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

Toleration. The admission of the practice of other religions than that associated with the State, or the attitude, adopted on principle, not as a matter of expediency, that all religions have a right to freedom. In the ancient world the question rarely arose on account of the plurality of deities and cults. Intolerance was asserted only when the priests of one cult tried to secure a monopoly as the priests of Aten did in Egypt in the days of Amenophis IV - whose sceptical predecessors had been ideally tolerant - the Taoist priests in China in a few periods, the Persian priests on various occasions, and the Jewish authorities after the establishment of the cult of Jahveh. Confucian monarchs in China were very tolerant, even to Jews and Christians, until political complications arose in modern times, and the heavy persecution of Christians in Japan was provoked by the mutual charges of bodies of rival missionaries that they were agents of their respective Powers. The Greeks were completely tolerant except of "atheism," by which they meant an explicit denial of the existence of gods; though in the Greek colonial cities even this was often permitted to the philosophers and their followers. The Romans legalized all religions which did not threaten to injure the State, as did the cult of Bacchus (on account of its orgies), and Judaism and its Christian offspring on account of the chronic revolt and anti-Roman literature of the Jews. The story of persecution of Christians by the Romans is, however, based mainly upon a literature of unprecedented forgeries. [See Martyrs and Persecution.] There were only two short periods of general persecution, on civic grounds, and only a few hundred victims can be definitely traced in two and a half centuries. The Moslem are falsely said to have learned intolerance from Mohammed and [see] the Koran, and it is false that the spread and conquests of the Arabs were due to a zeal to impose Islam on unbelievers [see]. In Syria, Spain, and Sicily, where there was much scepticism amongst the Caliphs and Emirs, there was complete toleration of Jews and Christians except when, at rare intervals, fanatics acquired power over the ruler. The Jews in particular, had their golden age under the Arab rulers of Spain, and the millions of Christians lived in perfect amity and freedom with the Arabs except for short periods when fanatics on either side wrought mischief. See McCabe's Splendour of Moorish Spain (1935).
      It is therefore one of the clearest facts of religious history that the Christian Church, until the seventeenth century, and the Roman (and in part the Greek) Church until to-day, have far surpassed all the other religions of history in intolerance. The early Church adopted that policy within twenty years of its own escape from repression, and it is the emphatic position of the law of the Roman Church to-day. The adoption of the policy is described under Christianity; Paganism; and Persecution. Before the end of the fourth century the practice of any religion but the Christian was forbidden by a series of imperial decrees under pain of imprisonment, confiscation, or death, and Leo I (440-61) laid it down in his letters that the death-penalty for dissenters, which began to be inflicted during his pontificate, was just because "those who fear corporal suffering will have recourse to spiritual remedies" (Ep., XV, etc.). As Europe passed into the dense general ignorance of the Dark Age, in the next century, rebels were rare, but the policy was truculently applied as soon as Europe began to recover and to think. From 1100 onward the death penalty was increasingly inflicted until, after 1200, massacre was used (Albigensians, etc.) on an appalling scale and tribunals were set up all over Europe. [See Inquisition.] One historian, Sprenger, estimates that there were more than 10,000,000 victims during the next four or five centuries. The Protestant Churches at first used the civil law, into which Rome had got its policy introduced, against the Catholics, but the rise of the Jesuits had by this time coupled political intrigue with religious zeal, particularly in England, and the Catholic "martyrs" were generally political conspirators. Protestant nations generally abandoned the death-sentence after the Thirty Years War. England, which had never admitted the Inquisition, annulled its law De haeretico comburendo (that heretics must be burned) in 1678.
      Roman Catholic countries continued to apply the policy in its most ghastly form until the growth of scepticism checked it: first in France, where Voltaire made a superb defence of Protestant victims; then in Italy, Spain, and Latin America. With the downfall of Napoleon and the final extinction by the Holy Alliance of the finer ideals of the French Revolution, the Church of Rome reasserted its murderous policy. [See Democracy and White Terror.] But since two of the five members of the Holy Alliance were Protestant and one schismatical, while scepticism spread again in the fourth (France) and fifth (Austria), the naked policy of religious intolerance had to be clothed. Rebels against the Church were identified with rebels against absolute monarchy, and the Powers of the Holy Alliance acquiesced until after the middle of the century, when modern humanitarianism asserted itself, and Rome was compelled to allow British and American Catholics to profess religious tolerance. In the first quarter of the present century Catholic literature in Britain and America was chaotic and largely dishonest on the subject. The stricter apologists, like Mgr. Ryan, a leading moral theologian and economist of the American Church, provoked smiles when they tried to defend the principle of intolerance by a bland claim that Catholics have a right to toleration or complete freedom everywhere and must not be expected to extend these to Protestant countries because "error has not the same right as truth" (The Catholic Church and the Citizen, p. 36). Most of the Catholic apologists, especially in America, contended that the Church had abandoned the policy, and even that they would not obey if Rome ever tried to enforce it. The bolder claimed, indeed, that the principle of liberty in the American Constitution was borrowed from the mediaeval theologians Aquinas, Suaren, and Bellarmine, and that Rome was the first to apply it to religion. [See Maryland.] It is shown, in the article Death Penalty, that, while apologists were writing these things for the public, Rome was issuing in a dead language - but the living language of the clergy - manual after manual of Canon Law (by Marianus de Luca, Cardinal ┬Épicier, Fr. Cappello, etc.) with emphatic claims that the Church "can and must put heretics to death," elaborate arguments in support of the claim, and stern condemnations of Catholic writers who said that the law was abandoned The British and American Press refused to print a word of the Pope's open letter in the Osservatore Romano on May 20, 1929, in which, while saying nothing about "the right of the sword," he insisted on the Catholic principle of intolerance and recognized Mussolini's permission of Protestant worship in Italy solely as a matter of expediency. Critics of the Church of Rome can hardly be expected to discuss it with courtesy when they find its interpreters to the public so gravely misrepresenting its solemn official teaching, and this teaching a flagrant defiance of the fundamental principles of modern thought. This intolerance, a relic of a semi-barbaric age that is clearly maintained only in the interest of the priesthood, is the real basis of all the Catholic appeals to crush Bolshevism by violence, for the Papacy could not on its own principles erupt into such sacred fury against an attempt as such to alter the inequality in the distribution of wealth. Bishop Creighton's Persecution and Tolerance (2nd ed., 1906) is too discursive. An accurate and thorough history of Roman Catholic intolerance and persecution is required.

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