Letters From the Earth by Mark Twain Part Four

mark twain

Letters From the Earth was written by Mark Twain. Published posthumously, Twain details eleven letters written by Satan to the archangels Gabriel and Michael. These letters provide deep insight into Twain’s view of Christianity. Atheists and secularists will find much to like in Letters From the Earth, whereas Christians will likely be offended. Enjoy!

Letter Eleven

Human history in all ages is red with blood, and bitter with hate, and stained with cruelties; but not since Biblical times have these features been without a limit of some kind. Even the Church, which is credited with having spilt more innocent blood, since the beginning of its supremacy, than all the political wars put together have spilt, has observed a limit. A sort of limit. But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy — he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered.

He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty. The babies were innocent, the beasts were innocent, many of the men, many of the women, many of the boys, many of the girls were innocent, yet they had to suffer with the guilty. What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.

The heaviest punishment of all was meted out to persons who could not by any possibility have deserved so horrible a fate — the 32,000 virgins. Their naked privacies were probed, to make sure that they still possessed the hymen unruptured; after this humiliation they were sent away from the land that had been their home, to be sold into slavery; the worst of slaveries and the shamefulest, the slavery of prostitution; bed- slavery, to excite lust, and satisfy it with their bodies; slavery to any buyer, be he gentleman or be he a coarse and filthy ruffian.

It was the Father that inflicted this ferocious and undeserved punishment upon those bereaved and friendless virgins, whose parents and kindred he had slaughtered before their eyes. And were they praying to him for pity and rescue, meantime? Without a doubt of it.

These virgins were “spoil” plunder, booty. He claimed his share and got it. What use had he for virgins? Examine his later history and you will know.

His priests got a share of the virgins, too. What use could priests make of virgins? The private history of the Roman Catholic confessional can answer that question for you. The confessional’s chief amusement has been seduction — in all the ages of the Church. Père Hyacinth testifies that of a hundred priests confessed by him, ninety- nine had used the confessional effectively for the seduction of married women and young girls. One priest confessed that of nine hundred girls and women whom he had served as father and confessor in his time, none had escaped his lecherous embrace but he elderly and the homely. The official list of questions which the priest is required to ask will overmasteringly excite any woman who is not a paralytic.

There is nothing in either savage or civilized history that is more utterly complete, more remorselessly sweeping than the Father of Mercy’s campaign among the Midianites. The official report does not furnish the incidents, episodes, and minor details, it deals only in information in masses: all the virgins, all the men, all the babies, all “creatures that breathe,” all houses, all cities; it gives you just one vast picture, spread abroad here and there and yonder, as far as eye can reach, of charred ruin and storm- swept desolation; your imagination adds a brooding stillness, an awful hush — the hush of death. But of course there were incidents. Where shall we get them?

Out of history of yesterday’s date. Out of history made by the red Indian of America. He has duplicated God’s work, and done it in the very spirit of God. In 1862 the Indians in Minnesota, having been deeply wronged and treacherously treated by the government of the United States, rose against the white settlers and massacred them; massacred all they could lay their hands upon, sparing neither age nor sex. Consider this incident:

Twelve Indians broke into a farmhouse at daybreak and captured the family. It consisted of the farmer and his wife and four daughters, the youngest aged fourteen and the eldest eighteen. They crucified the parents; that is to say, they stood them stark naked against the wall of the living room and nailed their hands to the wall. Then they stripped the daughters bare, stretched them upon the floor in front of their parents, and repeatedly ravished them. Finally they crucified the girls against the wall opposite this parents, and cut off their noses and their breasts. They also — but I will not go into that. There is a limit. There are indignities so atrocious that the pen cannot write them. One member of that poor crucified family — the father — was still alive when help came two days later.

Now you have one incident of the Minnesota massacre. I could give you fifty. They would cover all the different kinds of cruelty the brutal human talent has ever invented.

And now you know, by these sure indications, what happened under the personal direction of the Father of Mercies in his Midianite campaign. The Minnesota campaign was merely a duplicate of the Midianite raid. Nothing happened in the one that didn’t happen in the other.

No, that is not strictly true. The Indian was more merciful than was the Father of Mercies. He sold no virgins into slavery to minister to the lusts of the murderers of their kindred while their sad lives might last; he raped them, then charitably made their subsequent sufferings brief, ending them with the precious gift of death. He burned some of the houses, but not all of them. He carried out innocent dumb brutes, but he took the lives of none.

Would you expect this same conscienceless God, this moral bankrupt, to become a teacher of morals; of gentleness; of meekness; of righteousness; of purity? It looks impossible, extravagant; but listen to him. These are his own words:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

The mouth that uttered these immense sarcasms, these giant hypocrisies, is the very same that ordered the wholesale massacre of the Midianitish men and babies and cattle; the wholesale destruction of house and city; the wholesale banishment of the virgins into a filthy and unspeakable slavery. This is the same person who brought upon the Midianites the fiendish cruelties which were repeated by the red Indians, detail by detail, in Minnesota eighteen centuries later. The Midianite episode filled him with joy. So did the Minnesota one, or he would have prevented it.

The Beatitudes and the quoted chapters from Numbers and Deuteronomy ought always to be read from the pulpit together; then the congregation would get an all- round view of Our Father in Heaven. Yet not in a single instance have I ever known a clergyman to do this.

You can read the entire text of Letters From the Earth here.

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2 Comments

  1. Geoff

    I never knew, until now, Mark Twain’s views on the bible. I’m thoroughly enjoying them, and nodding in angry agreement at almost everything he says. It’d be interesting to assess the combination of factors which enable this kind of writing to be produced; obviously he’s a great writer, has a very logical, but also imaginative, mind. On top of this I can’t help but think his ability to empathise must have been important, essential to his views on slavery, and the plight of Negroes generally. The letters you publish are filled with an air of injustice, such as reference to the virgins, and not ignoring the silly foolish illogicality of things like Noah’s ark.

    In doing a little research on Twain I came across a few Christian blogs that attempted to resist the obvious claim that Twain was an atheist, clinging to the claim that he actually continued in his beliefs all his life. All I can say is ‘so what?’. People like Twain lived at a time, and certainly place, where religious belief was virtually inevitable. That lifetime immersion may well have left its mark, but really I don’t think that matters (I can say without fear of contradiction that, were he alive today, he’d be a fully paid up atheist). What matters is that he tore into the bible in a ferocious way, exposing it as the clearly man made text it is. Did he still cling to an underlying belief? It’s possible, but for Christians to claim this as some sort of victory is missing the point, even if it is true.

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  2. Briann

    When one peruses the horrors of known history, the wanton slaughters, the depths of depravity in tortures and torture machines, one almost begins to be brought back into the fold of belief. Only a God-like heart could stomach such atrocity. Only a God-like mind could imagine this kind of horror in the torture to death of innocent people. We are a sorry lot, we bipeds but as ugly as we can show ourselves to be, as Trumply as we can ruin hope for the future, we do not hold a candle to this God figure. Twain merely points out the simple truth as it stands there in the fog of belief. He just says look at that…
    We are taught to deny the light Twain shines on things. We are taught that it is not light at all but darkness fooling our eyes, the power of evil. In this same manner, believers marched through various Crusades killing everybody in sight for Love, for sweet baby Jesus.
    When the beatitudes are taught in Sunday scruel, wouldn’t it be fitting to quote Mark Twain’s take on them, his balanced view set alongside the woo…

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