“If Christ were here now, there is one thing he would not be, a Christian” (Berge, par 1). These are the words of Mark Twain as quoted by Berge in an article on Mark Twain’s View On Christianity-Changing Christian Thinking. Looking at the present day religion and in particular Christianity one is left in doubt as to whether the vision that Christ had for the society is what is happening today. Are the over 33,000 Christian Religions the kind of Christianity that Jesus expected 2,000 years ago? Mark Twain in his quotation did not mean that Jesus was a bad person that no one wanted to associate with.
Looking critically at the present day Christianity, it is the other way round; Jesus was as Berge puts it “an exceptional person and believed in living a life as example towards others with kindness, forgiveness and love” (Berge, par 1-3). The true meaning of Christianity and that of religion in general has been manipulated to address the needs of man and it is currently totally opposite of what it stands for. It is not a surprise therefore that Mark Twain finds religion a huge joke. This essay looks at the negativism of religion as viewed by the great American author Mark Twain.
Background information of Mark Twain To better understand the religious view of Mark Twain, it is important to first get an insight of his historical background. Mark was born in Florida on 30th November in the year 1835. He was by then called Samuel Langhorne Clemens. His father, John Marshall Clemens died when Samuel was only twelve. The mother Jane could not manage to support the large family of six and young Samuel no longer could enjoy childhood luxuries. Additionally, he could not proceed with his education and instead began working at Hannibal Printer William Ament.
Division of labor was never practiced in Ament and Samuel did all sorts of work such as printing, editing, type setting, press-work, distribution of products among other tasks. Orion his elder brother was a journeyman printer in a print shop. However wanted to be a master of his own and in 1851 bought one Hannibal’s newspapers, Western Union. He took his younger brothers Henry and Samuel with him. When things did not work out well for Orion, Samuel worked his way out as a river pilot (Gradesaver, par 1-6).
Samuel became one of the Staff of Virginia City Territorial Enterprise. He became a reporter or when said in the right terms a humorist and in 1863 adopted the name Mark Twain. In 1869 his first book, Innocent Abroad, was published. Due to its criticism, Mark was discouraged from pushing forth his literary call. However, he continued to publish articles and making lectures. Few years later, the Innocent Abroad made great sales and Twain was requested to produce another book. Twain composed Roughing It in 1872.
He became an acknowledged writer after several other books were published such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and The Gilded Age among others. He died on 21st April of 1910 as a prominent American writer (Gradesaver, par 7-12). Religious Affiliation and Activities of Mark Twain Mark Twain was a Christian by religion. His parents were Presbyterians and he was therefore introduced to church and the Christian teachings when he was very young. He grew up to become a Presbyterian.
He was therefore a Presbyterian by religion, a religion of Calvinist Protestantism in the United States of America. Calvinist had a great Impact in the life of Clemen, the famous Mark Twain. As Dempsey puts it on Mark Twin’s Religion: Book Review “It was the religion of his upbringing, the religion of his wife’s family, and the religion of some of his important friends…many of whom were leading northern Presbyterian and Congregationalist clergy of the day” (Dempsey, par 4). Twain was brought up in a deeply Presbyterian family and as a religious obligation he had to grow up as a good Presbyterian boy (Dempsey, par 4).
Twain was religious. Religion was part and parcel of his world and he could not evade it. Twain actively participated in dialogues on religion and attended religious services. From this base, it can be argued that Twain was a monotheist (Dempsey, par 9). However his criticism of religion in his literary works would make one doubt whether Twain was a true religious man. Twain was perhaps an atheist. He was not opposed to religion as such but the religion that had been manipulated to mean otherwise; a religion in which people played holy yet they are not, a religion that preached of morality when it did not uphold any moral values.
Twain for this reason rejected religion. As Dempsey in the Mark Twain’s Religion: Book Review quotes the inscription on the statue of Twain, “His religion was humanity and a whole world mourned for him when he died” (Dempsey, par 1). At one time in a Holy Land expedition, one of his colleagues had introduced him as Reverend Mark Twain and a reverend he became. The author of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calvary used to accompany psalm-singing Easterners as a way of assisting Reverend Henry Ward Beecher (The Ohio State University, pp. 1-2).
