men and women are different – example 528873

Data on active users from the latest Ashley Madison hack. It is worth noting that female accounts are free, while men have to pay:


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romans 11 – paul addresses the gentiles

Rom 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry,
Rom 11:14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.

In the middle of Romans 11, Paul shifts his monologue to address the gentiles. He tells the gentiles that they have been grafted into the “tree” of Israel (God’s people). Paul’s teaching is that the Jews and gentiles are now equal before God. This would be a serious point of contention with Paul’s intended audience (as evident by the layout and style of Paul’s arguments).

Paul says that God is doing this in order to provoke the Jews to jealousy and perhaps get the nation of Israel to return to God (Rom 11:11). Paul then states that his purpose is the same as God’s. Paul is using his own writings to attempt to turn individuals to God through jealousy (Rom 11:14). Paul says that this is God’s ultimate goal: the salvation of Israel. God wishes wholeheartedly that they return to Him:

Rom 11:15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

The Jews are now “dead” and they can become alive if they become acceptable to God. God wants Israel to return. God has turned to the world. But God ultimately is using this to turn the Jews back to Him. In this sense, the gentile equality is a tool for Jewish salvation.

Paul then turns to a metaphor about tree farming. The original tree (Israel’s covenant relationship with God) is good. It will remain to be good, although individual branches are cut out of and added into this promise. Israel is cut out and the gentiles are grafted in. Paul uses the image of grafting, in which a tree of one type of fruit is welded to a tree of another type of fruit and the branch becomes a functioning part of the tree, bearing its original fruit. This has a second utility for Paul’s metaphor: fruit is often used of “good” and “bad” works throughout the Bible. If a branch bears bad fruit, it will be cut off. The purpose of the tree is ultimately to bear good fruit.

With this image, Paul can illustrate the current position of the gentiles:

Rom 11:16 For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches
Rom 11:17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
Rom 11:18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Rom 11:19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
Rom 11:20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.

Paul tells the gentiles to fear and not to take pride in their newfound status. The gentiles are not the root of the promise (Israel is). Any benefit that the gentiles are receiving has its origin in the promises of Israel. The gentiles are lucky to be included. They are not natural to the root. As a result, Paul tells the gentiles that they can be broken off more easily than the Jews:

Rom 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Rom 11:22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Paul is not saying the gentiles must be cut off at some point or that he knows they will be. Paul is saying that God is watching them. If the gentiles rebel in the same fashion as Israel, God will not hesitate to cut them off. God has even less emotional stock in the “wild branches” then He had for the “natural branches”. God operates on a principle of justice. Evil is punished and good is rewarded. Evil branches are cut off and tossed aside. Good branches are grafted into the tree.

It is conceivable that Paul’s converts had been causing fights with Christian Jews concerning equality theology. Paul tells them to not be prideful (Rom 11:20). Paul is most likely quieting those of his converts who are parading their equality in front of unreceptive Jews. In this fashion, Paul’s theology will not be so easily opposed by the church if it is made less of a point of contention. Paul is also placing a moral awareness on his gentile converts. If they do not behave, they will be cut off. God will not stand by and bless the evil.

Paul then maintains that there is hope yet for the Jews that have been cut off. Paul says that they will again be grafted into the people of God:

Rom 11:23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.
Rom 11:24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?

Notice the key phrase “if they do not continue in unbelief”. All of God’s promises are conditional. If the gentiles misbehave, they will be cut off. If Israel behaves, they will be grafted back in. God is responding in kind to the behavior of people.

Paul’s overall point is that because Israel was a chosen people then they can more easily reclaim that status than the gentiles (who were not the chosen people). Here, Paul is linking his theology to mainstream Jewish theology. Paul is telling his readers that his theology does not overturn God’s promises to Israel. Israel is still the chosen people. In Paul’s theology, Israel can leverage this advantage. This promise’s to Israel were not revoked.

