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Mark Twain Quotes

Mark Twain

"Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand."
- quoted from Barbara Schmidt, ed

"If the man doesn't believe as we do, we say he is a crank, and that settles it. I mean, it does nowadays, because now we can't burn him."
- Following the Equator

"Between believing a thing and thinking you know is only a small step and quickly taken."
- 3,000 Years Among the Microbes

"In God We Trust. It is the choicest compliment that has ever been paid us, and the most gratifying to our feelings. It is simple, direct, gracefully phrased; it always sounds well -- In God We Trust. I don't believe it would sound any better if it were true."

"Blasphemy? No, it is not blasphemy. If God is as vast as that, he is above blasphemy; if He is as little as that, He is beneath it."
- from Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain, a Biography (1912), quoted from Barbara Schmidt,ed

"It [the Bible] is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies."
- Letters from the Earth

"The two Testaments are interesting, each in its own way. The Old one gives us a picture of these people's Deity as he was before he got religion, the other one gives us a picture of him as he appeared afterward."
- Letters from the Earth

"So much blood has been shed by the Church because of an omission from the Gospel: "Ye shall be indifferent as to what your neighbor's religion is." Not merely tolerant of it, but indifferent to it. Divinity is claimed for many religions; but no religion is great enough or divine enough to add that new law to its code."
- Mark Twain, a Biography

"The Christian's Bible is a drug store. Its contents remain the same; but the medical practice changes...The world has corrected the Bible. The church never corrects it; and also never fails to drop in at the tail of the procession- and take the credit of the correction. During many ages there were witches. The Bible said so. the Bible commanded that they should not be allowed to live. Therefore the Church, after eight hundred years, gathered up its halters, thumb-screws, and firebrands, and set about its holy work in earnest. She worked hard at it night and day during nine centuries and imprisoned, tortured, hanged, and burned whole hordes and armies of witches, and washed the Christian world clean with their foul blood.
Then it was discovered that there was no such thing as witches, and never had been. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.....There are no witches. The witch text remains; only the practice has changed. Hell fire is gone, but the text remains. Infant damnation is gone, but the text remains. More than two hundred death penalties are gone from the law books, but the texts that authorized them remain."
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice, Europe and Elsewhere

"When one reads Bibles, one is less surprised at what the Deity knows than at what He doesn't know."
- Mark Twain's Notebook

"We despise all reverences and all the objects of reverence which are outside the pale of our own list of sacred things. And yet, with strange inconsistency, we are shocked when other people despise and defile the things which are holy to us."
- Following the Equator

"There are those who scoff at the school boy, calling him frivolous and shallow. Yet it was the school boy who said, Faith is believing what you know ain't so."
-Following the Equator, Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

"Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion--several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother's path to happiness and heaven....The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste."
- The Lowest Animal

"When the human race has once acquired a supersitition nothing short of death is ever likely to remove it."
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

"When even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself."
- "Is Shakespeare Dead?"

"India has two million gods, and worships them all. In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire."
- Following the Equator

"Alas! those good old days are gone, when a murderer could wipe the stain from his name and soothe his trouble to sleep simply by getting out his blocks and mortar and building an addition to a church."
- The Innocents Abroad

"Monarchies, aristocracies, and religions....there was never a country where the majority of the people were in their secret hearts loyal to any of these institutions."
- The Mysterious Stranger

"Patriotism is usually the refuge of the scoundrel. He is the man who talks the loudest."
- Education and Citizenship speech, 5/14/1908

"Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about."
- More Maxims of Mark, Johnson, 1927

"The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also. I would not interfere with any one's religion, either to strengthen it or to weaken it. I am not able to believe one's religion can affect his hereafter one way or the other, no matter what that religion may be. But it may easily be a great comfort to him in this life--hence it is a valuable possession to him."
- Mark Twain, a Biography

"In religion and politics people's beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a brass farthing."
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

"My land, the power of training! Of influence! Of education! It can bring a body up to believe anything."
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

"We were good boys, good Presbyterian boys, and loyal and all that; anyway, we were good Presbyterian boys when the weather was doubtful; when it was fair, we did wander a little from the fold."
- 67th birthday dinner, 11/28/1902

"I do not know what we should do without the pulpit. We could better spare the sun--the moon, anyway."
- Mark Twain in Eruption

"I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's."
- Mark Twain in Eruption

"Man is kind enough when he is not excited by religion."
- A Horse's Tale

"Religion consists in a set of things which the average man thinks he believes, and wishes he was certain."
- Notebook, 1879

