Think for Yourself: The Fallacy of Organized Religion in Huck Finn
In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain shows the fallacy of organized religion, including hypocrisy, and the loss of the message. Twain also shows, through Huck, that one can be perfectly moral and make the right decisions even when one is not "sivilized" (Twain 32). Furthermore, one is able to think for ones' self and make the moral decision. Twain demonstrates that one can be moral and righteous without relying on an organized religion.
All throughout the story, Twain pokes fun at organized religion. The Widow Douglas tells Huck not to smoke tobacco, however she takes snuff and "of course that was all right, because she done it herself" (Twain 3). Snuff is merely dry tobacco and is not much different than smoking, thus showing the hypocrisy of someone who is very religious. Later in the book, Twain pokes fun at the Grangerfords and the Shepherdsons who take their guns to church while the preacher talks about brotherly love. The Grangerfords enjoy the ceremony and "said it was a good sermon, and they all talked it over going home, and had such a powerful lot to say about faith and good works and free grace and preforeordestination", but fail to realize that the preacher was talking about the silliness of their own feud (Twain 139). In another part of the book, the congregation at a religious revival can not even hear what the preacher is saying "on account of the shouting and crying" (Twain 167). They are so taken up in the histrionics that they can not hear the message they are supposedly reacting to.
Huck himself does not believe in societies' religion. Several times throughout the book, Huck questions his feelings versus the beliefs society imposes on him - the beliefs of organized religion. In the beginning of the story, Huck says that he wants to go to the "bad place" because Tom was going there and he wanted a change (Twain 3). He doesn't see the point in trying to get into the "good place" (Twain 3). Later in the book, Huck thinks about society's values concerning slavery. Society, including organized religions, told him that slaves are property which belong to their masters. However, throughout the book, Huck learns, through Jim, that slaves are people with feelings and families as well. Huck is reminded of this difference in opinions when Jim talks about stealing his children. "I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him" (Twain 113).
Throughout the book Huck debates whether to turn Jim in. At one point he makes up his mind to turn Jim in and he "felt easy and happy and light as a feather" (Twain 113). But then, a few minutes later, Huck is reminded of Jim's humanity and Jim's feelings for him, "Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on'y white genlman dat ever kep' his promise to ole Jim." (Twain 114). This causes Huck to change his mind and turn his back on what societies' religion told him to think. However the issue is still in his mind. Later, after more adventures, Huck declares, "All right, then, I'll GO to hell" and then "never thought no more about reforming" (Twain 273). Huck makes up his mind that he will ignore organized religion and follow his own morals.
And these morals Huck has are good as well, even without organized religion. Huck shows that he values the lives of everyone, even thieves and murders. When Huck and Jim abandon the murders on the sinking steamboat, Huck goes out of his way to have someone rescue him, because he says, "I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers, to be in such a fix" (Twain 91). Huck shows a regard of life that even religious people don't show. For example, Colonel Sherburn kills a drunk in cold blood because the drunk was annoying him.
In addition, Huck feels very sick to be a part of the King and the Duke's scams. He says, that the Wilks brothers' scam "was enough to make a body ashamed of the human race" (Twain 208). His feelings motivate him to try and steal the money back, "I felt so ornery and low down and mean that I says to myself, my mind's made up; I'll hive that money for them [the sisters] or bust" (Twain 224). He feels so bad for Mary Jane that he makes up a plan for her to get her money back. Huck does all of this using his moral compass which pointed straight despite Huck not being "sivilized" by religion (Twain 32).
Mark Twain, despite writing that "persons attempting to find a moral in it [Huck Finn] will be banished," makes a statement against organized religion in Huck Finn (Twain xi). He creates several incidents where the hypocrisy and ridiculousness of organized religion is shown. Huck is able to make good moral choices without religion, and is able to make a decision against the teachings of organized religion because he thinks for himself and does what he thinks is right. Thus Twain shows in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that one can not only make good moral choices without a religious upbringing, but one is then free to evaluate one's morals for ones own self.
- Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York: Scholastic Magazines, 1962.