Joseph McCabe

Joseph McCabe

Overview

Joseph Martin McCabe was an English writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

 and speaker
Debate
Debate or debating is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, which only examines consistency from axiom, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion...

 on freethought
Freethought
Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas...

, after having been a Roman Catholic priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 earlier in his life.

McCabe was born in Macclesfield
Macclesfield
Macclesfield is a market town within the unitary authority of Cheshire East, the county palatine of Chester, also known as the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. The population of the Macclesfield urban sub-area at the time of the 2001 census was 50,688...

 in Cheshire, but his family moved to Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 while he was still a child. He entered the Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 order at the age of 15, and spent a year of preliminary study at Gorton Monastery
Gorton Monastery
The Church and Friary of St Francis, known locally as Gorton Monastery, is a 19th century former Franciscan friary in Gorton, in east Manchester, England. The Franciscans arrived in Gorton in December 1861 and built their friary between 1863 and 1867. The foundation stone for the church was laid in...

. His novitiate
Novitiate
Novitiate, alt. noviciate, is the period of training and preparation that a novice monastic or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether they are called to the religious life....

 year took place in Killarney
Killarney
Killarney is a town in County Kerry, southwestern Ireland. The town is located north of the MacGillicuddy Reeks, on the northeastern shore of the Lough Lein/Leane which are part of Killarney National Park. The town and its surrounding region are home to St...

, after which he was transferred to Forest Gate
Forest Gate
Forest Gate is a residential area in the London Borough of Newham, 7 miles northeast of Charing Cross. It is bordered by Manor Park to the east and and to the west lies Stratford town centre. The northern half of the busy Green Street runs through it.-History:...

 in London (to the school which is now St Bonaventure's Catholic Comprehensive School
St Bonaventure's Catholic Comprehensive School
St. Bonaventure's Roman Catholic Comprehensive School, also known informally as St. Bon's, is located in Forest Gate, London Borough of Newham, United Kingdom. It is a voluntary-aided Catholic comprehensive secondary school for boys aged 11–18. The school has had Technology College status since...

) for the remainder of his priestly education.
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Quotations

Any body of men who believe in hell will persecute whenever they have the power.

What Gods Cost Man

If a single one of these gentlemen is correct, if a believer of any type is right, the essential truth for man, the real drama of life, in comparison with which the secular story of the race, is a puppet-show and the unfolding of the universe is a triviality, is the dialogue of the immortal soul and the eternal God. Yet it seems that there is nothing in the world so hard to discover as this. The theory refutes itself.

The Psychology of Religion, Little Blue Book 446, p. 47

An idea or institution may arise for one reason and be maintained for quite a different reason.

The Psychology of Religion, Little Blue Book 446, p. 48

The theist and the scientist are rival interpreters of nature, the one retreats as the other advances.

The Existence of God, p. 84

...the absence of theistic belief ...

defining the word "atheism", in A Rationalist Encyclopedia (1950)

The sentiments attributed to Christ are in the Old Testament. They were familiar in the Jewish schools and to all the Pharisees, long before the time of Christ, as they were familiar in all the civilizations of the earth -- Egyptian, Babylonian, and Persian, Greek, and Hindu.

The Sources of the Morality of the Gospels

Today we know not only that there is a terrible amount of disorder in the heavens -- great catastrophes or conflagrations occur frequently -- but evolution gives us a perfectly natural explanation of such order as there is. No distinguished astronomer now traces "the finger of God" in the heavens; and astronomers ought to know best.

The Story of Religious Controversy, p. 86,

A law of nature is not a formula drawn up by a legislator, but a mere summary of the observed facts -- a "bundle of facts." Things do not act in a particular way because there is a law, but we state the "law" because they act in that way.

Existence of God
Encyclopedia

Joseph Martin McCabe was an English writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

 and speaker
Debate
Debate or debating is a method of interactive and representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, which only examines consistency from axiom, and factual argument, which only examines what is or isn't the case or rhetoric which is a technique of persuasion...

 on freethought
Freethought
Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas...

, after having been a Roman Catholic priest
Priest
A priest is a person authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion, especially as a mediatory agent between humans and deities. They also have the authority or power to administer religious rites; in particular, rites of sacrifice to, and propitiation of, a deity or deities...

 earlier in his life.

Early life


McCabe was born in Macclesfield
Macclesfield
Macclesfield is a market town within the unitary authority of Cheshire East, the county palatine of Chester, also known as the ceremonial county of Cheshire, England. The population of the Macclesfield urban sub-area at the time of the 2001 census was 50,688...

 in Cheshire, but his family moved to Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 while he was still a child. He entered the Franciscan
Franciscan
Most Franciscans are members of Roman Catholic religious orders founded by Saint Francis of Assisi. Besides Roman Catholic communities, there are also Old Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, ecumenical and Non-denominational Franciscan communities....

 order at the age of 15, and spent a year of preliminary study at Gorton Monastery
Gorton Monastery
The Church and Friary of St Francis, known locally as Gorton Monastery, is a 19th century former Franciscan friary in Gorton, in east Manchester, England. The Franciscans arrived in Gorton in December 1861 and built their friary between 1863 and 1867. The foundation stone for the church was laid in...

