Joseph McCabe: Fighter For Freethought
Fifty Years on the Rationalist Front
THE REVIEWER'S LIBRARY No. 4
Copyright 1936, Haldeman-Julius Company
I open a collection of essays devoted to the Jewish problem. It has been edited by Ludwig Lewisohn, a very able gentleman who, to his own and to his people’s misfortune, was bitten, mid-way in his career, by the bug of old-fashioned religion and has been spewing virus ever since. My present quarrel, however, is not with Lewisohn, or with the anthology of Messianism that he has labeled ‘Rebirth.’ It is with one of his entrants, Maurice Samuel.
Mr. Samuel shares, if rather less conspicuously than Mr. Lewisohn, the Messianic volubility that seems to attack so many publicists, whatever their Cause. Like Lewisohn, too, he exhibits often a verbal auto-intoxication. He gets drunk on printer’s ink. He becomes a prey to his facility with words and is led, down the slippery path of epigram, into folly.
Thus I come upon a statement by Mr. Samuel that refers to Emanuel Haldeman-Julius. It occurs in the extract labeled ‘Jewry and The World Mob.’ With the general argument of Mr. Samuel I am not here concerned. It is such an easy thing to call Irving Berlin “the one-finger Mozart of ragtime,” and Lewis Browne “the Elinor Glyn of religion,” all in the strange illusion that Jews writing in a Jewish homeland for a Jewish audience will become 10-finger Mozarts and second Isaiah. Equally easy is it to speak of “Haldeman-Julius, who has spread culture wider and thinner than any man before.”
There is a type of snob who judges literature not by its intrinsic values but by its garb and its price. Mr. Samuel happens to be the author, under a pseudonym, of a pretty terrible crime story, bound in cloth. I wonder whether he imagines, because it was bound in cloth and sold — when it did sell — for a couple of dollars, that therefore it was superior to the sort of stuff we used to read as kids, after paying a nickel for it or having swiped it off the counter of the local stationery store?
I wonder whether Mr. Samuel imagines that Shakespeare, sold in hard-paper covers at 5c a play, is any the less Shakespeare than the costlier and therefore less accessible editions? I wonder whether culture is spread thinner because one may purchase the Greek tragedies at the same price, as well as the classics of French literature, the leaders of Enlightenment, or the foremost exponents of Rationalism? I wonder whether Mr. Samuel imagines that Will Durant is any more a philosopher in his $5 format than in the Little Blue Books that originally provided the chapters for his Story of Philosophy? is the theory of evolution less true at 5c than at $3? Is Havelock Ellis less authentic in a small essay than in a costly series? Let Mr. Samuel examine the list of books that the Haldeman-Julius Company has put out at 5c and 10c a copy; let him compare it, in literary and intellectual essence, with the lists of representative publishers, and then let him look in the mirror and ask who is spreading culture thin.
One other name occurred to me as I read the facile statement: Joseph McCabe. For there is a sense in which Mr. McCabe, that grand old fighter for the rights of the human body and the human personality, sums up in his long and fruitful career the culture that Haldeman-Julius has spread so widely and so “thinly.” Had Haldeman-Julius done nothing else than to make the writings of Joseph McCabe accessible to the poorest reader, he would have earned his title as one of the more important of the educators in this country. Far more important, indeed, than such as Mr. Samuel may ever aspire to be.
What is this culture that Haldeman-Julius has spread so “thinly”? It is predominantly a Rationalist culture — a culture that, while by no means neglecting the aesthetic aspects of life, bases the finer living upon an acquaintance with all the ascertainable facts and the most realistic interpretation of those facts. It is an anti-theological, pro-scientific culture. It is a culture directed against superstition, against absolutism, against suppression. It is an un-doctrinaire, libertarian culture, dedicated to an un-dictatorial collectivism. It demands the fullest possible development of the individual consistent with the fullest possible development of a society in which the elements of private profit and corporate greed shall have been eliminated.
Against such a program — remove the theology of the Scriptures, and how different is this program in essence from the loftiest aspirations of the social prophets? — what has Mr. Samuel to say? What makes it “thin”? Is it the insistence upon freedom from theology? From sex-taboos and superstitions? Is it the dedication to science, to rationalism?
I turn from Mr. Samuel’s writings to the writings of Joseph McCabe. I turn from preoccupation with a single race and a single solution for the problems of that race, to preoccupation with the human race as a whole and with the necessity for inter-dependent effort on the part of all the races. I turn from religious labels to human realities. I turn away from — without rejecting anything valid in — the past, toward the future. I turn away from words coddled for their own sake to words in the service of cultural advancement. So turning, I leave the “thinness” behind, in the snobbish imagination of a gifted, but self-seduced, publicist. I turn, this time for good, from Mr. Samuel to Mr. Joseph McCabe. …
Mr. McCabe, in the flesh, I have never had the pleasure of meeting. I had known of him, however, long before he began to write for Haldeman-Julius, It was his name that had appeared, as translator, on the copies of Haeckel’s Riddle of the Universe, a book we wore ragged in our high-school and early college days. We had come upon the volume in the library of an eccentric Socialist. … Maybe we considered him eccentric in those days precisely because he was a Socialist. Thanks to his shelves we gorged ourselves on Man’s Place in Nature, by Thomas Huxley; Other Worlds Than Ours (Richard A. Proctor), and a strange miscellany by Darwin (how many of you have read his Expressions of the Emotions in Man and Animals?), Nietzsche (how beautifully we misunderstood him then!), Shaw, Ibsen, Wallace, Marx, Engels, Schopenhauer. …
I was not to meet the name of McCabe for years and years thereafter. In fact, when I became reacquainted with him through the various Blue Books, I was astounded to discover how many volumes — large, cloth-bound, widely-selling volumes — he had written in the intervening period. Now, whenever I become interested in a man’s writings, I want to know all about him: how he looks, what his habits are, what his training has been, what have been the living experiences that molded his ideas. In the case of McCabe, there was the added incentive that he was a confirmed but a flexible (I mean non-fanatic) Rationalist — something that, I hoped, I myself was. For I harbor a suspicion of all opinions too violently held.
Fortunately, there is much of McCabe the man in McCabe the author. This is eminently as it should be. Most agreeably, too, the autobiography of Mr. McCabe furnishes the most authentic introduction to his ideas.
Freedom is not a gift conferred from above; it is a constant re-conquest. The life-story of McCabe begins with a fight for freedom; it continues as a campaign to keep life free. Ever since that fateful Ash Wednesday of 1896, when he tore off the brown robe and flung aside the sandals that he had worn for 12 years, abandoning the life of a monk and his title as “The Very Reverend Father Antony,” he has dedicated himself to the service of human liberation, There are conversions, and they are by far the more important type, that lead away from religion. Such was McCabe’s.
The name McCabe means, ironically, “son of the abbot.” McCabe comes, on both sides, of fighting stock. The eighth child of his parents, he derives, through his maternal grandfather, from Protestant East Anglians, and, through his paternal grandfather, from Irish Catholics. He was named Joseph, after the saint, because he was, from infancy, promised to the priesthood. “The first spectacle that intrigued his tender eyes,” he writes, speaking of himself in ‘My Twelve Years in a Monastery,’ “was a group of men in rough brown robes, belted with rope girdles, men of shaven head and sandalled feet, who were, it appeared, the boldest speculators in that great commercial city.” That city was Manchester, whither McCabe had been taken in his eighth year. Manchester, for all that a monastery rose directly opposite the McCabe household, was the center of investments, profits, greed and toilers living in oppression. The monks, for all their devotion to the intangible blessings of heaven, were not averse to profiting off the general exploitation.
All this, McCabe was not yet ready to appreciate. He was, in his own untender words, a “Pious little prig,” an altar boy in the church across the way. In the school run by the monks he was the prize pupil, memorizing poems for declamation and delivering them with unabashed gusto. Here was a creature predestined to monkhood.
At home, he was surrounded by holy images. His happy mother, deeply Catholic, watched with gratefulness the religious dedication of her youngest. Yet it was she, more the mother than the fanatic, who wrote to him, on the day that he decided to leave the church forever, “I do not understand, Joe, but I know you.” As for his father, rearing that large family on $10 a week, it was remarkable that he should have cared to look into Emerson’s Essays, or Chambers’ Encyclopedia, and retained the spirit of laughter.
The child McCabe, forgetful of his Protestant ancestry, roamed the streets with his playmates, stoning (they called it “scuttling”) the pupils from the Protestant school nearby, and yelling:
While all the Catholics ring the bell.
In our youth, everyone of us belongs to the Chosen People. The more the pity, then, that most of us never learn any better.
Joseph’s struggle between piety and profits lasted until his 15th year. And then, surrendering his commercial ambitions, he cast in his lot with the Church. He entered the so-called college of the monks, where very soon he threatened to outdistance his teachers. In half a year he was reading Cicero in the original; in a year, the New Testament in Greek; he taught himself a little Hebrew; French was easy. “Eleven months from the day on which he had opened a Latin grammar he and the other seven were transferred to a monastery at Killarney to become novices, or monklings, in the order of St. Francis of Assisi.”
The insulation and the imprisonment of body and soul that resulted have never been forgotten by McCabe. He had been captured young; this was Church policy. If the Catholic Church were to wait until girls and boys reached their later ‘teens, its religious orders, he maintains, would shrivel and disappear. Of “vocation” — an intuition that one has been “called” to the service of the Church — he makes mock. Ordinarily it means that “some priest has picked out a desirable boy and persuaded him that it is a ‘fine thing’ to join the monastery and become a priest. There is very little scrutiny of qualifications. The thinning ranks must be recruited — for the greater glory of the Church and the confusion of heretics.” As there are those who maintain that love comes after marriage, so are there those who have maintained that “vocation” comes after one has answered the “call” — in the course of training. Truly, one might invert the famous phrase and say, without forgetting to smile, that many are chosen but few are “called.”
The education of the priest thus becomes, as McCabe has described it, “lamentable.” Theory, in a narrow, technical sense, is the major consideration. Classical training is “atrocious.” Science barely exists. History resolves itself into religious fables. Worse still, this illusive smattering, “is a deliberate part of the Church’s policy. Not only are men thus educated little likely to contract the prevailing skepticism, but the Church can securely rely upon them to broadcast its fabrications from the pulpit and forbid the Catholic laity to read the ‘lies’ of critics of the system.”
Killarney, for McCabe, was a comedy of the cloister. Poverty, chastity, obedience. The novice needed no training in poverty. His disobedience consisted in trying to study Greek grammar in secret, and for this he was severely punished, as secular study is forbidden. The repression of natural youthful instincts had much to do with the breakdown of his health; this, and the arduous study of theological emptiness. McCabe, indeed, did not reach full sexual development until his 26th year. Monastic study had enervated and emasculated him.
Up at five in the morning, after sleeping in day-shirts of rough wool. … A wash in a common lavatory. … Chapel and chanting for an hour. … Silent meditation. … Prayers for some six or more hours during the day. … However abstemious they were trained to be in other ways, the “collegians” had their two pots of beer a day. “We began, were in fact, compelled, at 16 to drink two or three glasses of claret or port on top of a mug of beer.” Small wonder that three months of this so ruined McCabe’s digestion that he became chronically dyspeptic. “The only permanent thing which 12 years of holy living did for me,” he warily reports, “was to enfeeble my stomach. My system was wrecked … before I was 17, and for at least six further years I worked and suffered with the frame of a chronic invalid.”
Today, trying to follow the voluminous writings of the ex- Father, and trying to follow at the same time his wanderings over the face of the earth — envying him the energy, the unabated enthusiasm, and the courage of his almost 70 years, it is difficult to believe that he was not expected to reach his 40th year. Not one of the colleagues who made this mournful prediction is now alive.
During lonely nights, kept awake by his illness, McCabe would hear the sounds of revelry from the monks’ quarters. Songs were echoing; wine was flowing. Where, then, were poverty, chastity and obedience? Yet the boy found excuse for his mentors. … Someone has said that the first philosophers of the race were its sick people. Health and activity do not make for brooding over life’s problems. The devil finds work for idle hands to do; as often as not, it is good work. McCabe, excused because of illness from certain of his duties, used to sit gazing out upon the mountains — gazing and thinking. The devil of thought, of skepticism, was beckoning to him from the world beyond those mountains.
It was not that the monastery had demoralized him. The cloister, he has written, was as powerless for this as the Manchester warehouse had been. His body had been weakened; not, however, his mind.
Christened after Saint Joseph, he had been, upon entering the religious life, re-christened Brother Antony, after the famous Paduan. Saint Antony of Padua, the 13th Century monk who had been flogged for protesting against the corruption that gnawed at his monastery. … The very name was a prophecy. Against the invading doubts, Brother Antony prayed to Mary. He sought a miracle, to re- establish his waning faith. Placing a glass of water on the ledge. of the cell, sinking to his knees, he begged God to turn the water into wine. When nothing happened, thoughtfully he drank the water. There had been a miracle, had McCabe but known it. The water had been turned, to wine — the wine of courage, freedom, humanity. Yet we discover McCabe, at the age of 17, taking the great vows that bound him for life to celibacy, poverty and obedience. The symbolic circle, six inches in diameter, was shaven in the top of his head; he was transferred to a suburb of London, there to complete preparation for the priesthood. Once a week, so sick he was, he fainted. This was the place in which he was to spend six more years as a student, and three as a professor.