He was so much into the religious activities such that he at times imagined he was a preacher, a prophet and a saint (The Ohio State University, p. 7). Mark Twain’s and Religion in his Literary Works His Huckleberry Finn The literary works of Mark Twain clearly reflects his negative views towards religion. Twain is opposed to religion and has no patience at all for either religion or for the subscribers of the religion (Example Essays. com, par 1). To him, “Religion is useless, worthless, and mindless and for those not grounded in reality” (Example Essays. com, par 1).
This is a quotation picked from Huckleberry Finn by Example Essays. com in their article on Twain’s View Of Religion In Huck Finn. In this novel, the attitude of Twain towards religion is that of mockery and cynicism (Example Essays. com, par 1). Twain is at a far distance from the devoted Bible believers. He has much respect for superstitious things than he has for religion. This his clearly brought out in one of his characters Huck in Huckleberry Finn. Huck had great expectations that there would be bad luck in his wake when he killed a spider by accident and later touched the skin of a rattlesnake.
Everything had come true as bad luck follows when Huck’s father returns and the snake did bite Jim. Huck makes a prayer to the Lord but nothing happens. This leaves Twain with a conclusion that religion is not helpful at all, it is worthless, more worthless in fact than what would seem to be an irrational superstation (Example Essays. com, par 2-3). As Example Essays. com points out in their essay on Twain’s View Of Religion In Huck Finn “Twain holds no punches in his merciless pounding of religion” (Example Essays. com, par 4).
Twain in Huck attacks the believers of religion as well as religion itself. He has a strong distaste for religion as revealed by this book. No skepticism, no doubt, and no question can be raised regarding the aversion of religion of Twain. He neither tolerates religion nor the believers (Example Essays. com, par 4). Every religious character that Twain creates in the novel is covered with hypocrisy. It is true that religious people have a soft spot; a warm generous heart like Widow Douglas and Grangerfords. They show hospitality but they are full of hypocrisy.
This of course is what makes Twain hate religion from the deepest point of his heart (Example Essays. com, par 5). Mark Twain is opposed to religion because religious people are hypocrites; they are fake and insincere so that they can impress everyone (BookRags, par 6). The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer In the book The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, religion is a caricature. It forms an integral part in the society that the Character Tom lives in. However, Tom does not hold religion with the dignity that other people hold it with. Instead, it is a boring obligation and tiresome to him.
For instance, Tom does not say his prayers before going to bed which is a powerful defiant act in regard to his forced religion (BookRags, par 1). Tom is a religious sycophant. His religious stand is for formalities. He works vey hard in trade to buy a Bible not because he is so much interested in religion but for his status in the society. Being religious is not his care but the status that the Bible will place him in is (BookRags, par 2). Tom is actually bored by the routine of going to church. He is however not alone in this but is in the company of many others.
The monotonous sermons wear them out and their hearts yearn for anything that would cause interruption to the screaming preacher. They are all in stitches when the sermon is finally interrupted by such things as a yelping dog. His boredom and that of other puppet believers is a side-effect of formalities of having to go to church. Through this character, Mark Twain reveals his hate of going to church as an obligation. People go to church not because they want to but because it is an obligation (BookRags, par 3-5). Twain expresses his criticism on church revivals.
In deed they are powerful tools to win people to religion and at the end leave everyone thrilled. However their effects are short lived as portrayed by the characters Huck and Joe. At the revival, they are fighting tooth and nail to seek the face of God but after a short time, they turn back to their earlier lives where they find lots of happiness. To Twain revivals and anything religious do not have any lasting effect and for this respect are worthless (BookRags, par 7). Twain sees religion as one big piece of humor. Widow Douglas is so religious and fervently prays that the sinful Tom is found.
She is serious and absolutely honest in her prayers wishing for hope and miracle at a desperation time. Looking at the character of Tom, it leaves one in doubt as to whether her prayers are answered. In addition, the funeral of Injun Joe turns out to be an entertaining event rather than a religious event. Completely, it lacks real religiousness. It sounds funny that from miles and miles, people come to witness his burial. This is in the inclusion of people who had with their sincere hearts tried to plead for his crimes’ pardon. After he is buried the pardon is forgotten.
