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A BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF ANCIENT, MEDIEVAL, AND MODERN FREETHINKERS
Abbe, Professor Ernst (1840-1905)
He was not only a distinguished German physicist and one of the most famous inventors on the staff at the Zeiss optical works at Jena but a notable social reformer, By a generous scheme of profit-sharing he virtually handed over the great Zeiss enterprise to the workers. Abbe was an intimate friend of Haeckel and shared his atheism (or Monism). Leonard Abbot says in his life of Ferrer that Abbe had "just the same ideas and aims as Ferrer."
And-Er-Rahman III (891-961)
The greatest of the Moslem Arab Caliphs, who raised Spain from a state of profound demoralization to one of unprecedented prosperity, culture and brilliance while Christian Europe lay in the darkest phase of the Dark Age. It was from the splendor of his empire that civilization was rekindled in France, then in Europe generally. See S.P. Scott’s Moorish Empire in Europe (3 vols. 1904) Scott piously deplores his "infidelity" and sensuality and then describes his magnificent work in lyrical language. Stanley Lane Poole (The Moors in Spain, 1897) also says that he created a civilization "such as the wildest imagination can hardly conjure up." He defied the Koran all his life and was clearly an atheist.
Abelard, Peter (1080-1142)
The most learned and far away the most brilliant master in Christian Europe in the twelfth century. He was "the idol of Paris," and troubadour as well as a philosopher, until a canon of the cathedral had him castrated for an affair with his niece Heloise. This soured his disposition, so that it is andurd to call his letters to Heloise "love-letters," but his teaching was still so free that he was twice (1121 and 1141) solemnly condemned by the Church. His first principle was that "Reason precedes Faith." Compare the date with the preceding paragraph. The cultural splendor of Spain had just roused France from the Dark Age.
Ackermann, Louise Victorine (1813-1890).
A French woman writer of great distinction whose salon was one of the most brilliant intellectual centers of Paris. She is very resolutely Agnostic, without using that word in her Pensees d’une solitare (written later in life) and she wrote a poem for her tombstone which begins: "I do not know." In the strict sense she was an atheist.
Adams, John (1735-1826) Second President of the United States. He signed the Treaty of Tripoli, which began (article 11), "The Government of the United States is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion," he continued, "The doctrine of the divinity of Jesus has made a convenient cover for andurdity." The treaty was ratified by the Senate in 1797 without a single exception. His rejection of Christianity, which he professed to admire morally, runs all through his letters to Jefferson, of which there is a good selection edited by Welstach (1925), through it is better to read them in the original edition (1856). The correspondence of the two men, the most accomplished who ever rose to high political office in America- they freely quote Greek, Latin, Italian and French to each other- it is very free and most interesting. The attempts of his grandson and a few others to represent Adams as a Unitarian is not honest. He was not even a very firm Deist. One letter he wrote to Jefferson (May 12, 1820), who says that its "crowd of skepticism" kept him awake at night, has been suppressed by the pious Unitarian grandson, but in another (January 17, 1820) he defines God as "an essence that we know nothing of" and says that the attempts of philosophers to get beyond this are "games of push pin." He calls the Incarnation an "awful blasphemy," and says of the First Cause "whether we call it Fate or Chance or God." He believed in personal immortality but admitted that he knew no proof of it. He was, he says in a letter of May 15, 1817, often "tempted to think that this would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it." His family fell away to respectable Unitarianism but his grandson Charles Francis Adams (1835-1915) the distinguished historian, was an Agnostic of the Leslie Stephen school, as is shown in the Life and Letters.
Adamson, Professor Robert (1852-1902)
Described in the Cambridge History of Modern Literature (XIV,48) as "the most learned of contemporary philosophers." He was an outspoken Agnostic and a Utilitarian in ethics. In the symposium Ethical Democracy (1900) he says that even the most pretentious proofs of the existence of God are "intellectually unrepresentable" and that "the world conquered Christianity" instead of the other way about.
Addams, Jane (1863-1935)
Famous American reformer, founder of Hull House at Chicago, Nobel Prize Winner, and for 7 years President of the Womens’ International League for Peace and Freedom. In view of her position Miss Adams, who was the aunt of the late Marcet Haldeman-Julius, had to be reticent about religion, but her biographer F.W. Linn says that she never departed from the Rationalism which her father had taught her and "just joined the Congregational Church as she might join a labor-union." Her German biographer, F. Rotten says the same. All Chicago respected her high character and followed her funeral, which by her direction was unsectarian. Addison: "Atheism is old fashioned word, I am a freethinker." (Webster’s dictionary)
Aikenhead, Thomas (1678-1697)
A Scottish undergraduate of Edinburgh University who merits inclusion here as a martyr of freethought. Brooding over his Bible he came to the conclusion that it was "a rhapsody of ill contrived nonsense" and said so. After a travesty of a trial he was condemned and hanged.
Airy, Sir George Biddell, K.C.B., D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S. etc. (1801-1892)
British Astronomer Royal, President of the Royal Society and loaded with European honors for his immense services to astronomy and other sciences. In the midst of his honors (1876) he published Notes of the Earlier Hebrew Scriptures in which he rejects revelation and miracles. He was a Theist but assured the public that he regarded "the ostensible familiarity of the biblical historian with the counsels of the Omnipotent as merely oriental allegories.
Akbar, the Great (1542-1602)
"greatest and wisest of the Mogui Emperors" (Enc. Brit.). He ruled the empire of India, which he conquered, with a wisdom and beneficence which few monarchs surpassed, and all historiand admit that he rejected the Moslem religion and cultivated and tried to establish a pure theism with tolerance of all sects. His Grand Vizier had the same views.
Alembert, Jean Le Rond D’ (1717-1783)
the second greatest of the French Encyclopaedists, a foundling who became one of the most learned men of France, a member of the French and Berlin Academies and highly honored by Frederic the Great and Catherine the Great. He was the finest mathematician of his time and a man of simple ways and lofty character.. Alembert preferred to call himself a skeptic rather than an atheist, thinking that the latter implied an express denial of the existence of God.
Aleieri, Count Francesco (1712-1761),
Italian writer (science, history and philosophy) whose great learning won high favor with Frederic the Great, Augustus of Saxony, and even (at first) Pope, Clement XIV who pronounced him one of those rare men whom one would fain love even beyond the grave" Friend of Voltaire and a Deist. Frederic erected a monument to him.
Alice, Princess. See Victoria
Allbrutt, Sir Thomas Clifford, K.C.B., M.A., M.D., Sc. D. F.R.S. (1826-1925).,
one of the most distinguished British physiciand of his time. His works on medicine and the Middle Ages are valuable. He was an agnostic, writing that "the issues of being…is not solved but proved insoluble."
Allen, Colonel Ethan (1737-1789),
leader of the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont in the War of Independence, later in the State Legislature. He published what seems to have been the first anti-Christian (Deistic) work in America, Reason the Only Oracle of Man (1781). There is a statue of him in Montpelier.
Allenby, Viscount Field Marshal Edmund Henry Hynman (1861-1936)
one of the leading British Commanders in the First European War. He was a member of the British Rationalist Press Association, and in the course of an eloquent appeal for peace (Allenby’s Last Message) at his inauguration as Rector of Edinburgh University shortly before his death he ruled out religion as a help.
Allingham, William (1824-1889) Irish poet and close friend of Froude, Tennyson, Rossetti and other famous writers whose conversations with him on religion are recorded in his Diary (1907). They were all skeptics, he shows. He professed to be an atheist but said that "we can not in the least comprehend or even think Deity."
Alma-Tadema, Sir Laurence, Litt. D.D.C.L., R.A., F.S.A., O.M. (1836-1912) famous British painter. He painted superb pictures of life in ancient Greece and Rome, and my friend the Hon. John Collier, an intimate friend of his, confirmed my inference that he had no religious beliefs whatever.
Amicis, Edmonde De (1846-1908) Leading Italian of the last century. He served in the army against the Pope’s troops and then became, said the Athenaeum, "one of the most extensively read Italian authors of the last three-quarters of a Century." He professes Agnosticism in his Memorie and says that he is "fascinated and tormented by the vast mystery of life."
Anaxagoras (B.C. 500-428), a Greek philosopher of peculiar interest. He found-not unnaturally at that time-that the materialistic philosophy of the Ionic School was not satisfying and he introduced Reason or Mind (Nous) into the Universe. This was the beginning of the "Design Argument" for the existence of God, which Socrates and Plato developed and modern theists have used so extensively, but Anaxagoras did not mean a personal God. The irony of his life is that in spite of this service to mysticism he was under the protection of Pericles, for impiety; and the particular impiety was to say that the stars were white-hot bodies not the abodes of spirits.
Andrews, Stephen Pearl (1812-1886)social reformer. He opened a brilliant career at the American bar and sacrificed it by his zealous work for the abolition of slavery. It is said that he knew 32 languages, and he invented a universal language and a universal (non-theistic religion). Besides several works on religion he contributed frequently to the Truthseeker.
"Angel Norman" See Lane. R.N.A.
Annunzio, Prince Gabriele D’ (1863-1938). greatest of modern Italian poets, who received his title for his distinction in letters (novels, poetry, and tragedy). The Church, for which he always expressed a profound contempt, put all his work on the Index, the Pope expressly warned Catholics not to read them. In one of his works he describes himself (in the guise of one of his characters) as "a princely artist of magnificent sensuality." He led the Neo-Pagan movement in Italy and was an atheist.
Anthony, Susan Brownell (1820-1906) reformer, leader of the American agitation for the rights of women. Of Quaker origin and in earlier years very puritanical-in mid-life she wore for a time the kind of pants that were then called "bloomers" from her friend Amelia Bloomer- she threw herself into the Abolitionist, Temperance and Feminist movements and led a life of struggle and sacrifice. Like most of her American colleagues in the arduous years of the movement she was an Agnostic, and she freely criticizes religion in the large and standard work on the struggle which she and Mrs. Gage wrote. She never married and, though she grew more liberal, was greatly respected for her high type of character.
Arago, Dominique Francois Jean (1786-1853), "one of the most illustrious savants of the nineteenth century," says the French Grande Encyclopedie. His early work in mathematics and astronomy was so brilliant that the French Academy, against its own rules, admitted him at the age of 23. He was equally distinguished in physics, in manuals of which his name still occurs, and was honored by all the learned academies of Europe. But he was an outspoken atheist and republican even under Napoleon (who greatly esteemed him) and Louis Napoleon, and he fought at the barricades, at the age of 62, in the revolution of 1848. In his published correspondence with Baron von Humboldt, another scientific freethinker, he often attacks religion. His brother Etienne, a distinguished dramatist, was not less honorably out-spoken. His son sustained the tradition but in his later years entered the higher regions of politics.
Aranda, Count Pedro Pablo Abaraca Y Bolea D’ (1718-1798) the greatest of Spanish statesmen. He became in time President of the Council of Castile and First Minister of Spain, and he carried a whole series of measures of social reforms on the lines of the French philosophers. He corresponded with Voltaire and shared his Deism. The clergy and monks conspired against him, drove him from office, and dragged Spain back to its medieval condition. The Inquisition threatened him but did not venture to take action.
Argenson, Count Marc Pierre De Voyer De Paulmy D’ (1696-1764), French statesman, at one time Governor of Paris and Minister of War. He was a friend of Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists, and it was largely owing to his powerful protection that they got out their work in Paris in an age of despotic bigotry. He shared their Deistic views.
Aristippus (B.C. 435-356), founder of the Cyrenaic School of Greek philosophy. He was a pupil of Socrates who turned to the Skeptics and held that no knowledge beyond common human experience possible-in modern language Agnosticism. His native city Cyrene was in that part of Africa which is now called Libya but was at that time a lovely and populous region, the Florida of the Greek world. So what is called the philosophy of the Cyrenaic school was simply that man ought to make life as pleasant as possible. It is, however, false that he advocated surrender to sensual pleasure. He often andtained for a long period to show that he was master of himself and his pleasures.
Aristotle (B.C. 384-322), the greatest thinker of the ancient world and the encyclopaedic organizer (like Herbert Spencer in the 19th century) of all knowledge. The common idea, that he and Plato are the two typical thinkers of ancient Greece, is very far astray. As the highest authority on Greek philosophy , Zeller, says, nine-tenths of the Greek thinkers were materialists, while all admit that Plato’s spiritualism had extraordinarily few followers. Aristotle himself rejected the idea of spirit but invented the idea of the immaterial, saying that man’s mind, for instance, is not material yet could exist only in an intimate union with matter. For this he got a few more followers than Plato, and although he made some personal contributions to science he did great harm by despising the evolutionary materialistic science of the Ionic School and introducing the metaphysical method. No one today follows his semi-mystic ideas anymore than the mystic ideas of Plato. Another popular fallacy is to imagine him as one of those thinkers without red blood in his veins. He was very fond of his pretty mistress Herpyllis.
Arnold, Sir Edwin, K.C.I.E., M.A. (1832-1904) British poet.
During years of service in India he conceived an immense admiration of Buddhism which he thought superior to Christianity, and wrote an epic poem, The Light of Asia, on the life of Buddha, which did much to broaden the public mind. He received the highest honors of India, Persia, and Turkey. His view about God is obscure, but in a small work Death and Afterwards, he rejects the belief in personal immorality.
Arnold, Matthew (1822-1888) famous British critic and poet.
He had immense influence on the educated public of his time and made no concealment of his Rationalist views in his widely-read works. He disbelieved in a future life and Christianity and believed in God only as an impersonal "Power not ourselves, which makes for righteousness." Religion he defined as "morality tinged with emotion."
Arnoldson, Klas Pontus (1844-1916) Swedish reformer, Nobel Prize Winner.
The prize was awarded for his heroic work in the cause of peace, to which he devoted the money, though he was a poor man, but he worked just as energetically for freethought in Sweden.
Arrhenius, Professor Svante August (1859-1927), famous Swedish chemist and Nobel Prize Winner.
He was Director of the Nobel Physioco-Chemical Institute. He was openly associated with Haeckel in his Monistic (atheist) Association and a man of high ideals. Several of his works are available in English.
Arriaga Manoel Jose D’ (1839-1917), President of the Portuguese Republic. Disinherited by his father, who claimed to be of royal blood, for becoming a freethinker and republican at the university, he turned to law and politics and had so brilliant a success that after the Revolution of 1911 he was appointed President. He was an atheist and both humanitarian and anti-clerical in the legislation he passed.
Asoka (B.C. 200-232), most famous of Hindu monarchs.
H.G. Wells says that in the world-list of Kings "the name of Osaka shines, and shines almost alone, a star". He became a zealous Buddhist in mid life and did wonders for the vast empire he had inherited. His moral code was severe and dogmatic but did not interfere with the ingenuous sexual freedom that then ruled in India. Vincent Smith, the leading authority on Hindu history, says that "he ignored, without denying, the existence of a Supreme Deity." (Akosa, p 31). In other words he embraced Buddhism in its pure atheistic form (see Buddha) and gave the world a wonderful example of "the fruits of atheism."
Aspasia (5th century B.C.), the most famous woman of the ancient world.
She lived as wife with Pericles (See) but he could not marry her under Athenian law as she was a foreigner, or a Greek from Asia Minor (Ionia). She was one of the most beautiful and the most accomplished of the women who came to Athens and were known as Hetairai (which meand "pals" or companions, not courtesand as is often said. Aspasia was one of the most respected figures in the brilliant circle round Pericles in the Golden Age. She was put on trial for irreligion and, through Pericles defended her and got her acquitted, she shared the skepticism of the group.
Ataturk, President Mustafa Kamal (1881-1938), President of the Republic of Turkey.
He was in early years one of the young Turks of the Committee of Union and Progress, fought with great distinction in the European War, and led the revolution at the close. They made him first President of the Republic with dictatorial powers, and he humanized and modernized Turkey with great vigor. In his biography (Grau Wolf) Armstrong shows that he had a profound contempt for all religion and tried to extinguish it but was forced to compromise. They gave him the name Ataturk (the Great Turk) for his wonderful work. Like so many atheistic rulers he showed that personal asceticism is no more required of a state than belief in the spiritual.
Avebury, Baron The Right Hon. John Lubbock, P.C., P.C.L., L.L.D., F.B.S., (1834-1913).
A British banker who studied and wrote with authority on so many branches of science (particularly anthropology) that in its obituary (Nature) called him "President General of his Age". One of his works, The Pleasures of Life sold half a million copies, and was translated into 40 languages, and he was loaded with civic and academic honors. He was a vague Deist, admitting a "Divine Power" but impatient of "contradictory assertions under the name of mystery."
Averroes (1126-1198) or (properly) Ibn Roshd.
One of the two greatest Arab Scholars of the Middle Ages. The Arand had the quaint custom of choosing the most learned men for high political positions and he was Governor of Seville for 20 years, when the Moorish fanatics got him imprisoned. The pious Spaniards later burned all his works but Michael Scotus had translated some of them into Latin for Frederic 11, and they had a good deal of influence in Italy. Practically they taught Thomas Aquinas his philosophy, and Dante (Canto iv) speaks of his "great commentary" on Aristotle. But he preferred to believe in a vague Pantheistic "World Soul" instead of Aristotle’s (impersonal) God, and even that may have been a cover for atheism, which in his day, the decline of the Arab civilization, it would be dangerous to admit.
Avicenna (960-1017) or (properly) Ibn Sind.
The second of the two greatest scholars of the Arab-Persian civilization. He belonged to the Persian half and was the son of a peasant, yet he became, apparently, more learned than Averroes or any other medieval scholar; and it is piquant that, while Averroes is said to have studied far into every night except his wedding night, Avicenna was boisterously sensual and a frequenter of taverns. Yet his work on medicines were the standard works for ages, and he wrote also on theology, philosophy, philology, mathematics, astronomy, geology, physics, and music. Few have any idea of the cultural brilliance at that time of the Arab-Persian civilization. To baffle the fanatics Averroes professed a sort of Pantheism, but tradition ascribed to him the saying that "the world is divided into men who have wit and no religion and men who have religion and no wit."
Azana, Manoel (1800-1940).
President of the Spanish Republic. Son of a Catholic mayor he discarded the faith in his university years and graduated in law. He took a prominent part in politics as a strongly anti-clerical republican, and after the Revolution of 1931, became Premier and later President. To him chiefly were due the anti-Church laws which the Cortes passes and the nation approved.
Bacon,Francis, Lord Verulam & Viscount St. Alband (1581-1626), the famous writer on science.
A note on Bacon’s opinions may be useful, as his essay Of Atheism is quoted by all religious writers as if he were most zealously orthodox. They never mention that the next essay in the classical collection of "Bacon’s Essays" has the title Of Superstition, and if it were not for the preceding essay you might be tempted to think that Bacon was an Atheist. "It were better" he says, "to have no opinion of God at all than such an opinion as is unworthy of him. …And, as the contumely is greater towards God, so the danger (of superstition) is greater towards man ____. Atheism did never perturb s—es, and we see that the times inclined to Atheism (as the time of Augustus Caesar) were civil times." Doubtless Bacon was a Theist, though probably not more, but it is useful to remember that in Elizabethan England in spite of the skepticism of the Queen herself (See), atheism was a dangerous creed to admit.
Bakunin, Mikhail (1814-1876), political reformer.
The famous Anarchist was a Russian of nobel family, considerable accomplishments-he was educated in philosophy-and very extensive travel. In his chief work God and the State he gives full expression to his atheism and materialism.
Baldwin, Professor Mark, M.A., Ph. D. Sc. D., L.l.d. (1861-1934), psychologist.
Baldwin might almost be classed as an atheist. In his Fragment of Philosophy and Science (1903) he not only rejects all creeds but reduces God to the "ideal self" or "a construction of the imagination". He escapes atheism by claiming a vague objective basis for the idea.
Ballance, The Hon. John (1839-1893) Premier of New Zealand.
He was an Irish youth who emigrated to New Zealand and entered journalism and politics. He was Premier (1891-1893) at the time when its most progressive social legislation was passed, and a number of its leaders like Ballance and Stout (See) openly professed and worked for atheism or agnosticism.
Balmaceda, Jose Manoel (1838-1891), President of the Republic of Chili. He was educated in the Jesuit College at Santiago but became an atheist and joined the anti-clerical Liberals in the fight against the Church. He was President 1886 to 1890 but his policy was harsh and autocratic, and when he was driven out he ended his life.
Balzac, Honore De (1799-1859), French novelist.
"The Christ of Modern Art" according to some French critics. His skepticism pervades the whole 47 volumes of his famous Human Comedy and 24 other novels. He wrote also a caustic history of the Jesuits.
Bancroft, Hubert Howe (1832-1918), historian. The distinguished authority on Western America-he wrote 39 volumes on its history and had a library of 60,000 volumes-expresses an uncompromising Deism and scorn of the Churches in his last work Retrospect (1913), "There is but little religion in the Churches, and that little graft is strangling," he says (p.278).
Barlow, Joel (1754-1812), poet.
He was a Congregationalist minister and chaplain in the War of Independence and compiled a hymn-book for that body but shed his beliefs and took to law and letters. For years he was famous for his epic The Vision of Columbus and he was American-ambassador to France. His epic was vigorously denounced by the clergy as anti-Christian (Deistic) and he contributed to the spread of freethought in America by translating Volney’s Ruins.
Barnard, Henry (1811-1900), the reformer who in conjunction with Horace Mann (See) created the American school-system.
As his wife was a strict Catholic he andtained from discussing religion but his views were well known. He was challenged to make a declaration of Christian faith and refused. (Dict. of Amer. Biog.)
Barre, Chevalier de La, (1747 – 1766) Freethinking martyr.
Chevalier was accused of not bowing to a religious procession, singing an "ungodly" song, and possessing book contrary to religion, including the Dictionary of Philosophy by Voltaire. He was tortured, then beheaded at age 19 by request of the Catholic Church. A monument to him was erected in Abbeville France on July 7, 1907 and is inscribed: "In commemoration of Martyr Chevalier de la Barre murdered in Abbyville the first of July, 1766 at the age of 19 years, for failure to salute a (religious) procession." Fifteen thousand supporters of church/state separation gathered for the unveiling. Every year since 1907, the annual La Barre Demnonstration brings together freethinkers and friends of public schools, and all who oppose church/state entanglement.
Barton, Clara (1822-1912), the American Florence Nightingale.
She was a farmer’s daughter, a shy sensitive, slight little woman (5 feet in height) who worked so heroically amongst the wounded in the Civil War that she was called "the Angel of the Battlefield." General Miles said that she was "the greatest humanitarian the world had ever known." The rest of her life was devoted to work for the Red Cross, which she introduced into America, and other reforms. The Dictionary of American Biography admits that "she was brought in the Universalist Church but was never a Church member."
Baudelaire, Charles Pierre (1821-1867), leading French poet.
He came of a Catholic aristocratic family but became an atheist and revolutionary and fought at the barricades in 1848. He is best known for his Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil), a collection of 151 poems of great beauty and such freedom that he was prosecuted.
Bayle, Pierre (1647-1706), a French writer whose famous Dictionaire Historique et Critique spread over Europe-there is an English translation and contributed powerfully to the progress of freethought. There are no articles on God and immortality but he seems to have been an atheist. Writing in an age of despotic bigotry he conveys his immense anti-Christian erudition with a delightful irony and diplomacy.
Bebel, Ferdinand August (1840-1913), German Socialist leader and one of the founders of the Social Democratic Party.
He was, like all the Socialist leaders of the time, an atheist and freely expressed it in his work on Woman and Christianity .
Becearia-Bonesana, Marquis Cesare (1735-1794) the great Italian law reformer.
He adopted the views of the French Encyclopaedists and specialized on the reform of the treatment of crime. His Treatise on Crime and Punishment was a classic all over Europe for half a century. Whether he was an atheist or Theist is not clear. Italy was not a safe place for heretics-he had to publish his famous Treatise abroad and anonymously-and he, as he said, "heard the noise of the chains rattled by superstition and fanaticism."
Beethoven, Ludwig Von (1770-1827).
The great musician was reared a Catholic but quit the Church and adopted Goethe’s Pantheism. Although he composed a Catholic mass (Missa solemnis) which an authority described as "perhaps the grandest piece of musical expression which art possesses" he remained a Pantheist to the end. It is piquant that the musical expert who thus appreciates his mass, Sir G. Macfarren, describes him as a ‘freethinker’ (in the Imper. Dict. of Univ. Biog.) Beethoven’s most authoritative biographers are clear about his views on religion. When he was dying he yielded to the pressure of Catholic friends and let a priest administer his sacraments, but it is admitted that when the priest left the room he said, in the Latin words of the ancient Roman theater "Applaud, my friends, the comedy is over." One biographer very implausibly argues that he meant the comedy of his life. During the years of his full inspiration he had little religious feeling. When Felix Moscheles once scribbled on a manuscript "With God’s help," Beethoven wrote "Man help thyself."
Benavente Y Martinez, Jacinto (1888-_____) Nobel Prize Winner and "creator of the modern Spanish theater."
One of the first poets and dramatists of Spain in his time. In 1932, after the anti-clerical revolution, which he applauded, he produced a play with the title Santa Russia (Holy Russia) and in the preface to the published work praised the materialism and atheism of the Russians.
Bennet, Enoch Arnold (1867-1931), leading British novelist.
In the first two decades of the century Bennet was counted the first English novelist. He expresses his Agnosticism in his volume of reflections, The Human Machine, and was an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association.
Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832), famous British jurist and social reformer.
A wealthy father (who began to teach him Latin at the age of four) having left him a large fortune he devoted his life to prison and legal reform, education, and other social ideas and was known throughout Europe. He was a declared atheist and in unpublished manuscripts he contemptuously called Christianity "Juggernaut". In collaboration with the historian Grote (See) he, under the pseudonym Phillip Beauchamp, wrote an Analysis of the Influence of Natural Religion on the Temporal Happiness of Mankind (1822) in which all religion, natural or supernatural, is attacked.
Bergson, Professor Henri Louis (1859-1933), French philosopher.
The way in which Bergonson’s unfortunate book Creative Evolution has been used by obscurantists has given many a false impression. He rejected Christianity and admitted belief in God only as the vital force-not eternal and not personal in the theological sense-that energizes the universe.
Berlioz, Hector (1803-1869) French Composer.
Although he composed Catholic Church-music (TeDeum, Mass of the Dead, etc.) and is claimed in the Catholic Encyclopaedia , Berlioz often admits in his letters that he was an atheist. In G.K. Boult’s Life of Berloiz (1903 p. 298) there is a letter written shortly before he died, in which he says: "I believe nothing."
Bernard Claude M.S., D.Sc., (1813-1878) famous French physiologist.
As he was educated by the Jesuits and the Church was allowed some share in his funeral ceremonies Catholics always claim the great scientist as "one of us." It is ridiculous because in his published works he makes no secret of his agnosticism. He does this repeatedly in his chief work Introduction a `L etude de la medicine experimentale (1865). He says that "the best philosophical system is to have none at all" (51), that philosophy represents "the eternal aspiration of human reason toward knowledge of the unknown" (351), and that it deals with "questions that torment humanity and have never yet been solved." In private his language was less stately. Sir Michael Foster quotes him as saying that the Vespers (or the Sunday evening service in Catholic Churches) is "the servant girls’ opera".
Bernhardt, Sarah (1845-1923), the greatest French actress of recent times.
A. Carel says in his Histoire anecdotique des contemporains (1885), p. 46) that Gounod once asked her in her studio if she ever prayed. "I," she said, "Never. I am an atheist." To her disgust Gounod went down on his knees and then prayed for her. Gounod, the favorite composers of modern Catholics, was neurotic and inconsistent. He "vacillated between mysticism and voluptuousness," says one of his biographers.
Barthelot, Professor Pierre Eugene Marcellim (1827-1907) the founder of Organic Chemistry.
In spite of his international distinction in science and the very many honors he bore Berthelot almost made a parade of his scorn of creeds and his atheism. He wrote several books on his views, and he sent for public reading at the International Congress of Freethinkers at Rome in 1904, which I attended, a letter in which he denounced the "poisonous vapors of superstition" and hailed the coming of a "reign of reason." The message is published in Dr. L.B. Wilson’s Trip to Rome (1904).
Bethell, Richard, Baron Westbury (1800-1873), Lord Chancellor of Great Britain.
After a brilliant career at the bar he became Attorney General and in 1861 Lord Chancellor (and Head of the House of Lords). He presided at one of the heresy trials got up by the authorities and, in the words of a legal humorist, "took away from orthodox members of the Church of England their last hope of eternal damnation." His verdict relieved clergymen of the need to believe in hell. We are told by Jowett that he once said about the Reformation: "You cut off the head of one beast, the Church of Rome, and immediately the head of another beast, the Church of England makes its appearance." All admit that he was a freethinker, but no public declaration was possible to a man in his position, and it is not clear whether Lord Bethell was a non-Christian theist or an atheist.
Beyle, Marie Henri (1783-1842) better known by his pseudonym, M. de Stendhal.
His works are greatly appreciated by the finest writers in France (Flaubert, etc.), and Prosper Merimee wrote a memoir of him (H.B.), after his death in which he quotes Beyle saying: "The only excuse for God is that there is no such person."
Bickersteth Henry, Baron Langdale (1783-1851) , one of the many freethinking distinguished British jurists of the first half of the nineteenth century.
He refused the position both of Attorney General and Lord Chancellor but was Master of the Rolls. Lord Langdale agreed with his friend Bentham (See) except that he was not so definitely atheistic. His biographer Hardy admits that his friends regarded him as "destitute of religious feeling," but he seems to have held some shade of intellectual theism.
Bierce, Ambrose (1842-1914), the humorist "Dod Grile."
His works were at one time very popular in America and many of the definitions in his Cynic’s Word Book (1906) expressed a very advanced freethought. He defines faith as "belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge of things without parallel." A clergyman is "a man who undertakes the management of your spiritual affairs as a method of bettering his temporal ones." A Christian is "one who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin."
Bizet, Alexandre Cesar Leopold (though generally known as Georges Bizet, 1838-1875), composer of Carmen etc.
His early death cur short a career of great promise. His letters, which were published after his death by L. Ganderax (1908) are full of skepticism. In one (p. 238) he says, "I have always read the ancient pagand with infinite pleasure while in Christian writers I find only system, egoism, intolerance, and a complete lack of artistic taste."
Bjornson, Bjornstjerne (1832-1910), Norway’s greatest writer and most active freethinker.
Son of a pastor, he remained a Christian until 1875 when he became an agnostic and a republican. In spite of his commanding position as poet, novelist, and dramatist he did all he could to promote freethought in Norway for the rest of his life. In 1903 he was awarded the Nobel Prize. Georg Brandes says that "to mention his name in Norway was like running up the national flag," and at his death the leading British literary weekly, the Athenaeum, said that "European literature had sustained no such loss since Victor Hugo."
Blanc Jean Joseph Charles Louis (1811-1882), famous French labor leader.
He took part in the Revolution of 1848 and was in the Provisional Government, though he was not the creator of the National Workshops, as critics say, In 1870 he took part in the fight for the Commune. His atheism is repeatedly expressed in his historical works.
Blind, Mathilde (1841-1896), poet step-daughter of the French rebel and atheist Karl Blind, whose name she took and whose exile she shared.
She explains in her autobiography that she shared also his atheism. Her "character," says Dr. R. Garnett, "was even more noble than her poetry." She was one of the founders of Newnham College for women and gave a large sum of money to it.
Bloch, Ivan (1872-1912), German sexologist and social reformer.
In a symposium in honor of Haeckel’s 80th birthday he describes Haeckel as "the St. George who has slain the dragon of the ills of modern man and has ruthlessly branded all the dualistic survivals of prescientific culture as obstacles to the mental and moral progress of humanity." He was a Monist (atheist).
Boileau-Despreaux, Nicolas (1636-1711) famous French writer.
Of the four great writers of the golden age of French letters two-Boileau and Moliere (See) ,- were freethinkers in spite of the religious oppression. The King, against the fierce opposition of the clergy, made Boileau Royal Historiographer and compelled the Academy to admit him. He wrote a treatise to disarm the priests, On the Love of God-presumably he was a Deist-but he was persecuted all his life and the chief historian of French Literature, Lanson, shows by many quotations from his work that he was a freethinker.
Bonheur, Rosa (painter)
Bossier, Marie Louis Gaston (1823-1908), one of the finest French Historiand of modern times. He wrote chiefly on ancient Rome and, although he rarely reveals his own sentiments, was rightly denounced by the clergy as much more in sympathy with paganism than Christianity.
Boito, Arrigo (1842-1918), Italian poet and composer. Fought with Garibaldi against the Papal troops and later infuriated the Italian clergy by the frivolity with which he treated religion in his opera Mefistofele. In later years he was considered one of Italy’s leading composers and rose to high honors.
Bolingbrokem Viscount, See St. John, Henry.
Bolivar, Simon (1783-1830), President of Bolivia. In youth Bolivar traveled in the United States and Britain and became an atheist. He was the chief leader in the rebellion against the Spanish throne and church and he was the first President of Bolivia. The clericals intrigued with his personal critics and he was driven abroad and took his own life.
Bonaparte, Prince Jerome (1784-1860), younger brother of Napoleon.
Few of the Bonaparte family were orthodox, but Jerome "cherished a systematic hostility to every religious creed in general and the and the Catholic religion in particular" (P. de la Garce, Histoire du Second Empire, I. 119). He was in America in 1803 and married an American lady but Napoleon declared the marriage invalid. He was made King of Westphalia and was a sound and enlightened ruler. In later years he was the mentor of his uncle, Napoleon III, though he failed to break his political alliance with the Church, and President of the Senate.
Bonaparte, Prince Napoleon Joseph Charles Paul (1822-1891), son of Jerome.
He took to politics and fought with the anti-clericals after 1848 and under the Second Empire received the title of prince. At its fall he lived for sometime in England where he was very friendly with Charles Bradlaugh, whose atheism he shared. The clergy smeared him with their holy oils when he was dying but he was unconscious and had never changed his views. French historiand think him the cleverest of the family after Napoleon. For the emperors see Napoleon. Bonheur,
Marie Rosalie (1822-1899), internationally distinguished French painter (especially of animals) in the last century and honored with ,any gold medals, etc.
Her views on religion are discussed at length in T Stanton’s Reminiscences of Rosa Bonheur (78-82). Her friends said that she was an Agnostic, though she seems at times to have used Pantheistic language. In order to be buried near a friend she agreed to have a religious funeral but she said: "Though I make this concession as regards my body there is no change in my philosophical creed."
Borrow, George (1803-1881), British writer.
It is piquant to learn that the famous peddler of the bible in Spain, whose book The Bible in Spain, almost became a missionary classic, was, broadly an atheist, though he may have had a religious mood at one time. He became a serious Pantheist from a study of philosophy in his youth, and in later years when Lavengro and Romany Rye had given him a high position as a writer he completely rejected Christianity and, while admitting a "great spirit," refused to call it God. See Knapp’s Life, writings, and Correspondence of Borrow (1899).
Bougainville, Count Louis Antoine De (1729-1811) one of the most famous of French travelers.
He fought with distinction in the French-British war in Canada and later spent two and a half years in a voyage round the world that greatly enriched geography. He was an admiral for the Republic, and Napoleon made him a Count and Senator. He was a Deist.
Bowen, Baron Charles Synge Christopher, M.A. D.C.L. (1835-1894) eminent British judge.
After a brilliant career at Oxford and at the bar he became a Lord of Appeal. He rarely spoke about religion but the poems and letters published by his biographer Sir H.G. Cunningham (Lord Bowen, 1897) show that he was a complete Agnostic and urged his friends to keep away from "all moods and phases of theological discussion." In a poem he speaks of …"the illimitable sigh, breathed upward to the throne of the dead skies."
Bradlaugh, Charles (1833-1891) reformer.
For many years one of the most powerful speakers (though a very poor writer) in England, especially on the subject of atheism. His lectures had nothing like the charm and sentiment of Ingersoll’s lectures, but were a triumph of platform personality. He gave his followers the name of secularists (which he borrowed from Holyoake) but called himself an Atheist. He was also well known as a Radical Member of Parliament and advocate of Birth Control and Reform in India.
Bradley, Francis Herbert (1846-1924), British philosopher
whose chief work Appearance and Reality is still well known and esteemed in the world of philosophy. In virtue of his own principles he was an Agnostic. "There is but one reality," he says, and it is "not the God of the Churches." It is "inscrutable." In Essays on Truth and Reality he defines God as "the Supreme Will for good which is experienced within finite minds" and rejects the belief in immorality (459).
Braga, Theophilo (1843-1924), second President of the Republic of Portugal.
A lawyer and very prolific and important writer-he published more than 100 works on literature, science and philosophy-who joined the Positivists but, as an atheist, took an active part in the International Freethought movement. He took an active share also in the Revolution of 19190 and was for a time President of the Republic. Braga was a man of immense erudition and very high humanitarian ideals.
Brahms, Johannes, (1833-1897), the famous German composer.
As he composed a superb German Requiem for Protestant churches most folks imagine that he was a Christian but he was even less religious than Beethoven (See). He reveals in letters to Herzogenberg (Letters of J. Brahms: the Herzogenberg Correspondence, English translation 10909) that he was a complete Agnostic. The Four Serious Songs which he published before he died are described by one critic as his "supreme achievement in dignified utterance of noble thoughts." The words to the first, as a matter of fact, reject and almost ridicule the idea of personal immortality.
Bramwell, Baron George William Wilshire (1808-1892), another eminent British judge and Lord Justice of Appeal.
[After his death, he] … was found to have been an Agnostic all along. The notice of him in the British Dictionary of National Biography describes him as "one of the strongest judges that ever sat on the bench". Speaking of his views on religion his biographer C. Fairfield (Some Account of G.W. Wilshire , 1895) says that he belonged to "that band of enlightened and advanced Liberals who used to make joyous demonstrations of kid-gloved agnosticism at the annual British Association Meetings." The letters included in the volume confirm this.
Brandes, Georg, LL.D. (1842-1927), Danish critic.
Although born and educated in Denmark he lived in so many countries and had so remarkable a knowledge of the literature of each that he was the nearest approach to a "good European". He was a member also of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the British Royal Society of Literature. His position did not deter him in the least from professing freethought and helping the cause. Both he and his brother Carl were outspoken Agnostics.
