E. Haldeman-Julius (1889)
It was on this date, July 30, 1889, that Emanuel Julius was born in a Philadelphia tenement – later to become known as the book publisher E. Haldeman-Julius. Emanuel left school at age 13 to seek his fortune as a writer in New York and got a job on a Socialist newspaper, The Call. He worked his way across the country at liberal papers – the Milwaukee Leader, the Chicago World, and the Los Angeles Citizen and Social-Democrat – until returning to The Call as Sunday editor.
Emanuel met Marcet Haldeman, a banker and heiress, who was the niece of Jane Addams of Hull House repute. He and Marcet shared political and religious ideas – in the early years of the 20th century it was not unusual to find a Socialist banker. They married on 1 June 1916. Emanuel had a vision of making good literature available to large numbers at low prices, so he set up a printing plant in the small mid-western town of Girard, Kansas, and began producing what came to be known as his Little Blue Books. They were immensely popular. Marcet and E. Haldeman-Julius – they legally changed their names – became wealthy publishers throughout the nineteen-twenties and thirties.
Emanuel (now contracted to "E") expanded on his religious opinions in several of his own publications:
We advocate the atheistic philosophy because it is the only clear, consistent position which seems possible to us. As atheists ... we declare that the God idea ... is unreasonable and unprovable; we add, more vitally, that the God idea is an interference with the interests of human happiness and progress. We oppose religion not merely as a set of theological ideas; but we must also oppose religion as a political, social and moral influence detrimental to the welfare of humanity. ... Religion glorifies the dogma of a despotic, mythical God. Atheism ennobles the interests of free and progressive Man. Religion is superstition. Atheism is sanity. Religion is medieval. Atheism is modern.*
In a 1930 debate with Rev. Burris Jenkins, Emanuel argued:
I am an optimist. I believe that man will never again surrender to the forces of obscurantism. And this moving history of man – his cultural, scientific and economic history – proves one thing with bold significance: as man grows in intelligence, as he learns to think for himself, as he grasps newer and greater secrets from nature, his primitive fears disappear, his faith in supernaturalism declines, his belief in Gods dies down. ... The growth of intelligence means the growth of skepticism.**
Emanuel's Atheism and Socialism did not make him universally popular. J. Edgar Hoover – a lieutenant of Mitchell Palmer of Palmer Raids notoriety – declared him an enemy of the nation because of his Socialism and skepticism. Emanuel died in an accidental drowning on 31 July 1951, age 62. His death was considered suspicious at the time: He had attacked Hoover in print for his tyrannical tactics against perceived enemies (including himself), and was appealing a verdict of tax evasion, when he was found dead – without a "deathbed conversion" to Christianity.
E. Haldeman-Julius once said,
Our gains in culture, in humanity, in social law, in scientific achievement ... have been impressively due to the efforts of secular thinkers and workers laboring outside the church. The church hasn't led in civilization. ... It has been a burden to mankind. It is a burden today, so that to speak of its social usefulness is to express notoriously the opposite of the truth. ... Why should an atheist pay more taxes so that a church which he despises should pay no taxes? †
* The Meaning Of Atheism (Little Blue Book #1597).
** Is Theism A Logical Philosophy, Debate between E. Haldeman-Julius and Rev. Burris Jenkins, held at The Linwood Forum of Kansas City, MO (Linwood Boulevard Christian Church), on Sunday evening, April 13, 1930.
† The Church Is A Burden, Not A Benefit, In Social Life by E. Haldeman-Julius.
Originally published July 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.
“As my ancestors are free from slavery,” McQueen said, “I am free from the slavery of religion.”