Anti-Christian: Why Huckleberry Finn is Bad Literature

"If Christians do not recognize the work of Satan in men like Mark Twain, they will most likely be deceived by men… like Mark Twain."

He rejected Christ, hated Christians, and praised the revolutionaries in Russia who were seeking to overthrow the Tsar. He also wrote the famous, godless book called Huckleberry Finn . . .

This article from our archives was first published on RI in October 2019

How have Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck contributed to the decline and fall of Western civilization? How have they helped bring about America's apostasy from Christian faith? In the book, Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West, Kevin Swanson explores answers to this question. This book is available in paperback, hardcover, and also on the Kindle.

The article below is an excerpt from this phenominal book, detailing numerous reasons why Christian parents should not let their children read Huckleberry Finn . . . or anything else written by Mark Twain.


Mark Twain: Rejecting the Faith

The Incredible Impact of Huckleberry Finn

Huckleberry Finn: Praising Apostasy

Rejecting the Faith

Mark Twain — AD 1835 -1910 

Born in Florida, Missouri, on November 30, 1835, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain1) would come to popularize the American independent spirit. Just a few months after he was born, the first wagon trains left Independence, Missouri, to settle the Western frontier. Out of this new breed of independent Americans there came a great deal of family-disintegrating feminism, murderous violence, libertarianism, divorce, strange cults, and weak Christian churches. To this day, the highest divorce rates in America are found in the Western states.2 Mark Twain either played off of this social milieu or contributed to it.

Mark Twain’s mother raised him in the Presbyterian Church where he remained until 1858 (when he was 23 years old). For the rest of his life he would now and then refer to himself as a Presbyterian. What he called his “Presbyterian conscience” would continue to nag him, giving him no end of angst. Mark Twain’s apostasy may have been encouraged by his father, who referred to himself as a deist. 

Mark Twain’s first antipathy was towards “organized religion.” It was not unusual for the 19th century apostates to save their most acidic salvos for the organized church, while eking out a little faint praise for Jesus and God just in case He exists. For example, Jeremy Bentham vented strongly against organized religion and the Apostle Paul, but stopped short of publicly confessing his atheist faith. Predictably, Jesus would not have been impressed by these attacks on His church, with which He is intimately connected. He would say, “Love Me, love My friends, love My church” (John 13:34, 35; 1 John 4:20, 21). When it comes to the church of Christ, somehow the apostate mind becomes a straw-man factory. Given enough time, an unbelieving, malicious mind will characterize every church and every Christian as the great enemy of all that is rational, good, and authentic. To this day, millions of Americans freely express contempt for the organized church, though they still half-heartedly acknowledge a “God” or a “Savior.” 

For most of his life, Mark Twain cloaked his atheism in humor, dubitable statements, and mockery at the more dysfunctional elements of 19th century Christianity. With the years, his apostasy became increasingly self-conscious, serious, and foreboding. By the end of his life, he may have been the most famous writer in the world. He was a great leader in a rapidly expanding literary world, and he was an apostate of apostates. In 1906, he chose to include a chapter in his autobiography that revealed his complete break with the faith. He warned his publisher William Dean Howells up front, “Tomorrow I mean to dictate a chapter which will get my heirs and assigns burnt alive if they venture to print it this side of AD 2006.”3 In this bone-chilling chapter, Mark Twain clearly communicated his unmitigated hatred for Christians, the Bible, and God. For example, he called the Bible “the most damnatory biography that exists in print anywhere.” He added, “It makes Nero an angel of light and leading, by contrast.” He also referred to God as “repulsive,” “vindictive,” and “malignant.”4 He referred to the modern form of Christianity as “still a hundred times better than the Christianity of the Bible, with its prodigious crime—the invention of hell.”5 He further accused the Bible of “the propagation of vice among children, vicious and unclean ideas, daily and constantly in every Protestant family in Christendom.”6 Indeed, this was the “worst God that the ingenuity of man has begotten from his insane imagination.”7 Against this God, Mark Twain proposes another creator god who is not much better than the biblical God that he hated so much. “He proves every day, that He takes no interest in man, nor in the other animals, further than to torture them, slay them, and get out of this pastime such entertainment as it may afford.”8 In the end, Mark Twain concocted a cruel, determinist world that would not allow for human responsibility in moral action, or for God’s mercy upon man in his hopeless predicament.9 

Ultimately, he conceded that death is “the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them—and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence; where they achieved nothing; where they were a mistake and a failure and a foolishness.”10 Finally, the apostate of the modern era has arrived at the self-consistent position of hopeless nihilism and epistemological bankruptcy. You will remember that Nietzsche fought desperately to avoid such a predicament in his thinking, but the modern man finds resistance futile. 