In keeping with this idea, Paul tells of a future time in which Israel will reclaim her birthright:

Rom 11:25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
Rom 11:26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “THE DELIVERER WILL COME OUT OF ZION, AND HE WILL TURN AWAY UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB;

Paul references back to Old Testament eschatology. Paul is telling his readers that he still accepts standard Jewish eschatology that his “gentile equality” theology is not incompatible with their views of a future Jewish rulership. This will allow his readers to more easily accept Paul’s teachings on temporary gentile equality. Paul is stating that this phase with the gentiles has to run its course before God renews His covenant with Israel.

Paul then talks about the Jews which have been rejected. The promises yet apply to them as a people group. Although they hate the gentiles and reject the gentiles as equals, they still have been elected by God:

Rom 11:28 Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
Rom 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Notice that Paul is attempting to use the Jewish arguments to his own benefit. The Jews have argued that their status as a chosen people is irrevocable. Paul uses this and incorporates it into his own theology. Paul is diffusing their argument. The way that Israel’s promises are not revoked is that God still plans on fulfilling Jewish eschatology. Israel will still rule in a new world.

Paul does not detail the specifics as to how this operates with the gentiles who have been grafted into God’s people. Paul also does not assume this is a fated event. Throughout this passage, those who turn to God are accepted. If Israel continues in rebellion (per the fig tree imagery), they will not be grafted into the promise. It is only if Israel repents that they can reclaim their future promises.

Paul then reiterates the fact that all of God’s acts are based in justice and mercy. God operates with justice, blessing those who are good and punishing those who are evil. God responds to obedience. But God also operates with mercy. God cut off Israel because of their disobedience, but is using this turn of events to attempt to recall them to obedience:

Rom 11:30 For as you were once disobedient to God, yet have now obtained mercy through their disobedience,
Rom 11:31 even so these also have now been disobedient, that through the mercy shown you they also may obtain mercy.
Rom 11:32 For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.

The ultimate goal of this plan is to have “mercy on all”.

Paul ends this section, realizing that his audience will be hesitant to believe him. They will reject his theology. They will claim it is convoluted and makes no sense. So Paul appeals to God’s complexity:

Rom 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

If Paul’s hearers deny Paul’s message, they are rejecting God’s complex plans. God’s plans might be, on face value, confusing, but they are in no place to questions God’s acts.

This is not saying that no one can understand God’s plans; Paul has just explained it to his hearers in depth. Paul is saying that if the reader rejects Paul’s theology on complexity grounds, they misunderstand how God operates and with what detail of planning God can act. They are not even in a position to advise God on what God should do. God’s plan of Jewish-gentile equality is final and cannot be rejected.

To Paul, God operates based on the concepts of justice and mercy. God will punish an unbelieving Israel, but God’s punishment will be a form of rehabilitation for Israel. God is using the punishment to emotionally manipulate Israel into repentance and acceptance of God. God’s ultimate goal is to fulfill His eternal promises to Israel, but He cannot do that unless they become His righteous people. God responds.

God also has a heart for the gentiles. God is using Israel to bless the entire world. This is part of standard Jewish eschatology and it features prominently in Paul’s theology of Jewish-gentile equality. This illustrates God’s justice and mercy. Anyone who turns to God will be accepted by God (conversely, anyone who rebels will be cut off). God is willing to accept people of all nations and God is actively doing things (not just for the Jews) but for the entire world.

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God is personal

personalGod’s first act towards human beings is to create man in His image. This is a very important concept in the Bible. Whereas the pagan gods have idols in their image, mankind is God’s image (the same Hebrew word is used to mean both “images” and “idols” throughout the Bible). Man bears the image of God and as such is imbued a certain level of closeness to God, a certain level of inherent value, a certain level of responsibility and power. Man is God’s crowning creation.

God’s first act towards man is calling the animals to man to see what man calls them. In the opening chapters of Genesis, God is curious about humanity and is eager to see what they do. Mankind quickly falls from grace. God expels man from the Garden, fearful that they will eat of the Tree of Life and live forever. God is responding and taking precautionary actions. Who knows what His new creation is capable of doing?

After mankind becomes more wicked than God had ever imagined, God floods the world in an effort to destroy everything (man, birds, animals, plant life). This is an ultimate act of desperation and disgust. God reverses His own glorious creation. His hopes are shattered by the very creature in His own image. But God shows mercy and, as a result, starts a new creation.

