Treatise on the gods

Science by H. L. Mencken


Treatise on the Gods is H. L. Mencken's survey of the history and philosophy of religion, and was intended as an unofficial companion volume to his Treatise on Right and Wrong. The first and second printings were sold out before publication, and eight more printings followed. Its first edition received a major 5-column review in the New York Times, written by one P.W. Wilson; and the Marxist literary critic Granville Hicks called it "the best popular account we have of the origin and nature of religion." However, the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, writing in the Atlantic Monthly, claimed that "It is only in dealing with moral and social issues that [Mencken] achieves the heights of complete detachment, and in this case the detachment is that of a cynic rather than that of a scientist." By the end of its first year Treatise had sold thirteen thousand copies. By 1940 its popularity had waned, and although it went temporarily out of print in 1945, Mencken considered it "my best book, and by far." At the request of its original publisher Alfred A Knopf, Mencken wrote a revised edition, eliminating a controversial quote about Jews:

First Published


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