One of the joys of the internet is the ability to check out and spread humorous quotes of famous people that backup your philosophical position.
Which probably explains why the following quote, supposedly of Mark Twain, has been doing the rounds for some time.
Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.
When the above quote appeared on my Facebook feed some weeks ago I decided to check it out. I don’t like to just take pithy quotes on face value and in today’s age of easily assimilated and faked images it is so easy to attribute anything to anyone.
There are many places that repeat the quote, but only a few that show a history of the quote, among them is this one: http://www.zebrafactcheck.com/neer-the-twain-did-speak-it/
As can be seen, the quote is of dubious attribution.
One of the reasons I wanted to check the quote out is that I don’t consider it particularly accurate. The history of religion is very complex and no one who studies it long enough will actually claim the quote as being an accurate representation of that history.
The quote is the sort of thing that I would laugh at with friends over a beer if repeated down the pub, but would never take seriously. However, sticking it on Facebook makes it open to challenge. So having found that it wasn’t a valid attribution I commented to that effect and corrected the poster.
Now this particular individual is rather outspoken and like to say things that shock and will argue them until the other party gives up. Some of his posts and comments are so abrasive that my wife has blocked his comments from showing on her feed. He certainly isn’t the type to admit a mistake easily, so I wasn’t particularly surprised when his response to my correction was to reply that whoever said it, it was effing funny.
It is this kind of atheist that, sadly, gives the rest of us a bad name and it is this kind of mentality that, also sadly, many people of a religious persuasion imagine when they think of atheists. I know that is the sort of person I thought most atheists were because that is what I had been warned about many times growing up.
The truth of course, is that this is not characteristic of most atheists, it is simply that this is the kind of atheist that gets noticed the most.