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The Heretic

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"The Heretic" is a poem by L. Frank Baum. It was included in his 1898 verse collection By the Candelabra's Glare.

It is a poem in dialect, like several others in the 1898 book. (See "Nance Adkins" and "Farmer Benson on the Motocycle.") In eight eight-line stanzas, the poem delivers a monologue from an anonymous man with a thick accent, suggestive of a farmer or common man.

"I know they calls me 'heretic,'
An' names that's even wuss,
'N' says as I'm a shif'less chap,
Not wuth a tinker's cuss."

He is called a heretic and worse because he does not attend church services or otherwise follow organized religion. The monologue is his defense of his irreligiosity, and provides a criticism of religious hypocrisy and what the poem calls "selfish Christianity."

Baum's skepticism about organized religion surfaces in several of his works. Unflattering portraits of ministers can be found in his stories "The Wonderful Pump" and "The Strange Adventures of an Easter Egg." (Baum was not fanatical on this theme: a more positive portrayal of a minister appears in "The Ryl of the Lilies.")

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