Braun, Lily (1865-1916), German writer and reformer.
She was a member of a German aristocratic family who defied her relatives and became an active freethinker, feminist, and Socialist. Her aunt, Countess Clotilde von Hermann disinherited her for her advanced ideas. Her contemptuous rejection of Christianity is often shown in her Memoiren einer Sozialisten (2 vols., 1900).
Brieux, Eugene (1858-1938), French dramatist.
Often called "the French Bernard Shaw," though he was a member of the French Academy and an officer of the Legion of Honor. His play La foi (literally the Faith), though the English translator calls it False Gods, expresses his disdain of religion in the form of a study of priestcraft in ancient Egypt.
Brinton, Daniel Garrison (1837-1899), ethnologist.
An army surgeon who became professor of ethnology, of which he was one of the chief pioneers in America, and President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In his book The Religious Sentiment (1875) he rejects the belief in immortality and "crumbling theologies" but remains a theist.
Brooke, Rupert (1887-1915), British poet of great promise who was a victim of the First European War.
Many of his poems in 1914 and Other Poems shows his freethinking. In "Heaven" he satirizes the Christian myth and in others is very doubtful about a future life. "The laugh dies with the lips," he says. Occasionally he refers to God but was clearly moving toward Agnosticism.
Brosses, President Charles de (1709-1777), French historian and statesman, president of the Dijon Parliament.
His published letters (Lettres familieres) curiously illustrate the superficial religion and barely concealed irreligion of the eighteenth century. He was a Deist and a contributor to the famous Encyclopaedia of Diderot and D’Alembert but he was also friendly with Pope Benedict XIV and gives us a remarkable picture of that liberal Pope, who always begged him for the latest saucy stories about the dissolute French court and Cardinal and the Rome of that time.
Brown, Bishop William Montgomery (1855-1937), Ex-bishop of Arkansas, Communist, and in his last years bishop in the Old Catholic Church.
Brown Called for my help when his brother-bishops of the Episcopal church threatened to disrobe him in 1924 as, he explained, it was chiefly reading my works in his retirement that made him a skeptic. From that date I wrote all the learned works which he put out to the great embarrassment of the bishops. He was a man of mediocre intelligence and very high but simple character, and his wealth (inherited) attracted cranks who, he later admitted, fatally complicated my defence of him. He was deposed but a few years later was ordained-he did not tell me what it cost-bishop of the Old Catholic Church. He explained that he thought the Church could be made a great social power if its formulae were taken symbolically but I suspect it was rather from a sort of loyalty to the memory of the pious rich lady who had him educated for the Church and left him her fortune. He was, in fact, a dogmatic materialist, did not believe in the historicity of Christ, and admitted God only as a label for whatever goodness there is in the universe.
Browne, Sir Thomas (1605-1682), author of the Religio Medici , a classic of English literature.
"The Religion of a Physician " to translate the Latin title, through the work itself is in English, was translated into most European languages and has run through innumerable editions. It purports to be Christian but in other works (Urn Burial and Pseudodoxia epidemica) Browne clearly shows that he was a Deist and very skeptical about a future life. In Urn Burial (p. 158) he says that "a dialogue between two infants in the womb concerning the state of this world might handsomely illustrate our ignorance of the next" and "I perceive the wisest heads prove, at last, almost all skeptics."
Browning, Robert (1812-1889), the famous poet.
He began to have doubts about his creed in mid-career, as we discern in his Christmas Eve and Easter Day, and he gradually shed all beliefs except God and immorality, as we see plainly in La Saisiaz (1875). "Soul and God stand sure," he says, with the customary dogmatism of the incomplete skeptic.
Bruno, Giordano (1547-1600), Italian philosopher and martyr.
A Dominican Friar whose eyes were opened by a study of the Arab philosophy which still lingered in southern Italy and went on to a study of the Epicurean philosophy. He had to fly for his life and wandered over Europe, but in 1592, when he returned to Italy, the Venetiand as part of a political deal handed him over to the Pope. He was seven years in the dungeons of the Inquisition, refusing to recant, and then burned alive. Bruno was a thinker of very superior intellect, a Pantheist, dazed by a world in which he found Protestants as intolerant as Catholics and hampered in his speculations by the poverty of science in his day.
Buchner, Professor Friedrich Karl Christian Ludwig (1824-1899), author of Force and Matter.
Although he did not call himself a materialist but Monist (meaning, like Haeckel, that matter and energy are two different aspects of one reality) his book was called "the Bible of Materialism" and had an enormous circulation in Europe. He was deprived of his chair (of medicine) for writing it. Like Haeckel he was a man of fine emotions and very high ideals. It is amusing to reflect that their theory that matter and energy are two aspects of the same thing, at which the philosophers scoffed everywhere, is the modern scientific doctrine. They were wrong in saying that this is not materialism since both are essentially measurable, and therefore material (as opposed to spiritual).
Buckle, Thomas (1821-1862, distinguished British historian.
He read 19 languages and, although he was not a professor but a man of wealth and leisure, his History of Civilization (2 vols., 1856 and 1861) gradually won a high place in historical literature and greatly helped the progress of freethought. He remained a theist yet one great service of his work was that it proceeded in what we now call the materialistic conception of history.
Buddha (about B.C. 560-480) The Hindu Moralist Gautama, who came to be known as Buddha (the enlightened one).
[He] is chiefly interesting to us from the fact that, though the religion which now goes by the name Buddhism is a crass and to a great extent corrupt mass of superstitions, he was an atheist. It is admitted that he was educated in the Sankhya philosophy, which was atheistic. Brahmanism had become so andtract a religion while the mass of the people clung to the grossest myths, that there was a wide spread of atheism at that time. Gautama decided to devote his life to a purely humanist and very simple preaching of ideals of conduct among the people. The few writers of any weight who doubt his position are content to argue, very feebly, that he may have believed in God but never mentioned him. That is not the way of moralists. But the chief authorities are positive. The highest is Professor T. Rhys Davids who both in his lectures at Cornell (published as Buddhism) and his Life of Buddha says that Buddha "denied the existence of any soul" (cosmic or human). Professor N.W. Hopkins (Religions of India, 1895) says that he cast off not only gods but soul (p. 298), and the same in his Ethics of India. Professor Vincent Smith says that "without denying the existence of a Supreme Being he ignored it." In the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics Professor Macdonell (professor of Sanskrit at Oxford University) says in his article "Indian Buddhism" that he denied the existence of a world soul and individual soul"; yet the same encyclopaedia, which always keeps an eye on the churches (as all encyclopedias do), entrusts its article on Buddhism to one of the clerical writers who hold that Buddha must have believed in God. These sophists first argue that atheism is inconsistent with high ideals and then that any man whose ideals they cannot deny must have been a theist. The real authorities agree that Buddha was an atheist.
Buffon, Count-Georges Louis Leclerc De (1707-1788), one of the greatest French scientists of the eighteenth century.
He wrote a Natural History in 24 volumes which was an encyclopaedia of the science of his time, including a "theory of the earth" which inspired Laplace’s theory of evolution. The Catholic authorities compelled him to alter certain passages which they declared anti-scriptural. Herault de Seychelles tells us (Voyage a Montgar) that Buffron said to him: "I have everywhere mentioned the Creator but you have only to omit the word and put naturally in its place the power of nature" (p. 36). He adds that Buffron equally rejects the belief in immortality.
Burbank, Luther (1849-1926) horticulturist.
His magnificent work, which added an incalculable sum to the wealth of America and left him a comparatively poor man, is well known. His own simple account of his discoveries runs to 12 volumes and is incomplete. I was one of the few men whom he admitted to his house in Santa Rosa in the few months before he died and I found him advanced even beyond the vague Emersonian theism of his earlier years. He agreed top see me, he said, though he was tired and ill, because of his admiration of my work as a rationalist. He had just raised a storm by a public declaration that he did not believe in a future life, and his biographer Wilbur Hall repeats this.
Burckhardt, Professor Jacob (1818-1897) Swiss historian.
His works on the Italian Renaissance are standard authorities in many languages. In his posthumously published Weltgeschichtliche Betrachtungen (1905) he tells that he rejected all creeds and churches.
Burdett, Sir Francis (1770-1844), British banker and reformer.
[A] wealthy man who worked so devotedly for social and radical reforms that he was imprisoned in the Tower of London and the workers threatened to attack it and deliver him. It is now the fashion to praise narrow-minded bigots like Shaftesbury, who had to barricade his windows against the workers, and ignore such an unselfish and effective worker as Burdett. He worked with Bentham and Place and was like them an atheist. Mrs. de Morgan says in her Reminiscences that he was "what in those days would be called an Agnostic." (p. 12).
Burgers, Thomas Francis (1834-1881) President of the Transvaal (South Africa) Republic.
He was educated for the Church at Ultrecht University but he was suspended for heresy when he began to practice in the Transvaal. He entered politics and won such high regard for his ability and integrity that, as the historian of South Africa, Theal, says, the Boers, who are as a body, bigoted, decided to overlook his heresies and made him their president. They were uncomfortable when it appeared from a volume of stories he had written which was published after his death (Toneelen uit ons Dorp)- "Tales from our Village" that he was an Agnostic.
Burns, Robert (1759-1796) Scottish poet.
In many of his poems the "national poet of Scotland" shows his contempt of the narrow religious views held by most of his compatriots ("Holy Willie’s Prayer", "Holy Fair," etc.), It is claimed that he became more reverent and read the bible much in his sober later years but such lines as O Thou Great Being! what thou art Surpasses me to know how he advanced (or retreated) little beyond Agnosticism.
Burroughs, John, Litt. D. (1851-1921), naturalist, member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
His works on natural history gave him a high reputation, and in later works, especially The Light of Day (1900) and Time and Change he gives his mature views on religion. He was an atheist. He expressly rejects the belief in God and in the latter refers to "the God we have made for ourselves out of our dreams and fears and aspirations." (p. 179).
Burton, Sir Richard Francis (1821-1890) translator of The Thousand and One Nights.
Military service in India and then long journeys in Newarer Asia and Africa gave Burton an exceptional familiarity with Arabia and the Arand. His famous translation of the Arabian Nights appeared in 10 volumes in 1885-1886). He left behind him the translation of other Arab works which would have been greatly esteemed but Lady Burton, a bigoted Catholic-I met her in my clerical days-burned them. Burton’s views on religion and his scorn of his wife’s Church are explained by his niece Georgiana Stisted, (True Life of Sir R.F. Burton, 1896). She calls him a "Sturdy Deist" but says that he believed only in "an unknowable and Impersonal God," so that he was a Spencerian Agnostic.
Bury, Professor John Bagnall M. A., L. I. D., Litt. D. (1861-1927), one of the leading British historiand of the last generation.
He was Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge but his writings were mainly on the Byzantine Empire, on which he was the highest authority. His edition of Gibbon has superseded all others and he was honored by most of the learned academics of Europe and America. Yet Bury never concealed his Agnostic opinions, was openly associated with the Rationalist Press Association, and did much service to freethinkers by his History of Freedom of Thought (1913). When I published my large Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists he was generous enough to write to me that I was the only man who could have done it.
Butler, Samuel (1835-1902) British philosopher writer.
His chief works when he returned to settle in England after making a fortune raising sheep in New Zealand were so attractive in style and genially ironic in temper (The Fair Haven, Life and Habit, The Way of All Flesh, etc.) that he had a very wide popularity. His philosophy, however, pleased neither side as he was anti-Christian and bitterly anti-Darwinian, and G.B. Shaw is one disciple. He did not believe in a personal God yet maintained that there was mind and purpose in the universe.
Byron, Lord George Gordon (1788-1824) the famous poet.
He became a skeptic and a radical in his student -years, and although he changed politically- though he mortally hated tyranny all his life and died in an attempt to help the Greek rebels-he remained a Deist all his life. his poetry sufficiently suggests this, and his chief biographer Moore affirms it. He had not a firm belief in immorality and he scorned the Churches. When he arrived once at a Portuguese port and a large statue of the Virgin met his eye he wrote: "Well I wot the only Virgin there." He certainly did not respect the Christian code of morals but some of the stories told about him are malicious libels from the tongue of a pious wife from whom he separated. His age was, in any case, one of great sexual liberty.
Cabanis, Pierre Jean Georges (1757-1808), French physician.
He is commonly quoted in religious works as a superficial dabbler in science who said that a brain secretes thought just as the liver secretes bile. He was, on the contrary, a high authority on medical matters, and what he said (in his Rapport du physique et du moral de l’homme) was that "the brain is a special organ, specially designed to produce thought, just as the stomach and intestines are destined to effect digestion." When he later says that "the Brain digests impressions and organically secretes thought" it is clearly a figurative way of stating the same scientific fact. In any case he was not an atheist but a Deist.
Cambaceres, Prince Jean Jacques Regis De (1753-1824) French statesman.
A distinguished lawyer who during the Revolution was President of the Convention and one of the Council of Five Hundreds. Under Napoleon he was one of the chief authors of the famous Code Civil, then the finest Code of laws in the world and was made prince, Duke of Parma, and Arch-Chancellor of the Empire. He was a Deist and was banished when royalty and church were restored.
Campbell Thomas (1777-1844), Scottish poet and reformer.
He was educated for the ministry but became a skeptic and turned to poetry. He had an important part in the project to break the religious tyranny of Oxford and Cambridge Universities by founding the University of London as a purely secular institution (which, of course, now includes a theological college). Campbell resented "superstitions rod" (as he calls it in Hallowed Ground), rejected the idea of immortality (Mrs. de Morgan testifies in her Reminiscences), and wavered between a pale theism and agnosticism.
Carducci, Professor Giosue (1836-1907) Famous Italian poet, Nobel Prize Winner.
In 1865 he wrote a fiery "Hymn to Satan" and never abandoned his atheism in the days of his fame. Professor Carelle (in Naturalismo Italiano) quotes him as saying in his mature years, "I know neither truth of God nor peace with the Vatican or any priests. They are the real and unaltering enemies of Italy."
Carlile, Richard (1790-1843) grand fighter for freethought.
A British working man who took up printing and publishing skeptical books in defiance of the law. Altogether he spent nine years and four months or nearly a third of his life in jail. His wife, though she was not a freethinker, and his employees carried on the work while he was in jail. Once when his house was seized because he would not pay church rates he put life-size figures of a devil and a bishop arm in arm in his shop window in the center of London. He is commonly described as a Deist but, though it was the first works of Paine that first made him a heretic, he was an aggressive atheist from 1821 onward. He literally wore out his persecutors, who had to quit troubling him, and even in the respectable British Dictionary of National Biography it is said he "did more than any other man for freedom of the press."
Carlyle, Thomas (1797-1881) British historian.
Although he was anti-democratic and in several ways reactionary in his later years, Carlyle did splendid work, especially by his French Revolution and Sartor Resartus, which have had a colossal circulation, for freethought and the general progress of England. In the latter work he seems to follow the lines of Goethe’s Pantheism, but he said to the poet Allingham (who tells us in his diary): "I have for many years strictly avoided going to church or having anything to do with Mumbo Jumbo." He meant the Christian God. He added: "We know nothing. All is, and must be, utterly incomprehensible."
Carnegie, Andrew (1837-1919) philanthropist.
In the course of his life he have away $350,000,000 generally for sound social objects such as public free libraries. Dr. Moncure Conway, who knew him says that he was an Agnostic, and a few references to his religion in his Life of James Watt confirm this. He refers to "the mysterious realm which envelopes man" and says in regard to discussion of religion that "we are but young in all this mystery business." The Truthseeker of August 23, 1919, quoted a confession of faith of his in which, a few years before his death, he rejects "all creeds" and says that he is "a disciple of Confucius and Franklin." His confusion as an atheist and a deist is due to the fact that he shed religion without any serious interest in it and avoided the subject as far as possible.
Carnot, Count Lazare Nicolus Marguerite (1753-1823) French military engineer and statesman.
He served the republic and then Napoleon, who raised him to the highest honors. Arago (see), who wrote a biography of him, says that he abandoned Catholicism and became an atheist. Of his grandsons Lazare Hippolyte (1801-1888) was a distinguished and very anti-clerical statesman, and Marie Francois Sadi, who was equally anti-clerical in politics, became President of the Republic. Laxare’s son, Sadi Nicholas Leonard Carnot (1796-1832) turned to science and was one of the greatest figures in the history of physics in France. It was a brilliant family and all of atheists.
Caroline. Queen of England (1683-1737) A German noble married to the Prince of Hanover who became King George II of England.
She had studied philosophy and discarded Christianity under Leibnitz, and her house near London was frequented by the many brilliant English Deists of the time. She refused to take oath when she had to administer the Kingdom in her husband’s andence, and she refused the ministrations of the Church of England though pressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury on her deathbed. The latter fact is attested by her close friend Lord Hervey in his Memoirs (II, p. 528). Lord Chesterfield describes her as "a Deist believing in a future life," and the Earl of Bristol and Horace Walpole confirm. It is ludicrous of British writers to pretend that she was not a freethinker.
Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (1729-1796)
A German princess married out of policy to a boorish and drunken Russian prince and finding herself in a world in which the Church was supreme and life very coarse and unrestricted, she had little regard for the sex part of the Christian code. But from the French philosophers, with whom she was very friendly, she learned a humanitarianism which the Church ignored, and she began a great program of social reform in Russia (in education, sanitation, administration of justice, etc.) The French Revolution and execution of the King caused a reaction in her mind and character and all reform was suspended, but she remained a Deist.
Cavandish, The Honorable Henry (1731-1810) one of the great British pioneers of the science of chemistry.
He made important discoveries and was so high a position that his name is still perpetuated in the Cavandish Society and the great Cavandish Physical Laboratory at Cambridge. His biographer Dr. G. Wilson quotes his attitude pm religion from a contemporary scientist: "As to Cavendish’s religion he was nothing at all"" (p. 180). He never went to church.
Ceddo D’ Ascoli (1257-1327) martyr of freethought.
Francesco (shortened to Cecco) of Ascoli was for years a professor at Bologna University and was one of the ablest scientific men of his age. In the last but one edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica the notice of him said that he was "a man of immense erudition and great and varied abilities…but his freethinking and plain speaking got him many enemies." As the enemies were priests, who burned him at the stake, the Catholic revisers of the last edition of the Encyclopaedia have cut down the eulogy. As late as the second half of the fifteenth century his influence was so great that 20 editions of a long scientific poem of his were printed.
Celsus, Aurelius (2nd Century).
Only remembered now from a work written against him by the most learned of the Fathers, Origen, who evidently found him the most formidable opponent of the Church. The pious faithful burned all of Celsus’s works. He appears to have been an Epicurean and to have made hilarious attacks on the gospel story of Jesus. Froude has a chapter on him in his Short Studies (1907, Vol. IV).
Chamberlain, Daniel Henry 1835-1907) Governor of South Carolina.
After taking part in the Civil War he settled in legal practice and became the leading attorney of the state. He was Attorney General (1865-1872) and Governor (1874-1877). He was assumed throughout to be orthodox but left it for publication after his death-it was published in the North American Review-a document stating that he was a "freethinker," that he rejected "the idea of a presiding or controlling Deity," and that he was skeptical about a future life.
Champollion Jean Francios (1790-1832), French Egyptologist.
He read Arabic, Persian, and Sanskrit as well as ancient Egyptian and it was he who learned the secret of the hieroglyphic inscriptions (1822). His biographer Harteben reproduces a very skeptical discussion of religion which he had written and mildly concludes that he had quit the Church (which still claims him).
Chantrey Sir Francis Leggat M. A., D.C.L., F.R.S., (1781-1841), eminent British sculptor.
He was a Royal Academician and had many honors. His biographer Holland says that he abandoned "all Christian and religious feelings." His large fortune was left to the Royal Academy to found the trust that is still known as the Chantrey Bequest.
Chaptal, Jean Antoine Claude, Count De Chanteloup (1756-1832) eminent French chemist and statesman.
Trained in medicine and rendered great service to the Revolution and to Napoleon, who made him a Count. He retired at the royalist-clerical reaction but was, in spite of his freethinking, recalled and sent to the home of Peers by the King. His great-grandson, the Viscount Chaptol, says in his Souvenirs sur Napoleon (p. 124) that he "had no religion" but believed in "a sort of providence."
Chatelet, The Marchioness Gabrielle Emilie De (1706-1749), French writer.
Of high noble family she learned Latin, Italian, English and Spanish before she was 16 years old, and later nearly won the Academy Prize for a dissertation on the nature of heat. She was beautiful and one of the most accomplished women of her time. She wrote a Deistic work and lived with Voltaire for 13 years, so that in this case the godly do not claim the brilliant lady.
Chaucer, Geoffrey (1328-1400) the greatest English poet.
The tone of the comments on priests, monks and nuns in his Canterbury Tales was not uncommon in his time but professor Lownsbury (Studies in Chaucer, 3 Vols. 1892) has made a severe analysis and shown that the poet was an advanced freethinker. Commenting on lines 2809-15 of "the Knight’s Tale" he asks: "Can modern agnosticism point to a denial more emphatic than that made in the fourteenth century of the belief that there exists for us any assurance of the life beyond the grave?" (11:314). He says that Chaucer grew more opposed to the Church as time went on and was "hostile to it in such a way that implies an utter disbelief in certain of its tenets" (11:520). A Retractation is appended to some editions of the Tales but it is generally rejected as spurious.
Cherubini, Mario Luigi Carlo Zenobio-Salvadore (1760-1842) Italian composer.
He began to compose music at the age of 10 and wrote a mass at 13, and an opera at 19. Five years later he was King’s composer in London, then in France. He hailed the Revolution and composed hymns and anthems for its feasts and the opera "Epicures". But he became Kings musician again after the Restoration and wrote the immense amount of religious music which has made him a favorite of the Catholic Church. Yet Cherubini was a freethinker all the time. His Catholic biographer Bellasis quotes the evidence of his daughters that he was "not mystical but broad-minded in religion" and admits that there is no evidence that he received the sacraments of the Church before death, which he did not.
Child, Lydia Francis (1802-1880) an important figure in both the abolitionist and the feminist movements in America.
She was a successful novelist when she fell under the influence of Garrison and began to work against slavery. She published the first anti-slavery book in America and edited The National Anti-Slavery Standard: and she was later just as active in the feminist movement. Mrs. Child wrote several works on religion. She was a non-Christian theist.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius (B.C. 106-43) Roman orator and philosopher.
He took up with enthusiasm the Greek philosophy that had been introduced into Italy and professed to follow the skeptical Neo-Academic school. In a treatise On the Nature of Gods he just states the arguments on both sides and endorses neither. In other works he sometimes seems to accept the idea of immortality but the chief authority on him, Professor G. Boissier, concludes that "the nobel hope of immortality with which he fills his works never comes to his mind in his misfortunes and perils; he seems to have expressed them only for the public." (Ciceron et ses amis, 1875, p. 59) Cicero works out a very high social code of ethics in other treatises.
Claretie, Jules Arsene Arnaud (1840-1910) French Writer.
One of the most brilliant of the great company of French Writers in the second half of the last century and member of the Academy. On one occasion the Minister of Public Instruction refused him permission to lecture and he issued a vigorous defense of freethought and speech (La libre parole).
Clemenceau, George Eugene Benjamin (1841-1929), famous French statesman.
His atheism and hostility to the Church were as well known as his political radicalism. He freely expresses his sentiments La melee sociale and Le Grand Pan, and he was an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association until he died.
Clemens, Samuel Langhorne (1835-1910) "Mark Twain"
His Atheism is freely expressed in a number of works (Eve’s diary. 1906, What is Man?, 1909, The Mysterious Stranger, 1918, etc.) but is seen in its most virulent form in his letters. In a letter of August 28, 1908 he replies to a young man who has asked if he would include Jesus among the 100 greatest men of history. Yes, he says, if you mean men with influence in history, but Satan also. "These two gentlemen," he says, "have had more influence than all others put together, and 99 percent of it was Satan’s." The Devil was "worth very nearly a hundred times as much to the business as was the influence of the rest of the Holy Family put together."
Clough, Arthur Hugh (1819-1861) British poet.
Though now little read Clough’s verse was very highly esteemed in his day. Carlyle, who knew him, says that he was "the most high-principled man I have ever known." Dr. Jowett, the liberal churchman, who also knew him says that he had "a kind of faith in knowing nothing" (Letters, p. 177). He wavered a little, as poets do, but in his final declaration on religion he is practically agnostic with a thin lingering shade of theism or pantheism.
Coleridge, Sir John Duke Baron Coleridge, F.R.S., D.C.L., M.A. (1820-1894), Lord Chief Justice of England.
Lord Coleridge showed his liberality in mid-career by working for the suppression of religious tests at universities but, as is usual in cases of men of his position, the full extent of his heresy was unknown until he died. In a letter to a brother-judge and fellow heretic, Lord Bramwell (see) he says: "Of ecclesiastical Christianity I believe probably as little as you do," but he thinks that the religion will last "longer than is good for the world." (Fairfield’s Some Account of G. W. Wilshire, p. 105).
Collier The Honorable John (1850-1934) British painter.
A son of Lord Monkswell who married a daughter of Professor Huxley and when she died, defiantly married her sister and did much to get the law, which forbade marrying a deceased wife’s sister, reformed. He was an Agnostic (as he states in an article in the Rationalist Annual, 1934) and contemptuous of all theology. A friend of Alma-Tedema and other leading Artists, he assures me, when I often discussed the question of art and religion with him, that few artists have any religious feeling at all.
Collins, Anthony (1676-1729) British Deist.
Collins, who figures prominently in the history of Deism, was a rich country gentleman of high character, a friend of John Locke, the philosopher, who published a number of anti-christian books (Discourse of Freethinking, etc.)
Collins, Professor John Churton (1848-1908) British writer.
He won a very high position as literary critic and published admirable studies of Voltaire and Bolingbroke. He had refused to take up a clerical career and had become a skeptic in early years and for this he had been disinherited, In a Memoir by his son prefixed to The Life and Memoiurs of J.C. Collins (1912) it is explained that he believed in God but not immortality or Christianity.
Comte, Isadore Marie Auguste Francois Xavier (1798-1857), Founder of Positivism.
He was an able sociologist and widely read in science but he retained a mystic vein from early years, when he has been a Saint-Simonian, and he tried to establish the Religion of Humanity which had a number of distinguished followers in the last century. It was a blend of religious forms and what are usually called irreligious ideas. He insisted on "positive" thought-hence the common name-Positivism- and refused to be called an atheist (which he was) or to attack the Churches. The natural result was that he and the British writers who followed him were far too lenient to the Churches and suppressed historical truth about Christian history. Huxley described his Church of Humanity as "Catholicism minus Christianity". To Huxley the only good Church was a dead Church.
Condillac, Etienne Bonnet De Mably De (1715-1780), French philosopher.
He became a priest but was too virtuous for the French clergy and was too able and honest to keep his faith. He joined the philosophers and, though he remained a Deist, he rendered great service by working out a theory that sensations (or, we now say, sense-presentations), are the basis of all knowledge.
Condorcet, The Marquis Marie Jean Antoine Nicholas De Caritat De (1743-1794) French mathematician.
As the length of his name suggests he belonged to a high noble family, rich in prelates of the Church. He was a brilliant mathematician in his teens and was admitted to the Academy and appointed its Perpetual Secretary. But he also joined the Encyclopedists and wrote so caustic and brilliant a criticism of religion that it was attributed to Voltaire. He accepted the Revolution and was President of the Legislative Assembly. But he was a man of nobel character, and his protests at the butcheries of the pious Robespierre led to his arrest and suicide. His wife, the Marchioness Sophie de Condorcet shared his sentiments and his fine character and was a very beautiful and accomplished woman.
Confucius (a Latinized form of Kung-fu-tse, B.C. 551-479), Chinese sage.
He had not the least idea of founding a religion, as is usually said, and the system called Confucianism is a unique case in history of the survival of an ethic without religion. He found China in great confusion and spent his life trying to persuade local princes to turn people away from religion and back to the older forms of Chinese life. There was not the least mysticism in his teaching. "Respect spiritual beings if there are any, but keep away from them" was his advice in regard to religions. There is here no dispute amongst the authorities. A few centuries later a dynasty of emperors adopted his system and it has been the general creed of educated Chinese for more than 2,000 years, though it is too conservative and out-dated for the Chinese students of today.
Conrad, Joseph (1857-1924), novelist.
A Polish seaman, his real name Theodore Jozef Konrad Korzeniowski, who so mastered English they he rose to the front rank of British novelists in the last century. In Some Reminiscences (1912) he practically avows himself an agnostic. "I have," he says, "come to suspect that the aim of creation cannot be ethical at all." (p. 163).
Conway, Moncure Daniel, D.D. (1832-1907), author.
Originally an American Methodist Minister, then Unitarian, he got into trouble for his abolitionist zeal and settled in London, where he shed all; beliefs and presided over an Ethical Society. He had considerable influence in public life and his scholarly works won for him a high position in cultured society.
Conway, Professor Sir William Martin M.A., F.S.A., F.R.G.S. (1856-1937) art expert and traveller of international fame as a climber.
In The Crowd in Peace and War (1915) he disdainfully defines religion as "man’s description of his ideas about the great unknown, his projection upon the darkness of what he conceives that darkness to contain." (p 214).
Cooper, Anthony Ashley First Earl of Shaftesbury (1621-1683), English statesman and Lord Chancellor.
A fine reformer for his age and, although his character has been disputed, the British Dictionary of National Biography vindicates it. His biographer (Life 11. 95) says that he "was indifferent in matters of religion" and makes it clear that he was the first to use the phrase with which Disraeli is generally credited later, "Wise men are of but one religion" he said, and when he was pressed to say what that religion is he replied, "Madam, wise men never tell." It is his grandson, the third Earl, who was author of the Characteristics and a famous Deist. But he was more mystic than his grandfather.
Cooper, Peter (1771-1883) Founder of a Cooper’s Institute (New York).
A poor boy who attended school for 6 months yet made a large fortune, and by strictly honest methods, in business. He gave $660,000 for the building of Cooper’s Union and spent a further $1,550,000 on it in the course of his life to provide other poor boys with an education. The first Curator, his intimate friend Professor Jaches, says (Political and Financial Opinions of Peter Cooper, 1877) he "was so broad, sincere, and catholic in his religious principles that I believe he would be recognized by any minister of the Christian religion as a truly religious man." It is the usual religious way of saying that a freethinker is a "true Christian" if he is a fine man. Cooper left nothing for any religious purpose.
Conybeare, Frederick, Cornwallis, M.A., D.D., L.L. D. (1856-1924).
Orientalist, a tutor of great erudition at Oxford University, Fellow of the British and French Academies, and a member of the Rationalist Press Association. In several learned works, he criticizes Christianity and even more severely the myth theory of Jesus.
Cope, Professor Edward Drinker, M.A., Ph.D. (1840-1897), paleontologist.
One of the most eminent paleontologists of the early Champions of Darwinism in America. He was a theist (Theology of Evolution , 1887), but did not believe in immortality.
Courtney, Baron Leonard Henry (1832-1918), British statesman.
A lawyer, then professor of political economy, who entered politics and rose to front rank positions. He published a Diary of a Church Goer in which he confesses that he was no religious beliefs beyond a liberal theism and that a large number of distinguished churchgoers like himself do not believe in Christianity.
Cousin, Victor (1792-1867), French philosopher.
One if the leading French thinkers of the early 19th century, member of the Academy and Minister of Public Instruction, and translator and editor of the works of Plato, Proclus, Descartes, and Abelard (27 vols.). In his own 18 works he is eclectic and a Pantheist as regards religion.
Cremer, Sir William Randal (1838-1908) reformer, Nobel Prize Winner.
A British working man who entered politics and worked so zealously for peace and other humanitarian ideals that he won an international reputation and many high honors. His biographer Howard Evand says that he rejected Christianity but remained "religious."
Croce, Professor Benedetto (1866- )
The most eminent philosopher of Italy in the present century with a considerable international reputation. He is almost equally distinguished in history and has a very sound influence on public affairs. His philosophy is Neo-Hegelian, but, as his chief English follower, Professor Wilson Carr says, "the religious activity has no place in it. To him religion is mythology."
Cross, Mary Ann. See George Eliot.
Curie, Manya or Marie (1867-1934) codiscoverer of radium.
Daughter of a Polish freethinker but reared by a Catholic mother. She abandoned the Church before she was 20 and her marriage with Pierre Curie was a purely civil ceremony because she says in her memoir of him, "Pierre belonged to no religion and I did not practice any" (p. 52). They isolated radium-after Becquerel had pointed out the radiant properties of uranium-in equal cooperation and received the Nobel Prize jointly. After his death she sustained their work with great ability and received 15 gold medals, 19 degrees, and other honors. Her funeral was purely secular. Her brilliant daughters Irene (Mme Joliet) and Eve assisted. The elder received the Nobel Prize jointly with her husband. The younger, Eve, wrote a biography of her mother in which she tells us that all members of the gifted family were freethinkers.
Curie, Professor Pierre (1859-1906) co discoverer of radium.
The feminist agitation that occurred after his death led to such glorification of his wife that the fact that he had an equal share in the research was generally pushed out of sight. He was professor at Paris University and, as explained above, an atheist.
Danton, Georges Jacques (1759-1794) French revolutionary leader.
He was a lawyer of middle-class family before he devoted himself to revolutionary politics. The excesses of the Terror disgusted him and Robespierre had him arrested and executed. Even the Catholic Belloc has to acknowledge the greatness of his character (Danton 1899) but with amazing audacity denies that he was an atheist. It was one of Robespiere’s charges against him.
Darrow, Clarence (1857-1938) attorney.
A son of the people-which he never forgot-he became the greatest criminal lawyer in America, and he often defended labor organizations or individuals with little or no money. In explanation of his taking such a case as the Loeb-Leopold he explained to me that he never sought to enable such criminals to escape punishment but only the death sentence, to which he morally objected. He was an outspoken agnostic and fine humanitarian.
Darusmont, Francis (1795-1852) feminist.
Daughter of a Scottish freethinker, she adopted his views and wrote a defense of the Epicurean philosophy in her teens. She emigrated to America, married Darusmont, and won a high reputation as a lecturer on freethought, feminism, and other reforms. "Few have made greater sacrifices for conviction’s sake or exhibited a more courageous independence" (Dict. of Nat. Biog. )
Darwin, Charles Robert (1809-1882), discoverer of Natural Selection.
After 14 years spent in collecting material he published the famous Origin of Species in 1858 and the Descent of Man in 1871. He was still a theist when he wrote the Origin , and clerical writers sometimes dishonestly quote his references to the creator to prove his views. His son, Sir. F. Darwin, who wrote the Life and Letters (3 Vol., 1887) very carefully traces his development (1, ch V) and shows that he thought little about religion before 1870 and then became and remained to the end an Agnostic. Of his sons, Sir Francis became a leading botanist Sir George Howard a distinguished astronomer (Plumerian Professor of that science in Cambridge) and two other successful engineers. All were agnostics.
Darwin, Erasmus, M.A., M.B. (1731-1802)
Grandfather of Charles, a physician, and one of the pioneers of evolution. He wrote in verse, though his theory was naturally crude in view of the poverty of science at the time. He was a Deist.
Daudet, Alphonso (1840-1897) French novelist.
For many years his name was coupled with that of Zola as the leading novelists of the last century.. He was less outspoken about religion, but hardly less hated by the clergy. He was an atheist.
David, Jacques Louis (1748-1825) the leading French painter of his time.
He ardently joined in the Revolution and organized the great national festivals when religion was practically abolished. He was later Napoleon’s chief artist but the clerical-royalists banished him and would not even allow his family to bring his body back to France for burial.
Davids, Professor Thomas William Rhys, LL.D., Sc.D., Ph. D., (1843-1922) orientalist.
A professor of Pali and Buddhist literature at London University and President of various learned bodies, he was respected as one of the highest authorities on ancient Hindu religion and he rendered great service by insisting in his works that Buddha was an atheist. In a public lecture (Is Life Worth Living?) 1879 he rejects Christianity and the idea of immortality and was probably himself an atheist.
Debussy, Claude Achille (1862-1918), French composer.
He entered the Paris Conservatoire at the age of 11 and by 1902 his L’apres-midid’un faune and other compositions were known throughout the world and he was acclaimed as "one of the greatest musiciand of his generation." |He was one of the "Neo-Pagans" of that brilliant period and his funeral was purely spectacular.
Deffand, the Marchioness Marie Anne De Vichy-Chamrond Du (1697-1780), one of the mosr famous Frenchwomen ofd the 18th century.
She became skeptical at her convent school and it was a tradition that she routed the celebrated court preacher who was brought to reason with her. Her salon was the favorite meeting place of all the great freethinkers of France and England. Later he had for some years an apartment in a Paris convent, and she continued to receive them there. She was a materialist. It was the witty and beautiful machioness who, when a cardinal told her that it was disputed whether St. Denis carried off his head, after it had been cut off, 20 or 30 yards replied "Ah, my Lord, it is only the first yard that really matters." Some considered her the purest writer of French after her friend Voltaire.
De Gubernatis, Count Angelo (1840-1913), Italian orientalist.
He was professor of Sanscrit, a voluminous writer, and a member of more learned societies (including the American Philosophical Society)and recipient of more honors than any other Italian scholar. In the preface of his Dictionnaire Internatianal (2 vols. 1891) he says: "Our ideal temple is fdar vaster than enclosed by any church…and it does more for the luminous peace and happiness of the world."
Delacroix, Ferdinand Victor Eugene (1798-1863), French painter.
He threw himself into the Revolution of 1830, as his great predecessor David had taken up the First Revolution, and painted a famous picture of "Liberty leading the people to the Barricades." Many considered him the greatest painter of the first half of the century. Delacroix was an enthusiastic admirer of Diderot and shared his atheism. His funeral was purely secular.
Delambre, Jean Baptiste Joseph (1749-1822), famous French astronomer.
He made many important advances in his science and received the highest honors. He was a friend and pupil of Lelande (See) as is included in the Dictionary of Atheists which Lelande helped to compile.
DesMoulins, Benoit Camille (1760-1794), French revolutionary.
