Why Mencken Matters

He is a reminder that belief is not normal (to fallen human beings).

The reason for that aside is Regis Martin’s article about the stupidity of atheists (trigger warning for the w-w deniers):

…people do not arrive at atheism as a result of hours heuristically spent perusing the philosophical journals. That is because it is not a matter of the intelligence that compels one to choose disbelief, but a movement of the will. One would have to be pretty witless if, on the strength of a syllogism, one were to conclude that there is no God. An atheist can no more eliminate God’s existence by his refusal to believe than a blind man can by his inability to see expel the sunlight. “The essence of God does indeed lie beyond the scope of intelligence,” Fr. Murray freely concedes, “but his existence does not.” And not to know at least that much, “is to nullify oneself as a man, a creature of intelligence.” Because belief in God is, very simply, the bedrock truth upon which everything else depends. To think otherwise, he argues, amounts to “a miserably flat denouement to the great intellectual drama in whose opening scene Plato appeared with the astonishing announcement that launched the high action of philosophy—his insight that there is an order of transcendent reality, higher than the order of human intelligence and the measure of it, to which access is available to the mind of man.”

In which case, we should never trust an atheist or unbeliever with any sort of responsibility (and we should live in a Christendom because only God-affirmers have the bedrock for truth).

But what if faith is not natural? What if philosophical inquiry and logical deduction still don’t make a man or woman believe? What if, get this, Paul was right?

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1)

Imagine that: Reformed Protestants take atheists more seriously than Roman Catholics because of the doctrine of total depravity. If you start with the reality that all people are lost in their trespasses and sins, that their minds are “darkened” as a result, you set your expectations of unbelievers accordingly. But if you look at faith as the bedrock of understanding the world (think w-w), and you need to trust your neighbors not to do irrational things, then you are going to attribute belief in God to them (and meanwhile deny total depravity).

Mencken matters because he’s proof that unbelievers are smart, and that the Holy Spirit is more powerful than reason in giving people faith in Jesus Christ as their savior.

10 thoughts on “Why Mencken Matters

  1. I agree with the basic point of this artilce and we could use a number of people as example. Mencken has faults but he also has contributions to make. Personally I prefer Chomsky, Zinn, and Halper. But we should note that all gifts come from God and thus we can a learn from many unbelievers.


  2. Dg says Mencken matters because he’s proof that unbelievers are smart, and that the Holy Spirit is more powerful than reason in giving people faith in Jesus Christ as their savior.

    Wouldn’t it be not Spirit vs reason, but that He gives ‘sanctified reasoning’, much like He gives the disparaged (here by some) ‘sanctified intuition’.

    Also an important note, we take by faith in His word – unbelievers are fully accountable and responsible.


  3. Link article says It is to choose sickness over health, even as the evidence mounts that, unless one gets well, it will prove to be a sickness unto death.

    … and also is why downgrading, dismissing, denigrating sanctification(hello.. JohnY) is so despicable.
    God loves us too much.


  4. hmm. I think your article is saying 1) read the bible; 2) read everything else to see, compare it to, and be reminded how God and biblical principles are always right?

    ok, then – please send me your #1 recommended book (see how I downgraded that to just sending me one free book).

    thank you.


  5. Nuanced response here.

    There are different flavors of atheism. Strong atheists hold that there is sufficient evidence to believe that God’s existence is unlikely.

    Weak atheists hold that there is insufficient evidence to compel believ in God’s existence.

    Agnostics hold that evidence for or against God’s existence is impossible.

    Martin’s critique works against strong atheists, which is ultimately why they — eg Dawkins, Harris — get so much pushback even from within their own community. The arrogance of Dawkins proceeds from an overestimate of the hand he’s playing.

    Weak atheists are another matter, amd here’s where your critique of Martin has bite.

    Ultimately, the weak atheist does not believe, not because of an intellectual failing, but because the “reasons pf the heart” (or axioms or presuppositions) make nonbelief more plausible than belief in the face of the various evidences.

    In other words, a work of God is needed to change the heart — not the ability to reason, but the materials upon which reason works.


  6. The modern Catholic take that “grace perfects nature” clashes directly with total depravity, and tilts the entire RC project towards Modernism. Doubters might simply look at the evolving teaching programs of all the popes since DeLubac won the day. Depressing. And I think you are bit hard on Keller — being pretty takes non-stop work.


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