Sep 12, 1880 – Jan 29, 1956
No one mourns for dead gods. Once mighty, omniscient, omnipotent, deities, feared or loved, worshipped and eulogized, are as nothing once they take their place in the trashcan of history and become just those laughably silly, mythical gods simple, ignorant people of times gone by used to believe in before they knew any better.
I read this in Christopher Hitchen's must-read collection of Atheist writings, "The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever".
H. L. MENCKEN
Where is the graveyard of dead gods? What lingering mourner waters their mounds? There was a day when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. But where in all the world is there a man who worships Jupiter today? And what of Huitzilopochtli? In one year—and it is no more than five hundred years ago—fifty thousand youths and maidens were slain in sacrifice to him. Today, if he is remembered at all, it is only by some vagrant savage in the depths of the Mexican forest. Huitzilopochtli, like many other gods, had no human father; his mother was a virtuous widow; he was born of an apparently innocent flirtation that she carried on with the sun. When he frowned, his father, the sun, stood still. When he roared with rage, earthquakes engulfed whole cities. When he thirsted he was watered with ten thousand gallons of human blood. But today Huitzilopochtli is as magnificently forgotten as Alien G. Thurman. Once the peer of Allah, Buddha and Wotan, he is now the peer of General Coxey, Richmond P. Hobson, Nan Patterson, Alton B. Parker, Adelina Patti, General Weyler, and Tom Sharkey.
Speaking of Huitzilopochtli recalls his brother, Tezcatilpoca. Tezcatilpoca was almost as powerful: he consumed twenty-five thousand virgins a year. Lead me to his tomb: I would weep, and hang a couronne des perles. But who knows where it is? Or where the grave of Quetzalcoatl is? Or Tialoc? Or Chalchihuitlicue? Or Xiehtecutli? Or Centeotl, that sweet one? Or Tlazolteotl, the goddess of love? Or Mictlan? Or Ixtlilton? Or Omacatl? Or Yacatecutli? Or Mixcoatl? Or Xipe? Or all the host of Tzitzimitles? Where are their bones? Where is the willow on which they hung their harps? In what forlorn and unheard-of hell do they await the resurrection morn? Who enjoys their residuary estates? Or that of Dis, whom Cæsar found to be the chief god of the Celts? Or that of Tarves, the bull? Or that of Moccos, the pig? Or that of Epona, the mare? Or that of Mullo, the celestial jack-ass? There was a time when the Irish revered all these gods as violently as they now hate the English. But today even the drunkest Irishman laughs at them.
But they have company in oblivion: the hell of dead gods is as crowded as the Presbyterian hell for babies. Damona is there, and Esus, and Drunemeton, and Silvana, and Dervones, and Adsalluta, and Deva, and Belisama, and Axona, and Vintios, and Taranuous, and Sulis, and Cocidius, and Adsmerius, and Dumiatis, and Caletos, and Moccus, and Ollovidius, and Albiorix, and Leucitius, and Vitucadrus, and Ogmios, and Uxellimus, and Borvo, and Grannos, and Mogons. All mighty gods in their day, worshiped by millions, full of demands and impositions, able to bind and loose—all gods of the first class, not dilettanti. Men labored for generations to build vast temples to them—temples with stones as large as hay-wagons. The business of interpreting their whims occupied thousands of priests, wizards, archdeacons, evangelists, haruspices, bishops, archbishops. To doubt them was to die, usually at the stake. Armies took to the field to defend them against infidels: villages were burned, women and children were butchered, cattle were driven off. Yet in the end they all withered and died, and today there is none so poor to do them reverence. Worse, the very tombs in which they lie are lost, and so even a respectful stranger is debarred from paying them the slightest and politest homage.
What has become of Sutekh, once the high god of the whole Nile valley? What has become of:
Resheph Baal Anath Astarte Ashtoreth Hadad El Addu Nergal Shalem Nebo Dagon Ninib Sharrab Melek Yau Ahijah Amon-Re Isis Osiris Ptah Sebek Anubis Molech ?
All these were once gods of the highest eminence. Many of them are mentioned with fear and trembling in the Old Testament. They ranked, five or six thousand years ago, with Jahveh himself; the worst of them stood far higher than Thor. Yet they have all gone down the chute, and with them the following:
Bilé Gwydion Lêr Manawyddan Arianrod Nuada Argetlam Morrigu Tagd Govannon Goibniu Gunfled Odin Sokk-mimi Llaw Gyffes Memetona Lleu Dagda Ogma Kerridwen Mider Pwyll Rigantona Ogyrvan Marzin Dea Dia Mars Ceros Jupiter Vaticanus Cunina Edulia Potina Adeona Statilinus Iuno Lucina Diana of Ephesus Saturn Robigus Furrina Pluto Vediovis Ops Consus Meditrina Cronos Vesta Enki Tilmun Engurra Zer-panitu Belus Merodach Dimmer U-ki Mu-ul-lil Dauke Ubargisi Gasan-abzu Ubilulu Elum Gasan-lil U-Tin-dir ki U-dimmer-an-kia Marduk Enurestu Nin-lil-la U-sab-sib Nin U-Mersi Persephone Tammuz Istar Venus Lagas Bau U-urugal Mulu-hursang Sirtumu Anu Ea Beltis Nirig Nusku Nebo Ni-zu Samas Sahi Ma-banba-anna Aa En-Mersi Allatu Amurru Sin Assur AbilAddu Aku Apsu Beltu Dagan Dumu-zi-abzu Elali Kuski-banda Isum Kaawanu Mami Nin-azu Nin-man Lugal-Amarada Zaraqu Qarradu Suqamunu Ura-gala Zagaga Ueras
You may think I spoof. That I invent the names. I do not. Ask the rector to lend you any good treatise on comparative religion: you will find them all listed. They were gods of the highest standing and dignity—gods of civilized peoples—worshipped and believed in by millions. All were theoretically omnipotent, omniscient, and immortal. And all are dead.
H.L. Menchen quoted in:
Hitchens, Christopher (2007-12-10); The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (pp. 143-146).
Perseus Books Group, Kindle Edition.
Just as with those old, quaint gods of recent history, today's gods will one day join that long, un-illustrious pantheon of old dead, once immortal and indestructible, now powerless gods that no one mourns, to whom no one sings songs of praise, in whom no one now has any faith, whose grave no one can find and on which no one would bother to put any flowers.