mean to set Fire under it: Let it stand all Night, or longer; in the Morning put in three Ounces of Cloves well beaten, and a small Quantity of Saffron, dry'd to Powder; then six Ounces of Shavings of Hartshorn, which must be uppermost. Fix on the Head and Refrigeratory, and distil according to Art.
There. The book does not say whether this is all one dose, or whether you have a right to split it and take a second chance at it, in case you live. Also, the book does not seem to specify what ailment it was for; but it is of no consequence, for of course that would come out on the inquest.
Upon looking further, I find that this formidable nostrum is "good for raising Flatulencies in the Stomach"—meaning from the stomach, no doubt. So it would appear that when our progenitors chanced to swallow a sigh, they emptied a sewer down their throats to expel it. It is like dislodging skippers from cheese with artillery.
When you reflect that your own father had to take such medicines as the above, and that you would be taking them to-day yourself but for the introduction of homeopathy, which forced the old-school doctor to stir around and learn something of a rational nature about his business, you may honestly feel grateful that homeopathy survived the attempts of the allopathists to destroy it, even though you may never employ any physician but an allopathist while you live.
In other words, he says that, thankfully, homeopathy pushed medicine to evolve beyond the remedies of traditional medicine.
Twain strongly opposed US involvement with the Spanish-American War, and the Philippine War which followed when the Filipinos rebelled against the US taking possession of their country following it's "liberation." He was a member of the Anti-Imperialist League. Some of his anti-war writings remained unpublished until after his death due to controversy.
Late in his life, he became increasingly critical of belief in gods, Christianity and religion generally. He wrote, for instance:
“”Strange...A God who could make good children as easily as bad, yet preferred to make bad ones; who could have made every one of them happy, yet never made a single happy one; who made them prize their bitter life, yet stingily cut it short; who gave his angels eternal happiness unearned, yet required his other children to earn it; who gave his angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries and maladies of mind and body; who mouths justice, and invented hell — mouths mercy, and invented hell — mouths Golden Rules and forgiveness multiplied by seventy times seven, and invented hell; who mouths morals to other people, and has none himself; who frowns upon crimes, yet commits them all; who created man without invitation, then tries to shuffle the responsibility for man's acts upon man, instead of honorably placing it where it belongs, upon himself; and finally, with altogether divine obtuseness, invites his poor abused slave to worship him!
This line was from his book The Mysterious Stranger-admittedly it's said by Satan (who is a character in the story). In another book, he writes about a man who attempts to be "like God", inflicting all manner of injuries, diseases and misfortunes on people. He deemed faith "believed what you know ain't so", in general disdaining religion as a negative force.
- Full texts of works by Mark Twain in the public domain at Project Gutenberg
- Positive Atheism's Big List of Mark Twain Quotations, Positive Atheism
- ↑ "Eve's Diary." World Wide School.
- ↑ "Adam's Diary." World Wide School.
- ↑ Babinski, Edward T. "Mark Twain Questions the Intelligent Design (I.D.) Hypothesis."
- ↑ "Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions: Creation." twainquotes.com.
- ↑ Wikisource