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)

Culture and Religion.

J. McCabe, Rationalists Encyclopaedia

A complementary study to that of the relation of crime and illiteracy to religion is the study of the proportion of religious or Christian to non-Christian men or women in the higher grades of culture. The disappearance of the quotation, once so popular, that "a little learning is a dangerous thing," the discovery that it is futile to "count heads," the remarkable paucity of names of men of high intellectual distinction in ecclesiastical gatherings and publications, and the notorious fact that the Churches are strongest in the most backward countries and themselves admit that in a country like Great Britain they have twice as many members (in proportion to population) in rural districts and small towns as in cities, broadly indicate the situation. Unfortunately, while we have today sociological inquiries into almost all other aspects of life, our universities do not encourage scientific or exact investigation of the status and influence of religion. Such facts and figures as are available confirm the general impression. In Great Britain the Rationalist Press Association publishes a list of intellectually distinguished men as Honorary Associates, recently deceased or actual, which is a crushing reflection on Churches with a thousand times the membership. An analysis of the Catholic Who's Who (a veritable "Book of Snobs") betrays an appalling intellectual poverty in comparison with the Rationalist list. In this country and France the Catholic intelligentsia is mainly confined to a few literary men and women, and their utterances on religion betray a lamentable ignorance of the requisite historical and scientific knowledge.
      In the case of America, Professor Leuba published, in 1916, an analysis (The Belief in God and Immortality) of a private inquiry into the attitude of 1,000 American men of science, historians, and psychologists. Of the greater men - objectively classified - who replied to the inquiry whether they believed in God or immortality, less than a third admitted belief; of the greater historians, psychologists, and sociologists, who may be considered of more weight in such matters than physicists or heads of museums, more than 70 per cent. professed "disbelief," which is the authoritative definition of Atheism. Of the total number of persons who replied - and apparently many were in institutions under sectarian influence - 42 per cent. believed, 42 per cent. disbelieved, and 14 per cent. were Agnostic. The proportion of "disbelievers" (expressly distinguished from Agnostics) is notable. This inquiry was held in 1914. In 1934 Prof. Leuba repeated the inquiry, and found (Harper's Magazine, August, 1934) that the percentage of believers had sunk to 30, and the percentage of disbelievers had risen to 56. It is further entirely reasonable to assume that the large number who did not reply were Rationalists, as no one would suffer for professing belief, but in many cases a professor or curator might lose his place if his confession of Atheism leaked out. It will be noted that this considerable increase of Atheism among the "greater" scientists occurred just in the period (1914-34) when the loudest assurances were given in periodical literature that science was "abandoning the Materialism of the last century and returning to spiritual realities."
      The opinions about religion of scientific men have always been of particular interest to the public on account of their mental training. In this there is a large element of fallacy, since it is obvious that an extensive and broad knowledge (chiefly of biology, psychology, history, and comparative religion) is required to give value to a man's judgment of Theism or Christianity, but most scientists are, and must be, narrowly specialized. Physicists and mathematicians especially - compare Faraday, Lodge, Jeans, Eddington, Fleming, etc. - are apt to be erratic and superficial in their views about religion. We treat this under Science, and need add here only that in 1912 the Christian Evidence Society published (The Religion of Scientists) the results of an inquiry sent to Fellows of the Royal Society. With the characteristic looseness of apologists, most of the questions asked were so framed that well-known Agnostic Fellows like Sir E. Ray Lankester could, and did, give an affirmative answer; and the editors did not explain to their readers that the Royal Society includes patrons of science (dukes and wealthy men) as well as men of science. The one question (in six) which was a real test asked if the Fellow believed in personal immortality. Of 200 (out of 503) Fellows who replied, 47 (37 of whom were physicists!) only said yes, 41 said no, and the rest were vague.
      A broader test is the analysis of the professions of men and women in Who's Who in America. The English Who's Who does not invite professions of faith, and it is material to notice that the American edition does not ask to what Church a man belongs, but - on a "reformed" plan suggested by the Churches - which Church he prefers. In spite of this painfully dishonest trick, the analysis (published in Builders of America by Profs. Huntington and Whitney, 1931) of the 30,000 names shows that, while 1,185 per 100,000 members of the Church vote for Unitarianism and 390 for Universalism - neither of which Churches in America requires even belief in God - Catholics have only 7 per 100,000 of their body in the roll of honour, and the Fundamentalist Churches the same. Even the Episcopal Church, to which it is politic and fashionable to belong, has only 156 per 100,000; and the entries for the Catholic and the Protestant Episcopal Churches are very largely Church dignitaries and politicians. The Nobel Prize for Literature affords a world-test, and it will be shown under that head that the enormous majority, including nearly all the more eminent, of the recipients are Rationalists. For the relation of religion and knowledge at the other end of the cultural scale see "literacy.

 



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