Overview:

Mark Twain's personal anti-theism wasn't fully revealed until after his death, but it was evident in his novels' characters.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As I meander along the sometimes remote byways of the nonreligious environment, I frequently come across some lovely sunlit glens.

I recently found one in the form of a quote posted by someone named u/Lazy_boa in Reddit’s r/atheism tributary, titled “Mark Twain summed up the absurdity of God over a century ago.”

This quote submitted by u/Lazy_boa comes from Twain’s novel The Mysterious Stranger, which was published posthumously in 1916, six years after the iconic American author’s death.

The novel is about three boys in the remote Austrian village of Eseldorf (German for “Assville” or “Donkeytown”) after a teen stranger named Satan appears in Eseldorf. Satan ultimately spirits the boys around the world to view the many atrocities of religion, and just before vanishing, declares:

[T]here is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream—a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought—a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!

[God] gave His angels painless lives, yet cursed his other children with biting miseries

Mark Twain, “the mysterious stranger”

“I’ve always found the idea of God, especially the Abrahamic God, to be…absurd, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why I felt that. Then I stumbled across Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger and it all made sense. At the end of the novel, one of the characters sums up the absurdity of God as follows,” u/Lazy_boa wrote introducing the following quote from the novel:

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!

— Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger

U/Lazy_boa concluded, “I firmly believe that God(s) are a human creation. What I will never understand why people would create and worship a God like this. Either way, Twain summed it up perfectly.”

Indeed, he did.

Rick Snedeker

Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...