"I was educated, I was trained, I was a Presbyterian and I knew how these things are done. I knew that in Biblical times if a man committed a sin the extermination of the whole surrounding nation--cattle and all--was likely to happen. I knew that Providence was not particular about the rest, so that He got somebody connected with the one He was after."
- Autobiography of Mark Twain

"We don't cut up when mad men are bred by the old legitimate regular stock religions, but we can't allow wildcat religions to indulge in such disastrous experiments."
- The New Wildcat Religion

"A religion that comes of thought, and study, and deliberate conviction, sticks best. The revivalized convert who is scared in the direction of heaven because he sees hell yawn suddenly behind him, not only regains confidence when his scare is over, but is ashamed of himself for being scared, and often becomes more hopelessly and malignantly wicked than he was before."
- Letter San Francisco Alta California, November 15,1868

"The Koran does not permit Mohammedans to drink. Their natural instincts do not permit them to be moral. They say the Sultan has eight hundred wives. This almost amounts to bigamy."
- The Innocents Abroad

"Apparently one of the most uncertain things in the world is the funeral of a religion."
- Following the Equator

"As for the dinosaur--But Noah's conscience was easy; it was not named in his cargo list and he and the boys were not aware that there was such a creature. He said he could not blame himself for not knowing about the dinosaur, because it was an American animal, and America had not then been discovered."
- Adam's Soliloquy

"Such is the human race. Often it does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat."
- Christian Science

"Even Noah got no salary for the first six months--partly on account of the weather and partly because he was learning navigation."
- Mark Twain in Eruption

"Adam and Noah were ancestors of mine. I never thought much of them. Adam lacked character. He couldn't be trusted with apples. Noah had an absurd idea that he could navigate without any knowledge of navigation, and he ran into the only shoal place on earth."
- speech, November 9, 1901. Reported in The New York Times, November 10, 1901

"Zeal and sincerity can carry a new religion further than any other missionary except fire and sword."
- Christian Science

"Adam is fading out. It is on account of Darwin and that crowd. I can see that he is not going to last much longer. There's a plenty of signs."
- The Refuge of the Derelicts, Fables of Man

"There is nothing more awe-inspiring than a miracle except the credulity that can take it at par."
- Notebook, 1904

"In him & his person I have learned to hate all religions. He has taught me to abhor & detest the Sabbath-day & hunt up new & troublesome ways to dishonor it." [George Washington Cable]
- letter to William Dean Howells, February 27, 1885

"Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno."
- Was the World Made for Man?

"Adam and Eve had many advantages, but the principle one was that they escaped teething."
- Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

"Jesus died to save men -- a small thing for an immortal to do, & didn't save many, anyway; but if he had been damned for the race that would have been act of a size proper to a god, & would have saved the whole race. However, why should anybody want to save the human race, or damn it either? Does God want its society? Does Satan?"
- Notebook #42

"The difference between a Miracle and a Fact is exactly the difference between a mermaid and seal. It could not be expressed better."
- "Official Report to the I.I.A.S," Letters From the Earth

"Martyrdom covers a multitude of sins."
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

"Martyrdom is the luckiest fate that can befall some people."
- A Tramp Abroad

"The altar cloth of one aeon is the doormat of the next."
- Notebook, 1898

"I have a religion--but you will call it blasphemy. It is that there is a God for the rich man but none for the poor.....Perhaps your religion will sustain you,will feed you--I place no dependence in mine. Our religions are alike, though, in one respect--neither can make a man happy when he is out of luck."
- Letter to Orion Clemens, 10/19-20/1865

"We have to keep our God placated with prayers, and even then we are never sure of him--how much higher and finer is the Indian's God......Our illogical God is all-powerful in name, but impotent in fact; the Great Spirit is not all-powerful, but does the very best he can for his injun and does it free of charge."
- Marginalia written in copy of Richard Irving Dodge's Our Wild Indian

"It was not that Adam ate the apple for the apple's sake, but because it was forbidden. It would have been better for us--oh infinitely better for us--if the serpent had been forbidden."
- Mark Twain's Notebook

"All gods are better than their reputation."
- inscription dated December 23, 1902 written in first edition of A Double-Barrelled Detective Story.