A young Partisan lawyer of good family who played an important part in the early stage of the Revolution. Arrested for his moderation during the Terror, when the court asked his age he said: "Thirty-three-same as the sans-culotte Jesus." Atheist.
Destutt De Tracy, Count Antoine Louis Claude (1754- 1836), French philosopher.
Described by Jefferson (to Adams) as "the greatest intellectual writer of the age." A moderate revolutionary, raised to the nobility by Napoleon and greatly respected even under the restored royalty. He was a friend of Condillac and like him a materialist in psychology. An enthusiastic reader of Voltaire until he died.
Dewey, Professor John, Ph. D., L.L.D., (1859-1952), the leading American thinker, educationist, and social idealist.
In The Influence of Darwinism in Philosophy (1910) he says that he is not interested ion "an intelligence that shaped things once and for all but the intelligence which things are even now shaping." (p. 15) In recent years he has advised a new sort of theistic formula: not that God is an objective reality but the relation of man to the ideal. He seems to have fallen into the common fallacy of most philosophic moralists that most men need a God, but most men will not even understand what he meand by God. He is the leader of the Humanist school, which denies the supremacy of reason, but an Honorary Associate of the British Rationalist Press Association which affirms that supremacy as its first principle.
Diaz, Porfirio (1830-1915), President of the Republic of Mexico.
Educated for the priesthood he quit the Church, took to law and politics, and became the most famous leader of the anti-clericals. "Don Porfirio" had his faults but he made Mexico safe for freethinkers and did a good deal for the Country.
Diderot, Dennis (1713-1784) French philosopher of the 18th century.
Son of a working man, he made his way in poverty and great sobriety of life to the front rank of French scholarship. His early books were burned for impiety and he was put in jail but a group of brilliant writers, the so-called "philosophers," rallied to him and during 30 years he brought out the famous Encyclopedia (28 volumes) which, in spite of bitter clerical opposition, rendered magnificent service in France. No one has ever questioned the high character and disinterestedness of this great atheist.
Dio Chrysostom (50-117), famous Roman orator.
"Dio of the Golden Mouth," as the name given to him means, had such fame as an orator that the Emperor Trajan made a close friend of him. We still have a large number of his orations and there is a translation (1932), and we find that he roundly denounced slavery to his rich and middle-class audiences in Rome more than 1,000 years before any Christian leader did. He was not a Stoic as is often said, but an atheist, of the Epicurean-Stoic school which most Roman moralists followed.
Dolet, Etienne (1509-1546), French martyr.
A printer of critical books of religion who, after repeated imprisonments, was burned alive for his heresies. He was more Protestant than atheist (as he is sometimes called), but in the true sense a martyr for free thought and free speech.
Douglas, Stephen Arnold (1813-1861), statesman.
A lawyer, Secretary of State for Illinois and Judge of the Supreme Court, and an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency. His eloquence was renowned throughout America and more than once he used it in the Cause of religious freedom. Douglas "never identified himself with any Church," the Philadelphia Press said in its obituary notice; and see A. Johnson’s S.A. Douglass (1908). He was a theist.
Dowden, Professor Edward, L.L.D., D.C.L., (1843-1913), writer.
An Irishman who rose to the first rank in the academic literary world in England. His Life of Shelly (2 vols. 1886) is the best and contains candid appreciations of great skeptics. He was an agnostic. In his Studies in Literature (1878, pp. 116-121), he rejects Christian doctrines, is skeptical about a future life and recognizes a God only as "an inscrutable Power."
Draper, Professor John William, M.A., L.L. D., (1811-1882) chemist and physicist.
He was the first to apply the camera to the microscope and made important discoveries in spectroscopy. Draper was a theist but anti-christian. His History of the Intellectual Development of Europe (1862) and History of the Conflict between Science and Religion are classics of freethought.
Dreiser, Theodore (1871- ), novelist.
His hostility to religion runs through all the grim, realistic novels that have made him famous. In one of them he says: "Assure a man that he has a soul and then frighten him with old wives tales as to what is to become of him afterwards, and you have hooked a fish, a mental slave."
Dresden, Edmond (died 1903), atheist.
British philanthropist. No details are available about him, but at his death he left his entire fortune, apart from bequests to servants, of about $1,700,000 to hospitals and the National Lifeboat Institution. And he directed that this inscription should be cut on his tombstone: "Here lie the remains of Edmond Dresdon, who believed in no religion but that of being charitable to his fellow man and woman, both in word and deed."
Dumas, Alexandre, the Younger (1824-1895) French Novelist and dramatist.
The elder and more famous Dumas died a Catholic. The younger, his bastard, became a Deist with severe ideals, as P. Bourget describes in his Nouveaux Essais (pp. 64-78). He earned a reputation by his novels and dramas which only suffers a little by the inevitable comparison with those of his father.
Dupont De Nemours, Pierre Samuel (1739-1817), one of the most eminent French economists of the 18th century.
He founded the Physiocratic School of economics and held high offices of state. He accepted the Revolution but was shocked by the Terror, as he was a man of high humanitarian ideals. In his Philosophie de l’ univers (1796) he avows himself a Deist.
Dupuis, Professor Charles Francois (1742-1809), originator of the solar myth theory of religion.
He was for some time a priest but abandoned the church and took up astronomy, of which he made a thorough study under Lalande. In 1781 he began to trace all religious myths to astronomical truths, and in 1794 he published the large work Origines de tous le cultes (3 vols.) which attracted the myth-theorists of the last century.
Edison, Thomas Alva, D. Sc., L.L. D., P.H. D. (1847-1931).
The famous inventor was a thorough Agnostic, though partially duped by spiritualist mediums in his declining years. He read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall and Hume’s History of England before he was ten years old and had such a passion for reading that he "ate his way" steadily through 15 feet of books on the shelves of the Detroit Public Library in his early teens. "Religion is all bunk," he was an atheist.
Edwards, John Passmore (1823-1911), British philanthropist.
A poor boy who educated himself and made a large fortune by journalism. His papers set a standard of truth and idealism that is hardly known any longer, and his money was lavishly distributed amongst educational and philanthropic institutions (70 of which bear his name). He was much influenced by Emerson and was a Spencerian Agnostic, as he says in A Few Footprints (1906).
Einstein, Professor Albert (1879- )
The celebrated mathematician, a German Jew by origin, had discarded sectarian beliefs before he was driven from Germany. In a radio from Berlin on his beliefs he spoke only of some "sense of the mysterious" which is at the root of religion and beauty. The American Catholic hierarchy denounced him as an atheist when he was invited to America, but his anxious friends could get him to profess only a belief in "a Great Power." He classes as an Agnostic but like many great scientists he has made no special study of religious questions and is really very poetical.
Eliot, Professor Charles William A.M., M.D., L.L.D., Ph.D. (1834-1926), educationist, President of Harvard (1869-1909), and the most decorated of American scholars. Yet he made no profession of orthodoxy. At an early date he turned from the Unitarian Church to the vague Pantheism of Emerson. In The Happy Life (1896) he thinks some religion necessary but orthodox religion impossible.
Eliot, George (Mary Ann Cross, (1819-1880), most famous woman writer of the last century.
She was brilliant from girlhood and mastered Greek, Latin, Italian, and German. She translated Strauss’s very Rationalistic Life of Jesus in 1844, and it was not until 10 years later when she went to live with Lewes, that she began to write novels. When Lewes died (1878) she married the banker Cross. She was an Agnostic and, on the word of a distinguished liberal divine Jowett, who knew her well, "the gentlest, kindest, and best of women." (in Life and Letters of Jowett, 11, 144).
Elizabeth, Queen of England (1533-1603).
Many think it a paradox or a strain of evidence to claim monarchs of Christian lands as freethinkers but the evidence is quite adequate as regards Elizabeth and Caroline of England and a number of others. She studied seriously in youth but she had to make her way cautiously in "an age that was so brave and beautiful and black-guardly" (as Lynd calls it) because the rival Christiand were religious cut-throats. She was, moreover, vigorous and masculine to a degree of coarseness. I am convinced that she belonged to what is now called "the third sex." Green in his standard Short History of the English People (ch. viii, 83), says that "no (other) woman who ever lived was so totally destitute of the sentiment of religion," and Professor Pollard says in his authoritative Political History of England (V1, p. 180) that "it can hardly be doubted that she was skeptical or indifferent." She was a humane ruler until Catholic plots forced her to change her policy.
Ellis, Henry Havelock (1859-1939), sexologist.
It is hardly necessary to show that the famous psychologist of sex was a freethinker. The clergy loathed him and I had private knowledge of attempts to trap and prosecute him. His agnostic views are explained in Affirmations (1897), and My Life (1940).
Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-1882), moralist.
The fact that Emerson, who was at first a Unitarian minister, severed his connection with that Church definitely puts him in the class of freethinkers. He believes in an Over-Soul or World-Soul (as others put it) and might be described as Pantheist. He did not like the label Transcendentalist or any other label and did not care to pin himself to any definite religious formulae. Although his dogmatic institutionalist ethic is not suitable for our time and it lead to a good deal of ethical narrowness, he was a fine force in American life in the last century.
Emmet, Robert (1778-1803), Irish patriot.
There was much more freethinking in Ireland and much more freedom to think 150 years ago than there is today, and the priests carefully concealed the opinions of patriots like Emmet, O’Brien, O’Connor, etc., whom they hold up to youth today. Emmet went to France and there imbibed republicanism and deism, and on his return he organized a revolution. Maxwell records in his History of the Irish Rebellion that when he was about to be executed he refused to see a priest and said that he was "an infidel by conviction."
Engels, Fredrich (1820-1895), German Socialist leader. Experience in his father’s business in the north of England, where the life of the worker was still squalid, prepared Engles for radical views and he joined Marx in founding Socialism in Europe. Like Marx he later found refuge from persecution in England. Belfort Bax, a British atheist socialist, who knew him, calls him a "devout atheist" (Reminiscences p. 51).
Ensor, George, B.A. (1769-1843), Irish Deist.
Another of the many cultivated Irish freethinkers of that time. Ensor took little part in politics but published, amongst other works, a drastic criticism of the bible.
Epictetus (about 50-100), famous Greek moralist.
A Phrygian slave who became one of the most notable of the many moralists of the Greek Roman world. The Encheiridion (Manual) and Discourses that we have were very probably taken down by a pupil, as shorthand was then well known. His teaching was ascetic and impracticable and in many respects very like the more ascetic counsels ascribed to Jesus (the golden rule, voluntary poverty, passive resistance, etc.) He belonged to the small religious wing of the Stoic movement and his extravagances of virtue illustrate again the danger of introducing any mysticism into ethics. The andurd suggestion that he borrowed from Christ is refuted by the dates. His chief interest is to remind us that all the moral sentiment attributed to Jesus in the gospels were familiar in the first century.
Epicurus (B.C. 341-270), the sanest thinker of the Greek world.
We have only fragments of the 300 works he wrote, which were burned by the Christians, but his sentiments are well known from other writers, especially Lucretius (See). The lead which Augustine gave the Christian world, that his was "a philosophy of swine," is a grotesque libel. He was a man of the most sober tastes, and the indulgence of sense was opposed to his ideal of life, which was tranquillity and friendship. He was a master of what science was known in his time and regarded it as the best antidote to superstition. Religious writers when they know the truth about his ideals, protest that he was no atheist. He was, like nearly all the Greek thinkers, a dogmatic materialist, but he said there might be gods, or a small colony of what we should call (material) supermen, in some remote part of the universe, not interested in the earth. Cicero quotes a contemporary saying that this was "by way of a joke." If he meand that it was just a way of evading the deadly charge of atheism it is probably true. See my sketch of Epicurus in the Hundred Men Who Moved the World . It was mainly the philosophy of Epicurus that ruled the lives of thoughtful Greeks and Romand from 200 B.C. onward, and it led to the greatest development of social idealism until modern times.
Erasmus, Desiderius (1466-1536), the leading scholar and greatest freethinker of his time.
Probably the bastard of a Dutch priest and his niece, he became a priest and monk and so richly developed his gift for satire . His wit and learning won him the highest recognition all over Europe, and for a time he taught Greek at Oxford University. Erasmus was "not the stuff that martyrs are made of" – he tells us frankly that he had "o inclination to die for the truth"- so we do not know the full extent of his skepticism, but he did use his very wide influence to scourge the Roman Church and at times the whole Christian world. See again my Hundred Men .
Ericsson, John (1803-1889) Inventor.
A Swede who invented the screw propeller and took his invention to America where he followed it up with many other valuable inventions. Ingersoll knew him well and calls him "one of the profoundest Agnostics I ever met" (Works, V. 11 p. 319). New York State raised a statue to him and the government sent his remains back to Sweden in a cruiser.
Erigena, John Scotus (615-677), Irish philosopher.
The Irish were then known as "Scots" in Europe and "Erigena" meand born in Erin. He was the most brilliant of the Irish scholars who, in the short period when some culture still survived in Ireland-the Anglo-Saxon invasions had ruined it in England-migrated to France. He was several times condemned by the Church, and the work of his that survives (De Divisione Naturae ) is vaguely Pantheistic. He at least held against the boorish bishops that "reason preceded faith."
Espronceda, Jose De (1810-1842), Spanish poet.
He was put in jail for writing rebellious poetry at the age of 14 and spent most of his life in exile. At Paris he fought in the 1830 rebellion and was back in Spain for the 1840 rebellion. He then became on of the most popular poets in Spain, freely expressing his deistic opinions in some of his poems. (Cancion de pirata , etc.)
Euripides (B.C. 480-406), the third of the immortal trio of Greek tragedians.
He appeared at the time when the ancient religious fervor, which is so prominent in Aeschylus and Sophocles, was relaxing and there was much skepticism in Athens. No one doubts that he shared this skepticism, and there is no evidence to put against the assurance of Plutarch that he was an atheist but dare not to openly challenge the prevailing beliefs (On the Opinions of the Philosophers , VII, p.1).
Fabre, Jean Henri (1823-1915), French entomologist.
Son of a priest, his books (I would say greatly influenced by his fathers occupation as a priest) on insect life, though in some respects corrected by later scientific work, had a high international reputation. Religious writers quote him as one of their "great Catholic scientists" but his biographer, D.G. Legros, expressly says that he was "free from all superstition and quite indifferent to dogmas and miracles" ..La vie de G. H. Fabre, p. 192. He was theistic, a vitalist, and opposed to evolution but no more a Christian than Voltaire.
Faure, Framcios Felix (1841-1899), sixth President of the French Republic.
Son of a worker who made a fortune in business and rose to high positions in politics as an anti-clerical Liberal. He was President 1895 to 1899 and responsible for the drastic laws against the Church that were passed in those years.
Fawcett, Edgar (1847-1904), poet. A warm admirer of Ingersoll he called himself an Agnostic Christian, mixing skepticism on fundamentals with an ill-formed moral admiration of Christianity in his Songs of Doubt and Dreams, Agnosticism and Other Essays, etc.
Fawcett, the Right Honorable Henry, F.R.S., L.L. D., D. C. L., (1833-1884), British economist and statesman.
Although he became blind at the age of 35 he was professor of economics at Cambridge and held high political offices. A monument to him was erected in Westminster Abbey by public subscription. Leslie Stephen shows in his biography that he regarded theological controversy as "miserable squabbles" and shared the Agnosticism of J. S. Mill.
Fels, Joseph (1854-1914), philanthropist.
Beginning life as a poor boy he made a fortune in the soap business and used his money and energy freely to promote reform and in philanthropy. He was a non-Christian theist (Joseph Fels , by Mary Fels, 1920, pp. 177-184).
Ferrer Y Guardia, Francisco (1859-1909), Spanish educationalist.
Self educated son of a poor man who devoted himself to the reform of education, chiefly by ridding it of superstition, founded 50 Modern Schools in Spain, and incurred the mortal hatred of the clergy. As he was also a philosophic Anarchist of the gentle Tolstoi school, the government willingly obliged the bishops and, after a gross travesty of a trial, had him shot. He was a man of high character and ideals (see my Martyrdom of Ferrer, 1909).
Ferrero, Gugielmo (1872- ), eminent Italian sociologist.
He is also a notable criminologist and one of the leading European writers on ancient Rome. In 1908 he was Lowell lecturer in America and several of his books were translated. Ferrero is a Positivist. Being invited in America to contribute to a symposium on the future life he wrote that he did not believe in it.
Ferri, Professor Enrico (1856-1929), Italian criminologist and Socialist leader.
He taught penal law at seven different universities from 1879 to 1896 and is classed with Lombrosco. He was leader of the Italian Socialists and editor of Avanti. During the latter term I once wrote to ask him if I should be right in saying that all Italian Socialists had given up the Catholic faith. "Yes," he replied, warmly "and they reject every religion under the sun."
Ferry, Jules Francios Camille (1832-1893) French statesman.
From law and journalism he passed on to politics and became one of the leaders of the anti-clericals. He was Minister of Public Instruction (and responsible for secularizing the schools), Premier and President of the Senate. Ferry was a thorough Agnostic (see his Discours et Opinions, 2 vols, 1903).
Feuerbach, Ludwig Andreas (1804-1872), German philosopher.
Lost his chair of philosophy for publishing a book in which he denied a future life. A brilliant and caustic writer he had an immense influence in Germany about the middle of the century. It was his work that converted Karl Marx from Hegelianism to Atheism and materialism. His brother Friedrich, an orientalist, was just as thorough a freethinker.
Fichte, Professor Johan Gottlieb (1762-1814), German philosopher.
Known to a few today but as well known as Kant at the beginning of the last century. He was dismissed form his chair on the charge of atheism but his system was rather an idealist Pantheism. He was also the leader of the youth of Germany in the struggle against Napoleon.
Fiske, Professor John (1842-1901), philosopher.
Professor of philosophy at Harvard and later of American history at Washington. Religious writers quote him as an orthodox Christian. J.S. Clark shows in his Life and Letters of J. Fiske (2 vols, 1917) that he accepted only an "unknowable" god and immortality (as an act of faith) and rejected Christianity.
Fitzgerald, Edward (1809-1883), poet and translator of Omar Khayyam.
Few would know anything of Omar if it were not for the British poet or of Fitzgerald but for his translation of the Persian. It is so free a translation that wee may call it a fine poem of his own, but he never falsifies the sentiments though in places he expresses his agnosticism a little more boldly than a Persian poet would have dared. There are studies of him by T. Wright and F.G. Groome.
Flammarion, Nicholas Camile (1842-1925), French astronomer of distinction.
Spiritualists deceive the public by alleging that he adopted their creed. He never did. He thought that many of the phenomena were genuine while exposing a great deal of fraud, but that they were due to "unknown forces"-which is the title of his book on the subject-not to spirits. He was a theist but anti-Christian. "The supernatural does not exist," he says.
Flaubert. Gustave (1821-1880), famous French novelist.
Trained in medicine but turned to fiction and he worked with such artistic conscientiousness that he produced only five novels. One is The Temptation of St. Anthony, which sufficiently shows what he thought of the church.
Foote, George William (1850-1915) Bradlaugh’s successor as head of the British Secularists (atheists).
He was a fine writer and speaker but little known outside his circle. At one time he was in prison for a year for blasphemy.
Fourier, Baron Jean Bapiste Joseph (1768-1830), eminent French mathematician and physicist.
He took an active part in the Revolution and rose to great importance under Napoleon. For discovering the nature of heat and for other scientific triumphs the clergy, who hated and persecuted him under the restored royalty, could not prevent his admission to the Academy, the British Royal Society, and other learned bodies.
Fox, The Right Honorable Charles James (1749-1806), one of the most eminent of British statesmen.
He rose to the position of Lord of the Treasury and Foreign Secretary but was chiefly remarkable for the consistent use of his brilliant oratory on the side of reform in an evil age. He defiantly wore the colors of the Americand in the House of Commons during the War of Independence, and opposed the fighting, greeted the fall of the Bastille as "one of the greatest and best events in history." and denounced slavery. He was no ascetic but a man of much culture and, Gibbon says, "perhaps no human being was ever more perfectly exempt from the taint of malevolence, vanity, or falsehood." Lord Holland, his nephew, says that he was "no believer in religion" and, although he allowed his wife to have prayers when he was dying, he took no notice and said that he "did not like to pretend any sentiments he did not entertain" (Greville’s Memoirs IV, p. 159).
Fox, Elizabeth Vassale, Lady Holand (1770-1845), wife of the third baron Holland.
"a social light which illuminates and adorned England, and even Europe for half a century." (Greville in Memoirs , V, 313). He ads that she was an atheist like her famous uncle and was "known to be wholly destitute of religious opinions."
Fox, Henry, First Baron Holland, Father of C.J. (1705-1774), English statesman.
For many years he was leader of the House of Commons. Lord Chesterfield says that he "had no fixed principles either of religion or morality." In other words Chesterfield did not like him. In Chalmers’ (orthodox) Biographical Dictionary it is said that he "was an excellent husband and he posessed in abundance the milk of human kindness."
Fox, Henry Richard Vassale, Third Baron Holland (1773-1840), distinguished politician.
He worthily sustained the tradition of the House, fought for all Liberal reforms, and warmly defended the Greek and Spanish rebels against feudalism. Holland House was the chief center in London of heresy as well as beauty and wit. The Rev. Sydney Smith, who was often there, says of the Baron: "There never existed in any human being a better heart, or one more purified from the bad passions, more abounding in charity and compassion and which seemed to be so created as a refuge to the helpless and oppressed."
France, Jacques Anatole (1844-1942), greatest writer of modern France.
His skepticism pervades all his brilliant novels but is definitely put in his L’eglise et la republique (1905) and in an interview in A. Brisson’s Les prophetes (1900). In a letter he wrote to the International Congress of Freethinkers at Paris in 1905, which I attended, he wrote: "The thoughts of the gods are not more unchangeable than those of the men who interpret them. They advance-but they also lag behind the thoughts of men…. The Christian God was once a Jew. Now he is an anti-Semite."
Frankland, Sir Edward, K.C.B., D.C.L., LL.D., F.R.S. (1825-1899).
"An exceptionally brilliant and accomplished man of science" (Dict. Nat. Biography). He had several gold medals for his discoveries in chemistry and was a member of the French, Berlin, Bavarian, Petrograd, Bohemian, and Swedish Academies of Science. In his autobiography (Sketches from the Life of E. Frankland) he explains that he was a complete Agnostic. (p. 47).
Franklin, Benjamin, LL.D., F.R.S., (1706-1790).
Franklin’s distinction in science, for which he got the Copely Medal and membership of the English Royal Society, and political career are well known. The attempt of some religious writers to claim so distinguished an American for orthodoxy is quite andurd in the face of his Autobiography. He states plainly that he quit the Presbyterian Church and was for the rest of his life a Deist believing in a future life (pp. 185-188). "I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I andented myself from Christian assemblies."
Frazer, Sir James George, D.C.L., LL.D., Litt. D. (1855-1939), famous anthropologist.
His Golden Bough, a learned and finely written survey of comparative mythology, is as classic a work of freethought as Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. In the first edition he scrupulously refrained from any expression of his own opinion and he rather foolishly scolded me for describing him as a Rationalist when he had not said so. In the preface to the second edition (1900) he acknowledged (the very obvious fact) that his work "strikes at the foundations of beliefs in which the hopes and aspirations of humanity through long ages have sought a refuge." Like so many of these academic freethinkers he was totally unaware that only one in ten of the British people in his time any longer seriously entertain these hopes and aspirations. His biographer R.A. Downie is just as reticent about his agnosticism.
Frederic II (1194-1251), German emperor, "the Wonder of the World" (so called by the contemporary Christian writer Matthew of Paris).
He had a German father and Norman mother and inherited the kingdoms of both. But Arab culture still flourished in Sicily , which the Normand had taken, and Frederic eagerly andorbed it; especially after the "greatest" of the Popes. Innocent III, tried to cheat him out of his inheritance after a solemn promise to his mother to guard it. He became the most learned, brilliant, and effective monarch in Europe. Three Popes in succession fought him, and with "ferocity and unscruptulousness" (the historian Holland admits), and his freethought was so well known that an anti-Christian work called The Three Impostors (Moses, Jesus and Mohammed) which then appeared was attributed-dubiously-to him. He invited the other Christian monarchs to depose the Pope. But his political position as ruler from the Baltic to Sicily was too unstable, and he often had to make concessions, such as penal laws against heresy, to the Popes. The orthodox historian Freeman pronounces him "the most gifted of the sons of men, by nature more than the peer of Alexander, of Constantine, or of Charlemagne; in mere genius, in mere accomplishments, the greatest prince who ever wore a crown."
Frederic the Great (1712-1786), King of Prussia.
Not really so "great" as the King of Sicily, yet certainly superior to the Christian monarchs (Charlemagne, Constantine, and Justinean) to whom the title is usually given and incomparably superior to his pious, boorish and cruel father. The circumstances of the time compelled him to wage much war and indulge in tortuous diplomacy, but he was a most wise and humane ruler of his people. He inaugurated the advance of Germany to the position of a great power. That he was a Deist, the protector of Voltaire and other Deists, even a Jesuit has never questioned.
Freud, Professor Sigmund, M.d., LL.D. (1856-1939), Founder of Psycho-analysis.
In his last work, Der Mann Moses and die momoptheistiche Religion (1939), he showed, that, as most folk had assumed, he was a thorough freethinker. In his last few years he was an honorary Associate (like myself) of the British Rationalist Press Association.
Froebel, Friedrich (1782-1852), famous German educationalist.
Son of a poor Lutheran pastor who won a name in the history of education only second to that of Pestalozzi (also a freethinker). As the clergy bitterly opposed his work and the Prussian government obliged them by closing his schools-on the grounds that he would not have Christian lessons in them-he was not very outspoken but even Pastor Schmeidler, who writes on his religious opinions, allows that he was not a Christian but a vague Pantheist.
Froude, Professor James Anthony, M.A., (1818-1894), eminent British historian.
He got as far as the diaconate in the Church of England and then abandoned the creed. In a novel of his, Shadows of the Clouds (1847), the character which represents himself is a theist only, regarding all speculation beyond that as "shifting clouds." By law he was still a member of the clergy but a reform of the law in 1872 set him free. Later he was Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford-to the anger of the clergy-spent 20 years writing his famous History of England, and raised a storm by giving away the early impotence of Caryle, whose literary executor he was.
Fuller, Sarah Margaret, Marchioness of Ossoli (1810-1850).
She began to learn Latin at six and Greek at 13, was literary critic of the Tribune for a time, and had a high place in American culture. Her husband the Marquis of Ossoli had to fly with her from Italy for rebellion against the Papacy, and both were drowned at sea. She had at an early age joined the Emerson school and was a Pantheist. "You see how wide the gulf separates me from the Christian Church," she says in a profession of faith in Braun’s Margaret Fuller and Goethe (p. 254).
Gage, Matilda Joslyn (1826-1898), writer.
One of the many able American women who, in spite of general public hostility, took an active part in the abolishment and feminist movements of the last century. Mrs. Gage was President of the National Women’s Suffrage Association, edited their paper, and collaborated with Miss Anthony in writing the history of the movement. Her freethought is emphatically given in her Women, Church, and State (1839).
Galdos, Benito Perez (1845-1920) greatest Spanish writer of the last century.
He wrote 70 novels and a score of plays. A large number of his novels (Episodios Nacionales) form a series that tells the history of Spain’s long struggle against royalty and the Church. Some of his dramas also were strongly anti-clerical, and he was Republican Member of the Cortes (Congress) for Madrid. No other man did as much as this distinguished atheist for the emancipation of Spain. Yet the British Society of Literature presented its gold medal to him as "the most distinguished living representative of Spanish literature."
Gallatin, Albert (1761-1849), statesman.
Educated in Europe, where he adopted Deism. Returning to the States he made a fortune and entered politics, serving as Secretary to the Treasury at one time and then Minister to France. He attacked slavery, war and other evils, and was one of the founders of New York University, so that America should have "a foundation free from the influence of the clergy." They soon wormed their way in, of course, and Gallatin walked out in disgust. His son James confirms in his diary that his father was a follower of Voltaire.
Galsworthy, John O.M. (1867-1933), eminent British writer and Nobel Prize winner.
He was not only one of the leading writers of his time but an idealist of the purest type. He had, says the Annual Register in an obituary notice, "an almost prophetic passion for social justice." He gave away the Nobel money prize and maintained charities which remained secret until he died. Then, when the Society of Authors demanded that he should be buried in Westminster Abby, the clergy refused to admit the remains of so wicked a man. It was the last thing he desired, as shortly before he had a peom strongly attacked church burials and said "Scatter my ashes." His agnosticism is best seen in his Moods, Songs, and Doggerels (1911). He refused the "honor" of Knighthood.
Galton, Sir Francis, D.Sc., D.C.L., F.R.S., (1822-1911), Founder of Eugenics.
Son of a rich Quaker, he devoted himself to science, especially the study of heredity, and spent large sums of money in endowing it. He himself won high scientific honors (five gold medals, etc.) His biographer, Karl Pearson, stiltedly observes (though he was an atheist himself-of the cautious school) that he ceased to be "an orthodox Christian in the customary sense" in 1846. What Galton himself said (in the same book, p. 207) about it in a letter to his friend Darwin was: "Your book drove away the constraint of my old superstition as if it had been a nightmare."
Gambetta, Leon Michel (1838-1882), powerful French statesman.
Under the reactionary Second Empire and the almost equally reactionary period that followed the fall of the Commune (which sent the middle class folk back to church) it was chiefly Gambetta’s war cry, "Clericalism-that’s the enemy," that fired on the radicals. He became premier in 1881 and was an outspoken atheist and great orator. His funeral, the press said, drew the largest crowd ever seen in France.
Garibaldi, Giuseppe (1807-1882), famous Italian soldier and enemy of the Popes.
A sailor of many adventures who devoted himself to destroying the Papal rule in Italy. He contemptuously called the church "the Holy Shop" and his quarrels with Mazzini (who was a theist) were largely over religion. In his Life of Garibaldi (1881) Bent reproduces a letter he wrote two years before he died. "Dear Friends-Man created God, not God man-yours ever, Garibaldi."
Garrison, William Lloyd (1805-1879), the greatest abolitionist.
What Garrison did in the anti-slavery campaign is well known. The clergy see to it that Americand do not know equally well that he rejected Christianity and was at the most a deist. The biography of him written by his children says (IV, p. 336) that he "quite freed himself from the trammels of orthodoxy." Although freethinkers are supposed to have been just a few eccentrics 100 years ago at least half the workers in the abolitionist and other reform movements were freethinkers.
Gautier, Theophile (1811-1872), French novelist.
One of the finest writers of the middle of the century though the Academy closed its doors against him on the ground that his Mademoiselle de Mauphin was immoral. all his work shows his disdain of religion.
Gay-Lussac, Joseph Louis (1772-1850), renowned French chemist.
He was one of the greatest chemists in Europe at the time. He made innumerable discoveries in the science, and even the restored royalty made him a Peer of France, although he worked politically with the anti-clericals. He was closely associated with Arago (See) and shared his atheism.
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire Etienne (1772-1844), famous French zoologist.
He was made a canon of the Church at the age of 17 but he became a Deist and turned to science. He rose to the supreme rank in zoology and did fine work in preparing the way for the acceptance of evolution, especially buy opposing the reactionary Christian zoologist Baron Cuvier. He remained a Deist with a "fanaticism of humanity as his religion" (his biographer says) and was advanced in politics, yet in the Revolution of 1830 he saved the life of the Archbishop of Paris.
Gibbon, Edward (1737-1794), author of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the greatest historical work that had yet appeared.
Gibbon inherited considerable wealth and was described by Dr. Johnson as one of "the infidel wasps" of the London clubs. Yet he devoted 12 years to the most laborious research for and writing his great work, which is still a model of history-writing and remarkably accurate for a period when history was generally inaccurate. In my opinion the only parry that is open to serious criticism is the part (ch. XV) which is most favorable to Christianity. Its progress was much less than he supposed and its character much less "spiritual." Bury’s edition, with corrective notes, is the best. Passages in his Outlines of the History of the World show that his deism had not much depth and he was well on his way to agnosticism.
Giddings Professor Franklin Henry A.M., Ph. D, LL., D., (1855-1931) Leading American sociologist.
He was, besides being professor at Columbus, President of the American Sociological Society and the International Institute of Sociology, member of the New York Board of Education, the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the American Economic Association, and author of several standard works. His freethought is best seen in his Paean Poems (1914).
Gifford, Lord Adam (1820-1887), jurist, Founder of the Gifford Lectures.
A Scottish judge made a lord for his distinction in law, who left $400,000 to the Scottish universities to promote lectures "for the study of natural theology." The Gifford Lectures fell, as all such foundations by freethinkers do, under the influence of the clergy, and are mainly used in the interest of religion. Gifford himself was not only not a Christian but not even a theist. In his Lectures Delivered on Various Occassions (1889)-privately printed lest his heresies become generally known-he enthusiastically follows Emerson in ethics and Spinoza in philosophy. "We are," he says, "parts of the Infinite-literally, strictly, scientifically" (p. 157). He was a Pantheist.
Girard, Stephen (1750-1831), philanthropist.
A wealthy shipowner of Philadelphia who left nearly all his money, or $7,500,000, which is said to have been the largest fortune made to that date in America-and he was a man of great integrity of character and had begun as a poor working boy- to charity. Most of it, $5,260,000 was to be used in building and endowing a super orphanage , and it was stipulated that no ecclesiastic should ever set foot in it except as a visitor. Girard was a Deist. The estate, which is now worth $90,000,000 was, of course, brought under the influence of the clergy; one of whose favorite arguments is that freethinkers never found charitable institutions.
Gobineau, Count Joseph Arthue (1816-1882) French orientalist.
A diplomat who became a leading authority on Persian history, He was very conservative, and had been claimed as favoring the myth of German racial superiority, which is an exaggeration. The count was an andolute Deist, and the Catholic friends who tried in vain to convert him in his last days had the sacrament administered to him, while he was unconscious.
Goblet, D’Aviella, Count Eugene (1846-1925), Belgian anthropologist.
A Liberal, at one time professor at Brussels University of the history of religions, but so well known as a freethinker that when he was invited the Hibbert Lectures at Oxford, the authorities of Balliol College refused the use of a room for the purpose (1891).
Godkin, Edwin Lawrence, D.C.L. (1831-1902), journalist.
Son of a Presbyterian clergyman who gave up his belief at college. He was admitted to the New York bar but preferred journalism, and he founded and edited The Nation. He was one of the most respected editors in America and a non-Christian theist (Life and Letters of E. L. Godkin, 1907. p 35).
Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), British writer.
As Mary Wollstonecraft she was one of the best known women in London from 1790 on. She replied to Burke’s attack on the French Revolution and pleaded the rights of women. She married Godwin (next paragraph) in the last year and died giving birth to the girl who became Shelly’s wife.
Godwin, William (1746-1836), radical leader.
From Calvinist minister he became an atheist and one of the leaders of the British Radicals. His Political Justice was long a classic of reform. In later years he became more conservative and a vague Pantheist.
Goeth, Johann Wolfgang Von (1749-1832), Germany’s greatest poet.
He and Schiller led the emancipation of Germany and, especially in their Xenien (a collection of caustic epigrams, including many of religion), founded a freethought literature in that country. He was a Panthiest and skeptical about a future life. "The sensible man leaves the future out of consideration," he said. I have given a full account of his attitude to religion and his fine record in science in my biography of the great poet.
Goncourt, Edwmond Louis Antoine De (1822-1896) and Jules Alfred Huet De (1830-1870), French writers.
The Goncourt brothers, who collaborated in their books were in the front rank of the brilliant writers of France in the second half of the last century. They published a large number of exquisitely written novels and biographies. They were both atheists. In a collection of epigrams (Idees et sensations) they define religion as "part of a woman’s sex," supernatural religion as "wine without grapes," and life as "the unisruct of an aggregation of molecules."
Gorky, Alexei Maximovich Peskov (1868-1936), the famous Russian novelist.
Wrote as "Maxim Gorki," in earlier years a shop-boy, painter, cook’s boy, baker, porter, hawker, watchman, and lawyer’s clerk. He warmly accepted the Revolution, and had a contempt of all religion.
Gourmont, Remy De (1858-1915), French novelist.
Another of the brilliant writers (novels, poems and essays) of the mid-century. He belonged artistically to the Symbolist school but he was a resolute atheist. In his Promenades philosophiques he says that "while religion was always a pahanism to the crowd, paganism was almost always the religion of superior minds," and that God is "not all that exists but all that does not exist."
Grant, Ulysses Simpson (1822-1885), 18th President of the United States. Chief General in the Civil War and President 1868 to 1877.
His principal biographer, Hamlin Garland (U.S. Grant, 1898) says that he "subscribed to no creed". (p. 522). The Rev. M.J. Cramer (U.S. Grant, 1898) trims. At one point he says that Grant "believed the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion" – just as they often say that a freethinker is "a good Christian in the true sense" – at another that he only prayed "mentally" (he does not say that Grant told him), and finally that General Hallock rebutting the charge of swearing and drinking said that his sobriety was remarkable for " a man who is not a religious man." He was unconscious when he was baptized but unexpectedly recovered and said that he was surprised at what they had done.
Green, John Richard (1837-1883), British historian.
He became irreligious at Oxford, was converted and ordained, then rejected Christianity and the belief in immorality. His heresies are confined to his letters, in which he sets out to "fling to the owls and the bats these old and effete theologies of the worlds’ childhood" (p. 292). His Short History of the English People is a classic.
Gregorovius, Ferdinand (1821-1881), German historian.
Of his many works his History of the City of Rome in the Middle Ahes (8 vols.) has never been superseded and is a mine oh amusing information about the series of "Holiness." It was translated into many languages, and is a symptom of the progress made 50 years ago that the critic of the Popes was enrolled as an honorary citizen of Rome. He was a non-Christian theist. He wrote in Baroness von Suttner’s album: "Priests place themselves between man and the Deity only as shadows" (Memoirs, 1, p. 67).
Grey, Earle Albert Henry George (1851-1917). British statesman.