. His novitiate
Novitiate
Novitiate, alt. noviciate, is the period of training and preparation that a novice monastic or member of a religious order undergoes prior to taking vows in order to discern whether they are called to the religious life....

 year took place in Killarney
Killarney
Killarney is a town in County Kerry, southwestern Ireland. The town is located north of the MacGillicuddy Reeks, on the northeastern shore of the Lough Lein/Leane which are part of Killarney National Park. The town and its surrounding region are home to St...

, after which he was transferred to Forest Gate
Forest Gate
Forest Gate is a residential area in the London Borough of Newham, 7 miles northeast of Charing Cross. It is bordered by Manor Park to the east and and to the west lies Stratford town centre. The northern half of the busy Green Street runs through it.-History:...

 in London (to the school which is now St Bonaventure's Catholic Comprehensive School
St Bonaventure's Catholic Comprehensive School
St. Bonaventure's Roman Catholic Comprehensive School, also known informally as St. Bon's, is located in Forest Gate, London Borough of Newham, United Kingdom. It is a voluntary-aided Catholic comprehensive secondary school for boys aged 11–18. The school has had Technology College status since...

) for the remainder of his priestly education. In 1890 he was ordained into the priesthood with the name Father Antony.

He was recognised as an outstanding scholar of philosophy, and was sent for a year (1893–1894) to study at the Catholic University of Louvain. Here he was successfully taught Hebrew by A van Hoonacker, and less successfully, Syriac by T. J. Lamy. He also studied under, and befriended, Mercier. He returned to London and resumed priestly and educational duties, until in October 1895 when he was put in charge of the newly founded Franciscan college in Buckingham
Buckingham
Buckingham is a town situated in north Buckinghamshire, England, close to the borders of Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire. The town has a population of 11,572 ,...

, (which is now St Bernardine's Catholic Church, Buckingham). He had gradually been losing his faith and eventually left that post and the priesthood in February 1896.

Writing career


Shortly after leaving the priesthood, McCabe began writing. He wrote a pamphlet on his experiences, From Rome to Rationalism, published in 1897, which he then expanded to book length as Twelve Years in a Monastery (1897). From 1898–1899 he was secretary of the Leicester Secular Society
Leicester Secular Society
Leicester Secular Society is the world's oldest Secular Society. It meets at its headquarters, the Leicester Secular Hall in the centre of Leicester, England, at 75 Humberstone Gate.-Founding of the Society:...

, and he was a founding board member in 1899 of the Rationalist Press Association of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

. He wrote prolifically on science, religion, politics, history and culture, writing nearly 250 books during his life. Many of his books and pamphlets were published by E. Haldeman-Julius
E. Haldeman-Julius
E. Haldeman-Julius was a Jewish-American socialist writer, atheist thinker, social reformer and publisher. He is best remembered as the head of Haldeman-Julius Publications, the creator of a series of pamphlets known as "Little Blue Books," total sales of which ran into the hundreds of millions...

, both as Little Blue Books and Big Blue Book
Big Blue Book
Big Blue Books are a series of small staple-bound books published from 1925 to 1950 by the Haldeman-Julius Publishing Company of Girard, Kansas , larger than the Little Blue Books...

s. Over 100 Big Blue Books by McCabe were published.

McCabe was also respected as a speaker, and gave several thousand lectures in his lifetime.

McCabe is also known for his inclusion in G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction....

's book Heretics. In a previous essay he took Chesterton to task for including humor in his serious writings. By doing so, he allowed Chesterton to make the quip "Mr. McCabe thinks that I am not serious but only funny, because Mr. McCabe thinks that funny is the opposite of serious. Funny is the opposite of not funny, and of nothing else."

In about 1947, McCabe accused the Encyclopædia Britannica
Encyclopædia Britannica
The Encyclopædia Britannica , published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., is a general knowledge English-language encyclopaedia that is available in print, as a DVD, and on the Internet. It is written and continuously updated by about 100 full-time editors and more than 4,000 expert...

of bias towards the Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. He claimed that the 14th edition, which had been published in 1929, was devoid of the critical comment about the church that had been in the 11th edition. McCabe similarly accused the Columbia Encyclopedia
Columbia Encyclopedia
The Columbia Encyclopedia is a one-volume encyclopedia produced by Columbia University Press and sold by the Gale Group. First published in 1935, and continuing its important relationship with Columbia University, the encyclopedia underwent major revisions in 1950 and 1963; the current edition is...

of bias towards the Catholic Church in 1951. These and similar actions have made him be termed a "Catholic basher" by his Christian critics. Biographer Bill Cooke, however, disputes the allegation, citing McCabe's opinion that "Catholics are no worse, and no better, than others", and "I have not the least prejudice against the Catholic laity, which would be stupid." .

McCabe was also active in organizations, although his biographer notes that he had a difficult relationship with some of their leading figures, and consequently relations between McCabe and various groups could also be strained. McCabe's freethought stance grew more militant as he got older, and he joined the National Secular Society
National Secular Society
The National Secular Society is a British campaigning organisation that promotes secularism and the separation of church and state. It holds that no-one should gain advantage or disadvantage because of their religion or lack of religion. It was founded by Charles Bradlaugh in 1866...

 in the year before he died.

Works


The 'Big Blue Books': (a selection of titles available online)

Some Other Works: with an introduction by Lady Florence Dixie
Lady Florence Dixie
Lady Florence Caroline Dixie , before her marriage Lady Florence Douglas, was a British traveller, war correspondent, writer and feminist.-Early life:...

 See List of names in A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists (Note that online sources often erroneously date this work to 1920, confusing it with his Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists.)

External links