In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain used the characters of his novel to reflect his own views of religion. Twain seems to have struggled with many aspects of religion, often taking opportunity to mock it. In his personal life, he also expressed criticism of faith. One of Twain’s famous quotes was, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
Twain’s first reference to religion can be found in Huck’s account of The Widow Douglas. Here, Twain used Huck’s character to point out the “judgmental” nature that religious people are sometimes accused of having: “Here she was a bothering about Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody, being gone, you see, yet finding a power of fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in it” (132).
Twain also used Huck to express his skepticism regarding the efficacy of prayer: “Then Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day, and whatever I asked for I would get. But it warn’t so. I tried it” (137).
Twain also used events to point out what he perceived to be disingenuous faith experiences. First, Huck’s father had a false conversion, and he promised to never drink again. However, we soon read that he gets drunk that very night (144). In another event, Twain used the Grangerfords’ church attendance to reveal the hypocrisy of their enjoyment of a sermon on “brotherly love” while simultaneously plotting revenge against the Shepherdsons (198).
Twain’s use of realistic characters—especially the young boy, Huck—enabled him to express his own criticisms of religion in a clever way. Nevertheless, these references reflected a naïve and immature view of faith on Twain’s part, and these criticisms likely wouldn’t survive the scrutiny of a trained theologian.