I am amazed at the sheer pertinacity of the boy. A faith thus shaken by corrosive doubt must have been deeply-rooted, indeed, to wait so long for deliverance. As much as anything else, it proves the profound idealism of youth; as much as anything else, it shows how youth, though betrayed by its teachers, possesses in the very emotions of its idealism an anti-toxin against the poisons with which it is indoctrinated. The superficial theologies, on one epochal day, are vomited forth. The betrayed idealism, however, remains the stronger for this purge.
I am not a believer in long-distance diagnoses, whether of physical or of spiritual ailments. Popular writing has developed a very attractive clinic of this sort — a clinic of print, wherein, with a smattering of psycho-analysis, literary psychiatry, facile sexology and imposing terms, the mysteries of the psyche are explained away. From personal experience, however, I should like to suggest that perhaps some of McCabe’s bad health, during these years of repressed doubts, was caused by the conflict being waged in what he then would have called his soul.
It may well be, too, that McCabe’s passion for science, for history, for transmitting to his vast public the foundations of an all-inclusive culture, was born in his cramped days and nights as a candidate for the priesthood. Born, as it were, through violent reaction: against the monastic miseducation.
Of his teachers he has written a sentence that is a flaming accusation. “They dreaded me, and they taught me nothing.”
Only too literally was he taught little Latin and less Greek. It was, fortunately, his native curiosity that rescued him from such sterile instruction as this. Soon two questions began to boom through all his private thinking: Is there a God? Is the mind immortal? Doubt is the parent of denial. McCabe’s instinctive ventures into philosophy were in themselves the very negation of the official “philosophy” taught at his college. This official philosophy, really, is “a short course of logic as it was taught a century ago, and ethics as it was never taught anywhere. No Catholic priest knows philosophy, and the pride of the Church in the tissue of discredited medieval fancies to which it gives that name is humorous.”
That in these various institutions vowed to chastity there should have been homosexual episodes may be taken for granted. This is hardly to be ascribed to the Catholic character of the schools, Wherever the normal sexual life is frowned upon, there sex tends to reveal abnormal aspects. When McCabe found incompetent instructors passing more or less Platonic love-notes to one of his fellow pupils, it was as one shock imposed upon another. The child who was not to mature, sexually, until his 26th year, was learning of human nature in the one spot that supposedly was shielding him against contamination. Purity can be too pure.
At 20, McCabe and his colleagues were advanced (?) from philosophy, such as it was, to theology: two huge volumes of Moral Theology (that he might administer the confessional) and three of Dogmatic Theology (that he might preach according to the doctrine). “I have the volumes still, and I see that they amount to 3,436 closely printed quarto pages on subjects to which modern culture gives never a thought!” These regiments of pages, by the way, were all in Latin; the “education” contained therein is dismissed by McCabe as “chewing this sawdust from the floors of medieval Schoolrooms.”
It was no fare for his growing appetite.
Once again I must express my amazement at the almost unshatterable qualities of this young man’s Catholic idealism. McCabe prayed and prayed to God to convince him that He existed. As the time came for being ordained, the doubts momentarily vanished. At 23 he passed the examinations. Shortly after, he was qualified to forgive sins — a sort of depulization for God Himself.
Of the confessional, McCabe testifies that most of the work is routine and deeply nonsensical. The confessional itself is an invention of the Church that dates back only to the Middle Ages. Much of the outpourings to which a priest must listen in his box are of the sexual type; the Church, in fact, has created almost 100 different species of sexual sin. The spectacle of a sex-starved or desexualized youngster absolving more or less worldly sinners from “Sins” that he cannot understand is at once humorous and pathetic.
McCabe’s reminiscences of the neurotics who haunt the confessional so that they may enjoy, over and over again, the memory of their sexual transgressions, tallies perfectly with the reports of other liberated priests. It is surprising, as McCabe comments, that the majority of those who come to confess remain decent. The women, especially, who are thus enabled to talk sex with a man in terms more free than most non-Catholics employ during secular conversation, are often tempted into indiscretion by the very invention that is meant to keep them “pure.” Nor are the priests invariably woman-proof. Why should they be? Some of them, naturally of low sexual potency, find the life of the celibate quite endurable; others, men as God or Nature meant them to be — I speak, of course, metaphorically — offer the best criticism of their religion by yielding to the flesh.
The chief purpose of the confessional is to enslave the believer to the clergy. The cynicism of priests, far from being reprehensible, is almost vindication of humanity’s common sense. For cynicism is a primary stage of rebellion, though it masks also an opportunistic acceptance of that which one’s finer intelligence rejects.
In McCabe, from the beginning, was this finer intelligence. It is, in a way, good that he persisted in his theological training. For, learning to the core the spiritual and physical curriculum of the Church, he was the better able not only to make his revolt complete, but to challenge it from its foundations upward.
He could detect, even in his best teachers, the symptoms of doubt that they would be the last to acknowledge. Under Van Hoonacker he learned the elements of Hebrew, as well as biblical criticism; under Lamy he was instructed in the rudiments of Syriac; under the famous Cardinal Mercier, of whom he became a close friend, he merely repeated the medieval courses that he himself has been teaching for a couple of years.
At Louvain, Belgium, McCabe lived in a Franciscan friary for a year. He did not touch, even while traveling, a coin. Money was taboo. In connection with this monetary abstention, it is interesting to learn, from a recent magazine article, [See THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR, January, 1936. “The Finances of the Catholic Church.” By Ferdinand Lundberg.] that the Catholic Church has heavy investments ranging all over the world. Though the Jewish and Protestant Churches issue annual statements of their finances, the Catholic Church keeps its investments a secret. In the United States alone, it has a capitalization of some $7,000,000,000. In Mexico, its holdings of productive property were 20 percent in excess of its ecclesiastical property, or over $64,000,000. It has been suggested, and quite pertinently, that this may be the real reason for the demands of the Church that the United States intervene in the fight between the Mexicans and the Catholic Church. It may be the direct reason, too, for the opposition of enlightened Mexicans in the first place. Poverty, chastity and obedience. …
For a year, McCabe did not have a bath. Strangely enough, this uncleanliness was considered next to godliness. Though he drank enough wine and beer for copious inner irrigation, baths were exceptional experiences. In the London friary there had been one bath to 30 people; it was high up in an attic, and one had to ask permission to use it. This did not occur often. “I believe,” he writes, “that most of the London monks, who had been trained in Belgium, never bathed; and some of them moved in quite high Catholic society. In no monastery in Belgium — I visited quite a number — was there a bath. The theory was that of a French nun who, when a new pupil asked if she might have a bath, said: ‘But God would see you naked!”‘ Poverty, chastity, and obedience. …
McCabe did not find any of these three “virtues” in any Belgian monastery. The only poverty he discovered was that of the intellect. Food and drink were plentiful. The monks, generally, were fat sensualists; certainly the literature of an older day bears this out. Their prayers were as perfunctory as an auctioneer’s harangues. As for the immorality among priests and monks — the name now is “scandal,” and there must be no scandal- mongering in the Church — it is notorious and at times flagrant. It is not only the prelate of the Renaissance — who, now, speaks of the small fry? — who has a mistress and children. It is not that Catholic, inherently, are less moral than any other people; it is that the hypocritical conditions under which these moral paragons are reared virtually compel them to subterfuge.
In the summer of 1894, McCabe was back in London. At the University of Louvain he had been relatively free of the doubts that racked him. Once released from the university they returned with double force. Thus far, only his emotions had been disturbed; his mind was serene. There was not, in his soul, the slightest suspicion that he would ever leave the Church. Indeed, even when he took the decisive step, it was Catholicism from which he broke away, not God. For long, before, crossing over into frank Atheism, he would remain an Agnostic.
He still, in 1894 and 1895, prayed some 13 hours out of the 24. In the fall of 1895 (he was now 27) he became the “Very Reverend” Father Antony. The larger leisure of this promotion, and the superintendency of a new preparatory college in the country, seem to have had a good effect upon McCabe’s chronic ill health. Upon his mental health, too, for during the Christmas holidays he found himself engaged in a paradoxical spiritual audit.
He had locked himself in. He had sat down, with a sheet of paper in front of him, upon which he set forth the arguments for and against the existence of God and the truth of immortality. It was on Christmas morning of 1895 that he declared himself “doctrinally bankrupt.”
McCabe recounts this re-birth without any trace of heroics. “It was not a question of courage. To me it would have been preferable to die, as I one time meditated, rather than continue without belief in that sorry system. I allowed a few weeks for possible change of sentiment, taking only one lady, who perceived my grave trouble, into my confidence. She betrayed me, of course, and they sent my old tutor to deal with me. On Ash Wednesday, 1896, I went out from the shade of the cloister, to find ‘the world,’ which for 12 years had rung in my ears in association with ‘the flesh and the devil,’ more honest, sweeter, and more honorable than the folk who affected to despise it.”
The response of his friars was to accuse him of theft, to set the police upon him, to hound him, to withdraw from him every atom of human sympathy. “From that day the Church has missed no opportunity to injure me, sometimes by the meanest and most cruel of intrigues. And I smile.” Then, quoting a more ancient Joseph (XVI, 27), this tireless fighter adds, “If any man smite me on one cheek, him do I smite promptly on both.”
Mrs. Marcet Haldeman-Julius, in her ‘Talks With Joseph McCabe and Other Confidential Sketches,’ has left some engaging glimpses of the notable Rationalist. Three times Mr. McCabe has visited Girard, Kansas, home of the Little Blue Books — in 1926, in 1929, and in 1930. The first of these visits took place 30 years after that fateful Ash Wednesday on which McCabe made his Great Refusal. During those three decades he had become a famous author, a globe- trotter who covered the world not with his feet but with his brain, a relentless debater, an itinerant one-man university, a citizen of the world. I heartily envy the Haldeman-Juliuses the good fortune that brought so gracious and so dynamic a guest to their hearth.
A spare, wiry fellow of medium height and brisk gait. … Clear blue eyes behind spectacles … Gray, thinning hair … Clean-shaven face, ascetic, yet illuminated by a merry twinkle that somehow finds its way into his lively, very English, speech. … A gentleman whose charm is reinforced by encyclopedic knowledge. Confronted by this human dynamo, even the voluble Haldeman-Julius seemed to have been subdued. Half of wisdom is knowing when to listen.
Whatever McCabe has written and spoken since his self- emancipation from the shackles of the Church has been a sort of retributive liberation of others. It takes bravery of a rare sort, and not empty malice or superficial discontentment, to turn upon the teachings of one’s youth — to repudiate them and set up, in their stead, a world-philosophy that amounts to a new birth.
None can say that McCabe did not give the Church a fair chance. It all but wrecked his body and his mind. Indeed, the struggle to re-discover himself, to refute the arguments (so-called) upon which its preposterous claims were founded, turned him into a thinking-machine. If he has a weakness in his armor (and who has not?) it is his considerations of modern art and modern music — in those fields where debate and proof are less important, and less decisive, than in matters of history or logic.
This probably has its application to the cause in which McCabe’s adult life has been enlisted. For superstition (and I count every religion ever invented a form, more or less gross, of superstition) is not to be fought by the intellect alone. The churches have been crafty in basing their chief appeal, not upon demonstrable fact but upon emotional vagaries. For all the apparatus of documents and arguments that they bring to bear upon their respective creeds, they seek first of all to affect one’s emotions, as early in life as possible. Thus it happens that they decry the “mere Intelligence,” and proclaim the superior virtues of faith. Faith, to the church, is an unquestioning acceptance of dogma, armored by emotional ratification against the assaults of reason. Reason becomes a crafty devil, a shrewd sophist. Faith (that is, uncritical emotion, soothing prejudice, primitive wish- fulfillment) is transformed into something beyond doubt or debate; it becomes, by mere statement of itself, its own best proof.
All this, to be sure, is ridiculous. It explains, however, why so many persons, however intellectually liberated from the dogmas of their childhood, still retain an emotional allegiance that is at war with the intellectual liberation.
McCabe has concentrated, though not exclusively, upon the destruction, by logical methods, of the Church’s edifice. He is stronger, as I have suggested, in the sciences than in the arts. The passionate persistence of his unrelenting campaign, however, has done as much as has been accomplished by any other living person to effect this wholesome razing. And, though the testimony may seem to contradict what I have just been writing, I must add that it is a poor creature, indeed, who can maintain his allegiance to an institution that has been proved, time and time again, to deal in misrepresentation, intrigue, deception and hypocrisy. The repetition of accusations, the repetition of proofs that the mind must accept even though the emotions at first desire to reject them, have in the end a powerful effect upon the emotions as well as upon the intelligence.
To offer myself as an example: I have done much reading in the controversies fought around religion. Unlike some of my colleagues, I consider that it is still a major menace to the peace and happiness of mankind. As appears in my Backsliders to God (Appeal to Reason Library, Number 7), I am not of those who look to an exclusively economic solution for human problems, however readily I may place the economic factor in the lead. Now, reading McCabe on religion, after having read so many others during so many years, I find myself powerfully renewed in my opposition to the dark forces of theology.
It happens also that I am very sensitive to the quality of writing as well as to the quality of thought. This does not mean that I always write well, or always think well myself. Our preferences are aspirations as often as they are accomplishments. I have always felt that writers who aim to change men’s opinions should be especially skillful in the technique of their craft — that it is an error — an error held by many propagandists — to believe that it is the thought that matters, and that style is an indifferent second. Style is a phase of thought; it may well be, to writing, what McCabe’s charming presence is to his conversation.