At one time Administrator of Rhodesia and later Governor of Canada. A very straight and idealistic statesman. In my life of G. J. Holyoake I have a quoted letter to him in which Earl Grey says that "the four men who opened the eyes of mankind most widely to the truths of human brotherhood" were Christ, Mazzini (a non-Christian theist), Robert Owen (an atheist) and Holyoake (an agnostic).
Grote, George. D.C.L., Ll. D., (1794-1871), British historian and reformer.
A London banker who made such progress in scholarship that his History of Greece (11 vols.) was the standard authority in the last century. He was also associated with Bentham and James Mill in radical and educational work and was, like them, an atheist. He wrote, and Bentham collected the material for, an atheistic work that appeared under the name of "Phillip Beauchamp." His wife, Harriet Grote, who was very distinguished in the literary world, shared his opinions.
Guyot, Yves (1843-1928), eminent French economist and statesman, member of Political and Social Science and the English Royal Statistical Society.
President of several French societies and at one time Minister of Public Works. From early life, when he edited a freethought paper, he was an outspoken atheist and wrote several works criticizing religion.
Hadrian, the Emperor (76-138), greatest of the Roman Emperors.
Of Roman-Spanish blood and educated in the finest Roman schools he won the favor of the emperor Trajan and succeeded him in the purple: Trajan’s wife Plotina (See) was a serious and learned follower of Epicurus and the worked together. The practice of counting him as one of the "Stoic Emperors" is misleading. He was an Epicurean atheist and one of the most beneficent rulers of the Roman world. The idea that he was a selfish hedonist is equally false. No other emperor did so much for the social needs of the vast empire. See my essay on him in The Hundred Men Who Moved the World. I there also refute the legend of sodomy with Antinous.
Haeckel, Professor Ernst Heinrich, M.D., Ph.D., Sc.D., LL.D., (1834-1919), the famous German zoologist.
As Haeckel outspokenly rejected all religion all his life and wrote the very anti-religious Riddle of the Universe, which sold several million copies in a score of languages, religious writers have been untruthful about his scientific distinction; and some scientific men, who envied his courage and candor, have encouraged them. His many large scientific works brought him 4 gold medals and 70 diplomas from scientific bodies all over the world. He was one of the most generous and upright men. When I went to stay with him in Jena I found that streets and squares of the city had been named after him. The clergy put out a ridiculous legend that he had "forged" illustrations for his books-he was a good artist-which I completely disproved 26 years ago, but some of them still drone about "Haeckel’s forgeries." When the charge was first raised, by a disreputable lecturer, 50 of the leading scientists of Germany published a scalding condemnation of it in the German press.
Halevy, Jacques Francios Fromen-tel Elie (1799-1862), French-Jewish composer. Professor at the Paris Conservatoire, Commander of the Legion of Honor, and Member of the Academy.
He was in his day in the front rank of French composers and a friend of Renan and shared his liberal theism. His brother Leon, a fine Hellenist who had several works crowned by the Academy, also deserted the Jewish faith for freethought.
Halley, Edmund, M.A., F.R.S., D.C., L. (1656-1741), famous British astronomer still remembered by "Halley’s Comet."
He won admission to the Royal Society at the early age of 22 and assisted Newton to bring out his Principia. He was at first refused the Savillian chair of astronomy at Oxford on account of his freethought but was too eminent to be excluded permanently. Chalmer’s pious Biographical Dictionary says: "That he was an infidel in religious matters seems as generally allowed as it appears unaccountable.
Habnson, Sir Richard Davies (1805-1876), Chief Justice of South Australia.
He was also Chancellor of Adelaide University and an outspoken freethinker. He wrote The Jesus of History, Letters to and from Rome, The Apostle Paul, and other works.
Harte, Francis Bret (1836-1902), writer.
Son of a Catholic professor, who, as readers of his stories know, got farther away from the faith. "In later years," says his biographer, Pemberton, very mildly, "he was content to worship God through his works." It probably did not take up much of his time. In his own words quoted in the same biography (p. 343), he "never voices a creed."
Hauptmann, Gerhart (1862 ), leading German writer.
Under the influence of Isben he threw up sculpture for dramatic work and became the leading playwright of Germany with a high reputation. He became rather mystic in his later years but remained at the most a pantheist.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1804-1864), novelist, author of The Scarlet Letter.
The impression of religious Puritanism that the reader gets is a reminiscence of his early training/ He dropped Christianity at college and "his own family did not know what his religious opinions were." (Stearns’s Life and Genius of Nathanial Hawthorn (p. 423). He was a theist. His son Julian, a prolific, if less eminent novelist, tells us in his Hawthorne and His Circle that when his father was stationed at Liverpool (England) he had a pew at the Unitarian Chapel and used it to send Julian to fill it, never going himself. Julian says he "never learned to repeat a creed, far less to comprehend its significance."
Hazlitt, William (1778-1830), famous British essayist.
Described by Thackeray as "one of the keenest and brightest critics that ever lived." He was trained for the Church but drew back, to the distress of his father, a minister. In one of his essays he speaks disdainfully of the Bible that used to kindle his father’s "lack-luster eyes." He was a theist but various observations in his essays imply that he had no belief in a future life.
Hearn, Lafcadio (1850-1904), writer on Japan.
He was born of an Irish father and a Greek mother in the Greek island Lucadia and educated as a Roman Catholic. He exchanged the faith for the atmosphere of American Journalism and was sent to Japan where he adopted Buddhism. His finely written works on the Japanese have been a priceless asset to the ruling caste. He was quite honest but as my friend R. Young, editor of the Kobe Times, who knew him well, told me he was a very poor observer as he was myopic and was exploited by the officials.
Hegel, Professor George Wilhelm Friedrich (1770-1831), counted by many the greatest of the German philosophers, by others the second after Kant.
The one thing that exists, he said, is Spirit or the Andolute and it is in a state of eternal development. His stress on spirit did much harm in European thought for a century and he was stuffily reactionary in politics. But though he professed (morally) to be a Christian he scorned theology and did not believe in a personal god or immortality. When Heine mentioned the argument for God from the starry heavens, he retorted that the stars are leprosy on the sky, and when he was reminded of Kant’s moral argument for a future life he said: "So you expect a tip for nursing your sick mother and for not poisoning your brother."
Heine, Heinrich (1797-1856), German-Jewish poet.
A brilliant writer of accommodating character. When he adopted Christianity in youth in order to get a position he explained that he would not have done so id the law had allowed him to steal silver spoons instead. He was in fact an atheist and so remained until he was bed-ridden with spine disease when he discovered God. "Put it down to morphia and poultices,: he told his friends. He scorned both Judaism and Christianity and never believed in a future life. By prose and verse he did fine work for the emancipation of Europe.
Helmholtz, Professor Herman Ludwig Von, (1821-1894), famous German physiologist.
He was equally distinguished in physics and physiology and was the discoverer of the law of the conservatism of energy. Although he was the most eminent and most honored of German scientists, he was all his life an outspoken agnostic.
Helvetius, Claude Adrien (1715-1771), French Encyclopedist.
Having acquired a large fortune in finance he devoted himself to study and the propagation of freethought, and his home in Paris was the shrine of the Encyclopedists. His work On the Mind was burned by the Paris Parliament, though the witty Mme. du Deffand (see) said that its materialism merely "gave away everybody’s secret." His better-known atheistic and materialistic work On Man was published posthumously and had a great influence.
Henley, William Ernest, LL.D. (1849-1903), British poet.
In his time Henley was considered a leading poet and is still often quoted but the literary men avoid such skepticism lines (Poems, 1893) as For my unconquerable soul Beyond this place of wrath and tears Looms but the horror of the shade. I thank whatever Gods there be. He wavered between atheism and theism. Philosophy, he said, was like chalk in one’s mouth.
Heracleitos (B.C. 500-440), Greek philosopher.
He was born in Ionia (Ephesus) and he perfected, as far as the state of positive knowledge at that time permitted, the materialistic Ionian philosophy. Benn (an anti-materialist historian of philosophy) describes him as "a wonderful genius" and quotes him saying: "This universe, the same for all, was not made by any God or any man but was and is and ever shall be an ever-living fire." He was known as "the Weeping Philosopher" apparently because he was an idealist who deplored the imperfections of men.
Herbert, Baron Edward (1582-1648), the first British Deistic writer.
As Ambassador at Paris he picked up the skepticism of the French and wrote several works in Latin for English readers in which he discards Christianity but advocates mystic theism.
Hertzogenberg, Heinrich Von (1843-1900), Austrian composer.
An intimate friend of Brahms (see), and their published correspondence shows the atheism of both. He was at first a Catholic but towards the end of life wrote to Brahms, "I believe nothing." (The Hertzogenberg Correspondence, p. 416).
Hervey, Lord John (1696-1743), Lord Privy Seal of England.
He was an intimate friend of Queen Caroline (see) and a well-known Deist. The editor of his Memoirs of the Reigh of George the Second says that he "adopted all the anti-Christian opinions of all time" and had "a peculiar antipathy to the Church and churchmen" (p. XXV1).
Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679), English philosopher.
He began to learn Latin and Greek at the age of six and, as tutor in a nobel family, traveled and had ample leisure for study and meeting European thinkers. His works dealt chiefly with political philosophy and he nervously repudiated the charge of heresy, as it was an age of religious tyranny. But it is clear that he was at the most a Deist, and his psychology must have made him skeptical about a future life.
Hobhouse, Baron Arthur (1819-1904), British judge.
A lawyer who attained the highest honors and was widely respected for his character and idealism. His nephew Professor Hobhouse says in his biography that Lord Hobhouse believed only in "a great ruling power of the universe" and shortly before he died wrote a clergyman that the more he reflected "the more my mind is led away from your objects and fixed upon others." (p. 258). The nephew, Professor L.T. Hobhouse (1864-1929), a sociologist of international repute, believed in God only as "that of which the highest known embodiment is the distinctive spirit of humanity" (Development and Purpose, 1913).
Holbach, Baron Paul Heinrich Dietrich Von (1723-1789), French Encyclopedist.
A wealthy German who settled in Paris and kept open house for the skeptics. He wrote in the Encyclopedia and, under a pseudonym, published an atheistic and materialistic work, The System of Nature, which had great infllluence.
Holland, Lord and Lady (See Fox).
Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1809-1894) professor of anatomy and physiology at Harvard Medical School from 1847 to 1882.
His poems, and general works (Autocrat at the Breakfast Table, etc.) made him known and loved all over America, but his freethought is chiefly found in his Mechanism in Thought and Morals (1871). He was a theist but had no belief in a future life.
Holyoake, George Jacob (1817-1906), British writer and reformer, founder of Secularism and inspirer of the Cooperative Movement. He began as an Owenite missionary and having a fine literary style, rose, in spite of his heresies, to a high position in English life. He called himself an agnostic but preferred the word Secularist, which he coined, to express the positive aims of freethinkers.
Home, Henry, Lord Kames (1696-1782), Scotish jurist.
One of the early freethinkers who did not suffer their brilliant success in life to reduce them to silence about religion. His Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion was denounced by the Scottish Church, yet he wrote a more clearly Deistic book Sketches of the History of Man (1774).
Hooker, Sir Joseph Dalton, O.M., M.D., Sc.D., F.R.S., (1817-1911), famous British botanist.
He was an intimate friend of Darwin and helped in preparing the botanical material of his works. His distinctions in his science was such that he had 19 gold medals and was a member of more than 100 learned societies in different countries. Leonard Huxley makes it clear in his biography that Hooker was an agnostic. "I distrust all theologians," he said. He held that the ultimate power if the universe is "inscrutable," that theism and atheism are just where they were in the days of Job and that Jesus was simply an Essenian monk.
Horsley, Sir Victor Alexander Haden, M.D., Sc.D., F.R.S. (1857-1916), eminent British surgeon.
One of the most brilliant surgeons of his time and rich in gold medals and international diplomas, also an active humanitarian. Paget shows in his biography that he was an agnostic. "Popular theology and sham metaphysics were utterly distasteful to him," he says.
Howells, William Dean (1837-1920), poet and novelist.
At one time editor of the Atlantic Monthly, later of Harper’s magazine. He was brought up a Swedenborgian but says in his poem "Lost Beliefs" that he gave up that sect at an early age. He remained a theist.
Huerta, General Victoriano (1854-1916), Mexican Indian soldier and at one time Provisional President of Mexico.
He won great distinction at the Military College and rose to the rank of General under Diaz. In 1913 he arrested, but was not involved in the death of, Madero and took his place, but the United States government forced him to retire. A thorough skeptic and anti-clerical.
Hugo, Victor Marie (1802-1885), famous French writer and humanitarian.
Author of Les Miserables (10 vol. 1862), which appeared in 10 languages simultaneously. He was a Deist. Grant Duff says in his Life of Renan that he met Hugo shortly before his death and was told that Christianity would soon go and men would believe only in "God, the soul, and responsibility." When it was decided to give him a national funeral the Pantheon had to be secularized and the crucifix removed from it.
Humboldt, Baron Alexander Von (1769-1859), famous German traveler and naturalist.
His Views of Nature and Kosmos (4 vols.) were read all over Europe. He was a great friend of Goethe and shared his vague Pantheism, and in his published correspondence with Arago he used very strong language about the churches. His brother Baron Karl Wilhelm (1767-1835), statesman of the first rank in Prussia and founder of Berlin University, was a Deist.
Hume, David (1711-1776), Scottish historian and philosopher.
He not only opened up a new era in the writing of history but published works on ethics and philosophy which had great influence on the subsequent development of agnosticism-Huxley adopted his philosophy-in Britain. He professed belief in God and cut the ground from under every argument for his existence. Sir Leslie Stephen in the Dictionary of National Biography pronounces him "the acutest thinker in Great Britain in the 18th Century" and exposes the clerical libels about his last hours. Adam Smith said that Hume was the nearest approach to "a perfectly wise and virtuous man."
Huneker, James Gibbons (1860-1921), critic.
Besides many works on music he wrote Iconoclasts (1905) and Visionaries, studies of heretics in which he does not conceal his opinions.
Hutton, James M.D. (1726-1797), "the first great British geologist" (Dict. Nat. Biog.). His Theory of the Earth (2 vols.) is one of the foundations of modern geology, and he was a distinguished student of medicine and chemistry also. It caused a sensation when in 1794 he published a Deistic work in 3 volumes.
Huxley, The Right Honorable Thomas Henry, M.D., Ph.D., LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S., (1825-1895), physiologist.
Huxley was not only one of the most decorated men of science of his time, but all his life an outspoken agnostic (a term which he himself coined to avoid the harshness of atheist) and a splendid fighter for freethought. Pious folk spread a myth about conversion late in life but his son Leonard shows in his biography of his father that all this is nonsense. A few months before he died he said to his son: "The most remarkable achievement of the Jew was to impose on Europe for 18 centuries his own superstitions." Leonard (1860-1933), a distinguished biographer, also was an agnostic. Julian, son of Leonard, follows the line; but what his brilliant brother Aldous believes he alone knows-and I doubt is he does. Hypatia, murdered for her freethought views.
Isben, Henrik (1828-1906), the great Norwegian dramatist.
A druggist’s boy who worked his way up to the position of probably the greatest dramatist of modern times. His biographer Aall shows that he discarded orthodoxy in his later teens but was quietly skeptical until 1871, when he met Georg Brandes (see). A few years later he wrote The Emperor and the Galilaean to express his new militant mood. He remained agnostic and anti-religious to the end. "Bigger things than the state will fall," he wrote Brandes, "all religion will fall."
Ingersoll, Robert Green (1833-1899), the greatest American Freethinker and in the front rank of American orators.
Son of a Congregationalist minister, colonel in the Illinois Cavalry Volunteers in the Civil War, he won splendid success as a barrister but never allowed it to interfere with his superb efforts for freethought. Although his printed speeches have been toughed up since delivery he was a most eloquent speaker and drew immense audiences everywhere. He preferred to call himself an agnostic and was a man of the highest and most generous character.
Ingram, Professor John Kells, B.A., D. Litt., LL.D., (1823-1907), Irish economist.
In his youth a fiery patriot who wrote the rebel song "Who fears to speak if Ninety-Eight?" he adopted Positivism and became more conservative. He was in succession professor of oratory, of Greek, and economics, and he wrote a standard (though now out-dated) work on slavery and serfdom in which he did not spare the church.
James, Professor William, M.D., LL.D., Ph.D., Litt.D. (1842-1910), psychologist.
His distinction in his science and his great service and his great service in helping to rid it of its old metaphysical elements are well known. His attitude to religion was peculiar. He did not believe in a Supreme Being but was inclined to believe in a number of super-human beings. (Varieties of Religious Experience ), and said that therefore he was rather a polytheist than a theist, and in A Pluralistic Universe he speaks about the God of the churches. In spite of his "will to believe" and against the false claim of Spiritualists he never attained a belief in personal immorality, as he admits in his Ingerson Lecture 2 years before he died. His brother Henry (1843-1916), the distinguished novelist had much the same position except that he (as he said) "liked to think" that there was some ground (not Spiritualism) for believing in a future life.
Jameson, The Right Honorable Sir Leander Storr, M.D., C.B., P.C., (1853-1917), physician and statesman.
As Dr. Jameson and friend of Cecil Rhodes he is remembered for his invasion of the Transvaal with 600 men in 1895, nut he was really a man of fine and serious character, and was, South African friends assured me, gravely deceived. He was Premier of Cape Colony a few years later through an outspoken agnostic.
Jaures, Professor Jean Leon, D. Es L. (1859-1914), French Socialist leader.
A cultivated man of middle-class family who was professor of philosophy before he took up politics. At one time he was Vice-President of the Chamber and was too moderate for the agnostic and cordially supported all the legislation against the Church. He was murdered by a Catholic fanatic.
Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826), third president of the United States.
Like two predecessors, Washington and Adams, he was a Deist but of a peculiar type. While saying that he believed in God and a future life he said also that he was a materialist. "To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of nothings" he wrote to Adams; and he decries the Christian God as a "hocus pocus phantasm of a God, like another Cebarus, with one body and three heads" (Dec, 8, 1822). The correspondence on religion of these two accomplished men in the line of Presidents is very refreshing.
Jennings, Professor Herbert Spencer, A.M., Ph.D., LL.D. (1868- ), Zoologist, one of the highest authorities on the science in America.
In his Terry Lectures at Yale University (The Universe and Life 1933) he refers to a cheap symposium that had recently been published with the catchy title Has Science Discovered God? and says that his own science must answer No. "The progress of life," he says, "is not of the kind that would be anticipated if life were following a certain existing pattern, seeking a goal already set, or being guided by an all-knowing and all-powerful being" (p. 62).
Johnson, Richard Mentor (1780-1850), Vice-President of the United States.
A Kentucky attorney who entered politics and at one time was put forward as Democratic candidate for the Presidency. He never stated his position as regards religion but pious folk noted that he was always opposed to them in practical matters, as when they wanted to suppress the Sunday postal service or interfere with religious liberty.
Johnson, Sir Harry Hamilton, K.C.B., G.C.M.G. (185801927), ethnologist and administrator.
A very learned and versatile man of exceptionally high character. He studied painting and exhibited at the Academy, then studied anatomy and zoology, finally entered the British administration in Africa, rose to be a Special Commissioner, and wrote works on the African peoples. He was an agnostic. In the symposium A Generation of Religious Progress (1916) he closes his article with the words: "let us serve man before we waste our time in genuflections and sacrifices to any force outside this planet."
Jordan, David Starr M.D., Ph.D., LL.D., (1851-1937), Chancellor of Leland Stanford University, biologist, Chief Director of the World’s Peace Foundation (1910-1914), and President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
He was a non-Christian theist. "The creeds have no permanence in human history," he says in his Stability of Truth , (p. 44), See also his Religion of a Sensible American (1909).
Juarez, Benito Pablo (1806-1872), President of the Republic of Mexico.
He was a full-blooded Indian who was admitted to the Mexican bar and became a judge. As governor of Oaxaca, then Minister of Justice, he "oppressed" the clergy-that is to say, curtailed their privileges and checked their corruptions-and rendered fine service to the people. He was President 1858-1862 and 1867-1872 and left a great memory behind him. He was an atheist.
Julian, Flavius Claudius Julianus (331-363), Roman Emperor.
The only prince of the first dynasty of Christian emperors whose hands were not dipped in blood. He escaped the massacre of his uncles and cousins and the death of Constantine and the civil wars of Constantine’s sons that followed. The corruption of the new religion caused him to decide to restore the old-touched with Greek philosophy-when he ascended the throne, though it is false that he persecuted the Christiand in spite of the persecution of the pagand by his predecessors. The legend that when he fell in battle he cried "Thou hast conquered, Galilaean," is a sheer Christian fabrication. It is difficult to estimate how different the course of European history might have been if he had lived. See G. Negri’s Julian the Apostate (1905).
Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804), generally considered the ablest of the German philosophers.
He did good service in showing that the scholastic philosophy which still dominated Europe was purely subjective (in other words, word-spinning) but his own theory soon died, and his ethical philosophy almost gave back to mysticism what he had taken away. He mistook the analysis of the puritanical mind of an old bachelor (himself) for a study of the moral sense generally and concluded that its "categorical imperative" implied a God as law given and a future life as a reward. He thus became a non-Christian theist and in his third chief work disowned all supernatural religion.
Keats, John (1795-1821), famous British poet.
At the age of 20 he deserted the study of surgery for poetry and for four years astonished the world by his work, but he was already in consumption. One of his sonnets had the title "Written in disgust of Vulgar Superstition" and emphatically rejects Christianity. W. Sharp, who knew him well, says that he died without any belief in a future life.
Keith, Sir Arthur, W.D., Sc.D., LL.D., F.R.S., (1868- ), leading British anatomist and authority on prehistoric man.
At one time President of the British Association and loaded with honors. He is an outspoken agnostic and Honorary Associate of the Rational Press Association.
Keith, George Earl Marischal (1693-1778), Scottish diplomat.
He fled the court of Frederic the Great after taking part in an unsuccessful rebellion in Scotland and was highly esteemed by him and employees as ambassador. He was a very cultivated man, a friend of Voltaire, and a drastic deist. His biographer Mrs. Caithell says that "in almost every letter he writes there is a jibe against some part or other of ecclesiastical lamas, as he calls them." D’Alembert in a funeral oration said that he was "a man of pure and classic morals." His brother James Francis Edward (1696-1758), who joined his exile, became a field marshal.
Key, Ellen Karolina Sofia (1849-1926), famous Swedish writer.
Her mother was a countess but the family was impoverished and she became a teacher, then the leading woman writer in Europe on social questions. She joined Haeckel in his Monist (atheist) League and often wrote for his monthly. Seven of her 20 novels appeared in english and she had a high European reputation.
KIngdon F.R.S., (1845-1879), British mathematician.
One of the group of brilliant writers and scientists (Huxley, Darwin, Tyndall, etc.) who made Britain safe for freethought. He was a distinguished professor of mathematics but one of those who refused to be silent about his atheism. See his Lectures and Essays, a selection published in 1918. "Keep your children away from the priest,: he says, "or he will make them enemies of mankind" (p. 121). He was a man of very high character and ideals.
Kingsley, Mary Henrietta (1862-1900), well-known African traveler.
She startled folk in England by her daring journeys and her trading in Africa. In 1900 she went back to nurse wounded Boors and died of enteric. She told Clodd (Memories, p.79) that she was an agnostic. Her father, George Henry (1827-1892), had been a famous traveler and an agnostic.
Kneeland, Abner (1774-1844), early American Freethinker.
A carpenter who entered the clergy and left the church to become a journalist and one of the most devoted propagandists of atheism. In 1833 he was sent to prison for two months for saying publicly that he did not believe in God. He read Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, published the New Testament in Greek and English, Edited Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary, and wrote a number of works.
Krekel, Arnold (1815-1888), American judge.
A Prussian immigrant who took up law in America, served as a colonel in the Civil War, and was appointed a Federal Judge at the close by Lincoln. He was an outspoken agnostic. (See account in Putnam’s Four Hundred Years of Freethought).
Kropotkin, Prince Peter Alexeivich (1842-1921), geographer.
He won the gold medal of the Russian Geographical Society and was rising rapidly in the Tsarist service when he joined the First International and was confined in a fortress. He escaped and lived in various countries, especially England, where his social work had a wide circulation until he was free to return to Russia in 1919. He was a pacifist anarchist of the Tolstoi type and an agnostic.
Labouchere, Henry Du Pre (1831-1912), British editor and politician.
Of French extraction he rose high in the British diplomatic service and then founded and edited a lively radical weekly, Truth. He was "a strict agnostic," his biographer Thorold says. When he lay slowly and placidly dying a lamp in the room flickered. He raised his head and said "Flames?…No, not yet," he muttered, sinking back. It is not included in the pious stories of Infidel Death Beds.
Lacepede, Count Bernard Germain Etienne De La Ville (1756-1825), French naturalist.
A brilliant friend of Voltaire and D’Alembert, who composed operas and symphonies and wrote able works on science. He held office during the Revolution, though he protested against the Terror, and Napoleon made him Grand Chancellor of the Legion of Honor and Minister of State. He remained a Deist and was stripped of his honors when royalty and the Church were restored.
Layfayette, The Marquis Marie Jean Paul Roch Yves Gilbert Marie De (1757-1834), French general in the American Army.
He was given his rank for his services in the War of Independence. He assisted in the Revolution after his return to France as one of the Liberal nobles but remained a monarchist and had to leave the country. He was out of office under Napoleon and returned to active life under the restored royalty, but sat on the Left in the Chamber and remained a Deist of advanced political opinions.
Lagrange, Count Joseph Louis (1736-1813), famous French mathematician.
He was so brilliant that he solved the most difficult problems of the science at the age of 19 and a few years later won the prize of the Paris Academy of Science and was appointed Director of the Berlin Academy. He served the Republic and was head of the Commission that installed the decimal system, and was ennobled by Napoleon. He was never reconciled with the restored royalty and the Church – he was an agnostic – but he was too famous for them to touch him.
Lalanda, Joseph Jerome Le Francais De (1732-1807), French astronomer.
Another of the brilliant French students of revolutionary days who won high distinction before he was 20. He became one of the most eminent astronomers of his time but was an outspoken and emphatic atheist; though during the Revolution, which he accepted, he saved the lives of priests by sheltering them in the Paris Observatory. He cooperated with Marechal in writing the first Dictionary of Atheists (1800).
Lamarck, Jean Baptiste Pierre Antoine De Monet De (1744-1829), eminent French naturalist and evolutionist.
He was trained for the priesthood but became a deist and took to science. In 1809 he published his famous work Zoological Philosophy containing what is still discussed in science as the Lamarckian theory of evolution (that organic changes are directly produced by the environment and transmitted). The Catholic Encyclopedia claims that he was a Catholic but even the anti-evolutionary Quatrefages says that he was "essentially deistic," and no Catholic of Lamarck’s time could be an evolutionist. In some passages, in fact, he is practically agnostic.
Lamb, Charles (1775-1834), famous British essayist.
His Tales from Shakespear and Essays of Elia put him in the front rank of British authors. In late editions of the later book he included a letter to the reactionary poet Southey in which he says: "The last sect with which you can remember me to have made common profession were the Unitarians" and E.V. Lucas in his authoritative Life of Lamb quotes letters which show that he was an agnostic.
Lamb, William Viscount Melbourne (1779-1848), eminent British statesman.
He became Prime Minister of his country (1834-1841) and the chief counselor of the young queen. Greville (See), who knew him well and often describes him as an atheist (Memoirs, VI, p. 254) and quotes Allen, who also knew him, saying that he had "a perfect conviction of unbelief" (III, p. 331). It was not a mere question of indifference as Lord Melbourne was a serious student of religious matters all his life.
Lamennais, Hugues Felicite Robert de (1782-1854), French writer.
He is still commonly quoted in histories of the 19th Century, especially as a witness to the corruption of Rome-"the most hideous sewer that was ever opened up to the eye of man," Lady Blennerhassett quotes him saying in the Cambridge Modern History-as "Father" Lamennais. It is true that he was probably the best known and most virtuous priest in France from 1825 to 1835 but even the Catholic Encyclopedia admits that "he died rejecting all religious ministration."
Lane, Sir Ralph Norman Angell (1874- ) British economist and pacifist. Born in England he spent some years in ranching and journalism in America, then returned as a journalist in Europe. His work on war The Great Illusion (1910) brought him a world audience and his later works sustained his reputation. He closes his published lecture War and the Essential Realities with the words: "Entreat for peace not deified thunder-clouds but of every man, woman, and child thou shalt meet."
Lang, Andrew (1844-1912), British poet and critic. He wrote distinguished verse, translated Theocritus, Bion, and Homer, and wrote a number of historical and literary works. He was also an authority on comparative religion and from the theistic point of view wrote Custom and Myth, Magic and Religion, etc.
Lankester, Sir Edwin Ray, K.C.B., M.D., Sc.D., LL.D., F.R.S., (1847-1929), eminent British Zoologist and anatomist.
At different times he had chairs of psychology and natural history as well as anatomy and zoology at leading British universities and was regarded as the most important scientific man after Huxley, holding a large number of gold medals and foreign diplomas. He was a virulent agnostic in private conversation though discreet in public utterances, but for many years before he died he was an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association.
Lao-Tse (born about 600 B.C.) Chinese philosopher, contemporary of Confucius.
His language was rather mystic but some of the experts hold that he was an atheist like Confucius. The fact that he spoke of Heaven is not decisive. Some Chinese scholars hold that he meant only what the Stoics called the Law of Nature. The religion, Taoism, which he is commonly said to have founded has as little relationship to his teaching as the Roman Catholic system as to the teaching of Jesus.
Laplace, The Marquis Pierre Simon De (1749-1827), famous French astronomer.
As he lived to the days of reaction in France, when a rebel against the Church could not be sure of a decent funeral, he formally returned to his practice of Catholicism and is counted amongst the pious. As a number of public men did this solely for the sake of peace we do not know state of his final opinions, which is doubtful. I have never found any authority for the statement that when Napoleon asked him (which he is not in the least likely to have done, since he was probably an atheist himself) where God came in his theory of the evolution of the solar system, he answered: "Sir I did without that hypothesis," but it justly represents him in his prime.
Larkin, Professor Edgar Lucien (1847-1921), astronomer.
Director from 1900 onward of the Lowe Observatory in California. In an article in the New York Truthseeker he said "religion is totally useless in a universe based on law, and every creed and belief will be swept from the earth when men get out of infantile stages of growth."
Larousse, Pierre Athanase (1817-1875), French editor.
Larousse’s dictionaries are still famous. His first, inspired by Diderot’s famous encyclopedia, was a Grand Universal Dictionary in 15 large volumes and still very useful to freethinkers. He hardly disguised his own atheism.
Lassalle, Ferdinand Johann Gottheib (1825-1864), who might be described with Marx and Engels as one of the Three Musketeers of German Atheistic Socialism. He was the son of a rich Jewish merchant and a student of philosophy like Marx. He published a work in two volumes on the philosophy of Heracleitos. In his later years he devoted himself to the propaganda of Socialism but died in mid-career.
Leveran, Professor Charles Louis Alphonese (1845-1922), the chief French authority on tropical diseases, Nobel Prize winner and professor at the Pasteur Institute. When a French paper sent an interviewer to ask him what he thought about the report that Edison had adopted Spiritualism, he said that he if not believe it. As a scientific man, he said, he "did not believe in spirits."
Lavisse, Professor Ernest (1842-1922), leading French historian. His General History from the Fourth Century to Our Time (12 vols.) and History of Contemporary France (10 vols.) are the standard French works and the best authority on the Revolution. In a biography of the historian Duruy, to whom he had once been secretary, he tells his agreement with him in freethinking.
Lawrence, Thomas Edward (1883-1935), "Lawrence of Arabia" and author of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.
In 1927 he changed his name legally to Shaw and became a simple mechanic in the Air Force. He was bitterly disappointed that he had been used to win the Arand and the promises made to them were not honored. His biographer V. Richards tells us that he was an atheist and had at an early date "shaken free of the half-dead sentiments of formal religion" (p. 10.).
Layard, The Right Honorable Sir Austin Henry, G.C.B., D.C.L., P.C. (1817-1894), British Assyriologist.
He combined his office of ambassador in the Near East with Assyrian explorations which made him famous. Amongst other things he exposed the fraud of the "Holy Places" in Palestine and said in a letter in 1853 that "the best thing the Turks could do would be to turn all the Christiand out of Jerusalem." The letter is given in his Autobiography (II, 200), where he explains that lectures he heard in early years "rapidly undermined the religious opinions in which I had been brought up." (I. 56).
Lecky, The Right Honorable William Edward Tartpole, O.M., M.A., LL.D., D.C.L., Litt. D., (1838-1903), British historian.
His History of Rationalism (2 vols. 1865) is written from the freethought point of view and his History of European Morals (2 vols. 1869) has an immense amount of material that is valuable to the freethinker but one has to read its generalizations carefully. His compliments to Christianity are often so opposed to the facts he gives that George Eliot imagined him saying: "It is true that 2 and 2 make 4 but one must not press these things too far." He was an agnostic.
Leconte, Professor Joseph, M.D., (1823-1901, leading American geologist in the last quarter of the last century and professor at California University.
He is often quoted by religious writers as if he were orthodox, but his Evolution and its Relation to Religious Thought (1888) he rejects all supernatural religion, and describes himself as a pantheist (p. 284).
Leconte, De Lisle Charles Marie Rene (1818-1894), distinguished French poet.
His own verse and his beautiful translations from the Greek of Theocritus, Anacreon, Hesiod, Homer and Aeschylus gave him a high reputation. In his Poemes barbares he repeatedly rejects the beliefs in God and immortality. He took the place of Victor Hugo at the Academy and in his speech described Moses as "head of a horde of ferocious nomads."
Lee, General Charles (1731-1782), soldier.
His father was a Major General in the British Army but he settled in America in 1773 and was second in command to Washington in the War of Independence. He was a deist, as is shown in the "Memoir of J. Lee" that is appended to The Correspondence of Sir. T. Hammer (p. 475-478).
Leidy, Professor Joseph M.D., LL.D. (1823-1891), biologist.
He was at different dates professor of anatomy, natural history, and biology. had the Lyell Medal of the London Geological Society, and was a high authority on paleontology. Sir William Osler, who knew him well, and thought him "one of the greatest naturalists of America," days that he was an agnostic. He says: "I have often heard him say that the question of a future state had long ceased to interest him." (Science and Immortality , p. 41).
Leighton, Baron Frederic, R.A., D.C.L., LL.D., Litt. D., (1830-1896), famous British painter.
He was President of the Royal Academy and received innumerable honors from many countries. In Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Royal Academy he very candidly refutes the common idea that Christianity inspired medieval art. The serious Christianity of the Middle Ages was, he says, a blight on art, and it was the Humanism of the Renaissance that delivered it. He occasionally uses theistic language but approaches agnosticism when he speaks of "the mysterious and eternal Fountain of all good things." (p. 159).
Leland, Charles Godfrey (1824-1903), "Hand Breitmann," humorist.
Leland was a man of exceptional education, though he was known to most folk only as a popular humorist, author of the Hand Breitmann Ballads. He studied at Princeton, Heidelberg, Munich, and Paris universities. He fought at the barricades in the French Revolution of 1848, and was admitted to the American Bar, translated Heine, and wrote a fine life of Lincoln. In his Memoirs he speaks satirically of "the grandeur of monotheistic trinitarianism" and seems to have wavered between theism and atheism.
Lenin, Vladimir, Ilyich Ulyanov (1870-1924), founder of the U.S.S.R.
A man of middle-class family, educated at Kasan and St. Petersburg universities. He joined the rebel movement and lived in exile for 20 years. He was of course, an atheist and materialist.
Leonardo De Vinci (1452-1519), one of the greatest geniuses of medieval Italy.
His religious opinions are disputed. Since he was an intellectual as well as an artistic genius and there were plenty of skeptics in his time it is felt that he is not likely to have been orthodox, but the Inquisition was still active. Roberson makes an Inquiry into his position (History of Freethought, 1. 370) but can only conclude that he was probably a secret freethinker.
Leopardi, Count Giacono (1798-1837), Italian poet.
He read nearly the whole of Greek and Latin literature before he was 17 but overwork and the misfortunes of his country under the restored Papal rule, and the bitter hostility of his father on account of his advanced opinions, darkened and shortened his life. It was considered that he would have been Italiy’s greatest poet since Dante. He was a deist without belief in immortality.
Lessing, Gotthold Ephraim (1729-1781), German dramatist.
A pastor who turned deist and became the foremost writer in Germany before Goethe. His mild rejection of Christianity is clear in his Nathan der Weise, and he is the author of the Wolfenbuttel Fragments which were the beginning of biblical criticism.
Letourneau, Professor Charles Jean Marie (1831-1902), French anthropologist.
He wrote a long series of works on evolution, from biology to sociology, of great learning but popular interest which greatly helped education in France. He was an atheist and materialist. "We know that there is nothing in the whole universe except active matter" he said. He translated Haeckel and Buchner into French and was professor at the Parisian School of Anthropology and President of the Anthropological Society.
Leuba, Professor James Henry Ph.D. (1868 ) psychologist, Professor at Bryn Mawe and author of several books on religion.
Chiefly interesting for a most valuable inquiry which he privately made into the opinions on God. and immortality of the leading scientific men and historiand of America. The startling results of the first inquiry are given in Beliefs in God and Immortality (1916). The even stronger results of a new inquiry were given in an article in Harper’s Magazine (August, 1934). His own agnostic position is explained in his Psychological Study of Religion (1912).
Lewis, Sinclair, Litt.D. (1885- ) novelist, Nobel Prize winner.
The readers of his well-known novels are not left in much doubt about his opinions, but is most detested by the pious for his Elmer Gantry (1927), which is a scathing study of a typical American Clergyman.
Lick, James (1796-1876), philanthropist, donor of the Lick Observatory and a great telescope.
He made a fortune in San Francisco and besides very generous donations (including one for the Paine Memorial Hall) during life, left about $3,000,000 for charity and education. Hardly any American Christian ever gave away so large a proportion of his wealth. Putnam includes him in his Four Hundred Years of Freethought as an atheist and materialist.
Liebknecht, Wilhelm (1826-1900), chief successor of Marx in Germany.
