A Mencken Chrestomathy Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. In Chapter 1, how does Mencken's view of humanity coincide with that of the modern scientist?

Mencken affirmed in the late 1910s and early 1920s the view of the modern scientist. Man is not the center of the universe. Rather, he is the product of random, incomprehensible and ultimately meaningless processes.

2. In Chapter 1, what comparison does Mencken make between man and animal? Who is "superior"?

Mencken thinks it is appropriate that man be dethroned from his seat at the center of the universe, as he is full of errors and is prone to believe all sorts of ridiculous things. Further, many animals have faculties superior to his and their faculties seem to run them into less trouble than the faculty that makes man unique, his imagination.

3. What does Mencken believe about the nature of man and God? What is the consequence for believing in God? What about the soul?

If one thinks that man was created by God, one must inevitably ascribe to God fault for all the errors of man or suppose that God himself possesses those same errors. It will not do to say that man has a soul and so he is unique and like God. It has utterly failed as a device intended to make us more like him.

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