Joseph McCabe (1867-1955) was one of the most prolific authors of all time. He was brought up as a Roman Catholic, worked on Latin documents, and made himself very well-informed about Christianity, but turned against it. But he was extremely naive about Jews; bear this in mind.

Click for Detailed notes on McCabe - scroll down for selections from A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (1948).

Here's the full A Rationalist Encyclopaedia (about 1.3 MBytes; Word format; includes notes on some of its limits)


J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

The religion which is listed in Chinese statistics or general religious statistics as Confucianism is almost as violently opposed to the ideas of Confucius as Buddhism is to those of Buddha, or Catholicism to those of the Jesus of the Gospels. Even as it was practised before the Revolution, by the Emperor and his officials, it endorsed superstitions which its supposed founder disapproved. The greatest of the Confucian Emperors, one of the greatest in Chinese history, Tai-Tsung [see], refused to conduct these sacrifices and services. Kung-fu-tse (551-479 B.C.), whose name is usually given in the barbarized Latin form, Confucius, was born during a spell of confusion and reaction in Chinese history. It was also an age of remarkable world-advance - the era of independent thinking which simultaneously produced Buddha in India and the Ionic philosophers in the West, if not Zarathustra in Persia - but the chaotic condition of China gives a special character to the teaching of Kung. He had not the least idea of founding a religion or restoring the old religion. He endeavoured to persuade rulers and princes (while Buddha went among the people, and the Greek sages discussed with their educated fellow-citizens) that salvation was to be found in a restoration, on a purely social and humanist basis, of the fine old literary and social traditions of the country, which he collected and codified.
    To what extent the Confucian classics, the King [see], represent the work of Confucius will be considered under that heading. But the common description of them as Sacred Books, or the Bible of China, is a misrepresentation, and there is among experts even less dispute about Kung's attitude to religion - his complete rejection of it - than there is in the case of Buddha. Prof. Chamberlain slightly paraphrases his words when he quotes him as saying: "Respect spiritual beings, if there are any, but keep aloof from them" (Things Japanese, 4 ed., 1902). The missionary Walsh, however, says of him in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics: "There is practically nothing of a religious nature in Confucianism pure and simple." Another missionary, a high authority on China, Dr. Legge, writes the article on him in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and says that "his teachings were singularly devoid of reference to anything but what was seen and temporal." These clerical verdicts by experts on China suffice, and authorities on Confucius like Dr. Douglas entirely agree. Kung refers occasionally, it is true, to Heaven, if the texts may be trusted, but it is agreed that he means no more than the Stoic Law of Nature, or just uses conventional language; and the claim that he may have believed in God but never mentioned him is, as in the case of Buddha, violently opposed to all our experience of moralists. The Rev. Dr. Legge, in the above article - which is grievously mutilated in the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia - answers also a few clerical writers who say that Confucius taught the Golden Rule only in a negative form. Challenged to give his philosophy of life in a word, he used a compound character which means "As Heart" (or Reciprocity), and this plainly implies positive as well as negative duties. All authorities, even if missionaries, admit that his followers in all ages have been Atheists, and that this purely humanist Confucian culture has been, since it was formally adopted by the Han Emperors (about 200 B.C.), one of the most effective social agencies in the history of civilization. As an ethical system it was never contaminated with mystery or superstition, but it was essentially conservative and bound up with the old feudal system, so that it has given place to modern humanitarian thought in the mind of the educated Chinese of the present century. A. Brown, The Story of Confucius (1927); R. K. Douglas, Confucianism and Taoism (1895); Pao Chien-Hsu, Critical Realism in Neo-Confucian Thought (1933).


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