Friday, November 24, 2006

Handel versus Mencken

Having been totally bitten by the singing bug, I am singing in The Messiah this year. Rehearsals have begun. The music is glorious and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I was talking about it with a friend over lunch yesterday, and we began our discussion of religion generally. Being of an atheistic/humanist tendency and with a positive aversion to organised religion, I find it odd to be lustily singing phrases such as: "The Lord gave the Word, great was the company of the preachers," or "Hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth".

Handel might have gotten the music right, but I reckon H.L. Mencken, the Sage of Baltimore, got the words right, and here they are:

Mencken's Creed

* I believe that religion, generally speaking, has been a curse to mankind - that its modest and greatly overestimated services on the ethical side have been more than overcome by the damage it has done to clear and honest thinking.

* I believe that no discovery of fact, however trivial, can be wholly useless to the race, and that no trumpeting of falsehood, however virtuous in intent, can be anything but vicious.

* I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty...

*I believe that the evidence for immortality is no better than the evidence of witches, and deserves no more respect.

* I believe in the complete freedom of thought and speech...

* I believe in the capacity of man to conquer his world, and to find out what it is made of, and how it is run.

* I believe in the reality of progress.

* I - But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe that it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than be ignorant.

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