Reading McCabe (rather, re-reading him) in long, solid essays, I noticed something that had somehow eluded me at first: a graceful, easy manner that is quite rare in the kind of writing that he does. He is not the brow-furrowed Rationalist who has gone as fanatic in his revolt as he had first been in his acceptance. In McCabe is no rigid humorlessness of zealotry. Though he deals sternly in fact — though he classifies the advancement of the sciences — he retains what must be a native geniality. I have discovered, in his thousands of pages, nothing that suggests the hypocritical politeness of those gatherings where representatives of different faiths exchange empty compliments and agree (?) that, after all, they are all striving after the same human happiness. There is nothing false or conciliatory about his geniality. He is capable of penetrating irony, of pitiless sarcasm. When he makes a point, it is not an abstract victory of logic over unreason; he is remembering 12 long years of selfless dedication.
There is a sense in which McCabe has remained a priest: an un- priestly priest of an un-churchly church. The Church, to him, is anti-culture, anti-body, anti-soul, anti-child, anti-woman, anti- freedom; it is, in a word, the very negation of life and of progress. Just what anti-Christ is, I have never been able to discover. Certainly I cannot see McCabe as anti-Christ. I see him, rather, as anti-Christian — something, one imagines, that Christ himself would be if he were to come back to life. If, that is, Christ lived in the first place. Let us not, however, go astray on the tack. Whether Christ ever lived or not; whether the gods began as myths — these are questions for all thinkers, to be sure, but the emotional verities of religion do not rest upon proof of the gods’ existence. Christ and the gods are only too real in the lives of people. In naming McCabe an anti-Christian I mean to include, also, his vindication of whatever is rationally valid in the outlook of the so-called Pagans.
McCabe, in his voluminous writings, has effected a healthy revaluation of values. A central feature of this revaluation, as we shall see, has been the restoration of the “pagan” influence and a renewed sense of its importance. Much of the homage that we pay to the classics of Greece and Rome has been of the lip-service variety. Theological interpretation — and it should be recalled that early instruction was almost exclusively in the theological tradition — is responsible for a vitiated conception of classical life, just as it is responsible for the neglect and misrepresentation of pre-classical culture.
Modern study suggests that we have consistently been underestimating the contributions of the Egyptians, the Sumerians, the Babylonians, the Greeks and the Romans. Just as, in the astronomical thought of the medieval world, this earth was the center of the system, so, in the philosophic thought of a Europe under ecclesiastical domination, the center of the moral system was the theology bred of Hebrew-Christian attitudes. It was no accident that the Church opposed enlightenment in astronomy; or that, today, it opposes progress in education, until the case is so clearly lost that it changes front and attempts to make it appear that the Church has always been on the side of advancement. (Witness the attempts of the Catholic Church to save face with the dubious “rhythm” method of birth control.)
It is a vital aspect of McCabe’s readjustment of standards that he rescues paganism from the aspersions that theology has cast upon it. The word “paganism” is a term poisoned by the qualities that have been read into it by the church. We still discover, in newspapers and magazines, that Herr Hitler is attempting to restore Paganism in Germany. Hitler’s supposed paganism, of course, has very little to do with Greece and Rome; it reverts to the deities set to music by Wagner, and resurrected by him from the Niebelungenlied. Is Mussolini any the less “pagan,” in a derogatory sense, for practicing his barbarism in the name of Christianity? Is Stalin any the less humanitarian for trying to make a more equitable world under the aegis of an atheistic State?
Paganism has come to mean any ethical system that does not subscribe to the Hebrew-Christian morality. A Jewish zealot like Ludwig Lewisohn is capable of dividing the moral universe into two very neatly partitioned categories: the Hebrew-Christian and the Pagan. These two categories, like the characters in his novels, emerge in violent contrast. The Hebrew-Christian ethics is pure white; the Pagan ethics is unmitigated black. Such “thinking” as this — “thinking” that is the very evasion of critical thought, and that enthrones irresponsible emotionality — is what McCabe combats with a formidable array of facts, facts and more facts.
It should stand to reason that no one people, no one philosophy, can be the exclusive container of the One Truth. This is a reversion, in a form most dangerous and corruptive, to the self-loving concept of the Chosen People. It should stand to reason that virtues and vices are rather evenly distributed among the races of mankind, and that all peoples have a plentiful admixture of each. To place the Hebrew-Christian morality on one side, and Paganism on the other, and to create of them an inherent, irreconcilable opposition, is to cancel almost every benefit that humanitarian thought has won in the past 3,000 years. It is, indeed, to restore the very conditions that make for the savagery of the Hitlers, the Mussolinis and the Torquemadas.
I am not competent to say whether Mr. McCabe, in attempting to restore a proper balance, inclines too far toward Paganism. My own prejudices are too much like his; that is to say, if they are really prejudices. A prejudice is an emotional pre-judgment that refuses to consider the demonstrable realities. Faith, for example, is just such an emotional pre-judgment — just such withdrawal into what one wishes to believe despite anything that can be brought up against it. Now, the peculiar virtue of Mr. McCabe’s one-man campaign against the errors, the lies, the stupidities and the general corruption of religion, is this: it is based upon a revolt against emotional Prejudice — upon the strictest and the most scientific scrutiny of all pertinent data.
For 2,000 years the forces arrayed against Paganism have had their way. To attempt the restoration of a balance appears, in itself — or is made, by entrenched orthodox belief, to appear — as a heresy that strikes at the very foundations of society. It strikes, in truth, at the foundations of those vested interests that control, on the one hand, the life of the spirit, and, on the other, the life of the body. It is not an accident that freedom in one sphere should carry with it freedom in another; no more than it is an accident that slavery in one sphere should involve slavery in another.
I find myself, then, in general agreement with Mr. McCabe in his revindication of all that was good in classical and pre- classical life, and in his revolt against all that is evil in life as lived under the Hebrew-Christian ethos. Not all that is new is therefore good; not all that is old is therefore evil. There is, in the conception of history, a certain receptivity that corresponds to the conception of internationality. Just as the enlightened person of today refuses to limit his mental and moral allegiance to a single nation, and regards the human race as a vast internation, united beneath all outer differences, and dedicated to the highest possibilities of which humanity is capable, so he refuses to select, from the panorama of history, a single epoch or a single philosophy that shall dominate all others.
There is a famous line that is forever being quoted rather automatically. I refer to the line:
Homo sum: humani nihil a me alienum puto…
It is variously translated: “I am a man, and (therefore) nothing human is foreign to my interests.” Or, less academically, “I’m a human being, and all things human naturally interest me.” The line occurs almost at the beginning of the Latin play by Terence, ‘Heauton Timorumenos.’ The name of the play, strangely enough, is Greek, and means, ‘The Self-Torturer.’ Now, in the play, this sentence is by no means the noble sentiment that one would judge it to be from its use in the quotation-books. It is spoken by an inquisitive fellow who is trying to discover why his neighbor toils so arduously on his adjoining farm.
Menedemus, questioned, retorts: “Chremes, your affairs must leave you plenty of leisure, that you should have the time to meddle in other peoples’ business. … To which Chremes makes the reply that has become, not an excuse for meddlesome curiosity, but a banner of humanitarian service.
It is this reply, as a banner and not as an excuse, that may stand as the motto of McCabe’s career. It is this reply, too, in its common, and superior, acceptation that may stand as the motto of all those to whom the welfare of humanity is a real aspiration and not merely a hollow political slogan.
“Civilization,” remarks McCabe, in ‘An Outline of Today’s Knowledge,’ “has really not yet begun, so prophecies of its doom are misplaced.” This is a valid type of optimism that is at the farthest possible remove from the professional optimism of the Pollyannas. Pollyannic optimism, in fact, is not optimism at all; it is a form of evasion — a fatuous smile, symbolizing the spineless acceptance of whatever happens as inevitable and for the best. McCabe’s optimism is at once heartening and scientific; it implies sturdy rejection of all conquerable impediments that stand in the way of human happiness. The codified impositions and superstitions that go by the name of religion represent one of the chief impediments; they are conquerable, and they are being conquered.
“… We vitally need an organization of production and consumption of a higher intelligence in the direction of our national and international life. We need scientific planning of life as a whole and the service of the finest intellects of the race, instead of political adventurers, in carrying out the plans. The race will then continue to make the same rapid progress, and, with the aid of a steadily improving science, will abolish war, poverty and crime. We must not too easily despair. We are but the children of the dawn.”
Far from there being a sole culture to which all other cultures must aspire, there is a contrast of cultures that meets in highly beneficial cross-fertilization. In fact, this contrast of cultures, psychologically, corresponds to the challenge, in biology, of a new environment. In his epochal book, ‘Evolution of Mind’ (1910), McCabe had pointed out that “the outstanding cause of man’s progress has been the clash or contact, under the guiding influence of environment, of peoples with different ideas and institutions; or different culture.” There is here no nonsense about Aryan or Nordic superiority, any more than there is any nonsense about the superiority of one sex to the other. It takes both sexes to produce life.
The Hebrews and Christians did not confer civilization upon humanity any more than the Aryans conferred it upon prehistoric India. These Aryans McCabe describes as “boorish warriors” who were themselves civilized by the Hindu natives. In the same way, he shows that the Egyptians were by no means solemn heathen. Babylon, symbolized in our “sacred” writings as The Whore, gave us Hammurabi and his Code. As for the Greek and Roman Pagans, let it be remembered that this sort of Paganism gave to the world a new conception of the pursuit of knowledge. “We should today be 1,000 years more advanced if the race had steadily persevered in that path. … The Greeks and Romans introduced democracy and a sense of the rights of the individual. … They detached the moral law from systems of religion and gave it a social and human meaning.
This should be remembered especially when we come to a consideration of the Middle Ages. The so-called Dark Ages were dark only in the Christianized countries. There was a light that shone right through this gloom, but that light had been obscured because the history of these times has been written chiefly by Christian apologists. McCabe writes (I am, and have been, quoting from his ‘Outline of Today’s Knowledge,’ which is a one-volume epitome of his ‘Key to Culture;’ that Key, in turn, consists of 40 slender but most meaty books): “The broad fact, which is scandalously ignored in most of our manuals of history, is that from the 9th Century to the 14th, art, literature and humanitarianism rose to the height they had reached in the Greek-Roman civilization, if not (apart from Greek art) to a higher level. … In the so-called Moorish — really Arab — civilization in Spain the race, in some centuries, rose to its highest point of general prosperity, general zeal for knowledge, benevolence to the unfortunate, and cultivation of science. Probably until modern times the sun has never shone upon a happier or more prosperous people, or one better balanced in appreciation of beauty, of knowledge and of service.”
Why, then, do our historians falsify the accounts? Because, in a word, most of them are Christians first and only secondarily historians. During this same period, Christian Europe was in a “squalid” condition. The Arabs had started from “the same level of barbarism as the Goths and the Vandals,” but they had received the stimulus of the Pagans — the old Greek and Persian cultures. In two centuries they had built up their remarkable civilization, “while the Christian peoples of Europe, under the Popes, took seven centuries to reach a far lower level than the Arab level.” McCabe insists that it was “the skeptical Arabs, not the devout followers of the Koran, who built this splendid civilization.” It was, in fact, this civilization that began the restoration of Europe. “I need only add that it was destroyed by fanatics, by the Spaniards in Spain (the worst Vandals in history) and the Turks, in their early fervor for Mohammed, in the east.”
All this destruction was accomplished by Christian fanaticism.
What this meant to the Western world — what it still means — we shall presently consider. Let us, for the moment, recapitulate the salient features of McCabe’s cultural revindication:
He has opposed, with facts and not with merely emotional pronouncements, the claims of the Christian, and more especially Catholic, Church to leadership in culture. His opposal has amounted to complete and irrefutable exposal.
He has helped to re-establish the obscured and suppressed importance of Paganism to the civilization of modern Europe and of contemporary life the world over. So doing, he has proclaimed the need of a new Renaissance — a rebirth of the world comparable to his own rebirth in the corporeal and spiritual imprisonment of his monastery.
To the squalor of superstition he opposes the sanitation of science and art and uncensored research.
Mens sana in corpore sano. … A healthy mind in a healthy body. … Under the dictatorship of religion there can be neither. For the world, such a dictatorship does what it did for the boy and the young man that was McCabe; it creates an unhealthy mind in an unhealthy body. The ancient saying about the sound mind in the sound body comes from the ‘Contest of Hesiod and Homer,’ and is Homer’s reply to the question, What constitutes the greatest blessing of man? The Latin form is from the 10th Satire of Juvenal. That saying has a social counterpart to its individualistic statement. This counterpart I may phrase ‘A free individual in a free society.’
McCabe deals in the truth that shall make men free. But between his truth and the truth of the church lies a great gulf fixed, as wide as the difference between health and disease, slavery and freedom, despair and happiness, death and life.
His personal deliverance he has magnified into a program for all humanity.
There is a phrase, “cracker-box Atheist,” that has been used with a certain effect to intimidate minds upon the verge of liberating themselves from theological overlordship. All this business of Freethought, runs the inference, is a sort of wordy and windy ignorance — an easy way of shirking responsibility. Who are we to question the testimony of history — the reports of our wise men, whose opinions are hallowed by the truth, the goodness and the beauty of tradition? Doubt is for rustics. It is coarse. It is characteristic of unrefined, uncouth minds. Country bumpkins, sitting on an inverted cracker-box, around the coal-stove in the village general store, aiming squirts of tobacco juice at the corner spittoon, dispensing their doubts of the holy writings! Who are they to do any doubting?
