February 3, 1931: Arkansas Prays for the Soul of H.L. Mencken

One of H.L.Mencken’s Laws was “Nature abhors a moron,” and one of his favorite pastimes was attacking the South for being ruled by the “booboisie”.

mencken“In all that gargantuan paradise of the fourth-rate there is not a single picture gallery worth going into, or a single orchestra capable of playing the nine symphonies of Beethoven, or a single opera-house, or a single theater devoted to decent plays. . . . Nor a historian. Nor a sociologist. Nor a philosopher. Nor a theologian. Nor a scientist. In all these fields, the south is an awe-inspiring blank.”

The Arkansas state legislature finally decided it had heard enough when it heard that Mencken had elevated their state to “the Apex of Moronia”. Unable to indite, or skin him alive, they passed a motion to pray for the soul of H. L. Mencken.

Mencken’s writings left it unclear whether or not he believed he actually had a soul:

“We are here and it is now. Further than that, all human knowledge is moonshine.”

“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.”

“I am suspicious of all the things that the average people believes.”

“Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.”

“Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant.”

“The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”

“A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin.”

“If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl.”

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