"I am plenty safe enough in his hands; I am not in any danger from that kind of a Diety. The one that I want to keep out of the reach of, is the caricature of him which one finds in the Bible. We (that one and I) could never respect each other, never get along together. I have met his superior a hundred times-- in fact I amount to that myself."
- Letter to Olivia Clemens, 17 July 1889

"The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it..."
- Mark Twain's Notebook

"If God is what people say there can be no one in the universe so unhappy as He; for He sees unceasingly myriads of His creatures suffering unspeakable miseries--and besides this foresees how they are going to suffer during the remainder of their lives. One might as well say, "As unhappy as God."
- Notebook #24, April - Aug. 1885

"...a God who could make good children as easily a 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 is 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 foregiveness 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!"
- No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger

"There are many scapegoats for our sins, but the most popular one is Providence."
- Notebook, 1898

"Satan hasn't a single salaried helper; the Opposition employ a million."
- Mark Twain

"Some years ago on the gold coins we used to trust in God. It think it was in 1863 that some genious suggested that it be put on the gold and silver coins which circulated among the rich. They didn't put it on the nickels and coppers because they didn't think the poor folks had any trust in God....If I remember rightly, the President required or ordered the removal of that sentence from the coins. Well, I didn't see that the statement ought to remain there. It wasn't true. But I think it would better read, "Within certain judicious limitations we trust in God, and if there isn't enough room on the coin for this, why enlarge the coin."
- Speech, 5/14/1908

"The motto stated a lie. If this nation has ever trusted in God, that time has gone by; for nearly half a century almost its entire trust has been in the Republican party and the dollar--mainly the dollar. I recognize that I am only making an assertion and furnishing no proof; I am sorry, but this is a habit of mine; sorry also that I am not alone in it; everybody seems to have this disease."
- Mark Twain in Eruption

"More than once I have been humiliated by my resemblance to God the father; He is always longing for the love of His children and trying to get it on the cheapest and laziest terms He can invent."
- letter to Clara Clemens, quoted in My Husband Gabrilowitsch)

"...the swindle of life and the treachery of a God that can create disease and misery and crime--create things that men would be condemned for creating--that men would be ashamed to create."
- quoted in Isabel Lyon's Journal, 2/2/1906

"God pours out love upon all with a lavish hand -- but He reserves vengeance for His very own."
- Mark Twain's Notebook

"If I were to construct a God I would furnish Him with some way and qualities and characteristics which the Present lacks. He would not stoop to ask for any man's compliments, praises, flatteries; and He would be far above exacting them. I would have Him as self-respecting as the better sort of man in these regards.
He would not be a merchant, a trader. He would not buy these things. He would not sell, or offer to sell, temporary benefits of the joys of eternity for the product called worship. I would have Him as dignified as the better sort of man in this regard.
He would value no love but the love born of kindnesses conferred; not that born of benevolences contracted for. Repentance in a man's heart for a wrong done would cancel and annul that sin; and no verbal prayers for forgiveness be required or desired or expected of that man.
In His Bible there would be no Unforgiveable Sin. He would recognize in Himself the Author and Inventor of Sin and Author and Inventor of the Vehicle and Appliances for its commission; and would place the whole responsibility where it would of right belong: upon Himself, the only Sinner.
He would not be a jealous God--a trait so small that even men despise it in each other.
He would not boast.
He would keep private Hs admirations of Himself; He would regard self-praise as unbecoming the dignity of his position.
He would not have the spirit of vengeance in His heart. Then it would not issue from His lips.
There would not be any hell--except the one we live in from the cradle to the grave.
There would not be any heaven--the kind described in the world's Bibles.
He would spend some of His eternities in trying to forgive Himself for making man unhappy when he could have made him happy with the same effort and he would spend the rest of them in studying astronomy."
- Mark Twain's Notebook

"It is the will of God that we must have critics and missionaries and congressmen and humorists, and we must bear the burden."
- Mark Twain's Autobiography

"We grant God the possession of all the qualities of mind except the one that keeps the others healthy; that watches over their dignity; that focuses their vision true--humor."
- Notebook, 1902

"What God lacks is convictions- stability of character. He ought to be a Presbyterian or a Catholic or something- not try to be everything."
- Notebook, 1898

"None of us can be as great as God, but any of us can be as good."
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

"All gods are better than their conduct."
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

"God, so atrocious in the Old Testament, so attractive in the New--the Jekyl and Hyde of sacred romance."
- Notebook, 1904