The image has always amused me. Ignorance has no favorite habitat. It is at home anywhere. This symbolic rustic, before he began to doubt, was good enough in the eyes of his religious leaders to be accepted as a believer. Only when he begins to ask pertinent questions is it noticed that he is sitting on a cracker- box instead of in a pew. When that fellow on the cracker-box turns from sermons to the reading of Robert G. Ingersoll or Joseph McCabe, he has made an advance that represents, in the history of the world, the progress of bloody centuries.
What has he learned at Church? Has his mind been trained there, or have his emotions and his mind alike been enslaved? Slavery is slavery, even when the chains are of gold. Corruption is corruption, even when it is accomplished to the accompaniment of good music, words that ring with solace and good-will but are otherwise sterile, and amidst an atmosphere of vague hope. The cracker-box Atheist proceeds not toward ignorance but away from it. Imposing, polysyllabic ignorance is one of the weapons of Churchianity.
It would be rather difficult to dismiss the anti- ecclesiastical writings of a Joseph McCabe with the phrase, “Cracker-box Atheism.” The mere mass of his books would bear witness to an expenditure of intellectual energy that is rarely matched even in our riotous days of print. That so much of it remains in hard-paper covers, rather than bound in cloth, makes it less imposing only for the type of intellectual snob that I spoke about when I began. When McCabe inveighs against the Catholic Church, or against theocratic civilization in general, he is not dealing in vague, rebellious chat. In his ‘True Story of the Roman Catholic Church’ (in six volumes, adding up to 768 pages of extra size) he accumulates such a deadly array of facts that even the most determined Agnostic or Atheist finds himself gorged. McCabe is not satisfied with subtle implication; he wants, and goes after, dates, figures, quotations from the original sources, documents in the original languages. He does not prove a thing once and then abandon it for other points. He proves his case to the hilt — makes of his theses a battering ram that returns again and again to the supposedly impregnable wall and eventually shatters it.
It is not theological hatred that moves him. Hatred is so natural a vice of the churchman that the Romans had a word for it: ‘Odium theologicum.’ It is equally natural for the churchman to suspect those who disagree with him rather of hatred than of an attempt to dust the cobwebs from their brains. I should say rather that McCabe is moved by the most humanitarian of impulses. Yet I fail to discover, in his thousands of pages, any serious trace of sentimentality. Now and then I have thought that he was tending to subordinate the importance of the economic motif in history. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that there is a point at which the religious and the economic motifs tend to merge. See how, whether in Europe or in the United States, new political movements take on a religious cast; see how frequently religious movements act, politically, much like a unit. We speak, and not with too much exaggeration, of the Jewish vote and the Catholic vote. The stronger a religious institution is, the more certainly is it involved — despite all denials and despite all camouflage — in polities. The Catholic Church is, all over the world, a major political organization.
McCabe’s searchlight upon the Middle Ages may be taken as an example of the manner in which he illuminates all theological obscurantism.
He distinguishes between the Middle Ages and the Dark Ages. The first is the more inclusive term; it comprises history from the break-up of the Roman Empire, i.e., about 450 A.D., to the year 1600. Of this, the first half comprises the Dark Ages. The attempts that have been made to remove the disgrace of that term, says McCabe, are “scarcely even honest.” Until the latter half of the 11th Century Europe was below the level of civilized society; civilization was restored chiefly under the influence of the Arabs, who were followed by the Renaissance.
It was “barbarians” — Theodoric the Goth and the Lombard kings — who tried to save civilization; it was the Popes who frustrated these attempts. “It is enough to say that, while the Romans had given the world a complete system of schools, by the year 500, more than 95 percent of the inhabitants of Europe were illiterate and densely ignorant.” Baths, libraries, hospitals and orphanages, the heritage of Rome, were ruined. This is the period, McCabe maintains, in which Christian Rome forged the stories of martyrs “which are acknowledged to be spurious to the extent of 90 percent and forged documents giving it a claim to the greater part of Italy. This is the real basis of that Temporal Power, for relinquishing its claim to which Mussolini has paid the Papacy millions of dollars.” Even Catholic historians, he points out, called the 10th Century the Iron Age and the Papal regime at that time the Rule of the Whores. By the year 1000 Europe was terribly degraded. Slavery, which the Church had never condemned, had evolved into almost universal serfdom, and the overwhelming mass of people lived like cattle. … Brutality, coarseness and the exploitation of the poor and helpless were almost universal. Life was so appalling that a population did not double in four centuries.
Europe could not, at this period, boast a city of 30,000; drains were unknown; hundreds of miles could be traversed without encountering a school; cleanliness was not even a word. Yet in Arab Spain, these pagans had established cities containing 250,000 to 1,000,000 inhabitants, blessed with drainage and illumination. This is the epoch during which the Popes consolidated their power, basing their secular authority upon now acknowledged forgeries such as the Donation of Constantine and the False Decretals.
The Inquisition darkened the 13th Century. During the Middle Ages several million men and women were slain and the rest terrorized.
Progress against these tremendous handicaps was made by equally tremendous courage and self-sacrifice. McCabe is not very enthusiastic about opening a new historic era with the 1500’s or even the 1600’s. “It is very probable,” in fact, “that future historians will include even our 20th Century in the Middle Ages and refuse to recognize a Modern Age until the last pernicious hermits of medieval life have been purged out of American and European life.” If one is inclined to consider this a little drastic, let one study, first of all, McCabe’s reasons for the statement; let one also consider such atrocities as the St. Bartholomew Massacre, the Thirty Years’ War, the persecution of clear thinking, and extend that consideration down through the disgraceful years 1914-1918 and the equally disgraceful “peace” that followed upon this international slaughter.
McCabe, casting his glance over the Europe of 1830, hesitates to agree that even at this relatively advanced date the continent had risen to the highest level of the Greco-Roman and Arab civilizations. More than 80 percent of the population was still submerged economically, socially, morally, intellectually. Whatever progress was made from this time on was at a pace unequaled by any previous epoch, and “it is the place of the historian to point out that this progress was, whatever the connection may be, accompanied by the most rapid decay of religion that is recorded in history. Our children would be more usefully prepared for life if they were taught this instead of wars and political squabbles and intrigues. And they should further learn that the causes of the progress were the advance of science, the establishment of national systems of education and the growth of a humanitarian ethic or idealism.”
Thus prescribing for the truer and the finer education of the child, McCabe epitomizes the service that he has so well performed for the parents of that child. I count him among the most important educational publicists of our time. Contemporary publishing is fairly rich in what James Harvey Robinson, some 15 years ago, proclaimed in a brief but important address as “the humanizing of knowledge.” McCabe, in advance of Wells and the latter-day exponents of this humanization, was a pioneer in the field. Long before the new method and aim had been labeled, he was practicing it in word and speech. He was opposing pedantry, which is a sort of theology of learning — a kind of obscurantism in which learning becomes an end in itself rather than a means. I am myself too much the specialized scholar to make easy mock of learning. No fact is too humble, too unimportant, to find a place in the vast accumulation of the investigator’s data. The humanization of knowledge, however, asks that the investigator keep his materials and methods from overwhelming the layman whom he addresses. Technicalities are for the fellow-researchers of the investigator. On the other hand, the intelligent layman resists, out of mental pride if nothing else, the condescending, spoon-feeding style of the unskillful popularizer.
McCabe’s writings for the layman — his Key to Culture, his Key to Love and Sex, his One Hundred Men Who Moved the World (a series of 17 booklets that I found invariably informative and civilized, containing some of his best writing), his monographs on The Story of the World’s Oldest Profession, or The Rhythm Method of Natural Birth Control, or Great Ideas Made Simple, not to speak of the files of The Joseph McCabe Magazine and even The Militant Atheist — all these exhibit the fluency of the practiced lecturer, the zeal of the everlasting student, the adaptive skill of the born teacher. Bringing to his reader the result of unintimidated thought, he makes of that reader an uninhibited thinker. There is no condescension in McCabe’s pages. There is no feeding wisdom out of a ladle. There is no display of pedantry, as if the teacher’s desire were — and how often it is! — to impress his pupil rather than to instruct him.
As important as the facts transmitted by McCabe — perhaps even more important, in the long run — is the general attitude toward life that the reader cannot help but absorb.
Negatively, that attitude may be described as a revolt against the theological principle. He accepts nothing on faith. McCabe makes everyone free to doubt everything, and to submit it to searching scrutiny. My private vocabulary considers as “theological” any “truth” to which unquestioning allegiance is demanded, even when that “truth” ostensibly is anti-theological. Every dictatorship, unfortunately, thus contains theological elements; yet, as I will continue to insist, there can be no identification of Mussolini-Hitler dictatorships with the dictatorship of Stalin. Such as McCabe, having revolted against that millennial dictatorship which is the Catholic Church, having calmly taken the almost inevitable step from Agnosticism to Atheism, are not likely to exchange one spiritual fetter for another, or to accept a vicar for God. One either accepts or rejects a Pope; one doesn’t exchange this Pope for that.
I should say that McCabe’s general attitude toward sociology would place him in the class of rationalistic Socialists. He regards Karl Marx as one of the great revolutionizers of scientific history. He accepts the fundamental implications of historical Materialism, or, as it is called, the economic determination of history. He endeavors to avoid, however, the sentimental implications of the theory, and any claim set up for it by its adherents as a sole criterion by which history is to be interpreted.
“The very large element of truth in this theory,” he writes, in Great Ideas Made Simple, “will be granted by most people, but it is, like the work of all pioneers, greatly exaggerated. It reflects the enthusiasm and narrowness of mind that is completely filled with one interest or idea, and everything must be fitted into it. Spengler, for instance, forces the facts of history into a totally different theory. Carlyle forces them into a theory that great personalities make the progress of the world, and so on. One would have to perpetrate an appalling amount of sophistry (as some who believe in the infallibility of Marx do) to prove that what has happened in the way of developments of ideals since 1848 has been an outcome of the method of production and distribution.
“But Marx and his followers sometimes used the expression ‘materialistic determination of history’ instead of ‘economic determination,’ and in this form the theory is permanent and has had a deep influence on modern history. It does not, of course, mean that ideas have not at times deeply influenced human development. This is not inconsistent with the theory unless one assumes that the mind and its ideas are not material. However, the main thing is that it is the use of this principle whenever we see the application of it that has made history scientific. …”
“It would be fanatical to attempt to trace every movement in history to one set of conditions, but the fact is that we now see the general course of history as surely guided by material conditions as a river is guided by its banks.”
As religion is not a gift handed down from a mythical heaven, it shares with all other human inventions the character of an institution conditioned by material factors. It arises, it evolves, it decays. Throughout all McCabe’s writings one comes upon indubitable testimony that, for all the power still wielded by the Church, religion is definitely on the decline. You will not discover, in any of his pages, the nonsensical, evasive statement that there is no true conflict between religion and science. There is an inherent, essential conflict between the two, and the victory is progressively to science. McCabe is always happy to puncture the arguments of those who, taking advantage of changes in scientific theories, try to show that therefore science is weakening, and that the essentially materialistic basis of world-thought is crumbling. For all the back-sliding of certain contemporary scientists — who are just as gullible as other human beings when they leave the special fields of their researches — religion is slowly expiring, like Bryant’s Error, amidst its worshipers.
And, peculiarly enough, the valid idealisms associated with religion emerge the clearer from the welter of decaying superstitions.
The truly harmful “Materialism” is seen to have been rooted in the mundane hypocrisies of the churches, with their impossible, fleshless “ideals” and, consequently, the vast structure of double- dealing and “spiritual” duplicity that was necessary to carry out the pretense of adhering to those ideals.
Such destructive criticism as McCabe has visited, for half a century, upon the Church, ‘is destructive only of error, hypocrisy, cheating, intrigue, oppression and degradation of the body and mind. Thus to destroy is in itself a form of spiritual creation. Thus to destroy is to attack the germs of mental disease, to drain the swamps of human aberration, to make the air of life once more breathable and sanative.
It is curious and amusing, even to one who has made the observation over many years, how calmly and arrogantly the Church turns the obvious truth topsy-turvy. That aristocratic spirit, Remy de Gourmont, wrote a brief paragraph that should bother believers into skepticism: “You have doubts? About what? About whom? About God? Why, that’s a very simple matter: write to him — I haven’t his address. Such, in fact, is the state of the question.” The less certainty there is about a question, the more certain is the Church.
Translate, I am Darkness and Error.
McCabe, more than any other living publicist, and over a longer stretch of time, has translated the doctrines of the Church into the realities of living. He has taken the perverted ideals and stood them right-side up, once again.
To do this is to liberate idealism from the vested interests of the spiritual life. To do this is to reveal the rank Materialism (in the bad sense of the word) that has corrupted the Church, and to reveal, at the same time, the spiritualism (in the finer sense of the word) that inheres in the scientific, materialistic conception of history and of human existence.
A proper conception of the relation between individual and society includes a study of what constitutes the great man.
Not only what constitutes the great man, but just what are the reciprocal relations between the great man and the society out of which he emerges. … Does the great man alter the face of society? Is it society, and the historic conditions of the moment, that produce the great man? What are the indispensable factors of greatness?
