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Every Witch Way But Rational


"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 doing its duty in but a lazy and indolent way for 800 years, gathered up its halters, thumbscrews, 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."

--Mark Twain, Bible Teaching and Religious Practice essay, "Europe and Elsewhere", 1923

via The War On Faith

Posted by aalkon at July 6, 2006 11:08 AM

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Mark Twain, aong with Kurt Vonnegut, are my two favorite writers. In Mysterious Stranger, Mark Twain passed along the thought that made the most sense to me about existence. There is certainly no heavan nor hell, reality is what we have created to pass the time. We are just forms of life passing through time, occasionally meeting up with another life form. When I read that, it gave me an overwhelming sense of desolation, but also relief.

Those two writers would definitely be in my "if you could invite anyone to dinner..."

Posted by: eric at July 6, 2006 8:08 AM

Hello Eric. Yes Twain is one of my favorite authors. "Considering the human race, its does often seem a shame that Noah didnt miss the boat."

Posted by: everybody hates chris at July 6, 2006 9:13 AM

Hey Chris-

Or "I would never want to join a club that would have me as a member." - Groucho

Posted by: eric at July 6, 2006 10:28 AM

Next time, Amy, I'd appreciate it if you'd talk to me before putting up photos of me on your blog.

Posted by: Lena at July 6, 2006 1:26 PM

Jeez Lena- that bottom tooth must be murder on the frenulum...

Posted by: eric at July 6, 2006 2:02 PM

Well, when you look like this, you don't really get much frenulum action in your life.

Posted by: Lena at July 6, 2006 3:18 PM


Mark Twain

(Samuel Clemens)


Posted by: Oligonicella at July 6, 2006 3:24 PM

You're getting all Franco-post-modern on us, Eric. What the hell does "reality is what we have created to pass the time" mean?

Strawberry fields forever,

Posted by: Lena at July 6, 2006 5:08 PM

"You're getting all Franco-post-modern on us, Eric. What the hell does "reality is what we have created to pass the time" mean?"

Even a frog doesn't get it--but maybe I'm just not post-modern enough ;)

As for witches, they may not exist but the witch-hunt continues. Here's a photo of church patrols I came upon on Venice Beach:

Now, *that* is something a frog understands, and it rings some pretty scary bells.

Posted by: LA Frog at July 6, 2006 10:19 PM

I'm so happy to see myself mentioned a number of those times on the guy's sign. I only wish there were such a place as hell, because it sounds like that's where the smart, fun people go.

For the record, I am a:

bitch (they say "witch," but it's very close, don't you think?)
general heathen (I just love that - general, as opposed to specific heathenry)

Moreover, on the second picture, if you're going to preach doom and gloom, your message is diminished if you appear to have flunked rudimentary grammar.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 7, 2006 12:36 AM


The link to War on Faith at the foot of this article is broken (should be

Posted by: Norman at July 7, 2006 6:15 AM

For Lena, wherever I may find her...

"Strange, indeed, that you should not have suspected that your universe and its contents were only dreams, visions, fiction! Strange, because they are so frankly and hysterically insane - like all dreams: 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 mercy and invented hell - mouths Golden Rules, and forgiveness 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 this poor, abused slave to worship him! . . .

"You perceive, now, that these things are all impossible except in a dream. You perceive that they are pure and puerile insanities, the silly creations of an imagination that is not conscious of its freaks - in a word, that they are a dream, and you the maker of it. The dream-marks are all present; you should have recognized them earlier.

"It is true, that which I have revealed to you; there is no God, no universe, no human race, no earthly life, no heaven, no hell. It is all a dream - a grotesque and foolish dream. Nothing exists but you. And you are but a thought - a vagrant thought, a useless thought, a homeless thought, wandering forlorn among the empty eternities!"

-Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger

Anyone who wants to read the whole book can go to

Posted by: eric at July 7, 2006 8:06 AM

Thanks, Norm...fixed the link.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at July 7, 2006 8:53 AM

"Even a frog doesn't get it--but maybe I'm just not post-modern enough ;)"

You're quite fortunate not to "get it." I was clobbered over the head with Derrida, Deleuze, Kristeva, et al as an undergrad AND WAS NEVER ABLE TO GET IT. Here's a great little book you might want to check out:

In "Fashionable Nonsense," Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont contend that abuse of science is rampant in postmodernist circles, both in the form of inaccurate and pretentious invocation of scientific and mathematical terminology and in the more insidious form of epistemic relativism. When Sokal and Bricmont expose Jacques Lacan's ignorant misuse of topology, or Julia Kristeva's of set theory, or Luce Irigaray's of fluid mechanics, or Jean Baudrillard's of non-Euclidean geometry, they are on safe ground; it is all too clear that these virtuosi are babbling.

Posted by: Lena Cuisina, Blue Collar Bitch at July 7, 2006 12:57 PM

You meant *that* postmodern: quite some intellectual masturbation, isn't it?

Thanks for the book #, I will check it out. On the subject, I recommend "French Theory" by François Cusset (in French): .

"Next time, Amy, I'd appreciate it if you'd talk to me before putting up photos of me on your blog."

Somehow, I always pictured you as a colorful character ;)

Posted by: LA Frog at July 7, 2006 2:49 PM

Somehow AG's site didn't accept the format of French Theory's URL. Here it is again:

Posted by: LA Frog at July 7, 2006 2:53 PM

"Somehow, I always pictured you as a colorful character"

Two or three years ago, I had a male-to-female sex change operation. Unfortunately, a couple of days later, the hole that was supposed to be my new vagina shriveled and closed up like a scab. Now all I've got between my legs is a one-inch-long mound of useless flesh.

So, yes, I'm a colorful character.

Posted by: Lena at July 7, 2006 11:59 PM

Lena, is that from 'Hedwig & the Angry Inch'? Just curious. I love that movie!

Posted by: Canada at July 14, 2006 7:59 AM

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