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- December 18th 2012
Joseph Mazzini Wheeler
- Date of birth: January 24, 1850
- Died: June 09, 1898
- Born: in England, The United Kingdom.
- Description: Wheeler, Joseph Mazzini (24 January 1850 – 1898)
A British scholar of unbelief, Wheeler was a prolific writer and reader. His Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers (1899) has been called by J. M. Robertson the nearest approach “to a general historic treatment” of atheism and freethought, along with Maréchal’s Dictionnaire des Athèes.
Wheeler was responsible for the publishing of David Hume’s Essay on Miracles and a work known as The Jewish Life of Christ, also called the Sepher Toldroth Jeshu. According to Gordon Stein, Jews carefully concealed the latter book from Christians because of its plot. The work depicted Jesus as a bastard son of a Jewish soldier, Ben Pandera (son of the panther). Jesus becomes a magician of the conjuror variety, stealing the magic name of God (the Tetragrammaton) from a temple and using it to achieve recognition from the general population.
He served for many years as vice-president of the National Secular Society, and was a frequent contributor to freethought periodicals. A preface to Crimes of Christianity by G. W. Foote and Wheeler includes,
"The merits and services of Christianity have been industriously extolled by its hired advocates. Every Sunday its praises are sounded from myriads of pulpits. It enjoys the prestige of an ancient establishment and the comprehensive support of the State. It has the ear of rulers and the control of education. Every generation is suborned in its favor. Those who dissent from it are losers, those who oppose it are ostracised; while in the past, for century after century, it has replied to criticism with imprisonment, and to scepticism with the dungeon and the stake. By such means it has induced a general tendency to allow its pretensions without inquiry and its beneficence without proof."
Wheeler’s last work was Footsteps of the Past (1895). He contributed to all the freethought publications of his day. When he wrote his own obituary, he attributed his atheism to having read Newman, Mill, Darwin, and Spencer.
Said to have been a gentle, honest scholar, he was respected by many, including the secretary of the Christian Evidence Society, who was moved upon his death to send a letter of condolence.