I must relate one last horrible event in Mark Twain’s life that completed his singularly spectacular rejection of the Christian faith. In 1909, only a year before he died, he transcribed what he called a message from Satan himself entitled Letters from the Earth. He fully understood the extent to which these writings would sully his public image should they be published. Concerning Letters, Twain told his friend, Elizabeth Wallace, “This book will never be published. In fact it couldn’t be because it would be a felony.”11 

In these letters from Satan to the archangels, Mark Twain held nothing back. Among other assorted blasphemies, he referred to the Bible as a compendium of “blood-drenched history… and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.”12 The book is self-consciously evil. The immoral, the irreverent, the blasphemous, or demonic—it is all fair game in this hell-forged tome. He even exhorted women to “the high privileges of unlimited adultery.”13 Harper and Brothers tried to publish the work in 1939, but the project was nixed by Twain’s daughter Clara. Finally, the book was printed and released in 1962.14 By this time, the sexual revolution was in full swing, and Mark Twain’s brave, progressive views were well in step with the wider culture. Without question, he was a powerful influence and pioneer for the anti-Christian, anti-morality, anti-family agenda that dominates our world today. Yet, as a popular writer, he met his market in the day he lived. The Marquis de Sade was 200 years ahead with his moral perversions, but Mark Twain was the man of his age, the leader of the revolution, and an apostate of the Nephilim class. 

He may have “gently” mocked Christian traditions in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn as some biographers put it, but Americans weren’t ready for Letters from the Earth until the nation had grown up with Huckleberry Finn. Would Americans have wanted to believe that Mark Twain was a full-fledged apostate in 1909? As one biographer observed, Mark Twain “secretly compiled the texts that would fully declare his apostasy after his death.”15 

While exaggerating the power of Satan and ascribing omnipotence to him is antithetical to a Christian worldview, it is also dangerous to minimize his power. If Christians do not recognize the work of Satan in men like Mark Twain, they will most likely be deceived by men… like Mark Twain. As Christians, we are not frightened, but we must take the evil words and works of an evil man seriously. If God takes it seriously, and if God’s judgment will take it seriously, then we must take it seriously. Few Christian literature teachers and students know how to reprove “the unfruitful works of darkness” because they do not categorize them as “the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11). They fail to recognize the antithesis when they see it. 

Mark Twain especially hated Christian missionaries. He supported the communist Nikolai Tchaikovsky, and publicly endorsed fund-raising campaigns for the Russian communist revolutions.16 He told the New York World: “I sympathize with these Russian revolutionaries, and in common with some other people, I hope that they will succeed.”17 Regrettably, they did succeed—by slaughtering tens of millions of innocent people in Russia, not to mention the other communist pogroms in China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. It was the most pervasive persecution of the Christian church since the Roman days. No doubt Mark Twain would have been pleased with the success of the revolutions.

Before she died, his mother expressed regrets that he had lived beyond his childhood years.18 That a mother should arrive at this tragic conclusion is a sharp reminder of the radical and destructive nature of the man’s apostasy. 
Mark Twain serves as a prototype for other literary apostates who took the world by storm in the 20th century. Doubtless, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck wouldn’t have minded the moniker. The tradition continues with men like Frank Schaeffer, who shocked the world in the early years of the 21st century with his vitriolic criticism of his parents’ Christian faith and culture. After breaking ranks with the Christian reforming efforts of his father, the Christian-apologist Francis Schaeffer, Frank became one of the more spectacular apostates of the modern age. His books detailing his father’s sins, his mother’s sexuality, and his hatred for the “blasphemous God-of-the-Bible” market well to the growing audience of atheists, agnostics, apostates, and generally profane readers. Schaeffer takes Mark Twain’s apostasy to a new level.19 

In short, if you believe that God is real and Satan is real, then Mark Twain was a dangerous man. He may have been a talented writer, and he may have enthused hundreds of millions of people around the world, but he set a bad trajectory for himself and his readers during the great apostasy of the Western world. Mark Twain hated God, and he led the masses into apostasy. The apostate philosophers (covered in the first part of this book) wrote for the academics, but Mark Twain wrote for the popular market—the high school students and the ordinary citizens of America, (who themselves would abandon the orthodox faith in the 19th and 20th centuries). 

The Incredible Impact of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain was the quintessential American author, arguably the most popular writer this country has ever produced. His book Adventures of Huckleberry Finn appears on almost every list of the most important books of the last 200 years. rates Huckleberry Finn as the second most important American novel of all time (second to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird). lists two 19th century novels on the list of “Great American Novels,” and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is included (along with Melville’s Moby Dick). Recently, 125 of the most prominent modern authors provided lists of their favorite ten books of all time. The two American novels which made the top ten list were Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.20 It would be fair to say that no other American novel has had more influence on modern writers than this book. To understand what happened to the faith in the West, students of literature and history must understand something of the impact of Huckleberry Finn.

