Greetings... I've been long interested in books with an atheistic angle that are outside the mainstream (if atheism even does have a mainstream...), and I plan to share my thoughts on them here. There are some real gems out that that you need to dig a little to find.
Hemingway once said that American literature really starts with Huck Finn
, and many writers and readers would agree. Unfortunately, some of Twain’s finest works remain relatively unknown, undoubtedly because of their irreligious and sarcastic themes. The best of these are Letters From Earth
and The Mysterious Stranger
, the latter of which I will review briefly here.
The Mysterious Stranger
was published posthumously in 1916 and is not going to be on any of the official reading lists of the various public schools named in honor of Mr. Clemens. It is an absolutely hilarious and caustic little book that will be of interest to anyone suspicious of religion in general. For nontheists that have grown accustomed to the standard academic treatments of the reasons for rejecting belief, as well-written as many have been of late, this book provides a fresh perspective and change of pace. The force of the satire that this irreverent, scathing genius brings down upon the entire Christian conception of God and Moral Sense is really something to behold.
In late sixteenth century Austria, a group of boys meet an angel that has appeared one day. The angel’s name is Satan (no, not THE Satan, merely his cousin, hence the same family name). Satan gives them an education, both through words and deeds, about some Ultimate Truths. The lessons begin when, out of boredom, Satan fashions an intricate model of a castle, complete with tiny humans that live there. When he treats them as harshly as God has treated the real humans over time, the boys are aghast. But so enamored with his personality, they can't help but go along with him and learn more.
I don't want to give much else away, but to give you an example of Twain on a roll
, here is an excerpt where the wandering angel describes his view of God:
“… 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 Golden Rules, and forgiveness multiplied by seventy time 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 this poor, abused slave to worship him!…”
is a short work, but in it you will feel a lifetime of the great man’s anger, frustration, and contempt for so much baloney (baloney that was taken even more seriously in Twain’s day than it is in ours). This story belongs in the same class as Voltaire’s Candide
and Vonnegut’s The Sirens of Titan
as the best of the fictional attacks on traditional beliefs.
You can find it here:
It is also published by Prometheus Books.