Like most of the Socialist leaders he was a university man (Giessen, Berlin, and Marburg) and a keen student of philosophy. He took part in the revolution of 1848 and was exiled, and he had two years in prison later. After 1874 he led the Social Democrats in the Reichstag. He was an atheist and materialist.
Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865), 16th president.
Many efforts have been made to prove that Lincoln was orthodox but, as in the case of Washington, the evidence on the side of the angels is strained or tainted while there is ample evidence that he was at the most a deist. His partner and intimate friend affirms it, and quotes the support of Mrs. Lincoln in his Life of the President. Colonel Lamon, another close friend who has written on him says emphatically: "He was not a Christian." General Colis, the chief claimant of orthodoxy, can say no more than that he attended a church (which is a common ailment of politicians) and spoke about God (as, of course, every deist does). Rankin, the second principal claimant of orthodoxy, mainly relies on an old woman’s recollection of a conversation with Lincoln. The most impartial biographer, C. G. Leland (See), says that "as he grew older his intense melancholy and his emotional temperament inclined him towards reliance on an unseen power and belief in a future state" (p. 56) which is not far from agnosticism- and suggests that there is some political tinge in his public references to the deity. It is the way of all political flesh.
Littre, Maximilien Paul Emile (1801-1881), distinguished French philologist, author of a monumental Dictionary of French Language in five large volumes.
This alone entitled him to a seat in the French Academy but Bishop Dupanloup the Catholic leader, long kept him out and resigned when he was at last admitted. Littre was a notorious Positivist (agnostic) without any mysticism. Yet the Catholic Encyclopedia now counts him amongst the lambs. Wiuth a blatant untruth it says that when he was near death he "asked to be baptized, and he died a Catholic." A French Catholic, J. d`Arsac, tells the truth in a book on Littre. His female relatives were pious and they got a Jesuit priest to baptize him when he was dying and "could no longer speak."
Llorente, Juan Antonio (1756-1823), Spanish historian, author of Critical History of the Spanish Inquisition (10 vols., 1822), which is a mine of valuable information. Catholic writers pretend that he was a superficial and untruthful critic of the Church. He had been, on the contrary, a canon of Toledo cathedral, Knight of the Caroline Order, and General Secretary of the Inquisition: an important cleric and a fine scholar. He became a Voltarian skeptic and passed to France where he published his history; and the restored Catholic royalty and Church drove him from there.
Locke, John (1632-1704), famous English philosopher.
He took 17 years to write the Essays Concerning Human Understanding which did more than any other book to open the realistic and scientific study of the mind. He was a theist, supported the suppression of atheism, and wrote a book on The Reasonableness of Christianity (chiefly concerned with its ethic) but it is doubtful if he believed in immortality, and the greatness of his work redeems the timidity of his character. Notice that his life mainly falls in the Puritan period.
Loeb, Professor Jacques (1859-1924), one of the most brilliant of American physiologists.
A German scientist who settled in America in 1891 and, after several professorships, became head of the Department of Experimental Biology at the Rockefeller Institute for Medicinal Research (New York). His many works were strongly materialistic and he dedicated his Organism as a Whole to "the group of freethinkers, including D`Alembert, Diderot, Holbach and Voltaire, who first dared to follow the consequences of a mechanistic science to the rules of human conduct." It is one of my amusing experiences in the field of propaganda, that, while religious writers described me as "a camp follower of science" (which I am) who ignorantly suggested that the facts made for materialism, I received letter after letter from this prince of science scolding me for being too timid and urging me to tell the public in more emphatic terms that science had proved the truth of that philosophy.
Loisy, Professor Alfred Firmin (1857-1940), French orientalist.
He was the finest scholar of the Catholic Church in Europe until-though his books had been condemned twice-1915 when he publicly notified that he gave up the priesthood and the Church. It is interesting in view of the Papal action in the recent war to notice that the last straw that broke Renan’s attachment to the Church was the Pope’s action in the previous European war. His thorough knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and the Syriac made his works on biblical questions of great value. In his book since 1915 he reveals that he had reached agnosticism.
Lombroso, Professor Cesare (1836-1909) famous Italian criminologist.
Son of Jewish parents he was remarkably precocious. He wrote tragedy at the age of 15 and studied Chinese, Chaldaic, and Hebrew before he was 20. In criminology he became the greatest European authority and was an outspoken atheist and materialist. Even when in the last stage of his life he was duped by a Spiritualist medium he clung to his materialism. But his daughter explains in her biography of him that by the time he was a physical and mental wreck and we prefer to remember him in his prime.
London, Jack (1876-1916), novelist.
No reader of London’s brilliant stories can be in any doubt about his position but his freethought is most plainly given in Before Adam (1907).
Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth (1807-1882), poet.
W.D. Howells, who gives away the heresies of so many American literary men in his Literary Friends and Acquaintances lets us know that the great poet was at the most a non-Christian Theist. "I think," he says, "that as he grew older his hold upon anything like a creed weakened, though he remained of the Unitarian philosophy concerning Christ (p. 202). The Unitarian teaching about Christ is, of course, its principle heresy. The poet, he ads, "did not latterly go to church."
Lotze, Professor Rudolf Hermann (1817-1881), German philosopher.
As Loetze’s system was syncretist or professed to take the best out of all systems ands reconcile religion and science his position is often misunderstood. He accepted no Christian doctrine and admitted God only in the impersonal form of the Andolute.
Loubet, Emile D.en D. (1838-1929), poet. He succeeded Longfellow as Smith professor at Harvard and for some years edited Atlantic Monthly and was later ambassador at Madrid and London. His poems and essays contain a little theistic language, but Howells, who knew him well, tells is that he was a skeptic as most other members of this brilliant circle. He did not believe in a future life and, when Howells asked him whether he still believed in "a moral government of the universe" he replied evasively that "the scale is so vast and we see so little of it." Obviously he ended in agnosticism.
Lowell, Percival (1855-1916), astronomer of great distinction in his science.
Before he devoted himself to astronomy he spent 10 years in Japan, which had not yet been corrupted by its militarists and capitalists, ands like Lafeadio Hearn he learned to disdain Christianity and became an agnostic. His sentiments are expressed in his Soul of the Far East (1886).
Lucretius, Titus Lucretius Carus (about 98-55 B.C.), Roman poet, styled in the Encyclopedia Britanica one of the greatest of the Roman poets. His one surviving poem (On the Nature of Things) is our only full and authentic account of the teaching of the Ionic-Epicurean school. There are several English translations of this very long Latin poem (or treatise in verse). It is interesting that Lucretius seems to take seriously Epicurus’ idea of gods, more or less of the Olympian type, but respectful, living a lotus life in some remote part of space.
Lyall, the Right Honorable Sir Alfred Comyn, K.C.B., G.C.I.E., D.C.L., LL.D, P.C., (1835-1911) statesman.
Rose to the position of British governor of the Northwest Provinces of India. Like so many Anglo-Indian officials his contact with Asia destroyed his Christian belief. He indicated this in a poem ("Theology in Extremis" – which is the highbrow way of saying "The Church at its Wit’s end") in 1889. In his retirement he was a friend of the Rationalist Clodd who tells us that he was an agnostic (Memories, pp. 101-104).
Lyell, Sir Charles, M.A., F.R.S., LL.D. (1797-1875) famous British geologist.
His Principles of Geology (3 vols.) did for his science what Darwin would presently do for biology, and he gave valuable support to Darwin. In 1863, he prepared the way for the further advance by his Antiquity of Man. He was definitely a theist until 1870, and he then rejected all Christian doctrines and the belief in immortality and merely thought it "probable" that there was some sort of "Supreme Intelligence." He had no tenderness for theology at any time. His development is made clear in the Life, Letters, and Journals of Sir C. Lyell (2 vols. 1881).
Machado, Bernardino (1851-1922), third president of the Republic of Portugal.
Like his two predecessors of Portugal he was an agnostic, and he took and open part in International Freethought Congresses. The demoralization of the First European War affected Portugal and Machado was deposed.
Mackintosh, Sir James (1765-1832) Scottish philosopher.
He settled amongst the radicals in London in his youth, took up law and rose to the important offices, for which he was knighted. He wrote on moral philosophy and was a prominent figure in the brilliant circle round Lady Holland (See). Greviller quotes a friend saying that he "had never believed at all during life" but this can refer only to Christian doctrines. He was a liberal theist. His son tried to induce him on his death bed to make a profession of Christianity but he refused.
M`Taggart, John M`Taggart Ellis, LL.D., Litt.D. (1866-1925), Scottish philosopher.
Lecturer on philosophy at Cambridge and one of the leading Hegeliand in Britain. He is interesting as showing that many followed Hegel in believing that the Andolute alone exists (and is often represented as God) yet were atheists. M`Taggert says in his Hegelian Cosmology that "the Andolute is not God" (p. 94). In Some Dogmas of Religion he sees "no reason to think that positive belief in immortality is true" or "to suppose that God exists."
Madison, James (1751-1836), fourth President of the United States and a freethinker like his three predecessors.
He learned Hebrew and made a thorough study of theology after graduating at Princeton and gave up his beliefs. He helped to draft the constitution of Virginia and insisted on it protecting religious freedom. He effectively protested against a proposal to make contributions to religion in that state compulsory and got state and Church completely separated. He was President 1809-1817. His letters in (Writings of James Madison, 9 vols., 1910) show all his life he opposed the Churches. In a letter of May, 19, 1823, he insists that the university shall not become "am Arena of Theological Gladiators" (IX, 126). Apparently he was a theist but not with much depth of conviction. In a letter to a clergyman near the end of his life he wrote: "There appears to be in the nature of man what ensures his belief in an invisible cause of his present existence and an assurance of his future existence." This is hardly a personal profession of belief, and he is one of the few leading statesmen who did not adorn his speeches and letters with occasional references to God.
Maeterlinck, Maurice (1862- ) Belgian author, Nobel Prize winner.
He published a number of pleasant and finely-written moralizing works which gave him a world reputation. There is a vein of mysticism in his ethical conceptions but he was outside all churches and apparently not even a theist. In a work on the question of a future life (La Morte) he leaves it open and is not as is sometimes said, a Spiritualist.
Maitland, Professor Frederick William, M.A., LL.D., D.C.L. (1850-1906), eminent British jurist.
Professor at Cambridge University and chief authority of his time on English law, with many international honors. He was secretary of a group of freethinking scholars who gathered round Sir Leslie Stephen and shared his agnosticism. "Then, as always, he was a dissenter from all the churches," says the Hon. H.A. L. Fisher in a biography of him.
Mandeville, Bernard, M.D. (1670-1733), British writer, one of the freeest of the many freethinking Englishmen of the 18th century.
Although he frivolously professed to be a Christian he drew more clerical hostility than any other heretic because in his famous Fable of the Bees he satirized the received principles of morality. "Private vices are public virtues" he said. To a great extent he was just paradoxical, and he was rather on modern lines when he claimed that greed, etc., are of social use as a stimulus to enterprise.
Manfred (1232-1266), King of Sicily.
Natural son of Frederic II (See) who took over the Kingdom as Regent when Frederic died and refused to yield it to the Pope. When the legitimate heir died he assumed the rule in defiance of the Popes who summoned the French to crush him. The Florentine historian Villani says that he was a notorious skeptic but a very gifted prince of high ideals (Istorie Florentine, V1 p. 46): a verdict with which modern historiand agree.
Mann, Horace (1796-1859), creator of the American school system.
Of poor parents he got little education except by his own exertions and when he became a prosperous attorney he took up education as the work of his life. It is not generally realized that the man who is so much honored as a freethinker through the Dictionary of American Biography candidly describes him ad "a Puritan without a theology." He was not merely outside the churches. He believed only in an impersonal God and rejected the idea of immortality.
Marat, Jean Paul (1744-1793), French Revolutionist.
He is usually depicted in such odious colors that it is well to know that he was a very cultivated man, trained in medicine and author of an atheistic and materialistic character. His truculence had a purely patriotic root. It is interesting to note that Charlotte Corday, the young woman who assassinated him, also was a freethinker but of a rival political school.
Marcus Aurelius Antoinus (121-180), Roman Emperor.
The only one in the so-called series of "Stoic Emperors" who really was a Stoic. In his Meditations there is little mention of God and he clearly did not believe in immortality; and the common impression that he must have been an unpractical idealist is wrong. He was a vigorous soldier and good administrator. Yet he was by no meand so great an emperor as the Epicurean Hadrian, and largely owing to the corruption of his children, the empire passed into decay at his death. The element of asceticism or mysticism in his ethic was socially injurious yet conventional writers admire him most just on that ground.
Mariette, Francois Auguste Ferdinand (1821-1881), famous French Egyptologist.
He spent 30 years in Egypt in the archeological service of the French government and acquired more foreign decorations and honors than any other archeologist that ever lived. He has in fact a unique place in the history of Egyptology. His brother, who wrote his biography describes him as a very decided atheist. He says that he never entered a church and "found no charm in the pastorals and fictions of which we have a prodigious heap in Christianity." (p. 226).
Marlowe, Christopher (1564-1593), famous British tragedian.
Described by Swinburne as "the most daring and inspired pioneer of all our literature." He was admittedly the greatest writer in England before Shakespeare, though he was killed in a quarrel before he was 30. With Walter Raleigh and a few others he formed a discussion-circle which clerical writers called "Raleigh’s school of Atheism." They seem to have called themselves Rationalists. The word atheist was then used loosely, but Marlowe seems to have been an atheist, and at the time of his death the Privy Council had decided to prosecute him as such.
Marshall, Henry Rutgers, M.A. (1852-1927), architect and writer.
Sometime lecturer on aesthetics at Columbia and Yale, President of the American Psychological Association, member of the American Philosophical Society, and author of Pain, Pleasure, and Aesthetics and other learned works. In Consciousness he professes pantheism and rejects the idea of personal immortality as "a crude and inadequate expression of the whole truth." "As much of myself as is of the Eternal will join with it in death," he says (p. 657).
Marten, Henry, B.A. (1602-1680), Puritan leader, an "indomitable little pagan" (Carlyle).
Son of Sir. H. Marten and one of the many freethinkers of the Puritan party in the Civil War. He was elected to the Council of State and was one of the judges of the King, but he opposed Cromwell’s dictatorship. He was condemned to imprisonment for life by the restored royalty, though he had saved the lives of many royalists under the Puritans. Wood (Athenae Oxonienses, III, 1241) says that "he never entered upon religion but with design to laugh both at it and morality." He was certainly a gay cavalier for a Puritan but the more discreditable stories told by his virtuous enemies have been refuted.
Martineau, Harriet (1802-1876), freethinking sister of the famous Unitarian leader.
At the age of 30 she wrote a book on political economy in 9 volumes which brought her great prestige, and her later works made her the most important woman Rationalist of the century. In her Autobiography (II. 351) she describes herself as "an atheist in the regular sense-that of rejecting the popular theology-but not in the philosophic sense of denying a First Cause." But her First Cause was impersonal and she rejected immortality.
Marx, Karl (1818-1883). It is hardly necessary to show that Marx was an atheist and materialist. The only point of interest it that the description of religion as "the opium of the people" which is usually attributed to him is said to have been written originally by the Christian Socialist the Rev. Charles Kingsley (who was quite capable of saying it of the Church of England). See article on "Christian Socialism" in earlier editions of the Encyclopedia Britanica.
Masaryk, Professor Tomas Garrigue (1850-1937), first President of Czecho-Slovakia. He was a professor of philosophy at Vienna, later at Prague, who threw himself into the Czech patriotic movement. In his Ideale der Humanitat (1902) he professed agnosticism, and he took part openly in the International Freethought movement. No statesman in Europe was more respected for his ideals and character. I believe that his son shares his opinions but, like all politiciand in our age of "freedom," he is reticent about them.
Mascagni, Pietro (1863-1945), Italian composer. His Cavallerie Rusticanna gave him a world-reputation. He wrote church music as well as opera but his biographer, G. Bastianelli, says that he was a pagan even in his religious compositions and had no religion.
Mason, Sir Josiah (1795-1881), British philanthropist.
A Birmingham manufacturer who beginning life by hawking on the streets at the age of eight made a fortune of $2,500,000, and spent most of it in philanthropy. He gave $1,125,000 for the building of a beautiful orphanage and $900,000 for a college of science (which is now incorporated in Birmingham University and under the usual clerical influence). His biographer says that he was "not a religious man according to the views of any sect or party" (p. 22). He was a theist but "the dogmatic ecclesiastical aspects of religion were repugnant to him" and he forbade Christian teaching in his foundations. As in the case of Girard his orders are disregarded in our pious and virtuous age.
Massenet, William Emile Frederic (1842-1912), French composer.
He was the professor of advanced composition at the Paris Conservatoire and author of oratorios and opera which gave him European prestige. In his reminiscences (Mes Souvenirs, 1912) he avows his freethought.
Maugham, William Somerset (1874- ) British novelist.
He was in the secret service during the 1914-18 war and got that intimate knowledge of the East that appears in his novels and films. He also wrote a war-play and I heard Bishop Gore say that a reference to God in it "took my breath away." The parson in the play was assuring the bereaved mothet that God had forgiven her son and she asked: "Who’s going to forgive God?" In his book The Summing Up (1939) he says: "I remain an agnostic."
Maupassant, Henri Rene Albert Guy De (1850-1853), French poet and novelist.
One of the finest writers of short stories in European literature. He wrote more than 200, and his collected works run in spite of his premature death and the fine quality of his writing to 29 volumes. He was an atheist and shows his disdain of religion throughout.
Maxim, Sir Hiram Stevens (1840-1916), British American inventor.
An American engineer who on account of some quarrel with the government over his invention of the Maxim gun transferred to England. He was extraordinarily inventive, held more than 100 international patents, and was a member of the firm of Vickers & Maxim. I knew him well and found him in private a virulent atheist. He gave expression to it by making a large collection of criticisms of religion which he got me to arrange in a volume that he called Li Hung Chang’s Scrap-book. The Chinese statesman whom he had known, was dead but Maxim said that he would have agreed as he also was a disdainful atheist.
Mazzini, Guiseppe, LL.D., (1805-1872), Italian patriot.
The most respected of the European rebels who found refuge in England after the revolutionary defeat of 1849 and the one most widely received in high circles. This was not only because he was a very cultivated lawyer but because his freethinking fell far short of atheism. He praised Christ, criticized Christian doctrines, and had an emphatic belief in God, which led to trouble with Garibaldi and other refugees from many countries, most of whom were atheists.
Melbourne, Lord. See Lamb, William. Melville, Herman (1819-1891), writer. His sea novels (Typee, Omoo, etc.) gave him a high reputation in the mid-century and he was an intimate friend of Hawthorne, who often speaks in his diary and letters of Melville’s rationalist opinions.
Mendel, The Abbot Gregor Johann (1822-1884), monk botanist and one of the founders of Mendelism.
Mendel was no genius and his experiments on plant hybrids were completely forgotten when other botanists repeated them and have his name to the new theory of heredity. It is, however, interesting to note that the references one constantly meets in scientific works to "the devout Benedictine abbot" are bunk. The most authoritative biography of him (English version Life of Mendel, 1932) is by a relative of his, N. Iltis, and it shows that Mendel was violently anti-Christian right up to the time when he entered the monastery and wrote a poem of "the gloomy powers of superstition which now oppress the world." He was very poor and he entered the monastery only because it offered a chance to study. As a priest he shirked his functions as far as possible, and even as abbot he bought Darwin’s Origin of the Species and accepted evolution, which was then anathema to all Catholics.
Mendelssohn, Moses (1729-1786), Jewish philosopher.
He had a high repute for his philosophical works in Germany and some were crowned by the Berlin Academy. In later years he had a more definite belief in God and immortality but not Judaism or Christianity. "He lived entirely in the sphere of deism and natural religion," Baur says.
Mencius (properly Meng-Tse, 371-288 B.C.) Chinese Sage.
Though much less frequently quoted than Confucius, of whom he professed to be merely a disciple, he was in some respects greater and much more interesting. Like Confucius he was an atheist but he had not the conservatism of the older sage. There was a great ferment of thought in China at the time and almost every fundamental theory of life had its apostle. Mencius advocated the full social application of the ethic of Confucius, especially his Golden Rule (Reciprocity). He denounced war and social injustice and was the first Chinese democrat. The modern Chinese writer Yuan Cho-Ying well shows both his atheism and his very modern sentiments in La philosophie morale et politique de Mencius (1927).
Meridith, George (1828-1909), British poet and novelist.
Cultivated readers put Meridith high above all other novelists of his time, and his house was a shrine of the higher literary men. About the middle of his career he became an atheist and supported the atheist leader Foote, who was imprisoned for blasphemy. Edward Clodd says in his Memories (p. 153) that Meredith whom he knew well, wrote to him: "When I was quite a boy I had a spasm of religion that lasted six weeks, but I never since have swallowed the Christian fable."
Merimee, Prosper (1803-1870), French poet, novelist, and dramatist of great distinction.
Merimee was not only an exquisite artist and member of the Senate and the Academy but he was conservative in politics and was very friendly with the royal family and a lot of the aristocracy. But he was at the same time a decided atheist, as he confesses in a little book on Henri Beyle (see), his friend, which he printed privately in 1853.
Metchnikov, Professor Il`ya (1845-1916), Russian zoologist and embryologist, Nobel Prize winner.
As the Russiand have celebrated the centenary of his birth this year with much ceremony the reader will have a sufficient idea of his scientific importance. The last 20 years of his life were passed in research in France and he was well known throughout Europe and America. His popular work The Nature of Man (English translation 1904) sufficiently expresses his atheism.
Michelet, Jules, D es L. (1798-1874), famous French historian.
In the preface to the 869th edition of his greatest work, a History of France in 18 vols., written in a fascinating style, he freely expresses his atheism. "Man," he says, "is his own Prometheus" and he tells us that he has "no faith but humanity." His History of the French Revolution (7 vols.), The Priest, the Woman, and the Family , and all his works are disdainfully anti-Christian.
Mill, James (1773-1836), British philosopher.
The father of John Stuart Mill and himself a notable writer and social worker in his time. Mill was the son of a poor Scottish shoemaker and was educated by patrons for the church. He took up the study of Greek philosophy and dropped his clericalism for journalism in London. He wrote a History of India (3 vols.) and works on economics and philosophy. A close friendship with the famous jurist Bentham (see) and Francis Place (see) took an active part in the demand for better education and the improvement of the condition of the workers.
Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873), British philosopher and economist.
Son of the preceding and so severely educated by his father that he read Greek by the age of seven and was well acquainted with the classics and began to study logic at the age of 12. He entered the civil service but was one of the most learned writers of his generation, publishing authoritative works on logic, political economy and philosophy. His personal character was so high that Gladstone called him "the Saint of Rationalism" and he was respected throughout the country. He began early to develop a sentimental vein which caused him to modify the atheism he had inherited, but he remained agnostic until late in his life when he argued (Three Essays on Religion) for a finite and impersonal God but never accepted immortality.
Milton, John (1608-1674), the second greatest English poet.
Even more than Chaucer he has always passed in literature as an orthodox Christian because few read any of his works except Paridise Lost. In other works, however, he clearly shows himself a freethinker. The historian Macaulay drew attention to the "heterodox views on the nature of the deity and the eternity of matter" in Milton’s Latin Treatise Christiana Doctrine and said that he was obviously "emancipated from the influence of authority." Even Paradise lost is rather a rationalization of a Christian legend than an acceptance of it in the church sense.
Mirabeau, Count Honore Gabriel Victor Riquetti (1749-1791), French statesman.
He was the leader of the French Revolution in its first stage, having energetically attacked the despotism of the throne for many years. He died too soon for the trying days of the later Revolution. He is usually classed as a Deist but Carlyle tells in his French Revolution that when he was dying he said, pointing to the sun, "If that isn’t God it is at least his Cousin." He rejected the idea of immortality and seems rather to have been an atheist.
Miranda, General Francisco (1756-1816), Vice-President of Venezuela.
He fought with the Americand in the War of Independence and with the French during the Revolution. He returned to South America, led an abortive revolt against the Spaniards and passed some years in America and England, where he was closely associated with the Bentham school. He was already an atheist (John Stuart Mills tells us). He then liberated Venezuela and became Vice President, but fell into the hands of the Spaniards and died in the dungeon of the Inquisition in Spain.
Mirbeau, Octave (1850-1917), French novelist.
One of the many brilliant French writers of the second part of the last century and one of the most emphatically atheistic. He defined religions as "the monstrous flowers and the hideous instruments of the eternal suffering of man."
Mitchell, Sir Peter Chalmers, M.A., D.Sc., LL.D., F.R.S., F.Z.S., O.B.E., (1864-1945), British Zoologist.
After a brilliant all-round success at college-he passed with honors in mental philosophy and was a gold medallist in literature-and some years as teacher of anatomy and biology he became one of Britian’s leading zoologists. Apart from his high distinction in science Mitchell was well known for the breadth of his idealism and the uncompromising character of his freethought. He made a warm defense of the Spanish Republic at the time of Franco’s rebellion. He was an atheist and a materialist, describing himself as "one who dislikes all forms of supernaturalism and who does not shrink from the implications even of the phrase that thought is a secretion of the brain, as bile is a secretion of the liver." (Evolution and the War, 1915, p. 107).
Moleschott, Professor Jakob, M.D. (1822-1893), German physiologist, "the Father of the Modern Materialistic Movement" (Lange).
His best known work, Force and Matter (1855), had in its day much the same success as Haeckel’s Riddle of the Universe. It was translated into every European language and sold by the hundred thousand. Moleschott did not refuse the label Materialist-and he was, of course, an atheist-though like Haeckel (and modern physics) he held that matter and energy are two aspects of the ultimate reality. In youth he had studied philosophy and had more inclination for poetry than science. He was a man of warm sentiments and high ideals. He was virtually driven out of Germany for his heresies and rose to high honors in Italy, where freethought was general in the academic world 50 years ago.
Moliere, Jean Baptiste Poquelin (1622-1673), famous French dramatist.
It surprises most folk to learn that the author of some of the greatest comedies that were ever written was a serious thinker and a freethinker. His father had been valet to the King and this and his skill in writing comedies got him royal protection. When he produced Don Juan a religious writer described it as a "school of atheism in which, after making a clever atheist say the most horrible impieties he entrusts the cause of God to a valet who says ridiculous things." Tartuffe is so clear a satire on religious fanatics and hypocrites that the clergy demanded that he be burned as a heretic. He was excommunicated, and it was only under royal pressure that the clergy had anything to do with his funeral. He was buried at night, amongst the suicides. Moliere had closely studied philosophy and science and followed Epicurus.
Molteno, Sir John Charles K.C.M.G. (1814-1886), Premier of Cape Colony.
A poor boy of Italian extraction but born in England, who made a fortune in South Africa and rose in politics until he became Premier. His son and biographer says that he shed at an early age the Catholic belief in which he was reared, and that although his life was "in the highest sense religious"-the usual orthodox description of a freethinker who was a good man-he was "above the narrow formulates of any sect."
Mommsen, Professor Theodor (1817-1903), German historian, one of the most accomplished scholars in Europe.
His chief biographer, L. M. Hartmann (Theodor Mommsen, 1908) says that he "left Christianity for Deism and Deism for Atheism." He hated Kaplanokratie (the rule of priests), and Hartmann says that one of the reasons why he left his History of Rome unfinished was because "he found no pleasure in describing the substitution of the Nazarene for the ancient spirit" (p. 81). He was Perpetual Secretary of the Berlin Academy of Sciences.
Monge, Gaspard, Count of Peluse (1746-1818), French physicist.
He was so precocious that the priests who educated him set him to teach physics and mathematics at the age of 16. Later he became so distinguished in both sciences that Napoleon made him a count. At the restoration of King and Church he was irreconcilable and stripped of his dignities. He is included in Marechal’s Dictionary of Atheists, which was compiled in France in his time.
Monroe, J. R., M.D. (1825-1891), physician.
An Abolitionist and later a zealous fighter for freethought in America. He edited The Ironclad Age, a very outspoken paper, and wrote some caustic works.
Montagu, Edward Earl of Sandwich (1625-1672), British admiral.
A friend and supporter of Cromwell, he accepted the restoration of Charles II and became Admiral of the Fleet, Knight of the Garter and Master of the Trinity House. The famous diarist Pepys, who was himself orthodox, was his secretary and often mentions his master’s heresies. "I found him to be a perfect skeptic." he says at the date October 7, 1660. On another page he describes the earl composing an anthem during service in the royal chapel and muttering heavy curses over the work.
Montagu, Lady Mary Wortly (1689-1762), one of the most brilliant ladies of English society in the 18th century.
Her father, the Earl of Kingston, had her elected to the most exclusive club in London, the Kit-Kat, when she was 7 years old and she fully redeemed her early promise. She translated Epictetus when she was 19 and married the skeptical grandson of the skeptical Earl of Sandwich (above). Pope, Lord Hervey, and other famous Deists met in her brilliant salon. Her letters are very free about her opinions. "Priests can lie and the mob believe, all over the world" she says (p. 88). She scorns "the quackery of all the Churches" (p. X 108) and all "creeds and theological whimsies."
Montaigne, Mitchel Eyquem De (1533-1592), French moralist, pioneer of modern freethought.
He spoke Latin fluently and had a fairly good knowledge of Greek at the age of six, and he had a distinguished career in law. It was after his retirement that he wrote the famous Essays , which opened the era of freethinking in France. He professed-they were dangerous days-to be a Catholic, but few Catholics are anxious to claim him; and his Essays were put on the Index in 1676. "What do I know?" is a very common phrase in his work, but he warns the reader not to expect "illegitimate and punishable" views. In one place he says: "Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a flea yet he makes gods by the dozen." The Essays, a literary classic, are still read in all countries and have rendered incalculable service.
Montesquleu, Charles De Secondat, Baron De La Brede Et De (1689-1755), great French jurist.
He was so brilliant a lawyer that he was elected President of the Bordeaux Parlement at the age of 27 and was admitted to the Academy in the following year, and later to the English Royal Society. He then spent 20 years traveling and making research for his famous work, The Spirit of the Laws, which had an enormous influence in Europe. Except indirectly in a work of his youth (Persian Letters) he never attacked religion, and he allowed the priests, who pressed him, to give him the sacrament when he was dying. But he was a great friend of the Encyclopedists, who hailed his work with enthusiasm, while some of the clergy called it "atheistic," and he left behind him a collection of Thoughts which was deistic.
Montgolfier, Joseph Michel (1740-1810), inventor of the passenger carrying balloon.
He was a French chemist and paper-manufacturer who in 1783 made the first ascent in a balloon (inflated with warm air). He served the Revolution with great zeal and was much honored. Lelande (see) who knew him well, says that he was an atheist.
Moore, George (1853-1933), Irish novelist.
He never wrote on religion except that in his literary play The Apostle and his chief novel The Brooke Kerith he clearly rejected the Christian view of Jesus. They are based on my theory, which I often discussed with him, that Jesus was probably an Essenian monk to about the age of 30. He was an agnostic but he told me that he preferred to be regarded as a Protestant-Protestants shuddered at his blasphemies about Jesus-for reasons of Irish politics and to express his abhorrence of the Roman Church.
Morley, The Right Honorable John, Viscount Morley of Blackburn, P.C.O.M., M.A., LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S., (1838-1925), distinguished British statesman and writer.
He deserted law for literature and almost paraded his freethought opinions in studies of Voltaire, Diderot, ands other great heretics. Although he was an avowed agnostic he entered Parliament and rose to the highest rank short of the premiership. His political associations and high social position restrained him, and he once begged me, almost tearfully, not to publish a letter of his in which he said that Gladstone was far inferior, both morally and intellectually, to J.S. Mill. But he was a man of fine character-"Honest John" he was often called- and in his autobiography (Recollections , 1917) he again avowed himself an agnostic.
Morris, Gouveneur (1752-1816), diplomat.
For a young man he played a very active and important part in the Revolution, helping to draft the constitution of the State of New York and being sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress at the age of 25. In later years he held high political and diplomatic positions. His biographer Jared Sparks does not give away his opinion on religion and he is responsible for much of the libel of Thomas Paine, whit whom he had a bitter quarrel. But he was himself, like Paine. and so many of the leading revolutionaries, a deist. Jefferson was a close friend of his and he says: "Morris often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system (Christianity) than he himself did" (Memoir , etc., of Thomas Jefferson, IV, p. 512).
Morris William (1834-1896), leading British poet and artist.
Deeply religious and mystic in his youth he lost all interest in it and devoted himself to raising the artistic taste of his generation. He had great skill as a painter and was one of the best poets of the time but he chiefly worked at the reform of house decoration and in his later years, when he joined the Socialists, for social reform. The poet Allingham says that he never cared to discuss religion because it was "so unimportant," but Belfort Bax, who knew him well told me that in his later years he became an enthusiastic atheist and in the famous artistic gatherings at his house used to declaim with gusto an unpublished and scurrilous anti-Christian poem of Swimeburne’s which began: So this is the gist of your holy religion. The Father, the Son, and the — old Pigeon. I forget the missing word.
Morse, Professor Edward Sylvester, A.M., Ph. D., (1838-1925), zoologist and art expert.
He began as a professor of comparative anatomy and zoology but after teaching for some years in Japan became one of the leading art experts in America. President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1886) and the American Association of Museums and member of a large number of foreign societies. He wrote on zoology and art but no book on religion, but the British astronomer Proctor quotes him in his scientific journal Knowledge (October 1, 1888) rejecting the idea of immortality.
Moscheles, Felix (1883-1917), British painter, son of the famous pianist.
He was greatly esteemed as a portrait-painter and intimate with the great artists of his age. In his autobiography he speaks very disdainfully of "the exponents of the Christian dogma." I met him at the house of a well-known atheist, of whom he was a close friend, in his later years and found that he was an atheist (or would say, agnostic).
Motley, John Lothrop (1814-1877), historian and diplomat.
He was so precocious that he was admitted to Harvard at the age of 13. After post graduate studies at Gottingen and Berlin and a brief trial at law he devoted himself to history and wrote 7 standard volumes of the history of Holland. He was later American minister at Vienna and London. He is considered America’s greatest historical writers. The Rev. L.P. Jacks says in his Life and Letters of Stopford Brooke, of whom Motley was a disciple, that he was a broad theist without belief in immortality.
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791).
He began to compose at the age of five and conducted a Mass of his own composition at the age of 12. In the following year the Pope made him a Knight of the Golden Spur and for 10 years he was concert master to the Archbishop of Salzbury. At this time he began to lose his Catholic faith and get into trouble with the authorities. He joined the Freemasons, who were under the sternest ban of the Church, and turned to opera. Although he wrote a good deal of church music and is claimed in the Catholic Encyclopedia, the two leading biographers of Mozart put it beyond question that he was a non-Christian theist. Wilder gives ample evidence and tells us that on his death bed he refused to ask for a priest and when his wife nevertheless sent for one, it was refused, and he was buried without service in the common grave of the poor. His famous Requiem Mass was composed for Count Walsegg, who paid Mozart but put his own name on the composition. Ulibichov, the second leading biographer, gives further evidence that he abandoned the Church.
Muavia (510-585), first Syrian Caliph.
His name will hardly be found in any encyclopedia of general history because religious influence has always restrained historiand from doing justice to the brilliance of the Arab civilization of the Middle Ages while Christiandom was semi-barbarous. Muavia, in particular, is ignored because, while theologiand plead that it necessarily took the church many centuries to raise the Teutonic barbariand to civilization Muavia thus raised the equally barbaric Arand in a single generation. The Jesuite authority Father Lammens wrote a series of articles on him and pronounces him "the most accomplished type of Arab Sovereign," and Sir P. Sykes, a leading authority, calls him "a great figure in the history of the world." As his parents were amongst the bitterest opponents of Mohammed and were convinced that he was an impostor and from many facts in his own life, it is clear that he was a skeptic with the formal title of Caliph. See my Hundred Men Who Moved the World (IV).
Murchison, Sir Roderick Impey, Bart., K.C.B., D.C.:., F.R.S., (1792-1871), famous British geologist.
He had a large number of gold medals and other decorations and was made a baronet for his services to science. His biographer, the geologist Geikie, is too orthodox to discuss Murchison’s heresies but he quotes a letter which another orthodox geologist, Sedgewick, wrote to Murchison near the end of his life in which he trusts that God will give him back his Christian faith and hope (Life Sir, R. I. Murchison, II, 338).
Murray, Gilbert, M.A., LL.D., D. Litt., F.B.A., F.R.S.L., (1866- ) One of the leading Hellenists in Europe, translator of much Greek literature, and until he resigned Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford.
Murray is one of the chief "appeasers" in British public life and as such not only never attacks the churches but is at times against the freethinkers. Outside his own sphere, in which he is one of the greatest living masters he has to be read with discretion. But in an address to the Classical Association (Religio Grammatici) he confesses that he is an agnostic.
Musset, Louis Charles Alfred De (1810-1857), distinguished French poet, sometimes called "the Byron of France."
His early poems are full of skepticism but after his rupture with George Sand, he fell into a morbid state and wrote a religious book. In his later work he returned to his first position-a non Christian theist with no belief in immortality. His art was exquisite but his character weak, and he vacillated as poets so often do.
Nansen, Professor Fridtiof, D. Sc., G.C.V.O., D.C.L., Ph.G., F.R.G.S., (1861-1930), famous Norwegian explorer and humanitarian.
Apart from his Artic explorations he was professor of zoology, later of oceanography, at Christiana University. He was distinguished also for humanitarian work in Europe. He followed Bjornson (See) and was agnostic. "The religion of one age," he said, "is the literary entertainment of the next" (Science and the Purpose of Life, p. 3).
Napier, General Sir Charles James, G.C.B. (1782-1853), famous British Commander.
He was decried as a callous soldier but his work in many parts of the world justifies his statement: "I would rather have finished the roads of Cephalonia than fought Austerlitz or Waterloo." His military biographer in the Dictionary of Nat. Bio., describes him as orthodox and appeals to his journals, which are reproduced in his Life and Opinions by his son. They show that while he believes in God he was skeptical about a future life-"Tis an idle waste of thought thus to dwell on what no thought can tell us" he said-and disdainful of Christianity. "Jesus of Nazareth! The thing’s impossible," he writes.