He is also forgotten (BookRags, par 8-9). Twain hates religion for conflicting with people’s lifestyles. Huck does not understand anything that is religious; it never allows him to enjoy his lifestyle. Church is what the society uses to set limits for people. The widow that Tom lives with is deep down rooted in religion and wants Huck to be a very good church-going boy. Huck is however on the other side; Tom had just given him the promise of them becoming robbers. Religion in itself makes adherents caricatures to be laughed at (BookRags, par 10). A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
The greatest fear and enemy of Twain as expressed by Yankee is the Roman Catholic Church. He seems to have a strong distaste for the Roman Catholic Church for manipulating religion for the sake of politics. To Mark Twain, the church is a political machine. The Roman Catholic Church in particular is embodied in other functions other than spiritual functions that it deeply claims to advocate for. Through the character Hank, Twain accuses the overall church for upholding the 16th century ills in the society such as, social inequality, superstations, tradition, hereditary nobility, and subservience of masses.
Twain is opposed to these practices and the Roman Catholic Church as portrayed in this book seems to be lenient on these vices (Gradesaver LLC, par 2). Still on religion Twain condemns the acts of those who uphold morality only at a superficial level. These people cannot take any action unless they are faced with a real experience. Hank and King Arthur fail to abolish slavery and they only come to realize the dehumanizing effects and oppression that slavery has on those in it when they themselves become slaves. The leaders claim to uphold the moral values of the society yet they fail to practice morality.
This is what makes Twain suffer from a horse voice in condemnation of religion and its hypocritical moral practices. In all his literary work, Twain looks at religion from a negative point of view (Gradesaver LLC, par 2). In A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Twain views the Catholic Church as atavistic survival that has been transported into the modern era. Hank Morgan, a Presbyterian by religion for instance introduces many denominations for the fear of unity in the church. He fears a Christian family that is united perhaps because of the damage that it would cause to a hypocrite like him (The Ohio State University, p. 24).
Twain makes use of the environmental determinism to make religion humorous as depicted by his books: Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, Life on Mississippi and many others. Twain in these works uses religious words that do have a negative connotation such as ‘infernal’ and ‘unchristian’. In this he suggests that there is danger in religion. The great American writer suggests that religious as well as denominations are deviant and unfair (The Ohio State University, P. 26).
Twain’s religious faith was far much wide for any doctrine and too limitless for any creed. Mark was ignorant and disinterested in Christian creeds as well as doctrines. They in fact provide him with a creative spark for his literary works. His views on religious are clearly brought out by his literary works (The Ohio State University, P. 27). Conclusion Mark Twain was a realist thinking atheist. Though he was a Presbyterian by birth, he was opposed to religion. However, as depicted in his literary works, religion had been manipulated to fit the needs of the few.
Religion in itself failed to stand for what it actually presents. Many of his works in literature such as The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventure of Tom Sawyer, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and many others are grounded on religious criticism. He satirizes religion in the most humorous way. Despite the fact that he was brought up in a Christian family, his negative beliefs in religion isolates him from being a Christian or a religious person. He is an atheist who does not see anything good in religion. References Berge, Gregory.
Mark Twain’s View On Christianity-Changing Christian Thinking. Ezine Articles. nd 2010. Web. 5 Aug. 2010 http://ezinearticles. com/? Mark-Twains-View-on-Christianity—Changing-Christian-Thinking&id=2012922 BookRags. (2009). The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer Book Notes Summary. Bookrags. com. nd 2009. Web 4 Aug. 2010 http://www. bookrags. com/notes/ts/TOP3. html Dempsy, Terrel. Mark Twin’s Religion: Book Review. Bochynski. com. 15 Jan. 2004. Web. 5 Aug. 2010 http://www. bochynski. com/twainweb/reviews/phipps. html Gradesaver. Biography Of Mark Twain. Gradesaver. com. nd 2010. Web. 4 Aug. 2010
http://www. gradesaver. com/author/mark-twain/ Gradesaver LLC. Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court Study Guide. Gradesaver. com. nd 2010. Web. 4 Aug. 2010 http://www. gradesaver. com/connecticut-yankee-in-king-arthurs-court/study-guide/major-themes/ Example Essays. com. (2010). Twain’s View Of Religion In Huck Finn. Exampleessays. com. nd 2010. Web 4 Aug. 2010 http://www. exampleessays. com/viewpaper/81878. html The Ohio State University. The Reverend Mark Twain. The Ohiostatepress. org. nd 2006. Web. 5 Aug. 2010 http://www. ohiostatepress. org/Books/Book%20PDFs/Fulton%20Reverend. pdf