"I am aware that when even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition."

The full quote is included here:

"Am I trying to convince anybody that Shakespeare did not write Shakespeare's Works? Ah, now, what do you take me for? Would I be so soft as that, after having known the human race familiarly for nearly seventy-four years? It would grieve me to know that any one could think so injuriously of me, so uncomplimentarily, so unadmiringly of me. No-no, I am aware that when even the brightest mind in our world has been trained up from childhood in a superstition of any kind, it will never be possible for that mind, in its maturity, to examine sincerely, dispassionately, and conscientiously any evidence or any circumstance which shall seem to cast a doubt upon the validity of that superstition. I doubt if I could do it myself. We always get at second hand our notion about systems of government; and high tariff and low-tariff; and prohibition and anti-prohibition; and the holiness of peace and the glories of war; and codes of honor and codes of morals; and approval of the duel and disapproval of it and our beliefs concerning the nature of cats; and our ideas as to whether the murder of helpless wild animals is base or is heroic; and our preferences in the matter of religious and political parties and our acceptance or rejection of the Shakespeares and the Arthur Ortons and the Mrs. Eddys. We get them all at second-hand, we reason none of them out for ourselves. It is the way we are made. It is the way we are all made and we can't help it, we can't change it. And whenever we have been furnished a fetish, and have been taught to believe in it, and love it and worship it, and refrain from examining it, there is no evidence, howsoever clear and strong, that can persuade us to withdraw from it our loyalty and our devotion. In morals, conduct, and beliefs we take the color of our environment and associations, and it is a color that can safely be warranted to wash. Whenever we have been furnished with a tar baby ostensibly stuffed with jewels, and warned that it will be dishonorable and irreverent to disembowel it and test the jewels, we keep our sacrilegious hands off it. We submit, not reluctantly, but rather gladly, for we are privately afraid we should find, upon examination, that the jewels are of the sort that are manufactured at North Adams, Mass."
by:
Mark Twain
[Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835-1910)
Source:
Is Shakespeare Dead ? ? ?
From My Autobiography
By Mark Twain
http://home.att.net/~tleary/twain2.htm
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Reader comments about this quote:
A wonderful insight into the human frailties promoting our dedicated conservation of cherished illusions. I, for one, still like the illusion of Santa Claus and the manger scenes.
 -- Terry Berg, Occidental, CA     
  •  
    I remember reading an essay from Twain within which he hypothesized that the writings of Shakespeare were actually made by Sir Francis Bacon. He dared not share his research popularly other than through his dry wit. He may actually have been right -- but what impact would that have on society's myths? ;-)
     -- E Archer, NYC     
  •  
    The reason I give it 4 stars is I believe an individual, even if that be 1 in a 1000, may have a complete reversal of belief, or indoctrination if you will. Without a spiritual experience I've known professing religionists to become anti-religionist and vise-versa.
     -- Mike, Norwalk     
  •  
    positively spot on (as the Brits say)!!
     -- dragonswizardz     
  •  
    I must agree with Mike on this one. The quote does not warrant five stars because it simply is not true. A person does not always follow the path in which he was first indoctrinated. Although that may be a powerful influence, and may apply in more cases than not, it is definitely not an absolute fact. It is certainly not in my own case.
     -- Jack, Green, OH     
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