Coffee cup fresh in hand, this morning I settled in to start reading Treatise on the Gods, by the incomparable H.L. Mencken. The book’s first chapter, “The Nature and Origin of Religion,” begins with this:
The ancient and curious thing called religion, as it shows itself in the modern world, is often so overladen with excrescences [gross outgrowth, disfigurement] and irrelevancies that its fundamental nature tends to be obscured. When we hear of it in everyday life, it is usually in connection with some grandiose pretension by its priests or practitioners or some unseemly row or scandal among them, religious only by courtesy. It is employed by such pretenders as a sanction for moral theories, for political and economic dogmas, for reforms (or the opposition to them) in laws and manners, for social protests and revolutions, and even for purely private enterprises, including the commercial and the amorous. … In America it is used as a club and a cloak by both politicians and moralists, all of them lusting for power and most of them palpable frauds. Some of the most bitter religious controversies of this age of hatreds … have had little to do with religion, properly so called. But it serves so conveniently to give a high dignity and authority to this or that faction, otherwise plainly in want of a respectable case, that it is constantly lugged in by the heels, to its own grave damage and discredit and the complete destruction of common sense and common decency. The fact, no doubt, accounts at least partly for the slowness with which some of the capital problems of mankind approach solution, especially in the fields of morals and government: their discussion is often so contaminated by pseudo-religious considerations that a rational and realistic dealing with them becomes impossible.
Gah, man. What a total Donny Downer.
I’m so going back to bed now.