After the flood, God declares He will never again destroy the world because God has learned that mankind will always be evil from their youth. God has learned about His creation, lowering His expectations. God resolves to remain in contact with and to commune with His imperfect creation.

After failing to reach the whole of mankind, God singles out an individual through whom He can reach the world. God’s ultimate goal is humanity in relationship with Him. Abram (Abraham) is this man. God walks with Abraham and talks to Abraham. God tells Abraham about His plans, and Abraham advises God on God’s actions. God blesses Abraham materially and through rapid growth in descendants.

After Abraham’s death, God raises a fledging nation (Israel) under the protection of Egypt. When Egypt begins to oppress Israel, God again intervenes to save Israel in a visible and powerful way. All other nations from that point forward will have reason to fear the God of Israel. God shelters Israel as He leads them away from Egypt, leading through the sea and desert, feeding and guiding them.

God then forms and then presents an eternal covenant to Israel, detailing actions Israel must take and must not take to remain faithful to the covenant. Israel listens to the covenant and forms a pact with God to always be true to God. Moses acts as the mediator. God seals this pact with a personal luncheon with the elders of Israel.

But as soon as Moses is gone for a short time, Israel abandons God and the covenant they had just formed. God burns with wrath, and Moses must intervene to save Israel. God wishes to wipe Israel from the face of the Earth and raise a new nation through Moses. Moses objects that God’s purposes to impress and intimidate foreign nations will be thwarted. God agrees. Although enraged, God spares Israel. And this is not the only time this series of events occur.

Throughout Israel’s life, God’s relationship with them is tumultic. Even the name “Israel” means “struggles with God” (originally based off an event in which Jacob literally wrestles with God or an angel). But this name fits Israel for the duration of their existence. God engages in a series of blessings, curses, salvations, and appeasements. All of these fail in creating the righteous nation that God envisioned. Israel continuously violates their covenant relationship despite God’s best efforts. At one point, God laments “what more could I have done”. God has exhausted His toolbox of methods to reach Israel. They continually reject God, no matter what God does or tries.

Israel endures the Assyrian captivity and the Babylonian captivity. God uses Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, and Malachi to spread His personalized messages to Israel about punishment, redemption, and a future hope. The message is tragic and compelling. Scattered through these writings, God impresses to Israel their status as a future priest nation. Through Israel, God would save the world.

As one last effort, God sends a Messiah (a Christ) to save Israel. Jesus preaches for 3 years and is, predictably, largely ignored. After Jesus dies and rises again, Israel still remains in rebellion against God. God turns to the Gentiles through an individual named Paul. Paul explains in the book of Romans that the Gentiles are now equal with the Jews. The Jewish rebellion has resulted in the advancement of the Gentiles. This is God’s last ditch effort to provoke the Jews to righteousness (in the words of Paul: through use of jealousy).

God’s grand plan to use Israel as a priest nation has failed. God has tried to build a people unto Himself, a nation of people with a special relation, a nation meant to be the light unto the world. This tragic turn of events may have delayed the end times, in which God plans to once again exalt the nation of Israel.

Ultimately, God plans to return to Earth and rule from Jerusalem. God plans a world in which the righteous live and the wicked are destroyed. God wishes to abolish pain and suffering and to live forever with a people of His own. All the nations of the world will come to God and worship in His holy city. In short, God’s relational nature is the story of the Bible. It is filled from end to end with God attempting to build a relationship with various people and nations. Often this ends in failure, but God presses through the failure with steadfast resolve.

The entire illustration of the Bible is one of utter commitment to a personal relationship to human beings. God attempts punishments and rewards. God attempts intimate appearances and utter abandonment. God attempts to reach the world through individuals, groups, and nations. God even sends His only son to reach the heart of mankind. Often this leads to heartbreak and disappointment in Yahweh, as He watches mankind repel Yahweh’s every advance.