Must the individual — we now touch upon another aspect of the same problem — sacrifice himself to the collective will, or does the collectivity exist so that the individual may emerge from the mass, under the most favorable conditions? That this question is something more than idle speculation appears from the contemporary experience of Europe, and especially of Italy, Germany, and the U.S.S.R., under various types of dictatorship. Italy and Germany may be dismissed; the almost sexless Hitler and the paranoiac Mussolini are frankly tyrants to whom their subjects exist only as cannon fodder. It is not a question of society versus, or in cooperation with, the individual; it is only a question of the individual existing for Mussolini and Hitler.
It is in the Union of Soviet Republics that the problem of the reciprocal obligations of individual and society are being worked out at present — in my personal opinion — somewhat unnecessarily to the detriment of the individual.
McCabe, in his introductory remarks to his ‘One Hundred Men Who Moved the World,’ tries to establish an equilibrium of social and individual forces.
“If you want,” he writes, “a short formula for what I call the new civilization, it is the perfect balance of individual desires and collective needs. For the individual it means the fullest measure of development, freedom, and enjoyment that is compatible with respect for the equal rights of others and the welfare and progressiveness of the social body. In the society it implies the fullest measure of toleration, of direction, and of assistance that is compatible with the continuous development of all unrelenting and scientifically directed effort to eliminate suffering and unpleasant behavior, to remove from the body of traditional laws and codes any restrictions that are not socially justified, and to give to each individual the highest capacity of service and the largest liberty to enjoy the reward of it, according to personal taste, that is consistent with the advancement of the race in knowledge, in power and in comfort.”
I am aware that this is as much the statement of a problem as it is a solution. Yet, as certain questions by half imply the answers to them, so the very manner of stating a problem may suggest the emotional and intellectual attitude most valuable for the solution of it.
The men who move the world may move it for evil as well as for good. History, until the new spirit appeared, spent far too much ink upon regarding with admiration creatures whom we now behold with scorn. By a perversion that should never have crept into school books, and that still stains them far too generally, the race has been taught to celebrate its killers, its destroyers, its harbingers of war, rather than its life-bringers, its builders, its messengers of peace. The conception of history, still current, as a succession of wars, as a procession of emperors, generals and grand-operatic strife, has tended to create in the mind of the average person a distorted view of human values. The man who discovers the cure for a disease is to us far more important than the general who — from a safe distance — orders 10,000 men to their death. A Koch, a Pasteur, make mere warriors look like dangerously mischievous children.
History originated, perhaps, as versified ballyhoo. The contending sides carried with them their official poets, who wrote up the war from their employers’ points of view. In any case, early history is little more than the projection of a king’s ego. Then it becomes the projection of a nation’s ego, or, rather, the ego of the class that rules the nation. This explains, roughly, why history is still so full of details that to the common man and woman are irrelevant and even ironical. Consider the kind of history to which the schools have accustomed us, and then think how much of it, when all is said and done, is a sort of social register written in blood.
The new history seeks to correct these bad and misleading proportions. It is written — as it will have to be written for a long time to come — from a corrective standpoint. It places men, small and great alike, in the conditioning environment of a specific setting, and studies the inter-relation between man and environment. It studies the results of economic forces, especially as represented in the attempts of different classes to control those forces in their own interests. War, which is nothing more sacred than the most violent phase of this strife, becomes in the eyes of decent people a thing to be abhorred, not a romantic exercise in which to glory.
Concerning the problem whether “great men made the world or the world made great men,” McCabe adopts the common sense attitude. “That squabble,” he writes, “always recalls to my mind a problem over which medieval scholars spent heated days: whether it is the man or the rope that drags the cow to market.”
Something of the academic inheres in the question. For example, it may be maintained that, under the specific conditions of the after-war period, Italy was inevitably headed for Fascism. Anyone acquainted with recent Italian history, however, can see that the emergence of Signor Benito Mussolini was not equally predestined. The sad fact that it was Mussolini, and not some other, who became the dictator, impressed upon his dictatorship a number of qualities rooted in his personal constitution. On his own evidence, Mussolini suffers from a congenital blood disease, inherited from his father. Most likely, from the symptoms that Il Duce has been exhibiting, the disease is syphilis. Thus Italian Fascism has been colored not only by the nature of economic conditions, but by the traits of Mussolini. German Fascism, likewise, has been colored not only by the economic conditions under which the beast Hitler rose to power, but by characteristics of Hitler himself — characteristics associated with his almost sexless make-up. Yet again, Russian dictatorship has been colored by the tremendous energy and what may, paradoxically, be called the selfless egotism of Joseph Stalin.
Had Lenin lived, or had Trotsky succeeded him, the essential nature of the great experiment in the U.S.S.R. might have remained little changed (except the strategic question of building Socialism in a single state rather than attempting to bring it about simultaneously all over the world). Yet above these unchanged fundamentals would have appeared features associated with the personal traits of the dictator.
It is natural that the undisciplined, and even the disciplined, student should be more attracted to the great man than to the great cause or the great principle. The human mind finds it much more easy to respond to the concrete fact or person than to the abstract principle. A great man, whether he is great for good or for evil, is somebody that we can see, and, however remotely, compare with ourselves.’ We stand toward him in a personal, a readily understandable, relation. A great principle is something remote. It calls for thought rather than for emotion — for impersonal consideration.
It will be seen, in McCabe’s ‘One Hundred Men Who Moved the World,’ that he is no mere glorifier of modernity. There used to be a type of critic who was known as the laudator temporis acti — the man who kept praising, and, harping, on the good old days. McCabe doesn’t play this harp. On the other hand, he is here, as everywhere else, at his salutary task of revindicating the glories of our ancient predecessors. The world, he keeps reminding us, did not begin with the religions that are in favor today. Those religions, allowing for all the good they may have accomplished, interrupted and even set back a social and individual advance that was making great headway. This advance must be resumed.
If, among his 100, no woman is to be found, it is not because McCabe shares the usual prejudices against woman, but rather that he is considering “world influence in a particular direction, not personal ability or achievements.” Thus no Sappho or Aspasia or Joan of Arc or Catherine graces his company. In the past, opportunity was the monopoly of the male. “Perhaps in another century or two someone will write of the 100 great women who labored in the final triumph of sanity and humanity.” For the rest, the numerous Little Blue Books of the great English writer exhibit a constant preoccupation with the status of woman and child in a man-made and church-ridden society.
To list McCabe’s 100 men, from Hammurabi, Confucius, Buddha, Cyrus, Mencius and Asoka, down through the millennia to Nietzsche, Pasteur, Haeckel, Burbank and Anatole France, would be fruitless, particularly since the 17 booklets are so readily accessible. Most striking of the omissions is that of Jesus. To an American missionary in China, who had written to him in gentle reproof, McCabe replied in self-justification. First, Christianity is not strictly a question of Jesus; and Christianity — “in my cold and deliberate opinion … very seriously put back civilization, and held it back for more than 1,000 years …”
The ‘Hundred Men Who Moved the World’ was McCabe’s fourth survey of history, each time from a different angle, to be written for the Haldeman-Julius public. Saluting that public at the end of his arduous task, he reaffirmed the verdict to which, long ago, he had arrived as the result of his unremitting studies:
“What I consider of more value and importance” (i.e., than the matter of Christianity) “is that my character-sketches have established that deep religious feeling of any kind, even merely deistic or pantheistic, is active in singularly few of these makers of civilization. The overwhelming impulse is secular and humanitarian, Further, and finally, neither spiritual nor, in the conventional sense, moral character, is an important element. There seems to be a growing fashion in America of writing books on the lines I trace, so I hope that someone will now undertake, by analyzing my 100 character-sketches, to bring out how far chastity or unchastity, asceticism or sensuality, counted in the conduct of the great movers of the world in the direction of modern civilization. I grew almost tired of mentioning their mistresses and bastards, when they were not polygamists, but you now see why I persevered. Sexual morality has nothing to do with the maintenance or advance of civilization. Most of the men in my list whose places are unchallenged were sensualists. Most of the puritans I included had a restricted influence and their right to be included here might be challenged. That is my final word. The advance of the world depends upon human wisdom, human sympathy, human defiance of ideas that do not come of plain human experience.”
These are simple, noble and heartening words. They are not the empty program of an oratorical manifesto. They are the ideas that have come out of McCabe’s human experience, born of his defiance and ratified by a fruitful life. McCabe’s unrelenting anti- Christianity is not a mere, wilful malevolence. His sympathy, his love for the human race, compel him to defy and to combat its enemies, in whatever guise. In the Church he beholds one of the arch-enemies. He is not taken in by its honeyed words, its beautiful platitudes. Behind the words and the speakers he penetrates to the deeds — to the exploitation of body and soul, to the superstition that degrades, to the hypocrisy, the unnatural aspersion of the body and its pleasures, to the insulting conception of chastity, to the perverted glorification of suffering, to the violent contrast between professions of love and preaching of hatred, to the utter topsy-turvification of the values by which men and women live, love, beget and die.
Subtly, the change in our conception of history must, however slowly, effect a change in our conception of religion. A philosophy of history is, in fact, a philosophy not only of life but of living. Life is abstract; living is concrete. Between abstract and concrete ideas, between intellectual and emotional attitudes, there is a constant, a necessary, inter-play. The Church, of necessity, interdicts this inter-play. By that self-same token it prohibits anything like the full living of life. It closes up vast areas of experience. It throttles expression. It induces blindness of the spirit. And this is true, despite the multitudes of persons one may know who serve the Church and remain, as persons, admirable in every respect. It is regrettable, but it is — as one so often has occasion to realize — only too true, that there is an important difference between one’s function in an institution and the implacable function of the institution itself. Even in the Church, the good man, or the great man, has his effect; against the driving force of the Church itself, however, he is as a tiny cross current upon the ocean. He is at his best, at his most socially useful, when, like McCabe, he has been driven by his finer impulses out of the fold.
Haldeman-Julius, who ought to know, has described McCabe as an “independent and critical Socialist.” The labor and Socialist leaders of England regard him as a sympathetic outsider, but, as the Kansan editor adds, “he supports them at the polls and has never been associated with any other political party. … He contemptuously rejects the fetish of private enterprise and individualism and the idea that Socialism means tyranny, but he feels that in view of the immense development of the middle and distributing and clerical classes, a new orientation is desirable. He would have it shown that a combination of national ownership with graduated (and even high) earned incomes would be to the advantage of the community.
Revolutions come and go appreciably without consulting the wishes of the participants. It is still a question with me whether, in so far as we can guide the course of drastic change in government, the bloody revolution is more efficacious than the slower method of educative, gradual change. My doubts are not dictated by anything more noble than the dislike for slaughter. It is in the very nature of things that when many people are killed in war, whether general or civil, most of the deaths represent members of the oppressed, despised and rejected working-class. It is of these lives that I am thinking. It is a platitude that evolution is a slower-paced revolution. It is a platitude of history, if not of the class-room, that revolution is often an impatient evolution, which, when it discovers that it has moved too fast, must turn back on its course and retrace the stages that it has sought to skip
I know that this sort of thinking has been called, by Communists, “social Fascism.” I know also that, of late, under the new tactics of the “united front,” men formerly included in this category have been loudly praised in the columns of The New Masses. A salient example is that of Smedley Butler. Such signs of human flexibility I welcome. The attitude “He that is not with me is against me” — it comes from the New Testament, Luke xi, 23 — is essentially a fanatic attitude — a variant of “Love me, love my dog.” It is simply not true, though Luke reports Jesus as having said it, that “he that gatherth not with me scattereth.” The Communists, inventing the term “popuchik” (a road-companion, or “fellow-traveler”) provided an antidote for this inflexibility. As there is more than one road to hell, so there may be more than one road to heaven. As a matter of strategy, it is not the precise itinerary that matters — except for party leaders and rigid doctrinaries — so much as the general direction toward a common goal.
McCabe, in any case, knows humanity too well not to appreciate the fundamental virtue of reciprocal respect in the realm of ideas. He has no illusions about toleration. He hits out straight from the shoulder. He does not pretend to accept, or to smile indulgently, at that which he “tolerates.” Toleration is extension of the right of free speech, but little else. He indulges his own right to free speech with unapologetic glee.
The greatest tribute one call give to a writer, especially to a publicizer such as Joseph McCabe, is, simply enough, to read him. Taking leave of him, I would frankly urge upon the American public a thorough acquaintance with his writings. In the same mood of frankness I would even say that, for myself, I find McCabe often more interesting and more stimulating than his friend, H.G. Wells. Wells, indeed, for all his preoccupations with science and with Utopian forecasts, for all the brilliant detail of his Outlines, makes me slightly uneasy. God, in whatever disguise, is too much with him. It seems to me — perhaps personal prejudice enters into the estimate, for I sincerely believe that institutionalized religion is one of the most serious drawbacks with which the human species was ever saddled — it seems to me, I say, that McCabe has more spine than Wells. It is an articulated spine; he bends, but does not break.
I do not recommend McCabe, any more than I recommend any other man, without reservations. The reservations are not important, that is all. I know that I, who spend so much time reading highly specialized material, can always pick up a McCabe book and learn something. Learn not only a fact, but absorb an attitude toward life and living. It happens that the major interests of McCabe deal with matters in which misrepresentation has made the need of logic all the more vital. He is at his best — and it is a tonic best — when refuting the arrogant claims of the Church, when detecting casuistry, when planing away the crust of pedantic obscurantism. I have never heard him lecture, but if his writings are anything to go by, his tongue must, under proper provocation, easily turn into a scalpel. Is there a man alive who has done more to scatter the pretensions of the Church? How many have there been, since Voltaire, who have so relentlessly crushed the Infamy? I do not admire, and have written much against, the type of Outline that pretends to feed culture to a man or woman in predigested pellets. Yet, not the length of the book matters, but the intelligence. McCabe, in Great Ideas Made Simple, often hits upon a simple explanation that dispenses with pages of polysyllabic analysis. The inevitable result of his writings, however — and this is of primary importance is to make the reader wish to learn more. McCabe, in his outlines, is an inspiration, not a substitute. His conception of culture is least of all that of heaping up “subjects” to discuss at the dinner table between coffee and the evening show.
