Edgar Allan Poe? William Barton? John A. Joyce? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following remark has been ascribed to the master of mystery and the macabre Edgar Allan Poe
Religion evolved out of fraud, fear, and greed.
Is this quotation accurate?
Quote Investigator: A controversial remark of this type was included in a 1901 biography of Edgar Allan Poe published by Colonel John A. Joyce. Poe aficionados consider the biography unreliable and doubt the authenticity of the quotation. Joyce presented the remarks second-hand with the following introductory words: 1
The religious opinions of Poe may be found in the following conversation he had one night at the old Astor House with Mr. William Barton, who was a typo and foreman on the Broadway Journal when Poe was editor of that paper.
Mr. Barton told me this:
“One night when Poe and myself were mellowed with the fumes of the wine cup, I asked him his opinion of the hereafter. He said:
“‘I don’t bother myself about a thing of which I know nothing—just as much as anybody else!
According to Joyce, Barton inquired further about religion. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:
“‘Mr. Poe, what do you think of the religions of the world?’
“‘From the earliest dawn of creation man has worshipped something—sticks, stones, snakes, stars, suns, mountains, rivers, seas, myths, calves, popes, and preachers. He is largely an ape and mimics anything with glitter, pomp, and power.
“‘All the doctrines of the world, from the dawn of paganism, Buddhism, Mohammedism, and so-called Christianity, are but the conjurations of worldly sharpers, who make a splendid living by setting up themselves as agents of God and establishing rules and laws for fools and cowards to follow!
“‘The ass must still bear his burden, and fools build palaces and cathedrals for wise men to inhabit.
“‘No man who ever lived knows any more about the hereafter, Barton, than you and I, and all religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of chicanery, fear, greed, imagination and poetry!
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading