A Religious Orgy in Tennessee

A Reporter's Account of the Scopes Monkey Trial

By H. L. Mencken
(Melville House Publishing, Paperback, 9781933633176, 206pp.)

Publication Date: September 2006

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Description

"The native American Voltaire, the enemy of all puritans, the heretic in the Sunday school, the one-man demolition crew of the genteel tradition."
—Alistair Cooke

Fiercely intelligent, scathingly honest, and hysterically funny, H.L. Mencken’s coverage of the Scopes Monkey Trial so galvanized the nation that it eventually inspired a Broadway play and the classic Hollywood movie Inherit the Wind.

Mencken’ s no-nonsense sensibility is still exciting: his perceptive rendering of the courtroom drama; his piercing portrayals of key figures Scopes, Clarence Darrow, and William Jennings Bryan; his ferocious take on the fundamentalist culture surrounding it all—including a raucous midnight trip into the woods to witness a secret “holy roller” service.

Shockingly, these reports have never been gathered together into a book of their own—until now.

A Religious Orgy In Tennessee includes all of Mencken’s reports for The Baltimore Sun, The Nation, and The American Mercury. It even includes his coverage of Bryan’s death just days after the trial—an obituary so withering Mencken was forced by his editors to rewrite it, angering him and leading him to rewrite it yet again in a third version even less forgiving than the first. All three versions are included, as is a complete transcript of the trial’s most legendary exchange: Darrow’s blistering cross-examination of Bryan.

With the rise of “intelligent design,” H.L. Mencken’ s work has never seemed more unnervingly timely—or timeless.




About the Author
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 - 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism. Nietzsche's key ideas include the Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy, perspectivism, the Will to Power, the "death of God," the Ubermensch and eternal recurrence. One of the key tenets of his philosophy is the concept of "life-affirmation," which embraces the realities of the world in which we live over the idea of a world beyond. It further champions the creative powers of the individual to strive beyond social, cultural, and moral contexts.Nietzsche's attitude towards religion and morality was marked with atheism, psychologism and historism; he considered them to be human creations loaded with the error of confusing cause and effect. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary, and his influence remains substantial, particularly in the continental philosophical schools of existentialism, postmodernism, and post-structuralism. His ideas of individual overcoming and transcendence beyond structure and context have had a profound impact on late-twentieth and early-twenty-first century thinkers, who have used these concepts as points of departure in the development of their philosophies. Most recently, Nietzsche's reflections have been received in various philosophical approaches which move beyond humanism, e.g. transhumanism. Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist-a scholar of Greek and Roman textual criticism-before turning to philosophy. In 1869, at age twenty-four, he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel, the youngest individual to have held this position. He resigned in the summer of 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life. In 1889, at age forty-four, he suffered a collapse and a complete loss of his mental faculties. The breakdown was later ascribed to atypical general paresis due to tertiary syphilis, but this diagnosis has come into question. Nietzsche lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897, after which he fell under the care of his sister Elisabeth Forster-Nietzsche until his death in 1900.
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