Monday, May 02, 2005

H. L. Mencken

I love H. L. Mencken, and I'm always glad to see that the editors of FT do also. For instance, this:

Throughout his mature life, Mencken insisted that he was not an atheist (for such a judgment would require a knowledge that was beyond "sound thought") but rather an agnostic. Asked once what he would do if on his death he found himself facing the twelve apostles, he answered (and in this instance we may be sure that beneath the humor lay deep convictions about intellectual honesty), "I would simply say, 'Gentlemen, I was mistaken.'" Imagine Carl Sagan saying such a thing about the possibility of his encounter with a postmortem minyan, and you begin to understand the difference between the agnostic Mencken and the true village atheist. ...

For if Mencken was the intrinsically lonely man suggested by Fred Hobson's biography, then his incapacity for, but appreciation of, the poetry of faith was doubly tragic. And this Menckenian, who believes that the old man did meet the twelve apostles in the early hours of January 29, 1956, would like to think that they-understanding the tragedy full well, honoring his frank acknowledgment of an invincible ignorance, and knowing his history-invited him in for a beer.

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