A clear insight into God’s relational nature is through how God describes key individuals throughout the Bible. In Exodus 32 (see chapter 3), Moses stands in God’s way of destroying Israel. God changes His mind because of Moses’ intercession. Samuel intercedes for the people in 1 Samuel 12. Throughout the book of Samuel, the prophet Samuel has conversations with God. They exchange thoughts and feelings (see chapter 3). Both these men, Moses and Samuel, are given as prime examples of people who could sway God:

Jer 15:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!

Likewise, Abraham and David held personal relationships with God. Prophets, both small and great, converse with God and are blunt with God. In one such strange event (found in Ezekiel 4), God commands Ezekiel to use human waste to cook his food. Ezekiel objects. God instantly changes His requirements for Ezekiel and instead allows Ezekiel to use animal waste. God allows His commands to be modified, on the fly, by the desires of mankind.

Other times in the Bible, God has such high regard for individuals that he spares the lives of others as a result. In Ezekiel 14, we see the reverse. God is so incensed by Israel that no one except the righteous would be spared. This is a reversal of normal process:

Eze 14:14 even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver but their own lives by their righteousness, declares the Lord GOD…
Eze 14:16 even if these three men were in it, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, they would deliver neither sons nor daughters. They alone would be delivered, but the land would be desolate.

Individuals can personally move God into actions that God would not have taken otherwise. The Bible highlights several exceptional people to whom God defers in the face of extreme passion. The message is that God values people. Certain individuals can move God based on whom they are and how they behave. God is not one to eschew advice. God is not one to believe that He only has the only right answers. God builds personal relationships.

God, by His very being, is relational to human beings. Human beings are God’s ultimate creation. It is with humans that God wants to talk, walk, and experience life. Man has the ultimate ability to affect God’s heart, more than trees, rocks, or any animal. When man rejects God, God responds. Sometimes God responds in sadness. Sometimes God responds in confusion. Sometimes God responds in forgiveness. Sometimes God responds in anger. God responds. This is the primary witness of the Bible.

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irreducible complexity in the Bible

Throughout the Bible God is said to have done, thought, and said a host of things that modern Christians would like to dismiss. The easiest way they attempt to do this is by labeling God’s actions, thoughts, and words as an anthropomorphism. In reality, this is no different than labeling as fable, large swaths of the Bible. But even more telling is that the Bible stories themselves do not allow such a interpretation.

Take God’s dialogue in Exodus 32:

Exo 32:7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves.
Exo 32:8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ ”
Exo 32:9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people!
Exo 32:10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
Exo 32:11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?
Exo 32:12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.
Exo 32:13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
Exo 32:14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

This first thing to note is that this is a back and forth dialogue between Moses and God. If God did not say these things, then Moses also did not say these things. God says to Moses that the people have corrupted themselves. God says that He will destroy Israel. Moses “pleads” with God. Moses offers arguments to God as why God should not destroy Israel (Note: Moses did not believe in the modern concept of omniscience). As a result, God repents of the harm that He said He would do.

If God never said that He would destroy Israel, if God never said that He was full of wrath, then what is Moses responding to? Why does Moses argue in the fashion that he does? Moses’ argument only makes sense in light of Moses being informed by God in the manner described by the text. In other words, the text is irreducibly complex. God cannot be made non-literal without doing the same to Moses.

The text reads and only makes sense in light of a face value understanding of what is said and done. It is no wonder that future authors affirm the face value reading, as well.

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known to God from eternity are all His works

Act 15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.

In Act 15:18 there is a curious phrase. The scene is the Paul’s trial in Jerusalem in front of the elders of the church (known as the Council of Jerusalem). The detractors of Paul’s argue that Paul’s message of Jewish-Gentile equality is blasphemous. James argues on behalf of Paul that the Gentiles were long ago singled out for inclusion to some extent with the Jews:

Act 15:13 And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, “Men and brethren, listen to me:
Act 15:14 Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
Act 15:15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written:

Verse 14 recalls that God chose through Peter some gentiles to follow God. James points out that the prophets have written as much. Indeed, this theme of the Gentiles turning to God is systematic throughout the Bible. Peter then adds:

Act 15:18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.

Those wishing to have some sort of view that God has exhaustive omniscience of future events will claim this phrase means that God always knows everything He is going to do. But that does not seem to fit the argument of James:

God has chosen gentiles to serve Him. God has written about this in the prophets. God knows everything He will ever do. Therefor let the gentiles join in fellowship.