Owing to his set policy of making the Church a prop of his throne he behaved always as an orthodox Catholic-he was not the only Catholic monarch to treat the Pope with contempt-but, after his deposition he spoke plainly enough. Lord Rosebery has made an impartial study of his position as regards religion in The Last Phase, a study of him in exile (pp. 168-173). He shows that Napoleon, especially in his later years, did not believe in the divinity of Christ or a future life. Catholics boast that at the end he asked for the sacraments. In doing so, however, he gave his friends the excuse that "there is so much that one does not know."
Negri, Gaetano (1838-1902), eminent Italian historian.
As a youth he fought against the Papal troops but he then became leader of the Conservatives at Milan and in the Senate and was so lenient to the Church in his later works that he is claimed as orthodox. But his best known work, Julian the Apostate (English translation 1905), is clear enough. He speaks of Christianity as "an irrational illusion," and in the preface Villari describes him as "a confirmed Rationalist."
Newcomb, Professor Simon (1835-1909), astronomer.
A Canadian who became professor of mathematics at John Hopkins University, President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and holder of many gold medals for his services in mathematics and astronomy. The British astronomer Proctor quotes him rejecting the idea of immortality (Knowledge, Oct. 1, 1888), and he never made any secret in America of his freethought views.
Niebuhr, Professor Barthold Georg (1776-1831), the second greatest German historian.
Diplomatic service in Rome led him to take up the study of its ancient history and after 20 years of research he produced his famous Roman history (3 vols., 1811-1832). He read 20 languages and had an extraordinarily wide knowledge. His biographer, Winkworth shows that while he refused in his later years to discuss religion- he had been an aggressive skeptic in earlier years-he always rejected Christianity. "I would not overthrow the dead Church," he said, "but if she falls it will give me no uneasiness."
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm (1844-1900).
There is no need to show either the literary greatness or the atheism of Nietzsche. Scorn of Christianity and glorification of the ideal man run through all his works. His mind gave way under the strain of his fierce indignation against stupidity and hypocrisy but the clerical charge that this mental unbalance may be traced in his works is ludicrous. They are masterly indictments of the developing faults of the new age which have so fatally revealed themselves since death. His chief mistake was to assume that Christianity had introduced humanitarianism into the world and to fail to hold the balance in his mind between the need for virility and the need to help the weaker members of society.
Nightengale, Florence, O.M. (1829-1910), famous British hospital reformer.
A rich English young woman who took up hospital work, especially during the Crimean War, and made such an impression that at the close of the war $250,000 was subscribed to found a Nightengale School for Nurses. She revolutionized hospital life and was loaded with British and international honors. She was a theist but very definitely anti-Christian, as is shown in the standard life of her by Sir Edward Cook (2 vols., 1913). "The Church," she wrote, "is now more like the Scribes and Pharisees than like Christ…What are now called the essential doctrines of the Christian doctrines of the Christian religion Christ does not even mention" (II, 392).
Norton, Professor Charles Eliot, Litt. D., LL.D., D.C.L., L.H.D. (1827-1908), historian.
Norton was one of the finest all-round scholars in America in his time, professor of art at Harvard and translator of Dante. Sir Leslie Stephen, the British agnostic leader dedicates his Essays on Freethinking to him, and in his letters (in The Life of Leslie Stephen) frequently describes Norton, of whom he was a close friend, as an agnostic. In America Norton was reticent about his skepticism.
O’Connor, General Arthur Condorcet (1765-1852), Irish soldier.
He was called to the bar in Ireland but joined the rebels against England and was imprisoned. He passed to France where he became general of a division in Napoleon’s army. He enthusiastically adopted the views of the French skeptics and married the daughter of Condorcet whose name and views he took, and he edited Condorcet’s works. Under the restoration he defiantly edited a freethinking magazine.
Oersted, Professor Hand Christian (1777-1851), famous Dutch physicist.
His name is still a classic in the literature of his science and he was in his time a man of high international repute. In regard to religion he was, like Goeth, a Pantheist, as he shows particularly in his Aanden i Naturen (2 vols. 1849).
O’Higgins, General Bernardo (1776+1842). Chilean soldier and statesman.
A natural son of Marquis O’Higgins, an Irish Catholic who settled in South America and was Governor of Chili for the Spaniards. The son joined the anticlerical rebels and after the expulsion of the Spaniards was for a time benevolent dictator of the country. Like his friend General Miranda (See) he was an atheist.
Omar Khayyam ( -1123), Persian poet.
The historical interest of the remarkable modernity of sentiment of the Rubaiyat is not generally appreciated because religious prejudice has kept the Arab-Persian civilization as much as possible out of history. At the time when Christian Europe was just getting out of morass a working man (Khayyam meand tent maker) on the Asiatic rural fringe of Persia learns mathematics and astronomy and rises to distinction in the sciences, becoming royal astronomer at Merv. It was well known that he was a freethinker, as the poem plainly tells, and the fanatics murmured, but like so many other Arab and Persian scholars he got away with it as there was such widespread skepticism. In regard to the English version of the Rubaiyat see Fitzgerald.
O’Neill, Eugene Gladstone, Litt.D., (1888- ) playwright, Nobel Prize winner.
He won also the Pulitzer Prize, the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Arts and Letters, and other honors but his place in American art needs no definition. It is clear from his plays (especially The Dynamo), that he has rejected the Catholic faith in which he was reared. Like Aldous Huxley and a few other literary men he is uneasily poised between a dead creed and what he regards (having little knowledge of it) as the impotence of science. B.H. Clark says in his Eugene O’Neill that he sees the age confused by "the death of an old God and the failure of science and materialism to replace religion as an inspiration." His idea of science is too narrow. It is much bigger than chemistry and engineering.
Osler, Sir William, Bart., M.D., D.Sc., LL.D., D.C.L., F.R.S., (1849-1919), eminent British physician.
Canadian by origin and training (in Canada, London, Berlin, and Vienna) he occupied chairs of medicine at McGill, Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins before settling at Oxford University. He had 14 honorary degrees and a high international repute. He deals frankly with religious questions in several of his works and was clearly an Agnostic with tenderness to religion. In his Ingersoll Lecture Science and Immortality he shows how science demolishes the myth and then professes a sentimental attachment to it. He also says (p. 52): "It may be questioned whether more comfort or sorrow has come to the race since man peopled the unseen world with spirits to bless and demons to damn him." His moral and humanitarian works effectively reply to such criticisms of science as those of O’Neill.
Owen, Robert (1771-1858), Welsh reformer.
He made a fortune in the early days of Cotton spinning and spent the whole of it on the workers. His industrial settlement at New Lanark in Scotland drew social students from all parts of the world, and his schools gave a fine stimulus to the reform of education. He then became the Social Father-hence the first use of the word Socialists (for his followers)-of a movement to found model colonies of the workers (manual and middle-class) of Britain and America. At one time he had 100,000 professed followers in Britain and an immense influence on the Trade Unions. He was an atheist. "All the religions of the world are false," he said on being challenged at an important meeting, and in an American debate on religion he said: "When we use the term Lord, God or Deity we use a term without annexing to it any definite idea." Until he spoke out about religion he was regarded as the greatest reformer of the early 19th century. He was 84 years old and senile when he was duped by a Spiritualist medium.
Owen, Robert Dale (1801-1877), reformer, son of Robert Owen but left in charge of his father’s work in America he became an American citizen.
He had not the rather obscure power of his father-who was a very quiet and modest man with no skill in either writing or speaking yet had influence over millions-yet he made a great name in every reform-field in America and was at one time American Minister at Naples. He was an atheist like his father and was duped by a Spiritualist medium for a time but discovered the imposture.
Paganini, Niccolo (1782-1840), great Italian violinist and composer.
Like so many other distinguished freethinkers he was very precocious, composed a sonata when he was eight years old, and made his first public appearance at the age of 11. He became the greatest violinist of his age. His chief biographer, Count Conestabilli, was orthodox but admits "religious indifferentism" (p. 168) in his hero and records that he neither received the last sacrament nor had any religious service at his funeral. It was well known that he was an atheist.
Paine, Thomas (1737-1809).
Thomas Paine was born on January 29th, in the small town of Thetford, England. He was the only son of a master stay-maker. He was forced to leave school early and enter his father’s trade, of which he found little interest. Everybody knows that Paine was a Deist not an atheist. Skepticism had not generally advanced beyond criticism of the scriptures and Christianity in his time, and of this his Age of Reason is a powerful exposition that has had incalculable influence; and he was not only no scholar but was immersed in politics from mid-life onward. The libels of his character in later years and in connection with his death are thoroughly refuted in Moncure Conway’s Life of Thomas Paine (2 vols. 1892).
Palmer, Elihw (1764-1806) author.
He was studying for the ministry at Dartmouth College when he became a Deist. Two years later he lost his sight, and the Deist works which he later published, and which considerably helped freethought in America, were dictated by him in his blindness.
Palmerston, Viscount Henry John (1784-1865), one of the most famous of British statesmen in the 19th Century.
As Foreigh Secretary he gave quiet but important help to the European rebels, allowing the Garibaldiand to recruit troops in the heart of London and protecting all foreign radical refugees. He worked also for the suppression of the slave trade and the improvement of the condition of the workers, and he was one of the ablest foreign secretaries in Europe. Tallyrand said that he was the only statesman in England. He was Prime Minister for nine years. He never wrote about religion but it was well known in his circle that he was a skeptic, probably an atheist, that Morley says of him in his Life of Gladstone (I, p. 543): "The Church in all its denominations was on terms of cool and reciprocated indifference with one who was above all else the man of the world."
Parry, Professor Sir Charles Hubert Hastings, M.A., D.C.L., (1848-1918), eminent British composer.
He was professor of music at Oxford and wrote a very large number of oratorios, concertos, choral odes, etc., often of a religious character, but he was a freethinker. Even the Times said in its obituary notice of him (Oct. 8, 1918): "From his earliest years Parry had had no sympathy with dogmatic theology, but as his mind concentrated more and more upon the problem of human struggle and aspiration of life and death, failure and conquest, he found his thoughts most perfectly expressed in the language of the Bible."
Parton, James (1822-1891), biographer.
British by origin but naturalized in America, he earned a high reputation by his biographies of Horace Greeley, Voltaire, Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, and other Deists. He was a friend of W.D. Howells, who says of him: "In the days when to be an agnostic was to be almost an outcast he had the heart to say of the Mysteries that he did not know" (Literary Friends, p. 113).
Pasteur, Louis (1822-1895), famous French chemist.
His distinction in European science was such that Catholics strain the evidence to the point of fraud to claim him. In the Encyclopedia Britannica an article on him in which he is wantonly described as "this simple and devout Catholic" is substituted for the truthful article in earlier editions. The anonymous Catholic author quotes as his authority the standard biography by Vallery-Radot, yet this describes Pasteur as a freethinker; and this is confirmed in the preface to the English translation by Sir W. Osler, who knew Pasteur personally. Vallery-Radot was himself a Catholic yet admits that Pasteur believed only in "an Infinite" and "hoped" for a future life. Pasteur publicly stated this himself in his Academy speech in 1822 (in V.R.). He said: "The idea of God is a form of the idea of the Infinite whether it is called Brahma, Allah, Jehova, or Jesus." The biographer says that in his last days he turned to the Church but the only "evidence" he gives is that he liked to read the life of St. Vincent de Paul, and he admits that he did not receive the sacraments at death. Relatives put rosary beads in his hands, and the Catholic Encyclopedia claims him as a Catholic in virtue of the fact and of an anonymous and inconclusive statement about him. Wheeler says in his Dictionary of Freethinkers that in his prime Pasteur was Vice-President of the British Secular (Atheist) Union; and Wheeler was the chief Secularist writer of the time. The evidence is overwhelming. Yet the Catholic scientist Sir Bertram Windle assures his readers that "no person who knows anything about him can doubt the sincerity of his attachment to the Catholic Church," and all Catholic writers use much the same scandalous language.
Pater, Walter Horatio, M.A. (1839-1894), British writer.
His study of the Epicurean ideal (Marius the Epicurean) and his Imaginary Portraits and other works put him in the front rank of English literary men. The notice in the Dictionary of National Biography says mildly that he had "lost all belief in the Christian religion." He was an agnostic.
Pavlov, Professor Ivan Petrovich (1849-1936), famous Russian physiologist, Nobel Prize winner.
Son of a village priest, he worked his way to a position of one of the most distinguished physiologists in Europe. His studies of conditioned reflexes were epoch-making and have had an immense influence on psychology. He was an atheist and materialist.
Pericles (B.C. 490-429), one of the greatest and most idealistic statesmen in history.
He was leader of the democratic party in Athens but privately he gathered round him a brilliant circle of atheists and scholars and he was responsible above all for the superb adornment of the city. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that he was "unpopular on account of his rationalism in religious matters." In other words, it is quite clear that he shared the atheism that had then become common in Greece. His most famous public oration, on the Athenian war-victims, contains no religious allusions whatever.
Pestalozzi, Johann Heinrich (1746-1827), famous Swiss educator.
Under the influence of Rosseau’s work on education he devoted his life to reform in that field, and his name is one of the greatest in the history of education. He was a Deist like Rousseau and, in spite of the heavy pressure of the clergy, he kept theological instruction out of his schools. "We seek the foundations of dogma and of all religious opinions in human nature," he said in a Report to Parents. E. Langner in the chief study of his views says that he "rejects all sectarian claims."
Peter the Great (1672-1725), Russian Tzar.
That Peter rejected and mercilessly mocked the Orthodox Catholic religion is well known. As French Deism had not at that time reached Russia it is clear that he and his leading companions at court were atheists. His favorite type of orgy was to travesty and insult the only religion he knew. In considering these orgies and the intemperance of his character we have to remember that Peter did not introduce them into Russian life. It had in moral respects remained barbaric during the centuries of church domination, and Peter’s breaches in its isolation, on which the clergy insisted, led to the beginning of an improvement of life and character.
Petty, William Marquis of Lansdowne, Viscount Colne, Earl Wycombe, and Earl of Shelburne (1737-1807), British statesman.
As the titles successively awarded him imply, he rose to the highest honors, including the Premiership, in English political life. He was a man of ideals and always opposed the American War: and as Premier he was happy to bring it to a close. Later, he opposed the French war and he supported reform at home in cooperation with Bentham (See). Sir John Bowring says in his Memoir of Bentham: "Lord Shelburne avoided talking on religious subjects for fear, he hinted, of getting into a scrape, but he avowed to Bentham that his opinions were what is called skeptical (Bentham’s Works, X, p. 88).Pheidas (B.C. about 500-432), sculptor, the greatest of the Greek artists. The most superb work of the ancient world-the sculptures on the Parthenon, the gold and ivory statue of Athene, the gold and ivory statue of Zeus at Olympia, etc.-were executed by him, yet he was in the end prosecuted for impiety by the Athenian democracy and died in prison. Much is obscure in the matter but it is agreed that it was the priests who pressed the prosecution of the great artist.
Phillpotts, Eden (1862- ), British novelist.
He has written a large number of novels, poems and classical stories. He had a very high standard of art and declined to express his own opinions in his novels, but he freely expressed his agnosticism in articles and poems on religion. I have often been his guest and found no man nearer to me in his opinions (on religion) but though he remains an agnostic, in recent years he has become milder and more conservative.
Picasso, Pablo (artist)
Pillsbury, Parker (1809-1898), reformer.
A working youth who became a Congregationalist minister but was stimulated by the support of slavery by the churches to inquire and quit the job. He was prominent in the abolitionist and the feminist movement, and he puts his non-Christian theism in The Church as It Is (1885) and in his autobiography.
Pirandello, Luigi (1887-1936), Italian playwright, Nobel Prize winner.
He won considerable esteem as a poet but became known throughout Italy and to a great extent abroad by his brilliant comedies. The leading Italian philosopher, Croce, has a book on his poetry and remarks that "his conception of reality is the exact opposite to the religious"; in other words, it is antitheistic. Dr. W. S. Starkie, an orthodox biographer, laments that "God is too andent from his work and there is no trace of the wonderful balm of mysticism (Luigi Pirandello, p. 266).
Pitt, William, Earl of Chatham (1708-1778), famous British statesman, "the great Commoner."
Although not sprung from the aristocracy and a strictly honest office holder in a corrupt age he rose to be Leader of the House of Commons. He ardently opposed the American War and particularly the use of Indiand against the colonists. It is disputed whether he (in 1833) wrote a certain (Letter on Superstition, in which it is said that "the only true divinity is humanity." The evidence seems to me in favor of his authorship. His biographer Basil Williams, denies it but gives other evidence that he was a Deist having only "a simple faith in God" and no belief in the Christian God. Wilberforce, the pious abolitionist, who was intimate with the younger Pitt, says: "Lord C. died, I fear, without the smallest thought of God." (Correspondence of William Wilberforce, II, p. 72). Instead of a parson at his deathbed Chatham had his son read Homer to him.
Place, Francis (1771-1854) British reformer.
A London master-tailor who held a unique influence in his progressive movements of his time and was intimate with Bentham, Mill, Owen and the leading reformers. Like them he was an atheist. The obituary notice of him in The Reasoner said that he always called himself such. His biographer Graham Wallis prefers to call him an agnostic but the word was unknown in his time. Lord Morley says in his Recollections (I, p. 150) that he was "regarded as an atheist by his friends."
Planck, Professor Max, Sc.D., F.R.S., (1858- ), German physicist.
Nobel Prize winner, and as well known internationally in physics as Einstein in mathematics or Freud in psychology. Author of the Quantum Theory and other discoveries. His biographer, Professor H. Hartmann, says that he is "far removed from all dogmatic, mystery-mongering beings" and recognizes God only as "the ideal Spirit" (Max Planck, pp. 163-183). He does not believe in a future life.
Plato (B.C. 426-347).
Generally described as the greatest of the Greek thinkers but hardly any of the Greeks ever followed him until, centuries later, his ideas of spirituality were mixed with popular superstition and called Neo Platonism. It is said that at the close of one of his lectures the only hearer left was Aristotle, who completely rejected his idea of spirit (as nearly all the Greek philosophers did). He was a freethinker in the sense that he openly rejected the prevailing religion and worked out a quite original system in regard to God and the immortality of the soul. It is the literary beauty of the Dialogues in which he presents this and the fundamental agreement with Christian teaching about God and the soul that have given him his high position in literature. He is remarkable, however, on the social side as a utopian and a champion of women’s rights.
Plotina (about 70-121), Roman Empress.
She was the wife of Trojan and she, in conjunction with Hadrian, did most of the fine work that is credited to the so-called "Stoic Emperors." Pliny describes her as "the embodiment of all the virtues," and the historian Dio gives her the highest character. She was, like Hadrian, but more seriously, a follower of Epicurus, as she stated in a letter that is reproduced in Henderson’s Life of Hadrian.
Poe, Edgar Allan (1809-1849), poet.
The year before he died Poe published the prose-poem Eureka with his profession of faith. It is Pantheistic but rather on the agnostic side. The idea of God, he says, "stands for the possible attempt at an impossible conception" (23), and we know nothing about the nature of God (28). Nature and God are none and the same, and there is no such thing as personal immortality (141-143)." The bible was read to him while he was dying but his biographer Woodberry says that that is "the only mention of religion in his entire life" (II, p. 345).
Poincare, Professor Jules Henri D. Math., Ph. D., Sc. D., LL.D., M.D., (1854-1912), famous French mathematician, forerunner of Einstein.
He had eight gold medals, nine honorary degrees, and 40 diplomas from foreign academies. In his last words (published as Last Thoughts, (1913) he entirely rejects Christianity and believes in God only in the sense that he is the moral ideal. In effect he was an atheist. Raymond Poincare, President of the Republic, was his cousin and, like him, an atheist with strongly developed moral sense.
Pollock, the Right Honorable Sir Frederick, Bart., M.A., LL.D., D.C.L., (1845-1937), British Jurist.
Leading English judge, Fellow of the British Academy, Correspondent of the French Institute. Associate of the Royal Academy of Belgium, and author of many important works on law. He professed to follow Spinoza, on whom he wrote a learned work, but he was much nearer to agnosticism than Spinoza. He considers that "man’s life and thought will not be fixed," that "our ideals themselves are shifting and changing shape," and that superstition is "a great and deadly serpent."
Pope, Alexander (1688-1744), British poet. He was one of the large and brilliant circle of Deists in London in the early 18th century.
Everybody knows the line from his Essay on Man: "The proper study of mankind is man," but few know that the preceding line is "Presume not God to scan." This work, and the "Universal Prayer" that he later added to it, are purely deistic. Lord Chesterfield describes him in one ofd his letters as "a Deist believing in a future life." He was brought up a Catholic, and the Catholic Encyclopedia claims him on the ground that he "willingly yielded" to a friend’s suggestion that he should receive the sacrament when he was dying. It is another of the constructive untruths of that flower of Catholic culture. What Pope said was: "I do not suppose that it is essential but it will look right." Strange language for a man who had been an "apostate" for a quarter of a century!
Proctor, Richard Anthony (1837-1888), British Astronomer.
He was for many years the most brilliant lecturer of astronomy in the English-speaking world. He became a Catholic but soon recanted, and in the scientific periodical he edited, Knowledge, he was very outspoken in regards to religion. He was, as Edward Clodd (who knew him) says in his Memories, an agnostic to the end.
Protagoras (about B.C. 481-411) Greek philosopher.
A brilliant and much esteemed lecturer of philosophy in the whole of Greece who settled in Athens, was a close friend of Pericles, but was compelled to fly for his life for his "impiety." The Greek biographer of the philosophers, Diogenes Laertius, says that his offense was that in a book he had written: "As to the gods, I do not know whether there are or are not any. Life is too short for such difficult investigations." He is therefore now described as the first of the agnostics, but the words are an obvious screen for atheism. He is counted the founder of the Sophist school but the word in Greek meand just the same as "philosopher," thought the Sophists criticized all positive systems and had none of their own. They were very serious leaders in practical affairs and distrusted mere speculation. Ptah-Hotep, ancient Egyptian moralist whose Maxims, a collection of moral counsels, has survived, but his date is variously assigned to the second and the third millennium before Christ. The little book was written, probably by a civic official, at least 2,000 years before Christ (Breasted) and it shows us a cultivated middle-class in Ancient Egypt with moral sentiments remarkably like ours and openly ignoring the Egyptian religion. He never mentions an Egyptian deity but speaks throughout of "God" in the monotheistic sense. Other literature of the second millennium (or earlier) such as "The Song of the Harper" shows a widespread and flippant skepticism about a future life, and some is atheistic.
Ptolemy II (B.C. 309-287), King of Egypt.
Alexander’s empire was divided amongst his generals and Ptolemy I got Egypt and founded the dynasty of the Ptolemies of Alexandria, of which Cleopatra was the last. They were not Egyptiand as Cleopatra is generally represented, but of Greek or Macedonian blood. Most of them were skeptical, as they had around them no pressure of either Greek or Egyptian priests, and Alexandria became the world’s greatest center of free-thought as well as of art, science and all cultures. Ptolemy II was the most brilliant of the dynasty, the greatest monarch of his age, and the most clearly skeptical. His learned tutor is known in Greek literature as "Theodorus the Atheist." and the man who became the first scholar of Alexandria. It was a golden age of culture-and of skepticism. See my Hundred Men Who Moved the World (III).
Pushkin, Alexander Sergeyevich (1799-1837), famous Russian poet. A youth of aristocratic birth who joined the rebels and was sent into exile for satirizing religion in his poetry. In spite of his premature death (in a duel fought for the honor of his wife) he is considered "the Byron of Russia" and his works, published by the Russian Imperial Academy of Science (1899-1916), run to 12 volumes.
Putnam, George Haven, A.M. LL.D., (1844-1930), author and publisher. The founder of the well-known publishing house and a confessed agnostic. I knew him well and often scolded him for his appeasement policy as regards the churches, but he did not conceal his skepticism and was a member of the British Rationalist Press Association.
Quatrefages, De Breau, Jean Louis Armande, M.D., D. Es Sec. (1810-1892), French Zoologist. He was the outstanding French Zoologiust of his time, and as he notoriously opposed evolution, though he got Darwin nominated a corresponding member of the French Academy, he is frequently quoted as "one of the great Christian scientists." He came of a Protestant family but gave up Christianity for Deism early in life and in later years was practically an agnostic. In Les Emules de Darwin (12 vols., 1894) he still rejects Darwinism but also the Christian version. The origin of life and similar problems are "a mystery" (I, 4).
Quental, Anthero De (1842-1891), one of the greatest of Portuguese poets. He wrote historical and philosophical works as well as poems but his religious position is best found in his sonnets (Os Sonetos Completos, 1886). From an early mysticism he passed into a rather pessimistic atheism and then to a tranquil agnosticism. His great lyrics contributed considerably to the emancipation of Portugal that was proceeding satisfactorily when its middle class politiciand fell into quarrels and let in the clerics and the present Fascists.
Quesnay, Francois M.D. (1694-1774), famous French economist.
A peasant bot who was not taught to read until he was 12 years old, yet he learned Latin and Greek, studied medicine, surgery, philosophy, and mathematics, won a high repute as a surgeon, and founded the Physiocratic School of political economy. He wrote nothing on religion but he showed his freethinking by associating with the atheist Diderot and writing articles for the Encyclopedia .
Rabelais, Francois (about 1495-1553).
A Franciscan, then Benedictine monk, he showed himself a practical freethinker by dropping the monastic robes without any license, and taking up medicine and writing. It illustrated the condition of the Papacy that when he was at last condemned the Pope was induced to overlook his terrible crime on the ground of what are now said to be the most obscene books in European literature, and on condition that he promised to return to the monastery (which he never did). It is now generally said that his works should not be regarded as obscene because he merely wished to laugh the world out of its murderous passion. As if he could not get men to laugh at less gross jokes! He did not care a pin about religion and its moral code; and the priests, who burned the austere ex-monk Giordano Bruno at the stake and threatened Galileo, did not even put Pantagruel on the Index.
Ramsay, Sir William, K.C.B., F.R.S., Ph. D., D. Sc., LL.D., M.D. (1852-1916), distinguished Scottish chemist, discoverer of several chemical elements and Nobel Prize winner.
The list of his honors speaks for itself. He was one of the most brilliant inorganic chemists of his time. His Christian biographer Filden admits that he was an agnostic with a tingue of mysticism and no belief in a future life. He quotes Ramsay writing to a friend in his later years: "Life has been pretty good to us – perhaps I should say God? I feel inclined to." (p. 200).
Rawlinson, Major-General Sir Henry Creswickm Bart., K.C.B., F.R.S., D.C. L., LL.D., (1810-1895), famous Assyriologist. Military service, in which he won the highest distinctions, in the Near East led him to take up archaeology. It was he who discovered the Key to the cuneiform inscriptions of Ninevah and Babylon. He never went to church and was a non-christian theist. His brother and biographer was a clerical dignitary who states the fact in disarming language but cannot conceal it.
Reade, William Winwood (1838-1875) author of The Martydom of Man which has made innumerable freethinkers. In the Dic. of Nat. Biog. which is not rash, he is described as an atheist but he was rather an agnostic of the Spencerian school.
Renan, Joseph Ernest (1823-1892), author of The Life of Jesus.
He was trained for the clergy but quit after receiving minor orders and became one of the finer oriental scholars in Europe. Of his many learned and temperately anti-christian, works his Life of Jesus was the most popular. It sold 300,000 copies and was translated in to all the European languages. It was of great value in destroying the supernatural idea of Jesus but has the weakness of taking the gospels as material, though Renan did not insist that the details were to be accepted as historically true. He uses vague Pantheistic language but was really an agnostic and did not believe in a future life. His sister Henriette (1811-1861), was his invaluable assistant and like him never returned to the Church. In the mendacious Catholic life of Renan by Canon Barry it is said that she received the last sacraments from "a good Marionite priest" when she was dying. Renan says that the man was "a sort of fool" who forced his way to Henriette when brother and sister were unconscious with fever in Syria and daubed her with his holy oil.
Rhodes, The Right Honorable Cecil John, M.A., D.C.L., (1853-1902), founder of Rhodesia. Apart from his imperial policy in Africa, which at least had no taint of greed, he was a man of high ideals, and left nearly the whole of his fortune of about $30,000,000 for educational and philanthropic purposes. Marcus Aurelius and Gibbon were his favorite books, and he had an immense admiration of Reade’s Martyrdom of Man. His biographer, Sir T. F. Fuller, shows that he was an agnostic.
Ricardo, David (1772-1823), famous British economist and philanthropist.
Son of a Dutch Jew who had settled in London he made a large fortune in finance and was extremely generous and a friend to radical movements. He was the highest British authority on political economy after Adam Smith. He abjured Judaism in youth, and never returned to it or adopted any other creed. (Dict. Nat. Biog.)
Richardson, Sir Benjamin Ward, M.A., M.D., LL.D., F.R.S., (1828-1896), eminent British physician.
He was no less distinguished for his humanitarianism than for his science, and he introduced 14 new anesthetics into medical and surgical practice and took deep interest in popular education often on freethought lines. In his autobiography (Vita Medica , 1897) he says that "man is no more immortal than the thing on which he writes his learning." (p. 380) and admits only an impersonal vital spirit in the universe.
Richet, Professor Charles M.D. (1850-1935), distinguished French physiologist, Nobel Prize winner.
The Catholic Revue des Deux Mondes described him after his death as "the greatest physiologist that France has had since Pasteur" but he was an atheist not a Catholic. He contributed to Haeckel’s Monist (an atheist magazine) and acknowledged that he "believes more progress without "childish dogmas." The Spiritualists also claim him on the ground that he admitted their phenomena but he attributed them to material causes not spirits.
Richter, Johann Paul Frederich (1763-1825), German writer.
A brilliant satirical writer, though he also wrote works on aesthetics and education, who was discussed throughout Europe as "Jean Paul." DeQuencey wrote a biography of him. His complete works run to 60 volumes and often satirize Christianity. His biographer describes his position as "a sentimental Deism" like that of Rousseau.
Rizal, Jose M.D., (1861-1896), Philippine rebel.
He studied in Madrid, Paris, Heidelberg, Liepzig, and Berlin universities, graduated in medicine and got a good all-round knowledge of science. He had now discarded Catholicism, and he returned to his native land to attack the church. He was twice exiled, but he had a great influence with the Filipinos, and in the end she was treacherously arrested and shot.
Robertson, The Right Honorable John Mackinnon (1856-1933), British writer.
As a Liberal Member of Parliament he rose to the position of an Under-Secretary of State and a member of the Privy Council. He was the leading Rationalist writer in Britain for several decades and particularly interested in defending the theory that Jesus was a myth, though the version of this which he expanded in several large works appealed to few. When he worked with Bradlaugh he professed atheism but later pressured to be called an agnostic.
Robespierre, Maximillien Francois Marie Isidore De (1758-1794), French revolutionary leader.
A provincial lawyer of very strict character and considerable culture who during the Revolution became President of the Convention. As such he was mainly responsible for the second and most bloody part of the Terror. Against the stupid but common idea that at the French revolution atheism led to horrible outrages it is important to point out that Robespierre, who was responsible for the worst excesses, was a dogmatic believer in God and simultaneously imposed the worship of God- at its inauguration he publicly burned an ugly effigy of atheism-and the regime which led to thousands of executions (mostly atheists) without proper trial.
Rodin, Francios, Auguste, D. C. L., (1840-1917), French sculptor.
The famous sculptor, generally considered the greatest sculptor of modern times, was born of poor Parisian parents and worked his way up by many years of struggle. He then won world-fame and the highest honors. His biographer Mauclair says that, as his work suggests, he was "independent of all religious doctrine" and that his favorite authors were Rousseau and Baudelaire.
Roland De La Platiere, Jean Marie (1734-1793), French revolutionary statesman of very high character.
He was Minister of the Interior when the Terror began and he resigned in protest. His arrest was ordered and he fled but, hearing that the extremists had executed his wife, ended his own. Mme Roland, one of the most beautiful, virtuous and accomplished women of the Revolution, was a Deist and one of the great figures of the time. Carlyle says that her "clear perennial womanhood" was nourished on "logics, the Encyclopedia, and the gospel according to Jean-Jacques."
Rolland, Romain, D. Es L. (1866-1944), one of the greatest writers of modern France, Nobel Prize winner.
He was for many years professor of the history of art at Paris University. His great work, the 10 volume novel Jean Christophe (a survey of modern life), occasionally used the word God but he explains that what he meand by God is "vague and indefinite."
Romilly, Sir Samuel (1757-1818), eminent British jurist and reformer.
An attorney’s clerk who rose to a high position both at the bar and in the English Parliament, where he stood for every reform. He was particularly interested in the reform of law, the abolition of slavery, and opposition to the feudal monarchs of Europe. "He lost all faith in Christianity but embraced with ardour the gospel of Rousseau," says the Dictionary of National Biography . The writer of the notice adds that "his principles were austere to the verge of Puritanism."
Rose, Ernestine Louise Lasmond Potovsky (1810- ), Polish-American reformer.
Daughter of a Polish rabbi she rejected the Jewish religion at an early age, became a disciple of Robert Owen of England, and then spent 30 years lecturing and debating for advanced causes in America. She was an outspoken atheist author of Defense of Atheism, and a great figure in progressive life.
Ross, Professor Edward Alsworth, Ph.D., LL.D., (1866- ) sociologist.
Lectured at Cornell, Leland, Stanford, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Harvard, and was President of the American Sociological Society, (1914). Several of his works express a drastic freethought. In Changing America (1812) he says that "the religion is a hierarchy ladles out to its dupes is chloroform" and that "the end of clericalism is in sight." (p. 9).
Rossetti, Dante Gabriel (1828-1882), eminent British poet and painter. Son of a refugee from Papal Italy he wrote drama at the age of six and was at a university college from nine 13. Some of his best poems were written before he was 20. All his life he alternated between producing exquisite poetry and fine Pre-Raphaelite paintings. He was "a decided skeptic…professed no religious faith and practiced no regular religious observances" (Memoir prefixed to his Works, I, p. 114).
Rostand, Edmond (1868-1918), chief modern French dramatist.
Author of Cyrano de Bergerac, L’aiglon, and Chanticler. These works, and poems boldly give his freethought views. His biographer (a Catholic) Jules Harasazti blushes to tell that he believed that the time for churches is over and "it is now only in the theater that souls can feel their wings."
Rosseau, Jean Jacques (1712-1778).
The man who with Voltaire did the most to prepare France for the more advanced freethought of the Encyclopedists and the Revolution. He was too serious in his Deism and too romantic about Christianity for Voltaire, who disliked him. He had also a less firm character than Voltaire. But socially he was much broader than the aristocratic Voltaire, and he might be considered the parent, through Robert Owen, of modern Socialism.
Ruskin, John, M.A., LL. D., (1819-1900) notable British writer, and reformer.
Few other writers of the 19th Century reached the very high standard of his prose, and he had a passion for social justice and progress. In the best productive period of his life he held a thin theism that was not far removed from agnosticism. He told Augustus Hare in 1816 that "he believed nothing." In later years he called himself "a Christian Catholic" (as distinct from the pagan Roman Catholics) though he never went to church, and said that he took "the Lord’s Supper." His biographer, Sir E.Z. Cook shows that he meand dining at his own table. The truth is that, though the facts have been suppressed, he lost his mental balance occasionally in later years. I have read some strange unpublished letters that he wrote. He was never a Christian.
Russell, Earl Bertrand Arther William, M.A., F.R.S., (1872- ), the most brilliant member of a freethinking family.
Viscount Amberley, eldest son of the first Earl Russell, was a Spencerian agnostic who published an Analysis of Religious Belief (2 vols,. 1876). He gave his two sons a freethought tutor, and the Court of Chancery canceled the appointment. The elder son and second Earl, John Francis Stanley (1865-1931), whom I knew well was a man of fine mind and character, an outspoken agnostic, though not brilliant. "Bertrand Russell," to use his pen name, is the younger brother, and distinguished in mathematics and one of the leading British philosophers. He is a Fellow of Cambridge University to which he has returned to live and teach.
Sainte-Beuve Charles Francois De (1804-1869), famous French writer.
One of the leaders of French literature in the first half of the last century and professor at Paris University. He at first followed Victor Hugo and, as he said, "accepted God and all the consequences." He is almost eccentric in the fact that the more famous he became the more advanced and outspoken in skepticism he was. In his Pensees d’aout he abandons all beliefs. The Grande Encyclopedie says that as he grew older he became more and more hostile to religion and was "the protector of Freethought in the Senate."
St. Evermond, Charles De Marguetel De Saint Denis, Seigneur De (1610-1703), French Deist.
A military nobel who, under the influence of Montaigne, wrote the work Maxims which is a classic of French literature. He was forced into exile and lived in England, and he is actually buried in Westminster Abbey. Bishop Atterbury complains in his Correspondence that St. Evremond died renouncing the Christian religion, yet the church of Westminster thought fit to give his body room in the Abbey. Bayle says in his Dictionary that when he was dying (of gastric trouble) a priest proposed that he should be reconciled. "Certainly," he replied, "with my stomach."
St. John Henry, Viscount Bolingbroke (1678-1751), British statesman.
At one time Secretary of Foreign Affairs and chief royal councillor. He was one of the most important of the Deists, though he concealed his views. He supplied Pope with the material for his Essay on Man, and Lord Morley describes his Lectures on the Study and use of History as "the direct progenitor of Voltaire’s opinions on religion." Voltaire, who knew him well, often acknowledged the debt.
Saint Pierre Jacques Henri Bernardin De (1737-1814) French writer.
He followed Rousseau’s Deism and wrote Paul and Virginia which was known throughout Europe and is still. He succeeded Buffon as head of the Botanical Garden and was a professor under the Revolution. The atheists smiled at his "natural religion" but, like Rousseau, he did good work amongst sentimental folk.
Saint Simon Count Claude Henti De Rouvry De (1760-1825), French reformer, founder of the semi-Socialist Saint Simonians.
A nobel who traveled extensively in America, Germany, and Britain and acquired a humanitarian zeal which he crystallized in what he called a New Christian sect for social service, but he rejected all Christian doctrines. For a time his sect had much influence in France and proved a stepping-stone to a more advanced position for Comte and other men.
