I was surprised to find next to nothing on the Web regarding this remarkable book, written by the magnificent H. L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. I don't know Nathan at all; I've never read him. So, I can't say to what extent he contributed. What I've read so far seems gloriously Menckenish, however.
An American Credo purports to be a study of the American, or the Americano as Mencken would say, circa 1920, and we were apparently a sorry lot back then. Alas, I think Mencken would find us no less sorry now, and for much the same reasons.
I am somewhat surprised at the extent to which members of the primary Christian religious heirarchy of the United States are being lambasted. Mencken was never fond of institutionalized religion, of course, but he seems to view the clergy as particular scoundrels. Interestingly, the Protestant clergy are mocked far more than the Catholic as being vain, ignorant and venal. Although the Catholic Church is criticized for coming to dominate the secular governments of the larger cities, it is given credit for being wordly and tolerant, and its heirarchy is seen as more intelligent, though as an elite leading its flock by the nose. Of course, the absurdity of Prohibition, which loomed over that time, was a monstrosity of exclusively Protestant creation, and it is difficult to understand how any human being of moderate intelligence and sophistication could have supported such a law--not just a law but a constitutional amendment, forsooth.
The other great event of the time, naturally, was the recently ended First World War, and I confess to delight at the manner in which Woodrow Wilson is lambasted as a Titan, a prodigy, of craven dishonesty. He was, according to the authors, a "man of morals" rather than a "man of honour." Assured of the morality of each of his often fantastically inconsistent actions, he plowed through and trampled on the solemn pledges he made at every opportunity, serene in his self-righteousness. Those who opposed him, being sinners, deserved the harshest treatment.
Dr. Wilson was a very peculiar man; we can only hope we won't see his like again at the head of our government. But I fear that in such times as these such a person is bound to "rise" to the top of our politics. I think this is yet another age when the person of morals (to be more modern and correct) will win out over the person of honor. I can't help but think of those looming on our political horizon, Republican and Democrat, as terrifying moralists, intent on our compliance with their thoughtless take on what is right. More and more our politicians become preachers, and so it seems do our intellectuals. We need a new Mencken, I think.