This does not flow right. Why add the statement about God’s knowledge. What is it telling the audience that they do not already know? How does it support the argument?

The ESV is translated from the Wescott Hort Greek text. It renders the verses in a more sensible manner:

Act 15:16 “‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
Act 15:17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things
Act 15:18 known from of old.’

Notice how the ESV translates the same word as “from of old” that other versions translate “from eternity” or “from the foundation of the Earth”. This just helps show that theology dictates translation of texts.

The Alexandrian text does not have the phrase: “to God… are all His works.” Regardless of the Alexandrian text’s accuracy, this meaning can easily be extended to the Byzantine translations.

“Known to God from eternity are all His works.” could be James’ way of saying: “God has let us know that He was going to do this long ago.” There is no reason to extend them meaning to “all things that God will ever do God knows from ancient times”. It makes more sense to be limited to context. In this manner, James’ argument is:

God has chosen gentiles to serve Him. God has written about this in the prophets. God has been planning this for a long time (and has made no secret of it). Therefor let the gentiles join in fellowship.

This is most likely James’ argument.

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the moabites thwart God

In 2 Kings 3, Jehoram (king of Israel) and Jehoshaphat (king of Judah) set out to defeat the rebellious Moabites. Jehoshaphat inquires of the prophet of Yahweh as to the outcome of the battle. This prophet is Elisha and Elisha prophesies utter victory:

2Ki 3:14 And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I have regard for Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would neither look at you nor see you.
2Ki 3:15 But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.
2Ki 3:16 And he said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I will make this dry streambed full of pools.’
2Ki 3:17 For thus says the LORD, ‘You shall not see wind or rain, but that streambed shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, you, your livestock, and your animals.’
2Ki 3:18 This is a light thing in the sight of the LORD. He will also give the Moabites into your hand,
2Ki 3:19 and you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree and stop up all springs of water and ruin every good piece of land with stones.”

Yahweh comes upon Elisha and Elisha prophecies in the name of God: Israel and Judah will destroy every fort and major city of the Moabites. Both Elisha and Yahweh are confident in this fact. As God promises, the water fills the land without rain. The enemy army mistakes the pools of water for pools of blood and charge in for the attack. Israel and Judah route them in a decisive victory. But then something happens. The King of Moab sees that he is losing the battle and quickly sacrifices his own son to his local god:

2Ki 3:27 Then he took his oldest son who was to reign in his place and offered him for a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel. And they withdrew from him and returned to their own land.

This turns the tide against Israel. The Moabites push back and push Israel back into their own land. The Moabites were not “given” into the hand of Israel as Elisha had prophesied.

So what is happening here? Michael Heisner offers the best solution:

In the Old Testament, we read that the Israelites believed the gods of other nations were real, assigned to the nations by Yahweh, who was superior and ruled over all other gods (Deut 32: 8– 9). They believed these gods were demons— real spiritual beings (Deut 32: 17). Given the nature of this worldview, it seems the Israelites were frightened by the sacrifice and lost faith, thinking Moab’s god was angry against them and would empower Moab to win because of the sacrifice.

Elisha had told the kings of Israel and Judah that God would help them. So why had He not? This situation isn’t the first time God promises but chooses not to deliver: God had told the Israelites that they would conquer Canaan under Moses and Joshua, yet they failed because of unbelief (Num 13; Deut 31: 1– 7; Josh 13: 1– 5; Judg 1: 27– 36). Yahweh was not defeated by the god of Moab. He was, and is, ready and able to help His people. But He will not do so if they refuse to believe and act on that belief.

God was willing to help Israel defeat the Moabites, but God was never going to act unilaterally. When the people turn and flee, God withdraws His help. This story might also explain the failed prophecy of Tyre.

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mencken on government

When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. -H. L. Mencken

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. -H. L. Mencken

Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping, and unintelligent. -H. L. Mencken

The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule. -H. L. Mencken

The worst government is the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression. -H. L. Mencken

If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner. -H. L. Mencken

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