Quoting H. L. Mencken

“The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever pretensions of politicians, pedagogues other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.”

For an interesting article that includes an impressive valedictorian’s graduation speech… check it out here.

10 thoughts on “Quoting H. L. Mencken

  1. He was a featured biography in my undergrad journalism program, glad you appreciate Mencken too!
    And how about:
    …school teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of menial workers.

    Not that he limited his best barbs to skipping regular school:
    Sunday School: A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.

    Quoting Mencken takes thick skin and nimble wit because he’ll come back to bite any of us in our sacred cow, e.g.:

    We must respect the other fellow’s religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart.

    A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought.

    I think he also originated one of my favorites, that applies to School and State and Church and Big Business and everything all at once:
    For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.

    1. Mmmm. Nice. You keep those on file for your your foolish religious people, right? ;-)

      How about this: “Those who seek to create a god in their own image, that suits their own needs, that creates a rationalized, personal version of truth, will end up serving that god in the end.”


  2. “Those who seek to create a god in their own image, that suits their own needs, that creates a rationalized, personal version of truth, will end up serving that god in the end.”

    Don’t we all . . .

    1. Ummm. well… no. We don’t all worship ourselves or personal gods. Some people understand the spiritual component of humanity where others can only see the material (and end up worshiping/serving the material.)

  3. But your quote didn’t use the word worship. It said “serve” the personal god who meets your own needs and the personal truth you create, that reflects your own image. I found it rather brilliant, actually.

  4. “Personal god” is a phrase I’ve always heard used by Christians about themselves and their own truth. Btw, apparently different personal gods and different ways of serving them defines all American politics now, whether one “skips school” or not — have you seen the latest Gallup poll

    So you could say the personal truth that suits my human needs and that I serve, is learning more about religion as politics:

    The term “prayer warrior” describes a person who offers a specific kind of supplication: asking God to direct an unseen battle between forces of light and darkness—literal angels and demons—that some Christians believe is occurring all around us. . . . (Dominionists believe that, until Jesus Christ returns to earth, society should be governed exclusively by God’s law as revealed through a literal reading of Scripture.) . . .

    Palin has often stated that the strokes of luck propelling her political success were divinely ordained . . .
    Whenever I heard Palin speak on the road, her remarks were scored with code phrases expressing solidarity with fundamentalist Christians. Her talk of leading with “a servant’s heart” is a dog whistle for the born-again. Her dig at health-care reform as an expression of Democratic ambitions to “build a Utopia” in the United States is practically a trumpet call (because the Kingdom of God is not of this earth, and perfection can be achieved only in the life to come).

    But it is Palin’s persistent encouragement of the prayer warriors that most clearly reveals her worldview: she is good, her opponents are evil, and the war is on.

    1. I think we’re getting a bit off track, JJ. That said, I wouldn’t mind hearing your “learned” thoughts on the effects of the Islamic “religion as politics.” With as much animosity as you appear to carry for “religious” Republicans, it would seem to me, that you would have an absolute white-hot-hate for the religious zealots (radicals) who steal “the religion of peace” and commit actual damage upon innocent believers and non-believers alike. (As opposed to just using “code words” and whipping up the religiously inclined into following.)

      For Christians, the “war” is spiritual. (Ephesians 6:12 (KJV) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.) In other words, the idea is to love the sinner, hate the sin.

      Islam, as practiced in the Theocracy of Iran and other Muslim countries, tends to be a little more totalitarian, don’t you think? So in my mind, when I read your mini research papers about the foolishness of religion and Christians and their place in American politics, I can’t help but wish you would spend a little more intellectual capital pondering upon an enemy to our lives, freedoms as well as our politics that is standing right there, killing women, gays and any other human that dares to disbelieve in the rules of Sharia. Or do they have it right?

  5. Ben, again I take your main point and agree — maybe more than you do!

    Of course religion in politics isn’t only Christian, and warfare waged for good against evil isn’t either. I did refer above to defining “American” politics with the Gallup poll which of course is mainly Christian, but you’re right that it other religions and cultures demonstrate the same hyperpoliticized religion and dangerous fundamentalist extremes, too. The authoritarian fundamentalists in any religion are the same in why and how they wage war, in where they see evil and wickedness to be attacked as the enemy — in human beings right here on earth.

    In both Islam and Christendom, it’s the fevered fundamentalist’s call to wage war on earth for divine rewards in heaven, that gets flesh torn, blood spilled, humans everywhere killed, enslaved, impoverished, diseased, debased and dismissed as mere collateral in that cosmic duel between good and evil.

  6. But that said, the same week America ends seven years in Iraq combat is a strange time to suggest the powerful white religious republican men who chose that war and waged it as good against evil, weren’t fighting a real (not spiritual) war — it cost us a real trillion dollars to buy very real human suffering for both Christian and Muslim men, women and children. Peace by any god’s lights doesn’t fit that definition.

  7. Is “fundamentalism” too limited a word for a belief system of such scope and intimacy? Lately, some scholars prefer “maximalism,” a term meant to convey the movement’s ambition to conform every aspect of society to God. . . a culture born again in the image of a Jesus strong but tender, a warrior who hates the carnage he must cause, a man-god ordinary men will follow. These are days of the sword, literally; affluent members of the movement gift one another with real blades crafted to medieval standards, a fad inspired by a bestselling book called Wild at Heart. . . .

    Look! We even came back around to H.L. Mencken where we started —

    IWe cannot, like H. L. Mencken, writing from the Scopes “monkey” trial of 1925, dismiss the Christian right as a carnival of backward buffoons jealous of modernity’s privileges. . .Intensity! That’s what one finds within the ranks of the American believers.

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