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Literature and Ideas

heathen

n.

The Devil's Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce

A benighted creature who has the folly to worship something that he can see and feel. According to Professor Howison, of the California State University, Hebrews are heathens.

"The Hebrews are heathens!" says Howison.  He's
    A Christian philosopher.  I'm
A scurril agnostical chap, if you please,
    Addicted too much to the crime
    Of religious discussion in my rhyme.

Though Hebrew and Howison cannot agree
    On a modus vivendi — not they! —
Yet Heaven has had the designing of me,
    And I haven't been reared in a way
    To joy in the thick of the fray.

For this of my creed is the soul and the gist,
    And the truth of it I aver:
Who differs from me in his faith is an 'ist,
    And 'ite, an 'ie, or an 'er —
    And I'm down upon him or her!

Let Howison urge with perfunctory chin
    Toleration — that's all very well,
But a roast is "nuts" to his nostril thin,
    And he's running — I know by the smell —
    A secret and personal Hell!

Bissell Gip