Sand, George (1804-1876), famous French woman, novelist, maiden name Aurore Dupin, married to the Baron Dudevant.
She is still well known for her brilliant romances and her affairs with Alfred de Musset, and others, but she was a serious student of philosophy and had advanced social views. She wavered between theism and pantheism, was decidedly anti-clerical and anti-Christian, and was skeptical to the end about immortality (life by Professor Caro).
Santa Maria, Domingo (1825-1885), President of the Republic of Chili.
A lawyer, professor and provincial governor who was driven from the country by the clericals. When the Liberals overthrew them he became President and did a good deal for the country besides checking the clericals.
Santayana, George (1863- ), philosopher.
Spanish by birth but taken to America in boyhood. He was professor of philosophy at Harvard 1889-1912 but is much more important as an educator of the general public. He rejects all theology and professes materialism. In Reason in Science (p. 90), he says: "A thorough materialist, one born to the faith and not plunged into it by an unexpected christening in cold water, will be, like the superb Democritus, a laughing philosopher.
Sardou, Victorien (1831-1908) chief modern French dramatist.
Compelled by the misfortunes of his family to abandon the study of medicine he struggled in penury to earn a living by his pen until mid-life, when his plays were successful. His famous Robespierre and Danton were written for Sir Henry Irving. He was an atheist from youth and though he dabbled in Spiritualism for a time, rejected it.
Savile, Sir George, Earl of Halifax (1633-1695), British statesman, Lord Privy Seal of his country, a man of recognized integrity in an age of general corruption.
Bishop Burnet (History of His Own Time, I. p. 267) says that he "passed for a bold and determined atheist," but that he told Burnet he was not an atheist. "He believed as much as he could and hoped that God would not lay it to his charge if he could not digest as an ostrich did nor take into his belief things that must burst him." To him is attributed the saying "The man who sits down a philosopher rises an atheist." God is frequently mentioned in his works but he seems to have used the word as politiciand still do.
Schiller, Johann Christoph Friedrich Von (1759-1805), famous German poet, the second greatest man in German literature.
During the period of his collaboration with Goethe, broadly 1790 to 1800, they wrote a good deal of drastic anti-clerical stuff, chiefly a series of epigrams (Xenien) after the style of Martial in which religion and church-leaders were pungently satirized.
Schopenhauer, Arthur (1788-1860), German philosopher.
He had a thorough academic education in philosophy but contended that all the accepted systems (Kant, Hegel, etc.) were too intellectual and that the secret of life was that an impersonal force which he called Will was striving, through the material universe, to reach a high level. As it is doomed to failure, owing to the stupidity of men, to reach a high level he was forced to a sort of pessimism that suited his dry and caustic style. The Churches felt his lash. "Religion," he said, "is like a glow-worm: it needs darkness to shine in." His sister Adele, a writer and very accomplished woman, took his side when his skepticism led to a quarrel with their mother, She shared his ideas.
Schreiner, Olive (1862-1920), British novelist.
Daughter of a missionary who worked amongst the natives of South Africa she, before she was 20, wrote A Story of an African Farm which won her a large public. It was substantially an autobiography telling how she reacted to her father’s work by becoming an atheist. Other novels and works on social questions raised her reputation considerably. Edward Carpenter says in his Days and Dreams (p. 229): "I have seen her shake her little fist at the Lord in heaven and curse him down from his throne." After marriage she was known as Mrs. Cronwright-Schreiner.
Schubert, Franz Peter (1797-1828), Austrian composer.
He wrote two Masses and a large amount of other Catholic music yet, like Beethoven and Mozart, he was a skeptic. In his Dictionary of Music Sir George Grove says that "of formal or dogmatic religion we can find no trace," (IV, p. 634) in his life. He quotes Schubert saying of creeds and churches: "Not a word of it is true." So also Elly Ziese in Schubert’s Tod. His Catholic biographer says that the man who wrote his beautiful Ave Maria must have been a Catholic, but he had "no external connection with the Church." One might as well say that all the artists who painted beautiful Venuses must have believed in the goddess.
Schumann, Robert (1810-1856), German composer.
He tells us in his letters that he rejected Christianity in his early years and followed Goethe’s pantheism. One great advantage of Goethe’s system in this difficult period, when skepticism itself was in evolution, was that you could talk freely about God and not mean much. In any case Goethe naturally appealed to artists.
Seeley, Sir John Robert, K.C.M.G. (1834-1895), distinguished British historian.
His Ecce Homo, theistic but one of the first widely-read works to strip Christ of his divinity, had an enormous circulation, yet he was appointed to a chair of history at Cambridge University and held it until he died. In his later works he was still theistic but thought that questions of ethics were much more important than the fuss about God and immortality.
Seneca, Lucius Aenaeus (1 – 65), philosopher.
A wealthy Spanish Roman, high civic official and tutore of Nero, who in the end compelled him to take his own life. He is usually quoted as a Stoic but was guided in his well-known ethical treatises by the Roman blend of Stoicism and Epicureanism. He has the greatest veneration for Epicurus, whom the Stoics detested, and constantly quotes him.
Sergi, Professor Giuseppe (1841-1936), Italian anthropologist, the "Grand Old Man" both of science and freethought in Italy.
Although he was professor at Rome University and a scholar of European fame he took an active part in the International Freethought Congress at Rome in 1904 at which I met him and (for the first time) Haeckel, "The conceptions of a soul, of a future life, of a God, are," he said, in a fiery speech, "superstitious errors which have clouded the human mind and given a false direction to human conduct."
Servetus, Michael (1511-1553) martyr of freethought.
A Spaniard (properly named Miguel Servede) who settled in Switzerland. He rejected the Trinity and was driven out. He took up medicine in France but when he was passing through Switzerland Calvin had him arrested and burned at the stake.
Seymour, Edward Adolphus, Duke of Somerset and Earl St. Maur (1804 – 1885), British statesman.
A commoner who rose to be First Lord of the Treasury and was made a duke and earl for his services. In his retirement he wrote Christian Theology and Modern Skepticism in which he rejected all supernaturalism. He believed in a "Supreme Intelligence" but was skeptical about a future life.
Shaftesbury, the Earl of. See Cooper.
Shakespeare, William (1564-1616).
The greatest of British writers is often claimed to have been a freethinker, and we are aware-see Marlowe-that there was a good deal of skepticism in London in his time. But his work is entirely objective, his pagan characters using pagan language, his Christian characters Christian, and we have no expression of personal opinion or evidence of contemporaries. It is therefore impossible to reach a definite conclusion. We may say with the historian Green that there is no depth in "the religious phrases which are thinly scattered over his work" and that in the serious and more or less didactic plays of his last phase he does not apply to the problems of life "the common theological solutions"; in other words he gives us the impression of being a simple humanist in his maturity. We can say only that the skeptical interpretation seems more probable than the Christian.
Shaw, George Bernard (1856-) British dramatist.
He was born in Dublin, though his parents descended from one of the English families that had settled in Ireland, and passed to London at the age of 20. For ten years he had a lean time. He once assured me that it was true that he had for a time to live on 12 cents a day. As musical, then dramatic critic, he made a name, and Man and Superman (1903) first gave him his international repute. His attitude to religion is characteristic. He virulentlt critics Christianity and suggests that Jesus was of unbalanced mind-and equally critics Rationalism (and science), following Samual Butler in the belief that a Vital Principle animates the living universe and that instinct (or the inspiration of this) is the guide, not the reason.
Shelburne, Lord. See Petty.
Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822).
That the third greatest of British poets was an atheist during his great creative years is well known. He was known as "Shelley the Atheist" at Eton and was expelled from Oxford for writing a pamphlet with the title The Necessity of Atheism. His first important poem, Queen Mab, had a number of skeptical notes, and he is equally skeptical in his greatest work, Prometheus Unbound. After 1820 he was much influenced by reading Plato and he adopted theism but not a definite belief in a future life.
Sherrlngton, Sir Charles Scott, M.A., M.D., Sc.D., LL.D., F.R.S., O.M., F.R.C.P., F.R.C.S., G.D.E. (1861- ) eminent British physiologist, Nobel Prize winner. He has several gold medals and a large number of International scientific decorations for his important research on the nervous system, on which he is one of the world’s leading authorities. Without calling himself a materialist he virtually recommends it in his works. In The Brain and its Mechanism (1933) he is sure that in time science will show "how the brain does its thinking."
Sidney, Alrernon (1622-1682), politician.
Son of the Earl of Northumberland and one of the freethinking officers among Cromwell’s Roundheads. He opposed the execution of the king but also opposed Cromwell as a tyrant, and he was not reconciled with the restored royalty. He remained a Republican and after a travesty of a trial was beheaded. He refused the services of a minister before execution and was, says Bishop Burnet, "against all public worship and everything that looked like a church." Although he called himself a Protestant he was a Deist.
Sieyes, Count Emmanuel Joseph (1748-1836), leading French revolutionary.
Although he figures as one of the very few priests who took a prominent part in the Revolution he tells is himself that he had "evaded every occasion of clerical work" before that time and was a freethinker. He disavowed his orders and the creed early in the Revolution and was the real author of the Rights of Man. Napoleon made him a Count and Senator, and the restored king banished him. He never returned to the Church.
Sinclair, Upton, B.A. (1878- ), author.
Before he developed political aspirations he was anything but respectful to the Churches. "There are a score of great religions in the world," he said, "and each is a mighty fortress of graft." (Upton Sinclair’s Magazine, April 1918). His Profits of Religion (1919) for which he asked me to contribute material-I do not claim to have done so-is on the same genial line. In later years he took up spiritualism and wrote What God Meand to Me.
Smith, Adam, F.R.S. (1723-1790), famous Scottish economist.
Before he published his Wealth of Nations, which was as epoch-making as the Origin of Species, he had written a non-Christian Theory of the Moral Sentiment and he was very friendly in Paris with Voltaire, Rousseau, and the Encyclopedists. Later he wrote a life of Hume, which Chalmer’s Biographical Dictionary describes as "a powerful blow against Christianity." Occupying public positions as he did, however, he was cautious about expressing his Deism and shortly before he died he had 16 volumes of his manuscripts burned.
Smith, Gerrit (1797-1874), philanthropist.
Although a rich man he practiced as a lawyer and at one time entered politics but the odor was too strong for his refined moral sense. He gave away about $8,000,000 in gifts of land to poor families, donations to progressive causes, and all sorts of benefactions. He was a Deist and said so in several works (The Religion of Reason, etc.)
Smith, Sir Grafton Elliott, M.D., F.R.S. (1871-1937), eminent British anatomist. Australian by birth, he became a professor of his science at London University and was regarded (with Sir Arthur Keith) as at the head of the science. His works on the evolution of man and prehistoric man are materialistic and of great value. He was an avowed Agnostic and an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Press Association. When I published my Riddle of the Universe Today in 1934 he wrote the publisher: "Mr. McCabe has an inspiration of genius in adopting as a centenary celebration of the great author of the Riddle of the Universe the submission of that work to the test of present-day knowledge.
Smith, Professor Goldwin, M. A., D.C.L., LL.D. (1823-1910), historian.
Called to the bar in England he left it to become professor of history at Oxford and then, driven to America by a domestic tragedy, at Cornell. He passed to settle in Canada and wrote a number of historical works and books on religion. In no Refuge But the Truth he rejects Christianity, is skeptical about a future life, and thinks it "impossible that we should ever have direct proof through human observation and reasoning of the existence of deity" (p.31).
Snell, Henry of Plumstead, C.B.E., P.C., LL.D., (1865-1945), British statesman.
A poorly-educated peasant boy who rose to a high position in the political world, on the Labor side. For some years he was Chairman of the London County Council and Deputy-Leader for his party in the house of Lords. He was an agnostic from youth-I was intimate with him in his thirties-and in his later years was President of the Rationalist Press Association.
Snyder, Carl (1869- ), writer on science.
He specialized in the popular presentation of science in the press and in books which had a wide circulation and were much esteemed, In New Conceptions of Science (1903) he says that "the influence of the Christian Church was evil, incomparably evil" (p. 27).
Socinus, Laelius (1528-1562), Italian reformer.
Latinized form of the name Lelio Fausto Sozzini. An accomplished man-he knew Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic-who started freethinking discussion-circles, which were heavily persecuted, in Italy. It was his nephew Faustus Socinus who gave his name to Socinianism or Unitarianism. Socrates (469-399). An Anthenian sculptor who devoted himself to philosophy and was immortalized by Plato’s Dialogues. He wrote nothing and what Plato attributes to him is doubtless in large part the sentiment of the two men, but no historian of philosophy grants them much influence in Greece, and in diverting the minds of a few from the materialistic speculations which form the chief vein of Greek thought they were reactionaries. Socrates must, however, be classed as a great freethinker as he rejected the current religion and urged men to reason out the problems of life. On this pretext he was condemned to death but the real ground was political.
Soddy, Professor Frederick, LL.D., M.A., F.R.S., (1877- ) distinguished British chemist, Nobel Prize winner.
He was well-known for his social idealism and high character as well as his distinction in chemistry and radioactive physics. In Science and Life (1920) he says that "the ancient creeds are working an infinitude of harm in the world" and calls on man to disown them. He is vaguely theistic, but the universe is eternal, not created, and "the task of controlling it is man’s not God’s (pp. 173-174).
Somerset, the Duke of. See Seymour.
Somerville, Mary (1780-1872), British educationist.
Daughter of Admiral Sir W.G. Fairfax, she married Dr. Somerville and his salon was one of the most brilliant in London for many years. She mastered astronomy-the discovery of the planet Neptune was ultimately based upon observations of hers- and had several gold medals for her work in geography. She was an anti-ecclesiastical theist, never went to church, and was once "publicly censured by name from the pulpit of York Cathedral." One of the chief women’s university colleges in Britain, Somerville Hall, bears her name, and there is a Somerville Scholarship at Oxford.
Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903), British philosopher, the English Aristotle.
His organization of all higher knowledge, which inspired Lester Ward to do the same in America, in a Synthetic Philosophy was a repetition of the feat of Aristotle in ancient Greece. He was an Agnostic before Huxley invented the word in the sense that he held that the ultimate reality (on which he wrote two large volumes) in Unknown and Unknowable. He refused all honors and decorations but was much more human and sympathetic than the many stories about him suggest. He advocated biological evolution seven years before Darwin wrote, and his Psychology had a fine realistic influence on that subject.
Spinoza, Baruch Benedict (1632-1677), Dutch-Jewish philosopher.
Of a family of Portuguese Jews (d’Espinosa) that settled in Holland, he was trained for a rabbi but was excommunicated for his heresies. He then supported himself by teaching and grinding lenses while he studied philosophy. He is the best known of Pantheists, holding that God and Nature, mind and matter, are one reality. His system differs from Monism in the fact that he insisted that this reality is God and the object of religious feeling.
Stael-Holstein, The Baroness Anne Louise Germaine De (1766-1817) as "Mme de Stael" one of the best known women in Europe in Naopleon’s time.
She was a daughter of Necker, the famous Minister of Finance, married to the Swedish ambassador, the Baron de Stael, and a brilliant and accomplished woman. She shed her Protestantism at an early age and was a Voltairean until later life when she was gentle about religion but never a Christian. When J. Q. Adams was ambassador in Paris and knew her, he wrote to his mother (Nov. 22, 1812): "She spoke much about the preservation of religion, in which, she gave me to understand, she did not herself believe."
Stalin, Josef Vissarionovich (1879- ).
Son of a Georgian shoemaker, expelled from the seminary in which he was being educated for the priesthood for advanced political opinions, and joined the Socialists. He is, like all communist leaders, an atheist but political expediency as well as personal inclination kept him off the subject of religion. When cooperation with the democracies became a necessity of Soviet policy he seems to have concluded that one of the chief obstacles was the supposed persecution of religion and the rampant atheism of the leaders, so the aggressive atheist movement was discouraged out of existence and all leaders refrained from expressions of opinion on religion. In the struggles of his early manhood Stalin was severe against the churches (see my life of him).
Stanhope, Lady Hester Lucy (1776-1839), traveler.
Daughter of Earl Stanhope, grand-daughter of Lord Chatham, and niece of Pitt, she was reared in a freethinking atmosphere and she responded heartily. She kept house for Pitt in his later years and then, disgusted with the hypocrisy of English religious life, went to live in the Near East and professed a sort of Islam. She scorned Christianity and was a woman of great ability and character.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) reformer and writer.
Daughter of Judge Cady and married to the abolitionist Stanton. She was a very accomplished young woman-she knew Latin and Greek-and threw herself with great zeal into the feminist movement and became the leader. Like most of the leaders she was a skeptic, an agnostic. "The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman’s emancipation." In her autobiography she complains that "the religious superstition of women perpetuate their bondage more than all other adverse influences" (p. 467). We read in the life of Garrison that at a public meeting she once said: "In the darkness and gloom of a false theology I was slowing sawing off the chains of my spirit-bondage when, for the first time, I met Garrison in London. A few bold strokes from the hammer of his truth and I was free" (IV. p. 336). She edited an expurgated version of the Bible for women in 1895.
Stendhal, M. De. See Beyle. Stephen, Sir Leslie, LL.D., Litt. D., (1832-1904), British writer.
He took orders in the Church of England when he was at Cambridge but the fit of piety soon passed. He told me that even there he was a member of a sort of secret society of heretics and that his language in the athletic field was robust. In time he reached the front rank of British writers-in his later years he was known as "the Dean of English letters"-and was regarded as the leading literary critic and a very sound historian, widely respected on both sides of the Atlantic. He was an outspoken agnostic (Freethinking, An Agnostic’s Apology, etc.) and a man of genially austere character. His brother, Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, baronet, a judge, professor of law, and author of weighty works on law, also "entirely abandoned his belief in the orthodox dogmas" Dict. of Nat. Biog. ).
Stevenson, Robert Louis, (1850-1894), distinguished British novelist.
A brilliant and prolific writer whose works fill 27 volumes. His biographer A. Johnston, shows that he was an agnostic until he died, though he had prayers at his house daily on account of a pious mother. F. Watt, the next most important biographer, says the same.
Stout, The Honorable Sir Robert, K.C.M.G., LL.D. (1844-1930), Chief Justice of New Zealand.
At one time he was Attorney General Minister of Education and Premier of the Colony (now Dominion). He was a man of strict and rather ascetic character and all his life an outspoken agnostic. A few years before he died he took the chair at a drastic freethought lecture I gave in Wellington and he used to describe himself in the Australasian Biography as "an Agnostic." In three lecture tours that I gave in New Zealand he was my chief friend and supporter in the capital.
Strauss, David Friedrich (1808-1874), German writer.
Professor of theology at Tubigen who startled Germany by publishing a humanist life of Jesus. George Eliot translated it, and in the forties it had a very large circulation in England and America. He called himself a Liberal Christian but in 1872 he rejected all Christian beliefs and the idea of a personal God and future life in his Old and New Faith. The fact is generally suppressed that he had a faithful disciple and friend in the German Empress. See Victoria.
Strauss, Richard (1864- ), German composer.
He played the piano at the age of four and began to compose at the age of seven: and he conducted the Bayreuth Festival in 1894 and was General Musical Director of Prussia. He was a close student of philosophy and expressed his own freethought convictions in the symphonic poem based upon Nietzsche’s work, Also Sprach Zarathrusta, which the clergy angrily denounced, and in Till Eulenspiegel’s Lustige Streiche, which has been described as "one of the most brilliant dramatic scores ever penned" (Encyclopedia Brittanica).
Strindberg, Johan August (1849-1912), Swedish novelist, poet, and dramatist, the chief writer after Isben.
He was the leader of the Swedish freethinkers and so caustic that he preferred to live abroad. When a volume of stories which he published in 1884 was condemned he returned to Sweden and won his acquittal, though some passages were virulently anti-Christian. He was an atheist in these years but he had a mental breakdown, lost his virility, and drifted into mysticism.
Sudermann, Hermann (1857-1928), leading German novelist and dramatist of the first quarter of the century.
One of his novels Frau Sorge, ran to 125 editions in German. He was one of the founders, with Haeckel, of the Monist League and an outspoken agnostic. At a big public meeting in Berlin in 1900, he eloquently called upon Germany top make an end of "obscurantism." He was a man of high ideals and had a passion for social justice.
Sally, Prudhomme, Rene Francois Armand (1839-1907), distinguished French poet, Nobel prize winner.
He declared his skepticism in a preface to his first volume of poems but he was a freethinker of the very rare type that wants to believe in religion but cannot. He came to believe at the most in a sort of a pantheistic halo of the moral universe which he called "the divine."
Sumner, Charles (1811-1874), statesman.
He was one of the leading orators of the Abolitionist movement and was in time regarded as one of the best speakers in America. For a time he was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and he was regarded at Washington as an idealist of very strict character. Sumner was a non-Christian theist. There is a letter in the Memoir and Letters of Charles Sumner (I, pp. 117-119) in which he rejects the supernatural theory of Christ and says: "I am without religious feeling." He believes in God, he says, but rarely thinks about him or prays.
Suttner, Baroness Bertha Von, (1843-1914), Austrian pacifist and Nobel Prize winner.
Daughter of Count Field Marshal Kinsky and married to Baron von Suttner. She studied philosophy in early years and rejected all religious beliefs, she tells us in her Memoirs (I. p. 36) and in her autobiography. Later she took up Spencer, Darwin, and Haeckel and adopted a vague pantheistic creed which differs little from Spencer’s agnosticism. In 1887 she espoused the cause of peace and won an international reputation in that field, especially by her novel, Lay Down Your Arms (1892).
Swinburne, Algernon Charles (1837-1909), greatest English poet since Shelley.
Like Shelley he became an atheist and a republican at Oxford and, although he somehow blended his hatred of tyrants-he openly rejoiced when Orsini tried to assassinate Napoleon III and wrote magnificent poems in praise of European rebels-with High Toryism in domestic politics, he never wavered. In some of his Poems and Ballads he is very contemptuous of Christianity and its ascetic rules.
Syme, David (1827-1908) Australian philanthropist.
A Scot by origin who studied at Heidekberg and shed his beliefs there. He emigrated to Australia, made a fortune, and bought the Melbourne Age , which then became a strong force on the side of the progressives. He refused a Knighthood and at his death left $200,000 to various charities. In several works on religion he rejects Christianity and calls himself a pantheist, though his biographer says that "his religion was humanity."
Symonds, John Addington (1840-1893), notable British writer, author of a 2-volume standard work on the Italian Rennaissance.
A very delicate consumptive man he, though a writer of exceptional art, produced a remarkable number of works on medieval Italy. He particularly scoffed at the idea that the Renaissance artists owed their excellence to religious inspiration. His biographer, H.D. Brown, shows that he rejected Christianity and the belief in a future life.
Tagore, Sir Rabindranath, D. Litt. (1861-1941), "the Poet Laureate of India," Nobel Prize winner.
He was the son of a prince but a most assiduous writer, in prose and verse, and deeply interested in the education of his country. He rejected both Christianity and all forms of Hindu religion and was, if anything,-his biographer says that he never professed any clearly defined beliefs-an atheist. In his Hibbert Lectures, The Religion of Man (1931) he says that he believes in "the Humanity of God and the Divinity of Man the Eternal." A mystic freethinker.
Taine, Professor Hippolyte Adolphe D. es L. (1828-1893), eminent French historian.
Derived of a chair of philosophy in 1851 for freethinking he turned to literature and history and rose to the highest rank. The clergy kept him out of the Academy in 1880, but his History of English Literature, Origins of Contemporary France, etc., had given him a world reputation by that time, The Grande Encyclopedia says. He was, with Renan, and perhaps more than Renan, one of the intellectual guides of the generation formed between 1860 and 1890." Boutmy shows that, though he became conservative in politics, he was an agnostic to the end.
Tai-Tsung (600-650) Chinese emperor of the Tang Dynasty.
His name was Shih-Min but he was named Tai-tsung (Great Ancestor) after his death and lives as such in Chinese history. The missionary expert on China, Dr. Giles says that his was "a reign of unrivalled brilliance and glory," and the historian of China. D. Boulger says, "No ruler of any country has had sounder claims to be entitled Great." He had in quarter of a century done more for China than any other emperor and raised it to a wonderful height while Europpe was in semi-barbarism: but you will find your encyclopedias and history books full of Eurpope at the time and rarely mentioning Tai-tsung. His character was very high and his ideas, especially in the treatment of crime and in toleration, beyond anything in 1,500 years of Christian history. The three really great monarchs of the Christian Era are Hadrian, Tai-tsung, and And-er-Rahman III, all atheists.
Tallyrand-Perigard, Prince Charles Maurice De (1754-1838), rench statesman.
Lamed in his infancy he was put into the Church and became Bishop of Autun. He joined the revolutionaries in 1789 and became one of the leaders and the author of a fine scheme of universal education. In the darker years he lived in England and America. Then he again served the Revolution and he was Napoleon’s Foreign Minister. As he served again under the restored king-he was the ablest diplomat in Europe.-and was caustic and witty he got a repute for cynicism. I wrote a full length biography of him in 1906 and found him a man of fine character. He was an atheist, and he went, rather cynically, through a form of reconciliation with the Church in his last year solely, and expressly, to ensure that he should have a funeral undisturbed by the new Catholic mob.
Tchaikovsky, Peter Ilich (1840-1893), famous Russian composer.
He took up law but quit it for music and became the greatest of Russian composers (songs, cantatas, operas, piano-pieces, etc.). From his letters edited by his brother, it appeared that until late in life he was a theist but he seems in the end to have become an atheist after reading Flaubert’s letters. I have ," he said, "found some astonishing answers to my questions about God and religion in this book." Life and Letters , (p.688). He was unconscious when his brother summoned a priest to smear him with the sacrament.
Tchekov, Anton Pavlovich (1860-1904), Russian novelist and dramatist. Son of one of the liberated serfs, he managed to get education and became one of Russia’s great writers of fiction and drama, and had an immense circulation, but he was consumptive and died prematurely. His ideas on religion are not clear but he stood well outside the Church.
Tennyson, Baron Alfred (1809-1892), leading English poet. As he was severely condemned by British freethinkers for his Promise of May and he uses theistic language, preachers quote him as an orthodox Christian. But there is ample evidence that he was a pantheist and skeptical about a future life. Allingham who knew him well so testifies in his diary (p. 149), and his son reluctantly confirms this in his biography of his father. Dr. Jowett says the same, and the cautious trimmer Masterman, who wrote a book on his religion, has to admit it. Tennyson received the "communion" shortly before he died but his son admits that he protested that he did not take it in the Church sense (II, p. 412), and a few days later he said of the pantheist Giordano Bruno "His view of God is in some ways mine." Bruno had been burned at the stake for heresy.
Thackeray, William Makepeace (1811-1863), notable British novelist.
He was considered next to Dickens about the middle of the last century and was well known in America. He was a theist but skeptical about a future life. "About my future state I don’t know," he said (Melville’s Life of Thackeray, II, p. 105). In The Letters of Dr. J. Brown, there is one from Thackeray in which he says that he has listened to a preacher "on the evangelical dodge" and he adds "Ah, what rubbish." Melville says that he "formed no very definite creed."
Thales (B.C. 630-546), founder of Greek philosophy.
A merchant of Phoenician extraction who lived in Miletus on the coast of Asia Minor at the time when its cities initiated the Greeks to higher civilization. The strip of coast was called Ionia and Thales, who speculated freely on nature and human problems, founded the atheistic and materialistic Ionian School, which was later absorbed in the Epicurean. He left no work but he was the first of the Wise Men of Greece later writers attributed sayings to him. Some of these refer to God, but as he was certainly a materialist and admitted neither Gods of Greece nor the personal spirit of later philosophy we can put no reliance on them. In the broad sense he was the first "freethinker" in history. See my Hundred Men.
Thiers, Adolphe (1797-1877), French statesmen and historian.
A lawyer who became leader of the French Liberals (and anti-clericals) under Charles X and Napoleon III, and rose to the highest political honors. Asz the radical movement developed he became more Conservative and abandoned politics in 1871, when he was summoned to be President of the Third Republic. Meantime he had written standard histories of the Revolution, the Consulate, and the Empire. He was harsh, often truculent, to political radicals but he remained an agnostic all his life, though many Frenchmen returned to the Church (politically) after the Commune.
Thompson, Daniel Greenleaf (1850-1897), psychologist.
A lawyer who took up the views of Herbert Spencer and published several works on the lines of the synthetic Philosophy. His psychology, in particular, had a very good influence in America. He was an agnostic.
Thompson, Sirf Henry Baronet, F.R.C.S. (1820-1904), British surgeon.
He was not only distinguished in surgery but he painted well enough to exhibit in the London Academy and the Paris Salon, and he published two novels. He is included here because of the booklet he published in 1902 with the title The Unknown God. He rejected all beliefs except the "great power" (impersonal) which many scientific men vaguely invoke. To Edward Clodd who criticized him in a friendly way, he said: "I am agnostic to the backbone."
Thompson, William (1785-1833), Irish economist.
A wealthy Irish landlord who adopted the atheistic and humanitarian views of Bentham and Robert Owen and worked hard to help the poor peasants by introducing cooperation. In 1824 he published a work on the distribution of wealth that almost anticipated Marx. All wealth ought to go to the producer, he said. He worked and wrote also for rights of women and other causes. He was very strict and ascetic in his personal life.
Thompson, James (183401882), British poet. He was left an orphan at the age of eight and was trained as a teacher. Bradlaugh attracted him to help in his atheistic campaign and published in his Natural Reformer the long poem, The City of Dreadful Night, which earned the high praise of D. G. Rossetti and other poets.
Thoreau, Henry David (1817-1862), writer.
He was greatly interested in natural history from boyhood and, as he joined the Transcendental or Emersonian school after leaving Harvard, the two elements united in his attractive literary style. While his colleagues in the creed sought the cities and drawing rooms he stuck to the country and led a life of extreme simplicity. Woodbury discusses his religion in Talks with Emerson. He was, curiously, one of the least mystic of the Transcendentalists. He used to quote the words of Ennius: "I say that there are gods but they care not what men do." When he was asked his opinion about a future life he said: "One world at a time."
Thorvaldsen, Bertel (1770-1844), famous Danish sculpter.
Son of an Iceland wood-carver who studied at the Copenhagen Academy and became one of the finest sculptors of his time and received the highest international honors. As he did a good deal of religious work, including the statue of Pope Pius VII, he is very interesting in connection with the question of the inspiration of religious art. His pious biographer Thiele admits, almost with tears, that he rejected Christianity, and in fact he had from youth a passion for ancient Greece and Rome, but in his time there was not much money in classical art. When someone asked him how he, a freethinker, came to produce such beautiful religious statues he said: "Neither do I believe in the gods of the Greeks but for all that I can represent them."
Tindal, Matthew, B.A., D.C.L., (1657 – 1733), British Deist.
A distinguished lawyer who became a Catholic, reverted to Protestantism, then became what he called "a Christian Deist." He wrote a book which was burned by the hangman and then another with the title Christianity As Old As Creation, some of which even Voltaire made some use.
Toland, John, M.A., (1670-1722) British Diest.
Probably the bastard of an Irish Priest, reared as a Catholic but early became a Deist. He was a brilliant and accomplished man but clerical hostility condemned him to a life of penury. The Irish government ordered that his books should be burned and be arrested but he was received with honor at the royal courts of Prussia, Austria, and Holland. He wrote, while calling himself a Christian, a number of Deistic works and seems to have been skeptical about a future life.
Tolstoi, Count Lew Nikolaivich (1828 – 1910), famous Russian reformer.
How the Crimean War disgusted him with his position of aristocratic officer and he became an educationist and moralist of simple life is well known. As a pacifist and moralist he had a world reputation. He professed to be a Christian in the ethical sense but flogged the Churches and was a mystic theist.
Tone, Theobald Wolfe, B.A., LL. D. (1763 – 1798), another of the brilliant young Irish Deists of the latter part of the 18th century.
He was a lawyer but absorbed in politics, fought in the French revolutionary army, and joined in the Irish rebellion. He died in prison of self-inflicted wounds. His diaries (published in 1893) as The Autobiography of Wolfe Tone) confirm that he was a Deist until he died but the fact is carefully suppressed in Eire, where he is still a popular idol.
Tooke, John Horne, M.A., (1736-1812), British reformer.
His father put him in the ministry of the Church of England but he was a freethinker and soon threw off his cassock and regretted, as he said, that he had had "the infectious hands of a bishop waved over him." He was a great figure in the fight for freedom and democracy, often prosecuted, and in 1777 sentenced to a fine of $1,000 and a year in prison for defending the American Colonists. In 1794 he was charged with high treason for defending the French Revolution. He was a notorious Deist but under British Law at that time a clergyman could not divest himself of his orders and he was excluded from the bar (for which he qualified) and Parliament on the ground that he was a clergyman.
Tree, Sir Herbert Beerbohm (1853-1917), famous British actor.
Son of a German, Julius Beerbohm, but born in England and became the second (after Irwin) leading actor and theatrical manager. In his Thought and After Thoughts he often expresses his freethought. All sects will die and there will be only "a religion of humanity" left. Of Shakespeare he says (p. 205): "His wide spirit will outlive the mere letter of narrow doctrines, and his winged words, vibrant with the music of the larger religion of humanity, will go wilting down the ages while dogmas die and creeds crumble in the dust!"
Trelawny, Edward John (1792-1881) Shelly’s friend.
He was a naval officer and adventurer in many lands until 1821 he joined Shelly in Italy. It was he who saved the poet’s heart from the flames. Later he joined Byron in the Greek war of independence. He was an atheist with a passion to rid the world of tyranny. Swinburne calls him "World-wide liberty’s life-long lover." He said to Carpenter (My Days and Dreams, p.121) that Shelley "couldn’t have been the poet that he was if he had not been an atheist."
Trench, Herbert (1865-1923), British poet.
His work had a high reputation among literary and cultivated folk and occasionally betrays his pantheistic creed and definitely anti-Christian sentiment. In "Stanzas to Tolstoi" he says: The man upraised on the Judacan crag Captains for us the war with death no more; His kingdom hands as hangs the tattered flag Over the tomb of a great knight of yore. Unfortunately Tolstoi (see) professed to be a Christian.
Trevelyan, Arthur (died 1878), writer. A Scottish landowner who was prominent in the progressive movement in Britain in the last century. He wrote to Holyoake in 1844: "I will thank you to propose me as a member of your atheistical society." He worked in and generously supported many humanitarian movements The distinguished historian George Macaulay Trevelyan (born 1876), who is not of the same family, also is a freethinker and was, them, and presumably still is-since there has been no claim of a conversion-an agnostic but has for some years been reticent on the subject.
Tribonian, (Sixth century), Greek jurist. The code of law which is attributed to the Christian emperor Justinian was mainly compiled (as Dean Milman admits in his History of Latin Christianity , II, p. 12) by this skeptical jurist who held high office in his court. Milman admits that there is "no sign of Christianity" in his work and favors the tradition that he was an atheist, as the Greek Suidas says in his Lexicaon: Gibbon (ch. 44) too easily admits Christian libels of the great jurist but admits that "his genius embraced all the knowledge and business of his age."
Turgeniey, Ivan Sergievich (1818 – 1883) famous Russian novelist.
Of a nobel family he showed such democratic sympathy, especially in a Letter on Gogol, that he was imprisoned and then banished from the capital. He then wrote the series of powerful realistic novels that made him famous throughout the world. Pavlovsky says of him in his Souvenirs than he "was a freethinker and detested the apparatus of religion very heartily" (p. 242). But all his humanitarian creed is seen in all his work.
Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques, Baron De Laune (1727 – 1781), celebrated French statesman and economist.
He is a great figure both in French history and the history of economics. He was training for the Church when he adopted Deistic views and decided that he "could not bear to wear a mask all his life." He became a close friend of Voltaire and contributed to the famous Encyclopedia. But he rose to the highest positions in French politics and had to be discreet as the priests watched him closely. All historian describe the wonderful work he did for France in its decay, and he had as much influence as Adam Smith in founding a science of economics.
Turner, Joseph Mallard William. (1775 – 1851), famous British painter.
Son of a London barber, almost totally uneducated, who discovered a genius for painting. The circumstances of his early life explain the eccentricities of his later life. He began to take lessons in drawing at the age of 13, exhibited in the Academy three years later, and became an Academician at 28. He was the greatest painter of his time and very generous. He left pictures to the nation and left his fortune of $700,000 to found a home for needy artists. Ruskin, his executor-I heard that his delicate nostrils quivered at sight of some of the drawings Turner left in his house-greatly praises his character but admits that he was "an infidel." Biographer Thornbury piously deplores that on his death bed "he had no religious hope to cheer him," and another diplomatic biographer, P.G. Hamerton, primly says that he "did not profess to be a member of any visible Church." In plain English he was a thorough going freethinker who despised religion.
Twain, Mark. See Clemens.
Tylor, Sir Edward Burnett, D. Sc., D.C.L., F.R.S., (1832 – 1917), British anthropologist.
A Quaker by birth and education who became interested in anthropology during travel in America and earned a world-wide reputation, with high honors in his science. He is now best known for his theory of the origin of religion. Animism, which held the field for half a century and is still widely accepted in a modified form. It plainly destroys the whole supernatural theory of religion but, like Frazer and others, Tylor was very unwilling to tell his own creed. It was hardly necessary.
Tyndall, Professer John, Ph.D., LL.D., F.R.S., (1820-1893), famous British physicist.
Born in Ireland of English immigrants and for a time a surveyor in the Irish Civil Service. He passed to England and studied assiduously in philosophy at a German university. Later he became professor at, then superintendent of, the Royal Institution and one of the most distinguished physicists in England. He was a man of high ideals and austere character. In 1873 he made $35,000 by a lecture tour in America-a remarkably large sum in those days-and he gave the whole for the popularization of science in America. He was an agnostic, and he had the courage, when he was appointed President of the British Association (1874), to make his address so pointedly materialistic that it roused a storm throughout Britain.
Uberweg, Professor Friedrich, Ph. D., (1826-1871), German historian of philosophy.
