To the editors:

I found great pleasure in Gary Houston’s review of the new book about the hero of my youth, H.L. Mencken [September 9]. Just as I was escaping from strict Catholicism and giving up on all religion, in 1930 along came his “Treatise on the Gods,” fortifying my stand.

The great man foresaw the present entertaining spectacle in the TV religion industry. Writing on Roman religions he declared: “It is no wonder that no educated Roman believed in any of them. Rome had become the sewer of theology, as the United States threatens to become today. All the streams of superstition ran into it, and all the streams of sacerdotal fraud.

“To be a priest, in the high days of the empire, was to be set down confidently as a swindler. ‘Cato mirari se aiebat,’ said Cicero, ‘quod non rideret haruspex, haruspicem cum vidisset’–Cato used to wonder how one priest can avoid laughing when he meets another. All the more popular cults were cloaks for vileness of one sort or another, and it was hard to say of a given one whether it was actually a religion or only a scheme to cadge money.” A good picture of our holy jokers!

Hank Oettinger

W. Grace