He undoctrinates minds rather than indoctrinates.
I once wrote of Shaw that his plays — however much they may have violated the canons of good taste (that heavily upholstered bugaboo!) — constituted an admirable ventilation system for the modern theater. They aired Shaw’s ideas, to be sure; whose ideas should they have aired, if not the author’s? But they blew a fresh atmosphere through the stuffy playhouse; they ventilated social issues and individual problems. McCabe’s popularizations have something of this ventilating quality. For those nurtured in religious illusions he leans decidedly on the “unpleasant” side, as did Shaw when he was exposing the unacknowledged foundations of prostitution, munitions profits, social poverty the essential rottenness, in a word, of the Capitalist system.
It has been the chief task of McCabe to expose the essential rottenness of the religious system.
That his guns have been trained almost exclusively upon the Catholic Church is naturally explained: it was in this Church that he received his mis-training. What he says, basically, is applicable to all churches.
“He that is not with me is against me.” This is not true even for the Church. The Church has always had the trick of making it appear that one who was not a believer in its particular superstition and rigmarole was therefore not a believer in the social and individual idealisms that the Church professed. The simple truth of the matter is that the Church itself is the enemy of those idealisms, just as Capitalism is the enemy of the beautiful virtues that it worships — by mouth, and makes impossible of achievement in real life. The attempt to identify the words, “Agnostic” and “Atheist” and “Freethinker” with all that is vicious in life is at best mistaken; at worst it is a deliberate falsification.
It takes “guts” to throw off shackles. The typical Freethinker has become what he is because he has discovered the hoax of religion — because, precisely, he wishes to serve social and individual idealists, not evade it under the cloak of belief.
It is not the Agnostic and the Atheist who are on the defensive; it is Capitalism.
Properly to estimate the courage and the grim independence of McCabe, we might contrast him with a gentleman whom, again with reservations, I have much admired. Yet I Cannot conceal my disappointment when I discover, in a recent symposium on philosophy in America, Mr. Will Durant backsliding to the angels. Durant is in his early 50’s. He was trained in Catholicism, like McCabe. Like McCabe he effected an escape into the labor movement. One’s early training, in moments of crisis, has a habit of returning like a ghost from the past. It is the late 40’s that often test out the strength of that radicalism which rebellious youth of the 20’s takes up as a banner of progress. In Durant there has always been a nostalgia for the poetic beauties of Catholicism; the poetry has seemingly blinded and deafened him to the ugly prose. Such sentences as this, from American Philosophy Today and Tomorrow, edited by Horace M. Kallen and Sidney Hook, make me a trifle nervous. Writes Durant:
“Against the biological background of human life, in which nothing is certain except decay, only the sophomoric soul will expect an end of religion, or be anxious to offer to the unhappy a Copernicus and a Darwin in exchange for a Dionysius and a Christ.” He still shudders a little, he tells us, “at the word Atheism,” because of his “constitutional Catholicism,” which renders him “physiologically incapable of Materialism or Mechanism.” Again: “Below the medulla I am still a Catholic; I am still moved by the incredibly beautiful story of Christ, almost as much when, like another Aloysius, I mounted nervously to the altar every morning to partake of the body and blood, soul and divinity, of the young Savior who, better than any other man, I think, has phrased for us our dream of what we might be.”
This, I confess, for all its indubitable honesty, sadden’s me. Is Durant no longer moved by what the story of Christ has done to humanity? Is he not moved by the incredibly beautiful ideal beneath the seemingly harsh Marxian doctrine, whereby the humanity of a Christ, or of any other ancient religious leader, is rendered translatable into action? Does the idealism of the Christ story require that he shall yield to the disguised cannibalism of those morning ceremonies on the altar?
Durant becomes the symbol of the man who cannot shake off the indoctrination of his youth.
McCabe remains the symbol of the truly liberated personality. He does not, as I have just hinted, reject the social ideals that the Churches pretend to serve. He rejects, firmly, their false pretensions — their unjustified assumptions — their superstitions, however outwardly “beautiful”; he discovers, in the purified atmosphere of this deliverance, a beauty that is undreamed of in the gloom of the cloister. Sentimentalism does not vitiate his recollections. If McCabe were ever to write such lines as those that I have just quoted from Will Durant, I should almost lose the little faith in human nature that still remains in me. As the weakness of the Durants brings out, in like-minded and like-souled readers, a latent weakness, so the strength of the McCabes brings out in their readers a latent strength,
Salutations, Unsaint Joseph! You, too, in your own way, have moved the world into which you were born. I know many hundreds of names in the contemporary world that appear in the list of those who have moved it. Without compunction, I could gaily scratch out dozens of them to make room for the name of Joseph McCabe.
Why I Left the Church. 1897, 1st edn. N.D., new edn., sewn. 3d., Pp. 48. “Pamphlets for the Million, No. l.” London. Watts & Co.
Twelve Years in a Monastery. 1897, 1st edn. 1903, 2nd edn. 1912, 3rd edn., revised, cloth, 1s. 6d., Pp. IX and 259. “The Thinker’s Library.” London. Watts & Co.
Modern Rationalism: a Sketch of the Progress of the Rationalist Spirit In the 19th Century. 1897, 1st edn., cloth, 2s. 6d., Pp. 163. London. ‘Watts & Co.
Life in a Modern Monastery. 1898, 1st edn., cloth, 6s. Od., Pp. VIII and 282. London. Grant Richards.
Religion of the 20th Century. 1899, 1st edn, boards, cloth back, 1s. Od., Pp. 102. London. Watts & Co.
Peter Abelard. 1901, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. VII and 402. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Saint Augustine and His Age. 1902, 1st edn., cloth, 3s. 6d, Pp. X and 441. “The Reader’s Library.” London. Duckworth & Co
The Riddle Vindicated. Haeckel’s Critics Answered: 1903 1st edn., wrappers, 6d., Pp. 128. “R.P.A. extra series, no. 2.” London. Watts & Co.
Church Discipline: an Ethical Study of the Church of Rome. 1903, 1st edn., cloth, 3s. 6d., Pp. 269. London. Duckworth & Co.
Religion of Woman: an Historical Study. 1905, 1st edn., cloth, 2s. 6d., Pp. 95. London. Watts & Co. With introduction by Lady Florence Dixie.
Truth About Secular Education: Its History and Results. 1906, 1st edn., wrappers, 6d., Pp. 96. London. Watts & Co.
A Hundred Years of Educational Controversy. 1907, 1st edn., wrappers, 3d., Pp. 16. London. Watts & Co.
Talleyrand: a Biographical Study. 1907, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. 373 and VI. New York. D. Appleton & Co.
The Bible in Europe: an Inquiry into the Contribution of the Christian Religion to Civilization. 1907, 1st edn., cloth, 2s. 6d., Pp. VIII and 224. London. Watts & Co.
Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake. 1908, 1st edn., 2 vols., Cloth, 21s. Od. London. Watts & Co.
Martyrdom of Ferrer: Being a True Account of His Life and Work. 1909, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. 96. London. Watts & Co.
Woman in Political Evolution. 1909, 1st edn., wrappers, 6d., Pp. 80. London. Watts & Co.
The Iron Cardinal. 1909, 1st edn., cloth, gilt tops, 128. Od., Pp. XII and 389. London. Eveleigh Nash.
The Decay of the Church of Rome. 1909, 1st edn., 1909, 2nd edn., 1911, 3rd edn., cloth, 7s. 6d., Pp. V and 314.
The Evolution of Mind. 1910, 1st edn., cloth, gilt tops, 12s. Od., Pp. XII and 289. London. Adam & Charles Black.
Empresses of Rome. 1911, 1st edn., cloth, 12s. 6d. Pp. X and 357. London. Methuen & Co., Ltd.
Goethe: the Man and His Character. 1912, 1st edn., cloth, 159. Od., Pp. IX and 378. London. Eveleigh Nash.
The Story of Evolution. 1912, 1st edn., cloth, 39. 6d., Pp. XI and 340. Boston. Small Maynard & Co.
The Existence of God. 1913, 1st edn.. cloth, 1s. 3d. Pp. 160. 1933. new edn., rewritten, cloth, 13. Od., Pp. V and 162. London. Watts & Co.
A Candid History of the Jesuits. 1913, 1st edn., cloth, 108. 6d., Pp. IX and 451. London. Eveleigh Nash.
Empresses of Constantinople. N.D. 1st edn., cloth, Pp. XI and 341. 1913(?). Boston. Richard G. Badger.
George Bernard Shaw: a Critical study. 1914, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. XI and 261. New York. Mitchell Kennerley.
The Religion of Sir Oliver Lodge. 1914, cloth, 2s. 6d., Pp. IX and 178. London. Watts & Co.
The Sources of the Morality of the Gospels. 1914, 1st edn., cloth, 4s. 6d., Pp. VIII and 315. London. Watts & Co.
Treitschke and the Great War. 1914, 1st edn., cloth, 68. Od., Pp. 287. London. T. Fisher Unwin.
The Soul of Europe: a Character Study of Militant Nations. 1915, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. VI and 407. New York. Dodd, Mead & Co.
The Kaiser: His Personality and Career. 1915, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. IX and 292. London. T. Fisher Unwin.
The War and the Churches. 1915, 1st edn., wrappers, 1s. Od., Pp. XIII and 114. London. Watts & Co.
Crises in the History of the Papacy: a Study of 20 Famous Popes Whose Careers and Whose Influence Were Important in the Development of the Church and in the History of the World, 1916, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. XIV and 459. New York. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
The Influence of the Church on Marriage and Divorce. 1916, 1st edn., cloth, 4s. Od., Pp. XV and 217. London. Watts & Co.
Bankruptcy of Religion. 1917, 1st edn., cloth, 6s. Od., Pp. Xll and 308. London. Watts & Co.
The Pope’s Favorite. 1917, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. VIII and 334. London. Hurst and Blackett, Ltd.
The Growth of Religion: a Study of its Origin and Development. 1918, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. VII and 312. London. Watts & Co.
The Popes and Their Church: a Candid Account. 1918, 1st edn., 1924, 2nd edn., revised, 1933, 3rd edn., revised, cloth, 2s. 6d., Pp. IX and 182.
Georges Clemenceau, France’s Grand Old Man: His Life and Opinions. 1919, 1st edn., wrappers, 1s. 3d., Pp, VIII and 88. London. Watts & Co.
The Church and the People. 1919, 1st edn., wrappers, Pp. VIII and 96. London. Watts & Co.
A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists. 1920, 1st edn., cloth, 42s. Od., Pp. XXXII, text not paged. London. Watts & Co.
Is Spiritualism Based on Fraud: the Evidence Given by Sir A.C. Doyle and Others Drastically Examined. 1920, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. V and 160. London. Watts & Co.
Robert Owen. 1920, cloth, 1s. Od., Pp. VIII and 120. London. Watts & Co.
The ABC of Evolution. 1921, 1st edn., cloth, $1.50, Pp. V and 124. New York. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
The End of the World. 1921, 1st edn., cloth, 6s. Od., Pp. VI and 267. London. George Routledge & Sons, Ltd.
The Evolution of Civilization. 1922, 1st edn., cloth, $1.25, Pp. VII and 138. New York. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
George Jacob Holyoake. 1922, 1st edn., cloth, 1s. Od., Pp. VIII and 120. London. Watts & Co.
Ice Ages: the Story of the Earth’s Revolutions. 1922, 1st edn., cloth, $1.50, Pp. IX and 134. New York. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
A New Creed for a New World. Delivered in the Centennial Hall, Brisbane, on Tuesday, June 5, 1923. 1923, 1st edn., cloth, 1s. 6d., Pp. 40. London. Watts & Co.
The Twilight of the Gods. 1923, 1st edn., wrappers, 6d., Pp. VII and 128. London. Watts & Co.
The Wonders of the Stars. 1923, 1st edn., cloth, $1.50, Pp. VIII and 134. New York. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
The Marvels of Modern Physics. 1925, 1st edn., cloth, $1.50, Pp. IX and 145. New York. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
The Triumph of Evolution. 1925, 1st edn., wrappers, 7d., Pp. 31. London. Watts & Co.
1825 to 1925: a Century of Stupendous Progress. 1926, 1st edn., cloth, $1.50, Pp. XXI and 194. New York. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Truth About the Catholic Church. 1926, 1st edn., wrappers, 75c., Pp. 101. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Science Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. 1927, 1st edn., cloth, 2s. 6d., Pp. 144. London. Herbert Jenkins, Ltd.
The Key to Culture. 1927-1929, 1st edn., 40 parts, wrappers, $7.50. Girard, Kans. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Debunking the Lourdes Miracles and Other Articles. 1928, 1st edn., wrappers, 50c. Pp. 64. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
The Story of Religious Controversy. 1929, 1st edn., cloth, $5.00, Pp. XVIII and 623. Boston. Stratford Publishing Co. Edited, with introduction, by E. Haldeman-Julius.