He taught at Konigsberg and made a name throughout Europe by a 3-volume history of philosophy, which is still one of the best. Lange quotes him as a materialist in his history of materialism, and Czolbe, who knew him well, says that he was "distinctly an atheist and materialist." I find the description a shade too strong as he recognized a sort of impersonal purpose in the universe.
Uhland, professor Johan Ludwig. LL.D., (1787 – 1852), German poet.
A lawyer who had such success with a large volume of poems that he turned to literature and became professor of it at Tubingen. He was forced to resign on account of his freethinking and radical views. His poetry made a great name about the middle of the century, and he wrote also several dramas.
Ulpianus, Domitius (wrote about 211 – 222), Roman jurist.
One of the great Atoic lawyers who humanized Roman law in the classical period. He was the chief advisor of the emperor Alexander Severus, a fine ruler, and he was murdered by the soldiers for attempting to curtail their privileges. His works are lost but are copiously quoted in the Digest of Justinian. He had a very high social ideal and appealed constantly to "the law of nature" as his authority.
Ulrici, Professor Hermann (1806 – 1884), German philosopher.
He was professor at Halle from 1834 until he died and had high authority. He was such a very free thinker that his ideas on religion were unique. The soul, he said, was an "etheris fluid" but immortal. He called himself a Pantheist but his view of the unity or identity of God and the world hardly differed from that of other Pantheists.
Unna, Professor Paul Gerson, M.D. (1850 – ) German anatomist. A Hamburg surgeon, specialist on skin diseases, whose pathological works gave him a high position in Germany. He joined Haeckel in the work of the Monist (atheist) Association and frequently wrote in his monthly. In the Memorial Volume to commemorate Haeckel’s 80th birthday he thanks Haeckel for his "spiritual emancipation" and talks contemptuously about "the men of darkness round the throne and the alter.
Vacherot, Professor Etienne, Ph. D. (1809-1897), French philosopher and statesman.
He succeeded Cousin as professor of philosophy at Paris University. A large and fine work he wrote on the development of religion in Alexandria was so heterodox that the clergy flamed against him and got him deposed. A few years later he was sentenced to a year in prison for writing a republican work. For a philosopher he was a rare fighter and a considerable aid to the radicals. In spite of this he was admitted to the Academy of Moral and Political Science and held high office under the Third Republic.
Vale, Gilbert (1788 – 1866), writer.
He began to study for the Church of England but abandoned the faith and went to settle in America. He made a number of discoveries in navigation, which he taught in New York, but he took a very prominent part in the Freethought movement. He founded and edited the Beacon and wrote a number of works, one of them a life of Paine which included letters of Paine to Washington, which earlier biographers had suppressed. Even Appleton’s Encyclopedia of American Biography says: "Mr. Vale was a Freethinker, and a;; his writings are arguments for his peculiar tenets."
Valla, Lorenzo (1406-1457), Italian Humanist.
A priest, son of a Roman lawyer, who became a skeptic and one of the most learned and brilliant critical writers of the Renaissance. The King of Napels appointed him secretary and in that shelter he exposed the fraud of the Donation of Constantine on which the Papacy based its claim of secular sovereignty, and other forged documents. From a work he wrote, On Pleasure (in Latin), he appears to have been an atheist and a follower of Epicurus. The Papacy did not mind what it called obscene literature, which was then abundant, but it first threatened and then bought off with high honors his attacks on the Church.
Vambery, Professor Armin (1832-1913), Hungarian-Jewish philologist.
He knew a dozen languages before he was out of his teens and was tutor to the sons of a Turkish prince. He then learned a score of oriental languages and nearly got to Mecca in disguise of a pilgrim. After further travel he was appointed professor of oriental languages at Buda-Pesth University. He was one of the best linguists in Europe and his Turkish-German Dictionary is still used. He tells us in his autobiography (The Story of My Struggles, in English, 2 vols., 1904) that he was an agnostic and considered that "religion offers but little security against moral deterioration, and it is not seemly for the 20th Century to take example by the customs and doings of savages" (p. 420). As to the religious solution of cosmic problems, "one grain of common sense is worth a bushel of theories." (p. 429).
Vanini, Lucilio (1585-1619), Italian martyr of freethought.
He became a priest after university courses in philosophy, theology, science, and law, but was compelled to abandon the faith. He traveled in many countries urging men to the study of science. He was expelled from France, and in England he served a term of imprisonment in the Tower of London. In a weak hour- if one can call it weakness at a time when both Catholics and Protestants thirst for the blood of atheists- he published a work professing Christianity, but the next year he wrote a book which the Paris Parlement considered atheistic and ordered to be burned: and he was, in fact, nearer to atheism than a definite pantheism and was a vigorous critic of theology. The French authorities arrested him as "an atheist and blasphemer," tore out his tongue and burned him alive. He died bravely, pointing out that Jesus had sweated blood in the face of death but the atheist had no fear.
Vaughan, Professor Henry Halford (1811-1885), British historian.
He was for some years professor of modern history at Oxford University and had a very high reputation but had to be careful about expressing his freethought views. Dr. Jowett (a divine who was practically an agnostic), the Oxford leader, says in one of his letters that Vaughn’s opinions go far beyond his own and have to be concealed at Oxford. (Letters, p. 159). It is known that Vaughan wrote a work, Man’s Moral Nature, which would have given his views, but he was persuaded to destroy the manuscript.
Vauvenargues, the Marquis Luc de Clapoers de (1715 – 1747), French moralist.
An aristocratic officer, a friend and pupil of Voltaire, whose Reflections and Maxims is a minor classic of French literature. It is theistic and usually considered orthodox, but the book at first made its way chiefly because Voltaire described it as "one of the best I know for the formation of character." He was a Deist, of great promise but cut off prematurely.
Verhaeren, Emile (1855 – 1916), "Belbium’s most famous poet" and "the greatest exponent in European poetry of universal ideas" (Annual Register in obituary).
Son of a devout and wealthy Catholic he became a pupil of Maeterlinck (see) and shed his faith for agnosticism. His freethought is very frequently expressed in his poems of which he published 40 volumes. In one, The monks, he tells them "you alone survive of the Christian world that is dead." In the troubles of his later years he became rather mystic but he never returned to the Church and does not seem to have reached a firm or definite theism.
Verdi, Guiseppe (1813 – 1901), "the greatest Italian composer of the 19th century (Internat. Enc.), author of Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, etc.
The Catholic Encyclopedia claims him but he not only figured prominently amongst the anti-clericals in the Italian Camera (and later the Senate) but notoriously died defying the Church. F. T. Garibaldi shows in his biography of him (p. 255) that he expressly ordered in his will that he should be buried "without any part of the customary formulae." He was a man of very generous character. In 1898 he gave 2,000,000 lire to the city of Milan to build a home for aged and infirm musicians. The reader may begin to wonder why so many of the greater musicians, in comparison with other artists, are found amongst our freethinkers. It is enough to point out that the great development of music belongs to modern times and coincides with the growth of skepticism. Artists, whether they produce religious art or not, are just as apt as others to become freethinkers.
Verestchagin, Vassili Vassilievich (1842 – 1904), greatest of Russian painters.
A nobel who took up art and taking part in his country’s war against Turkey, devoted his great skill to impressing the horrors of war upon the public. The horrible realism of his pictures restricted his popularity. He painted also religious pictures but when he sent a "Holy Family" and "Resurrection" to the Vienna Exhibition in 1885 the archbishop compelled the authorities to withdraw them. He tells us in his autobiography that he was zen atheist. He detested Christianity and loathed the hypocrisy with which it is professed. He was again seeking battle-material when the Japs sank the battleship on which he was.
Vernes, Professor Maurice, D.D. (1845 – 2908) French biblical critic.
A Protestant minister who for many years led the Liberal Christians in France and edited their magazine. The orthodox angrily protested when he was appointed professor of Protestant theology at Paris University. He issued volumes of great learning on the lines of the Higher Criticism, collaborated in translating the Bible into French, and translated a number of works of foreign freethinkers. At last, he passed on to atheism and was Vice-President of the French National Association of Freethinkers. As such he sent a rousing message to the International Freethought Congress at Rome in 1904.
Vernet, Emile Jean Horace (1789 – 1863), French painter.
Son of an atheistic painter of distinction in republican days, he sustained the anti-clerical tradition and had to fight his way to fame under the restored royalty against strong prejudice. He won and became Director of the French Academy at Rome, Commander of the Legion of Honor, Grand Medallist, etc. His pictures of Napoleon’s battles are particularly esteemed.
Verworn, Professor Max, Sc. D.,M.D., LL. D. (1863 – 1921), German physiologist.
A colleague and close friend of Haeckel at Jena for many hears he rose to the first rank in his science and received a large number of international honors. His General Physiology was a standard work all over Europe. He openly professed agnosticism (especially in his Science and Philosophy) and contributed a warm appreciation to the work commemorating Haeckels’ 80th birthday.
Vesalius, Andraeas (1514 – 1564), famous Flemish anatomist, one of the chief founders of the science on Europe.
There are no recorded statements of his about religion but he incurred the bitter hostility of the clergy all his life and he died carrying out a sentence of the Spanish Inquisition, which sought to burn him at the stake. He insisted on practicing human dissection (often stealing the bodies of criminals from the gallows) in defiance of the Church and was hounded from the country and, though acknowledged to be the greatest surgeon of his age and physician to the King of Spain, the Inquisition at last closed in on him. There is a grossly inaccurate account of him as the Catholic Dr. Walsh’s Popes and Science – the account in White’s Warfare of Science with Theology is perfectly correct – and the very just appreciation of him by the Vice-President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain in the Encyclopedia Britannica has been expunged from the last (Catholic-revised) edition, though he was one of the greatest scientists of the middle ages.
Vico, Professor Giovanni Battista (1668 – 1744), Italian founder of Sociological Science.
Professor of Naples University, and one of the finest scholars of his age in Italy. In 1725 he published a large work which is regarded as the first experiment in scientific sociology. It not only traces the natural origin, and evolution of states but pointedly excludes supernaturalist explanations and Providence, He was a Deist and his fellow professors tried to save his remains from the indignity of Christian burial. The Kingdom of Naples was at that time the most Liberal of the small states of Europe.
Victoria, Princess Adelaide, Mary Louise (1840 – 1901) , Empress of Germany, mother of the Kaiser, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria.
The opinions on religion of royal personages are not usually impressive but it is interesting to note that the two daughters, Victoria and Alice, of the very prim and pious Queen Victoria of England were freethinkers of a very advanced type, probably agnostics. Both, like the two English queens (Elizabeth and Caroline) included in this work, make a serious study of philosophy and literature in their youth, as very few princesses ever did. Even the cautious Dictionary of National Biography, which generally conceals heresies, says of Victoria that although she retained her attachment to the Church of England her religion was undogmatic and she "sympathized with the broad views of Strauss, Renan, Schopenhauer, and Huxley." Prince von Buelow, says in his Memoirs III, p. 97) that "the Grand Duchess Alice was as liberal in politics and especially in religion as her sister the Crown Princess," ant that Victoria was "an out and out Rationalist of the temper of Herbert Spencer and John Stuart Mill" (p. 185). In a letter that is quoted in the London Literary Guide, 1937, but not given by Morley in his life of Gladstone that statesman says of Princess Victoria: "The queen seemed to think that she believed hardly anything." Victoria married the German Crown Prince and became Empress. She was a sincere patroness of culture, particularly of Strauss (see), and detested her son, the Kaiser, and Prussian ideas.
Vigny, Alfred De (1797 – 1863), famous French Poet.
He wrote also greatly esteemed novels and dramas but his European fame was based chiefly upon his exquisite poetry. In the earlier of these he professes a sort of sentimental Christianity. In the later he is completely atheistic.
Villari, Professor Pasquale (1827 – 1917), Italian historian and statesman.
He fought against the Papal troops in the 1848 revolution and in the reaction devoted himself to teaching and writing his famous Life and Times of Savonarola. After the liberation of Italy from the Popes he attained the highest honors in the state (Minister of Education, etc.) and the academic world. He does not conceal his freethinking in his preface to Negri’s Julian the Apostate.
Virchow, Professor Rudolph, M.D. (1821-1902), famous German pathologist, founder of cellular pathology, leader of the Liberal Freethinkers.
As he opposed Darwinism and had a bitter feud with Haeckel the orthodox are apt to claim him as one of themselves. It is ridiculous. He disliked the positive title Monist that Haeckel adopted and preferred the open or negative position of agnostic. In a published speech on "The Task of Science," which is quoted at length in the Haeckel Memorial Volume (I, pp. 142-5) he rejects all religion. His opposition to the teaching of Darwinism had a political ground. He thought that it encouraged Socialism.
Vogt, Professor Karl (1817 – 1895), eminent Swiss geologist and physiologist.
A brilliant all-round scientist, after university courses in medicine, anatomy, and zoology, he was deprived of his chair at Giessen for taking part in the radical revolution of 1848. He was naturalized as a Swiss, had the chair of geology at Geneva and became a member of the Swiss Grand Council. With all his scholastic and political distinction he was an outspoken atheist and materialist (chiefly in his Superstition and Science). He was one of the first to apply evolution to man. Buchner quotes him saying in one of his letters that :thought bears the same relation to the brain as bile does to the liver." In another letter he refers to Christmas as "the festival which brought the hypocrisy of humility into the world." He was a man of very fine character and courage and a zealous humanitarian.
Volney, Count Constantin Francios Chasseboeuf De (1757 – 1820) French writer.
The author of The Ruins of Empires, which has played an important part in the freethought education of Europe and America, was not the superficial person clerical writers like to represent. He was trained in medicine and oriental languages and traveled extensively. He accepted the Revolution but opposed Robespierre and was imprisoned. Napoleon, whose patronage of religion he censured, thought very highly of him and made him a count and senator. He was a Deist, and his works fill eight volumes, but only the Ruins is well known and translated into various languages.
Voltaire, Francois Arouet De (1694 – 1778), the greatest of all freethinkers.
Son of the Paris notary Atouet – Voltaire as a later penname – he was educated in a clerical college but as a youth learned from his clerical teacher to smile at religion. He was banished from the capital for insulting the Prince Regent (an unspeakable blackguard) in his 22nd year and in the following year was sent to the Bastille for further free speech. He loved brilliance, in fact the disipation, of Parice but after the age of 20 was twice in the Bastille and spent nearly the whole of the rest of his life in exile for the right of free speech. His books were suppressed or burned by the hangman. He spent 3 years in England and three in Prussia, and from 1758 to death lived on the border of Switzerland in case he had to fly. During all this time most of the chief bishops and archbishops lived in open license and luxury, and their modern successors professed to be shocked at the wicked Voltaire. He had a passion for justice, religious toleration, and freedom, and he was a man of the greatest generosity. Besides his caustic works on religion he wrote serious works on toleration, science and other subjects, and was one of the leading historians of his time and a tragedian of distinction. Few men were ever so widely read or had such influence yet, though a;; the world still talks about him, few really know him. He was a Deist, but his God, though infinite and eternal, did not create the universe, which is eternal. He ridiculed the idea of an immortal soul. He – contrary to Catholic libels – died peacefully and he courteously declined to see the priest who wanted to be present.
Wagner, Wilhelm Richard (1813 – 1883), greatest of German dramatists and composers.
All admit that he was an atheist and radical – he took part in the revolution of 1848 – in the first part of his life but when he produced Parsifal in 1882 Nietzsche and others charged him with having lapsed in to mysticism. It is clear that he was then in a romantic and more or less mystic mood, but all experts admit that he never returned to the Christian faith. The chief writer on his religious ideas Otto Hartwich says: "Wagner was a Christian in a large sense, though not a man of the Church. He had little taste for the other-worldly speculations of dogmatic theology and none at all in the Church’s pressure on faith and conscience." In other words he began to admire what he believed to be the Christian ethic – hence the bitterness of Nietzsche who thought it the worst feature of Christianity – and no more. The British musical critic and freethinker Ernest Newman, who has a work on Wagner, reminds us that by the age of 50 all his greatest work had been done (while he was an atheist) and his intellectual powers were now less vigorous though his art was still great.
Waite, Charles Burlinghame, A.M . (1824 – 1895), jurist.
Practices in the Chicago courts for 15 years with distinction and was appointed Associate Justice of the Utah Supreme Court and later District Attorney for Idaho. He was a zealous abolitionist and champion of women’s rights, and he frankly gave his freethought views in A History of the Christian Religion to the Year 900).
Wakeman, Thaddeus Burr (1834 – 1913), lawyer and writer.
Practiced in New York with great success and was prominent in many progressive movements. He was at one time President of the National Liberal League and of the New York State Freethinkers Association. He edited the anthropological journal Man and wrote a number of small Rationalist works. He called himself a Positivist, but broadly, he was an agnostic, a great admirer of Haeckel (who loathed Positivism), and an aggressive freethinker.
Wallace, Alfred Russel, O.M., LL. D., D.C.L., F.R.S., (1823 – 1913), naturalist.
Most of Wallace’s distinctions were awarded him on the ground that he was the co-discoverer with Darwin of Natural Selection (though Darwin invented the phrase). In point of fact, there was nothing like equal merit, and he owed his recognition to Darwin’s modesty and generosity. For Darwin it was the outcome of 20 years of research; in the case of Wallace a sudden and rather superficial guess. He followed it up, however, with works of great value. Unfortunately he allowed himself to be duped by a fraudulent and impudent Spiritualist medium and the works of his later years were pathetic. He refused to admit the evolution of the mind. But he never returned to the Christian Church.
Walpole, Sir Robert, Earl of Oxford (1676 – 1745), famous British statesman.
He dominated the House of Commons for 20 years and held the highest offices in the kingdom, and he is regarded by historians as one of the greatest statesmen in English history. He was cynical and not over-scrupulous in promoting his own affairs – political life was at the time thoroughly corrupt – and promoted his bastards to bishoprics, but folk must have smiled when he described himself in the House of Commons as "a sincere member of the Church of England." He went beyond the Deism that was then prevalent at Court (the queen being a serious skeptic – See Caroline), and it is fairly clear that he was an atheist. The English translation of Bayle’s freethinking Dictionary was dedicated to him, and the letter dedicating it spoke blandly of "the blind zeal and stupidity of cleaving to superstition." The chief biography, by A. C. Ewald, says that "he was a man whose life reflected a genial paganism, who regarded all creeds with the impartiality of indifference" (p. 40). His son Horace Walpole (1717 – 1797), second Earl of Oxford, was one of the most brilliant writers of the Deistic school and was skeptical about immortality. He was the most famous letter-writer of the age- his extant letters fill 16 volumes – and in these he often gives rein to his freethought views.
Ward, Lester Frank (1841 – 1913), sociologist.
Studied law, entered the civil service, then took up geology and had office in the Geological Survey. Herbert Spencer’s great achievement stimulated him, though he emphatically rejected Spencer’s individualism, and he went on to write the similar comprehensive works (Dynamic Sociology, Pure Sociology, Glimpses of the Cosmos, etc.), which made him famous in America or "America’s most distinguished Sociologist" (International Encyclopedia). He was a thorough agnostic.
Washington, George (1732 – 1799), First President.
Clerical writers are naturally unwilling to admit that he was a freethinker – a non-Christian theist – but, while the evidence of faith which they allege is of the flimsiest description there is ample and solid proof of his heresy. Jefferson says that Morris, who was intimate with Washington, "often told me that General Washington believed no more of that system (Christianity) than he himself did." (Memoir and Correspondence of T. Jefferson , IV, p. 512). He quotes a Chaplain to Congress who said that when the clergy presented an address to the President at his retirement they pointed out in his acknowledgment he had not said a word that identified him with Christianity, and in a further reply "the old fox" evaded that point. In a sermon delivered at Albany and reported in the Daily Advertiser (Oct. 29, 1831), one of the chief ministers of the city said that "among all our presidents from Washington downward not one was a professor of religion," which gives us the clerical tradition on the question. It is true that while he was President he attended the Episcopal church, but the rector, Dr. Abercrombie, told this preacher, Dr. Wilson (who says it in the same sermon), that Washington always left before the Communion and when the rector pointed this out ceased to attend any service that was followed by Communion. It is admitted that he did not send for or have a clergyman in his last hours; and the statement that he asked his family to "spend his last hour with his Maker" shows only that he believed in God, which nobody ever disputed. Some apologists give us the prayer he said when he was "alone with God," who must have let them into the secret. It cannot be disputed that he said in his will: "It is my express desire that my corpse may be interred in a private manner without parade or funeral oration." Against all this the chief champion of the angels, Jared Sparks, who edited Washington’s writings nearly 40 years after his death, urges such matters as that Washington wrote a hymn when he was a boy of 13; that (being a Deist) he often spoke of "the Author of the Universe"" that a granddaughter, who was still a child when Washington died, said he prayed every day in private (which Washington’s adopted daughter questioned and was, in any case, consistent with Deism); and that once or twice he spoke favorably of the Christian religion. The man is obviously a religious twister. He ignores decisive evidence in the very letters he edited – as when Washington speaks of "the professors of Christianity" (p. 404) or Bishop White says that he never saw him kneel at prayer or heard him speak about religion – and most of the evidence given above. The evidence is given on both sides in Franklin Steiner’s The Religious Beliefs of our Presidents (Haldeman Julius 1936) and Remsburg’s Six Historic Americans. See also several very candid works on Washington by Rupert Hughes.
Watson, Sir William, LL. D. (1858 – 1935), British poet.
One of the most distinguished English poets of his best period (1890 – 1910) and the one who best combined intellectual strength and clearness with poetic excellence. He formulated his agnosticism in hi poems ("The Unknown God," "The Hope of the World," etc.) was more clearly than any other. God was to him "the mystery we make darker with a name," and he scorned the "God for ever hearkening unto his self-appointed laud" of the Churches. He was knighted for his distinction as a poet.
Watt, James, LL.D, F.R.S., F. R. S. E., (1736 – 1819), famous Scottish inventor.
He made such improvement in the crude steam-engine that had been invented before his time that he is usually described as the inventor. "His many and most valuable inventions must always place him among the leading benefactors of mankind," says the account of him in the Dictionary of National Biography. He was an accomplished man. He knew Greek, Latin, French, German and Italian and was very friendly with the great freethinking French scientists. Andrew Carnagie has written a life of him and describes him as a Deist who never went to church.
Watts, George Frederick, R.A., O.M., D.C.L., LL. D., (1817 – 1904) Eminent British painter.
Besides his honorary degrees and decorations he was twice offered a baronetcy for his distinction art and refused. He was chiefly known for his symbolic painting of an ethical tendency but they were humanist not Christian. His biographer, Mrs. Barrington, an orthodox lady, admits his freethought in the usual diplomatic language. "No formalities of any Church appealed personally to Watt’s feelings," and "he did not feel so definitely the sense of the reality of the spiritual life." In honest English, he was an Agnostic.
Weismann, Professor August, M. D., Ph. D., Bat.D., D. C. L. (1834 – 1914), German zoologist.
He was as well-known as Haeckel in the scientific world, especially as the author of a theory of heredity which inaugurated the development of the science of genetics. Although he was an agnostic and materialist- the Unitarian and bigoted Sir Arthur Thompson deliberately altered several materialistic passages in translating his principal work into English-he wrote nothing on religion.
Wellhausen, Julius (1844 – 1918), famous German biblical critic and orientalist.
Originally a professor of theology he abandoned the clerical career and took up oriental languages. He remained a theist but he did great work in the naturalistic criticism of the Bible at the end of the last century and the beginning of this. He wrote also a number of works on Arabic religion and literature.
Wells, Herbert George, D. Sc. (1866 – ), novelist and sociologist.
His distinction as a writer of fiction obscured the fact that he had had in youth a thorough training in science (zoology) at the London Royal College of Science; and in 1944 he obtained his doctorate in science of London University. This scientific training as well as the remarkable range of his mental qualities explains how a writer of such capacity for imaginative work came to write the first well-balanced universal history and has such a planetary outlook upon the problems of life. When I first met him, soon after 1900, I found that he had a thin veil of mysticism, recognizing a vague, impersonal "divine will" on the universe. During the confusion of the First European War he was persuaded, like Professor Ames and others in America, that the race needed, or would be helped if it believed in, some sort of ideal that could be called God; though in sending me copies of the works in which he advocated this (God, the Invisible King ) he wrote on the margin "To my Coreligionist." When he published his autobiography some years later he generally disowned the whole business and professed atheism. For the last 10 years he has been very critical of religion particularly the Catholic Church. In his 50 years of didactic writing he has had immense and invaluable influence. He has fearlessly stood for republicanism and a liberalizing of ethical ideas.
Westermarck, Professor Edward Alexander, Ph.D., LL.D. (1862 – 1939), sociologist at Helsingfors until 1907 and from that time to his death was professor of sociology at London University.
Two of his works, The History Human Marriage, and The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas were accepted as standard works and translate into many languages. He did not write specifically on religion but was an atheist (personal knowledge) and an Honorary Associate of the British Rationalist Press Association.
Whistler, James M’Neill (1833 – 1903), eminent painter.
He was an American by origin and education who studied art in France, where he shed all religious belief. Armstrong describes in his Reminiscences with what gusto Whistler used to sing blasphemous songs and ridicule the Bible. He settled in London where his "modernist" art conquered all opposition. Few painters of the time were so rich in international honors.
White, Professor Andrew Dickson, M.A., LL.D., PH.D., L.H.D., D.C.L. (1832 – 1918) author and diplomat.
A brilliant scholar, loaded with international honors and academic degrees. At various times he was professor of history at Michigan, President of Cornell University (to which he gave $300,000 and 40,000 volumes), American Minister in half a dozen countries, Regent of the Smithsonian, Trustee of the Carnegie Institution, etc. Yet he did not hesitate to publish a deadly historical indictment of Christianity, his learned and valuable Warfare of Science and Theology (2 vols., 1876), which is a classic of freethought literature. He was a theist but skeptical about a future life.
Whitman, Walt (1819 – 1892).
Although he was mainly engaged in manual labor until 1853, he published in 1855 the prose-poem Leaves of Grass, which made him known wherever English is read. In 1873 he had a paralytic stroke and lingered for 20 years in poverty. He shows his freethought in practically all his work.
Wieland, Christoph Martin (1733 – 1813), famous German writer.
At the age of 16 he had read the whole of the Latin poets and a good deal of Voltaire and other modern freethinkers. Some years later he returned for a short time to the Christian faith, and the religious work of his that is quoted belongs to this period. But he read the British Deists as well as the French Encyclopedists, and for the rest of his life was a Deist without any belief in a future life and author of novels and other works that offended the virtuous. He translated Shakespeare and for some years was professor at Erfurt. He now took up Greek literature and issued a series of brilliant works on it besides translations. He particularly followed Epicurus and did a splendid work in preparing the way for Goethe and Schiller in Germany.
Wilcox, Ella Wheeler (1855 – 1919), poet.
Her popular sentimental poetry had no little influence in breaking the Christ of orthodoxy. Such lines as "So many Gods, so many creeds," etc. were repeated everywhere. Her rather confused beliefs, hovering between pantheism and theism, are given in her New Thought Common Sense. She at least emphatically rejects orthodox Christianity, saying: "I am neither a Roman Catholic not a Protestant."
Wilkes, John, F.R.S. (1727 – 1797), famous British politician.
One if the most curious radicals of 18th century life. He had a fine education and was a fellow-student of Baron d’Holbach at Leyden University. He translated the Greek poet Anacreon and won admission to the Royal Society at the age of 22. The king said that he was the best Lord Mayor that London ever had. Yet he was the idol of the workers, some of his writings were burned by the public hangman, and he was expelled from the house of commons and, after a sentence of imprisonment, was restored to it by the people. The clergy were shocked and the young bloods delighted at his vices, frivolities and irreligion. His biographer, Bleackly, reluctently admits that he once said that the word "religion" would be as incongruous on his lips as the word "Liberty" on the lips of Dr. Johnson. He was clearly an atheist.
Wilson, Sir Roland Kynet of Delhi, M.A., LL.M. (died 1919), jurist.
Reader in Indian Law at the University of Cambridge and author of several important legal works. In his later years he concerned himself with religion and ended in agnosticism. In an article which appeared in the Hibbet Journal a few weeks before he died he said that for 30 years he had followed Francis Newman (theist brother of the Cardinal) but: "I have of late felt myself less and less able to affirm with any confidence the existence of any supreme mind behind the visible universe" (p. 28). Even if there is such a thing, he ads, men must ignore it in practice and follow human ideals.
Wollaston, William, M. A. (1660 – 1724), British philosopher.
As a teacher he was compelled to take orders in the Church of England but a fortunate legacy made him independent of the sacred body and he at once abandoned it. He devoted himself to writing and the study of philosophy and was locally known as "the infidel." For some reason be burned all his manuscripts before he died except The Religion of Nature Delineated , a Deistic treatise. It says something for the freedom of thought at the time that it sold 10,000 copies in a few years.
Wollstonecraft, Mary, see Godwin.
Wood, Sir Henry Joseph (1869 – 1945), the most popular concert conductor in England. He conducted a number of the annual Music Festivals in British Cathedrals but he was, I understand, an atheist. At all events he was openly a member of the Rationalist Press Association, whose members are practically all atheists or agnostics, until he died.
Woolner, Thomas, R.A., (1825 – 1892), British sculpter.
He exhibited his first work when he was 17 years old and three years later had a work admitted by the Royal Academy. He joined the Pre-Raphaelites and moved in a circle of brilliant artists but made so little money that he went off to make a fortune in the Australian goldfields. He failed, but on his return to England soon won a position as one of the most distinguished sculptors in the country. Like so many other great artists he did church work but was churchman. He agreed with his close freethinking friends Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown and was friendly with the Secularist Holyoake.
Woolston, Thomas, M.A., B.D., (1670 – 1733), famous British Deist.
A parson who was deprived of his fellowship at Cambridge University for writing heresy and set out to found a new Christian sect. He published a work A Moderator Between an Infidel and an Apostate but it was so much on the side of the infidel that he was indicted for blasphemy. Later he was tried for blasphemy and sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of $500; and as he had no money he was relegated to the Debtor’s Prison and remained there until he died. He had given away his money paying the fines imposed upon his publishers. He always called himself a Christian but he rejected the miracles of the Gospels, including the resurrection and the virgin birth.
Wright, Chauncy (1830 – 1875), mathematician.
After publishing a series of brilliant papers he was appointed corresponding secretary of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and instructor at Harvard. He was better known as one of the ablest champions of Herbert Spencer and Darwin in America.
Wright, Elizur, (1804 – 1885). reformer.
Ingersoll describes him in one of his speeches as :one of the Titand who attacked the monsters, the gods, of his time." He was one of the fine and broad-minded workers of the last century who devoted themselves to all progressive causes. He was secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, editor of the Abolitionist, President of the National Liberal League, contributor to the Boston Investigator and the Freethinkers Magazine, and an aggressive atheist.
Wright, Frances. See D’Arusmont.
Wundt, Professor Wilhelm Max, (M.D., PH.D., Jur.D. (1832 – 1920), German psychologist.
One of the leading workers in the gradual shift of psychology from its old metaphysical character to that of a positive science. At Leipzig, where he taught, he founded an Institute of Experimental Psychology which was the forerunner of the psyshological laboratories of our time. He had been trained in psychology and was followed by William James in America. This compelled him to reject the idea that the mind is a spiritual and immortal entity, and he admitted God only as a "divine world-ground" or little more than a symbol of the unity of the universe. He was one of the founders also of Folk psychology and probably the greatest psychologist of his time.
Wurtz, Professor Charles Adolph (1817 – 1884), eminent French Chemist.
He succeeded the great Dumas in the chair of chemistry at Paris University and later became professor of organic chemistry to the Faculty of sciences. As such he took a leading part in breaking down the hard reactionary line between the inorganic and the organic (which was of use to apologists who insisted that life must have been created) by the artificial production of organic substances. He was one of the chief leaders of the new science. The Third Republic made him a Life-Senator and he took his seat amongst the anti-clericals.
Wyroubov, Count Grigorio Nicolaievich (1842 – ), Russian physicist and sociologist.
He had a brilliant education in French and Italian colleges, the St. Petersburg and Moscow Universities, and German and French Universities. At Paris he abandoned the Orthodox Church for the Church of Humanity, but he thought more of the negative or atheistic side of Positivism than the ceremonial. He wrote on Positivism and also on physics and chemistry, and in 1904 was appointed professor of the history of science at the College de France.
Ximenes, The Marquis Agustin Louis, (1726 – 1817), French poet.
Son of a marshal and at first himself in the army, which he quit in order to study and write tragedies and poetry. He is better known as a friend and ardent disciple of Voltaire, and it is suspected that in the works written against him professedly by Ximenes were really written by Voltaire.
Yeats, William Butler (1865 – 1939), leading Irish poet.
The common idea that Yeats, being one of the chief writers of Dublin in our time, was a Catholic is very far astray. In early life he lived for some years in London and was intimate with freethinkers like Morris, Huxley and Symons. On his return to Ireland he helped to found the Irish Theater and became chief literary figure in the Irish Renaissance. He never concealed his skepticism. In an early poem ("A Boat") he said that he would rather be naked than wear garments made from "mythologies." In his Ideas of Good and Evil (1903) he sees a "divine love in sexual passion" and holds that "the great passions are angels of God," which is very far from Christian. He has a vague belief in a "supersensible world." I have heard him discuss the frailties of contemporary Catholic poets with painful freedom.
Youmans, Edward Livingston, M.D. (1821 -1887) chemist and educationist.
Although blind for some years in his teens he pursued his studies and at the age of 30 won his medical degree at Vermont. He was more interested in scientific education and did a good deal of popular lecturing. He founded and edited Popular Science Monthly and planned an "International Science Series" for the simultaneous publication of books in six countries. He was a Spencerian Agnostic, and it was largely owing to his ecertions that Spencer’s works first appeared in America. His brother, Dr. W.J. Youmand studied under Huxley in England, adopted his views, and collaborated on the Popular Science Monthly.
Younghusband, Sir Francis Edward, K.C.S.I., K.C.I.F., C.I.E., LL.D., D.Sc. (1863 – ) British colonial administrator.
Most of the letters after his name in indicate the highest honors for service in India, Thibet, and Africa. He received also a number of honorary degrees, was Reda Lecturer at Cambridge, and President of the Royal Geographical Society. He has strong religious sentiments but his views about doctrine are decidedly freethinking. In an article pleading for the reform of religion in the Hibbert Journal and in his books he wishes to see public worship maintained – he detests aggressive rationalism – but his "God" is "not a separate personal being wholly outside men" but "what results from the Mutual Influence of all men and all the component parts of the universe." (Mutual Influence , p. 122). He, of course, rejects all creeds and formularies.
Zanardelli, Guiseppe (1826 – 1903) eminent Italian Jurist.
He fought against the Papal troops in 1848 and was later derived of his chair of lae. After the unification of Italy he occupied the highest political offices, including the Ministry of Justice, completed the new Criminal Code, and purified the administration of justice, which had been foul under the Popes. In the end he became President of the Camerar then Premier, and was bitterly opposed and vilified by the clergy. He was an atheist.
Zangwill, Israel, B.A., (1864 – 1926), British-Jewish writer, author of Children of the Ghetto and other notable books. He was trained as a teacher but found that he had some brilliance as a writer.
His play The Next Religion (1912), was so explicit in its freethought that he could not get it licensed. After that he was reticent about his views. Speaking at a dinner of the Rationalist Press Association he pleasantly said with an eye on the reporters, that he was "too much of a Maccabean to be a McCabean." I sat next to him, and he whispered to me as he sat down, "but it would be difficult to say where we differ."
Zeller, Professor Eduard (1814 – 1908), German philosopher.
He was a close friend of D.F. Strauss (See) whose views he shared so openly, although he was a professor of theology that he was expelled from his chair. After a time he abandoned theology for philosophy, though he still called himself a Liberal Christian. A profound study of Greek philosophy led him on to agnosticism, and the three-volume history (The Philosophy of the Greeks ) which he published became the standard work on the subject. It is valuable in making clear the materialism of the great majority of the Greek thinkers though it gives exaggerated space to Plato and Aristotle. His own skeptical views are given in his Life of Strauss and his Frederic the Great as a Philosopher .
Zeno (B.C. 336 – 254), founder of the Stoic School.
Half Greek and half Phonecian he settled in Athens about the same time as Epicurus and, because he taught in the open colonade or gallery (stoa) in the center of the city, he and his pupils were called Stoics. In general (and some superior) literature there is a good deal of nonsense about the "Stoic religion" he is supposed to have founded. At least in social respects the moral inspiration of the Greek Roman world from 250 B.C. to 350 A.D. was so far superior to that of the succeeding Christian centuries that apologists have to claim the credit of it for a "religion". As I have shown elsewhere, the guidance of the educated world of the time was really a commonsense blend of the humanist principles of the Stoics and the Epicure and chiefly the latter, or a simple concentration on the social ideal of the brotherhood of man. Zeno had based this upon a "law of nature," and a small minority of his followers identified this with God and became religious. The overwhelming majority conceived it as social law and so blended with the Epicureans. It is also a stupid mistake to say that Zeno’s supreme ideal was virtue and that of Epicurus (see) pleasure. The Greek biographer of the philosophers, Diogenes Laertius , says (Bk. VII, Ch. I, p. 13) that Zeno showed his contempt of sexual asceticism by occasionally using both boys and women though he had no inclination that way.
Zimmern, Helen (1846 – 1895), British writer.
Of German origin she was naturalized in England and took up journalism. She settled in Italy and had a distinguished literary career as well as being a notable figure in international journalism. She wrote important lives of Schopenhauer and Lessing and translated several of Nietzsche’s works and many Italian works into English.
Zola, Emile Edouard Charles Antoine ( 1840 – 1902), famous French novelist.
Son of an Italian engineer who was domiciled in France. His naturalistic novels of the darker side of French life had a prodigious circulation and, though not the mood of his readers was not one of high social idealism, Zola himself, whatever allowance we make for his desire of profit was a sincere idealist. When the clericals accused him of simply making money out of "immoral books" he retorted by exposing the hypocrisy of the Church in a trio of novels on Lourdes, Rome, and ecclesiastical Paris. He was the most powerful champion in France of the Jewish victim of clerical-conservative rancor, Dreyfus. His atheism is apparent enough in most of his works.