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an American classic. Ernest Hemingway went so far as to say of this work that “all modern American literature stems from this one book.” H.L. Mencken wrote on the discovery of this novel as “the most stupendous event of my whole life.” This novel has won the hearts of millions of Americans… towards Mark Twain’s strident agnosticism. It is impossible to miss Huck’s worldview if you’re looking for it. Sadly, the book was written for adults and children alike, many of whom morphed into Mark Twain’s worldview without realizing it. 

Mark Twain takes advantage of the uncritical mind and the biblically illiterate Christian. He knows how to construct complex ethical scenarios in order to tie the unwary Christian reader up in knots. The main character in the story, Huckleberry Finn, is presented as the likable, footloose and free, practical-minded American who is confused and turned off by the “Christian” caricatures he meets along the way. Virtually all of the characters in the story have their roots half buried in 1,500 years of Western Christianity. Even the hucksters know enough Christianity to hold a revival service. However, all of the Christians are presented in varying shades of hypocrisy and ignorance so that by the end of the tale, the reader is left with a thoroughly negative impression of the Christian faith. 

Whereas Hawthorne mocked a certain form of Christianity, Mark Twain unashamedly bashes every symbol and sacrament of the faith. His protagonist sees no need to atone for his guilt, while Hawthorne’s Dimmesdale and Hester Prynne continued to engage futile attempts to self-atone all the way to the end. . . .

Huckleberry Finn: Praising Apostasy

Mark Twain endears us to the hero of the story, Huckleberry Finn, mainly through his use of humor. Of course, Huck’s commitment to help Jim with his escape from slavery wins the hearts of the readers. As Huck adamantly rejects thin-coated, hypocritical Christianity, the reader will almost inevitably want to take his side. By the end of the story, we get the message loud and clear: Huck is a good old boy, and Christians are simple-minded and stupid. As is typical with the individualized American religion, Huck makes up his religion as he goes along; it is sometimes dualistic (he believes in a good god and a bad god) and sometimes agnostic. As the story plays out, Huck is particularly given to the sins of cursing, blasphemy, dishonor of parents, cross-dressing, stealing, and lying.

Perhaps the most appalling part of Huck’s character is his readiness to break God’s law without regret. His forthright disobedience of God’s law, his apparent lack of conscience, and his audacious rebellion against God was appealing to 19th century readers. This was how our nation lost its respect for God’s law and God’s judgment. Of course, the stars of today’s world break God’s law with abandon, but before any of these celebrities showed up there was Huck Finn. People emulate their heroes. When the humanist cultural power centers manufacture heroes who exemplify godless, immoral lifestyles, hundreds of millions of people follow them. Huck is such a hero. Today, the cultural machine cranks out the new heroes every year or two, including such familiar names as Michael Jackson, Eminem, Hannah Montana, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift. Some of these celebrities begin with a little respect for Christianity, but they quickly demonstrate their true commitments, as they go on to promote homosexuality, serial fornicating hook-ups, and other assorted iniquities. These cultural icons become the primary role models that lead in the moral decay of the age. They play the part of the old hero gods of the Greeks, and their influence is legion. We shall treat this subject in the third section of this book.

Within the first pages of Mark Twain’s classic, Huck mocks the idea of God’s judgment and the Christian doctine of hell when he tells Miss Watson that he wishes he was in hell. No wonder H.L. Mencken and Ernest Hemingway were so appreciative of this groundbreaking work. To lend historical perspective, neither Shakespeare nor Hawthorne openly mocked the idea of God’s judgment. Hester Prynne was less concerned about God’s judgment than Lady Macbeth, but she wasn’t going to mock it in 1850. By the 1890s, the Western world was well prepared to rid itself of the fear of God, which is the beginning of wisdom according to God’s revelation (Prov. 1:7; 9:8). The presence and relevance of God was fading from the American mind. 

From Chapter 28, the story turns grim. Here Huck shrugs off Mary Jane’s prayers, comparing prayers for him to something like praying for Judas Iscariot. Then in Chapter 31, Huck makes the fateful commitment to remain wicked and “go to hell.” All in all, this makes for a rather unhappy story, when we realize that we are actually visiting with “the Man in the Iron Cage.”25 At this point, the story is no longer entertaining. We cannot fellowship with the character, but shall we pity him? Shall we weep over him? Certainly it is hard to laugh while he works his merry way through the gates of hell. At the least, we hope that the readers of this dreadful story will not identify with Huckleberry Finn in his skepticism. Alas, that is typically not the case in American high schools and colleges. Of course, Huck must deal a little with his conscience in this story. He dislikes his conscience because he thinks it is irrational. “Whether you do right or wrong, it still attacks you,” he complains. In the end, Huck settles for pragmatism as the best ethical course. He says, “I don’t care about the morality of it” (Chapter 36). Both Huck and Tom agree that the ends will justify all means to accomplish the goals they have in mind, and for these boys, the means usually involve an appreciable measure of stealing and lying. Although he does feel a little guilt here and there, Huck refuses to seek redemption in Christ. As in The Scarlet Letter, we find that the Person of Christ is conspicuously absent from this story, though it repeatedly mentions Christians, the Bible, God, heaven, and hell. In the end, Huck is redeemed by abandoning his conscience (as well as any “traditional” or biblical morality) altogether. Thus, he feels free to modify his moral code as he goes along.