The Key to Love and Sex. 1929, 1st edn., 8 parts, wrappers, $4. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
The True Story of the Roman Catholic Church. 1930, 1st edn., 6 parts, wrappers, $6.00. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
The History and Meaning of the Catholic Index of Forbidden Books. 1931, 1st edn., wrappers, $1.00. Pp. 107. Girard, Kans. Haldeman- Julius Publications.
The New Science and the Story of Evolution. N.D. (1931), 1st edit, cloth, 7s. 6d., Pp. 310. London. Hutchinson & Co., Ltd. “The Story of Evolution” (1912), rewritten.
One Hundred Men Who Moved the World: Character Sketches of the Greatest Creative Forces of History. 1931, 1st edn., 17 parts, wrappers, $8.50. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Spain in Revolt. 1931, 1st edn., cloth, 68. Od., Pp. XI and 246. London. John Lane.
An Outline of Today’s Knowledge: Important Truths of Modern Science and History. 1932, 1st edn., wrappers, $1.00, Pp. 128. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
A Book of Popular Superstitions: a Study of Man’s Capacity for Wrong Beliefs. 1932, 1st edn., wrappers, 75c, Pp. 64. Girard Kansas Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Can We Save Civilization? 1932, 1st edn., cloth, 6s. Od., Pp. 254. London. The Search Publishing Co.
Edward Clodd: a Memoir. 1932, 1st edn., cloth, 6s. Od., Pp. VII and 219. London. John Lane.
The Story of the World’s Oldest Profession: Prostitution in the Ancient, Medieval and Modern Worlds. 1932, 1st edn., wrappers, $1.00, Pp. 123. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Great Ideas Made Simple: Help in Clearing up Ideas on Science, Philosophy, Literature. 1934. 1st edn., wrappers, 75c, Pp. 64. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Mr. G.K. Chesterton as an Historical Oracle. 1934, 1st edn., sewn, 2d., LI. 4. London. Golden Eagle Publishing Co.
Rhythm Method of Natural Birth Control. 1934, 1st edn., wrappers, 50c, Pp. 32. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
The Riddle of the Universe Today. 1934, 1st edn., cloth, 5s. Od., Pp. IX and 250. London. Watts & Co.
The Splendor of Moorish Spain. 1935, 1st edn., cloth, 10s. 6d., Pp. XIII and 298. London. Watts & Co.
The Freethinker’s Library. 1936, wrappers. $1.00 for 10 issues. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Evolution: a General Sketch from Nebula to Man. N.D., 1st edn., cloth, 1s. Od., Pp. 128. “Twentieth Century Series.” London. Milner & Co.
Prehistoric Man. N.D., 1st edn., cloth, 1s. Od., Pp. 128. “Twentieth Century Series.” London. Milner & Co.
Principles of Evolution. N.D., 1st edn., cloth, 1s. Od., Pp. 264. London. Collins’ Clear Type Press.
Three other publications of Mr. McCabe, issued in or earlier than 1915, which we have been unable to trace yet, are: In the Shade of the Cloister (Contable), Issued under a pseudonym. Shakespeare and Goethe (Cole). Origin of Life (Watts).
1926-1934, wrappers. Nos. 109-1248, 10c, 64 pp.; 1450-1733, 5c, 32pp. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
109 Facts You Should Know About the Classics.
297 Do We Need Religion?
354 The Absurdities of Christian Science.
365 Myths of Religious Statistics.
366 Religion’s Failure to Combat Crime.
439 My Twelve Years in a Monastery.
445 Fraud of Spiritualism.
446 Psychology of Religion.
477 The Nonsense Called Theosophy.
841 The Future of Religion.
1007 The Revolt Against Religion.
1008 The Origin of Religion.
1030 The World’s Great Religions.
1059 The Myth of Immortality.
1060 The Futility of Belief In God.
1061 The Human Origin of Morals.
1066 The Forgery of the Old Testament.
1076 Morals in Ancient Babylon.
1077 Morals in Ancient Egypt.
1078 Life and Morals in Greece and Rome.
1079 Phallic Elements in Religion.
1084 Did Jesus Ever Live?
1095 The Sources of Christian Morality.
1102 Pagan Christs.
1104 The Myth of the Resurrection.
1107 Legends of Saints and Martyrs.
1110 How Christianity “Triumphed.”
1121 The Evolution of Christian Doctrine.
1122 The Degradation of Woman.
1127 Christianity and Slavery.
1128 The Church and the School.
1130 The Dark Ages.
1132 New Light on Witchcraft.
1134 The Horrors of the Inquisition.
1136 Medieval Art and the Church.
1137 The Moorish Civilization In Spain.
1140 The Renaissance: a European Awakening.
1141 The Reformation and Protestant Reaction.
1142 The Truth About Galileo and Medieval Science.
1144 The Jesuits: Religious Rogues.
1145 Religion and the French Revolution.
1150 The Churches and Modern Progress.
1203 Seven Infidel United States Presidents.
1205 Thomas Paine’s Revolt Against the Bible.
1211 The Conflict Between Science and Religion.
1215 Robert G. Ingersoll: Benevolent Agnostic.
1218 Christianity and Philanthropy.
1224 Religion in Great Poets.
1229 The Triumph of Materialism.
1237 The Beliefs of Scientists.
1243 The Future of Christian Missions.
1248 The Lies of Religious Literature.
1450 Do We Live Forever: A Reply to Clarence True Wilson.
1455 End of the World.
1486 Are Atheists Dogmatic?
1487 Manual of Debunking.
1490 Is Einstein’s Theory Atheistic? An Answer to Cardinal O’Connell.
1501 Mussolini and the Pope: the Comedy of the Blackshirt and the Blackmailer.
1509 Gay Chronicle of the Monks and Nuns.
1510 Epicurean Doctrine of Happiness.
1515 Love Affair of a Priest and a Nun.
1536 Facing Death Fearlessly.
1539 Debate With a Jesuit Priest.
1543 Is War Inevitable?
1550 How People Lived in the Middle Ages.
1559 Can We Change Human Nature?
1561 That Horrible French Revolution.
1731 Atheism In Russia.
1732 What Gods Cost Man.
1733 The Blood of Martyrs.
Joseph McCabe and Georges Darien. Can We Disarm? 1899, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. 151. Chicago. Herbert S. Stone & Co.
Joseph McCabe and G.W. De Tunzelmann. Report of a Debate on Theism and the Problem of the Universe, at Essex Hall, London, W.C., Monday, November 29, 1909. With a preface and footnotes by the opener of the debate. 1910, 1st edn., wrappers, 6d., Pp. 55. London. Sherratt and Hughes. See Pamphlets, Vol. 3, No. 7.
Joseph McCabe and W.T. Lee. Christianity and Secularism: Which Is the Better for Mankind? Verbatim report of two nights’ debate between Mr. W.T. Lee and Mr. Joseph McCabe. Held at the Town Hall, Holborn, on Thursday and Friday evenings, March 9 and 10, 1911. 1911, 1st edn, wrappers, 6d., Pp. 63. London. Watts & Co. See Pamphlets, Vol. 3, No. 1.
Joseph McCabe and C.J. Shebbeare. Design Argument Reconsidered. A Discussion between the Rev. C.J. Shebbeare and Joseph McCabe. 1923, 1st edn., wrappers, 3a. 6d., Pp. XVI and 147. London. Watts & Co.
Revelation of God in Nature: a Discussion between Rev. C.J. Shebbeare and Joseph McCabe. 1924, 1st American edn., cloth, Pp. 210. New York G.P. Putnam’s Sons. These two works are identical except for title.
Joseph McCabe and George McCready Price. Is Evolution True? Verbatim report of debate between George McCready Price, M.A., and Joseph McCabe. Held at the Queen’s Hall, Langham Place, London, W., on September 6, 1925 (Earl Russell in the chair). 1925, 1st edn, wrappers, 1s. Od. Pp. 59. London. Watts & Co.
Joseph McCabe and Carlyle Summerbell. Has the Universe a God? The great debate between Rev. Carlyle Summerbell, D.D., and Joseph McCabe. Held in the Auditorium Recital Hall, Chicago, Sunday afternoon, October 18, 1925. 1925, 1st edn., wrappers, 50c, Pp. 30. Chicago. Rationalist’ University Press. See Pamphlets, Vol. 3, No. 6.
Joseph McCabe’s Magazine. July 1, 1930 — May 1, 1931, wrappers, $5.00 (All issued). Vols. 1 — 3, 21 nos. (All in print.) Girard Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Appeal to Reason Library. 1935 — , No. 1 –, wrappers, (This library contains eight volumes, $2 for the set.) Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
Little Blue Books. 1926-1934, wrappers, Nos. 122-1262, 10c, 64 pp.; No. 1730, 5c, 32 pp. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
No. 122 Joseph McCabe and Conan Doyle. Debate on Spiritualism.
1125 Joseph McCabe, N.A. Crawford, B. Russell, M. Fishbein, J.V. Nash, M.A. De Ford and E.T. Brewster. A Book of American Shams.
1262 Joseph McCabe and G.M. Price. Is Evolution True? Is Evolution, as a Process, Substantiated by Facts?
1730 Joseph McCabe and E. Haldeman-Julius. How Man Made God.
Haeckel, Ernst. The Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the 19th Century. 1901, 1st edit., cloth, Pp. XII and 391. New York. Harper & Bros.
Buchner, Ludwig. Last Words on Materialism and Kindred Subjects. 1901, 1st edn., cloth, Pp. XXXIV and 299. London. Watts & Co.
Guenther, Conrad. Darwinism and the Problems of Life: a Study of Familiar Animal Life. 1906, 1st edn., from 3rd German edn., cloth, Pp. 436. New York. E.P. Dutton & Co.
Kalthoff, Albert. The Rise of Christianity. 1907, 1st edit. cloth, Pp. 201. London. Watts & Co.
Haeckel, Ernst. The Evolution of Man: a Popular Scientific Study. 1910, 1st edn., from 5th German edn., 2 vols., cloth, gilt edges, Pp. 774. London. Watts & Co.
Dujardin, Edouard. The Source of the Christian Tradition: a Critical History of Ancient Judaism. 1911, 1st edn., wrappers, 3s. 6d., Pp. XVI and 307. London. Watts & Co.
Ferrer, Francisco. Origin and Ideals of the Modern School. 1913, 1st edn., wrappers, 6d., Pp. XV and 110. London. Watts & Co.
Windelband, Wilhelm. Introduction to Philosophy. 1921, 1st edn., cloth, 78. 6d., Pp. 365. London. T. Fisher Unwin, Ltd.
Corti, Dr. Edon Caesar. Leopold I of Belgium: Secret Pages of European History. 1923, 1st edn., cloth, $4.50, Pp. 307. New York. Brentano’s.
Voltaire, Francis Marie Arout de. Selected works. 1st edn.(?), cloth, 1935, new edn., cloth, 1s. Od., Pp. X and 214. London. Watts & Co.
Works Relating to Joseph McCabe
Haldeman-Julius, Marcet. Talks with Joseph McCabe, and Other Confidential Sketches. 1931, 1st edn., wrappers, $1.00, Pp. 128. Girard, Kansas. Haldeman-Julius Publications.
A Review of the Six Volumes of “Questions and Answers”
By Joseph McCabe
There is a rumor in the circle of medieval scholarship which I once adorned that a certain doctor of the Middle Ages once wrote a book to which he gave the title, ‘About Everything and a Few Other Things.’ If Mr. Haldeman-Julius ever collects into one fat tome the six volumes of Questions and Answers which have intrigued, amused, and astonished me during the last few days, that would be a not inappropriate title. If I had not the pleasure of knowing him and having seen him at work in his study and his office at the plant, I should be tempted to think that he is a myth, like Homer, a collective name for a large and learned staff, armed with a battery of encyclopedias and works of reference, under the control of one of those twelve-cylindered Americans we read about in novels. I had, in fact, some such idea about him before I met him 10 years ago. And what I found was a quiet little man, of few words
and fewer gestures, tapping out his thoughts on a typewriter as fluently and smoothly as if he were just writing some cheap stuff like hymns or leading articles for a Hearst newspaper.
There is information and information. Some years ago Mr. H.G. Wells announced a plan of purveying all knowledge to us in five enormous volumes which would make up a Bible of the Race. They did not kill us, but they nearly killed Mr. Wells as a writer. The first volume; The Outline of History, was, with all its diplomatic concessions, inaccuracies, and conventional accounts of critical chapters, a fine piece of work, but when it came to the economic and sociological section the work was so overloaded with mere encyclopedia-stuff that even the most ardent Wellsians recoiled. Curiously enough Wells had once explained his success to me in this fashion: “I know what the public want and I know in what form they want it.” He seems, like Shaw (whom he detests), who once gave me the counsel to “think out most carefully what you are going to say and then dash it off as frivolously as you like,” to have lost his copybook.
The safest way to learn what the public want is to ask them, but a man needs a great deal of courage and audacity to say that he will give them whatever information they ask. Haldeman-Julius has that courage and audacity in such a degree that we should call it a sublime cheek if these six volumes did not prove that he has been doing the work with remarkable success for several years.
I have myself a fair knowledge of things in general, and I maliciously read through hundreds of these answers in search of a slip. I have not yet found one, though I live in hope. Naturally, I could not answer half the questions myself so cannot cheek all the answers, but I suppose that for general information I make as good an examiner as any, and I give full marks.