"The best minds will tell you that when a man has begotten a child he is morally bound to tenderly care for it, protect it from hurt, shielf it from disease, clothe it, feed it, bear with its waywardness, lay no hand upon it save in kindness and for its own good, and never in any case inflict upon it a wanton cruelty. God's treatment of his earthly children, every day and every night, is the exact opposite of all that, yet those best minds warmly justify these crimes, condone them, excuse them, and indignantly refuse to regard them as crimes at all, when he commits them. Your country and mine is an interesting one, but there is nothing there that is half so interesting as the human mind."
- Letters from the Earth

"We have to keep our God placated with prayers, and even then we are never sure of him -- how much higher and finer is the Indian's God......Our illogical God is all-powerful in name, but impotent in fact; the Great Spirit is not all-powerful, but does the very best he can for his injun and does it free of charge."
- Marginalia written in copy of Richard Irving Dodge's Our Wild Indians

"Leaving out the gamblers, the burglars, and the plumbers, perhaps we do put our trust in God after a fashion. But, after all, it is an overstatement."

If the cholera or black plague should come to these shores, perhaps the bulk of the nation would pray to be delivered from it, but the rest would put their trust in The Health Board...
- Education and Citizenship speech

"God's inhumanity to man makes countless thousands mourn."
- Notebook, 1898

"He killed all those people -- every male.
They had offended the Deity in some way. We know what the offense was, without looking; that is to say, we know it was a trifle; some small thing that no one but a god would attach any importance to. It is more than likely that a Midianite had been duplicating the conduct of one Onan, who was commanded to "go into his brother's wife" -- which he did; but instead of finishing, "he spilled it on the ground." The Lord slew Onan for that, for the lord could never abide indelicacy....
Some Midianite must have repeated Onan's act, and brought that dire disaster upon his nation. If that was not the indelicacy that outraged the feelings of the Deity, then I know what it was: some Midianite had been pissing against the wall. I am sure of it, for that was an impropriety which the Source of all Etiquette never could stand. A person could piss against a tree, he could piss on his mother, he could piss on his own breeches, and get off, but he must not piss against the wall -- that would be going quite too far. The origin of the divine prejudice against this humble crime is not stated; but we know that the prejudice was very strong -- so strong that nothing but a wholesale massacre of the people inhabiting the region where the wall was defiled could satisfy the Deity."
- Satan, writing back to his friends in Heaven upon visiting Earth, this time discussing the biblical tale of "The Slaughter of the Midianites" in Numbers 31, in Letters from the Earth (1909?; published in 1962)

"Irreverence is another person's disrespect to your god; there isn't any word that tells what your disrespect to his god is."
- The Mysterious Stranger

"If Christ were here there is one thing he would not be -- a Christian."
- Notebook

The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive ... but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born.
- from Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain, a Biography (1912), quoted from Barbara Schmidt,ed

"This is a Christian country. Why, so is hell. Inasmuch as "Strait is the way and narrow is the gate, and few -- few -- are they that enter in thereat" has had the natural effect of making hell the only really prominent Christian community in any of the worlds; but we don't brag of this and certainly it is not proper to brag and boast that America is a Christian country when we all know that certainly five-sixths of our population could not enter in at the narrow gate."
- in Bernard DeVoto, ed, Mark Twain in Eruption: Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940), quoted from Barbara Schmidt, ed

"This is the only sane clerical the earthquake has exposed to view yet."
- Mark Twain, on the margin of a newspaper report titled "God & the Earthquake; Rabbi Says God Who Would Kill the Innocent isn't Worthy of Worship," about an earthquake in Italy and how people were fleeing into churches, only for the building to collapse in aftershocks, killing the followers.

"I was dead for millions of years before I was born and it never inconvenienced me a bit".

"Man is a marvelous curiosity … he thinks he is the Creator's pet … he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to him and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea."
- Letters from the Earth (1909?; published in 1962)


The Bible According to Mark Twain

Mark Twain Quotations by Positive Atheism

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Quotes 3 December 24, 2011 5:46 PM anonymous
Videos May 5, 2015 10:34 PM anonymous
Mark Twain Quotes September 18, 2010 11:13 PM anonymous
Quotes 1 March 11, 2017 11:18 PM anonymous
Quotes 2 February 20, 2011 9:59 AM anonymous
Famous American Quotes July 19, 2011 10:58 PM anonymous
Becoming a Member January 22, 2011 9:04 PM anonymous
How to use our Websites August 23, 2016 5:14 PM anonymous
Suggested Films September 17, 2015 6:21 PM anonymous
OMSI - Science Pub Portland Information May 31, 2009 10:46 PM anonymous
About CFI Secular Humanists of East Portland August 23, 2016 5:06 PM anonymous

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