The other characters in the story adopt different “religious” perspectives. Tom Sawyer believes the Bible is a bunch of fairy tales (Chapter 3). Mary Jane is the most genuine believer in the story, though still misguided according to Huck’s perspective (Chapter 28). Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally are well-meaning Christians who support slavery and de-humanize the African-Americans with their language by referring to them as something less than human (Chapter 32). Huck’s father is an unbeliever, an abusive drunk, and a scofflaw. Huck’s friend, Jim, practices a religion that mixes pagan animism and Christianity. However, the Christian family that best represents the historical American family is the Grangerford family (Chapters 17 and 18). Huck meets this family on his way down the Mississippi river. They are presented as church members, and their home library consists of the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and a Hymnal. This “nice” Christian family attends church on Sunday morning, and they murder people on Sunday afternoon. Despite the fact that the old matriarch spends most of the day reading the Bible, this family engages in murderous activities on a regular basis. If Mark Twain truly considered the Bible a repository of a “blood-drenched history” and a “wealth of obscenity,” then the Grangerford family activities must have been inspired by these “Scriptures.” Mark Twain’s views expressed in his famous novel were only repeated in his Satanic Letters From The Earth. 

Fittingly, the story ends with: “Yours truly, Huck Finn.” There is a dark irony contained in these last words. Throughout the narrative, Huck has proven himself to be the consummate liar. He makes up new stories for almost every person he meets. By the end of the account, there is no way to know whether or not Huck has just pulled the wool over the eyes of the reader as well as the characters involved. Of course, the story is fictional but what about the story behind the story? At the beginning of the novel, Mark Twain opens with these words, “This book was made by Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly.” But if the novel justifies lying for the protagonist, what can we say for the author? What about the worldview behind the fiction? What about the mockery of Christianity or the agnosticism of Huck? Was all this true, mainly? Or does Mark Twain prevaricate, equivocate, fabricate, and calumniate as much as Huck lies? Mark Twain may have been a great writer, but he was also an expert liar. Pilate asked a very important, fundamental question at the trial of the Lord Jesus Christ. “What is truth?” Mark Twain abandoned the only possible source for an absolute truth—divine revelation. Without the truth of God’s Word, we are forever lost in a snowstorm in Antarctica when it comes to discerning what is true and what is false. When Mark Twain rejected this truth, all he could do was play with lies. That is what he did, and he was good at it.

The above article is an excerpt from Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West. This book is available in paperback, hardcover, and also on the Kindle.


1. Clemens’ pen name came from the men running the riverboats. As they approached the depth of two fathoms, the ship mates would cry, “Mark twain!” Clemens worked as a riverboat captain in his early 20’s. 
2., (Data taken from the 2009 Statistical Abstract and the U.S. Census Bureau) 
3. Michael Shelden, Mark Twain: Man in White (New York: Random House, 2010), 76. 
4. Ibid. 77. 
5. Mark Twain, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2 (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2013), 132. 
6. Ibid. 135. 
7. Ibid. 
8. Ibid. 140. 
9. Ibid. 142. 
10. Mark Twain, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol 1 (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010), 325. 
11. Shelden, 383. 
12. Mark Twain, Letters from the Earth (New York: Perennial Library, 1974), 20. 
13. Ibid. 
14. Shelden, 384. 
15. Ron Powers, Mark Twain: A Life (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2005), 31. 
16. Ibid. 462, 463.
17. Twain, Autobiography, Vol 1, 158. 
18. Ibid, Vol 1, 216. 
19. Frank Schaeffer, Sex, Mom, and God (Philadelphia: Perseus Books, 2011), 29, 33, 83. 
20. Lev Grossman, “The Ten Greatest Books of All Time,” Time Entertainment,,8599,1578073,00.html. 
21. inhabitants/ 
23. William Penn, “Letter to Peter the Great, Czar of Russia” 
24. Annalyn Kurtz, “Majority of Americans Have Received Government Aid,” CNN Money,
25. Refer to the character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, who was convinced he was going to hell, and could not be persuaded otherwise.

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