If Mr. Haldeman-Julius confined himself to the function of being ready to answer any question you like on innocent subjects such as hot dogs, financial and commercial statistics, and the number of poodles; and pekinese in Washington or Pasadena, The American Freeman [The American Freeman originally prints the questions and answers which are later gathered into book form. The American Freeman’s subscription rate is $1 Per year ($1.25 Canada and foreign). Address: Girard, Kansas.] would probably become one of the most successful periodicals in America. It is a sad reflection on the state of the public mind — let us distinguish between the public and its mind, which is a mush created by press and pulpit — that the circulation is limited just because the writer refuses to prostitute his pen or restrict himself to meretricious trifles. If, as many believe, this age of ours is going to turn away from the golden prospect that was opened to it and pass into a prolonged period of reaction, it will be the fault of the organs of public instruction. School-education, bossed by our clerical and political sergeant-majors, is a deliberate discouragement to independent thinking on matters of importance. It is a preparation of the young for easy capture by the partisan, corrupt, mendacious, or hypocritical influences which are waiting for every one who thinks of something other than the job and jazz, crooning, Mickey Mouse, and baseball. The press has become a tragi-comedy. Four millionaires in America and Great Britain guide the “thinking” of about 40,000,000 people; and not one of the four is capable of thinking out a sound philosophy of life or sees the world as anything except a field in which adventurers like themselves can dig up unlimited gold. The elementary blunders and hypocrisies of these formidable guides of the race from 1904 to 1914 let the world drift into the horrible tragedy of 1914-1918. Their elementary blunders and hypocrisies since the war kept the public from perceiving that it was drifting into the terrible catastrophe of the depression years and was permitting incarnate brutality to entrench itself and prepare to flood the world with poison-gas.
Mr. Haldeman-Julius has no pet superstition that must be guarded from the light of reason or the acid of criticism. He knows that the dream of rationalizing life in sections is, and always will be, a dangerous illusion. The work of practical reform or reconstruction may have to be sectional. Except in a country like Russia, where it is, at all events, the first principle of statesmen that the whole life of the nation must be reconstructed on a rational scientific basis, the mind of the public has to be prepared by movements which are necessarily sectional. But their standing danger is, as has been proved over and over again, that in pursuing their particular aims they make concessions to the reactionaries who block the way of other and equally important movements. I have never advocated that a movement which united people of very different classes and creeds of life in the pursuit of one reform — say, the destruction of superstition — should be distracted and destroy its unity by taking up other causes. But it is a very different matter when people in such movements make tactical or hypocritical concessions to the superstitions which it is not their particular business to attack. That is one of the most painful features of so many reform-movements of our time; and it is most painful of all when the motive is to protect the treasury or the repute of respectability. I have seen such movements completely eviscerated and become almost futile for their own declared purposes by entering upon the path of concession.
It is therefore a public utility of the highest order that, aside from sectionalist reform-movements, we shall have men who look round upon the whole of life with critical eyes and speak out with complete candor. I know no man who renders this service so effectively as Haldeman-Julius does. Mencken once came near that high position, but, like so many, he has “mellowed” with age or lost the moral nerve that is required for such a task. Bertrand Russell comes near it, but there is a thread in his mental texture — witness his unfortunate attacks on science — which I have never understood, and some of his recent deliverances are quoted with satisfaction by reactionaries. Shaw has just published senile praise of Hitler and Mussolini. Dewey served well for years in the purely intellectual field, and, behold, he has found God. Upton Sinclair. … But I have lately written what I think about his development. Wells did magnificent work in a dozen fields, but he seems to be ending in indecision and futility. Haldeman-Julius never compromises, never considers what it is expedient to say and what not to say, never switches his mind from the evidence in any matter because a candid examination of it might compel him to adopt a view that would be unpopular.
That — if I may for a moment introduce myself into the business — is the chief ground for the cordial cooperation I have enjoyed with him for 10 years and hope to enjoy for a further 10 years. Two men more diverse in origin and life-long associations it would be difficult to find — one of us a Philadelphia Jewish- American with the control of a large business, the other an English-Irish ex-professor of philosophy and ex-monk — yet we find ourselves in complete agreement on all major issues. Indeed, I am not at the moment able to mention anything on which we differ. Just 20 years ago I published a book, The Tyranny of Shams, which contained and defended my major heresies which at the close I summed up as — in the words of the horrified reader — “socialism, immoralism, republicanism, materialism, Malthusianism.” I am the same today, only more so. Men who are willing to study all the facts and are determined to apply a critical rational judgment to all traditions and all the problems of life are very apt, whatever the starting-point, to reach the same common position that we have reached.
It is another common effect of this determination to get full knowledge on all the problems of life and fearlessly expel superstition from every part of our philosophy that we escape the solemnity, sourness, and ponderousness that spoil the work of many good men. The circumstances of my life — 15 years in poverty, 12 years in a monastery that reeked with hypocrisy and stupidity, and 40 years hard and ill-requited fighting amidst bitter hostility, lying, and treachery of “friends” — have not made me a humorist, yet the gaiety of a full rational philosophy of life, backed by a knowledge of history, may at times be caught even in my pages by a discerning reader. That gaiety, in spite of the daily panorama he must survey of lying, hypocrisy, and exploitation, of world-wide remediable suffering and callous indifference to it, is one of the traits of Mr. Haldeman-Julius’ work. Beware of the reformer who cannot see a joke and enjoy a comedy. Not only is he apt to cut himself off from the mass of people with an affectation of superiority to their drinking, smoking, playing, but this leads to a warping of his mind in one or other direction and a leaning to some phase of obscurantism.
But there are times for gaiety and times for strong language. If radicals had spoken out when Soviet Russia made its now- abandoned blunder of trying to found an age of ideal brotherhood upon a policy of harshness and tyranny, if the press at large had spoken out, freely and sonorously, when Japan entered upon its criminal career in China, and Mussolini bloodily seized power in Italy, the world would not have drifted into the Fascist and military mess that has so gravely complicated its economic troubles. No language in the dictionary or out of it is too strong to be applied to men like Mussolini, Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Gombos, Starhemberg, Schuschnigg, Pilsudski, Robles, and the Pope. To use faintly critical language about them is almost as criminal a disservice as to find virtues and efficiencies in them. And the same heavy censure should extend to statesmen who could have checked them and did not and to all writers or political workers who apostatize from the ideals they professed. If a man claims that moderation in language in dealing with such men has the slightest use, his experience of public life must be slender. Where men honestly hold pernicious opinions, we damn the opinion and make allowance for the men, but to murmur polite disapproval of hypocrisy, cruelty, and corruption is not a mark or refinement, never does any good, and is generally cowardly.
I gather from some of the questions that have been sent to Mr. Haldeman-Julius that a few of his readers deprecate his strong language, especially about Hitler and Mussolini. I submit to them that just one of the reasons why the world, at a time when a magnificent opportunity of advance was presented to it, has stumbled into a morass is that there has been too much politeness in the press about new developments and personalities. A few days ago we had the result of the trial of a bunch of Socialists in Vienna. They had been guilty of the terrible crime of talking quietly to each other about the possibility of reviving the Socialist party, naturally as a non-violent organization. But because the public prosecutor demanded the death-sentence and the court did not do more than condemn them to a year or two in jail, my “liberal” newspaper commented on the ‘surprising leniency” of the Austrian judge (that is to say, government). I had occasion the other day to look up the files of the same paper for the year 1832. It then, editorially, spoke of the princes as “the royal bastards” and of the king as “their driveling begetter.” Personally I do not itch to repeat this of the timid and amiable young man who has just acceded to the British throne, though the stories told about him and his “begetter” (whose marriage I have heard a conservative lawyer declare invalid on account of a previous secret marriage) would make a pink volume, but I do deprecate that a once stalwart radical paper should now print such a monstrous compliment to that aristocratic puppet, Prince Starhemberg, and condone so brutal an outrage on high-minded men and women. Of his comrade Mussolini and his rival Hitler no language could be used that overstates their dirty criminality. It is a pity they were not strangled in their cradles.
I gather from the reply to one of these questions that Mr. Haldeman-Julius is not a millionaire. I am sorry to hear it, for there must be few millionaires in America who have earned a million as soundly as he has done by his service to education in the last 20 years. But It is useful to remind ourselves of that larger service. It is discouraging to read that The American Freeman has only 25,000 subscribers, but let not even the Catholic enemy scoff. He has put 200,000,000 books in circulation during that time, and in an enormous proportion they are books conveying the same rational and critical outlook on life. People who belong to a billion-dollar corporation must feel sick when they read that record of one man’s work. Yet one must regret that these Questions and Answers themselves do not reach a much wider public. Very few papers in America give the public an entirely sane lead on current events, and most folk take their guidance from papers which suppress facts and admit fiction in a scandalous degree. It seems strange that so few avail themselves of a source of information on the great movements of our time which is wholly free from the contaminations and dominations that make the press generally unreliable. I hope the publication of the Questions and Answers in book form will induce further tens of thousands to discover and appreciate the very valuable service that Mr. Haldeman-Julius offers them.
I notice that amongst the questions there are many which are really complaints that Mr. Haldeman-Julius does not quit criticizing religion and the churches. Too often critics of this kind outgrew religion so long ago that they do not follow religious life and literature any longer and allow themselves to be persuaded that “the battle is over” or that the churches have mended their ways. For instance, in the Sixth Series of Questions and Answers the author gives a number of clerical glorifications of war. Many skeptics, anxious, as they say, to unite all forces for social action, too easily take the word of some cleric that all this is over and can never happen again. Can’t it? You could today make an exactly similar bouquet of clerical blessings in Italy of one of the most beastly and cruel wars yet waged. But the sentiment is not confined to Italy or to war-time. On April 1, 1936 — the very day before I write this — a prominent parson of the Church of England, Rev. Forrest, of Oxford, speaking at a Conference of his church in the city of Oxford, protested that “at the present time, the moral life and the influence and witness of the church are being terribly weakened by the diffusion of what is definitely anti-Christian doctrine — I mean the doctrine of pacifism.” He called upon his colleagues to fight “this pernicious doctrine of pacifism!’ and make folk realize that “the exercise of force and punishment is a divinely given authority.”
You need to cultivate a comprehensive attitude toward reform, such as Mr. Haldeman-Julius does, to conduct even your pet propaganda with complete sanity and success. “We’ll work with the devil if it helps us,” a European Socialist leader said to me 12 years ago when I warned him of the danger of his party’s alliance with the Catholics. A few years later the Pope used exactly the same words in excuse of his infamous alliance with Mussolini to destroy Socialism and Rationalism. We have seen movement after movement captured by the churches because the clergy offered to bring their followers in and augment its strength if it would check anti-clerical pronouncements by its speakers and writers. And every such movement was promptly tamed and debilitated. There was a time when the blunt common-sense attitude toward the clergy in the British Labor Movement was: “Come in and help if you want, but turn your collar round while you are with us.” Ramsay Macdonald, eager to get to power and hobnob with the king, and George Lanabury, who ought never to have been made secretary of more than a suburban lodge, changed all that. So the Labor party, which calls Itself Socialist, can command millions of votes at any election — and does not know what to do with them because it is too flabby to put out a straight program. At the last election it was a joke in London that the Labor leaders were trembling because they feared they might win and have to betray their weakness. The woman- movement and others were eviscerated in the same way.
The spirit of compromise, of closing your lips about one evil so that you can get another redressed more quickly, is largely responsible for the scandalous state of our world. It is, of course, the way to get crowds, to get the limelight of publicity, to become an oracle of the radio. But it has ruined the fine promise with which this century set out upon its career. It has enabled the churches to organize a power out of all proportion to their membership: to run puritanical movements, to control or prohibit the teaching of truth over wide areas, to poison literature with untruth and deceitful verbiage, and so on. It has given a run to superstitions like Spiritualism and Christian Science which reflect on the degree of intelligence we are supposed to have reached. Masquerading as a fine spirit of toleration and brotherliness, it deliberately prolongs the life of reactionary bodies, and sooner or later these reactionary bodies will consult their own interest by joining in the destruction of those who protected and flattered them. It makes science stultify itself. A few weeks ago a weighty body of British scientific men published their conclusions on our grave economic problem, which they had studied for months. They boldly said that for the national economy to run smoothly and derive the full advantage that science is prepared to give it, no family must have an income of less than $1,100 a year (the American equivalent would be about $1,500). But how the millions of families which now half-starve on $400 a year, or even less, were to get their minimum wage they would not suggest; because they knew that the nationalization of the means of production and distribution was the only method.
We want more men of the Haldeman-Julius type and more power put into their hands. “No compromise” is not a mere expression of a vigorous temperament, but a sound and necessary social tonic. Unfortunately, few of the men who nail that flag to the mast in youth keep it flying to the end. They are like the British Lord Morley who in his adolescence wrote a fiery book on compromisers and ended not only in the House of Lords but blessing religion: like Thomas Hardy, who kept the flag flying until his eighth decade of life and then began to go to church: like Robert Blatchford, who broke a lance for Socialism and Materialism until his 70th year and then turned Spiritualist. Let us have men who scorn the weak compromises which lead to these sad endings. You may not agree with them on every point, but learn to distinguish between personal taste and social interest. Free, bold, outspoken discussion of every issue is the life-blood of a progressive world. Reaction is always reaction, and ready to sell its soul for an alliance with some other reaction. It happens that I agree with all Mr. Haldeman- Julius’ ideas, but even if I did not I should welcome the comprehensiveness, the fearlessness, the scorn of reserve and compromise of these valuable volumes.